“I’m agnostic,” Steve said, killing his can of cheap beer. I nodded, accepting, but the truth is I didn’t know what he meant.
It was 1987, my first semester of varsity, a late night of watered-down beer and concentrated conversation.
At 18, I was an expert in two things: local sports and Roman Catholic doctrine. I’d spent 10 years as an altar boy and had an audience with Pope John Paul II. I could recite Sunday Mass start to finish without thinking.
My problem was, I could recite Sunday Mass without thinking. That’s why I knew, in the dorm room with Steve, this was an important moment. So I asked, “What does agnostic mean?”
“It means I don’t believe God exists but that I’m not certain he doesn’t either,” Steve said, nonchalantly.
It’d never occurred to me that not everyone believes in God. I looked at Steve in shock, half expecting him to burst into flames. He just smiled.
I wasn’t born Catholic. I inherited my religion from my parents, much like my thin hair and thick fingernails. It’s too easy, even as an adult, to mistake who you are for who others expect you to be. Steve challenged me to think – rationally –about my place in the universe and he taught me that a man must be brave enough to think for himself.
But you don’t need to have all the answers. Whether it’s an issue with your wife, your boss, or your god, sometimes you need to be comfortable not knowing – to be able to admit, “I’m agnostic”.
– Bill Phillips, editor-in-chief of Men’s Health US.
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