Pascal’s Wager

April 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

My freshman year of college I called my mother from Boston and when she asked what I was up to that day I said I was on my way to a pro gay rights rally. She began to sob on the phone, telling me how she wouldn’t see me in heaven and that she just didn’t know what to do. Don’t worry, I said, there are no tears in heaven, right? So you won’t even know I’m not there.

When you grow up in a home that revolves around the church, when you develop in your earliest years in an environment of certainty and boundaries, breaking away is one of the most difficult things to do in a life. I estimate I attended somewhere around 17,000 church services from the time I was born until I was 17. I spent my youth believing that God was to thank for my successes, not my hard work. I believed I would live forever. I believed in a young earth and a creation easily explained. There were so few questions growing up in this paradigm that my mind was so free. Free to absorb and learn so many other things. Free from existential stress and anxiety and sadness.

When you break from this sort of indoctrination, it is never a choice. You reach a point, maybe after reading Descartes or maybe after losing family members for unjust causes or maybe after smoking pot and thinking about how little sense the Bible really makes, where you’ve already left religion behind – and you can never reclaim it, as much as you might like to, as much as you might pine for days full of clarity and simplicity. You don’t lose faith – that implies that you might one day find it again. No, it simply dies. It dies and there’s nothing you can do about it. It dies and rots away and leaves you with an emptiness that you will later try to fill with an assortment of addictions and anxieties and artworks. It dies and leaves you suddenly an outcast from your family and your childhood home, it dies and you become the desperate cause of your parents and siblings, it dies and you begin that long and futile peregrination across the desert of horrible uncertainty, the desert where you are only certain that some things aren’t right, which doesn’t really bring you any closer to a sort of truth now does it.

I did not choose to let my faith die so I could indulge myself in the forbidden fruits that Christians deprive themselves of. No, in fact I would gladly trade in my vices for that sense of purpose and serenity that fell away at childhood’s end. No, it is not a choice. It has never been a choice.

And when I am on my deathbed, I will not beg for forgiveness. I will not err on the side of just-in-case when the eleventh hour comes. I will move bravely into the end of consciousness and I will say to those around me that there is no need to worry; this will not be an event.

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