If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that I very rarely talk about religion. Why? is it because I don't think it's an important part of people's lives? No. Is it because I don't think it's an issue worth discussing? No, again. Might it be because everyone is entitled of their own opinion, and that they should be free of choosing whatever religious or non religious affiliation they like, without me interfering? Absolutely not. Anyone who has studies human behavioural biology and neuroscience knows how ludicrous that last proposition is.
So, why then?
For one, this blog is called "reason and science [eventually]". That is because I try to pose my arguments in a rational manner, using the scientific method and logic to evaluate situations and discuss about the topic at hand. If you are religious, that is not how your mind is set to work. Being religious requires a leap of faith, which is, by definition, to accept the irrational in your life. The degree to which you do that determines how extremist and fanatic you are.
For example, it is true that there are indeed scientists who embrace religion, and who try to make their belief fit with the rest of their life and with what they know about the universe. Not surprisingly, this is number was a mere 7% in 1998, with an increasingly declining trend. The number goes down to 3% in the Royal Academy of Science alone. Why is that? Over the centuries, thousands of scholars have tried to reconcile science and religion, in more ways than I could possible begin to describe. But science is really just an extension of our ratio, our reason, to try to make sense of the universe. So, an attempt to reconcile science and religion, is an attempt to reconcile reason and faith, which is, by definition, impossible. Unless you are prepared to abandon reason, at least to some extent in your life, you cannot have faith. It is a logical impossibility to have both.
That is why I don't usually talk about religion. Logical arguments don't work with religious people, because you are not speaking the same language as theirs. If you want to appeal to a religious person, you need to speak at the emotional level, you need to be religious yourself, or at least vividly remember how it felt having a true religious experience. I abandoned religion too long ago to even remotely remember how it felt like, beside the complete boredom and utter disappointments of not having my questions answered by anyone, especially the teachers and the priests.
Then, a couple of days ago, I stumbled upon a YouTuber called Evid3nc3, or Chris. He used to be a devoted Christian, raised in a strictly religious family, accepted by a community of people like him. His faith was strong, he was happy and positive, what could possibly go wrong?
Life is a strange thing. Sometimes you can go about your usual routine for your entire life, nothing much happening, nothing major changing, nothing challenging you world views or your identity. Then, suddenly something happens. It is not a single event, an epiphany that strikes you out of the blue. No, it is never like that. But something does happen, there is a moment when you start to wonder, to doubt, when you feel to urge to discover what it is, to understand it. For Chris, it was a university professor who started his de-conversion. The two were probably hundreds of kilometers apart, and they did not know each other's identity. A strange coincidence made them meet, and then... wait a minute, who am I kidding? It wasn't a coincidence, it wasn't strange, and it wasn't the professor who started Chris' de-conversation. Chris started himself his de-conversion when he began to think about the world, to question his beliefs, when he decided that the most important thing is his life was the discovery of the truth, no matter where it brought him. The professor was just a piece of the puzzle, an very important one, a mentor, a guide, but not the reason Chris changed. I wasn't lucky enough to have this kind of figure in my life guiding me, but I embarked a very similar journey, equally amazing and exciting. Perhaps one day I shall tell my story, too.
Chris has created among the most beautiful and intense videos I have seen on YouTube. His style is very simple and minimalist, you can tell he's an amateur using iMovie, but he does so in most elegantly and carefully. The whole series is planned out from the start, it uses a visual map of the key concepts he will explore, those that represent his journey into the discovery of a greater god, a greater intelligence and a greater purpose that any religion has ever conceived. Point by point, we see how his personal views, his logic, his faith, all the pillars of his religion start to crumble, as they are replaced by a new, beautiful and inspiring view of the world. It was not by any means an easy process, in fact, it was full of contradictions, desperation, sadness and feeling of loss. But in the end, he was born anew, stronger than ever before.
The reason I enjoyed this series so intensely is that Chris tells a very human story, and he does so genuinely, without being pretentious or condescending towards his fellow Christians who still believe in god. He does not ridicule them, he does not look down at them, because he understands them. He was, up until recently, deeply devoted to their cause, and felt what they felt, saw what they saw. This story, far from being a way to discredit religious people, is a celebration of the human condition, of our ability to do extraordinary things, to have awe-inspiring experiences, and Chris does so with great respect. It is a poetry of his journey, one that each of us has take, sooner of later.
Every individual must undertake their own journey. There are no shortcuts, not substitues. This video series is not meant to de-convert Christian series, it is a story of a de-conversion. Like the professor, this video may the be the spark that will being your own journey, or the guide that will help you navigate through, but it is ultimately something that you will have to do on your own.
I want to share with you one specific video, that resonated with me particularly. It brings me back distant memories, a reminiscence of my past that is somewhat nostalgic. On this video, the professor suggests Chris to read Richard Bach's "Jonathan Livingston Seagull", as part of his awakening journey that lead him away from the church. Chris was at first unimpressed by the seemingly banal story of a seagull, which read like a children's book. But then the allegory started to creep in, as he read through the book, it explodes into a vibrant allegorical painting, whose richness overwhelmed him. When I was a child, I used to go to a summer camp with my parish priest and many other children. I don't remember much of those days, I was very little, I do remember vividly and with great detail the nights, when we all read together the story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I didn't understand at the time what was so great about that story, or if it was the moment of communal living. Ironically, what was for me one of the most joyful moments of Christian life, was the movement of separation for Christ. Now, I can see through the story, I can appreciate the allegory, and look back at those days with a smile.
Here is a playlist with all the series, updated as new videos are added: