A good discussion on the Boar’s Head Tavern about whether it is possible to “read oneself out of the kingdom”. Here are the main posts:

  • Brian Auten’s post raising the question:

do many people here at the Bar know of individuals who have read themselves out of the Kingdom — who have walked away from their faith because of what they’ve read.  I ask because, over the last year or so, I’ve been struck by the number of occasions where folks in my end of the conservative evangelical pool act/talk in such a way that suggests how “dangerous” it is to read certain things.

  • Fearsome Tycoon’s response, giving examples of Christians who discover, through reading, that science and atheism differ from what they’ve been told by their pastors, but concluding:

I don’t think reading alone does it that much. There’s usually a process where the person finds like-minded folk to talk to that reinforce their growing doubts.

  • My response, emphasising the social dimension to how our opinions change, and quoting this post by Richard Beck (a must-read, that one) on the role of “honour and shame” in transforming social norms and (I’d argue) individual beliefs.
  • Briefer responses from Phillip Winn and Mack Ramer.

All that is by way of bending and stretching exercise leading up to Brian’s latest post, in which he gives a very useful summary of the process that is often at work when people leave (or, for that matter, join) a church or the Christian faith, or undergo other forms of moral or intellectual revolution:

It’s not reading by itself that is a problem, but it’s:

  1. Through reading, discovering that one has (possibly) been snookered, told half-truths, lies or misrepresentations;
  2. Shame/disgust as a result of the discovery;
  3. Hanging out and interacting with others who have made, or in the process of making, the same discovery; and
  1. Adoption of that community’s values and/or moral framework.

That certainly fits with my own experience of how my views on many subjects have changed, often diametrically (and more than once) over time.