A Cosmetic Change of “Faith”

Mehran Banaei

Politicians, like professional athletes who change clubs, often change political parties when it better suits their career. And just like athletes, they too may often move to the rival group. In Canada, Jean Charest was once a prominent member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada who then became a Liberal, a move that paved his way to finally become the Premier of Quebec. Bob Rae, once the provincial leader of the New Democratic Party of Ontario and the first social democrat Premier of Ontario, moved to the Liberal party of Canada. In 2011, he became the interim federal leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, a position which he held until early 2013. There are no ideological components involved in changing sides, it is all a matter of political games, career moves and “what is best for me”.

A similar pattern can also be seen in philosophical, theological and scientific settings. The British novelist and poet, C.S. Lewis, was once a vocal atheist who later became a staunch Christian. His fellow countryman, Alister McGrath, used to be a typical atheist scientist who then became a devoted Christian. Anthony Flew, the staunch atheist crusader, became a deist. Malcolm Muggeridge, once an agnostic journalist committed to hedonism, became a radical Roman Catholic. Likewise, the American celebrated geneticist Francis Collins was once an atheist scientist who became a born-again Christian.

On the other side of the spectrum, people like Charles Templeton, Seth Andrews, Dan Barker, Michael Shermer, Matt Dillahunty and John W. Loftus were all once fundamentalist Christian apologists. They were in the business of propagating the message of the Bible to the world. However, their gradual disappointment with Christianity made them to lose “faith” and move to atheism. These individuals did not just change their worldview, indeed like a professional athlete switching clubs; they changed alliances and continued preaching a different faith-based ideology to make a living. The aforementioned are among the top pioneers of the atheistic movement in the United States today.

The fact of the matter is that a crossover move from these two extreme sides is very common. Many proclaimed “believers” very regularly become “non-believers”, and vice versa many “non-believers” regularly become “believers”. The very first thing that both groups like to emphasize is that they used to believe in “A” and now they believe in “B”, like subjective experience is a compelling argument. Having just switched sides, the new convert continues to play the same game of throwing mud at the opposite side.

Is there any explanation for this interesting phenomenon? I believe there is – it is due to a lack of serious concerns for what the Truth is, combined with a severe emotional backlash for blindly following falsehood for so long. Many former Christians openly acknowledge that they became angry with God for not having their personal prayers answered.

The people who make such a move fail to realize that while the opposite of the Truth is certainly falsehood, the opposite of falsehood may not necessarily be the Truth. When it comes to the Divine, there is only one single Truth and an unlimited number of false ideas. Thereby, the opposite of falsehood “A” could be a different version of falsehood. Comparatively speaking, it may even be a drastically worse form of falsehood.

There are common features among all these converts regardless of what transition they have made. For example, they are very well capable of providing elaborate reasons for rejecting what they used to believe. However, they are totally unable to justify that which they have subsequently adhered to. Their new picked up belief is equally irrational, selected based on blind faith and unfinished thoughts. The crossover move to a new team is not at all based on intellectual edification; it is based on psychological satisfaction.

For a materialist atheist who at one point used to deny the Causality and purpose, the acceptance of an anthropomorphic God as the Cause of the Big Bang is not the product of a sincere intellectual inquiry. These are converts who at one point could not be convinced that every effect has a cause, that every design, complex or not has a designer. These are the individuals who used to believe that the entire universe is self-created and has evolved to be what it is by pure chance. These individuals now somehow come to believe that after all, there is a creator who in fact has a “son” and engages in a wrestling match with Jacob. A “personal God” who is one in three, who literally died on the cross to pay for our sins and after his death, resurrected himself from his supposed death. But why would this creator do such a thing? It is because the Bible supposedly says that in order for mankind to be saved, God has to sacrifice himself, to himself, to save humanity from himself. Is this supposed to be an upgraded ideology derived from higher reasoning?

Likewise for the “awakened” man who finally comes to comprehend the incomprehensibility of the Trinity, the rejection of theism is not a move towards rationality and reason. Here is a man who has taken a reverse journey at the end of which he concludes that the Christian God is mythological, therefore there can be no God at all. For him, the blind process of Natural Selection is regarded as the object of ultimate praise. By rejecting the Causality he is actually throwing the baby out with the bath water. How is it rational to assert the realization that one has been following a wrong god would subsequently lead one to conclude that there is no Causality?

If one is raised to accept ideas based on “faith” and has a long socio-cultural history of embracing belief systems based on “faith” and subjectivity, one can then easily embrace any alternative substitute. In the absence of objectivity and concerns for what is true, rejection of one worldview over another would ultimately have to be based on personal interpretation and preferences. In this process, the only thing that really changes is a new acquired taste where any flavor seems just as practical as another. Many of these converts are not interested in seeking the Truth for the sake of the Truth. The question of the Truth is totally missing in their cognitive analysis. Truth is presupposed to be relative and in the eye of the beholder. Many converts are like the athletes or politicians just making a better career move in the business of selling or accepting nicer enlightenment packages, and being part of a more fulfilling community. In a world that is saturated with pluralism, why would any genuine Truth-seeker fall for false polarization and feel limited to conclude that the ultimate Truth ought to be in either Christianity or atheism?

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1 Comment

Filed under Philosophy of Science and Religion

One response to “A Cosmetic Change of “Faith”

  1. Osama Ghanim

    It is great that we have someone here who is able, from a rational perspective, to equally question problems of belief and disbelief. Reading this article carefully should be a priority for every believer and disbeliever, for it raises the question of what it is that one really believes or disbelieves, if one is not intentionally and willingly seeking the Truth and nothing but the Truth.

    To bring this understanding home, if a well-prepared scientist is investigating the relationship between the forces operating within our universe, then this scientist should be concerned that for the resulting theory to be believable, including the scientists themselves, it has to independently reproduce what actually happens in nature and reality. This question, also, illuminates what should be a disturbing dark corner for humanity, particularly, in the twenty first century: How come in this time and age, most beliefs (particularly religions) are justified predominantly by events that are no longer available for evaluation and examination, and, as a result, mythology became an acceptable model for thought under the guise of metaphor!

    You would think that our highly educated thinkers, the scientists, would have recognized the role of the reality of the universe in distinguishing between valid thought and invalid thought, at least, concerning the universe and what it contains. Yet, it is these highly educated scientists, who are in this twenty first century promoting theories describing a multiverse that almost parallels the debacle of the ‘Junk DNA’, and the point here is that these theories have no backing from reality and observation, what the philosophers of science would say: they lack empirical content.

    As you can correctly deduce our thought environment is terribly polluted, and unless we take up our personal responsibility very seriously, and clean up our “minds”, we are not going to be able to climb out of the boxes we find ourselves in. And I cannot find a better advise and reminder, for myself and my fellow humans than the following Qur’anic command (Qur’an: 17:36): “And do not follow that about which you have no knowledge, surely the faculty of hearing, the faculty of vision and the cognitive system (mind-heart-etc). About all those the individual stands responsible.”

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