Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What kind of an atheist am I?

When I was younger I read a great deal of Nietzsche. Unfortunately for my youthful faith in Christ, this reading came at a time when I was in the throes of a full-blown religious crisis. From early adolescence until my early twenties when I first encountered Nietzsche, I had alternated between a rabid fundamentalist Christianity and an equally rabid atheism.

The intellectual source of the conflict was a pernicious question that I had posed to myself: what if it [Christianity] was all true in spite of all rational argumentation to the contrary? Being from the Bible Belt, and having attended more than a few United Pentecostal Church services, "Christianity" meant fundamentalist, literalist, six-day creationist Christianity complete with salvation assured only after baptism by the Holy Spirit as evidenced by speaking in tongues.

What I found liberating about Nietzsche is that he changed the question for me from "Is Christianity true?" to "Are my reasons for believing Christianity consistent with Christianity?" The change from emphasizing, one might say, the object of faith, in this case Christianity, to emphasizing motivations for that faith, setting aside for the moment questions of truth. I found myself professing something that I did not believe to be true. I was unpersuaded by the reasons that I was giving for why I believed.

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