The seeds of our religious conversions are often the cause of our religious demise. For me, it was doubting and questioning.
From a young age I habitually doubted and questioned everything. Common culture for me was just the opposite of these traits. Common culture was people doing what everyone else did: people who loved shopping in malls, people who lived and breathed national mercenary sports, people who swallowed the Uncle Sam pill (remember, I grew up during the Vietnam war) and people who accepted the morality taught by hours of passive TV hypnosis — these people, for me, were what created our non-thinking common culture which I found repulsive.
Snobby? Yeah, maybe. Or just curious? Hmmm, I’m not sure. But either way, it is my temperament and always has been.
Ironically, having been brought up nominally Christian, the Christians I were meeting we challenging culture. They were also self-reflective, albeit through Bible reading and complicated theologies. These Christians appeared as introspective thinkers and fascinated me.
Our conversions are rarely purely intellectual. I rarely believe someone that says “I thought about it and …” when they are converting or deconverting. Because religion and beliefs in general serve social functions before they serve truth functions. So likewise for me, there were two other things that played a big roll in my conversion, beside the self-introspection and society- challenging nature of Christianity: I was dating a Christian girl for 7 months when I found my best friend dead. That friend had introduced me to my girlfriend — they were next door neighbors and he was a strong Christian also. (see here)
After converting and my initial 6 months of Baptist doctrine, I attended a very alternative, Jesus Freak, communal charismatic church near Cornell University (“Love Inn“). Two years later I would attend a Evangelical Chistian College – Wheaton College. It was at Wheaton that I started seeing Christianity as bland, status quo and exclusive. The majority of my fellow students thought sitting on hard pews, dressing up pretty and singing century old hymns is something their god desired. Fortunately, I also met a few fellow students at Wheaton who had also started questioning their Christianity. I was drawn to them. They did not embrace secular culture but they also did not embrace Christianity. Many of these folks where raised in India, and so my interest in Hinduism grew. Eventually, as I wrote before, Hinduism was my undoing. So I was again drawn to doubting the norm, which had now become Christianity and yet still thinking deeply about things that mattered, which had now become comparative religion.
So you see, bucking common culture and attraction to self-reflective where ironically both my ways in and out of Christianity.
- “national mercenary sports”: by this, I mean, players are not from the town cheering them to victory. They are only there for money and will change loyalties in a second. Yet the fans pretend that it is “their team”, “their city” that is playing on the field. They are mercenaries. The self-deception is hilarious to me.
- HT for pic