Friday, December 16, 2005

How I Lost My Faith

Several people have been asking me to explain how I came to lose my faith. I feel like I've told this story a thousand times, but I've finally decided to put it in writing. After this, anyone who wants to hear my deconversion story can piss off!

Like all really good stories, mine begins with a young man in love. Except that the object of my affection was eternal, all-powerful and (I would eventually discover) completely imaginary. In fact, I was so in love with God that I decided to major in Theology in college, with the intention of entering the ministry. However, at the beginning of my senior year, I had a crisis of faith. No, I didn't have a traumatic experience - i.e., nobody in my family died, my girlfriend didn't leave me, and I didn't find out that I had an incurable STD - that all happened later. Simply put, I spent a lot of time studying the Bible (perhaps more than I should have) and I began encountering many inconsistencies and inaccuracies.

I know you're going to want an example (they always do) and so I'm going to give you one (and only one). Jeremiah 28:9 states that if a prophet makes a prediction that does not come to pass, then that prophet is not of God. Now, it so happens that in Matthew 16:27,28 Jesus predicts that his Second Coming (in glory and power) would take place within the lifetime of some of the people in his audience. Naturally, all the folks in his audience are now dead and Jesus still hasn't returned. (There’s not even a Yahoo emoticon that captures such a let down!) In brief, since Jesus' prediction didn't come to pass we have to conclude he is a false prophet. Oops.

But like I said, I came across dozens of instances of the kind just described. At first I simply assumed that I was just misunderstanding these passages or that there was some explanation for these "apparent" problems. (Damn, I knew I shouldn't have smoked that peyote before my Bible Study class!) However, after reading and re-reading many of the problematic passages - often in the original Greek and Hebrew - I could no longer deny the obvious: reading is much easier when you're not high, especially since the words don't move about the page as much. I realised that I only pretended not to understand what were clear inaccuracies and inconsistencies because I was unwilling to accept that the Bible was not the infallible word of God. But it soon dawned on me that I was not only lying to myself, but also to my church members. (I was actually a ministerial intern at the Hosanna SDA church in Trinidad at the time). Finally, I decided that I couldn't go on living a lie; burgundy ties are not fashionable, no matter what the Deacon says! With new-found determination, I tore off my burgundy tie and walked out of the church, never to return!

Admittedly, for a short time thereafter I did dabble in a few moderate versions of religion - a little Unitarianism here and a little Buddhism there - you know, nothing too hardcore. But ultimately, it all boiled down to a matter of faith - or more aptly, my rejection of it. In brief, I am convinced that faith is merely the excuse we use to believe things we want to believe but have no good reason for believing. Now that's all well and good, except that if we're all simply entitled to believe what we want, then I would much prefer to believe in a heaven filled with large breasted women wearing nothing but fishnets and knee-high boots whose sole ambition is to enjoy the endless delights of sodomy.

So there you have it folks, the ‘short’ story of my deconversion. And no I don’t hate God (given the inherent difficulty of hating someone who doesn’t exist) and I’m not on a crusade to convert all Christians to atheism (If I'm not going to be an evangelist for God, I see no reason to be one against him either). I believe everyone should simply live their lives honestly and in harmony with their own convictions (except if your convictions include doing naughty things to farm animals, in which case I think you should be taken outside and whipped).

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The What and Who of Love

The French philosopher, Jacques Derrida, distinguishes between the “what” and “who” of love. When we first meet someone, we typically love him or her for what they are – i.e., the various archetypes we believe they embody. (For instance, I personally prefer women with wide hips, large breasts and without a penis.) However, it is also possible to love someone for who they are; that is to love them as singular individuals.

The “what” of love almost invariably fades when we discover that the object of our love is not what we took him or her to be (like in the movie The Crying Game where the guy discovers that his lady-love didn’t fulfill the “without penis” rule). In fact, most often the “what” of love is our own construction, representing what we want someone to be, rather than who they really are. But eventually we find ourselves unable to runaway from the truth; that his three-inch monster isn’t really three inches and her ability to recite the entire alphabet in a single burp isn’t as big a turn-on as we let on. There’s simply no running away from it. In time you’ll have to stop pretending that the reason the woman you’ve been dating for the last three years refuses to accept that you’re a couple is not simply because she’s playing hard to get. (Rather, it may have something do with the fact that you haven’t seen each other in five years and she lives over two hundred miles away with her husband and four kids.) Thus, we inevitably come to realize that those we love do not really embody all the qualities that caused us to fall in love with them in the first place. This makes the “what” of love, at best, transient.

But the “who” of love refers to the act of loving someone, not because they fulfill a list of criteria on a checklist, but as the singular entities they are. For example, growing up I had a dog by the name of Bubbles. She was pot-bottom black, with white patches of missing fur, one eye, a broken nose and a bad habit of chasing after cars (except that she did it while they were still parked; which, incidentally, explains the missing eye and broken nose). In short, Bubbles was the most unsightly and inane mutt I’ve ever come across. However, I still loved Bubbles more than any other dog on my block for the simple reason that she was Bubbles. The difference between the “what” and the “who” of love is the difference between loving shaggy dogs because they are shaggy and loving Bubbles simply because she is Bubbles.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Dinner with the McDougles

Diane’s parents are visiting St Andrews this week and they’ll be coming over to my place for dinner tomorrow evening. I’ve been so nervous about meeting them that this morning I accidentally got my earring caught in a coat hanger. (That makes three times in the last 72 hours.) I’ve been trying to decide what to prepare for dinner. At the second-hand bookstore on Market Street I found a 600-page cookbook that explained how to make rigatoni from scratch. But the cookbook was much too detailed for my tastes. The first chapter began with a complex quantum-mechanical explanation of how to create matter using nothing but a spatula, a baking sheet and a lepton.

I’ve always got along well with the mothers of the women I’ve dated—perhaps sometimes to a fault, like that time I got my fiancĂ©e’s mom pregnant. Oops! But it is Diane’s step-father that I am concerned about. He, after all, is white, Irish and Catholic, while I’m black, West Indian and irreligious. Consequently, I’m worried that he would find my low tolerance of alcohol unacceptable. However, I take consolation in the fact that despite whatever differences we may have, there is something we all share as human beings. Deep down inside of us all there is something that has no name, and that something is … Like I said, it has no name.