John had had enough. He stood staring at his front door which he had just closed after a visit from an evangelist. “You have to accept Jesus as God’s only son, or you won’t get into the kingdom of heaven.” Those were the words, the words that set off an emotional tempest, a rage that John could not control, still growing in his belly.
John felt totally comfortable in his agnosticism. He really did not believe in any god, but with so much uncertainty in the world he felt uncomfortable ruling anything out. His real problem, with the Christians in particular, was that they kept coming around telling him he was wrong, not part of the group, and that he would suffer for it. And that just plain pissed him off.
In the middle of the evangelist’s diatribe John had settled on an idea. He decided that nothing would get through to these people like a dose of their own medicine. He decided to organize agnosticism and take it to them, and tell them that they were wrong, and should convert to his religion; if nothing else it would be fun.
He sat down to lay out his plans. First, he needed a rallying cry. He needed something that would get people, who don’t want to get nailed down to a strict set of beliefs, to find a common ground. He needed a code of ethics and morals free from fantastical assumptions and religious ceremonies.
John could see the allure of organized religion for some people. Some folks out there just needed security in an insecure world. He had just grown tired of hearing about it all the time.
As he scribbled down ideas on a scrap sheet of paper one thought came to him that separated itself from all the rest. It involved enlightenment, and sent chills down his spine. John realized that people need hope, and in an ever-changing ever-more-violent world they always flocked to something that provided comfort. For this reason, as he wrote furiously on his paper, he decided that in Agnosticism enlightenment could be whatever people wanted. Ten-thousand virgins, sure, streets of gold, no problem, oneness with all things, you got it, as long as nobody tried to break the code. And the code, he decided, had to come first: that everyone, great or small, could worship as they pleased, as long as they upheld some simple tenants. Stealing, rape, and murder, obviously no religion could condone these. Religion bashing, that could not be tolerated; everyone had to feel comfortable believing whatever they wanted. Lastly, he decided that aggressive violence could not be tolerated, only self-defense.
John started mulling over what the different religions stood for. All of them preached peace and love, tolerance and respect. The main difference came down to marketing. The Jews hardly marketed at all, happy to enjoy their birthright. The Christians and Muslims, on the other hand, marketed heavily, and spread the fastest. While the Buddhists just sort of let people flow in and out with very few restrictions, and never shrank or grew appreciably.
His biggest obstacle came when he started pondering symbolism. Architecture, artwork, and decoration dominated every religion’s appearance, and made it distinctive. So, how would he create a place of worship that welcomed all, yet embraced none? This bothered John for awhile. Without a symbol his new ethos would never grow, or even take off. He wanted for people to see that they all supported the same overall value system, but the fighting and disagreement came from petty issues like whether or not there is absolutely one God, if there is a hell, if God has a son, or only prophets. What he wanted people to see was that no matter what colors and brushes they chose to paint the picture with, they all ended up with just about the same image: lead a good life and you will be rewarded, lead a poor one, and you will suffer. The big three religions believed in a strict hell full of misery, while the Buddhists believed in reincarnation, and a poorly lived life resulted in a poor reincarnation. John had often wondered if, according to their beliefs, someone could lead such a poor life that they got demoted to a cockroach, or if the only way from there was up.
As John wrote down his ideas he subconsciously started to draw a picture with an empty face. It had robes on, like Buddha, its arms out like Jesus, a turban on like Allah might have worn, and sandals that looked ancient, like perhaps Moses could have had. He felt that it was important not to give it a face, not just out of respect for Muslim beliefs, but also to embody all, and none.
Next he decided to combat the very problem that made people fearful and judgmental in the first place: ignorance. John struck on the idea of pushing education as a major factor in Agnosticism. People needed to understand the basic subjects like math and science, but also gain an understanding of what different cultures represent. He hoped that people could learn to respect themselves and others. He hoped this most earnestly. He wanted the religions to share their books and teach each other what their values represented, and maybe they would see their similarities instead of only differences. He wanted to break the religious mold of only studying scripture until other points of view seemed flawed. He hoped that with more worldliness people would see what mattered at the core of their beliefs, instead of hanging on every word. He wanted to put an end to the brainwashing that religions used to rein in their flocks. He just wanted them to stop feeling different. This would be his most difficult obstacle.
When John had laid all this down he decided to figure out how he would approach people. He knew that if the average person could not grasp a clear idea, and confusion reigns; then they move on to something better. He needed a clear message, and he knew that his competition already had theirs firmly in place. He decided to whittle them down to their basic tenants, and step into a new forum from there. First he thought about earthly evils. What are they? He thought to himself. He considered whether or not sex is evil. If sex creates babies, then how can it be evil? He considered who can have sex. He grappled over whether or not sex should be enjoyed by those who procreate, or everyone. It brought him to the idea of homosexuality, right or wrong? He had always held the personal view that since homosexuals cannot procreate there sexual preference is based purely on pleasure, not necessity. But did that mean that he should push his opinion on others? Whether or not to condone this act started to give John such a headache that he pushed it aside and decided to return to it later.
Next he thought about drugs and alcohol. Some religions banned consumption of any alcohol or drug, and others took a more lenient approach. He could understand where any religion shunned getting drunk or high simply to escape reality. He decided to leave it at that. If somebody grew into a habitual user or an addict of any chemical, then Agnosticism would not condone it, but in moderation these things posed no threat.
Then he started to think about subjects like vanity and covetousness. He knew that these served to poison any society, yet they drove economies as well. Beauty products, fashion, decorations, and nice cars; these all fit under these conditions. He wanted to allow them, but then realized that as soon as people acquired more objects of desire and wealth, greed soon followed. He knew that to fight these was really to fight human nature. Some people just love money, and what it buys. John really contemplated this for awhile, and how to approach it, because he knew that making the wrong decision in an area like this could make or break Agnosticism. Then he remembered what he decided about forming chemical habits, and then it dawned on him. He should simply take an overall approach to habits and addictions of any kind. Besides, times change, and keeping a list would just be too difficult. This would approach everyone’s nature, because some people love money, others drugs, some vanity, and still others power. He decided to create one overall value, and in a surge of inspiration he wrote: we must bend like grass, but not break like wood, and reform like water. By this he meant that tolerance would dominate their lives, and instead of highlighting humanity’s flaws he would rather his religion point out that people should have no addictions of any kind. When he thought of that he realized that he had just covered a lot of ground without thinking of every human flaw, but rather saying: take the middle path, and veer not toward any extremes.
John felt happy, because he had just made a lot of progress, but still had one difficult subject left to consider. He knew that just as his stance on wealth and money was important, so was his decision about how to handle the topic of sexual passion, and how far it could go. He knew that some people needed boundaries on that subject, and closure. The fundamental decision he had to approach was whether or not homosexuality was a natural act. He knew that sex was natural, but he felt that we were supposed to feel the way it makes us feel because it taps into something primordial that goes back to our need to survive. Homosexuals generally die and leave behind no family. He could not figure out how this benefited society, and then he realized that society itself was a major question that religion should approach. If a person tries to lead a good life are they leading it for themselves, or society as a whole? Who really benefits? On the idea of leading a good life for personal reasons John could see nothing wrong with homosexuality. But when he pictured its place in society, and the progression of the human race; he could not see where homosexuals fit in. There would never be a dynasty of homosexuals leading the charge into some field of study, setting records, or creating standards that the world would cherish forever. This vexed John deeply, and he did not know what to do. He did not feel very tolerant if he decided to shun homosexuality, and all sex out of wedlock in general, but he could not see a benefit to condoning casual sex either. It was a question of the heart, and it exceeded one man such as John. He felt small and insignificant all of a sudden, unable to take on such a heavy challenge, unworthy of his charge.
Then John pulled himself together, and decided that forbidding any of these parted with his message of tolerance and acceptance. So, he wrote that all were welcome, but emphasized his message of moderation. And decided to leave it up to people to know if they had gentle leanings, or obsessive ones, and to answer to their own consciences, for that was where truth ultimately laid in the first place.
Finally John felt ready to carry his message out to people and try to gain support. He went out and told them that his version of Agnosticism was not to believe in the same higher power as everyone else, but rather the one that suited them, or the parts of the whole that they liked best. At first he earned some strange looks, and suspicious glances. Gradually however some people started understanding his message. It was after all what nations had to do in order to get people to live together under one cause composed of many banners. People began to understand it, and his message of tolerance and moderation spoke to the masses. He quickly started to gain followers who felt put out by structured religions that imposed a lot of rules. The average person started to feel an attraction to this idea of making a good life, comprised of many parts, a reality. It turned out that a lot of people favored seeing the lines in the sand washed away, so that they could all agree on something together, instead of only fighting about their differences. Agnosticism asked people to stop choosing sides, but rather embrace all of them, and stop judging.
Organized religion took notice of this surge of Agnosticism, and tried to halt its progress, but the more it tried to rein in its followers and dictate right from wrong according to its own tenants; the more people wandered away. It turned out that they were tired of feeling so opinionated, and only needed a push to release their grasp on religious dogmas. It turned out that enlightenment came through understanding of many things in the world, instead of only a few.
John’s followers wanted to venerate him, but he stepped aside and let the religion take on a life of its own. And when people asked him what he believed he responded by saying that he believed that their beliefs were sacred, and could be shared by all, in any fashion, and that he was a part of them and none of them, just a particle in the air.
When John died after a long and natural life, he had inscribed on his tombstone: “I believe in everything and everyone, nothing and none, one and many, me and you, all together.”