In one of my previous posts, “My Personal Exodus,” I mentioned an ethics class that I took in high school that ultimately was responsible for my deconversion. It was my first and most formal education in reason and kicked off what would become a life-long passion. The class was our mandatory Bible class for 11th grade (yes it was a Christian school). What was surprising, however, was the structure. We were presented with four major ethical systems: Relativism, Utilitarianism, Absolutism and Egoism. The teacher, a brilliant man who also taught Calculus and Physics, presented each system to us in each of their most persuasive forms. All systems were treated equal and we were not only encouraged but instructed to pick one and write a paper about why we chose that particular one. There was no bias toward Absolutism, no teaching us which was correct and why the others were all false. In short: it was everything that an education in rationality and ethics should be.
Granted, I picked Absolutism. I’ll admit it, I was biased from the offset. All of my arguments for it were based on the assumption of God. The difference between me and my peers was this: I was willing to take this system to its ends. To the dark places the soft hearted didn’t dare to tread. Believe me, I knew what Absolutism required of me. I simply didn’t care. That version of myself, the one willing to do anything, or refrain from doing anything, to keep his own personal morals in tact. I would have given up a family of Jews to the Nazis rather than lie. I would have let an whole group of prisoners die rather than kill just one myself, regardless of whether one volunteered. And so on.
At the time I thought I was being pious. I equivocated away the arguments by saying things like “have faith in God.” “leave room for a miracle,” and “God wouldn’t allow me to be put in such a situation.” I realize now that what I was actually doing was sacrificing my humanity on the alter of religion. I was ready to give up everything that made me human in order to preserve the concept that I was “holy.” I would let people, fellow humans, die to keep my own piety in tact! What a monster!
I was constantly surprised by my peers who would claimed Absolutism as well, but backed off when things got difficult. At the time, it enraged me. How could they think so little of God’s rules that they would break them for a human. I realize now that they simply hadn’t lost their humanity. Though christians, they hadn’t been so poisoned by religion that they could sit back and watch their fellow humankind suffer. They were good, actually and truly good. Maybe they weren’t as rational as I was, but then again, I don’t think I can claim rationality. Was it really rational to be willing to give up what I was willing to give up? Now I think their smaller, more insignificant irrationalities amounted to much less than my one, large irrationality. They were the ones seeing clearly.
I no longer like to see my deconversion in terms of apostasy. Rather, I prefer to see it as a regaining of my humanity. Learning to embrace true human love and charity. I lost these things in my pursuit of “truth.” I was willing to give them up in obedience to god. It was selfish, cold and inhuman. Christianity killed the good inside me. Despite all of the nice, fluffy words in the gospel, the bible leads people to forsake this world, this one and only world, we live in. All of the people around us are as nothing compared to our god.
In the end, I am ashamed. Ashamed that I ever sunk that low. Ashamed that I was so willing to throw everything away for a false promise. Ashamed that I was so arrogant and selfish that I would let others suffer before deigning to mar my own badge of morality. This is my promise: I will fight for you. I will stand up for you, against both god and man. That is my duty. Not because I have to or some illegitimate sky-daddy commanded it so, but because I WANT to. Because it matters to me. You matter to me.