In our later years we are struck by how close our death is compared to our ever-distancing youth and middle age. Religious or non-religious spirituality can reduce the fear of the moment when our life will end. But what if you don’t strongly believe nor disbelieve in any fate that transcends our limited lifespan on earth?
Popular San Francisco Bay Area public radio host Michael Krasny takes a helpful look at life’s purpose and meaning for believers, atheists and agnostics in his best-selling “Spiritual Envy: An Agnostic’s Quest” (New World Library, 2010, paperback or Kindle less $10). He shares his lifelong craving for a spirituality that transcends our mortal life: “When I write of spiritual envy, I mean envy of the consolation of faith … to have answers and certainty … a release from the entrapment of life’s suffering.” He also candidly explains his deep conviction that we cannot prove or disprove the existence of God as our source and sustainer on earth and in an after life.
Krasny’s book expands on talks at bookstores about his book and life journey. Although one of his appearances conflicted with a post-season baseball game, the bookstore was packed with people, including many seniors, who resonate with his spiritual search and envy.
Distancing himself from a recent spate of popular atheistic writers/speakers who stereotype all believers as naïve, self-deluded and destructive, Krasny stressed that most people of faith live productive and caring lives, and are worthy of respect unless they use their beliefs to harm others. In fact, he envies the sense of purpose, direction and comfort they enjoy in a religious way of life. He writes, “If religion can be the vehicle to inner peace, why knock it?”
Agnostics, he points out, are responsible for developing their own moral code without divine revelations or the structure of religious commandments. The numbers of agnostics, like atheists, continue to grow. However, Krasny points out that agnostics are not organized like religions and atheistic groups, and therefore are more on their own to wrestle with the strain between their spiritual yearnings and their intellectual resistance to “taking it on faith.”
In the third and final stage of our lives we can explore new experiences for our personal satisfaction, and reexamine our purpose and passions in light of the needs of others and our planet. We can take a fresh look at our beliefs and practices to see if they remain authentic. We can determine whether ignorance and prejudice affect our attitude toward people who hold different beliefs, or who perhaps are searching for transcendent experience that will call forth belief and newness of life.
If we are happy with our spiritual convictions and trying our best to contribute to our world, we most likely are grateful. If we are struggling with acceptance of our mortality and issues of meaning in our life, we may choose to reflectively read relevant authors and share our challenges with others. Patient introspection, openness to transforming experiences and life-affirming involvement with others can surprise us with renewed hope, patience, insight and acceptance regarding our lives’ ultimate questions.
Another relevant read is “Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination With the Afterlife” by Lisa Miller (HarperCollins, 2010, paperback $13.49 or Kindle $9.84)
Sandy Cohen and Roger Cormier (email: [email protected]; free blog: starguide4growingolder.wordpress.com)