For me, it was humility that did it…. As you’ve probably noticed, humility isn’t one of my virtues. I struggle with it every day, along with doubt, acedia, and all the rest of the Seven Deadlies.* And who knows? Maybe my “conversion experience,” wasn’t. It’s not like Jesus appeared in a vision and pimp-slapped me — such as it was, it was so subtle that every day I wonder if it really happened. So maybe I’m wrong. But on the off-chance it will help anyone else, here’s how it worked for me:
As he does with all nerdy kids, the Devil placed the One Ring of Sophomoric Insight on my finger sometime in my teenage years: “everything is a social construction!” Thus I became Smart, and so I became a Liberal. And so, like all Liberals, I “won” every “argument” through snark, dismissiveness, condescension, and the magic power of pretty words. And like all Liberals, I thought my mighty word-power would get me laid… and it did. Not nearly as much as I wanted, of course, but it doesn’t take much to keep nerdy kids preoccupied, and so I remained a Liberal throughout my college years.
And yet, even back then, doubts crept in. Liberals are always the Smartest guys in any room. Have you noticed? But I wasn’t, damn it, not always. Not even most of the time, because try as I might — and trust me, I tried a lot — no amount of virtue-signaling would get me past Calc I. Yes yes, math is a social construction, and what do you know about the plight of the ____ in _____, Algebra Boy? …..
…. but damn it, math isn’t a social construction, and I don’t really know anything about the plight of the ____ in _____, either. In fact, it seems to me that what you might call Third World Personality Disorder is the real culprit in ____, and no amount of teach-ins or peace marches are going to cure that. In fact, the only guys doing any good at all in ____ have to be escorted by the US Marines, who, come to think of it…..
…Heresy!!! Yet the doubts remained. Got worse, actually, when I got out of college. These were the Internet Bubble years, so finding a job was no problem, but the job I found sure was. You see, back then, the only idiots who majored in Humanities like I did also had parents who could absorb the cost of their dumbass kids majoring in Humanities — thus the year “backpacking” around Europe to “find yourself” that is the cliched best time ever of every dipshit with a BA, c. 1980-1998. But my folks couldn’t — and I’d have found my Dad’s foot so far up my ass there’d’ve been tread marks on my uvula had I dared suggest it — so I took the first job I interviewed for, which happened to be in a financial services firm….
…where I ran into all those dumbass meathead frat bros I despised in college. I knew I was so much smarter and better than them. More attuned, more aware, more enlightened. Which sucked, because it turned out that a lot of those dumbass meathead frat bros were actually pretty smart, and pretty good guys too. So while I was out there virtue signalling at the protest du jour, trying to get laid with my exquisite PC sensitivity, these guys were actually getting laid, and having a much better time than I was. And for all I was such a superior person (minus the girlfriend, of course), we all ended up in the same place, doing the same job… at which quite a few of them were as good as, and many were better than, me. Doubts….
….and then grad school, where I immersed myself in intellectual culture. Both kinds: The real stuff, and what passes for it in the ivory tower. Try as I might, I couldn’t see how the whole grab bag of academic nonsense didn’t boil down to question-begging. And try as I might, I couldn’t find holes in the canonical Western tradition. In fact, all the stuff that I’d patted myself on the back for thinking up back in college had been thought before, and much better, by guys like Friedrich Nietzsche, who raised — and casually dismissed in a few sentences — sophisticated objections to it that I’d never even dreamed of. And he had nothing on guys like Aquinas….
….whose arguments for the existence and nature of God are absolutely irrefutable. The universe can’t be any other way than the way Aquinas says it is, and because it can’t, there must absolutely be a God, and he’s very like the Christian god…..
….which brings us up to now. The rest is faith. You can’t logically prove that the Christian god is the one true god (though you can easily prove that there can only be one god), or that Jesus Christ is His Son. You’re on your own for that**. But let me tell you at least one thing that happens emotionally when you give that thought a try (notice I didn’t say “embrace;” I said “give it a try”):
You feel completely humbled… and then you feel blissful at your humility. The reason Materialism, i.e. the basis of all modern Liberal attitudes, doesn’t satisfy is because you feel utterly alone and adrift in the world. All this — waving your arms at the entire universe — and there’s just you, a tiny speck on a tiny speck adrift in incomprehensible vastness. And you get a few trips around one of quadrillions of other identical suns, and then you’re gone, forever, into nothingness. But if you try the thought that maybe Jesus was right, and this world — all of it, all quadrillions of identical suns, all that vast unknowable universe — was created just for you… you’re overwhelmed. It’s one hell of a rush…
….. and then comes the HARD part, but we’ll leave that for another time. Merry Christmas, y’all.
*My (probably heretical) theory is that we all get the same number of Deadly Sin hit points, but unequal distribution. So, I don’t have much in the way of Envy, but I got triple the Sloth and Gluttony.
**Not really; you get that because He wants you to have it. But since we’re speaking as materialists here….