Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing.
~ Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791 ~

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Searching for truth: Part 3

One of the goals of my own search was to rebuild my worldview. Not only did I seek to follow the evidence wherever it led me, I also wanted my view of reality to be internally consistent and make some sense to me. I don't know if I succeeded in all of those areas. I certainly feel as though my worldview now has a firmer foundation, that being evidence and reason, coupled with the scientific method.

I don't think I've reached a destination but rather I've recreated and refined the methodologies I used along the way. My views do seem to be more stable now than when I first started questioning my beliefs, although there is always the possibility of more changes as new evidence comes my way. Some believers seem to find that prospect scary or unsettling, just as I once did. I now try to see it as an exciting possibility for new discovery and insight.

Searching for truth may cost you

Searching for truth and questioning my most deeply held beliefs came at a significant cost. Even very early in my search I encountered quite distressing difficulties. I found it very difficult to deal with because even though it took years, it still felt like quite a rapid change.

If the cost was so high, why did I go down that road? The best answer I can give is that the cost of remaining complacent was far higher still. I had reached a point where I was no longer satisfied with the simplistic answers to most of the deeper questions I found welling up inside me. Sure, I could invent convenient ad-hoc answers to almost any of my doubts. But I must have realised that I had no way to know if these answers were true, and I could very well have been fooling myself.

I just want to know

I remember saying to myself (or perhaps it was a silent plea to God - who I still very much believed in at the time), "I want to know the truth, even if it hurts". And now here I am, nearly 4 years later, writing articles that deconstruct my former worldview and documenting the methodologies I used in the process.

It has also been quite difficult to move on as all of this sometimes still weighs heavily on my mind. Roughly thirty years of almost constant reinforcement of religious ideas and behaviours doesn't just disappear overnight. Changing my worldview was in a sense the "easy" part. Rediscovering who I am and what kind of life I now want to live is proving to be far more challenging. There's no immediate urgency, but on the other hand life is for living and not for ruminating over things I cannot change.

Some unfortunate losses

There are many things I've left in the past. I've lost friends, family, and a once-close, long-term relationship. I think that is the part that cuts most deeply. Having to choose between family/friends and life/truth is not a situation I recommend for anyone. It certainly wasn't my intention when I began my search (although some believers have accused me of that very thing, as if I had a crystal ball and should have seen it all coming. Clearly the gift of prophecy was never my strong point). Keeping friendships is hard when the main thing that united you both is now gone. Over the last couple of years I have moved from a place of grief to a place of acceptance. Those people may no longer be part of my everyday life, but they still helped to shape the person I am, and I thank them for the opportunity to spend time together over the years.

The search for truth continues

One thing that still remains is my desire for truth. The easiest person to fool is ourselves, so we must try to be diligent when researching our beliefs. Take nothing for granted. Question everything. People may not be lying to you, but they may well be mistaken. We are all biased. Only when we recognise and identify our flaws can we take steps to overcome them. We will not always succeed, but over time we will converge on the truth.

In the meantime, don't forget to live. Spend time with those you love. And be kind to yourself.

As always, thanks for reading.