I grew up Catholic, and in Catholic tradition I was baptized as a baby with the few sprinkles of holy water on my forehead. Later, during my first year in college at a non-denominational church, I was told that only a “full emersion” underwater “dunking” was valid. So just in case the Catholic baptism truly was wrong, I figured it couldn’t hurt to be baptized a second time with full immersion, where at least this time I made a more conscious decision than I did as a baby!
The non-denominational church I attended in college was active, and the college friends I made there were fantastic. I learned a tremendous amount about the Bible, which I never really understood previously as a child, in spite of attending Catholic church religiously (no pun intended).
I continued attending that non-denominational church for a couple more years, and eventually I moved elsewhere. After the move, I fell away from regular attendance at a church.
As my work and life took over, I began asking myself if I really believed in God, and if I honestly believed that Jesus died for my sins, rose from the dead for my salvation, and sat at the right hand of God the Father for eternity. My answer at that time was “no”. I basically, and I think truthfully, reasoned to myself that I was attending church those prior years because it was a good group of people to hang with, and our more wholesome activities kept me from getting in trouble. Those friends encouraged me to be baptized, and I complied willfully with the group’s desire, just as others probably did the same. There was no coercion and no force. Just invitation.
While having wholesome friends who for the most part stay morally, ethically, and legally clean is a good reason to attend church, I had actually lied to them when I was baptized. In my clearest thoughts, I really did NOT believe that Jesus was the Son of God, or that there was even a God! At the time I told the lie, I don’t believe I realized I was telling it! On a certain level, I believed the lie I told them!
As years passed, I began questioning the Christian faith altogether. This Jesus…. well, I believed he was a real person who existed and walked the Earth, but I had no belief whatsoever that he was anything but a man. I believed he was a charlatan, someone setting himself above others to get a following. What he said was good, and if we all lived as he said, life in society would in fact be better.
I believed the miracles Jesus performed were a fiction created by the early church looking to extract money from ignorant churchgoers, and that the Bible itself had been modified by those looking to make it bigger than it actually was. In other words, the miracles were a figment of someone’s imagination, a fraud perhaps perpetrated by the Apostle Paul himself looking to exploit what Jesus started for whatever sick mental reason he may have had. I believed Jesus was basically a cult leader, and a darn good one at that to have had the influence on this planet that he clearly has had!
As for God, I reasoned that the universe always was. It didn’t get created. Matter and energy continuously reform themselves. Energy always existed in one form or another. I did believe in the Big Bang theory though….. (the scientific theory, not the TV sitcom!). A student of science, I understood the math and physics behind Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and accepted that as real.
Then one day, I had someone ask me, that if I believed the universe started from a “Big Bang”, what is it that blew up? Well, that’s a good question, and one for which they didn’t know the answer either! I believed that in all likelihood, it was just another form of energy that we don’t fully yet understand. Perhaps “dark energy”. I was certain though there was no “God” that created all of this, as God was a hoax created by men a long time ago to extract money from ignorant people, whose existence cannot be proven one way or another. And I was certainly not going to be part of that racket paying a portion of my net worth to their fraud!
Later, my own brother (who has since passed away) asked me what happens to the “energy” that is me when I die….. if in fact energy is never destroyed, and only changes form? He believed in life after death, and perhaps even reincarnation (I am not 100% sure of all his beliefs). He believed in a “soul” or “consciousness” that moved on to another life. This raised questions in my mind because our grandmother had years earlier conveyed a “beyond & back” near death experience when pregnant with a child who did not survive. This was long prior (in the 1930s) to the movies and shows where we can read and hear about this stuff today. She told her story for years!
Prior to my brother asking me this, I had watched a science special with famed physicist Stephen Hawking, where he was asked what existed prior to the Big Bang. Hawking’s answer was “We don’t really know….as all our math breaks down prior to spacetime and gravity….but the best description we can come up with is light, everywhere, perfectly even, and across all time.”
I thought to myself, wow! That sounds like how the Bible describes God! Maybe when the Bible says “God is light”, it literally means “light”, and not something like “understanding”! Hawking further clarified that by “light”, he meant “energy”. But not light energy as we know it. The light we know has a “wavelength”, and beyond “spacetime”, neither time nor distance exist. So the concept of wavelength as we know it cannot be, and the “light” he is referring to is just a different form of energy.
Perhaps beyond spacetime is where our consciousness or energy goes when we die? I wasn’t sure, but I believed everything that exists, and everything we are, came from this “source energy” outside of spacetime. I believed that in fact, it IS that energy that is in and through all of us and all things. And because that energy is timeless outside of spacetime, that may be why prophets and some psychics are able to somehow know of future events. Or, they are very aware of human nature and are just guessing with surprising accuracy. Any probability, taken to infinity, is certainty. With enough predictions eventually anyone will be right at least once!
Outside of spacetime, where there is no time, everything that is, already has been, and will be. Without exactly knowing how, I had to admit that knowing the future was at least theoretically possible. I was also aware in the Bible’s Book of Revelation, God is described as the “Alpha and the Omega”, the beginning and the end. How can one be the beginning and the end at the same time, unless there is no time? Did the authors of the Bible somehow have insight to theoretical physics for them to have written this? Did they have access to some advanced alien race that provided them knowledge telling them what to write?
Later, I was describing this “source energy” idea to a Christian friend of mine, and he asked me if I had a personal relationship with God? I questioned, if God is nothing but energy, how does that happen? My view of God was a “cold” view. It carried no meaning, no significance if God was nothing more than “static” on a dryer sheet! A personal God certainly did not exist! And certainly not a God that still actively interacts with a creation caused by himself. God in my view was a constantly changing energy form, set in motion by the simple math of a fractal that has yet to be defined! A single universal recursive formula, whose output is randomly different. Ever changing energy. For the most part, others would have called me an “athiest”, or perhaps a “pantheist” (a person who believes nature or the universe is God).
A handful of years then passed by again. I was driving somewhere, and for some reason, I noticed I was praying. This was a stunning observation! Praying to who?? To what? I didn’t believe in God! After all, what can energy change in today’s world? Why would I have wasted even one second having praying thoughts like I was having? I then realized I had prayed like this for years, and this wasn’t the first time!
It was then that it hit me! I had been lying to myself all those years! I really did believe in an active live God! A God who intervenes in our lives and our society. Otherwise, why would I have been praying to him? Was I mentally ill and not realizing it? I quickly understood that all the reasonings above for not believing were justification for what we all know universally in our hearts to be true. In my heart of hearts, I really did believe in God! My lips were saying one thing, but my body and heart were saying something else! They say there are no athiests in wartime foxholes, and now I knew what they meant! In fact, many athiests pray to God, and are either unaware they are doing it, or will not admit it!
About this same time, my father was passing away from cancer. Living 800 miles away, I didn’t get to see him much before he died. In the weeks before his death, he was weak, fatigued, and somewhat confused. Several days before he passed, I visited with him at his home, and he seemed quite coherent and was able to communicate well.
On the day I was to return home, I went to his bedroom and asked him how he felt. I asked him if he was in any pain, and he replied he wasn’t. He looked a little distant, so I then asked him if he felt depressed or scared.
He answered that question by recalling a time from his days as a Navy pilot. In the mid-1950s, he was flying alone one night in a Grumman AF-2S anti-submarine attack aircraft. On this particular night, when he was landing aboard the carrier, the seas were very rough, causing the ship to roll up and down and side to side. The wind was gusting, and he had all he could do to control the aircraft.
He said that somehow that night, feverishly working every lever in the plane, he was able to put the airplane down safely on the carrier deck. He also told me that there were several other nights when problems would occur, or when dangers were present, but that he always felt as though someone or something was there in that aircraft with him who would help him get home safely, or help him where he needed to go. He said he never felt alone, that the feeling was peaceful and calming, knowing that all would end well.
As he laid there on his deathbed, he said that feeling had never left him. He felt peaceful and calm knowing that all would end well. He was neither scared nor depressed as one might imagine, and instead he felt as though that same someone was still with him. Days later he calmly fell asleep never to wake again.
When he finished his story, I told him I knew exactly what he meant. That presence, that peace, that “holy spirit” which transcends understanding and with whom we communicate regularly, and who provides confidence and surety in life, that IS the one and only God the Holy Spirit of the Bible.
I knew at this point that I believed in God, and what a personal relationship with God meant. All those years, I had been actively and periodically praying to God, while vehemently proclaiming to everyone else God did not exist! I was a liar, just as I was a liar in college!
It was at this time I realized that we, as humans, first lie to ourselves, and then we lie to everyone else! All while believing we are telling the truth! I realized our minds are not capable of seeing truth in all matters, that absolute truth can only be fully obtained outside of ourselves.
Accepting that there is one universal Biblical God, from which all things came, and with whom we CAN have a personal relationship or walk with, was but a first step for me in becoming an honest Christian. The second hurdle is of course believing that Jesus is who he said he was! And I will leave that for a later blog entry!