A treatise on re-conversion
Last week a ‘curious Christian’ asked the question, what would it take to re-convert. I think this is an interesting one, The Apostate noted that this is a little like asking a Christian what it would take to convert to Islam. It’s not an unreasonable challenge though, de-converts have shown themselves open to a change of heart, so I think they must remain open to the possibility of re-conversion.
I’ve always wanted to write a ‘treatise’, I’ve no idea what it means really but it sounds very grand and intelligent, so here we go!! What would it take?
It’s a property of the human psyche to have an interest in any claims pertaining to an afterlife or any ethereal knowledge which could answer the many unanswered questions of existence. Even if the knowledge was ‘bad news’, say that there was a chance of a less than pleasant afterlife I think the reasonable person would rather know than not. Certainly any claims of ‘good news’ opens people’s minds and makes them receptive to a well spun tale. An afterlife where we meet deceased loved ones and a god who has an overseeing and loving plan for us is very seductive.
Of course there are a thousand competing and mutually exclusive claims, so how to determine what if any deity claim is correct and deserving of attention?
Take Jesus & Christianity. Most people on earth don’t accept that the Jesus stories pertaining to miracles, resurrection and god-parentage are true. Only 33% of the worldwide population claim the label Christian, so what of the other 67%?
I’ll attempt to re-create the discussion I’ve had with Christians. Most will tell us we have ‘sin’ which separates us from the wonderfulness of god, and therefore we need ‘redemption’, luckily it also has the answer. By accepting that Jesus was who he said he was and that his death and resurrection was the perfect narrative to save us, we can again be joined to the creator.
First of all, one cannot fake belief in something, deep down we either believe something or don’t. Saying out loud that we believe that there are fairies at the bottom of the garden, doesn’t mean that we actually do believe it, and it certainly doesn’t change the factuality. So either this redeeming faith is granted divinely by god (which doesn’t really fit with the loving god assertion – or indeed the call to evangelise) or we must be convinced that the bible is reliable, at least in terms of the Jesus stories.
Ok, I’m not convinced, not convinced at all. Where do I go from here? As stated, I can pretend to be convinced, but I don’t think that’s really enough.
Am I not smart enough to realise that it is reliable? Is there a level of intelligence god wants in heaven? Or, do I need to lower the level of evidence I require when assessing the bible in order to be persuaded? Is that what the Christian god (if he exists) wants me to do? If yes, then the problem is that I have to be fair and allow the evidence bar to be lowered for all other non-secular claims – exactly how much should I lower the bar?
The other way I could be convinced if I had some external undeniable vision and revelation from god saying, yes… “I’m God, Jesus, as reported in the bible, is my son! Here’s some proof that I am who I say I am”. Again, this like the “faith without first being intellectually convinced” approach is not something I can do for myself, I have to sit back and wait for Jehovah, Allah, Buda or whoever to reveal himself.
Christians certainly do claim to have ‘spoken’ to god and ‘felt’ god in their lives, but they don’t make any demonstrable claims and nothing ever happens that couldn’t just be wishful thinking and co-incidence. This doesn’t convince me, but once someone has lowered their evidence bar re: Jesus then it’s easy to be sure that you at last got pregnant because you prayed about it, or that god is helping you become a better person. There’s a problem though…
By way of encouragement some Christians will talk of their own doubt, and periods of disbelief. This only goes to suggest that they have never had any undeniable experience of god or been fully rationally convinced by the bible. I never have periods of doubt about gravity, aerodynamics or the earth’s cycle around the sun – and those things are minor compared to choosing which creator god to believe in! My evidence bar should be higher not lower surely!
Maybe it’s just that Christians have compromised their normal, wonderful, vital, (god-given?) rationality and lowered the level of proof they expect from a miracle claim. Maybe because they were encouraged to by a trusted parent or a beloved friend, or maybe they did it at a time of life when they felt directionless and in need of some eternal certainty. It just so happened they did it in the nearest church, which happened to be the local chapel or the Baptist their parents took them too every Sunday morning.
I wouldn’t take a lot of convincing, any kind of reliable proof will do.