Modesty: An Agnostic Perspective

What is an Agnostic?

To begin with, I’d like to briefly describe what being an agnostic means to me. You’ve probably heard it described in terms like “unaffiliated” or even “spiritual but not religious.” As of 2014, us “Unaffiliateds” make up about 23% of the American population.

Being agnostic doesn’t mean I don’t care about the big questions of life like, “What happens after death?” or “Is there a God?” It also doesn’t mean that I haven’t dedicated a lot of time to trying to answer these questions either. I have literally dedicated years of my life to pursuing the big answers to the big questions, but a degree in Theology left me with more questions than answers. So, for now I like to think of myself as a big question mark. I hope that changes one day, but for now I’m content in the words of Socrates: The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.

Statue of Socrates Pondering

Socrates knew a thing or two about “not” knowing

Why Does Modesty Still Matter?

Even though I no longer believe in following a set of “divinely-inspired” commandments, I do still practice modesty for several different reasons. To begin with, for me modesty has taken on a whole new meaning for me since I became agnostic. It’s not about covering certain portions of my body because I’m afraid of getting in trouble on “Judgement Day.” Modesty is now about spending a reasonable amount of money on clothing, in the knowledge that many, many people go without basics; it’s about responsible purchasing from ethically made sources when possible and about covering my body in a socially acceptable way that reflects who I am accurately to others.

Social Norms & Fashion as a Reflection of Self

Even though the old adage goes “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover,” the reality is that we make snap judgements every day. A large part of the reason we do this is basic survival. Throughout history, our survival has in large part depended on our ability to judge whether or not something or someone posed a danger to us.

I may not agree with the current social code for how dress reflects a person’s character, but I do still have to operate within that code, even though (in my opinion) it’s a faulty code that has been shaped by outdated Puritanicalism and, to a large degree, our misogynistic rape culture.

Puritans Celebrating Thanksgiving

The Puritans have contributed a lot more to our culture than just Thanksgiving

To put it another way, it’s kind of like how we use the word “hopefully.” Technically, it means to do something “with hope,” but in its everyday usage it means “I hope.” Linguistically, I disagree with the everyday usage, but I have adopted it as it is part of the linguistic code (i.e. vernacular) we use today.

And so, I dress to modest standards because they correctly communicate to others who I am: socially conservative, a bit old-fashioned and chaste.

Now that I’ve dissected fashion and modesty to death and probably bored you to tears, let me say that I still find dressing modestly fun. I love fashion. I love that a certain sweater or outfit can reflect my exact mood that day and make me feel 100% comfortable in my skin.

For me, modesty is a conscious choice to present myself in the most accurate light, even though I don’t find the lighting itself to be especially  accurate. I don’t believe that wearing short shorts implies anything derogatory about a woman’s character, but many, if not most people, do. So, I play by the rules, hoping that one day society will wake up and realize that the length of my skirt doesn’t reflect the depth of my character. Until then, though, that doesn’t mean I can’t have fun with modest fashion or fashion full stop. It just means I view things from a slightly different angle. Hopefully, it will be a shorter wait than I expect.

About the author: Megan H. enjoys spending time with her family, is a news junkie and has recently taken up boxing. Her other interests included etymology, ancient history and archaeology.