I really didn’t want to write this. I promise. However, the need for me to write out into words what I was thinking was just too great. So here it goes…
I grew up in a Christian household. It wasn’t like an episode of “Seventh Heaven”, so don’t get the wrong image. My father and mother are both pot-heads and my dad was not only addicted to several things, but would use my mother for a punching bag at times. I’m sure I’m not alone. This isn’t about my issues growing up though, it’s about how this propelled me through life.
I went to church every Sunday, summer Christian camps, my dad was a “Royal Rangers” leader, and I had a Bible which I would highlight as if I were going to win an award for it. Through middle school and high school I was on the fringes of the radical Christian clubs in school, more of an outsider looking in. Finally, when I was in the Navy, I hit what I would call the peak of my Christianity. I would debate with fellow Christians, bind demons, swear off evil, and preach to anyone who would listen. Eventually, this lead me to enter a Bible college to become a minister, which lasted all of a few weeks.
Ironically, it was while reading Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Christ“, directly following Kenneth Miller’s “Finding Darwin’s God“, that I, for the first time, started questioning what I believe. I had never even thought to ask myself why. It was just something engrained in me since childhood. An inherent truth, or so I thought.
So, these two books addressed different, but very important, issues. One addressed and argument that backed Jesus as Christ, or the living embodiment of God. The other was a wonderfully accomplished ballet between evolution and Christianity. The latter actually came first, but I was satisfied with Miller’s thesis that evolution and Christianity do not have to conflict, despite the fact that theologians disagree. It was Strobel’s book that shook me. Actually, it wasn’t something he set out to accomplish. His goal was to argue the case for Christ. There was a story in the book about a preacher who was now an Atheist. Oddly enough, it was the preacher’s loss of faith and how he went about questioning his own beliefs that made the most impact. What I realized was that I had doubts that were sitting at the edge of my mind, waiting to be addressed.
I first went into a state of shock that lead me to scrap all beliefs, so stripped my ideology down to nothing and started with the basics. Descartes statement, “I think, therefore I am.” was the basis and entirety of my belief system at this point. I knew I existed. Step one, check.
For the next couple of years I experimented with different things: Shamanism, spirit guides, Buddhism, etc. Atheism never attracted me because I do not believe we live in a Godless universe. I knew I believed in God. The choice to believe comes simply from preference. I prefer to believe that the universe has a God. God may be the entirety of our spirits, it may be one external being, it may be all matter, but I acknowledge God exists. Step two, check.
I haven’t really narrowed anything down at this point; I exist, God exists. I even played around with the thought that I was God and that everything around me was an invention of my mind. An egocentric and semi-nihilistic approach that didn’t go too far. About this time, I started taking out things I didn’t like.
Organized religion left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, specifically because it had forced me to shove its doctrine down people’s throats my whole life. As a matter of fact, the Bible and it’s conflicting stories were also called into question.
It wasn’t just the Bible I had a problem with, it was all religious texts that claimed to be the “word of God”. “If God really wanted us to have a message, why wouldn’t he have just created the message specifically imbedded in us?”, I thought. Then I realized that he had. Our perspective of right and wrong are blueprints for that exact knowledge. A self-writing and discovering message that instructs every decision we make, every day. I now had a functioning knowledge of how I thought God communicated his will to us.Step three, check. FYI, I say he for comforts sake. For all I know God could be an omnipotent hamster with laser beam eyes.
With this knowledge I also needed to know what I was supposed to do. Do I just keep my thoughts to myself and go about my life, being satisfied that I, mighty Kenneth, have solved the puzzle of the universe or do I do something, tell someone? I decided that I probably should do something. What would God want me to do? Well, if God cares about his creations he would probably want me to care about them too, take care of them even. Now I had a purpose, help my fellow humans and take care of all God’s creations. I could do a lot of things in this realm, in fact this gave me a foundation for a set of principles.Step four, checkola.
Lets skip forward a little bit to yesterday. There I was, sitting next to my wife at Grace Point Church, feeling utterly confident about my core values and beliefs. I know, you’re wondering why I was in church with what I said earlier. Truth be told, my wife wants to get my daughters into a daycare there so she wanted to see what it was all about, plus despite personal beliefs I think that bringing my family to a place that enforces moral values is a good thing. It’s bigger than just me. Anyway, there I was, sitting in a horribly padded chair listening to a stranger when he started talking about how religion is horrible and how it caused people to be lead astray. Then he tells me about how everything that God did is past and that it is futile to try to fight evil and repent because it’s already done; we won.
This guy, Don Keathley, just threw me for a loop. A preacher who says religion is crap and doesn’t want me to spend my time beating myself up and fighting evil? This may not be news to you, but it certainly was to me. I decided at that moment that I would stick around, maybe go back on Sundays. If he wasn’t forcing religion and brimstone down my throat, maybe I would like it.
I’m going to warn you now. There isn’t some grand conclusion to this. I’m not going to blow your mind. I’m just a guy looking for answers, talking to himself. What I will tell you is that I’m probably never going to agree that any religious text is anything more than good values, parables, and suggestions. Also, I will probably never be able to conclude that there is a person who is the physical manifestation of God. However, I have come to one truth that is profound to me. I don’t need to agree with anyone, I don’t need to express my agreement/disagreement with anyone, and I will always question everything. There will be no blind leaps of faith. If I think something is improbable, I will not simply forfeit my logic to faith. If I did that, it would be blasphemy to my own beliefs. Okay, that’s more than one. Sue me.
If you’re a Christian, you’ll probably pity my conclusion. If you’re an Atheist, I lost you at the existence of God. I think there might be those few out there though that think like I do. They’ll never be satisfied in solid definitions with no logic but are perfectly willing to capitulate that there is something out there greater than ourselves.
See, I told you. No mind-blowing, world-altering, holistic truth. In the end, I have only my reasoning, my morality, and my choices. As far as the burning in hell goes, if God (or anyone really) were the kind of being that required me to believe without doubt or burn forever, he doesn’t deserve my belief or my praise. Why would a creator give you logic and reasoning and tell you not to use them? Additionally, being a father I could never ask my child to make that choice or face that consequence. It would be unjust and a little insane. I refuse to believe that our reality all boils down to such cruelty. If you do, I completely respect that. I don’t want to hear about it, but I respect it. You don’t owe me anything, but whoever you are, just use your own reason and heart to guide you. Don’t go blindly through the world accepting the thoughts of other men and living in their eventualities.