• This section is a collection of FAQs on the Camino. No new questions can be posted here, but questions that are asked often will be move here by a moderator.
  • Missing the daily forum e-mail? Subscribe again.
A donation to the forum removes ads for you, and supports Ivar in his work running it

Advertisement

The big map o the Caminos de Santiago

I'm agnostic, should I be going?

#1
Hello,

I consider myself an agnostic, from a catholic family. I have agreed to join my Uncle on his journey.

He has been travelling from Le Puy in several stages. He was travelling with a friend who can no longer continue. The last stage, for which will be joining him is from Santander, along the northern route.

I am doing the journey for several reasons; firstly to accompany my 73 year old Uncle and because i believe i will simply enjoy the journey, the countryside, Spain's food, culture and north coast. I'm very much looking forward to it.

Am i wrong for contemplating this journey? I will obviously respect other's travellers faith, but I am a little anxious about undertaking this journey as a 'non believer'.

I'd appreciate your opinions & advice.

Regards

Douglas.
 

tyrrek

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP-SdC (4-5/2011), Ferrol-SdC (9/2011), Pamplona-SdC (3-4/2012), Camino Finisterre (10/2012), Ourense-SdC (5/2014)
#2
Hi!

Yes of course you should be going! Nobody (sane) will try to force religion on you.

There is certainly a religious aspect to the Camino due to its history and cultural significance, but you don't have to be religious to do it.

You're similar to me in that you have a Catholic background but without a faith. Hopefully that means you won't be too spooked if you encounter members of the clergy along the way (which you may do). In my experience fellow pilgrims won't reveal themselves as priests, nuns etc unless it becomes relevant. They want to be pilgrims just like you. (That's on the Camino Frances, though.)

In general I think the people you meet will all have different reasons for being there, some for sport, a bit of space, spiritual reasons, fun, and some religious. You'll find your 'Camino family'!

Buen Camino!
 
#3
Thanks,

I have no concerns about have faith pushed upon me, or encountering clergy etc, I was just concerned it might be inappropriate to be a agnostic pilgrim! And that it was only appropriate to do this journey for religious reasons.

Thanks you for your input. :)
 

Kiwi-family

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Past: (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018)-Frances, Baztan, San Salvador, Primitivo, Fisterra,VdlP, Madrid
#5
You might even meeet God (heehee - cheeky grin)
 

robertt

Active Member
#6
Douglas,

Just don't swing a cat in a crowded albergue, or you'll hit half a dozen agnostics and maybe a dozen lapsed catholics.

As for your touristic approach to the Camino - you're sounding a lot like me.

Enjoy!

Rob
 
#8
Along the Camino I met pilgrims who identified as being agnostic, atheist, Buddhist, Christian and there were even some Catholics in the mix. They were all open to the lessons that the Camino had for them and all found the experience a tremendously valuable one.

Accompany your uncle with an easy mind.
 

KiwiNomad06

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy-Santiago(2008) Cluny-Conques+prt CF(2012)
#9
I met someone walking the Camino with his elderly uncle, and I think it was a great experience for the pair of them. Not sure if either of them was 'religious'.
Margaret
 

Debinq

Active Member
#10
Just do not expect to receive a nicely calligraphied 'compostella' when you fess up at the office with your 'sello' festooned credential and tell you've not done yr camino 'per christo' or for some other spiritual reason!

happy trails quand meme

Peter
 
#11
Nobody "should" do anything. Least of all, on the Camino. You will not be there to please anyone else, or to follow anyone else's rules. You will be making the Camino, that is right, FOR YOU. It will be YOUR experience, and you will get from it, what is meant for you.

Buen Camino, peregrino!!
 

CaptBuddy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Fall 2012, again Fall 2014.
#12
Debinq said:
Just do not expect to receive a nicely calligraphied 'compostella' when you fess up at the office with your 'sello' festooned credential and tell you've not done yr camino 'per christo' or for some other spiritual reason!

happy trails quand meme

Peter
Not true. My wife and I are atheist, and we received our Compostela without lying about anything. In truth, it was a spiritual journey for us both, but we are still atheists.

Buen Camino
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino del Norte (9/2012)
#13
People walk the Camino for many different reasons. If you walk with an attitude of respect for all others no matter what their motivation then I have confidence that you will be shown respect for yours. There is a thread here specifically explaining all the many many reasons people have chosen to take this journey. Check it out.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Mar 2010, May/Jun 2016, Sep 2011, 2012, Apr 2014, St Olav's Way 2018
#14
Walk, and don't be concerned. Pursuing a search for a higher meaning in life is not the sole preserve of those who believe in a god, and if that is your intent you will be walking with a spiritual purpose. Otherwise, walking as a tourist is also equally acceptable, although the form of certificate you receive on completion might vary from those who walk for religious or spiritual reasons.
 

Debinq

Active Member
#15
Sure Cpt Bud
if you have the appropriate number of sellos you get a compostella - so did I - but it was not beautifully calligraphied as others I saw that were given to ppl who said they had walked 'per christo' - my name was scribbled with a Bic pen - I was told this was because I had not done my camino for a spiritual or religious reason..... I'm not encouraging anyone to lie

Peter
 

oursonpolaire

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
#16
Debinq said:
Sure Cpt Bud
if you have the appropriate number of sellos you get a compostella - so did I - but it was not beautifully calligraphied as others I saw that were given to ppl who said they had walked 'per christo' - my name was scribbled with a Bic pen - I was told this was because I had not done my camino for a spiritual or religious reason..... I'm not encouraging anyone to lie

Peter
Two of my five compostelas were done with ballpoints. I was horrified, but ballpoints always distress me and I always used my waterman with customized nib when on the Camino. A small bottle of Herbin ink is really not a burden.

The compostelas are issued for those who claim to do the Camino with spiritual and religious intent. I suppose that you might be challenged if all of your sellos were from bars or brothels (a Spanish bureaucratic friend informs me that the Casas de Gato which one finds in Spain have sellos and fill out of the necessary forms!) but otherwise, they take seriously that you have walked seriously--- your proof is that you have done the km. If you feel more comfortable claiming that you have done the Camino for other reasons, you'll be awarded the recreativo, and that's just as fine. Your motives in supporting your relative are admirable, and you may find that you will be getting tons of blessings from the locals without asking.
 

Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
#17
I've posted elsewhere that I'm more lapsed Atheist than fitting under any other label. I walked my Camino with an open heart and found much that brought me joy. The only thing I never found was any-one who criticised me for walking the Camino. Even when I sat in the "sinners' row" at the back at mass no one ever challenged my right, or my need, to be there.

You will be welcome and welcomed on the Camino, whatever your reasons for being there. Providing company and support to your uncle is, possibly, a more respectable reason for your journey than trying to dodge a few eons in Purgatory!
 

robertt

Active Member
#18
Only because of how I'm tuned, a compostela did not matter to me. I wanted to walk, experience all kinds of things, and get to the end. A compostela is a nice memento, and I now have two, but it's also another piece of paper I'm likely to lose, since I'm not a neat, methodical person - not at all! If I'd been refused one, I'd have understood perfectly. Why be indignant if such a valuable organisation wants to take its work seriously and uphold a few standards?

I got a kick from seeing other pilgrims arriving at the Cathedral and bustling excitedly in the pilgrim office. There's no doubting what that means to the majority. However, I didn't feel much myself. In no way am I "above" that kind of thing - I'm just more a wanderer than a finisher. Arriving was never going to be a big deal. The Peggy Lee song, "Is That All There Is?", doesn't describe how I feel about life or the Camino - quite the contrary! - but it describes how I feel about goals and destinations. This is not a philosophy, just a personal bent, but I mention it for those who may feel a bit the same.

Re religion: A great-hearted Italian friend I made on the Montes de Oca was a dedicated hospitalero and very active member and leader of pilgrim organisations. When he wasn't on Camino, he was doing volunteer charity work in places like South America, though he also had post-retirement business interests to attend to. I never discussed religion with him, but I got the strong impression that he was not religious at all!

As for me, my spiritual life could be summed up in the slogan: Pray badly, but pray anyway. And that's about all I do. Hasn't stopped me planning my next Camino, and the one after that, and the one after that...
 

Priscillian

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 1999, Aragones 2000, Desde Le Puy 2002, Portuguese 2009, hoping RDLP 2014
#19
Doug...you are joking, right? Sorry but I haven´t had chance to read all of the reponses to your question but. Agnostics by definition "don´t know". The Camino is your space, man....
Hope you get to The Litte Fiox, with or without "answers"!
TS
PS: "Should I be going........." LOL
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
#20
Even though there was only one Christian religion until the 1500's, the church welcomed all - as is evidenced by the 12th c Latin hymn, the La Pretiosa:

Its doors are open to the sick and well
to Catholics as well as to pagans,
Jews, Heretics, beggars and the indigent,
and it embraces all like brothers.
 

Abbeydore

Veteran Member
#21
........& let us know how you get on, we love stories......buen camino

....your uncle will be a few days ahead of you.....so will take you a day or 2 to settle in :D

David
 
Camino(s) past & future
Mar 2010, May/Jun 2016, Sep 2011, 2012, Apr 2014, St Olav's Way 2018
#22
Priscillian said:
Agnostics by definition "don´t know". The Camino is your space, man....
I prefer the view that an agnostic denies that anything is known or can be known about the existence or nature of any metaphysical phenomena, such as the notion of a deity.

As a strict agnostic, I would object as much to someone claiming to know that there is no god, as to someone saying they know there is one. I should equally allow that my agnosticism has nothing to say about what people believe, including what I choose to believe.

While there is a common perception that agnostics sit somewhere between atheists and theists, that is only true in a very limited way. To answer the question 'do you believe in a god?' with the response 'I am agnostic' is illogical and insufficient. It is a knowledge based response to a question on belief! Essentially it amounts to saying 'I deny you can know anything about the existence or nature of god, and hope that you don't press me on what I might believe.'

In honesty, one could claim to be theist, atheist or undecided about whether to believe in god or not. These are answers about one's belief system, not about one's views on what can be known about the metaphysical. My view is an agnostic could sit in any of those three camps.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Mar 2010, May/Jun 2016, Sep 2011, 2012, Apr 2014, St Olav's Way 2018
#24
daesdaemar said:
Maybe you won't be an agnostic after you walk it???
This misses the point that strictly speaking, agnosticism is about what knowledge we can have about the metaphysical, not about whether one chooses to believe, not believe or remains undecided about the existence of a deity.

Using the term loosely to refer to someone who is undecided about this misses the whole point and power of the distinction between knowledge and belief. Merely being undecided is not agnosticism, it is just being undecided. In my view those who use the term 'agnostic' to indicate that they are undecided do it an injustice.

Regards,
 
#25
To question whether you should be going implies to me that you have some thoughts that your spirituality might somehow be inferior or less worthy than that of the rest of humanity you will encounter along the Camino.

Unfortunately, most organized religions are not very accepting of the fact that spirituality is a very individual thing, and many people feel the need to attach a label (Catholic, Protestant, etc.) to their spirituality.

As a fellow "agnostic" who hopes to someday walk the Camino, I am comfortable with my personal spirituality, which includes acceptance of the possibility of something that simply can't be put into words. The core issue is that, despite the fact that I have chosen to not buy into any organized religion, society still feels the need to label my spirituality. But "agnostic" is really society's label, not mine, and I am confident that every other "agnostic" has their own unique individual sense of spirituality.

Therefore, does being an "agnostic" make someone less worthy of walking the camino. Of course not. Instead, remember that life is a spiritual journey and that anything that serves to deepen our sense of spirituality is worthwhile.
 

Priscillian

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 1999, Aragones 2000, Desde Le Puy 2002, Portuguese 2009, hoping RDLP 2014
#26
Never thought I would quote it but:
Lovely Gypsy man to Tom (Martin Sheen) in The Way:
"Religion has nothing to do with it"

Funny thing that.....
 

daesdaemar

Camino-holic
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Ingles - twice
#27
dougfitz said:
daesdaemar said:
Maybe you won't be an agnostic after you walk it???
This misses the point that strictly speaking, agnosticism is about what knowledge we can have about the metaphysical, not about whether one chooses to believe, not believe or remains undecided about the existence of a deity.

Using the term loosely to refer to someone who is undecided about this misses the whole point and power of the distinction between knowledge and belief. Merely being undecided is not agnosticism, it is just being undecided. In my view those who use the term 'agnostic' to indicate that they are undecided do it an injustice.

Regards,
With respect, many theses could be written on agnosticism. However, words with complex meanings are often used within the vernacular with a simple intent . I don't mean to speak for DougWatson, but his post seems to indicate that he uses the word as many others do in common usage: they are not sure if they believe. BTW: I have a master's degree in theology/philosophy.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Mar 2010, May/Jun 2016, Sep 2011, 2012, Apr 2014, St Olav's Way 2018
#28
daesdaemar said:
However, words with complex meanings are often used within the vernacular with a simple intent . I don't mean to speak for DougWatson, but his post seems to indicate that he uses the word as many others do in common usage: they are not sure if they believe.
Two points:
  • I agree with your first point, and you might have noted that I was careful to suggest a definition so as to avoid confusion. You could have changed the frame of reference, but you didn't. I will stand by my assertion that your comment missed the point as it was made.
  • Your second point is at best dubious. Not even the Urban Dictionary http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=agnostic provides for such a meaning as you suggest. Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnosticism offers a popular definition but it is different to the meaning you have proposed.

daesdaemar said:
BTW: I have a master's degree in theology/philosophy.
I'm not sure why this is relevant to the thread.
 
#31
Well thank you for all your views and opinions, they are appreciated. Knowing basically nothing about the Camino prior to my slightly rash, but not regrettable offer to my Uncle to accompany him, I suddenly had some doubt about this undertaking. This doubt was solely born in my ignorance to what the Camino is. Your responses have help tremendously and are very encouraging.

And i like the little debate it has sparked about agnostic views!

dougfitz said:
Priscillian said:
Agnostics by definition "don´t know". The Camino is your space, man....
I prefer the view that an agnostic denies that anything is known or can be known about the existence or nature of any metaphysical phenomena, such as the notion of a deity.

As a strict agnostic, I would object as much to someone claiming to know that there is no god, as to someone saying they know there is one. I should equally allow that my agnosticism has nothing to say about what people believe, including what I choose to believe. .
I think you are both correct for me; don´t know, denies that anything is known or can be known, would object as much to someone claiming to know that there is no god, as to someone saying they know there is one. :wink:

Anyway i am very much looking forward to this trip, for many reasons. Thank you.
 
#32
I have read a 12th Century description of the monastery in Roncesvalles that described it this way:

The door lies open to all,
to sick and strong.
Not only to Catholics but to pagans too; Jews, heretics, idlers, vagabonds.
In short, to good and bad,
sacred and profane.


If you can't fit ONE of those categories, then stay home. Somehow though, I think we can ALL find ourselves in there somewhere.

P.S. Not sure of the source or translation of this. And honestly, even if it is not accurate, it doesnt matter. It is a good description of the Camino today.
 

Egret

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Portuguese (2018)
Camino Ingle's (2018)
#33
Not true. My wife and I are atheist, and we received our Compostela without lying about anything. In truth, it was a spiritual journey for us both, but we are still atheists.

Buen Camino
Me too
Well said.
 

Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
#34
Aah, don't these old threads bring back those memories: the days before the Agnostics had their own separate line at the Pilgrims Office. These days it seems that folks would rather argue it out with a Theologian, a Philosopher and some numpty from the Tourist Office than wait three days in the queue for their genuine Compostella...
And I'm pleased the Atheists are still getting theirs 'cos obviously a firm belief in nothing is a belief worth having. We old pagans have of course always had the advantage of believing in a whole clutch of deities simultaneously which means we can fit in just about anywhere and are always happy to agree that the whole proposition is faintly absurd.

Never mind the rules - look to your heart pilgrim... edited for spelling B-
 
Last edited:

Marbe2

Active member
Camino(s) past & future
2015 SJPD to Burgos
2017 Leon to Santiago
Pamplona to Santiago Mar. 2018
Burgos - SCDC (Oct 18)
#35
We are all on a journey with many paths. Pope Francis would welcome you and so do we!
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
#38
Since the thread has been resurrected this recent podcast might be of some interest to those pondering the original question. Three people - one being Guy Stagg, the atheist author of a recent book about a pilgrimage from Canterbury to Jerusalem - talk about what non-religious people might gain from a pilgrimage. An atheist, an agnostic and a Catholic in a three-way conversation.
https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2018/07/an-atheist-goes-on-a-christian-pilgrimage-whats-the-point/
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) portugues(2013)San Salvador (2017)
#39
Hello,

I consider myself an agnostic, from a catholic family. I have agreed to join my Uncle on his journey.

He has been travelling from Le Puy in several stages. He was travelling with a friend who can no longer continue. The last stage, for which will be joining him is from Santander, along the northern route.

I am doing the journey for several reasons; firstly to accompany my 73 year old Uncle and because i believe i will simply enjoy the journey, the countryside, Spain's food, culture and north coast. I'm very much looking forward to it.

Am i wrong for contemplating this journey? I will obviously respect other's travellers faith, but I am a little anxious about undertaking this journey as a 'non believer'.

I'd appreciate your opinions & advice.

Regards

Douglas.
Douglas, why are you asking? Seriously... should has no place here. How could you be wrong? Do you believe in eating your breakfast? Do you believe in being clean? Forgive me, I am one of those old ladies who has decided to wear more purple. You have as much right as anybody to head out, keep your ancient uncle company, and enjoy the whole experience! I am partly joking: your uncle isn’t ancient, I am slightly younger than he is... you are doing him a favour, maybe, but he is doing you a bigger one! Buen camino.
 
D

Deleted member 36903

Guest
#40
Since the thread has been resurrected this recent podcast might be of some interest to those pondering the original question. Three people - one being Guy Stagg, the atheist author of a recent book about a pilgrimage from Canterbury to Jerusalem - talk about what non-religious people might gain from a pilgrimage. An atheist, an agnostic and a Catholic in a three-way conversation.
https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2018/07/an-atheist-goes-on-a-christian-pilgrimage-whats-the-point/
Thank you for sharing this @Bradypus I have just listened to the podcast and found it very interesting.
 

tjb1013

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2017
#41
Late October, late in my Camino, late in a day that I had started out in an especially creaky state, I experienced a little bit of a lift.

I hypothesized to a fellow pilgrim that it made evolutionary sense that we would feel better as we walked a long distance (and actually enjoy it) if part of our evolutionary niche was to be able to outlast faster prey by running/walking long distances in pursuit of them.

He replied, "Or it could be the spirit of St. James lifting you up."

We had a coffee together.
 

Kiwi-family

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Past: (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018)-Frances, Baztan, San Salvador, Primitivo, Fisterra,VdlP, Madrid
#42
I’m guessing this thread was well underway before the “no religious discussions rule” came into play;-)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Too many caminos to list in the permitted 100 characters!!
#47
He headed for Santander in May 2013, and last visited the Forum in June 2013. I think we can assume that he won't be sharing!;)
Thanks, Falcon. I didn't really look at the dates!!
Let's hope he made it OK and enjoyed it.
I plan my final camino next April - if I make it - Portuguese coastal. I'll be 80!!!
Blessings from warm England....
 

Paladina

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Cycled caminos francés, Finisterre, primitivo & del norte (2017); VdlP/Sanabres, ingles et al (2018)
#50
Forgive me, I am one of those old ladies who has decided to wear more purple.
I hope that the next time you change your avatar, Kirkie, It will show you resplendent in purple, not forgetting the red hat which doen’t go and doesn’t suit you....
 

martyseville

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
a/a
#51
Hey, we are not living in the past Spain. So no one will push the church on you. or even expect you to attend mass.

The most I have seen was offerings by others for a visit to a church (just to see the beautiful interior of a church).

Don't be worried.
Do your camino and enjoy. Much to see and do.

Many nice people to walk with.

I didn't even know what "agnostic" was. (joking) Thought you had something against beer Or, p i n c h o s. (((joking.))) Had me concerned there for a minute.

https://www.tripsavvy.com/pintxos-pinchos-and-tapas-1644384

Down here in Seville, where everything is the best, we have tapas.
 


A few items available from the Camino Forum Store



Advertisement

Booking.com

Most read today

Most downloaded Resources

Forum Rules

Forum Rules

Camino Forum Store

Camino Forum Store

Casa Ivar Newsletter

Forum Donation

Forum Donation
For those with no forum account, it is possible to donate here as well. Thank you for your support! Ivar

Follow Casa Ivar on Instagram

When is the best time to walk?

  • January

    Votes: 11 1.4%
  • February

    Votes: 5 0.6%
  • March

    Votes: 35 4.4%
  • April

    Votes: 114 14.5%
  • May

    Votes: 192 24.4%
  • June

    Votes: 55 7.0%
  • July

    Votes: 15 1.9%
  • August

    Votes: 12 1.5%
  • September

    Votes: 236 30.0%
  • October

    Votes: 96 12.2%
  • November

    Votes: 11 1.4%
  • December

    Votes: 5 0.6%
Top