Monday, September 3, 2012

Changing Sides as an Argument

I've noticed that it always seems like a big deal when a person on one side of a debate switches over to staunchly defend the other.  It's a shock for those left behind and a triumph for those joined by their new ally.

I think I can understand why this might be the case.  As someone who drastically changed religious views, I admit that once or twice I've considered that I might have an advantage for having experienced both opinions rather strongly.  I occasionally have thought at some who have lectured me about what I'm doing wrong in losing my faith, "I have been where you are, but you have not been where I am.  You have no business lecturing me on what I know more about."

I know I'm wrong in this.  I don't know everyone's history, and to assume that my depth of religious conviction was every bit that of those lecturing me is arrogant and probably dead wrong in many cases.

Still, it seems significant that those who have switched sides have experienced both.  Their opinions are extra-respected by their new allies.  They waded all the way from conviction on one end through moderation and uncertainty all the way to the views they once despised and mocked.

However, no matter what the divisive issue, individuals seem to change camps from both sides.  There are plenty of former atheists who took a journey similar to mine, but in the opposite direction.

I guess it can't possibly have any bearing on the truth when a republican becomes a democrat or vice-versa.  Religious conversion/deconversion stories are equally genuine and moving on each side, since each is the true story of one soul overcoming confusion and misdirection to find some kind of peace or resolution.

The lesson to be taken from this little tangent: nobody's conversion to or rejection of a system of thought justifies my own.  To seek truth, we must look past the admittedly-appealing testimonies of others and look for what is true.  A lonely road, perhaps... but the only way to avoid being the blind following the blind.


  1. On this last paragraph,I don't believe it has to be a lonely road at all. And that's because other people may not be able to show you the truth, but for my experience, when you're confronted with their ideas you discover what IS NOT the truth. More like a tortuous journey: you make your way pushing away the ideas that you deeply feel as false. Maybe we never get anywhere, maybe there's no absolute knowledge or greater good to achieve, but at least we won't be walking all the wrong paths. People help us understanding that.

  2. Wait, now how am I going to get today's RDA of rage and disgust? Although I'll have to look elsewhere for that, I really like this thought-provoking post. I especially like the line about each story being true.

    I agree with Mar that it doesn't have to be a lonely road. Just because I don't rely on testimonies of others for truth doesn't mean I disregard or discount their story. Sharing and comparing journeys may relieve loneliness at least as well as reaching the same conclusion about truth. (This reminded me of a couple of quotes, but I successfully resisted the urge to include them. You're welcome.)

    1. Quotes are always welcome, of course! And don't worry, I'm sure I'll post something about my overwhelming feelings of rabid misanthropy soon enough ;)