Sunday, October 31, 2010

Young Atheist

When I turned 10, our family started going to church regularly. This was a result of neighbors inviting us to their church. I started going to Sunday School, and it was a struggle to fit in, but I tried to learn the material in order to fit in and not appear stupid. Regardless, I soon came to see a conflict between the science that I loved and some of the things I was taught in Sunday School.

As I thought about this conflict, I came to the conclusion that science had given us a better picture of reality than was known by ancient religion. I chose science over religion, consistent with my overall preference for new things over old. In the same way I preferred an automobile to a horse and buggy, or an electric light over a candle, color TV over black and white, the Apollo spacecraft over the Mercury, or heliocentrism over geocentrism. Even in my short lifetime, I had seen that things were progressing, continually getting better as scientific knowledge advanced. Religion was part of the old knowledge that was surpassed by the new.

About this time I discovered Star Trek reruns and became and instant fan. In Middle School I got hold of any Star Trek related book I could, and I completely bought into the Gene Roddenberry vision of the future, where scientific and technological advances had solved all of our problems. My mind was always on the future, and I became interested in other works of Science Fiction. Anything that was old, classic, or even contemporary was uninteresting to me.

While looking for Science Fiction books to read, it didn't take me long to discover the prolific Isaac Asimov. While some of his books were a little too difficult for me in the beginning, I found plenty of others I could consume. I soon discovered that he wrote as much or more non-fiction than he did fiction.

Asimov had a doctorate in Chemistry, but he wrote widely on all kinds of matters of science, including what I like most, which was astronomy. I had at least a couple of books of his that were collections of articles on a variety of subject matter, and it was difficult to tell from their titles, what the subject was. I remember one article called, "The Judo Argument," in his book, The Planet that Wasn't, which turned out to be about arguments for the existence of God. I was happy to see that Asimov disproved several of the arguments that believers put forth for the existence of God. However, what surprised me was that in the end, Asimov said that it is not possible to disprove the existence of God either. It surprised me that someone whom I considered to be a great man of science admitted that he could not disprove the existence of God. Asimov himself was not a believer, but he did not side at that time with extreme atheists who unequivocally denied the existence of God.

Before reading "The Judo Argument," I had assumed that the non-existence of God was an open and shut case for science. I agreed with Asimov that there probably wasn't a God, but I also agreed with him that to be intellectually honest, we must admit that God's existence was not disproven. Still, I retained my preference for the new over the old. In fact, I remember in 8th grade that a friend of mine was all excited about a book, The Hobbit, but I was completely uninterested because it was not about the future. I remember this same friend had also developed an interest in religion and wanted to talk about it, but I was not at all interested. By now I found the whole thing annoying.

However, things were about to change. It was 1977, and my best friend Chuck, who no longer lived in town but kept in touch with me by letter, was telling me about a new Science Fiction movie coming out. The SF movie and TV landscape had been pretty bleak since Star Trek ended in 1969, and I was skeptical that Hollywood could make a good Science Fiction movie, but I was going to keep my eyes open.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Early Memories

I will begin my story of my religious journey with some of my earliest memories. We did not often go to church when I was a child, and when we did, I did not like it because it was a strange place where I didn't know the people or the routine. I did not like religious art; it seemed strange looking to me. Depictions of Jesus I saw did not make him out to be someone I would look up to or want to be like.

My real interests were in the realm of science and technology. I liked jets, rockets, lasers, and astronauts. I had little plastic dinosaurs, and I learned all of their names. I had a book about science that had diagrams of jet engines and other machines, showing how they work. I had a children's encyclopedia, and I loved to look at the volume on science and nature. One of my favorite cartoons was "Jonny Quest." I wanted to grow up to be either an astronaut or a scientist like Dr. Quest.

I do remember that both of my grandmothers were regular church goers, and that one of them spoke to me once about Jesus. She said that if I believed that he died for my sins on the cross, I would go to heaven. I think up to that time I associated heaven and hell as the places good and bad people went to when they died. I knew that I wasn't always good, so this idea of believing in Jesus seemed like a good thing to do in case all of this was true, and I wasn't good enough to get to heaven otherwise. However, it seemed like some kind of loophole, and I wondered if I was doing the belief thing correctly enough to qualify.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Why So Religious?

I post a lot of religious material, whether on my blog, Facebook, or Twitter. I'm also working on a degree in Theology. I'm sure there are people who wonder why I'm so focused on religion? I will give a short answer in this post, and then I plan to write a series of posts giving the story of how I got here.

I believe in the existence of God, as he is described in the Christian faith, or more specifically the Catholic faith. This God is characterized by love, and it is out of love that he created the universe and us humans in it. The purpose of human existence is to receive God's love, and to respond back with love. Since God gives us freedom, he does not force us to receive his love, but allows us to reject it if we want to. This is the most important choice we can make in our lives because it not only determines the quality of our life in this world, but by receiving God's love, we enter into a life that extends beyond the grave to a relationship of love with him that lasts forever. Those who reject God's love, reject the very source of their life.

Over the last 31 years, I have been on a journey seeking the love of God, and have been richly blessed in doing so. It has been a dynamic process where my knowledge and belief about God has developed over the years. Some aspects of my belief, such as the Bible being God's Word, and Jesus being the Son of God, have been there from the beginning. Other aspects, such as the nature of salvation and the Church, have changed over the years. I have made many mistakes and wrong turns, but even when I willfully do the wrong thing, God is ready to forgive me and turn even the wrong turns into good. I plan to write about this journey to show how I went from not believing in God at all, to eventually becoming Catholic.

My desire in writing about these things is not to show off what I know or what I have done, but to tell others about something that has been good for me, and I want them to have too. Jesus tells his followers to freely give away what they have freely received. My hope is that if you are not interested in God, you will see something that interests you. If you are already a believer, I hope that I can share something that might help you in your journey. I expect that I will learn some things as I go through the process of writing. I also hope that I may learn from readers' comments, whether they be affirmations, questions, or objections, so feel free to comment.