I made a lot of concessions for god during my 25 years as a christian. It is odd looking back and realizing how much time, energy, money and effort was wasted on something so ridiculous. In a previous post “Absolute Darkness” I described how I gave up my morality, and by extension a piece of my humanity, in trying to stay true to the laws and principles I thought the bible taught. I gave up my happiness, my free agency, my whole being, to nothing. I have hinted a lot at my personal struggles with depression, self-worth and the like. I sincerely believe that many of these things took root and flourished because of my superstitions and spiritual beliefs.
All of these things I conceded to “god,” yet there was one thing I was never willing to give up: my reason. Unbeknownst to me, this was my guiding light, not the holy spirit, not god, not the bible, my reason. It took a while to acknowledge what it actually was. For a long time, I was convinced that god actually revealed things to me. I later realized I was just good at reasoning things out, but I couldn’t see that at the time. It was sometime in university when I finally put my finger on it. Reason. The thing that makes my mind tick. There is something about my personality (INTP for any of you Myers-Briggs buffs out there) that latches on to reason.
Once I identified it, I boldly claimed that god had “blessed me” with reason. I touted it as a sort of spiritual gift, one that I was to use in his service. So I did. I used it to offer advice, to solve problems, to explore theological issues. All the while, there was a glaring hole that I simply couldn’t see.
It also got me into a lot of trouble, religiously speaking. I discovered, and probably over used, the phrase “I cannot believe in a god that would lie to me.” I believed that god gave me my reason, my curiosity and the tools I needed to discover and learn, doing so and then planting evidence contrary to his actual processes was an affront I could not abide. Reason will not be denied, thus on some issues I was forced to come to conclusions that went against the grain of traditional christianity.
It started with old earth creationism. When presented with the undeniable evidence for the age of the earth, it wasn’t long before any ideas of the earth being only 6,000 years old shattered. I couldn’t believe in a god who would make the earth only look old. A god who created stars and then accelerated the light so it could get to earth in time for our eyes to see. I couldn’t believe in that god, so I changed my beliefs about the earth’s age.
Next came the story of Noah’s ark. At first I tried to argue for a localized flood, but eventually found the evidence even for that hugely lacking. Again, I refused to believe in a god who would flood the entire earth (not because of the murders, I remained blind to that atrocity) and then hide all evidence for such a flood. Thus, I determined that some stories must be mythology, as in figurative stories designed to impart a moral lesson and not relate history.
Finally, this idea lead me to Adam and Eve. All of the puzzle pieces had fallen into place. The world was billions of year old, not thousands. Bible stories could be taken as figurative or parables. When I was finally exposed to the details of evolution, I was more than ready to accept them. Granted, I hadn’t been indoctrinated as a child against it specifically, I had just never been taught it at all. I didn’t even go through a phase where I believed that all animals evolved but man was specially created (I think my wife tries to believe this). Yet again, I simply could not believe in a god who would put all of this genetic evidence in place for a process as complicated as evolution only to have actually worked in a different way.
Other, smaller things were toppled by the same argument. I cannot believe in a god who would lie to me. It was like a mantra. One by one, reason and evidence toppled my superstition and spiritual beliefs. As each fell, I crept closer and closer to atheism, never realizing where it was I was truly going. As faith continually gave way to reason, I finally came to the ultimate conclusion. I could not believe in a god. Period. Reason had eaten away at any of the faith I once held, yet everything around me stayed the same. I cut off all of my sulfurous beliefs only to realize they were all gone.
The best part was: I didn’t mind. I realized then that I had been following reason the whole time. It wasn’t god or the holy spirit, it was me. It was my own reasoning abilities. I vowed to follow the evidence wherever it took me, and it has taken me here: to freedom of thought and freedom from god. “That tethered mind, free from the lies.” More than ever before, I am dedicated to reason. To pursuing it wherever it takes me. But, surprisingly, I also found a new trust in emotion, one that I had never had. And, for once in my life, I am going to “use my head alongside my heart.”
The two quotes in the above paragraph come from the song “I Will Wait” by Mumford and Sons (yes, again, I LOVE them). This song has pretty serious overtones of salvation, but I like to pretend it is salvation FROM christ by reason. But that is just me.