I value open-mindedness over most other things. When I was going through my deconversion and having frequent religious discussions with my family, I often felt that they weren’t being open-minded. I know that it’s hard (perhaps impossible) to judge how open-minded someone else is being, so I hesitate to even pass that kind of judgment. At the same time, it’s not like they were answering the problems I brought up with actual solutions — it mostly centered on how arrogant I was to question “God’s word.” On top of that, they never read any of the books or articles that I asked them to — I don’t think they even read all of the stuff I personally wrote to them.
It was the seeming lack of open-mindedness that shocked me most, in many ways. During my time as a Christian, I tried to be as open-minded as possible. I was part of a strict denomination that thought most other Christians were wrong, so I often had discussions with my Christian friends to try to help them see “the truth.” In those discussions, I often admitted that I could be wrong:
Either I’m wrong, or you’re wrong, or we’re both wrong. We can’t both be right…
I firmly believed (based on Matthew 7) that as long as I was searching for the truth, I would find it. Also, if what I believed about Christianity was true, then more study would only bear that out. In other words, I had nothing to fear by discussing and examining Christianity with those who disagreed with me. If they could show me where I was wrong, then that was good! It would mean that I had believed the wrong thing, but learning that would give me the opportunity to correct it and be more pleasing to God.
Now that I have come out of Christianity, I still feel just as strongly about the merits of open-mindedness. Recently, someone suggested that I read In His Image, by William Jennings Bryan (which I’m now doing), but when he gave me the suggestion, he then backpedaled and said I might not like the book because it supports Christianity. I was disappointed by that statement. I told him that I don’t read things based on whether or not I will agree with them — I take religion very seriously, because all religion is an effort to explain reality. If this book by WJB can provide some arguments I haven’t considered before, or answer some of my questions about Christianity, then I want to know that!
But now for the admission. Now for the part that I haven’t been able to say to my family yet: I don’t see any way that I’ll ever believe Christianity again. On the surface, that may seem like it runs counter toward my goal of being open-minded, but it really doesn’t. The fact is, I’ve just seen too much. “I once was blind, but now I see.” The fact is, the Bible can’t fix its problems because it’s a closed document. No more material is going in or out of it. Nor is God going to speak to me directly or perform some miracle to overcome my skepticism. We’re stuck with what we’ve got.
We’re left with a god that’s supposedly omnipotent, omniscient, and loves us all, yet we still have evil in the world. He remains hidden from us, but supposedly wants a relationship with us. He supposedly left us a message, but no one can agree on what it says, and its books look pretty much like all the other things that were being written at the time. As this post said:
Let’s face it – I may still be open to the idea of being convinced on the matter, but this is a genie that’s not going to go back into the bottle easily. I can’t unlearn what I’ve found; I can’t simply deny the truth that I’ve been able to discover without the fear of uprooting my faith. To ask me to believe again would be to take on the herculean task of not only providing sufficient evidence but also dealing with all of the logical and evidential problems or to ask me to knowingly deceive myself – and I’m not sure I’m willing to do that for anyone.
I am still an open-minded person. But I also know enough about Christianity now to know what it is and what it isn’t. I didn’t lose my faith by forgetting things, but by learning things. And if I had known years ago what I know now, I never would have been a Christian in the first place.