Debating The Year of Living Biblically

Exercising the God Muscle
E-mail debates of newsworthy topics.
Oct. 18 2007 3:42 PM

Debating The Year of Living Biblically

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Guardian Labash,

Since you doubt me, let me get down on my knees and testify again: I am an agnostic. I am a reverent agnostic with a sense of awe, but an agnostic nonetheless.

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And since you brought it up, you should know we agnostics are already planning our very own megachurch. Join us! The bumpers of the cars in our parking lot will bear little silver question marks, and stained glass windows will depict our founder, T.H. Huxley, the great evolutionary thinker who coined the term agnostic. (He died of a heart attack in 1895, midway through a defense of agnosticism. He's the closest thing we have to a martyr.) Our evening prayers will begin: "The lord giveth and the lord taketh away, assuming he existeth in the first place, which he may or may not."

My year of living biblically was intense, spiritually speaking. And it took me through a whole pu-pu platter of beliefs. Sometimes, I stayed with my agnosticism. Occasionally, after reading, say, the red heifer passages in Numbers, I veered into hard-core atheism.

Other times, I was a believer in some sort of vague, God-like force. The God of Spinoza. Or the God of the Jedi knights.

But there were many days during my year, especially after some good, hard praying, that I believed in a God who loves everyone, even Carlos Mencia. A God who created the world for a purpose.

But as I stopped praying all the time, my belief faded. Blame cognitive dissonance or the lack thereof. I wasn't exercising my God muscle, and it shriveled.

You say that to have faith, you have to leap from the cliff. But what if I like standing on the edge of the cliff? Have you seen the view? It's amazing. The leaping part scares me. Who knows where you'll land if you leap? You might fly right past the Judeo-Christian mainstream and end up picketing gay pride parades or having Shabbat dinner with Shmuley Boteach and Uri Geller.

I've searched my heart, even during serious in-flight turbulence, and I haven't found any god-shaped hole there. During my year, I found a ritual-shaped hole. A community-shaped hole. But I don't know about the one shaped like God.

Let me end by saying that I've loved our interfaith wrestling match. God, if he exists, has given you, Matt Labash, both an amazing gift of writing and a mildly disturbing Angie Harmon fetish.

I also appreciate your strong feelings about the Teletubbies. Which—and I might be reading into this—are perhaps too strong? Just for the record, if you decided to ditch your Angie Harmon fetish for some hot Tinky Winky action, I would still love you, and, hopefully, so would God. If he exists.

A.J.

A.J. Jacobs is the author of the new book Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection. His previous books include The Know-It-All (about his experience reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica) and The Year of Living Biblically (about his year following all the rules of the Bible). He is the editor at large of Esquire magazine. He lives in New York with his wife and three sons.