Everybody has a hobby. For a very long time, mine was arguing with people on the internet. Yes, everybody does that, but let me tell you, I was dedicated. I had my favorite forum, and I wrote big long messages, and I made personal enemies and developed my very own snarky style. Eventually, around the time my first son was born, I realized that the hours of my life were finite, and I was spending a large number of those hours with people I didn’t really like, acting like someone I didn’t really like. I didn’t ditch the forum, but now I take time off for the Great Fasts, and I’ve tried to upgrade from “arguing with people” to “having interesting discussions with people.” The line between the two is sometimes quite fine; those Great Fast breaks help me keep sight of it.
Anyway, all this is just a long-winded way of saying I’ve heard, if not all the arguments, at least a good many of them; my forum was and is a gathering place for intelligent people with extremely strong opinions and moderate-to-weak social skills. And, much of the time, those arguments were about religion. I first started this blog as a way of expressing whatever lessons I ostensibly learned from all those hours of argument. That was back in 2011. I made one short post, and never came back. Part of the reason was simply the tone: it was a religion blog (like this one), so I tried to make it a Religion Blog, with the standard pious atmosphere, including the twee title “The Little Doxology” (if you don’t get it, don’t bother asking; it’s not worth knowing). Which, of course, was a kind of lie. I’m simply not a standard-pious person. I couldn’t write like that if you held a gun to my head. Looking back, that one first post is just painful to read.
So what’s the deal? As the title says, I’m a cynical Christian. I cannot, in all honesty, say that I feel a close relationship with Jesus, though I know I should. I’m working on it. I may never be comfortable “sharing the faith” with others. The emotional barriers I put up during adolescence are going to stick around for a while, and besides, I’ve never been openly emotional, let alone effusively sentimental. Like most modern Americans, I’ve also been heavily conditioned to associate outward religiosity with hypocrisy, and knowing the conditioning occurred doesn’t let me undo it. Finally, I’m Orthodox. Until recently, the American Orthodox Churches were primarily ethnic enclaves. We just didn’t do outreach.
I’m not even totally sure why I believe in God, though I know I do. Partly it’s just that I’ve had two of what people call “religious experiences,” and I’m reluctant to simply chalk them up to hallucination. Partly it’s that materialism holds no attraction for me; if I will rot in the ground either way, what do I gain by knowing in advance? Valuable being-right points? The whole point is that I won’t be around to brag about it, after all. In the meantime, if it happens to make me happier to believe in even the most objectively idiotic notion anyone can imagine, I might as well.
But that’s just a hedge. Mostly, I think I believe in Christianity because it strikes me as more psychologically realistic. Atheism these days tends to be all about humanism–people are basically good, social animals, and so on. Which, regrettably, does not hold up under scrutiny. There are atheists who acknowledge this, but then they tend to be the sort who celebrate it, and they’re not so hot on the psychological self-awareness either. Those are, as I see it, the only options an unbeliever has: either we’re good and constantly getting better, or we’re stinkers and always will be so let’s have a beer. You have to be religious (or transhumanist, but c’mon, that’s a religion if I ever saw one) to say that we’re rotten but we can get better. Only a God could ever change human nature.
Hey, it’s worth a shot.