I’ve wanted to sort out my views on religion for a long time. Whether I was an atheist or believer, I wanted to know exactly why I was either of those things. “I find it hard to believe…” is not a good enough reason not to believe in something so important. If God is real there is actually nothing more important than dedicating your life to serving Him. If God isn’t real then if I care about my Christian friends I should try to convince them they are wasting their lives worshipping an idea that isn’t true.
I wasn’t raised in any sort of religious community but my parents were. They both call themselves agnostic but made an effort to expose my brother and me to religion. I think they did this because they wanted us to make our own decisions about religion and also because they believed it was important for us to have at least a basic understanding of Christianity because we live in a Christian nation. We’d sometimes attend Christian church services of varying denominations. If a friend of the family invited us to church we nearly always went and my parents took no issue with us attending the various Youth Groups we’d get invited to.
I liked attending different church services but always felt like an outsider just passing through for a moment. Church services were fun to observe but felt rather silly to me. None of the churches I attended made me feel any certain way; and I have attended a lot of church services, pretty much every Christian denomination you can think of. I saw the value of religious communities at a very young age and still don’t understand the hatred some have towards Judeo/Christian thought. Of course certain churches or certain Christians have twisted religion in wrong and sometimes downright evil ways but the values generally promoted by Jews and Christians are something I could get on board with.
But to believe there is a magical dude in the sky who created us all? So if evolution is a thing how does that work? Did God allow for evolution? Was Genesis literal or were those metaphorical days? And so then God must’ve created the planets. How does that work? And if we’re all perfect creations why are some of us not? Down syndrome, autism, red hair…why do these things exist then? Although I would sometimes climb a mountain and be so struck by the beauty at the top that I would think “how could this have happened by accident?” or find myself feeling more at ease when someone said they would “pray for me” or I would sometimes cry when listening to a gospel or Christmas song, feelings would never be enough for me when deciding whether or not to find faith. God needed to be scientifically and historically accurate.
It was mainly my inability to reconcile science and faith that held me back. In hindsight, it was pretty arrogant of me to believe no other Christians asked themselves those questions and/or that there weren’t any thoughtful answers to them. Another part of my arrogance was I felt my life needed to be perfect in order for me to find faith. Not because God wanted me to be perfect but because I needed to have a completely clear head in order to make a decision so big. I couldn’t turn to God when I was sad after a breakup, dealing with a death or some other emotional event. Emotions cloud judgment; people who hit rock bottom only to find God may have stumbled on the truth but only out of their own weakness, I would never use God as a crutch. Last Summer I finally felt my life was exactly how I wanted it to be, my conscious felt clear and seriously diving into my investigation was safe mentally and emotionally.
My search for truth last year was largely influenced by a question that I couldn’t answer, rather I couldn’t answer it without there being an objective good. That question being “Why would it be wrong to euthanize severely handicapped people.” Severely handicapped referring to folks who can’t communicate or take care of themselves.
The thought of wiping all of these people off the face of the earth was horrifying to me. I think most people would agree doing this would be wrong. If today, President Trump announced: “we’re rounding up all the severely handicapped and euthanizing them for the good of the country,” we’d all be outraged and rightly so. But why would we be outraged?
Because killing is wrong! You’d say. But why is killing wrong? Why would killing handicapped people be wrong? To make a long philosophical debate short, logically, it’s not wrong to kill. If someone is severely handicapped they’re a burden on society in every way. Monetarily, emotionally, they truly are a resource suck. If we could eliminate them in a painless and efficient manner why shouldn’t we? And this is where an objective good comes in. It’s not ok, to kill humans, no matter their status, health or otherwise because God said so, and God is the objective good.
Honest atheists know there is no objective good without a God. As former “obnoxious atheist” turned Christian, geneticist Francis Collins said, “no law of science could adequately explain the existence of morality.” Jerry Coyne, a staunch atheist writer and biologist admits that morality does not exist for atheists. And unsurprisingly he is an advocate for the euthanasia of babies born with disabilities, calling it “merciful.”
There are atheists who argue that morality is possible without a God, but their arguments are not convincing nor scientifically absolute at all.
As atheist turned most profound Christian thinker of the modern era C.S. Lewis said, “Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning…”
That blew my mind a little bit.
Without objective good there is no morality and without morality all you have is relativism, and with relativism we are all reduced to objects. It’s easy for people who haven’t really thought about the things they believe and why they believe them to just say “oh I’m a relativist” as most/many atheists do. But relativism doesn’t make sense if you have any sort of moral boundaries at all, and pretty much all humans do.
Relativism is the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute. And it’s all we have without an objective standard for good. Under Relativist doctrine, culture excuses any behavior. Let’s take slavery for example. In almost every early culture, including African culture, slavery was perfectly normal. For hundreds of years no one thought anything of it. Relatively it was moral to have slaves. Did that make slavery right? I’d argue no. But according to relativism slavery then was acceptable. Another example is if Nazis had taken over during WWII and convinced the whole world to get behind them. Let’s say Nazis ruled for 100 years. The masses were convinced that exterminating Jews was a must. Would that make it any less evil? I’d argue no. But a relativist would have to accept that behavior because the culture dictated it was a-ok.
I struggled with the killing question. I sought answers for literally months, turning to religious and atheist people alike though I found the conclusion pretty early on, and both camps for the most part agree. Killing for any reason other than protection is only wrong if there is an objective good, and there is only an objective good if God is real.
This is where I was starting to become convinced God must be real. Jesus was still a myth to me but God might be the real deal. My freshman year I researched Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and was convinced those religions might have some good ideas but their “truths” weren’t actually true. If there is a God, I concluded he is the one Christians or Jews describe.
Ok, so if I believe in objective morals (and I do) then God must be real. But ok, what about all the science stuff? Science and religion aren’t compatible and that’s just known by everyone. Then I had science thrown in my face…by Christians and Jews!
Alex Metaxas makes the case for science and God in “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God” one of the most shared articles in Wall Street Journal history.
Metaxas makes this point:
Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.
According to the odds, I shouldn’t exist. Hmm, that was interesting, and as I dug deeper into this idea, I found more science to back up the theory of intelligent design.
As former atheist activist turned believer Antony Flew stated, “the integrated complexity of life itself—which is far more complex than the physical Universe—can only be explained in terms of an Intelligent Source.”
Of course, you can always find refuting arguments but I could find no science whatsoever that debunked or even came close to debunking God. And I found no evidence that religion and science could not coexist. Einstein himself said, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
And no, evolution and faith aren’t incompatible.
An objective good is only possible through God and science is compatible with faith. For goodness sake the inventor of the Big Bang Theory was a monsignor in the Catholic church. Whoah! This realization sort of shook me to say the least. Mostly because I had waited so long to ask and answer the obvious questions. I was starting to admit to myself that belief in God might actually be logical. I was explaining to my agnostic mom that I was finding shocking evidence that God is a rational idea.
“Mom! I am not using feelings at all and I am still becoming more convinced there is a God.”
“Feeling is part of religion Connie. You can’t commit unless you feel the spirit.”
I knew she was right. But fortunately I had started praying, the ultimate anecdotal experiment. This would surely affect my feelings.
It was suggested to me that I start praying, literally start acting like I was Christian just to see what would happen so I did. I started attending a Christian non-denominational church when I could and for months I prayed. It felt very weird and ridiculous. I prayed out loud because I heard that was more “sincere” and boy did I not like it at first. I tried to take prayer seriously though and prayed the ways recommended in the Bible. I praised God a lot but I asked for help with things and to my utter shock and amazement my prayers were answered.
One example that sticks out was during a long run while training for a 50K. It was a 22 mile run and I didn’t pack water like the idiot I am. I was so tired, my head pounding from the sun and dehydration that nearing the end of my run with about a mile left, I said to God “please, help me get water,” and I shit you not, I crested the hill I was on and there was a lemonade stand. I had ran this route many times and never before had there been a lemonade stand. The little girls at the stand not only quenched my thirst, but through conversation with the girls’ mom I learned they needed a swim teacher…and I am a swim teacher. The Lord had given me water in two ways. But that was just a coincidence and I still wasn’t convinced.
Then I prayed that a friend get in touch with me or else I feared we would lose contact and the next day that friend, who I hadn’t heard from in months messaged me. Then I prayed for answers to a personal problem I had been dealing with for years, the next day an article came across my Twitter feed addressing the exact unique issue I was facing, and it was written by a Christian. I still wasn’t convinced though. Obviously these things were coincidences.
Then much more recently, I visited my grandfather and was officially convinced of God. My grandpa has cancer riddled throughout his entire body and has been undergoing chemotherapy for some time now. One of, if not my first prayer, I asked the Lord do what he must with my grandfather’s life, but please make it as painless as possible. When I visited my grandfather, months after that first prayer he told me “surprisingly, the chemo hasn’t been painful at all.” My mouth metaphorically dropped as I remembered my first prayer.
An objective good, cohesion with science and my own anecdotal examples. I couldn’t ignore the idea of God any longer, for that would be ignoring the truth. And there’s only one reason to become a Christian, not because it makes you feel good, or because it’s what you’ve always been taught, but because God is the Truth.
After hours and hours of intense research over the last year spent looking at arguments from a long list of Judeo/Christian thinkers and atheists alike I was convinced that God is the Truth and soon after that Jesus was indeed the Son of God sent to save us from our sin. (Reconciling Jesus was a whole nother internal crisis but this blog has already gotten too long.)
The evidence was eventually so overwhelming that I decided to accept Jesus into my heart and was baptized by the pastor of the church I had regularly been attending surrounded by friends and strangers alike. It was a weird feeling and honestly I am still not 100% comfortable in my new life of faith. My insecurities have shown in that I worry people I want to respect my opinion now won’t. (Which is dumb because 100% of my political views can be argued from a secular perspective.) But I follow the truth where it leads and the truth has lead me to Jesus.
If you’re an atheist, agnostic or even religious person I encourage you to really ask yourself why you believe the things you believe. If you believe it is wrong to kill, why do you believe this? If you believe it is wrong to take advantage of people weaker than you why do you believe this? If you believe cheating on your wife or husband is wrong, why? But not just the serious stuff, why do you hold the smaller principles in your life to be true? I think most of us, young and old, religious and not haven’t done this. Ask questions and be honest about the answers you find. Atheists think they are more rational than Christians but atheism requires faith too. Could there really be anything more important in life than figuring out whether faith in God or faith in an accident is correct?
If you’re searching for answers these are some of the Christian and atheist thinkers I found to be helpful: Francis Collins, Jerry Coyne, Antony Flew, Sam Harris, Friedrich Nietzsche, Alex Metaxas, Yaron Brook, C.S. Lewis, Peter Kreeft, Ayn Rand, Richard Dawkins, Lee Strobel, Andrew Klavan, AJ Jacobs, Timothy Keller, Michael Shermer, Jordan Peterson, Bishop Barron, Ravi Zacharias and my former roommate, William Bergman.
Seek out the truth, whether you come to the same conclusion as me or not, there’s really nothing more important.