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Part 2: Paradigm Shift

5,600 Words

This is part 2 of my series ‘There and Back Again: An (A)Theist’s Tale’. This series is intended to tell you my story from the last few years of losing my faith and the slow journey of finding it again but not quite in same way as before.

Part 2 explores the reasons why I lost my faith, but more than that, it shares my reflections on why we believe what we believe, why we change what we believe, and how our beliefs function in our lives as interpretive frameworks for our everyday experiences.

You can also read the Introduction and Part 1 to this series. I hope you enjoy Part 2.

(Credit to Ellie Vivian for her proof-reading and critical feedback)

 

Epiphanies are fascinating things. They act as an insight into the immense amount of activity that goes on inside us below our conscious surfaces without us realising. It is almost like our brains are doing far too much thinking—if that even is the right word for it—within our subconscious and epiphanies occur when our conscious brain finally catches up with something that really has already happened, perhaps for quite some time.

The reason I bring this up is that I realised I’d lost my faith because of such an epiphany. It struck me quietly out of the blue one day, but as soon as it hit, I realised that it was true, and perhaps had been for quite some time. In this second part of this series, I will look into what it was that was occurring below the surface, and why it was that one quiet summer day, I had an epiphany that I perhaps no longer believed in God.

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Certain elements of my paradigm-shift had been going on since my friendship with Doubt began. For a long time, I had been engaging with Atheistic paradigms on an intellectual level and although I wasn’t convinced, that wasn’t because I didn’t believe there was anything convincing or of value about them. Indeed, besides my friendship with Doubt, being an avid history buff had long ago taught me that certainty was a luxury we generally don’t have. There are very few of what most people mean by the word ‘facts’—and even fewer ‘facts’ that are really meaningful. For the most part, all the things we think we ‘know’ about what is meaningful in life—relationships, society, politics, religion, people, identity—are really carefully calculated bets. Now that doesn’t mean they’re not ‘true’, but like any good bet, if they are true, we’d be kidding ourselves if we pretended we knew this with real certainty beforehand.

As a result, throughout my time at university and even beforehand, I wasn’t afraid to tell people that I was about 85% sure of Christianity on a good day and about 60% on a bad day. Atheists and Christians like to make it sound like their beliefs are all simply a matter of ‘following the evidence’ but ultimately this is all a linguistic game for Western ‘rationalistic’ ears so we can hide from the blatant reality that we all live our lives according to what are fundamentally highly-invested-in assumptions—but that’s ok. If we could be so sure about our beliefs, the dogmatic, rigid, theocratic universe proposed by the most fundamentalist of Christians might actually be true! As might the deterministic, mundane, mechanical reality proposed by the most unimaginative of Atheists! So let’s all breathe a sigh of relief.

But in the summer of 2017, my highly-invested-in assumptive world fell apart. My bet no longer seemed like a ‘winner’ and my mind went into free-fall.

In my 2nd year of university, I’d studied an International Relations module where I learned about theories in International Relations such as Realism, Liberalism and Constructivism. What struck me about these ‘paradigms’ (as they were generally known) was their illustration of how worldviews—religious or otherwise—function and behave. You see, all International Relations Theorists look at the same world, the same case studies and the same histories; yet they can draw very different conclusions about how the world operates from the same evidence. This is ultimately because their paradigm isn’t an observable fact they discover ‘out there’ in the complicated world of foreign affairs, but something they already possess and use to interpret what they encounter and make sense of why they see what they see. Interpretation is fundamentally about making sense of that which we don’t understand. Indeed, those whose job it is to put foreign languages into words we can understand are known as ‘interpreters’. Moreover, when it comes to interpreting, we care less that a translation literally captures word-for-word what is being said and care more that it perfectly captures the sense of what is being said. If the detail and the complexity of what is literally there is going to prevent us understanding this, we’d rather not get bogged down with it.

For this reason, when you present a Christian and Atheist with the same case study—say a mechanic who’s small intestine spontaneously regenerated six months after a six-tonne truck crushed their midriff – their answers will not be about ‘neutrally’ assessing the evidence. Rather their answers will reflect their need to make the evidence fit with their understanding of the world. Indeed, we can see this take place in this podcast (Hinge) where a Christian and Atheist reflect on that very miracle claim story (listen from 19min in). The Christian (Drew Sokol) has no problem believing the miracle claim of Bruce Van Natta, the mechanic. However, the Atheist (Cory Markum) says “I think the most likely explanation is that there are aspects of his story that are wrong; where, even though he is being honest, somewhere along the way some of this information has been mishandled or changed or something happened.” Now, either or neither of these propositions could be the real truth, but the important thing is that it shows how our first instinct, whatever we believe, is not to know what really happened but to make sense as best we can what has happened through our interpretative framework. If your interpretive framework gives space for miracles, you can use that; if it doesn’t, then there must be some other way to interpret the evidence before you other than “it’s a miracle!” The point being that fundamentally, once you’ve established the paradigm through which you interpret the complex barrage of daily happenings we fondly call reality, you will do whatever it takes to twist the world around you so you don’t have to change it. Because, frankly, it’s an utterly confusing, disorientating and terrifying thing to change. It’s like wiping your first language from your memory while you’re still only just beginning to learn another. No wonder ‘conversion’ experiences of any sort are generally concentrated amongst the young who are less established in their interpretative paradigms and more open to change. It’s also why it really struck me as insightful when in the podcast, ‘Religion, Myth, Science and Truth’, Dr. Peterson points out that there’s a difference between explaining and explaining away. Most of our time in life is actually spent explaining away, meaning we find a way to make the facts fit with our interpretive paradigm, rather than explaining, where we really seek to establish the truth of what has happened. We explain away because we wish to understand more than we wish to really know.

Moreover, our paradigm for interpreting reality doesn’t just affect what we understand and know—it shows us how to act. In International Relations Theory, a Realist doesn’t just understand foreign affairs through their paradigm, but their responses to international crises are fundamentally shaped by their interpretative beliefs. For instance, when a theorist in International Relations sees a rival nation performing naval exercises close to disputed island territories, their response to that action—be that to ignore it, protest at the UN, or perform naval exercises of their own near the territory—will be influenced greatly by how their paradigm makes them view their rival nation: whether they are reasonable, benign, aggressive, unpredictable or dangerous. Similarly, when a Christian looks upon another human and sees an image-bearer of God, they are interpreting reality via their paradigm. However, that interpretation now demands a response; if they are made in the image of God, how should that affect how I treat them?

Paradigms are thus existentially necessary. Without them, we cannot make sense of the world around us and we have no idea how we are supposed to behave. Some of us are more conscious of how it is we understand and interpret the world and therefore why we act the way we do, but the point is everyone has a paradigm because we really need an interpretive framework. Reality is just too complex and anxiety-inducing without one.

So, this being the case, why on earth would we ever want to change our paradigms? Well, the short answer is, I don’t think anyone ever really wants to change their paradigm, but the fact is that people do. And the reason we do (albeit rarely) change our paradigms is that for all our explaining away, we are nonetheless concerned with truth because we really want to live as best as possible within the world. The truer our paradigm, the more likely we are to live our lives in a way that really is good and best. Furthermore, the less likely we are to fall apart when the inevitable hardships of life come upon us. Truth does matter to us, and insincere living, by which I mean pretending to live according to a paradigm you don’t believe in, can be quite soul-destroying.

As a result, having reflected a lot on what brought me to my own paradigm shift, I have identified three ‘facets’ of my Christian paradigm that had to be dismantled for my own paradigm shift to happen. The dismantling of each particular facet was I think a necessary but insufficient cause in leading me to change my paradigm. However, once all three facets had been sufficiently dismantled, my paradigm shift became almost inevitable whether I wanted it or not. These three facets are of course based on my own reflection, but, if I’m not much mistaken, I think that in their general form they can be regarded to be essential elements to most people’s paradigms (religious or otherwise). Indeed, I think that undermining all three of these paradigm facets in anyone will almost always cause some sort of paradigm collapse or shift within them (though ‘paradigm collapse’ founds far too much like something out of Star Trek…).

Thus without further ado, the three general facets that I believe are important to any paradigm are:

1. Your paradigm must present a true picture of reality

2. The source(s) where your paradigm looks for value must be valid and trustworthy.

3. Your paradigm should enable you to live the most worthwhile, good and flourishing life.

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Below I will look at each of these in detail, and outline how, in regards to my own particular Christian paradigm, things came undone. Whether you’re a Christian or not, doubting or not, I hope that sharing this will help you think through your own paradigm experiences.

1. My Christian interpretation of reality no longer seemed to be the most true

This first facet—whether the picture painted by a paradigm is really true—is the world of ‘reason’ and ‘intellectual arguments’. This is where people debate and argue about whose picture of the world has the most ‘evidence’ and much intellectual blood, sweat and tears are shed. In most people’s minds, this is where the main battleground for people’s hearts and minds really takes place. However, simply causing significant doubt about the supposed truth of a belief is not enough to cause someone to change their paradigm. Generally, our intellectual arguments are less cold, calculated rationalist judgments and more sleights of hand for what are essentially deeply rooted hopes; merely losing an argument will not make us stop believing. Indeed, when most people have any sort of ‘conversion’ experience, we often assume it to be because of some ‘intellectual’ change. They must have come across some new, fool-proof argument that blew their previous beliefs out of the water. In reality, we all know really this isn’t entirely true. Centuries of Western philosophy and political theory have tried to ingrain the idea that as humans we are fundamentally rationalist individuals. Now obviously this bears some truth—we can after all think and make reasoned arguments. But reason is not what primarily drives us. Our reason rests on a bed of instincts, values and beliefs. Most intellectual arguments, because they fail to engage with these sides of ourselves that are more ‘irrational’ and arbitrary, fail then to make deep inroads in causing us to change our fundamental beliefs.

I say all this because I want to explain why the ‘intellectual’ side to my paradigm shift was important but not necessary for causing me to change my beliefs. As Part 1 of my blog made clear, engaging with intellectual arguments for and against the Christian faith was nothing new to me. I’d had significant doubts and questions about the validity of Christian propositions before and got through them. Indeed, for all my doubts about Christianity, I also had plenty of doubts and objections about the validity of other worldviews, Atheism and Islam being the two I thought about most. So, in the months leading up to my paradigm shift, I had no major reason to doubt it wouldn’t be the same this time round. Indeed, even when you do come against a strong argument against your beliefs, there are several perfectly valid ways to get round it without accepting defeat: you can simply admit your ignorance and wait (or hope) for someone cleverer than you to come and put your intellectual opponent in their place, or you can simply accept that you can’t answer the objection and be ok with living in that uncertainty.

Nevertheless, despite what I’ve said to downplay the role of intellectual arguments in our paradigms, it must be said that they are still important. In my case, the primary ‘intellectual reason’ behind my paradigm shift was that nine months before, I came to the conclusion that the most plausible truth regarding the after-life was that there was none. I had been at a weekly discussion group for asking big questions when somehow or other we got talking about the afterlife. My atheist friend who invited me along to the group proceeded to present his argument for why there was simply a zero possibility of life after death. I listened to his argument, added critiques at various points and questioned certain of his statements. But unlike many of our conversations on other topics where I could comfortably dislodge his argument and put forward what I believed to be a more convincing one of my own, I came to the end of that discussion and had to admit, “I can’t think of an argument stronger than the one you’ve just given.” Being honest with myself was very important because how could I discuss these big questions with others if I wasn’t prepared to let what they had to say impact me too. However, it now left me in a very precarious place—how can I be a Christian if I think the most likely truth is that there is no life after death? Moreover, if there is no afterlife, doesn’t that therefore mean that any sense of spiritual transcendence is also false?

There were also other ‘intellectual’ reasons that played a role in my paradigm shift: my reflection that perhaps, since time and matter are inextricably linked, it actually didn’t make sense to think of God as a necessary ‘final cause’ of the universe since matter by its very connection with time was thus ‘eternal’; or my increasing uncertainty regarding whether all the ‘God-moments’ in my life were ‘real’ or simply nice coincidences I picked out of my life to convince myself of a story-line of God working in me. However, ultimately it was the disbelief in life after death that I found the hardest to intellectually dislodge.

Suffice it to say though, these intellectual doubts were not enough. I still had much in my intellectual armoury that suggested the truth of the Christian paradigm and so the months went by and I remained a Christian. However, as doubts regarding other facets of my paradigm emerged and grew, little did I know but my Christian paradigm was living on borrowed time.

2. Putting my trust in the Bible as my source of value seemed misplaced and misguided.

The second undercurrent in my paradigm shift was my increasing doubt about whether the Bible was a credible source to look to uniquely for value, truth and ultimate meaning. Growing up within an Evangelical Protestant Christian context, believing the Bible was the Word of God and uniquely significant as Scripture was important. Indeed, for those who’ve read Part 1, you’ll remember how in my early teenage years I understood the Bible in very literal, fundamentalist terms: its account of a six-day Creation and a worldwide flood were to be taken as factual accounts. In many ways then, much of my later teenage and early adult years involved a process of learning, accepting and becoming more comfortable with the more ambiguous nature of Biblical texts. Yes, there was an overarching theme of God’s love and redemption for humanity, but that didn’t necessarily mean the Book of Judges was as “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16b) as the Epistle to the Philippians. I also increasingly accepted that many doctrines and creedal statements common to nearly all Churches like ‘Original Sin’, the ‘Deity of Jesus’, and ‘the Trinity’ among others are not so much found in the Biblical texts as understood in light of them. It’s a subtle distinction in how you read the Bible but makes a big difference. The former stamps the interpretations of future thinkers on the writings of the past and so allows readers to have a greater sense of certainty about what those past texts are saying. The latter meanwhile acknowledges how later theological interpretations came after the past writings, meaning there is space for uncertainty about whether those interpretations understand the text in the way the original authors meant for them to be read. Now, don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean there isn’t very valid evidence within the Bible for arguing for of any of these doctrines and creedal statements, but I couldn’t pretend the Bible pointed to them as absolute, straightforward truths before later Christians came to those conclusions.

This last sentence then starts to reach the nub of what happened within me: I began to doubt whether it made sense for me to speak of anything emanating from the Bible as absolute truth. If these texts were the ‘Word of God’, then I could understand these authors as imparting absolute truths and values in a way that I simply couldn’t when reading Shakespeare, Dostoevsky or Tolkien. However, if these texts were just as human as anything else I read, why should I be so exclusive with where I looked for truth, meaning and value? Believing the Biblical texts were somehow unique and different was all I had keeping me within the orthodox fold. But one by one, the pillars holding up my understanding of Biblical ‘uniqueness’ tumbled.

Firstly, there was my doubt about how unique the messianic claims of Jesus actually were and, tied into this, was a second question about whether the Biblical authors were simply wrong about some of their biggest claims. At university, I studied a number of ‘millenarian movements’ which are movements with a great expectation that something monumental is about to happen—for good or bad—that will transform human existence and bring an end to human history as we know it. These have generally taken a religious form with someone claiming to be the promised Messiah (Judaism), Mahdi (Islam) or Maitreya (Buddhism/Chinese religions) who will change the world. Few would disagree that Christianity is the result of a ‘successful’ claim to Messiahship from Jesus ben Joseph of Nazareth within his Jewish context. The opening two chapters of Matthew make it clear that the author is very keen to convince his readers of this messianic claim. He takes pains to emphasise why Jesus of Nazareth is actually born in Bethlehem, the promised birthplace of the Messiah; is descended from the line of David and Abraham at exact gaps of 14 generations each (a reference to a messianic prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27); and was foreshadowed at his birth by heavenly events involving a star over his birthplace. Now, there’s no way of proving or disproving these claims, but they seem far too much like artistic license (I mean, how could you possibly know that a star had “stopped over where the child was”?) to believe the author of Matthew was giving a fully ‘factual’ account. This begged the question in me: to what extent was Jesus actually unique and how much of his uniqueness is the result of how his followers portrayed him?

Relating to this and the second question around whether Biblical authors could just be wrong, the Matthew author also makes it very clear in chapter 24 that there was a millenarian and apocalyptic element to his understanding of Jesus’s teachings, life, death and resurrection. Christians have generally understood these verses as pointing to a future apocalypse that has yet to come. However, there’s evidence to suggest that the author was of the view that this apocalyptic return would be much more imminent. Indeed, C.S. Lewis once said that Matthew 24:33 is the ‘most embarrassing’(1) verse in the Bible because the author records Jesus as saying: “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” It must be pointed out that the same author throws in ambiguity a few verses later when he records Jesus then as saying, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son [i.e. Jesus], but only the Father.” Nevertheless, the fact remains that I began to wonder: if it’s true some Biblical authors really did believe Jesus’s Second Coming was imminent, could I think them wrong and still consider what they wrote as Scripture?

Thirdly and finally, there was the realisation that the Bible’s theology not only evolved but actively disagreed with itself in places. I’d long ago accepted that theological ideas did evolve over the course of Biblical history. For instance, ideas like monotheism were not held by early Biblical characters like Moses, who instead seem to have believed in other gods besides just their own. In Moses’s case, this is most famously shown in the command in Exodus 20:2 that “you shall have no other gods before me.” This hadn’t bothered me significantly because I was happy to accept Biblical characters simply reflected the mainstream views of the people around them. However, one day around Easter 2017, while reading a book about violence and God in the Bible as it happens, I suddenly noticed that the Bible’s theology is not just evolving over time, but later writers outright disagreed with earlier ones and tried to ‘correct’ the incorrect assertions of the past. Most obviously, II Samuel 24 and I Chronicles 21 both give the account of David sinning by ordering a census to be taken of Israel’s fighting troops (the sin being he doesn’t trust the Lord to fight for Israel but is implying his trust is in his army’s numbers). II Samuel 24:1 is the earlier account by a few hundred years and reads: “Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, ‘Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.’” The later I Chronicles 21:1, however, reads: “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.” How ‘Satan’ arose as a theological concept within Israelite theology is a conversation for another day, but the point is that the later author of I Chronicles is explicitly re-writing his nation’s history to ‘fix’ the morally dubious notion that God incited David to perform an action so he could then punish him for it. Clearly, the Israelite’s theology of God, morality and evil had evolved between the time both texts were written; by I Chronicles 21, ‘God’ had become ‘Satan’. However, for me, this was the last straw in the notion that the Bible was this ‘objective’ account of God’s relationship with the world. If the Bible itself not only changed within itself but actually actively disagreed with itself, then it all just seemed far too human.

Other reasons why I lost my notion that the Bible was somehow exceptional and set apart from all other literature as ‘God’s Word’ included also my research into where Jewish mythology interacts with, borrows from, and relates to the mythologies of the surrounding peoples of its day. Moreover, I increasingly saw the human exceptionalism found in the Bible (most notably the opening chapters of Genesis) as further evidence that this was a very human and not necessarily God-ordained text; after all, removing my own human bias from the equation, why should God care more for humanity than for all the myriad of other species he created?

If it hadn’t been for the fact that exactly as I was going through this period, I began reading Fr. Richard Rohr’s book Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (which I will come to in a later edition of this series), I might have lost my faith then and there. The Bible was just all too human. Yes, it could offer me wisdom for my daily life and problems, but I could no longer hold it above any other human work.

3. The actions my Christian paradigm led me to perform no longer seemed the best, or indeed the most wise, right, worthwhile and good.

The final trigger that caused my paradigm shift was I began to doubt whether the actions inspired by my Christian paradigm were really what would result in a fruitful, flourishing life for myself and those around me. This doubt took two forms: firstly, the secular progressive narrative on sex and relationships seemed more helpful and realistic than the Christian one, and secondly, I began to question whether the way I was living my life was in fact blessing the lives of those around me.

As well as needing some level of confidence that our paradigm is actually true, we need to be convinced that the actions it leads us to perform in the world are also good and valuable. Now what we believe to be ‘good’ and ‘valuable’ actions will in turn be shaped by our paradigm. However, when we don’t live in a bubble, we’re often sufficiently exposed to other paradigms, each with their own claims about how we should act in the world, to have a decent understanding of other value systems and ways of behaving. This in turn is why so many of us arguably live life in quite a ‘confused’ way that’s hard to articulate—we live according to many paradigms.

From a Western, British Christian’s perspective, one key way in which this ‘confusion’ and living out of multiple paradigms is expressed is in contemporary Western Christianity’s response to sex and relationships. The Christian faith in the contemporary West has struggled adjusting to a world and culture where the pursuit of individual pleasure and fulfilment has become such a primary existential purpose. No more so is this obvious than when it comes to romantic relationships and sex. The Church is accused of having a negative, repressive attitude towards sex, and although I think there are some grounds for this, I think much of this is misunderstood. The contemporary West is rooted in a spirituality that preaches fulfilment and redemption through the expression of each person’s sacred individuality which it is also hoped will result in happiness. And sex, something so intimately bound with both individual identity and pleasure, has thus become a crucial cultural sphere of the modern West. Historically, however, Christianity in the West has been rooted in a spirituality that preaches the sacredness of each individual but not because of an ‘individuality’ that is sacred, but because we bear the image of God who is Sacred. As sacred individuals, we should reflect the God whose image we bear. Our fulfilment and redemption is thus found in becoming more like Christ, who is God Incarnate, and this means turning away from those elements of ourselves that don’t reflect Christ (what is meant by ‘sin’). Every aspect of our lives then, including our relationships, are meant to serve this purpose. In terms of marriage then, the Church of England’s wedding liturgy makes this purpose clear: “Marriage is a gift of God in creation…given that...they shall be united with one another in heart, body and mind, as Christ is united with his bride, the Church.”(2) Although then in our culture it can thus seem to be coming from a place of Big Brother prudery and repression, the reservation of “the delight and tenderness of sexual union”(3) within marriage is ultimately due to a holistic vision of seeing our sexuality, like everything else about us, as submitted to our purpose to reflect Christ.

I say all this because ultimately I believe this is how we get into the tricky waters of modern Christian dating where on the one hand modern Christians feel pulled toward the historical call to wait for sex until its perfect ‘Christ-like’ fulfilment in marriage, but they also feel pulled toward contemporary progressive individualism which says the expression of our sexuality is a key element of understanding our sacred individuality and our pursuit of happiness. This inherent contradiction in what are both in some senses ‘spiritual’ worldviews is ultimately why I think the conversation on sex and sexuality is so controversial in the church; we are living between two paradigms and as hard as we try, the two can’t be married easily together (pun somewhat intended).

So, as a contemporary British Christian currently in the sixth year of dating my now-fiancé, I have felt the pull of both paradigms very keenly. However, for the Christian paradigm within me, it has been a losing battle. Undoubtedly this is in large part because the Christian paradigm on sex was formulated in a time when the modern notion of ‘dating’ was unheard of. There was no expectation that you might be spending years intimately attached to someone romantically long before you ever got around to marrying them. But that is the way things are now in the contemporary West, and the longer I dated the more it seemed that maybe my Christian paradigm was unnecessarily restrictive. The point being that although when going back through my journal, I make no reference to this paradigmatic conflict over sex at the time of my paradigm shift, in many of the journal entries preceding it, I dwell on this conflict and my confusion over how I’m supposed to act. I still might have rolled my eyes at the common secular refrain that religion, and Christianity in particular, is an unnecessarily repressive, puritanical force and that its adherents need ‘liberating’ from their repressive sexual ethic. However, there’s no doubt that I had to admit this refrain provided an explanation for my very conflicted feelings on the subject. Perhaps my Christian paradigm was really preventing me from living life to its truest and most fulfilling potential?

Secondly, while the paradigmatic conflict over sex arguably had an important subconscious role in my paradigm shift, what definitely had a very conscious role in it was the realisation that my attempt to live out my Christian paradigm with as much integrity as I could had led me to deeply and unintentionally hurt some people very close to me. This realisation happened the very week my paradigm shift occurred, and though I can’t quite remember which realisation came first, the fact is whether it preceded or succeeded my paradigm shift, it certainly cemented it.

I had a strong faith-inspired conviction that I should live to bless those around me, and generally I found that my faith pushed and enabled me to do so. I’m not going to proceed to write a list of thingsI did, but the fact is, knowing how my faith had inspired me to do a lot of what I thought was good in the world around me, I chuckled to myself whenever I read or heard someone parroting the common secular refrain that religion is an oppressive force for evil in the world. That is, of course, until I came to the shocking realisation that for some close to me, my attempt to live faithfully by my paradigm had really hurt them. Suddenly, my life for the last few years was brought into question: who else had I unintentionally hurt? Had I really done anything that was good in my time at university? I felt betrayed.

With hindsight, I realise the shock of the experience caused my mind to greatly overreact, but the fact is that at the time, the event sent my mind into a spiral of doubt, confusion and anger. Wasn’t living out my faith supposed to make the world a better place?! Wasn’t it supposed to enrich the lives of those around me?! How had something intended for good inadvertently caused such harm, and how had it made me so blind as not to notice that’s what I was doing?! I no longer knew who I was, what I wanted to be, or who I wanted to become. The positive faith-based story I’d constructed about myself suddenly seemed totally false.

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My paradigm shift was thus not the result of some unexpectedly impressive argument. Rather it was the result of a slow, steady chipping away. My trust in my friendship with Doubt meant I hadn’t seen it coming. Nevertheless, for all our friendship, Doubt was about to pull the rug from under me. Once the final facet of my Christian paradigm had crumbled beneath me, it was only a matter of time before my epiphany came—the paradigm through which I viewed the world was gone and I was utterly lost.

References

1. C.S. Lewis, The World’s Last Night and Other Essays, 1952, pg. 98 https://archive.org/details/worldslastnighta012859mbp/page/n111/mode/2up

2. https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/common-worship/marriage#mm094

3. Ibid

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