Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Newfound Passion to Study

“Deconversion, however, is a long and mostly intellectual process of critically examining our own thoughts, biases and experiences. It often involves a profoundly emotional separation from friends and family, and almost all of us have experienced ostracization to one degree or another. Above all, unlike conversion – which is centered on acquiescence to groupthink and confirmation bias – deconversion relies solely on the individual's capacity for skeptical inquiry. Perhaps our best asset when engaging a believer in a dialogue, then, is patience.” –From the marvelous A-Unicornist himself.

This describes, rather succinctly, what I have been going through as I strip myself bare of all the deceit and unsatisfactory answers that once preoccupied my mind. I have fallen in love with really learning, perhaps, for the first time since early childhood. I’ve read more books in the last few months than I had previously over the span of several years. I seek knowledge like never before and actually enjoy challenging material. My comprehension has grown and some of the material I found in Richard Dawkins’ work, for example, is not as difficult as it was when I first embarked on this journey. Even as a student obtaining my master’s in psychology, it was rare for me to sit down and read the current assignment—mainly due to laziness and a lack of interest.

But, I honestly don’t think any of this would have happened if I hadn’t lost my faith. The reason that studying has become a passion for me, at least partially, is because it reconfirms what I have come to learn through my own intellect. As the A-Unicornist suggests, deconversion is quite different than conversion. Most of us weren’t reasoned into our faith, but most of us were reasoned out with a healthy side order of emotional discomfort involving god's cruelty as implied by the Bible and the modern world we observe. Are we going to take the side of reason or the side of faith in things for which evidence is lacking—the kind of faith that forces us to believe in miracles which, by definition, are not possible? I prefer to suspend judgment until evidence is sufficient to conclude otherwise, as Bertrand Russell once elegantly suggested. In the meantime, looking at what is more plausible and probable in a given Biblical narrative is the more noble and honest pursuit. Otherwise, we have to come to the precarious conclusion that Jesus walked on water, changed water into wine and rose from the dead. Obviously, this is contrary to modern human understanding of the world and contrary to any experience that most of us have ever witnessed—not to mention, it’s contrary to our scientific understanding of how the world and people generally operate.

I’m not saying that it’s impossible to love science and reason as a Christian. But, I am saying that it was not something that I found intriguing for the longest time. After all, why was science important in explaining the world when the Bible already accomplished this arduous task a couple thousand years ago? Likewise, how was reason intriguing when we had this greater calling of faith to pursue? It was those who believed without evidence—as Jesus once suggested—that really deserved honorable mention. But the shroud has been unwrapped, I now find the possibilities endless and no area of intrigue is off limits. I’m no longer worried that the studying of science or the works of non-theists will hamper my faith or bring me under the submission of ‘Satanic forces’. I can look at everything with an open mind and with the fascination of a small child learning for the first time.

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