Having talked to a couple persons with faiths and worldviews incompatible with my own – namely the Catholic faith – , I have come to a rather sad realization. Now, before I continue, I would like to clarify that I am not speaking with any claim to dogmatic certainty. Everyone may read and disagree, but what I have experienced, I have experienced.
So what is this sad realization I speak of? It is the idea that many people seem to leave their traditional – i.e. that with which they were raised – faith not primarily for intellectual reasons, but for emotional ones: and in most cases, it seems that passions (/desires) are the primary motivation.
It is the same for the ex-Catholic who has become “spiritual but not religious” as it is for the ex-Catholic who has become an atheist. There is some problem with traditional doctrine that they have and are thus faced with a rather simple question: to follow the faith or to follow one's own will?
Once the decision is made that one will prefer his own will over one's traditional faith, the quest for arguments take place in order to bolster one's new position: to justify oneself against the traditional faith now being at odds with oneself, to justify oneself against others and thereby justify oneself to oneself: to silence the voice of conscience raising the question whether it is right to model the truth after one's desires instead of doing the exact opposite. But then again, what is even “truth”???
Before the fall through heresy or apostasy, one would consider those passions leading oneself to a course standing in contradiction to traditional doctrine as being one's “inner demons” that one has to fight – for the sake of truth. After the fall, it is one's conscience that becomes one's “inner demon”: the voice pushing for an honest investigation regarding one's motivations.
People seem to look for the answers everywhere. They want to examine the galaxy, the universe, theories about multiverses, etc.. They want to know everything, but not themselves. I would not be surprised if some or many people go to distant places in a futile attempt to actually run away from themselves.
It is my firm conviction that for any real “quest for truth” to take place, one has to be honest: first and foremost to oneself. This is why I think that self-reflection is vital for anyone who claims to be searching for “truth”. And this is true not only for those who are atheists, but also for those who are theists – of whatever theistic religion. Of what use is all knowledge about one's surrounding if one does not know oneself? It would not answer man's most basic questions like “who am I?”.
I also think that most people who change belief systems and ideologies do so primarily because they want to be happy in their lives. Why do many people leave Christianity? Not primarily because of intellectual reasons, but because they feel “tyrannized” or held back by the moral code and religious rules of the Christian faith. Why are so many Christians lukewarm heretics? Because they want to enjoy their lives: and Christianity demands that one ought to carry a cross, that one be ready for sacrifice for a greater good that one cannot even see on earth! Why should one even waste one's life away by following “bronze-age” rules? Just think! This life could be the only life we have! We therefore must “live life to the fullest”!
But what do such people mean when they speak of “living life to the fullest”? They simply mean they want to be happy. Is that bad? Absolutely not! It is natural for man to seek happiness.
But what is happiness? There lies the greatest problem: most people do not seek true happiness which can be demanding – as most things of value in life. Most people mistake fast pleasures with happiness. And if they do reflect upon themselves honestly, they will realize that they run from one temporary pleasure to the other: this is necessary for them to not allow the voice of conscience to be heard and to uphold the illusion that one is “happy”. It is common for man to choose the easiest way: that with the least effort necessary. So many prefer the easily attainable temporary pleasures (which fade away and do not give lasting happiness) over the strenuous life headed towards lasting happiness.
So what is happiness? Where does one find it? Why should one even seek it? Does man even have to be happy?
It seems to be a matter of honesty to oneself. Am I really happy when I realize that ever since I changed my views I have perhaps become more aggressive and easily angered? Do I feel a basic level of inner peace and satisfaction despite sufferings in life? Or am I bound to seek those temporary pleasures every now and then or else I would feel depressed?
Am I able to bear the silence in which I am confronted with my inner demons?