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May 17, 2010

College is as far from reality as you can get. No, really. Parties, girls, booze, pot and occasionally some homework. Ok, to be fair, I did a lot of studying and not a whole lot or none of the others. I was there for a degree – a future – and anything else was incidental. I say this only so you understand the world in which I was in and how it enabled me to think of things in the terms I had to so I would come to the conclusions I did.

I was exposed to a lot of ideas then. I met Christians of every sort, Agnostics, Atheists, Pagans, Wiccans, Muslims, Hindus, Taoists, Deists, Pantheists, Panentheists and just about everything else in between. I met Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, Conservatives, Libertarians, Fascists, Communists, Socialists and Anarchists. I met Homosexuals, Heterosexuals, Bisexuals, Asexuals and Transsexuals. I met monogamous individuals and polyamorous individuals. I met artists, scientists, engineers, musicians and laymen. It was here away from the watchful eye of the rest of my family and society that I finally felt as though I was able to make the decision to be something other than what I was. Although, of course, I didn’t stray from Christianity, not at first. If anything, at first, I went further into it.

I attended a few other churches. Experienced what you could say is being “saved” some point in my freshman year. Oddly enough, it felt exactly as everyone said how they felt. I attended Campus Crusade for Christ. That last bit I didn’t particularly like. Maybe it was me, but it just seemed fake. Like it was more of an escape for those involved than an actual worship. Maybe it was me and I was looking at it wrong or maybe it really was like that. I don’t know. But that’s how it felt and that’s what I took from it.

Like I said, I ran into a lot of ideas. The more I thought of it (perhaps that’s where I run into problems here…) I became increasingly disturbed at this idea of a Hell. There were a lot of arguments in my head but they mostly boiled down to this: How can infinite torment for what amounts to finite, at time vast but still finite, sin be doled out or even allowed by an infinitely loving and powerful being? And an even better question: If I were to go to heaven, would I ever be happy knowing there were good, perhaps not believing but still good, individuals being tortured while an infinitely powerful being did nothing to stop it? Would any decent human being be content to live for eternity in that situation?

Of course, it all depended on your definition of Heaven and Hell. So I changed mine to conform to this cognitive dissidence. I molded my concepts of salvation and punishment to fit my increasingly complex questions, the natural evolution of the questions posed over a decade ago to my parents. Looking back, I realize that practice of molding your perception of reality to fit your beliefs is, in general, a mistake.

Another question that plagued me was with my “saved” experience. I reasoned that it was entirely possible that it was a genuine experience. But, also, that it could have been psychosomatic as well. I wanted so badly to feel and experience this thing and I was told over and over and over again what it would feel like. Would it be a wonder that I would feel it, eventually, regardless of its nature? How can I use this experience as evidence of anything? How would I know it is real with only my subjective and admittedly flawed perceptions to rely on?

Eventually, by my senior year, I got rid of the idea of Hell altogether in place of a different system of punishment. By that time, I had also gathered a fair amount of knowledge of biology, evolution, abiogenesis, cosmology, physics, etc and was able at least to understand the naturalistic explanations of natural phenomenon including the emergence (not creation) of life and the universe. The effect was I began to see less and less of a reason for a God to personally interfere with anything. Sure, God could have set it all up and just let go, but this God is very different from the God described in the Bible – this God was impersonal. And God could have interfered, but this is just something we can inherently never know. It wasn’t so much that I saw evidence for God’s non-interference, but, rather, that I saw none for God’s actual interference. The difference is subtle, but important.

By the end of college, I was increasingly of the opinion that, were there a God, He certainly is beyond anything we’ve ever conceived and simply not detectable by human means for one reason or another. There were good and bad things that happened to everyone at, seemingly, the same statistical rates so I also found no evidence that God cared anymore about His creation, if indeed He ever did.

I was now a Deist. 


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