Excellent piece written some time ago by Sheldon Vanauken, not long before his death, on whether people lose their faith or simply choose to disbelieve:
We live in a secular world (so like that of Imperial Rome), and the blare of the TV is much louder than the church bells, Those who reject the faith are not, as C.S. Lewis once said, simply brave men who have logically accepted the defeat of their heart’s deepest longings for God. True, they may at moments have felt such longings, but, much more, they simply can’t be bothered to do God’s will. The truth is that, apart from rare moments, we don’t want Christ in our lives. We don’t want a God who knows the thoughts of our hearts, some of them rather nasty. Above all, we don’t want to be creatures: we want to be autonomous, free of any outside obligations or judgment. When we reject Christianity, we, in fact, choose autonomy, as Eve did. That’s what we want: to be our own masters.
That is the essential choice, God or autonomy. But we rarely see it in its stark clarity. If we, not yet Christian or with only a shaky childhood belief, look into the faith, we probably feel the stirrings of an ancient and astonishing hope, but, at the same time, a fear that we don’t recognize to be fear — a fear of losing ourselves. So we pause; we hesitate; we sit on the fence, drawn and repelled, hoping somehow to find absolute certainty, which is never given. What we do not see with clarity is that we must choose — must choose — without that certainty either way. If we refuse to choose, then we have chosen, against the faith. And we drift away.
Choosing to believe or disbelieve: that’s what we do. Conversion stories don’t always make this clear, even less the untold stories of those who choose to disbelieve. How can it be anything but choosing when there is no certainty either way? There may of course be surges of emotion that feel like certainty, but in the cold, grey light of morning the doubts return.
I remember when I went through my Church-less period never really losing my faith but simply choosing not to exercise it. I did however feel, as time passed, that faith was slipping away. My faith seemed to be atrophying. It was an uncomfortable and frankly frightening thing to experience. All of which seems to correlate to what Vanauken is writing about.
Read the whole thing. To the end. Particularly the end. It’s good stuff.
Then think through and weigh it all.
And choose, wisely.
Crossposted at Brutally Honest.