Subject: What it took (Re: What would it take?) In article <3772@mit-amt> turk@media-lab.m

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From: djones@megatest.UUCP (Dave Jones) Subject: What it took (Re: What would it take?) In article <3772@mit-amt> writes: > ... >Christians, what would it take to cause you to >decide that Christianity really isn't true? > ... I was raised a Christian, by very devout and moral parents. I let it go at about age 15 or so. I can't recall any one moment when I first thought to myself, "Now I am an atheist." It was a gradual process. The first seeds of doubt were sown by an experience that is virtually universal in our society: I recall vividly my shock and revulsion when, at age seven, I learned that my parents had systematically lied to me about Santa Claus! The lessons were clear: The people you trust most can be wrong; People will tell you lies, not to harm you, but thinking that to lie to you is in your best interest. I had "known" that there was a Santa Claus, but now there was none. What else might I "know" that was not true? It is ironic that if it were not for the deep commitment to integrity and moral honesty instilled in me by my religious parents, particularly by my father, I would not have found that revelation to be so disgusting. Throughout my childhood, I pursued a hobby of performance magic. I often went to the library for books on magic. Under the heading "magic", the card catalogs listed books about mystical incantations -- The Golden Bough, for example. After a while, my curiosity was piqued. I was at the age when youth seeks out the forbidden, and this was definitely forbidden -- "Black Magic". I checked out a book. It was soon apparent to me that there was little substantive difference between these formulae and Christian prayer. As an experiment, I tried both alternately. (Neither worked.) At age fifteen, for Latin class, I wrote an essay about various deluge myths, comparing them with the Biblical flood. Given the societal realities of my high school, I was careful to imply that the Bible was the real McCoy and that the others, though corrupt, were somehow influenced by it, or by the event itself. But I recall an inward suspicion that I was fooling myself -- that there was no real difference. It must have been soon after that when I completely gave myself over to reason, as best I could practice it. But the practice of reason is very difficult. It is a learned skill, not instinctual. The very lack of it makes it all the more difficult to aquire. Without daily practice, the skill degrades. In some ways, it is antagonistic to our human character: There is something in us which longs desparately to rationalize. Any explanation, no matter how absurd, is more comfortable than the struggle to perceive -- more comfortable than the frank admission, "I don't know." After high school, I tried to fill the vacuum left by my "fall from Grace" with a secular kind of religion: Ayn Rand's "Objectivism". Later, I had a bout with Zen and Taoism, though I never rekindled any kind of belief in a deity. I still have a respect for Zen and Taoism, although they have their superstitious baggage. What I respect is the willingness to say, "It is the great mystery." Again, we see the ironic legacy of my father: I have no respect for those who deceive themselves that know what they can not possibly know. It is vain, not honest. Recently, I've been reading Nietzsche, and enjoying him thoroughly. At last I seem to have found evidence of another human who has seen more clearly than I have ever seen, more clearly than anyone else I have ever known or known of. But I've only been reading him for a few days. Will he too, in the words of the song-writer, "fall beneath my wisdom like a stone."? We'll see. I don't think so.


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