Saturday, April 14, 2012

Have you ever changed your opinion?

There's been a discussion in the previous post regarding our beliefs being prejudiced and biased.  I think this goes without saying, as we are the collective of what we are taught, think and observe.

But, have you ever had a deep held belief in which you've turned around on?
What made you change?
If you study a topic you believe in, do you also research/read the opposing opinions?

I was raised Catholic and went to church regularly as well as a Catholic grade school.  God/Jesus was an everyday thing for me. When I became a teenager, like many, I became interested in supernatural subjects like ghosts, ESP, UFOs, the Bermuda Triangle.  The movie The Exorcist came out when I was 13 and I was obsessed with demonic possession.  I read everything  I could on the subject.
I was convinced all these things were real and happening around me.  My parents chuckled and told me to think about these subjects critically.  They asked me to look for actually evidence and to look for other possible explanations to specific events.
They were very patient!
But, over the next 4-5 years, as I matured and learned, I did start asking the questions "Why?" and "How?"  I started learning about the world around me. With a little education, a lot of the supernatural disappeared.
One day I asked my mom why we should believe in a god when the natural world could be explained by natural processes (I probably didn't use those words.  And I most likely just didn't want to go to church.).  She didn't have an answer and gave me the official Catholic Church response.  "Don't ask questions." I found out that when it came to her faith, she didn't practice what she preached.

Long story short, I fell in love with science in high school and religion became less important to me.  I went to college wanting to become a NASA engineer and received AA degrees in Physics and Psychology before deciding that Video Production and Film History was the direction my career would lead.  I became an 'official' Atheist my last year in Catholic college when I took a class called Atheism and Religion.

But you ask, have I changed my mind on scientific subjects?  Yes.

In the past, I questioned man's impact on Earth's climate.  Our environment changes at a fairly slow pace and we have such a small data set of weather conditions over the last 125 years to draw on.  But, as more information is collected and as the amount of change has become (practically) logarithmic, it's became pretty clear that man can have a huge impact on his environment.

I also would like to believe in multi-verses and that idea that more then four dimensions exist.  It would make our 'uni'-verse infinitely more wondrous.  But, alas there is no actual evidence for them (yet).  They only exist in mathematical constructs which, like Zeno's Paradoxes, are open to logical errors.

When I look at the universe without a god, I see a place even more exciting and beautiful then the one I saw with a god!  Having no predetermined 'purpose' or 'meaning' give us infinite possibilities to explore and find our own purpose and meaning!

Morality is a human construct.  We've developed a social order over tens of thousands of years in order to live together and prosper.  Our values have shifted over the millennia.  It obviously doesn't work perfectly but it's gotten us this far.
A world with god and religion is indistinguishable but a world without (apart from the churches of course).  Just as many horrible, bloody acts of violence have been committed by the followers of gods as by those who commit horrible acts to fulfill their own needs.  And just as much good.  You can be good without god.

What's your story?
Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. I posted this earlier, but it certainly belongs over here on this post:

    During my teenage years, I went to church but was a skeptic. I didn't believe in God and was quietly laughing smugly (yes, I'm judging myself - I was smug) to myself about the silly superstitions of the people around me. I would have termed myself a free thinker. In fact, I looked up to the sky and saw an empty universe. I loved Carl Sagan's Cosmos. I was an atheist. However, it's hard to do that forever. As G.K. Chesterton said, the point of having an open mind is that you must let something into it. That eventually happened with me, and I came to realize that if the Christian God didn't exist then I would have no sufficient ground for logic, science, or morality. In an atheistic universe I could not give a sufficient reason for logic or morality. In fact, they do not fit together at all. So my mind was open and I was willing to question the beliefs and assumptions of those around me, but such a quest has to terminate somewhere. There is a point to every journey, isn't there?

  2. Before I get on my soap box, I would like to say that the Catholic Response has never been, don't ask questions.
    Basically everything you post about the Catholic American Church has "changed". The Vatican was screaming at the U.S. to change back in the 30s and 40s. The stock market crash then the dust bowl era set American Catholics behind on teaching Plus all the demonic worship going on in the American Catholic Church at that time really screwed things up.

    Vatican II CCC.
    Apostasy Within by Rev. Paul Martin
    History of Catholicism...title is incomplete...the book was on the table when I went to work. Now its MIA. I will post it tomorrow with my story.

  3. @Bruce
    Raised from the Dead written by Father Albert Herbert S.M

  4. As a Christian my presuppositions for how I account for everything come from the Bible. I can account for morality because it comes from the goodness and character of God. I can account for logic because I know it flows from God's immutability of character. The point is not that we all have biases/presuppositions. Every honest person knows that. The point is people live contrary to their presuppositions.

    Your presuppositions dictate that morality comes from man and yet I imagine you believe that Hitler was wrong or that the Inquisition was wrong or the human sacrifices conducted by the Druid's of Britain. You say that morality is progressive so does that mean that if you were suddenly transported back in time to when human sacrifice was committed by what right or authority would you be able to condemn their actions. By what right can you say that the Inquisition was wrong. I am sure that you believe these things are wrong and I agree with you whole-heartedly but the point is you have no reason to believe these actions are wrong.

    I am trying to be confrontational. I am not trying to be a jerk or insult you. If I come across as that I sincerely apologize.

    By the way my name says Psmith but it is really Ben Johnson.

  5. Oddly, before I take a stance on something I always start with the opposing side. Always.

    I turned my belief around on other World Religions and my political viewpoints, first green, then republican, democratic, back to green, now whoever is most like Jesus.

    I am in a constant state of learning. I am currently studying three topics at 2 seminary libraries and my local public library.
    I study until my never ending questons on the topic are answered. Then I move on to the next topic.

    Opinions are worthless, that's why I study everything I believe in.

    @ Non-believers
    How can an atheist believe in love? what evidence do atheists use?

  6. Mr. Johnson, Welcome.
    I will pray that you will become a regular Blogger on here.

    True, without Gods path, I would be wanted in all 50 choice. I would have joined the military and would totally approve of the atomic bomb, much quicker death and less casualties of war on the people dropping it. And who is to say that its a bad thing. Where is the evidence that its bad?
    Legalize drugs too, great for the economy.

  7. I always got a different answer from Mom. After my confirmation age, she quit going to church. She once told me, "I've done my job. You all are old enough to make your own decisions on religion. I don't have to do it anymore." And as far as religion, she used to tell me, like mythology, and I should look at the lessons behind the stories. I think you scarred her, before I started asking the teenage questions. hahaha.

    I was a good church member until we had a family tragedy. The leadership I sought out for counseling gave me answers that made me want to back out of the room veeeeeery slowly. After that, it was a slow demise of my unquestioning 'religious beliefs.' Fast forward 15 years, I'm still interested in religion and how it shapes people's spirituality but I'm no longer involved in it. More of a fascinated observer. I guess I'm still following Mom's advice, extracting the lessons of the religion stories (I'm intrigued by all paths) and leaving the "do this or else" messages behind. I still believe in some sort of force. Something that at least started this whole existence ball rolling. I choose to call that force God. I think we have some inner drive or existence, which I call soul/spirit. But I won't adopt someone else's opinions of these phenomena, I make my own opinions, which change and flow over time. Its a great journey. The closest I come to adhering to religion these days is secular Buddhism, It teaches me to not get so wrapped up on materialism and ego and to focus on self development, which could be construed as a spiritual practice I suppose.

    One of the tenets of Buddhism is to "Always ask questions, even if the Buddha himself said it, still ask if it sounds correct." I also add to that and still ask the question, "what if...?" which is essential for authentic growth.

  8. @Bruce - interesting Exorcist reference - I'll come back to it shortly.

    I can cite both politics and religion:

    Born Republican, so to speak, remained Republican through my mid thirties with the belief that a focus on business would result in healthy businesses, resulting in more job opportunities for me. Seriously - I predate the trickle down theory! Then as the Republican party stopped delivering on things that I cared about (Poppy Bush claimed he was going to be the "education president") I stopped voting R and started looking for Libertarian candidates to support. I've stopped doing that, as well. It's an extraordinary amount of work deciding on who to vote for nowadays, but a lot more satisfying.

    As far as religion goes, I was raised Episcopalian (I presume conservative Christians would label this "liberal"). I believed that the Bible was metaphorically true, but not literally.

    At the age of 20 I became a Pentecostal for less than a year after a conversion experience that featured the Exorcist (!!!) It wasn't me, but one of my roommates that became completely unglued after seeing the Exorcist and joined a Pentecostal church. I and his brother soon followed, but after reading the NT twice, verse for verse, and part of the OT once, I dispensed with the temporary view that the Bible was literally true.

    Post Pentecostal, I still firmly suspected that there was in fact a God, but that he put all religions in the world as obstacles to us so that we might navigate through them to find him. That soon gave way to the realization that he never appears in the world at all, and that if he/she/it exists, you can't tell the difference between its existence and its non-existence.

    In the last ten years, my explorations in philosophy of religion and science, general argumentation and logic, and some specific reading in physics and biology have led me to become quite comfortable that the conjecture "God" is in fact just conjecture.

  9. Long story short what changed my mind was curiosity which led to endless research to discover that my religion is no different than any other religion.

  10. I've changed my opinion on lots of things. Let's see, how about drug laws. When I was a kid, I bought into the whole "drugs are evil, outlaw them" mentality. Now it's obvious to me that the US Govt's approach is in many cases doing more harm than good, especially for marijuana. Not that I'm encouraging its use, especially not for my kids, but our laws right now are imprisoning large numbers of people who should not be imprisoned, and are funneling money to foreign drug lords. That money should be staying in our own economy, not fueling their excessive lifestyles and violence.

    We should start with legalizing possession of marijuana and also allow free exchange of seeds, and growing it for personal use, as a start. That way, the money will go to Home Depot for containers, soil and fertilizer, instead of fueling drug wars. If that much is successful, then we could see about a establishing a commercial industry that could be regulated and taxed.

    Oh, and I've also changed my mind about new-age woo. When I was a kid, my dad was intensely curious about all that stuff, and had lots of Von Danniken books, and messed about with "pyramid power" and such like. So of course I thought it was great. College science classes put an abrupt end to that.

    There's also several things that I have not formed an opinion on yet. Dark matter and dark energy for instance. My physics training was well before those ideas were introduced, and I just don't have enough background information to make up my mind about whether I think that hypothesis is on the right track.

  11. I am reading books on Charles Darwin. About his trip on the Beagle, and his life. I thought he was a brilliant scientist on his journey. So I guess I changed my mind on that. Boy was I off.

    Anyway, I have only watched two documentaries involving Darwin, and sadly they contradict his notebooks as well as some of his specimens findings. National Geographic and PBS produced the ones I watched.
    Also books such as Ever Since Darwin and the Concise Story of an Extraordinary Man and Rebel Giants have contradiction about his conclusions, years after his 5-year observation trip. All books favor him and do not intend to contradict.

    Has anyone found a book ( besides the obvious 4) or watched a documentary that would fill the gaps in Darwins "long argument"?

  12. Speaking of opinions, I would encourage all to read the book called The Report on the Shroud of Turin. It was written by the scientists who studied it in 1978. The book was written by Dr. John Heller, a member of the team. This book is written based ONLY ON SCIENTIFIC FACT/RESULTS. No faith claims allowed in this book. Just the facts from the research team.

  13. How ironic. How can you be good without God, when without God and Morality, you have no basis whatsoever of Good vs Bad. What then is Good? What is Bad?