Are you agnostic

The atheist, the agnostic and the Catholic faith

YOUPAX author Miriam pursued (faith) questions.

For a long time I didn't notice that I live in what I call a “theological bubble”. Since studying theology, I have had the feeling that I am no longer really connected to the everyday world of non-believers, because my circle of friends has centered quite heavily on believers. I no longer really know how a world with and with God can be thought of differently. So I found the idea of ​​having a targeted conversation with an atheist and an agnostic all the more exciting.

Atheism & Agnosticism

Atheists are people who do not believe in God or deny the existence of God (gods). The word is derived from the Greek a-theos = without God.

Agnostic however, cannot completely exclude the existence of God because they cannot explain it. The term a-gnosis means without knowledge or without knowledge. That doesn't necessarily mean they don't believe in God. Agnosticism is compatible with both atheism and belief in God (theism).

"I learned from an early age to respect people who have strong faith."

Tara * is 27 and comes from Bavaria. There she is a doctor for trauma surgery and in her job she is often in contact with different religions. “In the hospital I keep dealing with religion and belief. If, for example, a Muslim woman does not want to undress for an examination because of her faith, then that has to be respected. "Tara seems very open when she tells how she grew up:" As an Italian, my mother is of course Catholic, but she is out resigned from the Church. My father is from Egypt and is a Muslim, but he never really practiced his faith.

My parents raised my three sisters and me very freely - quite deliberately free of religion. Accordingly, we were not baptized either. At school we had ethics lessons, which I enjoyed because all religions were treated equally, so that there was no monotony or obsolescence. From an early age I learned to respect people who have strong faith, not to judge them. "

Depending on the federal state, ethics lessons can be taught as a substitute subject for those who do not want to take part in religious education - this is the case in Bavaria - or - as in North Rhine-Westphalia - it is offered as an elective, so that one can freely choose between religious and ethics lessons. It is a religiously and ideologically neutral subject.

In ethics lessons, in addition to the various religions, philosophical and ethical basics, such as basic human values, are discussed. Questions of meaning also arise. When I ask Tara what makes the meaning of life for her, she amazes a devout Catholic like me:
"My meaning of life is life itself - that is, what you make of it."
"Yes, and after that?" I want to know.

“There is nothing after death. The here and now counts, ”she explains.

Okay, this answer is not new to me. Often I even have the feeling that many believers live according to this motto. At this point I would like to bring my point of view in order to catch up with the belief perspective. It is understandable that Tara would like to do something with her life in order to be happy, but this absolute reference to this world is no longer conceivable for me, because as a Christian I am dealing with a God who is consequently always transcendent is thought. The fact that through the sending of his Son Jesus Christ God himself became man and thus part of this unique world, is precisely THE creed par excellence.

The thought that God has reconciled and united the world with himself is no longer a question of faith for me, but a matter of course. God has always revealed himself to people in wonderful ways - through Jesus Christ the revelation became perfect: God's self-revelation confirms that HE loves us human beings unsurpassably, that he desperately wants us and therefore also leaves us the freedom to decide for ourselves whether we rely on his love answer or not. But that also means that God is the Creator, existed before time.

It connects - figuratively speaking, heaven and earth and at the same time opens the sky to the perspective beyond. From this it follows for me that it definitely continues after death - and life only really starts then because it is good, perfect, redeemed - eternal. Of course I don't know what that will look like in concrete terms, but God gives us the hope of a perfect world freed from suffering - from this I can draw strength and courage for everyday life.

If God's grace were not so abundant and beneficial, I might not know how to explain my place in life differently, but I feel supported by faith. If something happens to me that is difficult to reconcile with this good God, the consolation remains in the cross of Christ.

As an atheist, Tara understandably cannot fill these terms God, cross and Jesus Christ. Your view is more pragmatic:

“If something doesn't work out, it's me. Then I didn't give it my all. Next time I'll have to try harder. Then I was just unlucky. "

"Is that really enough for you?" I wonder.
She answers in her happy, dry way: “I never asked why or why. I just accept it as it goes. Much is also just coincidence. "

Tara lives in an environment that is predominantly Catholic. Religion remains an interesting area for her, after all, there are also believers in her circle of friends. “I immediately think of two people who are really believers and try to live according to their beliefs. I also find religion beautiful and exciting. I also went to church because I was interested. When I was in Thailand, I also visited temples - but I wouldn't base my life on a religion myself. "

If she is already concerned with it, then she must have surely become curious as to whether religion does not mean more to her than she admits. "Shouldn't you have to step out of your comfort zone after all, deal seriously with the topic and just not leave everything to chance?" I ask.

Tara sticks to her opinion: »I can understand that people want to believe in something. For me, it's all a matter of interpretation. I achieve my fulfillment in life when I can be me, when I can remain true to myself. «She repeatedly emphasizes that performance in her studies and work, but also her family, are high on the scale of her happiness in life. As we talk about it, I feel more and more seething because there are such good points of contact with which I could explain to her that she has long been further than she might think and that she is not far from believing in a God.

I'll leave it that way at this point, respect her in this sense as she respects me and my beliefs. Perhaps she comes across deeper questions of her own accord, because the ways of God are known to be unfathomable - besides: As Pope Benedict XVI once did. testified that there are as many roads to God as there are people.

Skepticism - it's normal, isn't it?

Björn * (29) is one of these people who is not yet sure whether this God I am speaking of actually exists. Björn is doing his PhD in biochemistry in Bonn. He comes from a small town in our archdiocese, his family originally comes from Poland. On the phone he describes the situation: “Very clearly, everyone has been baptized and confirmed Catholic. Me too, of course, but I've never been able to identify with it. I was skeptical from an early age, ”he says.

Doubts are normal, sometimes even encouraging, because the sustainability of faith is often only then expressed. The theologian Maximilian Schultes describes this plausibly in an online article by defining doubt as the "basic dimension of the faith for which man is responsible for any human endeavor to believe".

A typical agnostic speaks from Björn when he describes the following: »I would not rule out the possibility of God. Just because nature is so diverse, unique and fascinating, one can ask oneself whether someone has not given the initial spark for it. We cannot prove God, but neither can we prove that He does not exist. "

Give more life to meaning

I also ask him about a meaning in life and what a fulfilled life means for him: »I don't know myself ... There are many things. I would be happy if I could contribute to the total knowledge of mankind. «That something remains of what I do - that is a basic task of people. It is especially given to us Christians, I claim, because we are called to love our neighbors. Our views are similar - although I am aware that he is more concerned with the intellect than with works of mercy - but who says that these must be mutually exclusive?

During the conversation we drift off a bit and Björn tells me what he's working on, which micro- and macro-particles he needs to be familiar with - I listen to him patiently and think to myself, whoever has so much knowledge can also do other things Thinking ahead, so I give in: “What happens after death?” I didn't expect his reaction: “I don't know what life after death means. I keep coming to the conclusion that questions like these ultimately remain unanswered. What I always ask myself is where does the soul begin? "

I am irritated because firstly he speaks of soul, a term that is highly theologically charged and secondly because it presupposes that there is a soul. Björn thinks aloud: »Does the soul begin with the bacterium, with the dog or with humans? What happens to all the other living beings that have no soul? And if there is life after death - who or what is then in there, in heaven? "

I find it exciting that he localizes the sky as a place for the afterlife. The sky still seems to be the place popularly shaped as a place of rest for souls. I am of the opinion that once these questions arise and people the size of God - even if they would not call them God or only indirectly - are able to come into contact, then they are already in the process of finding God. Does the existence of God have to be proven in order to experience his presence?

Björn outlines himself as a person who needs evidence and is very inquisitive. His main interest is in the natural sciences and yet he shows a certain sense of the question about God. I confront him with the fact that for believing Christians God is a personal God, a you who is even addressed as father.
He countered that it could also be that God is everything. He says:

"Sometimes I ask myself whether God is not in everything, so parts of me are also God."

I find this consideration interesting. The theory of pantheism (God is everything) has been around for a long time and it could be argued about for even longer - but that would lead too far at this point.

I can say that the independence, the freedom that people want does not exclude God: he does not force anyone to believe in him as soon as one asks about him. On the contrary: Although he has long been there and knows about you and me, he gives everyone the freedom to decide which way to go.

God makes no distinctions: whether atheist, agnostic or otherwise oriented - for God we are absolutely desirable in this world, valuable in his eyes and worthy to be loved - for that he goes with him into death and even beyond.