I play basketball a couple of times a week with a group of guys. We're a motley crew, and none of us are all that good. I've noticed something over the last couple of weeks, ever since I started to take a serious look back into Christianity: I've noticed I make a lot of excuses.
Whenever something goes wrong, it's NEVER my fault. It's always someone else. If only he'd cut when he should have, if only he'd rotated on defense like I rotated to help the other guy, if only he could make a layup, our team would have won.
I think making excuses is a common human trait. It also happens to be a particularly big character flaw of mine. In many ways, I think this is directly related to pride. We need ego- it's part of every healthy, functioning adult. But pride is an over-inflation of that ego, and the easiest way to keep our ego inflated is to deflect anything that would cause us to question our own value.
When it comes to religion, there's a delicate balance. Do I think I walked away from Christianity for good reasons? Yes. In retrospect, do I think I made excuses for my behavior, my thoughts, and the world I observed? Also yes.
But this works both ways. Christians are really good at making excuses. They make excuses for their behavior (say you felt led to do something in Christian circles and you're immediately off the hook), but more often than not they make excuses for their religion. They make excuses for Old Testament morality ("That's just how society was back then", "It's a cultural thing we just can't understand", "this was a huge step forward compared to other societies of the time"), for contradictions in the Bible ("I know it SAYS this, but it really MEANS that...", "Well, if you look at the original Greek, you see that the word can actually have many different meanings..."), and they make excuses for God ("We can't understand his plan", "He works in mysterious ways", "You just need to have faith"). I understand, from their point of view, all of these arguments. But from the outside looking in, they all ring hollow. They sound like someone justifying their religion against the evidence. They sound like a blind faith.
Figuring out the line between valid criticisms and excuses (or valid defenses and excuses) is difficult business. I think that we can all pretty clearly see when other people are making excuses. We need no help in identifying where the man who believes opposite from us has gone wrong. We need a great deal of help, however, identifying where we've gone wrong ourselves.
I guess there's not much of a point here, other than to say that I'm trying to wrap my head around the excuses I've made in the past, and I think it's a worthwhile exercise for anyone to do. Particularly if, like me, you've lost your belief in something, I think you need to be extra careful about the real reasons you lost that belief. You will almost assuredly miss most of the major excuses you've given, but you will also most assuredly end up closer to the truth than when you started.