Matters of Faith

I was reading the christians or scientists thread in GD and thought, this might be a good time to address the dynamics of belief from a first-hand perspective (personal anecdote and interpolation/extrapolation). I personally have the advantage of being raised baptist (American, not Southern) and having transitioned to a stranger place (unbelief). This is what I can recall of being a believer, some four decades ago. Anyone who can offer similar types of personal accounts should do so here, this thread is not meant for debate.

Note: I use the divine plural because this is in reference to judeo-christian polytheism.

Something in your head just knows it has to be right. You absolutely know that the basis of your truth-view is incontrovertible, to suggest otherwise would be like blasphemy, and how can those other people not realize that. Reinforcing this is the sort of inner glow or warmth that you get from knowing that the superbeings are looking out for you. And their plan is beyond your pitiful comprehension, you meaningless dust-mite, if you suffer, it is because they need you to, it will all work out in the end (if it is not working out …). It is the divine that give your total-reality-vortex-insignificance meaning, you are a fleck of naught unless you glorify them so that they can glorify you.

That feeling, inside, is what drives believers. I guess it is basically the same sensation as love or “dunking poundcake”. I remember going on a retreat thing where the second morning, for no particular reason, I was walking on clouds. The interpersonal reinforcement (fellowship) is one of the most dangerously powerful aspects of religion. Then there is the knowledge that beyond that beautiful inner glow, should you step out of the holy aura, lies utter blackness and despair. Why would you give up the warm comfort of belief for and leaching black void?

I was a fairly well educated child. I followed the Apollo program and enjoyed scientific discovery. I remember briefly discussing the seven days of creation and how a “day” for the creator might be inestimable in length. But mostly we just compartmentalized. After all, we were ABC, not fundies, and it was an era when what are now called “conservatives” would be viewed as drooling, cro-magnon reactionaries. Science had its place, religion had its place, we just brushed aside any conflicts and used the things that worked.

Family circumstances helped get me away from religion. For me, the transition from fear of the void to embrace of it was remarkably smooth, though it took a few years. I still remember getting stoned, watching Burton in Faustus and being affected more than I ought to have been by the scenes of hell at the end. Being raised in the church (indoctrinated), IME, leaves marks and scar tissue that a person may never be totally free of. But, for me, escaping salvation has ultimately been liberating.