31 March 2008

True Believers

"I could go on listing my Christian accomplishments, but I think you can see that I was very serious about my faith, and that I am quite capable of analyzing religion from the inside out." (from here)

What's fascinating to me about this--and many, many other similar articles I've read recently--is that longevity and sincerity of experience is regarded as a sufficient qualification for making judgments. I'm not saying the author lacks rational capacity. I just find it interesting that no one brings up skills in analysis as a component of their rhetorical ethos. The typical story goes,"I was really committed--a true believer. If even I realized it was all a lie, then it really must be!" Someone could only lose strong religious faith because it isn't faith in anything real. And somehow once believing it was real--but eventually being able to see through all the lies--gives a person special insight into truth. So the story goes. Experience, rather than rational capacity, is what elicits trust from the audience and forms the basis of the author's assertion of his right to speak.

Often study (sometimes impressively extensive) is also invoked as a qualification, which fits a little better with the argument that being a "true believer" is inherently irrational. But that's not always the case. The conversion experience--whether to religion or atheism or something else (like activism, the hot new post-Christian morality for religiously disillusioned Gen Yers)--carries psychological hallmarks, no matter which direction you're turning. (Many of these authors don't seem to realize that applies to atheism, too.) That's what readers identify with, that familiar experience. That's what they trust, because that's what they know.

The ironic thing is that these particular versions of the atheist attack on irrationality are based on experience. Not that experience is inherently irrational, or even that these authors are themselves irrational as they abandon their religion. (Some are, but a surprising number thought things through quite carefully, and fought very hard to keep believing.) But none of these authors set out the logical syllogisms that eventually convinced them to become atheists. They all record their stories--and reader comments are either praise from those who identify or rebuke from those who don't. Each side has its case, but nobody seems to be making many converts without the shared experience that gets a hearing.

O, the postmodern world! Veritas, quo vadis? ~pronounce in British accent, strike breast for emphasis~


Neal Judisch and Family said...

Dear Bethany,

Saw your remark over on Bryan Cross' blog, and wanted to stop by to welcome you home. (Hey, I think that's the first time I've had the chance to welcome anybody to the Church; I'm another very recent Reformed --> Catholic type, who just came in at Pentecost this year, and I'm pretty sure you're the first person I've ever "welcomed home." So, feel, special!)

I'd like to add you to my blogroll if you don't mind; stop by and visit me there any time.

Pax tecum,



Interesting!...and for you...

"love is the one who masters all things."

Mawlãnã rumi.

zauberfisch said...

Another one hit outta the park. Keep 'em coming, Slugger.