On this, the most holy day for Christians of the year, I’m always reminded of how far I’ve come in my journey with regards to religion.
As a teenager, I was very ‘religious’. I got involved with an evangelical church when I was at school, but while the social life was fun, the ‘happy clappy-ness’ of it all never suited my temperament. Then I moved to a Baptist church, which was more straightforward in its approach to worship, before finally finding the Church of England. Around this time, I thought it would be a good idea to go to university and study Religion. I wanted to understand people, what made them tick, and felt if I could understand religion, maybe I’d understand myself and humanity a little better.
If you ever want to have your faith tested, go study religion properly. Learn about redaction criticism, immerse yourself in the early church and the politics at the middle east at the time of Jesus and the years that followed, and try to figure out what these people with their conflicting ideas and agendas were trying to achieve.
I realised during those three years at University how naive I had been to be so sure about my beliefs. I learned, maybe that hard way, the simple truth that Aristotle preached all those years ago – that the wise man knows that he knows nothing (not that I would ever call myself particularly wise). I walked away ostensibly an atheist, inasmuch as I could no longer accept the teachings of the modern church, knowing the fundamentally flawed premises on which it is built.
That’s not to say I think it wrong, and that there is not place for faith in the world. I have strongly come to believe that faith is a fundamental aspect of society, and it can be placed in many things; other people, society at large, perhaps even some kind of guiding force, although whether that be God or something more abstract, I would say the jury is, twenty five years on, still out for me.
There is a magic in life, a complexity that often appears to have some kind of order. It is elusive and yet pervasive. I will come back to this many times, I’m sure. Our brains are amazing and complex things, but our conscious understanding of things at the best of times is limited. We cannot possibly hope to understand all the complexities of life, there is just too much information out there occurring at any one time to make sense of it all. And we have access to tiny scraps and fragments of the whole at best.
In some respects, I am envious of the old, pre-university me, who took simple truths as gospel and was content. But he was never destined to last long. We are constantly evolving, never still. It’s what makes us who we are.
Hayek makes much of the extended order, the social structures and traditions – the sum of humanity that is so much greater than its parts, and I have come to the conclusion that religion is just one aspect of the extended order, just as is politics and trade.
Whether I’ll still believe that in another 25 years, we’ll have to wait and see.0