Spiritual Envy

“Agnosticism does not preclude spiritual hunger. Agnostics possessed of spiritual hunger can and do envy those with spiritual sustenance.”

So says PBS talk show host and university professor Michael Krasny in his book Spiritual Envy. Krasny grew up in a religious home but became an agnostic in his teens. He defines agnosticism as

“a position that denies the existence of absolutes and hidden spiritual forces behind the natural or material world until they can be empirically proven. Agnosticism welcomes proof, craves it, demands it.”

I don’t share Krasny’s brand of agnosticism as I believe there is a God / Intelligent Designer / Higher Power. But I share his sense of alienation from a close-knit community of faith; in his case Orthodox Judaism, in my case Fundamentalist Christianity.

Even when the mind can no longer embrace a specific worldview, the heart still craves the camaraderie such certainty engenders. People of faith have a purpose and a peace that eludes those who are more empirical and skeptical by nature.

“When I write of spiritual envy, I mean envy of the consolation of faith, of the elevating power of knowing a force or forces beyond the physical, observable world or past the finite limits of self, of knowing a higher purpose, or possessing answers, or even being convinced they can be discovered. To have answers and certainty, to possess spiritual anchoring or spiritual authority and purpose, is to have comfort, a release from the entrapment of life’s suffering.”

For Jews and Christians, this “knowing” comes from Holy Scripture. The beginning of disillusionment comes with questioning the Word of God. But in many cases—including my own—it’s the interpretation of those words that’s at issue; the systematic theology spun from raw thread into tapestries that, upon closer inspection, look all too human.

To question the docent puts one out of step with the tour group. It’s a lonely feeling until you find another group that will let you tag along.


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