It Takes Time to Change Your Mind

I always used to think of myself as an open-minded person overall. But I have since—regretfully—come to the conclusion I was not. The thing is, it’s very difficult to be completely open-minded. For instance, if I have made up my mind that a particular person is disagreeable, it will take quite a lot of time and evidence for me to change my mind on that notion. In fact, sometimes it will take more than twice the evidence to change my mind than the evidence that made me come to the original conclusion.

I remember the first time I realised that I was inherently closed-minded. It was in February of 2014. My family gathered together to watch the great debate of Ken Ham and Bill Nye. Ken Ham I knew about because I had read a lot of issues of the Creation Magazine. I had never heard of Bill Nye before, but I was told he was an atheist and he would be arguing against Creationism. He was the ‘bad guy.’ We all sat down and looked forward to him being smothered in the truth and being completely lost in what I thought was infallible evidence for the creation claim.

Mr. Ham Started the debate off and presented the worldview I was at that time very familiar with. That of the idea that the Bible accurately relates the story of the beginning of the universe. Then Mr. Nye presented his views or rather, the views of mainstream science. I was quite surprised when one of the things he said was, ‘Mr. Ham, I learnt something; thank you!’ This guy was admitting to the world that he didn’t know everything, which wasn’t what I expected him to do. The portrayal of atheists I had been taught is not one of humility.

The second thing that surprised me, and this is probably the seed that eventually grew into my atheistic tendencies later was the manner with which these two men replied to a question at the end. The question was, ‘What, if anything, would ever change your mind?’

‘Hm,’ Mr. Ham took a deep breath and thought for a moment, ‘well, the answer to that question is: I’m a Christian. And, as a christian, I can’t prove it to you, but, God has definitely shown me very clearly through His word and shown Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. The Bible is the word of God. I admit that that’s where I start from.’ Then he continued for a bit reinforcing that statement and then said that no one is going to convince him that the word of God is not true. ‘The bottom line is that as a Christian, I have a foundation. But as a Christian, I would ask Bill the question, “What would change your mind?”’

Bill Nye didn’t even stop to think about his response. ‘We would just need one piece of evidence.’ Mr. Nye had just pointed out that I was completely closed-minded and was interpreting the world around me from the point of view of a creationist.

At that moment I made a decision that I would stop closing my mind to things that disagreed with my beliefs, and would examine every idea that came my way.

But I didn’t. It still took me a couple of years to eventually admit to myself that I no longer believed in the creation narrative. It wasn’t until 2016 that I started calling myself an Agnostic Atheist. Even though I thought I was completely open-minded I was still stubbornly holding onto my beliefs. I suppose when you’ve had a worldview for nearly two decades it becomes hard to change your mind.

But it happened eventually; I changed my mind. It took about two years. And since then I’ve found that that’s about how long it takes to change my mind on anything fundamental like that: about two years. It takes a long time for me to change my mind.

That’s an important thing to remember when you are in an argument with someone, or trying to give someone advice. Usually when someone is arguing with me, no matter what I can say, they will never change their mind on whatever it is they are arguing. However, sometimes it will stew in their minds and if they are an open-minded person, it’s quite possible they may change their mind. Similarly, when people come to me for advice, they usually have already made up their mind what they are going to do. (This doesn’t happen very often by the way, I don’t want people to get the wrong impression that I am some kind of wise person who can solve people’s problems.) When people come to me for advice, they—subconsciously, sometimes—already know what they are going to do, and are looking for someone to give them advice that is in line with what they wanted to do already. If what I advise them to do is in parallel with what they, consciously or subconsciously, have already decided upon, they will thank me and follow my advice. (Again, I try not to advise people, because I don’t think of myself as the sort of person qualified for that sort of thing, but sometimes it can’t be avoided.) If however, I advise them on what to do, and it doesn’t line up with their inclinations, they will seek advice from people who tell them what they are wanting to hear.

I know this, because that’s what I do. Most of the time I don’t even realise it myself. I am trying to change that fact that is within me, but it takes time. Just be patient, because changing your mind takes time.

I Don’t Understand Your Love.

Love has always been a bit of a mystery to me. The way I was brought up, it seemed that love was a sacred thing that belonged to God, and nobody could know love but through him. I was taught that one day, someone would be there, and I would love them and want to live with them until I died. I couldn’t imagine what that was like. I already knew a lot of people who I liked very much, and would quite happily spend the rest of my life with but no, this was going to be different than that. But it never happened like that. Nobody ever stood out from the crowd as being so special that I liked them more than anybody else.

I concluded that it must be something beyond my will and in the hands of God. One day he would just pick someone and let me know about it, and I wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore. This was a huge relief, because I knew I could just get on with my life instead of wasting time finding a soulmate; I could mind my own business happily. I still didn’t really understand why one needed a soulmate though, unless one wanted to reproduce. I don’t really think reproduction is particularly useful for somebody like me though, my genetics aren’t particularly good, and besides, there are plenty of other people breeding that I need not contribute to it.

Anyway, years passed and God never picked someone for me—apart from one or two times when I thought he had, but it turned out it was just my subconscious projecting; it was just that I was thinking, ‘Well, why not this person then? She seems as good as any.’ Eventually my belief in God evaporated, but my attitude of minding my own business, so to speak, stayed. And the years rolled by, and I continued to mind my own business, pursuing my interests. I have many interests—too many, in fact—so I never really thought I was missing out on anything. All of my friends were constantly in and out of relationships and it seemed like a huge waste of time to me. Why ruin a perfectly good friendship by turning it into a relationship? Half the time, the relationship ended, and they could not bare the sight of each other anymore. Worse than that, sometimes people—often good friends—would become attracted to me, and then when they found that I did not reflect that physical attraction back to them, they became embarrassed or ashamed, or sometimes even angry, and I would thus lose what was once a good friendship.

My body is a breeding-ground of ideas, and they come to me occasionally. (Well, I like to think so anyway, the reality is probably that I just spend a whole lot of time daydreaming instead of actually doing things.) I nurture those ideas as though they are living things, and if they are strong enough, they will grow too big for me, and I will have to let them go. When an idea is matured enough to leave my mind, I look for suitable people to share it with—people who will treat it with the love that I treated it. I get a certain amount of satisfaction in relating my thoughts to people. The amazing thing is, that afterwards, the idea will either become a part of the person I shared it with, or simply fade away. Maybe they fade away because they are bad ideas, or maybe they were good ideas, but I communicated them badly. Therefore I must plant these seeds in as many minds as I can, if I want my ideas to live. That way I will gain more experience relating my ideas. When I am not either letting my mind wander in order to catch an idea from whatever it is in which my mind resides, or tending to my ideas, or relating them, I am gathering the ideas of other minds into my own, that is knowledge—or at least I think it is. How could I possibly have time to care for someone when I am too selfish to get out of my own head? I’m perfectly happy here; it’s warm and beautiful, and the windows are quite nice, and it’s even got some legs to move me around if I get tired of the thing that is in front of me. Maybe I will be selfish forever, maybe that is my destiny. Or maybe my mind, that is constantly metamorphizing in a slow but constant state of change, will change so much that one day I will be ready to attach myself to another person forever.

I get to where I’m going by walking away from where I’ve been. I think it was Winnie the Pooh who said that. That quote resonates with me, because I think of myself as a sort of wave, making its way through time, picking up things and carrying them, and discarding others. I cannot really predict what the things are that I pick up and cast off are, because it all seems more or less out of my control.

But I do have love in me, but it’s not like the love people around me seem to experience, at least from what I can gather. I know that the chances of me being alive are approximately zero, and yet here I am, that is amazing, and I love that I am here. The world around me is so beautiful and I love it. I love the fact that there are other people around me. It’s amazing that I can have a thought and place it onto a page in the form of writing and that someone else can look at the writing and sometimes get a glimpse of what it feels like to be me. I don’t need a relationship in order to feel love, and frankly, I think the thing that most people call love is not love at all, but desire. The only thing I desire is to know the things I’m too dumb to even ask about.

Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but I don’t see it that way. I think the only thing that makes us human is that we can look at ourselves and ask ‘What are we?’ And look at the universe and ask, ‘What’s it doing there? And how did it get there anyway?’ And then we can spend endless years trying to find out, and that, to me, is love.

Riding in Stride with the Devil (a Poem)

He wasn’t very old, he was only just a lad.
Barely had a clue about what was good or bad.
So when they came and took him, showed him where to point his gun,
He did just what they asked him, didn’t have the sense to run.
And gradually he grew to love that pistol by his side,
For every night, hand in hand with the devil he would ride.

And it’s night after night with the Devil,
He doesn’t know any other way.
He’s riding in stride with the devil
And in daylight he’s hiding away.

But one day things caught up with him and took him by surprise
He always knew they’d come for him and justice would arise.
They chased him down and cornered him, no escape in sight
He emptied out his handgun, it was one last desperate fight.
So the bullets that he lived by were the way he had to die,
And when he fell, he turned and saw the devil by his side.

It was one last ride with the devil
He couldn’t see any other way
He was riding in stride with the devil,
And the devil has taken him away.

There Might as Well Not Be a God.

I was brought up believing in an all-powerful god. He was bigger than anything that you could imagine. He could do anything. He was anywhere, any time. He listened to what people asked. He was like us, in that we were made in his image. Thinking about God always blew my mind, because I would try to imagine what it was like at the beginning of the universe. There was nothing there, just God. There was no time, no space, nothing. Just god. In the beginning, the beginning of all time, God was there, even though nothing was there.

I used to lie awake at night thinking about that. Nothing was there, and God was there … but God is everything, so everything was there in the form of nothing. But what was before that? God was before that. Did god have a god that made him? No, he just was. Nobody knows how he got there. Does God know how He got there? Maybe … yes he must, because he knows everything. Well why didn’t he tell us how he got here then? No idea.

I was taught what I suppose can best be described as sort of axioms: God is all-knowing, God is all-powerful, God is everywhere at every time, God made everything, God is love, God is good. And there is another one: God works in mysterious ways. Using these axioms one can describe the universe with perfect accuracy, better than any scientist could, and answer any question with infallible logic. For instance:

Where did we come from? Axiom: God made everything, therefore god made us, because the set of everything includes us.

Why were we made? Axiom: God works in mysterious ways; axiom: God is all-knowing. We don’t really know why God made us, but he knows, and that’s all that matters. The one thing we know is that God is good (another axiom) and that he did it because he loves us – axiom: God is love.

This satisfied me to a certain degree, in as much that I was unable to argue with any of the statements without questioning the authenticity of God. But there was always something that didn’t quite feel right. I never felt like I could solve any real world problems with these axioms.

If god is all-powerful and protects those he loves, then why do we have to wear a seat-belt in a car? I never had a very good answer for that one that didn’t involve logical hand-waving.

Other questions were tumbling about in my head, and they scared me. I didn’t really know why though. Maybe it is because deep down I was discovering that the beliefs I built my world around were like chaff, that can blow away in the wind. So I decided to find God for myself. I shut myself off from the world and spent months trying to pick apart my beliefs and find what was holding them together. I decided that God would reveal the truth to me no matter what happened and so I opened up my mind as a receptacle for any thought that may come my way, no matter what the axioms said.

Then things started to get strange. I saw turmoil and confusion. If God is love, then why would he choose to torture those who did not believe in him by sending them to hell for eternity? If I had a friend who decided that he didn’t believe that I existed, would I lock him in a torture chamber for the rest of his or her life? No, that would be something an evil person would do. Then I wrote down a sentence that probably changed my life, because it was the first time in my life I had elevated myself to the level of God and challenged him. I wrote, ‘If somebody goes to hell because they could not find evidence for God and therefore could not believe, then they, being punished eternally for a misunderstanding, are more righteous than God.’

Is God so weak that he cannot stand up against questioning? If I cannot question my god, then my god is too weak.

After that the floodgates were open, and there was no holding back the thoughts. Some part of me still believed deep down, but another part of me was putting God on trial. If you can’t test god, then how can we follow him? Maybe we are not made in the image of god. Maybe god is made in the image of us. That would explain why god keeps changing his mind about what is good or bad. For instance, it was okay to kill unbelievers, but now that’s somehow not right anymore, and we should love our enemies.

Also, I came to the conclusion that belief is not a decision, it happens on its own, usually from experience. For instance, you can be told all you want about fire and how it burns and how you should not touch it, but somehow it doesn’t really sink in until you can test it. You can stand next to a fire and feel its radiant heat, and touch it and feel it burn. But you can’t touch God, and feel him. You can’t look at him. You can’t feel his power. I used to think I could, but really the things I could feel where only there when I expected them to be there, and existed in my imagination. God always said exactly what I expected him to say, almost as if he was a fabrication of my mind. I guess it boils down to this: if one can’t tell the difference between a god one made up in one’s own mind, and and the One True God that one claims to follow, that god might as well not exist.

But even after all of this transformation happened, I still believe in the thing they call God. There is something deep within us that we can never understand. Something in our mind that we will never control. It makes dreams seem real and sometimes speaks to us with wisdom that we cannot fathom. It is neither good nor evil. Some choose to call this thing a god, but I call it myself. The thing that is within me is a real thing to me; the thing that is within me is the me that I do not understand. God is within me, and I put him in my image, and I am him.

Perhaps Jesus was thinking on similar lines when he said, ‘Before Abraham was, I am.’ Perhaps the message of the Messiah is that what we believe does not matter.