Thursday, June 11, 2009

Father's Day 1972 Revisited, Part 9: Transitions, Trying on New Lenses

At some point--I only had a very vague self-awareness of it at the time--I began moving from being a skeptic looking for problems with the Bible, into someone with a different frame of mind--one fraught with peril for any atheist or agnostic: I was becoming a "seeker." I was certainly not there yet, but I was moving steadily in that direction. I was beginning to genuinely want to know, if possible, what was ultimately True--about existence, God, self, life. I was just beginning to let go of the need to find the answers I wanted to find and to start seeking whatever answers there really were there to be found--whether those answers suited me or not. In short, I was beginning to embrace the mind-set that led to the recent downfall of that great and influential atheist, Anthony Flew: I was beginning to follow the truth wherever it might lead. The serious agnostic/skeptic, when considering the possible existence of God, must be ever vigilant to maintain an appropriately detached and cynical eye. One must carefully guard oneself against any undue influence (charming or persuasive people, books or arguments) which may be attached to the subject under examination (in this case, the Bible, Jesus, Christianity) lest one be led into accepting unwanted premises (there is a cause for the existence of the universe), and as a result, perhaps find oneself stumbling into inconvenient or even disastrous conclusions (I must owe my existence to the same Cause to which the universe owes its existence. Or: there must be some universal moral right and wrong--it can't all be a matter of personal opinion and taste).

This gradual transition from sincere cynical skeptic to sincere seeker was critical to the way I was assimilating the information I was gathering from my reading of the Bible and my observations of Christians. From my mid-teen years on I had been/become a pure materialist, not believing there was--or could be--anything beyond the material world. Now I was beginning to be willing to consider evidence for the possibility of a spiritual dimension to existence. This was a thousand football fields away from Jesus, Christianity--or any religion at all--but it was, for my part, a new openness that would set the stage for the experiences and thinking that were to shortly follow.