Faith, Doubt and Anti-Metanoia series, part Ø, introduction
I grew up a Christian, but, from early 2012, began to have significant doubts. By 2016, I had abandoned Christianity. Over time, several people have asked about my faith-to-doubt-to-no faith journey, so I am writing a series of blog posts addressing that topic.
Conversión de Saulo by Guido Reni. (This image is in the public domain.)
The unbelieving Saul became Saint Paul in a process of metanoia. “Anti-metanoia” is my answer to the question, “What would the reverse be?”
This blog post series describes my own path, but I hope you don’t follow the same path. There was too much pain. Take an easier way! Before reading my work, read everything on meaningness.com and convince yourself that meaning is obvious and that nihilism is a mistake.
In some ways, this series represents a regression to the style of the pre-Facebook intensely personal blog, with all the risks such content entails. On one hand, this is a deliberate reveal of my personal journey so that you might know me better, like the “Essays” of Michel de Montaigne. On the other hand, it’s an abstract battle of ideas that are beyond myself and the publication of that battle is a way to expose the flaws in my reasoning to the ultra-violent radiation of internet commentary. (Comments on this blog are and will continue to be disabled. Write your response on your own part of the internet.)
Related blog posts
Three previous blog posts are related to this series:
This is about how to argue well. Especially how to argue with yourself about which worldview to pick. I aspire to have followed my own methods here. Published in 2014, in the midst of this struggle, while I was still a Christian.
This is a less-than-completely-serious analysis of "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth" by Thomas Jefferson. Think of this as the comic relief. Published in 2017, after I stopped being a Christian.
In 2018, I released an album of music which you can listen to on my Bandcamp site. The blog post also includes poems and photographs. The post also includes a paragraph that pre-figures this new blog post series:
The (long) development of this album spanned a period of disruptive internal change in my life, which is ultimately reflected in the album itself. Mostly in the accompanying words, to a lesser extent in the music itself and probably least of all in the photographs that I included here. The change was something akin to what happened to Saul, simultaneously on the road to Damascus, on the way to becoming the Apostle Paul, and to becoming (temporarily) blind. But for me, the change was sort of the opposite of what it was for Paul: anti-metanoia, perhaps. Under a given condition, x, I passed into a new state, and under another condition, y, I passed into another state, and these two states may have been potential in my earlier self, but only in the sense that they came to be developed under the conditions, x and y. But it is plain that I did not escape the difficulties concerning metaphysical predication in this changing world; indeed, such difficulties included intense personal pain, even mental illness. Not at all to say that this transition and the subsequent pain are somehow decodable from the sounds of my instrumental music, but the echo and reverberation of my changing self is inevitably there, in however ghostly a form.
Much of the material is my personal summaries of books that I read and found useful in my journey. Rather than being straight summaries, they’re intentionally slanted with my opinions, frustrations and criticisms of the works. Refer to my post "A Program of Reading Better" for more details on my method of reading. Read the summaries of books that pique your interest; to go deep, read the whole of the original.
Here’s the roadmap for the series to come:
Part Ø: Introducing a series on faith, doubt and anti-metanoia
This blog post.
Part I: From Christian faith, to doubt, then anti-metanoia
This is the story of my personal journey. The parts that follow are, in many ways, material to support and then to continue this post.
Part II: Against evangelicalism
An original essay grappling with Biblical inerrancy and reason, written in late 2012 / early 2013, while I was still a Christian. To give realism and life to the position that I’m attacking, I also include my summary of “‘Fundamentalism’ and the Word of God: Some Evangelical Principles,” by J. I. Packer.
Part III: A clash of ideas: books summaries from a period of searching
This post presents summaries of several works that I read during my period of searching:
- “On Miracles,” by arch-skeptic David Hume
- “Mere Christianity,” by the celebrated Christian author C. S. Lewis
- “The Meaning of Human Existence,” by the biologist E. O. Wilson
- “Jesus: The Human Face of God,” by Jay Parini
- “The Swerve: How the World Became Modern,” by Stephen Greenblatt
Part IV: Non-canonical books
Questions about the Bible and what it contains are key to my faith-to-non-faith journey. But what about the books that were considered but ultimately excluded from the Bible? This is my summary of the book “Lost Scriptures” by Bart Ehrman, along with my brief summary of the Book of Enoch.
Part V: Three summaries of Biblical canon scholarship books
This post presents summaries of three books that go deep on how ancient texts were selected for inclusion in the Bible:
- “The Canon of Scripture,” by F. F. Bruce
- “The Biblical Canon: Its Origin, Transmission and Authority,” by Lee Martin McDonald
- “The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance,” by Bruce Metzger
Part VI: On Meaningness
I found meaningness.com by David Chapman to be incredibly helpful. Collected here are some comments and thoughts on Chapman’s wonderful work. After lots of material related to Christianity, this post changes direction. Meaningness.com had a major influence on my thinking and the rest of the series uses the terminology of and makes constant reference to meaningness.com.
Intermezzo: Fast forward to 2022
This post serves to make the transition from material mostly written years ago to material written in 2021 & 2022.
Part VII: My new identity
In this post, I continue the thread that concludes Part I: after Christianity, who am I? Spoiler: pretty much who I was before.
Part VIII: Dodging nihilism better
Above, I mentioned that you shouldn’t follow my path through nihilism. This post makes some guesses at what one should do instead.
Part IX: Answering Eternalist objections to the Complete Stance
This is my own defense of my new approach to meaning, written primarily for myself. The “Complete Stance” is a term invented by David Chapman to describe the simultaneous acceptance of the existence of real meaning (contra nihilism) and the acceptance that meaning is often nebulous. The nebulous character of meaning is in contradiction with what Chapman calls “Eternalism,” which is a stance that artificially fixes meanings. An Eternalist can have easy ways of grounding her or his meanings and conveniently pre-packaged communities to join. Where does that leave someone trying to hold the Complete Stance?
Part X: Next steps in meaning-space
I take a moment to speculate on my future directions and discuss some of my open questions. Where am I going next in the realm of meaning? How does that relate to the larger trends in society?
Conclusion to a series on faith, doubt and anti-metanoia
The conclusion to the series and the mirror image of this blog post.