My history, at times, is to me extremely regrettable. This post is, somewhat regrettably, personal. So, you’ve been warned.
That is a pretty serious thing to say about someone’s past. To be certain, I’ve never killed, raped, or looted anyone. But I’ve flip-flopped. Some, like Richard Dawkins, would claim that the types of flip-flops I see in my past are simply the actualizations of my worldview as opposed to what I had been labeled from my birthright. No child should be assumed to be straight, Republican, or Catholic, but there was a time when I was all 3 of those. And what I regret about my history is not that I’ve changed from falling under those categories, but rather something a little different.
And, I’m not certain regret is the proper term. People see regret as something one feels when they feel guilty in retrospect. I regret a part of myself, in that I mourn certain psychological and cultural structures that will likely always affect my consciousness. In a way, I suppose, in that everyone probably at one time regrets not being perfect. It’s a terrible affliction!
I was once deeply religious. I didn’t pray openly, but I prayed pretty fervently. I was very cognizant of theology and my everyday life. I read the bible, and I became more involved at my Church. I loved going to church, I loved the ceremony and the adulation and the music and losing myself in the righteousness and the glory and the beauty. These are all, I promise, things that mask more serious issues at the heart of organized religions (particularly Catholicism). But I truly felt a connection with God that I felt was real. He (to use the historically used pronoun) was everywhere—the blanket of snow after nightly blizzards, the gentle canvas provided by the sunset, and the smell of afternoon grass framed by buzzing insects.
Today I don’t have faith but I still bask in the wonder of science and nature. Science was a part of my life too—as a believing Christian I had no conflict with the age of the earth or the evidence for evolution. And, my trust in the scientific principle is eventually what led me away from faith, and this was all accelerated by a few verses that stuck out in the bible, and what felt like an irreconcilable sexuality. But, to an extent, this was contradictory. I knew God was true and real because I felt it, but I knew the Bible could absolutely not be the Truth. Women were equal! My love for someone could not be wrong! Man can never be so perfect as to write the perfect word of God!
Faith is this remarkable thing. It was always fed, for me, by what I felt. There might be certain cultural, biological, and sociological reasons for why I feel what I feel, but none of those will matter to someone who is convinced they contain a soul, because a soul is eternal, infinite, and not inherently natural. I never chose to believe in God, but my faith in a supernatural force (nevermind old men with beards, thanks) is something that today is just as real as 5 years ago, whether I consciously choose to believe in it or not.
To be certain, perhaps this structure of faith is simply a result of my passion. My tendency to be passionate about things, has in my opinion, led to my previous bout of religiousness, my preoccupation with tennis, losing myself in textbooks for hours, and reading relevant scientific literature for fun. And, as always, this latent faith has always been starkly contrasted against the ugly institutions and religions that percolate on this planet.
And that is what I regret, that I have faith and do not know what to do with it. And its contrast with religion is currently my only evidence that surely, faith is not a choice.