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November 16, 2015

Dear 13-year-old Agnostic, I was Once You

A reply to a teenage's question about losing faith. Want to give a longish response to any of our articles? Send it away with the subject Your Feedback.

by RS

This is a response to this question on Ask Madge.
At 13, I was also questioning my religion.
There are a lot of ways to question religion.
And I come from logical perspective. Just like you. I accept that, on theory, on paper, religion brings positivities – you know, the loving stuff, the surrender stuff, the ultimate justice in the end of time, those are lovely positive mindsets, aren't they?
And, yet, people like us still ask: does God(s) really exist? If yes, does God(s) intervene in our world? If yes, how? Some people, from time to time, claim to have connection with God, either as a prophet, or as a king that blessed by God(s), or God(s) her/himself. How can we verify their claim?

People like us want the truth. Others often see us as crazy people who want an answer to everything. They're wrong. It's not answer that we strive for. It's the truth. We accept that we can't answer some questions. But we'll never accept a made-up answer and collectively seeing it as truth. When we don't know, we say we don't.
It doesn't mean we're a cold machine who can only calculate. We so also believe. Optimism is one of forms of believe right? But we see the word 'to believe' very literally: "to accept something as true – when you can't proof it as a truth".
Seeing your post, I imagine directly talking to myself, 12 years ago, in the form of a girl. It's interesting because I'm a man, the more different our backgrounds are, the more sure I am that I'm not alone. Thanks A, for coming out. Here's my advice:
My dear A,
I respectfully disagree, Marleen, I don't advise you to start with your need, and choosing one from many options.
I advise you to start your search with something real: yourself. The only truth you can assure right now. Close your eyes. Take some deep breath. Feel your body. The air. The sound. Meditate.
Relax. Now try to connect yourself to people from the past and future. People like you. I bet you will realize how universal your question is. Your exact question has been asked by a little boy in the Majapahit era. And a veteran mammoth hunter in Ice Age era. And it may be asked by a young mom from Hawaii islands, year 3291.
It's a universal question. Do you accept the probability of sentient alien existence greater than 0? I do. If you do too, you can also imagine a young alien is asking the same question you ask right now. Universal means it's not earth-centric right?
Imagine all of them. Asking.
Now, you might realize that it's not only not earth-centric, it's also not god-centric. I mean, there is a question that covers your godly questions right now. To make it clearer, do you think a veteran mammoth hunter in Ice Age era understands the concept of God(s) like you have right now? How about the young alien from Andromeda galaxy?
The one question that also covers your godly questions is: "what is reality?" or "how should I perceive (the foundation of) reality I experience right now?"
Then, let your searching begin. Enjoy it. I really love my memories of searching. It ended some years ago.
I don't want to guide your searching. It's yours only, as it was mine. But I want your friends: the little boy from Majapahit, an old man ex-mammoth hunter, a future young mom from Hawaii, a young alien, to be your whetstone. An answer satisfies your logic system, only and only if, it can satisfies your friends logic system. I called this method a “universality test”. It is kind of connected  to that Einstein’s quote: "you only fully understand it, when you can explain it to a sixth grader".
For every answer you got in your searching, explain it to each of your imaginary universal friends.
If all of them can accept it as an answer of a universal question (like "what is reality?" or "does God exist?"), then your search in that question has ended. You can solve other problems of life without being bugged by it.
You might ask me: then, where can I get the answers to test it to my friends? Now, I do agree with Marleen: do a deep research on existing and famous religions. I also agree with Magdalene: widen your perspective by reading scholarly works (I did read Karen Amstrong too). Here's my addendum: you can also make-up your own answers. Yup. Your ex-mammoth hunter friend must not have a lot of references back then right? ;)
Whatever answer that will satisfy yourself. Be comfortable with it. If you can share it, share. If you can't, it's fine. I bet you'll find someone or some people who will be okay with you. After all, the problem didn’t started from your social circle right? It's all about you and “your own view about reality” right?
Happy searching, my blessed one!
Oh my, I want to cry right now. I want to meet you in person, and give you my warmest hug – if you don't mind. :)
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