Agnostic, Atheism, Atheist, Belief, Bible, Buddhism, Evolution, Faith, Forgiveness, God, Grace, Love, Mathematics, Mystery, Physics, Randomness, Reason, Religion, Science, Scientific Method, The Universe, Youth
Today’s my forty-third birthday (at least, as of 8:37 am EST). It means that I’ve been a spiritual believer of one sort or another for nearly thirty years. With so much that has happened in my life, there are many who wonder why I believe in God, or why I’m a Christian in particular. With my expertise as a historian, my background in math and science (and continuing study of such), there have been many who’ve mocked and questioned my faith in anything other than the randomness of the universe. With the world in seemingly endless turmoil, good people maimed and killed, and evil people able to get away with maiming and killing others, there are those who greet any profession of belief in a higher power with anger and bitterness.
To me, that’s too bad. I can see all sides of this argument. I’ve been a Christian for more than twenty-eight years, and before that, an unwilling, if outwardly obvious, Hebrew-Israelite. In that time, I’ve also been an atheist, agnostic and angry, a bit of a Buddhist and a Muslim to boot. I’ve gone years without prayed and prayed at least once every day for nearly twenty years. I’ve read the Bible cover to cover at least six times in three decades, but also the Torah and the Qur’an. I’ve gone to temple, to Roman Catholic mass, to church, sometimes every week for years, sometimes not at all for years. I’ve had crises of faith and been almost unquestioning in faith over the years.
I’m also a believer in science and the scientific method. I realize that even with all of the advances in biology, physics, chemistry and mathematics, that there is much more we don’t know versus all that we’ve learned in the past two centuries. But that doesn’t mean that I believe that the universe — that life itself — is some random event or a long-chain series of random events. I’m with evolution on everything except the random. I don’t think that the universe can be seen as random. Even as chaotic as our lives may seem, the choices that we make do provide order. It’s never been sheer dumb luck that has determined everything that has occurred in my life, as other people have made their own choices that can easily affect the range of choices in my own life.
Most of all, while I do believe that there are reasons behind the events that occur in our lives and in world, that these reason are neither random nor something that God somehow came down from on high to make possible. Whether it’s Hurricane Sandy or Sandy Hook Elementary School, the civil war in Syria or a tsunami in the Indian Ocean, somehow so many have it that either God’s angry with us or that God allows horrible things to happen to us. Or that there is no God, because a real God would prevent these seemingly random events from occurring at all.
All this proves one thing, and one thing only. That most of us have little understanding of faith, of God, or of the universe itself. Period. Even those of us who are experts in particle physics or theoretical mathematics don’t know enough to dismiss God or to prove their educated guess (otherwise known as belief) in the randomness of the universe. Most of us who do believe in God — at least, those of us who are Christian — treat God as if he were Zeus casting down lightning bolts to keep us in line.
I see God in the universe, in the creation and re-creation of life, and yes, even in the various tragic and apparently chaotic events that have occurred in my life and in this world. That I don’t think these events to be random doesn’t make me any less of a thinker. I just don’t accept the blind faith of scientists in the idea that maybe cosmic rays led to the mutations in the primordial soup of our ancient oceans that led to the spark of life and evolution. I also don’t believe that God is simply presiding over every event on our planet and in the universe, making life-and-death decisions that bring pain and anguish to our lives for enjoyment or as a form of punishment.
Rather, God for me has been about living life by principles like social justice, social and spiritual mobility, love, forgiveness, grace and wisdom. Explaining what may or may not be random, each and every conceivable mystery of the universe or of life? I know that this isn’t in the Bible. But I do know that the reasons behind why bad, ugly, even evil things have happened in my life don’t include the “random nature of the universe.” People made decisions, I’ve made decisions, institutions made decisions, that have had an impact on the course, speed and direction of my life over the last forty-three years.
So, even when I’ve found myself angry with God, I’ve also been cognizant of the role all and each of us play in the heaven and hell that tends to be our lives, separate and together, in this world of ours.