An Agnostic’s Prayer…

Marla Rose
4 min readNov 8, 2023
Credit: John Beske

It’s a little odd that I’d feel compelled to write a prayer.

I should say from the outset that I have always envied people of faith. They seem to have one less worry, a major one, even if that faith is an unwavering, confident rejection of being of faith. How lucky to be that assured of anything. If this sounds sarcastic or biting, please know that I am sincere about this. How peaceful it must be to have a nagging question resolved like that.

I have tried to will myself into some faith, any faith, since childhood but within the last decade or longer, I stopped trying to force myself into something that does not fit me. I’m Jewish by birth with pagan and Buddhist tendencies and the particles of that settles in the snow globe of me as largely agnostic. While not being of faith, I accept that there could be some larger, unseen mystery behind the scenes that mortal humans cannot fathom as entirely possible. That is the nature of agnosticism for me: We cannot truly know one way or the other. It is unknowable.

Atheists have always seemed a little surprised, and, frankly, disappointed to learn of my staunch agnosticism. Ultimately, I am a secular, cultural Jew who has always had the tender-to-the-touch bruise of being the Other, of knowing that things can turn on a dime, that I should probably find secure hiding spots, just in case, that life can be fine but it can all unravel in a heartbeat, that bad things happen to good people and, well, quite the reverse of that, too. If you think this is dramatic, you don’t really know the historic reality for the Jewish people.

I also know the possibilities that are so opposite of that, in the arts, in humankind, in nature, in philanthropy. Maybe it is the tension between potentialities, both unspeakably beautiful and unspeakably ghastly, that seems to be stitched into every Jew’s DNA, and the bittersweetness of this knowing, that comes the closest to my spirituality.

Or maybe not.

Given that, how and why does someone like me, not a believer or a non-believer, write a prayer? A prayer after and during so much loss and so much terror, so much polarization and so much tragedy? We are all so raw right now and the pain feels overwhelming.