Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I am probably wrong and that’s okay

I am probably wrong and that’s okay.

For much of my life I was an absolutist. I believed absolutely in the power of faith, miracles, the afterlife, angels, and demons. I believed in raptures and immaculate conceptions. Above all, I knew absolutely that without the grace afforded to me by my belief in Jesus Christ I would most assuredly burn in an everlasting hell.
I knew these things to be true to my core because I regularly attended church, participated in bible studies, and felt that I had been “tested” by events in my life. I was also surrounded by individuals who, for the most part, also believed as I did. I brought my bible to high school and gave mini-sermons during lunch to friends who were equally enthused. All of this cemented in my mind the veracity of my beliefs, surely if my parents,friends, teachers, pastors, and “media” all agreed then it must be true.
Despite my zealous religiosity I quite enjoyed mathematics and chemistry, it would be the thinking styles learned in these classes that served as the seeds for my religious undoing. It was not uncommon to see me with bible and chemistry books in hand.
Despite enjoying my science classes, at the time, I was extremely skeptical of evolution because of how my pastors had framed the “debate”. I knew it was a means of separating man from God and that “scientists” were trying to attack the true story of creation. Despite the cognitive dissonance of maintaining the philosophically juxtaposed views of biblical literalism and scientific reasoning, if you had asked me if I knew what the “Truth” was, I would have answered in the affirmative.
Of course I knew the truth, the truth was that Jesus was the way, the light, etc, the science be damned. I would go on to graduate from High school in 2002, an Evangelical Baptist and receive a full ride scholarship to Northern Arizona University to study Engineering, knowing for certain who I was, where I was going, and what I was going to do.  
Unlike most,when I first came to college I joined a local church and volunteered with local christian groups just like I was supposed to, because I was certain that this was the way one should live their life. One should educate themselves not just in the world, but also in the scripture. If you had asked me at the time I would have told you that I felt “called to service”. I knew for certain that my life was on track and I was doing what I was supposed to.  
By the end of my first semester though, something had begun to happen, I began to question for the first time certain fundamental truths about my identity, my faith, and my reason for being. One of the catalysts of this change was a young woman I met on January 8th 2003 in Target. Sony Sampat was a passionate Hindi woman who was as intelligent as she was striking.
Within a week of meeting Sony, we were dating and she convinced me to take a comparative religions class that semester. Feeling secure in my beliefs I felt this would be a good way of learning how best to evangelize to those of other faiths, and to be honest it was an excuse to spend more time with her. My relationship with Sony was the first significant relationship of my life. It was passionate and it was life altering.

Sadly, as is the case with many youthful relationships ours did not last, fortunately it was an amicable breakup. We maintained contact and remained friends. A few short months later though, Sony died at age 23 from a lung infection. Already beset by doubts about my own faith from being exposed to other, older, religions. Her death forced me to deal with a fundamental truth, one central to the acceptance of Christian Dogma; without a belief in Jesus one is damned to hell.
Sony, a believer in Krishna, never had a problem with my faith and I was so enamored of her that I simply didn't dwell on our differences in faith. She was a good kind hearted person, she was clearly not “evil” and I struggled mightily with accepting that she was burning in hell because she said “Krishna” when she prayed instead of saying “Jesus” or “yahweh”.
While her death would not lead me to immediately renounce my faith it was the proverbial first domino in a long chain that would lead inexorably to me being the skeptic I am today. It was also the first instance of me truly doubting the veracity of fundamental truths in my life.
One might think that having lived the absolutist Christian life I would immediately move onto more relativistic views, sadly this was not the case. In the intervening ten years I flitted from one absolutist version of reality to another. I dabbled in Wicca, studied Buddhism, read from the Gita, listened to people speak on the Koran, and participated in more than one new age online group.
Than in 2005, I found a website called Above Top secret and would spend the next 3 years believing wholeheartedly in a great many conspiracy and alternative theories. From  the 2012 Mayan Prophecies and the Celestine Prophecies to aliens, indigo children, free energy, and the Illuminati, I knew for certain what the truth was. What I knew most certainly was that President Bush and Dick Cheney had orchestrated the 9/11 attacks and would not be leaving office. They would be forming a military dictatorship etc etc. With the peaceful transition of power, I was forced by reality to yet again question deeply held beliefs.
I was certain that I had known the truth, and in my certainty I failed to imagine just how wrong I could be. This kind of thing happened to me a lot over the last ten years and it has left an indelible mark on my psyche.
Thinking back on this time, as an avowed skeptic of most claims, ten years on, now studying Journalism, it seems almost like watching the life of another person. Who was this person so sure that truth was knowable and that he knew it?
The only thing I know now, is that I know nothing for certain. Furthermore, I know that no matter how much I know, it will never be sufficient to perfectly describe or predict any event.
My perspective is limited by my imagination, which is constrained by my worldview, which is defined by things outside of my control. Simply put, without evidence, I trust no one, least of all my own perception. We are blind to that which we cannot imagine, if we cannot imagine being wrong, we cannot see how wrong we actually are.
So I now, instead of being certain of the truth,I accept that I am probably wrong, and actively look for ways to find out just how wrong I am. The crowd tends to go with loud and proud, but the wise know that no matter how loud or how proud you are, you are still going to be wrong at some point. If you really must be certain, be certain that you are wrong. Better to be wrong about being wrong, then wrong about being right.