Tuesday, 2 February 2010

One way Street?

I can understand how someone who believes in a God can become a non-believer, but I’m puzzled as to how a thoughtful and well informed atheist can go the other way, and “convert” to Deism. Though I note that some Christian websites take great pleasure in showcasing people who have made this leap.

As a small child I believed in all sorts of illogical things, from a jolly fellow called Father Christmas, to the Tooth Fairy who would leave money under my pillow. Gradually as I became more aware of the rational reality of the World around me these acts of faith were discarded. Along the way I learnt why parents went along with these bizarre concepts, in their sincere and thoughtful belief that it would make our childhood more wonderful and full of joy. Understandable and maybe laudable, but no way to continue to live one's life as a fulfilled adult.

Last to go, after an immense struggle to hold onto it, was my belief in the Christian God. For months - even years - before I finally admitted it, I struggled and tortured myself to hang onto my belief, but I just could not do it. Everything around me screamed that this belief could not be upheld.

When I finally accepted my new state it was probably the most wonderfully liberating moment in my entire life. To borrow from Biblical parlance, it was as if the shackles that weighed me down were cast off, and I became intoxicated by the light of reason and the loss of fear. Suddenly the World made sense, and I could experience the joy of being, without questioning everything for otherworldly meaning, without doubting my motives, or being ashamed of any ideas that did not fit into the Christian view of the World.

Since that time my journey has been one of great excitement, and I have found inner peace that I had not thought possible. It does not matter that there is no higher being, no higher purpose to life. This World is so incredibly awe inspiring that there is no need for anything else, and the Gods worshipped by the mainstream religions appear so petty and tawdry when compared to the wonderful symmetry and rationality of an evolved Universe. Yes, there are gaps in our understanding of the natural Universe, but almost every month some new part of the jigsaw is discovered that brings us closer to a fuller understanding. As short lived and physically restrained humans there will remain some things our minds are not equipped to understand, such as the unimaginable vastness of space and of time. We will most likely, however, find better ways to explain them conceptually, and that will have to suffice.

I cannot prove the non-existence of God, any more than I can prove the non-existence of fairies, but that is insufficient reason to devote my life to belief in a God. The arguments for belief are surely so self-serving and circular that I still find it incredible that so many people can suspend belief in everything they learn about our pysical nature, and instead make a blind leap into belief in Gods who are so full of contradictions and who often exhibit signs of human frailty and imperfection. For everything around us we can find a reason that does not include a God, despite the tortuous, circular arguments put forward by the apologists, which so often are the result of selective misquotation or which exhibit basic flaws in logical reasoning. And the argument that deists too readily propose that "we are too imperfect to comprehend the workings of God" is such a cop out for any action or lack of action that cannot be explained satisfactorily in terms of innate human morality.

I intend to find someone who has made this apparent leap from non-belief to belief, to try to understand the motivation, and the truth that this person has found that I have not. I feel that there may well be a fault in me that I cannot find empathy with these people, who I have to assume are still sane and rational.

I will come back to this again…

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