My Orthodox adventure is over. I never heard from Andrew on how things went. I actually quit a couple weeks ago because any more of that, and I would have become an atheist. I'm not joking or exaggerating, either.
See, I am a naturally skeptical person. I am not sure how or when it happened. I think that to some degree, it is what I have been calling the "Benny Hinn effect." The Word-Faith movement is huge, has millions of adherents, and is currently blazing across Africa and Latin America. It thrives on miracle stories...all of which turn out to be at worst frauds and at best legends. The fact is that the Word-Faith movement proves that literally millions of people can be duped by fake miracle stories. Once one has realized what a systematic fraud Word-Faith is, it can make it impossible to accept miracle stories "just because." I listen to stories about St Blarfooneyev the Wonder-Worker or some Desert Father who could turn his hands into flame the exact same way I listen to nearly identical myths propagated by charismatics. They are bullshit. Simple, plain bullshit.
Now, some people might try to argue that Catholicism and Orthodoxy aren't prone to miracle myths (and therefore Ignatius of Loyola really could fly through the air like Superman) because Thomas Aquinas was smart, the Hesychasts of Mt Athos are way holier than Jan Crouch, have you seen the awesome aesthetics of our basilicas, and classical this and ancient that! Some people are enchanted enough by this kind of special pleading to give people whose clergy dress up all fancy-like a special exemption (as though Benny Hinn weren't a snappy dresser!). I'm not. Special pleading doesn't work on me because I am not sufficiently awestruck by Byzantine mosaic.
Learning what a fraud the "Creation Science" movement is, discovering that Hindus have produced a remarkable array of religious literature and thought, learning just how incredibly brilliant the ancient Greeks were while simultaneously being absolutely wrong about nearly everything pertaining to science, discovering that billions of people believe the government can hook them up with a free lunch, and many other experiences and observatoins led me to an unshakeable conclusion:
The human mind is a frail instrument, easily deluded, and most capable of building brilliant systems of thought and life that have no correspondence to reality whatsoever.
Overindulging this kind of skepticism really does push me toward atheism. What happened to me while sitting in the service is that the skeptical part of my brain was blazing ahead at full steam. I'm just thinking, "Yeah, she doesn't have the power to do that for you, no, that picture doesn't give you a portal to another dimension, no, that story is pure fiction, no, that stuff doesn't have any magic powers," and so on. As a result, I walked out of the service feeling malcontent with Christianity in general (since this sort of thing is endemic in Christian history) and wondering if the entire faith isn't just a bunch of myth and superstition. I just need to not be in that kind of environment.
I don't believe that fiction is good for faith. I've heard, "Oh, sure, the Shroud of Guadalupe is no more than a nice painting, and Juan Diego never existed, but it enhances people's devotion, so there's no need to do anything about it." That seems really dishonest to me. First of all, if your devotion is based on something fake, you're better off un-devoted. Second of all, there are lots of people who are inclined to dispense with the faith entirely when they discover that 90% of what you've been feeding them is a lie. I know I feel that way. When I hear someone acknowledge that this story or that miracle was totally bogus, but say it's fine for us to pretend it happened and build our faith on it, I just want to join the ranks of the godless.
They might be fools, but they're not liars.