Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Science, religion, and why I'm going to school

Guess what I'll be starting in a week? My first year of university! At age 25 I suppose it's better late than never. Sure, it's been eight years since I graduated from high school, but that's just how long it took me to figure out what I wanted to study!

Actually, seven years ago I thought I wanted to study Christian theology: (as I've mentioned before, I had a very religious upbringing). So, I started attending a theological college and ended up staying for almost four years. That was about how long it took me to figure out I didn't actually believe in most of traditional Christianity. I also began to doubt that there was (or even could be) any sound epistemic basis for believing in the authority of scripture.

During the years that followed, I very, very gradually came to believe that the scientific method provides a more certain means of acquiring knowledge than faith does. This was not an easy process: I became profoundly depressed, for example, when I realized I couldn't be certain whether there was an afterlife. (That might sound silly, but when you've believed since childhood that you will literally live forever, and then find out you might only get eighty or ninety years, it hits you pretty hard). But eventually I concluded that, as Cat Faber puts it in The Word of God, "humans wrote the bible; God wrote the world." And that if I wanted to search for truth, I'd do better to study the natural world than scripture. And as I spent more and more of my free time devouring science articles on Wikipedia, I fell absolutely in the love with the awesome, beautiful universe in which we live. And so, here I am today, about to start a four year degree with a major in astrophysics! Yay!!
Astrophysics, dude.
For much of my life the bible was a huge factor in determining what I thought, did and tried to feel; and for a long time this hindered me from recognizing and accepting my trans-ness. It wasn't until I began to see the bible as, not an unquestionable divine authority, but merely a good book, that I felt free enough to try to understand the gender issues I'd been struggling with. This is partly because the bible, as you might expect, specifically condemns transvestism (in Deutoronomy 22:5). But more important than that was an entire understanding of gender that I internalized from reading Genesis 1:27, which says, "God created humans in his image; in the image of God he made them male and female." Like many conservative Christians, I took this to mean that male-ness and female-ness are not mere social constructs, nor some accident of biology, but direct manifestations of the very nature of God himself. Thus I felt like any queering of gender norms was a very serious transgression. And though I very rarely "gave in," I felt guilty any time I even wanted to wear heels or dresses or makeup. And I almost always wanted to.

Needless to say, I am deeply grateful to have changed my way of thinking!

[EDIT: Just to clarify the terminology for the rest of the world: in Canada, a university is an academic institution, whereas a college provides vocational training. They're not the same thing.]

No comments:

Post a Comment