Spiritual Advice for Agnostics

Ben - Baltimore, Maryland
Entered on November 24, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

In the moment of life-changing events, personal crises, and difficult decisions, many people turn to the wisdom of Jesus, Moses, Buddha, Allah, and other recognized founders of faith. These guys have come up with answers to just about every conceivable ethical or moral issue imaginable. And there’s always the Ten Commandments—sort of an interfaith cheat sheet—to give you quick and simple answers when a clergyman or bible isn’t readily available. Not sure whether to go to war, abort a fetus, or have that hamburger for lunch? Voila!—all these issues are conveniently covered under Commandment #6: Thou Shalt Not Kill. Pretty simple, huh?

But what if you’re agnostic—one of the undecided, unknowing, uncommitted, or just somebody who likes to hedge your bets? With no adopted spiritual leader who has thought up all the answers for you, how do you resolve the myriad of ethical and moral situations that inevitably confront you everyday? That’s where I come in: Ben Shaberman, Agnostic Spiritual Advisor. I help with that daunting, recurring question: What would an agnostic do (WWAD)?

People often ask me why anyone would even want to be agnostic. Well, agnosticism isn’t for everyone. We of uncertain faith tend to be a little more ornery and indecisive than believers. We are often annoyingly skeptical, questioning even the existence of a simple rock. “Maybe it’s all just a dream,” we are often known to say about a variety of events and phenomena, especially the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections.

Here’s another way to understand how agnostics think: For us, picking a religion is like reading a movie review before going to the theater. If you know the ending in advance, where’s the fun? As an agnostic, maybe I’ll go to heaven, maybe I’ll go to hell, or, if it’s up to Shirley MacLaine, I’ll come back as a goat. When it comes to an afterlife, I say: Surprise me!

Personally, I would feel better about our world if we weren’t governed by leaders who are so religious. If mankind blows itself to smithereens—a reality that seems more likely every day—Bush and bin Laden think God will send them to heaven. Maybe without the perceived promise of an afterlife, these guys would make more of a commitment to peace in the here and now, rather than being hell-bent on Armageddon.

So, if you are wondering how an Agnostic Spiritual Advisor like me operates, it’s pretty simple. You present your issue or problem, and I listen. I actually don’t offer much in the way of insight or advice. I just nod my head, scratch my beard, and say “Hmmmm…” Remember, as an agnostic, my life-guiding mantra is “I don’t know.” What’s nice about my approach to spiritual advice is that you get plenty of uninterrupted time to get whatever is bothering you off your chest, and when you’re done, it’s still up to you to make your own decision. In the end, you’re still in control of your destiny. Maybe.