Speaking of, it may interest some of you to know that I just finished reading ‘Mere Christianity’ by C.S. Lewis. John Hawkins sent it off my Amazon Wish List for my birthday and as I’ve already told him, it was a truly fine gift.
The value in a book like that is not necessarily that it’ll turn any atheist or agnostic into a Christian, but I don’t think that was Lewis’ goal in any case. What a book like that is 100% successful at doing, for me at least, is explaining why intelligent people choose Christianity.
I’ll be perfectly honest: I’ve spent many, many years refusing to accept the idea that a truly rational, reasonable, smart adult could sincerely believe in any religion, including Christianity. It’s not that I didn’t try; I did. I used to spend hours “debating” with my dad on his back patio about this very subject. The reason he was never able to convince me is that those conversations happened when I was about 22 to 25 years old and still fantastically smug and sure that I’d figured things out that other people hadn’t because I was so much more introspective and thoughtful and all that happy [foolishness].
(To put it into perspective, around that same time I also argued with my dad about whether or not it was any big deal that Bill Clinton was a lying sack of lies. I took the “no” stance. I thought I was being appropriately cynical but really I was being an intractable idiot.)
Anyway, what I always thought was my second biggest trump card was that there are so many Christians who are bad people (the primary trump card being the abject suffering of children throughout time and throughout the world). So many losers and [jerks] and liars calling themselves Christian, particularly certain ministers and preachers I’d known growing up. Dad told me again and again and again that the mistake I was making was that I hated the message because of the messenger and that one of the marks of a true adult is that they stop doing that, and instead analyze the message itself. Well, I didn’t bother doing that until lately, and do you want to know something? I really have been an arrogant prick about religion. I have. I own it.
That doesn’t mean I’ve decided Christianity is the One True Religion and that I’ve been wrong about everything. I still have legitimate and reasonable questions and issues with any organized religion. What it does mean is that after reading Lewis, I genuinely feel compelled to apologize to certain people (including many of you from past comment threads about religion) for assuming you simply hadn’t thought things through enough and that’s why you are Christians. There are plenty of people like that, but this morning I went back and read those threads, and didn’t come across a single one of you saying that you were Christian just because it’s what your mama told you. Which is what I always assumed, wrongly.
I’ll even go one step further and admit that I’ve realized lately that part of my problem with the whole subject was that I was doing exactly what I so very much HATE for other people to do: projecting. I assumed the majority of you who are Christian were such because either someone told you to be or more to the point, because you didn’t know any better, simply because you had not bothered to do the research. Well, hello. My name is Rachl Lukis and guess what? I hadn’t bothered to do the research.
One line from Lewis’ book that actually made me laugh out loud (at myself) was that if people “cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them”. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve read the Bible a couple of times, but the thing is, I didn’t read it as a real grown-up. The last time I read it, I was actively looking for faults to prove that I was right. I wasn’t truly being objective and considering it in a historical or scholarly context.
It’s difficult to articulate on a blog why I’m even bothering trying to learn about Christianity now because as I’ve mentioned before, I hate being misunderstood. The truth is that I am not exactly seeking salvation or God or anything like that, and frankly if I were, I would not talk about it with virtual strangers at this stage of the game. At this moment, my biggest aim is simply trying to relieve myself of the terrifying feeling I’ve had for years that I live in a society full of and run by people who believe a theology I don’t believe in, and that therefore I am surrounded by crazy people. It’s a bit of cognitive dissonance that I simply couldn’t take anymore.
Is my dad a crazy person? Are 90% of the people who read my blog crazy people? Are most of my friends crazy people? If I think Christianity is crazy, then the only answer to those questions is YES. But it just never added up. I had to know how they could believe something that I do not think is real and somehow not be crazy. That’s why I started asking about it here and why I started reading books like the Lewis one. And I have to tell you that the mission has been accomplished. It’s not even remotely “crazy” to believe in Christianity, and Christians have perfectly sound reasons to believe what they do, even if I disagree with some of their conclusions.
Truth is, after reading the Lewis book and some other stuff online over the last few weeks, and then going back and reading my own posts about religion, I felt like an ass for being so flippant, smug, and dismissive in the past. I really did. And since I think it’s awesome when people admit things like that, I decided to be awesome and admit things like that.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Funny Things Happen When People Put Aside Their Preconceptions