My guest this week is Colin. Colin absorbed his mother’s Evangelical Christianity. He has mostly good memories of the people in church. He bounced from his mother’s to his father’s families never quite fitting in. He hung on to his Christianity long after he recognized it no longer brought him “positive results” out of fear of losing everything: salvation, community and identity.
My first and only real religion is inclusion.
Colin’s doubts began young with a dynamic Sunday school teacher who was not allowed to preach in church and a gay uncle he was not supposed to approve of. Colin recognized that love demands inclusion. He felt it was his moral obligation to be inclusive.
That to me is love, for lack of a better word. I was being totally authentic and I was being totally accepted.
In his late twenties, in therapy, he experienced true acceptance. Even while he was explaining to his therapist he was still a virgin, having been a part of the purity culture of the ’90s.
I found unconditional acceptance immediately outside of religion whereas I often found highly conditional acceptance within it. Imagine my surprise!
Colin’s story takes a dramatic turn of self-discovery. He discovers himself and discovers his voice. He then experienced more acceptance telling his story of recovering from growing up Evangelical to non-christian audiences. Colin tells his story with rawness, honesty and a great deal of humor.
That is it really. After the books have been read, after the arguments have been considered, and after the process of deconversion has run its course. This is my conclusion regarding my former faith. Rather than arguing over philosophy, history, meta-physics and ethics, I just need to tell you one thing:
I was mistaken.
I believed the Bible was Truth with a capital T. I believed miracles happened. I believed that Jesus was the Way the Truth and the Life and the only way to the Father. I believed the Crucifixion and the Resurrection atoned for my sins and gave me Living Water. I believed that God … was.
I was mistaken.
Years after deconversion and after much study I now have words to describe what was going on in my head when I believed: attribution, community knowledge, confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance. But really, it is much simpler and clearer to say:
I was mistaken.
The honesty, the humility, the relief, and the release I feel when I say the words:
My guest this week is Barrett Evans, author of The Contemplative Skeptic. Barrett wrote the book for those who are skeptical but drawn to spirituality. A former evangelical seminarian and ex-Roman Catholic, Barrett is an agnostic who has retained a fascination with contemplative spirituality. Building on what he learned in his divinity, counseling, and historical studies, he draws on hundreds of religious and secular sources in an effort to combine honest doubt with the best of contemplative experience.
Perhaps ironically, dogmatic religions claims now seem to me to critically undercut two of the most valuable spiritual ideals for fallible people – humility in the face of complexity and honesty in the light of human limitations.
We discuss how honesty and humility lead to doubt. Barrett’s look at comparative religion reveals the reasons for doubt and the wisdom of a contemplative life. We ask what does it mean to be “spiritual.”
And as history of religions and other psychological phenomenon show, delusions can be passed from one person to another with some rapidity, especially if they are in close relationships and it is a time of stress or excitement.
The tremendous range of religious diversity is one of the greatest reasons for skepticism towards any particular religious belief.