Jack Marino '23
I come from a family with both Catholic and Anglican roots. From my Father’s side (from which the Marino name comes), I have a long history of Italian-Catholic roots, while on my Mother’s side I have a complicated network of Anglican and even Puritan ancestry, some of which date back to the Mayflower. So here I am, like many of my fellow students on the close, facing a religious identity crisis, a struggle between family history and my own individual beliefs. Agnosticism and Atheism (I’ll call them A & A for short) are seen as the absence of any religion or religious heritage, rather than a religious heritage of their own. But I am here to tell all of you A & A members of the close that there is heritage in these beliefs.
While checking over one of my college applications, my mother was surprised to see that I labeled myself as agnostic.
“You’re agnostic?” my mother asked.
“Yup” I responded.
From then on I considered Agnosticism as part of my identity. I realized that A & A are like any other religion. For these reasons, I dove into ancestry.com, expecting to find no trace of Agnostic heritage. However, to my surprise, I realized that I am related to one of the most prominent agnostics in history.
In the mid-1700s, the Marino family/clan lived in rural Tuscany, just East of Florence. However, when one member of the family, with the name Agnosticus, questioned God’s existence, he was banished from his immediate family. In response, he sought refuge with a distant cousin in nearby San Marino (a small kingdom known for its religious toleration at the time). Agnosticus was eventually taken into the nobility of the kingdom after proving his loyalty through his service to the kingdom’s lower classes. Agnosticus built public baths, gave out bread, and administered shelters for the homeless, granting him the admiration of his peers. While (the now Sir) Agnosticus was reticent to openly proclaim his beliefs, he gained a small following of local A & A that helped him through his service. In contrast to how the Episcopalian church looks at service through a religious lens, Sir Agnosticus of San Marino viewed service as a civic duty to those less fortunate because they cannot simply expect to be saved by god. Thus, Sir Agnosticus went on to become the namesake for Agnostics around the world, as his charity and good deeds earned him a strong reputation among the people of San Marino and the surrounding kingdoms, whether they were Christian or not.
Therefore, I urge all close Agnostics and all close Atheists to read up on their heritage. I urge all close A & A to arrange a meeting with their fellow nonbelievers. I urge all members of the close to follow in the footsteps of Sir Agnosticus of San Marino and treat A & A not as the absence of religion but, rather, as a secular calling to do good for the community, in essence, a secular religion.