Tuesday, May 10, 2005

I've been wrong for more than twenty years, haven't I?

After reading the interview with Dawkins I mentioned in the last post I thought quite a bit about what he said. It was a couple of days later that I was finally struck by something that he said. For more than twenty years I had been thinking that I had left the Christian faith, that I was – as the title to the blog says – an apostate. This self-description had been a deep element of my psyche. But it was wrong.

I am not an apostate. To be an apostate I would have to have first been a Catholic and then have left the faith. But, and here is the rub, I was never a Catholic. Yes, I was baptised and I was even confirmed. So, in the sense that I was officially a member of a world-wide organisation with a particularly murderous history, I was a Catholic. But, as Dawkins observed, a child can be no more a Catholic than it can be a Capitalist, a Communist or, in the case of the current Pope, a Nazi. Its parents may dress it up in the uniform of choice but that is altogether a different thing. In the sense that to be a Catholic means to hold a collection of beliefs and to have made a commitment to live a particular kind of life, the only sense that has any fundamental meaning, I was never a Catholic. The moment I was capable of thinking about the world seriously and capable of making any meaningful commitments to ways of living I came to hold strictly atheist, humanist views and to commit to a humanist life. So it turns out that the name of the blog is, somewhat appropriately, completely false – neither notorious nor an apostate.


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