My family was nominally, casually and culturally Christian. We dressed up and attended church on important days, celebrated religious holidays and pledged allegiance to God and Country.
I played the game until I was fourteen years old and then declared I was an atheist. My parents grounded me for a while for refusing to go to church, but six months later the whole family stopped going to church (but no recompense!). With Sundays now free, our family spent more time at the boat, camping and more. Yeah!
In Junior High School (“Middle School” to my kids), I was very shy and had no real friends. Two years later, in High School, I made two friends — my only friends. Those new friends, both from my advanced Math class, just happened to have been Baptists from the same local church. And as good Christian friends do, when they take hell seriously, they gently, but dutifully, tried to convert me back to Christianity — the cultural norm.
By the time I was in High School our family spent less time together. For just like many teenagers, I preferred spending time with friends to being with parents. Besides, my parents were having their own issues by then.
To spend time together my two Baptist friends invited me to their Christian activities and I accepted. The activities were not blatantly Christian (one of their techniques) but the leaders always took time at the end of each activity to ask us to think about Christianity. So at sixteen years old I started re-investigating Christianity. Mind you, it helped that one of those buddies’ neighbors was a cute Baptist gal who I was considered dating.
OK, I was a superficial pig, but I didn’t know it. I was not intentionally devious. Well, my mind may have been intentionally devious — my mind was deceiving “me”. My mind convinced “me” that I was sincerely interested in the truth, and thus, in Christianity. And sure enough that Baptist girl bought into it: she though, just like I thought, that I was sincere — a real seeker.
Nothing is more convincing than a salesman who believes his own bullshit. Indeed, the placebo effect is known to sit at about 30% but when both the patient and the practitioner of an ineffective therapy believe in the sham treatment its effectiveness can jump up to around 70%. Thus self-deception has clear adaptive evolutionary advantages. But which came first, other-deception, or self-deception. Either way, therein lies the reason we can’t trust our own stories: our stories of our success, of our personalities or of our conversions in or out of a religion.
Self-deception occurs, time elapses and we usually forget the original settings of our change and thus the chance to see behind our self-deception slips away forever. And as we discover other benefits for believing an idea/religion and more self-deceptions pile up, we may lose our chance to admit the carnal, basic, embarrassingly simple reasons we originally adopted our ideas/religion.
Of course some of you are much more noble than me — you actually discover real truths, embrace ideas for selfless reasons–merely because they are true. And I know you won’t like this, but I will continue wondering if you are as full of as much shit as me. I may hide my doubts of your self-story, because it would not be useful for you to know that I doubt you. I want you to think that my questions are sincere, mutually exploring and kind. I don’t want you to see through the deep doubt I have of your stories. And if I didn’t convince myself (lie to myself) that I am sincerely interested in your webs of self-deceit, you’d never believe that I am sincere. So I think I am sincere here.
The problem with Sabio that he is schizo: he steps out of his social-proper-self at awkward times, showing his inner lies. Damn — I am so unconvincing.
My conversion to Christianity — my way into Christ — was of course much more complex. (I hope to illustrate the complexity in another post). Previously I shared when I found one of my best friends dead and heard God’s voice. That experience obliterated the memory footsteps of my half self-lies to date the pretty girl and bond with friends. After the death of my friend, my reasons “changed” for becoming a Christian. I would not uncover these memory footsteps until much later, when the self-deceit was no longer useful (note: some may say “until the honesty no longer hurt”, but I think that is usually a half-lie too.)
Question to readers: Share one of the few self-lies you’ve been able to remember. And please reassure me that you don’t think I am a superficial, manipulative bastard.