This time of year it’s natural to look back over the changes of one’s past, seeking patterns and insight — things to repeat, things to avoid.
As I look over the last ten years, all I see is doubt: a great arc that went from hatred to fascination to calm acceptance. And now — to what? I’m still trying to figure it out.
The mid-1990s weren’t a time of doubt for me; they were a time of violent, aggressive anger toward all things religious. All that was religious was bad; there was nothing about religion that had any redeeming features. I hated religion with such unnrational wildness that even to go near a church set my jaw in such a tight bite that it seems entirely possible I could have damaged my teeth.
At some point, religion began to fascinate. As I explained it to a professor who eventually served as a grad-school-application reference, it was like watching a vast ball from a soundproof chamber: I could see the motions; I sensed the harmony; I suspected there was something going on that I wasn’t aware of.
I began graduate studies in the philosophy of religion at Boston University in 1999. I was definitely an agnostic, but religion fascinated me. I dropped out at the end of my first year. There were many reasons why, but chief among them was a feeling of impracticality. “Castles in the sky,” I recently told someone.
That’s a positive thing, though.
And that’s the irony: I was completely emotional in my attacks on religion. Of the two of us, religion wasn’t showing itself to be an irrational dolt; I was.