So a month has gone by and my Soul Search mission seems a long way behind me already. Maybe I’ve actually got this out of my system. Maybe I don’t need to sum up neatly. Maybe I can just say, “Been there, done that, no longer interested.”
I started 2013 with the tentative label “post-Christian monotheist”, and I reached the end of it without having to change that label. Am I a monotheist? I am prepared to be a theist, in the sense that I cannot say (as the fool doth in his heart) that there is no god with enough certainty to call myself an atheist, and yet I’m not particularly comfortable with the idea of being an agnostic, which is the category you might expect the unconvinced to fall into.
But one thing’s for sure. Christianity is a thing of my past. There will be no more churches. I can’t see myself ever again being lured towards such a belief system. It might look attractive and simple at the outset, but scratch the surface and you’ll spend the rest of your life trying to reconcile its myriad inconsistencies. Of course, you could just adopt a blind-faith attitude that stonewalls all argument and criticism, but that’s not a very mature or persuasive stance to take.
Oh yes, you have to be persuasive, because once you’re in, you’re supposed to evangelise and recruit and spread the word, like a lowly latecomer in a pyramid sales scheme. But at some point – and it may take years to reach that point – you’ll realise you’ve been sold a pup. I realised that a long time ago, if I’m honest about it, but I wanted to be really, really sure. And after fifty-odd churches, I'm about as sure as I can be … where Christianity is concerned, at least. I’m not ruling out other faiths; I am in no position to do so at this stage.
And before you ask, no, I don't think Christianity has value because it instils a sense of morality. Atheists/agnostics/secularists aren’t running around killing and robbing each other, or if they are it’s not because they're godless. If anything, it’s the religious folk who seem to do most damage, because their belief that their atrocities are in a righteous cause allows them to be so much more extreme and intolerant.
Religiously inspired codes of morality may reinforce the rules that civilised people would come up with anyway in the absence of religion, but that doesn’t mean that religion, or god, is the source of all morality. Anyone who says that if he/she wasn’t a Christian he/she’d be completely amoral and would be committing crimes left, right and centre is a person to be avoided. Being a dangerous person whose criminal and/or immoral instincts are suppressed by Christianity is nothing to be proud of. Being a civilised person who acts morally without needing to be told to is more to be desired.
Nevertheless, there are some areas in which a deity could be acknowledged – as a notional creator, for example, and I have no problem with that concept. The literal six-day creationists are barking, of course, but I can make room in my world view for a first cause, however that is to be understood.
I can also make room – indeed, I could hardly deny it room, if it’s omnipresent – for an overarching almighty entity that is too great and mysterious to be fully understood, however rational we try to be. But the physical paraphernalia attending the Christian version of this entity – all thorns and nails and tail feathers – is not the substance or manifestation of any god I can believe in.
So that’s where I am so far. Still pondering, but not beating myself up about it. Still doubting, but open to persuasion. And still blogging, occasionally, and trying not to get too riled by the intemperate commentators who insist on USING CAPITAL LETTERS ALL THE TIME!
Tee-hee, giggles the Soul Searcher. At least people are reading my blog -- it's been visited by people in 57 different countries. That's one for every week I've been writing it. Who'd have thought people as far afield as Benin, Chile, Qatar and Hong Kong would want to read about Edinburgh churches?