Everyone has a base camp—a philosophy or way of life they embrace by default. For some, their default is a state of apathy. For others it is easy
to fall back on a version of the religion they were raised in. For me, default is Christianity. Within Christianity I have a community, however
inadequate or frustrating. I have identity, a sense of purpose, and easily accessible, prepackaged moral guidelines. Christianity is comfortable, it’s socially acceptable and best of all, it appeals to my desire for meaning, purpose, love, and understanding. While other people claim to find some or all of these comforts by different means, but I’ve no reason to consider them…except that I may only truly know the health and functionality of the ideas I choose to live by, by comparing them to others.
Like a patient who knows nothing beyond the asylum, what I think an adequate home may well be a padded prison–and I none the wiser–if I haven’t the perspective to consider the possibility of something better. I want to be able to confidently say I have tested the things I’ve put my faith in. I want to be able to say that I took a good look at my options and made my decisions based on as adequate an understanding of them as anyone can have in one lifetime. That is why I must continue to search out ideas and resist the security of my base camp. I can’t settle back into the faith of my childhood just because it’s comfortable.
I decided a long time ago that I’d rather know truth than happiness. Or rather, I’m the type of person who could never truly be happy as long as I suspected my happiness was based on an illusion. Like Neo (yes, I’m comparing myself to an action hero) I have to take the red pill. I am driven to know ‘how far the rabbit hole goes.’ And, unlike Cypher, I have no desire to willingly forget painful truths in favor of a more pleasant, albeit artificial existence.
But to suggest that my only choices are ‘the red pill or the blue pill’–to imply that I must either embrace or reject the reality I’ve inherited or presents a false dichotomy. There are options as tempting, but ultimately as unsatisfactory as a casual return to inherited values. “To hell with the Matrix and the real world,” some say. “No one is necessarily better off in either reality, the latter of which may yet simply be a meta-matrix.” This rejection of all beliefs—even the validity of holding beliefs—gazes down from glassless spectacles, mocking all the little people who are so sure of their “opinions.”
I remember thinking like this not too long ago. I remember feeling superior to all the little fanatics who thought themselves capable of naming
Truth. It was easy to condemn the Dobson’s and Dawkins’s of the world while ultimately embracing no real creed except my own iconoclasm. Like a teenage rebel who never quite grew up, I instead found a way to feel superior to all. A few well timed conversations with my dad–a man who proves one needn’t sacrifice their intellect to religion or their morality to relativism–jolted me from the path I was on. But the pedant at dinner still proclaims Christians are delusional; atheists, fanatical; idealists are naïve; etc.
This farce of agnosticism is occasionally appealing because it more readily allows me to maintain a semblance of intellectual integrity, and would help me cultivate an educated and cosmopolitan social image. Ultimately, however, I would be posing. I cannot honestly claim to be convinced of man’s complete inability to know the origins of our universe, and I do not see the value in throwing up my hands and declaring “I can’t know,” when what I really mean is, “I don’t know now…” So I’m doing my research. There is no comfort for me in willful delusion, so among other things I’m checking out some library books on the historical nature of the Bible, and reading up on its main characters. I want to better understand Christianity in its objective form, stripped of its nostalgia and the religious tradition built up by my community. I want to see the foundations of the faith I was raised in for what they are.