The road to truth is a lonely one.
The road is full of twists and turns, numerous forks, and curious bends that invite you to put your foot to them. You meet fellow travellers along the way. You get along with some and enjoy their company but you also meet those whom you can’t wait to get rid of. But sooner or later, you have to part ways. Either they decide to take a different path, or you do.
Of course, there is always the option to stay where you are and make yourself believe that you have found what you were looking for. You make camp (or discover one) and decide that you like it there, and you begin to get others to join you. You create all sorts of rationalizations and reasons why your camp is the best and why all the others have got it wrong. Of course, that’s what those in the other camps are doing as well.
Pretty soon, a good number of you are embroiled in squabbles and arguments and debates. There is a lot of anger and insults thrown about left and right, and you forget that this all began as a journey, not a war, which it has become. And the way to progress in this journey is not to be content in staying where you are and protecting your camp but to actually move on and keep walking the path, and to keep seeking. The camper digs his heels in and defends his territory. The true seeker is ready to pack up and follow wherever truth leads.
If you are still wondering what in the world I am talking about, let me make it plain — I am talking about the “war” between theists and atheists — those who believe in God and those who don’t.
As I walked the path from theism to atheism, I discovered a lot of material to digest. I read articles and books. I watched debates and listened to different podcasts. I also got to meet and talk to a lot of people and get different ideas.
One thing I found out was that both sides had their share of cheerers and jeerers. These were the noisy ones, the ones who get noticed the most, who post provocative and challenging statements on social media to grab attention. It is easy to get drawn by them (whichever side you’re on) and I’ll admit that I enjoyed being one of them for a time. It was fun cheering your side and jeering the other side.
But then I woke up and remembered how I got to this side in the first place. I was seeking the truth, not auditioning for a cheering squad. I don’t regret having done those things or having gone through them as they were important parts of the process, but I believe I’m on to something deeper now.
A friend of mine has made me realize that in my writings and discussions, I may not have been addressing the best arguments for theism. He managed to convince me of this and now I am halfway through a book that he recommended, even if I have to struggle with some of the concepts since philosophy is not really my forte and I still have painful memories of having to repeat a class because of a failing grade I got.
Theists tend to read books written by fellow theists and atheists tend to read books written by fellow atheists. While this has some value, I think it is of utmost importance that each side should read the other sides books as well, and with an open and humble attitude — not merely with the intent of punching holes in them. It is also important to read what are considered the best works of both sides, in order to really get the strongest arguments and thus be able to evaluate them better.
Now, of course, campers are afraid of this because there is always the chance that their numbers will be reduced because of those who will be swayed to the other side. Yet, truth often demands that you make the journey from one camp to the other, and still to another. A theist pursues his doubts which leads him to be an atheist. But it is very possible for the atheist now to have doubts and thus return to being a theist, or something else altogether.
The camper is content to select one side and entrench himself there, but the true seeker does not allow himself to be trapped, and is willing to reconsider and doubt whatever is his current position. A true seeker is not attached to labels but is relentless in his pursuit of truth. In the end, I do not aim to be a staunch defender of theism, atheism, agnosticism or whatever. I only aim for the truth, whatever it is, and wherever it may bring me.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.