Sunday, November 2, 2008

Identity

Emotional stress is, amongst many other things, quite educational. For me, it's quite good at stripping away some of the layers of deception (self and otherwise) I engage in to make my life more comfortable. The last few weeks have been rather good at forcing me to re-examine who I am, and, in particular, I've been forced to confront the extent to which I am extremely coy about my Christianity [1].

There are various reasons for this. In part, I am an extremely private individual. I'm REALLY not comfortable with personal information leaking across my boundaries (and something as fundamental as my beliefs counts as pretty darn personal). In addition, I don't want to get drawn into the inevitably pointless debates about belief and religion - no-one ever got converted in either direction by rational debate.

There's an aspect of not wanting to be identified with the extremes of Christianity [2], and, let's face it, the crackpot extremes are really screwy, really loud, and, based on the available evidence, annoyingly common.

Disappointingly, however, a very large portion is due to simple cowardice [3]. My reluctance to trust that other people will tolerate my beliefs is both uncomfortably revealing and more than somewhat sad. While I've generally avoided explicitly denying my faith, far too often, I've simply found it comfortably convenient to avoid committing to any particular position. I'm not sure when or why I became so defensive about my beliefs, but it's hardly one of my better character traits, and represents a rather significant failure to live up to my personal ideals.

Overall, a failing grade, but hopefully with potential to do better in future.


[1] I'm not going to go into the particulars of what exactly I believe here, but it's sufficiently based on the traditions of the Protestant Christian church that the label will do. Some more details are available here

[2] Let's not even start on the history of Western Christianity, which, with some extremely vigorous white-washing of the really bloody bits, may just make it to the point where it can be described as an utterly horrific failure for a religion with "love thy neighbour" as one of the central doctrines.

[3] For example, I've spent far too much time polishing this post instead of publishing it, for very little gain.

1 comment:

jerith said...

There's a lot I could say here, but most of it isn't really worth saying. I'll just talk about my own belief and issues with belief a bit.

I'm an atheist, and have been heading that way pretty much forever. I was brought up Jewish and still identify strongly with the culture, if not the religion. On the other hand, my brother is a rabbi and my family expects a certain amount of basic religious observance on holidays and special occasions.

Usually I just go through the motions on these occasions. Sometimes I find ways to avoid them. I always feel uncomfortable, because I see it as a form of hypocrisy.

I'm also immediately (and, if I'm entirely honest, irrationally) mistrustful of religion and the religious. Most of this comes from some of the truly insane things I've seen extremists do and believe. On the other hand, I have a number of close friends who are deeply religious and who I trust implicitly.

I think, in the end, it comes down to people being very good at being inconsistent. With my personal beliefs in the power of knowledge and rationality, it's somewhat difficult to face my own inconsistencies. Without them, though, I don't think I'd be anywhere near as nice a person to be around (or to be, for that matter) as I like to think I am.