Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Journey to Atheism, Part Two

"The Fear"

When I was a child, I knew there was a god. I was convinced that god - the god of Christianity to be precise - was real and alive and concerned about little ol' me. God felt as real to my young mind as the chair I'm sitting in right now, or the keyboard upon which I'm typing. I didn't question. I couldn't question. The idea that god didn't exist was absurd to me.

I grew up in a Catholic household. We didn't go to church much, but I attended Catholic school until the end of fourth grade. I met my best friend Steve in fifth grade, and it wasn't long before I started going with him to the church where his father was the minister. I had always been "spiritual." Going to church and doing the "Christian walk" came naturally to me. I'm not saying I was perfect. I did my share of naughty things, which would have bothered me had I not applied a generous dose of cognitive dissonance mixed with hypocrisy and seasoned with denial and repression. (I discovered later that this is how most Christians deal with their personal "sins"). All I'm saying is that belief in the tenets of Christian theism was not only easy for me, but damn near instinctive.

I think that's a big reason why I felt my entire world come crashing down the first time I felt doubt creep in. The Bible tells us that "he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind" (James 1:6). I think this is true, but not for the same reason a Christian might think it's true. The Christian says faith is a virtue that brings stability and peace to the believer. To the Christian (generally speaking), doubt is bad. Doubt is a vice, contrary to faith, which leads a person to mental and spiritual chaos, thus being "blown and tossed by the wind."

Experience has taught me that the often vilified "doubting" Thomas should be the hero of the post-resurrection story, because faith is the vice, not doubt. Years of living in a fantasy land can lead to extreme mental and emotional duress when one begins to doubt. Doubt is a natural and healthy reaction from creatures capable of rationality, discovery and wonder. Faith, rather than being the "evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1), is only evidence that the person of faith hasn't based his beliefs on either logical inference or empirical data, but on emotional preference and comfort.

I had built my worldview on faith, which turned out to be nothing more than a foundation of sand. When the questions came, the foundation couldn't support my belief system, and when the whole thing started to collapse, I became "like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind." Naturally, I became afraid. If the Wizard of Oz is nothing more than a man behind a curtain, I didn't want to see him. I liked my worldview just fine, and didn't want anything - not even such nuisances as the weight of evidence - to come along and screw it all up.

Of course, I wasn't entirely stupid. I at least wanted to feel like my views were based on reason. I discovered Christian apologetics in a genuine pursuit for truth. Questions filled my mind, and I needed answers. My mistake was in thinking that the answers could come so easily. My youth minister gave me a few apologetics books, and I believed - rather, I had convinced myself - that I had found all the answers I needed. Fear of a world in which my beloved views were wrong - a world I didn't understand and wouldn't acknowledge - prompted me to accept with fervor the answers found in those books. Eventually the wind died down and the sea grew calm. For the time being, the Wizard of Oz was wonderful again.

We hear he is a whiz of a Wiz if ever a Wiz there was.
If ever oh ever a Wiz there was the Wizard of Oz is one because,
Because, because, because, because, because.
Because of the wonderful things he does.

Or because we're too afraid to imagine Oz without him.

NEXT: The Journey to Atheism, Part Three - "The Wager"

1 comment:

Mike D said...

Holy shitballs. Your description of faith is one of the best I've ever read. Y'know, I've talked with plenty of apostates, and it's remarkable how much our experiences have in common. We all had to stop pretending we could reconcile our faith with reality.