Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Why become religious?

It happens every now and then, but one can't help but do an eyebrow raise when learning of an atheist embracing religion. It is not so much from shock, but for confusion as to why that would happen.

Just recently, one atheist blogger announced she was becoming a Catholic. Not just some faith, going off the deep end into the serious stuff. Come on, Catholicism? That's the brown liquor of religion.

Now, in the end, I don't really care. You live your life whatever way you want, no matter to me. But like Mehta, I wish her the best. Such transitions can be hard, or just awkward. Hope she is happy.

But I am always fascinated to understand just why that choice is made. Is there an argument that turned her thinking? Some evidence that changed everything? What leads to the shift in thinking?

This is always of interest to me, as I am always looking to understand just what leads one to enter become religious, stay religious, or promote religion. And over the years I have been eager to hear a good sound argument, or see a piece of evidence that would bring about faith.

For a long time I remember getting a little excited/scared when I saw a link or video that promised a mind blowing argument or proof that there was some higher power at work, or that some holy book was true. Would this be the moment I realized I had made a horrible mistake in thinking? Had I been remiss? ...Well, I am an atheist currently, so no. No, I got no impressive argument, or evidence. Just one sad rehashed argument after another (No, Pascal's Wager is not mind blowing.), one misunderstanding of science or history (The bible is not universally accepted as proven true, and you DO NOT understand the Laws of Thermodynamics.). It is disappointing. You'd think something would arise better than what is out there. But people try and pretend it is why they believe.

People have faith or are part of a religion because they want that. They want to belong. They want to think there is a higher power at work. They want to think that there is a reason for all things and that they will get a magical second chance. I'm not saying it's lying. It's what they accept, they believe, and embrace.

Faith is faith. It's supposed to be intangible and personal. But people do try and quantify it in explaining their beliefs. And I don't want to fault people for having faith (Except for when they try and enforce it on everyone else, of course.). I just wish more people were honest with themselves (Yes, many are.).

So, when an atheist converts, it is interesting. Not the first time, of course. Doubt it will be the last time. Their have been various people over the years. But, as of yet, I have not seen a good argument for WHY from any of them. They all seem to, after being parsed through, come down to, I want to believe it's so.

That's fine. It is unsatisfying to me. Years of embracing rational ideas, then you choose to forgo that for...fantasy. The rather famous scientist, Francis Collins (Human Genome Project), explained his coming to faith (now an evangelical christian) arising out of a winter hike. He came across a frozen waterfall, and marveled at it's crystal structure. He also noted it was split in three (A trinity.). And, that was it, he saw a Maker. He was given a sign.

It is kind of a nice story, I suppose (Could've used a burning bush.). But, I've seen similar wonders. For me, it is such a treat when you can see trees glazed over in ice during the winter, as if they are crystals. It is beautiful, stunning, and inspiring. But, I don't see a reflection of The Divine. It is an act of nature, a blend of temperature and meteorology that make sights like that possible. No god paints the ice on, no angel chips at an ice block and replaces some falls. It is natural wonder. And I am in awe. I just infer no magical meaning. It needs none. And I know, like Collins did, anything extra to be found in a sight, I bring.

For me (and this means I am reading into other people's intent and thinking here), Collins, is just trying to express what he internally had already decided. He had already been debating and thinking of reentering the religious world, while dealing with his parents' deaths. He was already in the process of reentering the religious world, he was ruminating on the idea, and was open to a "sign" to okay it. And that is the story I keep seeing, due to an internal desire the irrational (the one without evidence or a real logical argument) path is taken.

So, we come to the new convert. And I have to say the post is unclear to me.

She says she admits their are parts of Christianity and Catholicism that were a good match for her morality...And parts that were not? What about other faith systems? And Catholicism? ...That is a whole hornets nest you are choosing to fully embrace. You're not even born into it, you've picked it.

Then she mentions evidence FOR Christianity...What's that? I'd like to see that.

Then she gets into moral law and it's origins. That's always a lively debate. For me, morality seems to derive from us. We develop our morals, socially and individually (Sometimes we maintain society's morals, sometime's we buck them for our own sensibilities.). Slavery is moral, than it's immoral. Killing is wrong, but we believe it can be justified and right. We make the moral rules for ourselves. It's how it always seems to have been.

But for the converting blogger this was not good enough. As she says, she sees it as personified, a Person, a Truth.

And at that point she says ONE religion pointed the way forward for her...Okay. Like I said with Collins. I think the truth is that she likely already was toying with taking the irrational leap, just waiting on an iffy argument to do it with. (Of course, this is my uninformed ignorant reading of events from a brief blog post.) Looking at some of her other posts, she has been interacting and going back and forth with Catholics for awhile on her issues. So their is a little sense to her choice of religion. Still an odd choice.

But the choice is hers. She sees morality as some force, that is her philosophic choice. It will be interesting in future to see if she will be debating and talking on the subject.

Daylight Atheism had some questions on what she said that go more thoughtfully into the issues.

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