Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The End of Faith

I concluded my previous post by saying that the fervor and detailed calculation with which I approached Christianity in my life was the chief factoring in initiating my transition into atheism.

I would say I've always been a logical person, attempting to make sense of the world, and incessantly concerned with how I affect it. As I matured as a teenager my scrupulous mindset in coordination with Christianity caused me to begin to define everything in my life through the lens of religion.

The impetus for my motivation in this pursuit lay primarily in a youth group trip I took to Chicago one summer, around the general beginning of my 'spiritual maturation' process. We spent a week in the city, and more or less took part in what I would characterize now as positive, revitalizing and refreshing tasks. We rode public transit or walked to wherever we would go, ate at local markets, spent a great deal of time in personal reflection and meditation, practiced yoga in the mornings, and participated in various community service and volunteer projects around the city- all the while throughly enjoying the enlivening company of our friends, whom we all became very close to during and after that week. Generally, I would say our lifestyles that week reflect a simply good life: A life characterized by the embrace of the many qualities that makes us human. For instance it is beyond rejuvenating and exciting to eat fresh fruit bought from local vendors and help out other people through volunteering without an expectation of return. In a general sense these are all simply life-giving activities, activities I believe everyone at some level should be involved in.

Now, needless to say, accompanied with our pursuits that week came a vast happiness and enjoyment of life. Unfortunately but understandably I equated this newfound happiness with God, and reasoned that all of our habits that week were somehow linked with the way I was supposed to live if I was a follower of Jesus. And for a good year and half I pursued that, with nearly no luck.

After we returned from Chicago I fruitlessly strove to reacquire the delight I had found in there, and ceaselessly conversed with God about how I was supposed to go about this. So for the next two years, I unquestionably believed that there was a way for me to somehow merge my teenage life, all of my emotions and feelings and my school life and family life seamlessly into a network of good will. I subsequently believed that if I could achieve what I understand now as a purely idealistic lifestyle, I would become happy. Note grave mistake number 1: Expecting happiness as a result of my actions.

So time passed on, and yes I was completely unsuccessful in achieving my quixotic lifestyle. However, the primary method I used to analyze my success happened to be logic. Perhaps all my thoughts were grouped in a 'conversation' with God, but more or less the rules of reason and logic defined that conversation rather than uncertainty and faith. My faith was in the authenticity of the life I was trying to led. The reason and logic led me to attempt to change a situation in my life that was directly affecting me and causing me great harm and despair. Similarly to how many Christians feel the need to proselytize themselves I felt the pull to attempt to conciliate what I perceived as completely unjust situations in my life, with the anticipation that doing so would help to achieve the fanciful life I imagined.

Thus I ventured at remedying this situation to absolutely no avail except my own demise. I was nearly completely unsuccessful. The significance of this failure here is that I fully expected to succeed because I blindly believed God had the intention of setting the world right, and I was certain that the situations I was endeavoring to remedy would fit right in with that plan of his. Thus, when the tangible realities of both collapsed down upon me, their correspondingly symbolic and emotional counterparts also disintegrated. In such a manner, without even knowing it, my faith in God simply disappearing, and gradually I begin to realize I no longer believed in God.

At least in my story, that process is the most important, because it was no analysis of the plausibility of God or anything of that nature that brought about my atheism, but instead the breakdown of the mental realities I had constructed to sustain God. In that context I find my definition of belief: A mental framework established subconsciously of some thought or ideal that does more to self assure oneself of our one's security rather than actually identify any truth in the world.

Anyhow, so when the external implications of my belief in God, as I had defined them, were lost, my internal beliefs were lost with them. And like I said, I slowly realized that I simply didn't, just didn't, believe in God any more. And that was that, there was indeed no turning back. Then till now as been a slow progression towards a deeper interaction with reality, a stronger yearning to experience truth, and a much more poignant perception of my responsibility as a human in this world. Then till now I 'm still learning.


the chaplain said...

Thanks for telling, in Paul Harvey's immortal phrase, "the rest of the story."