Losing faith, gaining humility

When a religious believer “loses their faith” is it really a loss? Or do they gain something in return?

I recently heard an interesting discussion of this on a radio podcast. A former Christian minister of religion who had become an atheist was being interviewed. The interviewer was sympathetic. He himself had been a Christian minister and undergone the same change in belief.

The interview interested me – not just because they talked about loss of strong religious beliefs. But also because it can demonstrate the intellectual and emotional reactions of an individual to giving up strongly held ideological commitments of any sort – political and philosophical, as well as religious.

In this interview both people agreed the “loss of faith” was positive. Rather than feeling a loss, they felt they had gained something – humility. Their former religious commitments provided security. Their beliefs provided answers for any question they encountered – from the origin of the universe to moral instruction for teenagers. After “losing their faith” they were able to answer these questions more honestly. When necessary they were even able to say “I don’t know.”

I can appreciate this. Strong commitment to an ideology produces an obligation to provide answers, and those answers are always available. They come from a dogma. After discarding this commitment one can use evidence and reason to search for answers. There is no longer an obligation to reject evidence because it conflicts with dogma. And there is no longer an obligation to provide an “answer.” One then has the strength and humility to say “I don’t know.”

Related Articles:
Faith – against all evidence
A value in religious mysticism
Why do we believe?
Most ideas in science are wrong!
Limits of science, limits of religion
Humility of science and the arrogance of religion
Questions science cannot answer?

One response to “Losing faith, gaining humility

  1. Sounds like they ‘converted’ to something more like agnosticism…

    This could happen with anything – there are plenty of people switching from ‘this’ to ‘that’ all over the place… The thing is to know why you believe what you believe, and why you don’t believe what you don’t believe.

    And yes, there are some things which cannot be ‘known’ in a test-tube kind of way. If people pretend to be able to do this, they can indeed be setting themselves up for a fall – or having to deal with a fair bit of cognitive dissonance…



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