Losing his religion

I have been meaning to write about this for ages wrt Steve Bates, but there is a (too) long piece in the LA Times (via Pharyngula) by their former religion correspondent explaining why he gave up the business after losing his faith — he had wanted the job in the first place because he was himself an evangelical Christian who felt that his people were traduced by the mainstream media.

The last straw was the decision of a judge not to enforce a decent child support settlement against a Roman Catholic priest, who claimed that, as a servant of Jesus, he owned nothing except his clothes and thus could not pay for food or medicine for his son. Remember, this is the States, where medicine, at least, is not guaranteed for the poor.

The judge ruled in the favor of Uribe, then pastor of a large parish in Whittier. After the hearing, when the priest’s attorney discovered I had been there, she ran back into the courtroom and unsuccessfully tried to get the judge to seal the case. I could see why the priest’s lawyer would try to cover it up. People would be shocked at how callously the church dealt with a priest’s illegitimate son who needed money for food and medicine.
My problem was that none of that surprised me any more.
As I walked into the long twilight of a Portland summer evening, I felt used up and numb.
My soul, for lack of a better term, had lost faith long ago — probably around the time I stopped going to church. My brain, which had been in denial, had finally caught up.
Clearly, I saw now that belief in God, no matter how grounded, requires at some point a leap of faith. Either you have the gift of faith or you don’t. It’s not a choice. It can’t be willed into existence. And there’s no faking it if you’re honest about the state of your soul.
Sitting in a park across the street from the courthouse, I called my wife on a cellphone. I told her I was putting in for a new beat at the paper.

I don’t myself know any religious correspondent whose faith has survived writing about it — possibly some of the more radically pessimistic Catholics, but even there I am not sure. Sufficiently sophisticated magic is indistinguishable from truth.

The most one can believe is that some of these deluded people are doing better, both for themselves and for the world, than they would be without their delusions. This is quite enough to keep me from full-on pharyngular atheism. I don’t think human nature is modular enough that you can simply swap out the delusional bits, and leave the rest intact. Believing fewer false things is a very long struggle. Journalism teaches you that, too, if you want to learn it.

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