From: djones@megatest.UUCP (Dave Jones)
Subject: What it took (Re: What would it take?)
In article <3772@mit-amt> email@example.com 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
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.