I’ve been reading What Have You Changed Your Mind About? , a collection of essays by some of today’s leading minds about what they’ve changed their minds about and how the change came about. In the prologue, the editor John Brockman presented the 2008 Edge question:
When thinking changes your mind, that’s philosophy. When God changes your mind, that’s faith. When facts change your mind, that’s science.
What have you changed your mind about? Why?
Science is based on evidence. What happens when the data change? How have scientific findings or arguments changed your mind?
Here’s a response that I came up with:
I change my mind often and it’s usually because I’ve given a matter much thought or because I’ve found new facts, revelations, or insights and thoughtfully tested my beliefs against this new information or caused me to look at things in a new perspective. If God has changed my mind about anything, I’m certain it was not through faith but through other means.
It’s unlikely that God has ever changed my mind but over the years I have certainly changed my mind about God. I never had strong religious beliefs and for most of my life I basically assumed that I was, by default, a Christian as that was the predominant religion of the culture in which I was raised.
As I grew older I began to consider my own mortality and began to take matters of the spirit more seriously. I can’t say it’s true for anyone but that was the case for me and I’ve witnessed this change in others.
My sister once described our family’s religious preference as “non-church-goer” and that seemed to sum it up rather well. When I began to think about spiritual matters I began from the assumption that I was in the broad category of Christian yet I could not see myself as a member of any particular church or denomination. I noted that the one thing they all had in common was the Bible so rather than have pastors and priests interpret the Bible for me, I decided I’d read it myself and come to my own conclusions. (I’m sure that priests and pastors will tell me that this was the wrong approach.)
I opened my Bible to Genesis 1:1 and began reading. As I pored through the Old Testament I didn’t find my faith. Instead I found seemingly reconcilable inconsistencies, incongruities, and contradictions. The god I found was wrathful and vindictive with more than a few personality disorders.
I moved on to the New Testament and began reading the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I found several discrepancies between them and more inconsistencies, incongruities, and contradictions. I also looked at some of the Gnostic Gospels (declared heretical by the Church back in the fourth century) and found many passages in them that were nearly identical to passages in the Canonical gospels. To be fair, I did find that many of the teachings of Jesus had merit.
Reading the Bible did not make me a better Christian nor did it help me find my faith. It did, however, cause me to question my assumption of Christianity which I eventually abandoned completely. But it was not only my reading of the Bible that led to my renunciation of my assumption. There were many other factors which included exposure to non-Western philosophies, theologies and cultures, engaging in deep contemplation, and applying seemingly unrelated disciplines as quantum mechanics.
I found that I could not reconcile the concept of a personal deity especially the Abrahamic traditions. As one who has stepped outside the box and peered back inside, I’m inclined to view a relationship with such a deity as dysfunctional. The Western theological view of man’s relationship with nature and the universe also seems contrary to what I’ve experienced and observed.
I do not consider myself an atheist and I disagree with most aspects of the atheist viewpoint. I’m open to the possibility of something that could be described as god-like. I used the word god for the lack of a better term. To me any concept of god would be beyond name and form (infinite, eternal and omnipresent). It could be an imperceptible force or energy, or even an intelligence or a supreme consciousness. I’m certain that there are levels of consciousness and forms of energy that are beyond what our current science can observe and measure. And I suspect that there is something beyond quantum physics that we have yet to explore.
For now I don’t align myself or identify with any religion nor do I see any reason why I should. There are elements of Christianity (or its basic teachings) that appeal to me although many of them are similar to teachings found in many other religions. Eastern philosophies such as Hinduism and Buddhism have a certain appeal but I’m not willing to bind myself to them either.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you believe but what you do in your life that matters. We are all responsible for our own liberation or salvation, however we conceive it. We must all walk our own path; no one can walk it for us.