08 August 2007

Thoughts on conversion

A discussion with a friend last week got me thinking about a lot of things. The first went something like this: We tend to think that when we shift ideologies or ways of thinking, whatever kind of thinking we came out of is wrong and our new way of thinking is right. This makes sense experientially in that we usually shift ways of thinking after we have acquired more knowledge. There's a problem, however, when we think that our growth is universal; that is, that people who hold the opinion or religious belief or political affiliation that we once did are simply immature and given enough time or a new experience, they will come around.

This leads to people saying all sorts of asshole things. Kirk Cameron denouncing Atheism because he once was one. Some supporter of Mike Huckabee denouncing Brownback because the supporter was a 'recovering Catholic'. The problem is that people go back and forth from ideologies all the time. Catholics become Protestants. Atheists become Deists. Republicans become Democrats... Shifts in ideology are natural because we grow and learn, but most importantly because we experience new things.

I'm a good example of this as my shift in political and religious thinking has come directly out of living in Japan. There are a lot of reasons why my thinking has shifted, but the impact of learning another language, marrying a Japanese, living in a nominally Atheist culture, and eating raw fish is certainly not small. But, being the kind of person that I am, I expect that everyone who comes out here will see what I see and realize what I realize. Sitting in a hot spring in the middle of a Japanese forest with my father, I looked around and felt what I sense to be the magic of the forest here. It's linked with the religion of Shintoism, the bamboo, the mist. For me, the Japanese forest is an enchanted place so I say this to my father who then looks around, shrugs and says, 'Forests everywhere are pretty much the same.'

Well, yes, I guess they are. Depending how you look at them. Neither of us was strictly right or wrong. We just had come out of different places and were headed to different places. And I suppose that's okay. So let's cut the Atheists and Sen. Brownback some slack.