Confessions of a Former Atheist: Part I

originally published at www.fshbwl.com

I used be to an atheist.

I grew up Catholic, was confirmed in the church, but as soon as confirmation classes were done at the end of eighth grade, I looked for the fastest ticket out of the church. It was boring there. Looking back, I know I didn’t get it. And church wasn’t very important to my family life…we weren’t what you might call, faithful followers of Christ.

In ninth grade, I was introduced to the theory of evolution in biology class. That was the ticket I was looking for. I decided I believed in the theory of evolution, and told everyone I was an atheist. I was finally free from the drudgery that was church.

A few years later, I became a Christian and brought the baggage of all my questions with me. Evolution still made sense. After all, in our culture, we’re formed to believe that the only kinds of valid knowledge, the best sources of information are science and our rationality, our reason. Those two are privileged above all else. From them, we supposedly gain certainty. So becoming a Christian had some challenges, because now I was confessing to believe things that science cannot prove. Now what?

I started looking for answers. How did Christianity deal with scientific questions, especially those which challenged the central tenets of the faith? The journey has been long, but I’ve learned some interesting things about the nature of science, reason, and faith.

This might be hard to take, but in a very real sense, science and the knowledge it provides us, is a matter of faith, a matter of belief. The privileges experienced by the scientific method and the logic of reason are not necessarily legitimate. Think of it this way: there are still many questions that science has not answered and at the moment, is unable to answer. But it has FAITH that someday it will be able to answer them, though it cannot know for sure. For example, what is the nature of thought? It is BELIEVED to be merely a matter of chemical reactions in the brain and nothing more. Science boils us down to merely material beings, and thus makes explanations for our experiences along those lines; hence thoughts are merely chemical reactions. The only thing that ultimately rules out the spiritual side of our lives—something we each intuitively sense is true—is that science cannot speak to those matters and thus, they are ruled out as untrustworthy, and in the end, unreal.

But notice what we’re saying here. Science BELIEVES thoughts are merely chemical reactions. But it doesn’t really know. A simpler example would be the status of eggs and their benefit for our health. One day eggs are good for us. The next day, they’re bad. Then just the yokes are bad, but the whites are still good. And so on. All of this supposedly certain information comes to us through the methods of science. So what’s the truth? It seems that science doesn’t know. Nevertheless, whether we’re talking about eggs or the nature of thought, we BELIEVE science will someday figure it out. We have FAITH in science; we TRUST science.

Hmmm. Sounds kind of like religion to me. What is so different about our belief in science and its capabilities, or in reason, than our belief in the truth of the Christian faith? In many ways, nothing. There is no difference. Religious knowledge (that which is revealed to us by God in the Scriptures) becomes equally valid as a means of understanding our world and figuring out how to lead our lives as does the knowledge we get from science, from our reason, from our intuition, from our experience (these latter two have also often been ruled out, yet we live our lives as if they are very important).

I’m still figuring out how to put all of this together. But one thing seems clear: there is no good reason to privilege science over religion. There is no good reason to pit faith against reason. What we begin to see is that science is quite religious, and faith and reason go together.

Advertisements