Beyond death and taxes, I can be assured of two things:
- When I tell someone I used to be devoutly religious but now live an a-theistic life, I will be asked, in pitying tones, “Oh, what happened to you?”
- When I mention I was a Catholic Seminarian, I will see a knowing look flash through their eyes, as much as saying “Disregard the first question…I’ve got it sorted.”
Both assumptions are wrong, but let’s start with #2: I was never molested by a Catholic priest (unless you count the experience related here). Quite the contrary, a lot of great experiences resulted from close interaction with 6 different Irish Pallottine Fathers serving my Eastern Nevada parish during my teen years. Not all Catholic priests are pedophiles, and not all altar boys have been raped. (Talk about damning with faint praise. “C’mon now. Don’t get down on yourself, Mate! Not ALL of the shepherds you authorized have been gorging on lamb.”)
But the first assumption, eventually encountered by most atheists, is more pernicious: No one could POSSIBLY leave their faith by THINKING about it?
Why not? This position rests on multiple Biblical injunctions against knowledge and reason. It arises out of the assumption (indoctrination?) that religion is good, and trauma is the only possible explanation for leaving one’s birth-faith. It is an extension of the platitude “You can’t reason yourself out of something you didn’t reason yourself into.” Boy, if I could punch every smug, smiling fuck who floated that fart-bag of logic my way…
…I’d be wrong. Because you just can’t go around punching everyone who self-righteously parrots their indoctrination at you, in self-defense of their tenuously held, rarely inspected beliefs. God forbid one might have to consider for even a moment that you CAN think your way out of indoctrination. Heaven forfend contemplating the idea that one might NOT have been placed, by a loving God, smack-dab in the center of history’s one, true, perfect faith. Perish the thought that maybe one’s entire approach to life is based on nothing more special than a compendium of ancient injunctions, in a book compiled to be used as a control mechanism.
Why should you consider that it is possible to reason your way out of faith? Because we are “reasoned” into beliefs (ironically, usually before we reach “the age of reason”). We can therefore reason our way back to where we started: a-theistically experiencing and explaining the world, blessedly free of any implanted “reasons” deeply seeded by parents and teachers, driven by a variety of ignorant (in the “good” sense of not knowing any other way… just repeating what was done to them), self-preserving, motivated reasoning.
All it takes is willingness to ask questions. Why the inconsistencies? What IF the bible is just a book? How is it that the dozens (if not hundreds) of faiths through the ages claim to be the one, true, complete, final revelation? Can the entire edifice be explained as a human construct?
I asked all these questions and more while in the Seminary. When Father John had his fill and shouted at me, his face beet red, “Robert!! If you’d just stop thinking and do as you’re told, you’d get along a lot better here!” I knew that not only COULD I think my way out, it was imperative that I do so.