Ryan Bell’s de-conversion surprises no one

For those not familiar with the recent headliner, Ryan Bell started trending a year ago after starting a blogging and personal experiment project titled “A year without God” which you can find here. He trended again recently after the big reveal of the conclusion being “I don’t think there is a God.” More on that here.

Surprising? Not really, no matter how you spin it.

To the Atheist, naturally, we see a God-less reality as reality. Thus, giving test to the truth leads to seeing the truth. Many of us have religious pasts as well, so we’ve been down that road of “exploring.” Some of our conservative denominational backgrounds would go as far as to see the exploration and doubt as bad, so wouldn’t lend much cognitive advice past “pray on it,” “it’s a faith thing,” or “keep your eyes on Jesus.”

To the Christian, the lure of the devil is sweet. Once you taste the fruit, it can be hard to turn back. This is why they push so hard to train their children to walk the path of righteousness. Furthermore, there are plenty a Bible verse that can be used here:

[they are those who] have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. Hebrews 6:5-6

But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father in heaven. Matthew 10:33

Then you have the theory behind my former blog post: believing is seeing, seeing is believing. Both were at play here. He gave Atheism a fair try, so he believed it for a year. This lead to seeing it as true, as he had to, to be fair to the experiment, believe it to be true for the year. Self-fulfilling. Works the same for many things: believe you’re fat, you’ll see yourself as fat. Wake up in the morning, look yourself in the mirror ever morning and call yourself stupid and I can assure you you will begin to believe it.

This begs the challenge:

Would an Atheist convert to Christianity/Judaism/Islamd/Ba’hai/Hinduism/etc if gone through the same experiment of a year trial?

Not quite the same, granted. Not all religions have a “believe and you’re in” clause. Judaism, for example, has (ironically) a year trial period where you study under a Rabbi before being allowed and given the option to officially convert. Also, traditionally, when asking a Rabbi to convert to Judaism, he will deny you 3 times to prove your ardor and sincerity before taking one under his discipleship.

But regardless, would it yield the same result?

What do you think? Think *someone* should try it out? What would make it different than a religious person giving doubt a run, or is it the same concept?

Seeing and Believing

believing seeing

The problem with memes, phrases, sayings, and even quotes is that they are not as necessarily true as they are treated. They may rhyme, and have a “ring of truth” yet they are not, without a proper context, true.

The example I’ve had rolling around in my head are these:

  1. Believing is seeing.
  2. Seeing is believing.

Both seem to be used equally as much with different people groups. Often concerning religion, or Santa Claus, and usually in the form of “you/I won’t ____  it until you ____ it.” I’d like to point out the faults in each, and the truths in each, to show that they are not ultimately and totally true in themselves.

If I see it, then I will believe it.

Foregoing the extreme nihilistic skeptic, this is often true of individuals. Hard to believe concepts often require tangible proof. Examples: “Your wife bought you a 1969 Mustang. It’s in your driveway,” or “you just won the lottery,” or even “I have a green ball in my right hand.” For some, it seems detrimental to the psyche to believe them without evidence. The disappointment and reversible of that high dopamine response to you getting extremely excited is something we tend to try to avoid. So, we don’t believe things like “we just won the lottery,” sometimes, even after we see the numbers. It’s  just too big and unbelievable.

However, is this a healthy stance to take on all matters?

Of course not.

Issues such as eating disorders and other self-esteem related conditions are an easy example. How do you show someone they are not fat, when they see fat in the mirror? More on this after the next issue:

You have to believe it, to see it.

Often the catch line of many kid’s holiday movies, the crochety old grown ups just can’t see Santa anymore because they lost their ability to believe and imagine. But is it true?

Well, yeah.

We see this evidenced most with negativity. If you believe the world is full of evil, than you are more likely to see more evil things. If you believe in demons, you’re most likely to see that sleep paralysis (a somewhat common parasomnia) as demons holding you down and crawling over your body, or movement in shadows more often. If to you, the world is going to hell then…. well, you’ll likely see hell where ever you look.

But if we attach this mantra to the above examples of the lottery winning and the mustang, it’s clear that believing you won will not make it true.

Or will it?

This is where my concluding thought comes into play: it’s all in the perspective. In a way, perspective is the starting biases of a person’s psyche, the beliefs. A nihilistic skeptic, based on it’s core beliefs, will not believe anything no matter what the “proof.” A biologist may need to see something under a microscope before believing. A Christian may not be willing to accept that Jesus may not be the prophesied messiah no matter what textual criticism comes his/her way.

Applying both mantras to the above, both are true. The Christian, if spent some time believing God/Jesus does not exist, will most likely see it and thus continue to believe it (ex. Ryan Bell). They feed in to each other.

The mind is a powerful thing, and this “seeing,” is in its own sense, a subjective word. We only see through our own two eyes, and the mind can only interpret what is observes through its programming.

In conclusion, they’re both true. Use them to your own, individual, personal benefit. Is believing the world is going to hell helping you? Is your doubt and skepticism preventing you from seeing that maybe your perspective on what “fat” is isn’t entirely true/helpful to you?

Penny for your Thoughts? Which side do you side with more often, believing or seeing? Which do you think comes first?