You’re an atheist, have been for years. But recently you’ve started to have a few doubts. The immensity and splendor of the night sky have always been a problem for you. Did all those stars just happen ? OK, so they don’t seem to serve any real purpose, but they are beautiful and are obviously the product of tremendously powerful forces – and maybe, after all, of a divine intelligence ? For the moment you’re keeping such thoughts to yourself, but even those flowers in the garden where you’re sitting are so exquisitely and symetrically . . . designed, that maybe, just maybe, you should change your mind and go back to being a believer.
You’re a believer, or at least a Believer on the Brink, have been for years. But recently you’ve been reading a blog called “blindfaithblindfolly” . . .
So go ahead; change your mind ! Careful, now. Fools rush in where angels, if they exist, fear to tread. You wouldn’t want to do a flip-flop or a U-turn without weighing the reasons for your doubts, nor considering the consequences of your decision. But if those conditions are fulfilled, it IS OK to change your mind.
People change their mind about all sorts of things. But often they do nothing about it. Decisions about religious beliefs are perhaps the best example, but there are many more. Sometimes, like the couple in the Johnny Cash song “Jackson”, they “got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout”, and come to regret it. Divorce or separation ends at least half of all marriages or concubinages in our society. Often it is a painful though necessary decision, but one which sometimes turns out to have been a wise one, resulting in a second, totally successful, relationship. Nancy Reagan, who just died at 94, could attest to the fact. Whatever you think about Ronnie as President of the United States and his First Lady’s taste in decorating the White House, you must admire the success-story that was their second marriage.
My own parents should have divorced long before I, their sixth child, was born. Even as a kid I knew something was seriously wrong between Mum and Dad. But at the time, the forties and fifties, a Catholic couple could not even think of getting divorced (nor use any procedure, except the “rhythm” method, to limit the number of their children, under pain of “mortal sin” and an eternity in Hell !). Fortunately today even practising Catholics have found freedom from both these shackles.
People change jobs and even launch into totally different professions. I have a good friend and former colleague who held a top position in Capgemini, responsible for a thousand employees and a turnover of one billion euros. He decided at the height of his career to abandon the world of business to study Law. He is now a prominent, highly successful, barrister.
The decision to become an atheist, or a non-atheist, is perhaps the most far-reaching one can make. It means, in both cases, making a decision about the very meaning of one’s life. To espouse beliefs in the existence of God and an after-life, or to renounce and deny them, is without a doubt the most significant decision one could possibly make. I am dedicated to helping Believers on the Brink to decide, one way or the other, for themselves. But they should remember that if, as we say in France, “impossible” is not a French word, the decision to change one’s mind and become an atheist is not only possible but OK – and if made after weighing all the data, if not the … “evidence”, one that I, at least, see as the turning point in my life and the best decision I ever made.