The Agnostic Who Believed in Charity


I noticed the crack, too

If you mean by a “Christian” a man who loves his neighbor, who has wide sympathy with suffering, and who ardently desires a world freed from the cruelties and abominations which at present disfigure it, then, certainly, you will be justified in calling me a Christian. And, in this sense, I think you will find more “Christians” among agnostics than among the orthodox.

The other day, I tweeted something that came to mind. This past weekend, outside of Barnes and Noble, I was hit up by a homeless family. Now I’ve seen this family several times already, and I’ve given them money most of the time – sometimes, I only have my card on me. Despite their situation – meaning, whether they’re actually going to use the money I give them for food or if they’re going to spend it on booze – I do my best to give as much as possible. And like I tell people, I judge the amount I hand out based on the story they tell me. This is only a half joke.

It always gets me, however, when they end the “transaction” with “Que dios de la bendiga – God bless you.” My kindness isn’t god motivated. I don’t think it ever was, or ever will be. There isn’t a Christian thought that passes my head when I decide to give someone down on his luck a couple of bucks – I usually stop at $5. And what they do with the money is their business, like I said. It’s their guilty conscience they’ll have to deal with later for feeding addictions and not feeding themselves.

People who don’t know me, however, don’t buy this. And sometimes I joke about it, as well. Everyone thinks I give because there is some doubt in me about the existence of a higher power. And I’d be lying if I denied this. But, helping others isn’t exclusively Christian:

Apart from other objections to it, it seems rude to Jews, Buddhists, Mohammedans, and other non-Christians, who, so far as history shows, have been at least as apt as Christians to practice the virtues which some modern Christians arrogantly claim as distinctive as their own religion.

In other words, showing kindness to your neighbor and helping the needy isn’t something invented in the minds of those who followed Christ, but has always existed. I don’t help people because some omnipotent watches down on me, spreading his benevolence through me, but because it essentially makes me feel better about my life.

As much as it may sound foreign to believers’ ears, Atheists and Agnostics are probably more charitable towards others than those who proclaim it’s a trait of their religion. And we’re all, essentially, aiming for the same thing. Although, Atheists and Agnostics are more incline to experience a “heaven” on earth idea, than one afterward.

After I gave that family the three dollars I had in my wallet, Jyg and I went home. On the drive, she asked me if it was the same family she’d seen before. I mentioned it probably was. She, as did I, remembered the child being just a baby when they first showed up in McAllen. By the looks of the child, that was probably three years ago.

“Did he speak in English?”

“No,” I said. “He said, ‘May god bless you.'” After a moment’s pause, “It bugs me when they say that. A simple thank you would suffice. Then again, if I’m wrong about this whole deal, I might just slip by St. Peter.”

Once again, the text quoted in this post is from “What is an Agnostic?” by Bertrand Russell, which you can read here.



I, Agnostic

My man, Buddha

The person who needs religion to bolster up his own purposes is a timorous person, and I cannot think as well of him as of the man who takes his chances, while admitting that defeat is not impossible. —Bertrand Russell, “What is an Agnostic?”

Before you go jumping down my throat with arguments against this thought that I shall present to you in a few moments, let me explain that it has taken me years on contemplation and conversation that has brought me to it. You see, the idea was placed in my head several years by the ghost I call Alice – who isn’t a real ghost, so much as a very real person who has the tendency of returning to my world whenever it pleases her the most. After several dreams that presented my maternal grandmother, I confided in her that I was losing my wits, my grasp on reality. Her explanation was Hispanic Catholic in fashion – “The dead communicate to us through our dreams so they are not forgotten.”

To any other person, this might have calmed my nerves. It might have even comforted me, knowing that somewhere out there, my grandmother was watching down on me, still guiding me through this world. Only, I’m not any other person. I’m me, and that’s a person who once – or still does believe – that once we die, that’s pretty much it for us. Our memory will continue on for a few short weeks, months or years, but after that, life must continue on. We are essentially over.

“We all have to believe in something,” Alice said. “It’s in human nature to believe in [a higher power].”

Being very much human, I found it rather insulting. After a few years thought, however, I’ve come to accept her simplistic explanation why several of us still look up to the sky and think someone is looking back down – with the expect of the paranoid/delusional people out there as there is probably several people looking down on them, waiting to make their move.

Then explain the rest of us, you ask? I’m not very pithy with words, so just read this, this and this for further explanation. Hell, even read this. Evolution is my usual suspect for things like this, however. Evolution is always the go-to reason, like Hitler is the go-to example in Ethics.

So why am I an agnostic and not a full blown Atheist? Is it because I’m not fully evolved – as if Agnostics are the link between believers and Atheists. I’ll turn to my man, Bertrand Russell to answer this one for me:

An agnostic thinks it impossible to know the truth in matters such as God and the future life with which Christianity and other religions are concerned.

Okay, I get why you’re not a Christian, but why aren’t you an Atheist? Mr. Russell doesn’t like to be interrupted, is my answer to that question. Please continue, Bertrand:

The Agnostic suspends judgment, saying that there are not sufficient grounds either for affirmation or for denial. At the same time, an Agnostic may hold that the existence of God, though not imp0ssible, is very improbable; he may even hold it so improbable that it is not worth considering in practice.

It’s simple – I’m a creature of evidence. Just because I’ve never seen a UFO doesn’t mean I’m going to disregard the possibility of life on other planets – though, I will probably disregard you if you ever told me you’ve seen an alien or UFO. And while I’ll leave the window open for the god possibility, I’m not going to let the possibility rule my life, decide my fate without my regard. In other words, I refuse the role of sheep among shepherds.

As Russell would say, I believe “a man should think out questions of conduct for himself.” Or better yet, the Buddhists said it best – “every one must bear the burden of his own sins, that every man must be the fabricator of his own salvation, that not even a God can do for man what self-help in the form of self-conquest and self-emancipation can accomplish.” (Of course, both of these quotes can relate to Atheists, as well.)

Like Russell states – “he will seek to profit by the wisdom of others” – I’ve sought out several people whose wisdom and intelligence has molded my thoughts and insights. It doesn’t make me any less “human” or “Christian,” in my mannerisms. But that, in of itself, is a topic for a later date.

Meaning, tomorrow.

Texts used within the post:

  1. What is an Agnostic?” by Bertrand Russell
  2. A Buddhist Bible edited by Dwight Goddard