A while back, I wrote a post about how the God of the Bible occasionally hardened people’s hearts, thereby preventing them from employing their free will.
I’d like to view the hardening of hearts from a different angle here. Since I became an atheist, I’ve occasionally had believers express their disappointment that I have “hardened my heart” to God. This idea misses the mark, and to explain why, I’ll first try to describe what the phrase “hardening my heart” means to me.
To “harden your heart” to an idea is to have an emotional reaction to it. Specifically, it is a negative reaction, perhaps involving anger, resentment, or plain stubbornness.
Conversely, rejecting an idea through the use of reason, in a calm, thoughtful manner, is not a “hardening of the heart”.
Here are a couple of examples.
A man cheats on his wife. Immediately feeling regret, the man tells his wife what happened, and begs for her forgiveness. But the wife, outraged by his infidelity, stubbornly refuses to hear his case. Her heart has hardened against him.
A woman works in an advertising company and is asked to promote a certain product. As she begins her research into the product, she realizes that it does not perform as it is supposed to. She realizes that, in good conscience, she cannot stand behind this product, and she resigns from the project. We would not say that she “hardened her heart” against the project, we would say that she made a calm, reasoned decision about what she felt to be right.
My deconversion from Christianity has much more in common with the advertising example than the infidelity example. I did not leave Christianity because it aggrieved me in any way, or because it let me down. And it was not an emotional reaction.
Instead, I left Christianity because the more I investigated it and studied it, the harder it became, in good conscience, for me to maintain my belief in God.
My heart, then, is not hardened.
Indeed, I’m quite open to the idea that, if God exists, he might want to speak to me. And I’m quite willing to listen.