I was born into a rather secular family with rather secular friends. I can't speak for the Kapiti Coast in general, but in my small part of it, I grew up in a context where religion just did not matter. My family mainly comprises of two types of people: 1. those whose deepest theology is "good people go to Heaven" and they don't think much about religion, and 2. those who just consider it a bunch of ancient myths that have no bearing on their lives. I remember doing Christian Ed at primary school, but it didn't have any special significance - the only reason I bought a Bible was because one friend claimed that nobody had ever read all of it and I intended to prove him wrong. I read it just like any other book; God was just another character.
When I came to Australia, the Christian Ed at my new primary school was deathly boring, so I feigned atheism in order to get out of it and have much more fun playing on the computer in the room next door. The atheism quickly became about as real as atheism can be for an 11 year old. By the time I began high school, I was openly condescending towards religion. However, I went to a nominally Christian high school as the state schools in my area stank while this nondenominational one didn't. The religious aspect didn't bother me anyway, as it stayed out of the classroom. During my first year, though, I was pretty depressed (Australia did not treat me well for my first few years in the country, and going back home was equally anti-fun) and an ex-friend took advantage of that to advance Christianity. I don't think he consciously was taking advantage of me; he genuinely thought he was helping and my intellectual defences were down. I somewhat converted, but by the summer holidays, I had lost interest.
A quick sequence of events led me back to Christianity two years later. I will spare the details for the sake of brevity. Not long after my conversion, when I was still entirely new to Christianity and unfamiliar with its doctrines, I was nearly dragged into fundamentalism. Amusingly, it was my fondness for U2's music that caused me to go in a different direction: at the time, I hadn't fully discerned the band's religious themes and, frankly, I preferred my secular music to CCM! Plus, I've always had a tendency to take the lead and explore ideas, so I was soon learning that Christian theology was much more diverse than I initially realised and I found much more attractive ideas than those I initially knew. As the years passed, I became more and more inquisitive, more and more demanding on ideas. I have proceeded through many ideas, discarding those that failed to stand up to scrutiny and accepting those that I believe can be defended and justified. I do not just demand that a particular idea work within a Christian paradigm; I demand that the underlying framework stands up to rigorous analysis in a world of wildly diverse theologies. If it doesn't have the evidence, out it goes.
So that's where I am. I have come to a point where theology is dominated by uncertainty. This is not an inherently bad thing. I don't regularly quote U2 these days, but one of my favourite lyrics is from Zooropa: "uncertainty can be a guiding light". Uncertainty, in my experience, leads to heightened intellectual exploration and inquisitiveness. Uncertainty, in seeking to resolve itself, demands that ideas are consistent and stand up to scrutiny. I currently find myself at a crossroads. I find myself almost atheistic towards the idea of a personal God concerned with and involved in the everyday lives of each person. I do not experience that within my own life, and not through lack of trying on my end. And yet this stands in contradiction to the spiritual side of my personality that searches for something beyond the physical world and sometimes makes a personally tangible connection to something. Perhaps that can just be explained by chemical reactions or releases in the brain; I'm not a scientist.
I look back over the last few years and I find it somewhat ironic that my quest to have a more solid intellectual foundation in Christianity has led me to a position where I consider agnosticism to be the most intellectually honest position I could take. I have sought to establish a cohesive theology with a basis in evidence that is not inherently subjective. I feel there is no use claiming to have found the eternal truth if it is subjective and thus not something all individuals can similarly realise. However, my knowledge is terribly limited - there may be very persuasive arguments one way or another out there, but I do not yet know them. I cannot claim to be an expert on much more than U2 setlists and New Zealand railways. Therefore, I think it would be arrogant to make firm claims about God's (non-)existence. I currently feel as if I live in a system where I can acknowledge many of Jesus's teachings as beneficial, ethical, and spiritually enriching (especially when you seek to strip away the biases and goals of the authors); where I can be almost a weak atheist towards a universally personal God due to a complete lack of personal experience with a figure who is supposedly personally real to everyone; where I am agnostic towards a more general concept of a creator, perhaps closer to a deist conception, but presently still with an affinity towards some more liberal Christian ideas. I seriously need to read some of Paul Tillich's writings.
So that's where I am now. It's a strange and confusing place to be. But as my journal is titled, contradiction is balance.
Sometimes I wish I could join them
But I'm scared by the choice that they've made
They don't want to understand that their attempt
In the search for truth
Ultimately fails due to lack of proof
- The Chills, "Brave Words"