I have always maintained the presumption of addressing God directly. Recently I told him that my animosity toward him is over and that I hold no grudges and I asked that he do likewise. Like most alcoholics I have had a rough childhood relationship with the maker. Unlike most fallings out with God, however, I have never been angry over any failure on his part to answer my requests. While I do occasionally speak to the Lord, I do not ask him for things. I understand that there is no nobility in being the recipient of divine charity nor do I think that God is Santa Claus, at my beck and call to gratify my petty material whims. No my prior disputes with the master of all creation stemmed from his job description as I understood it.
My entire life I have heard many of the great tenets of organized religion. The God of my childhood was an angry figure. God created the universe and everything in it, including me. I belonged to God. I was part of His plan. I owed God only worship and I was to love Him more than I loved anyone or anything including my parents, my wife, my children and myself. I heard endlessly how imperfect and small I was and how great He is. I, of course, as many Catholics do, reacted with utter repugnance toward this litany of misanthropic sanctimonious mumbo jumbo. Of course, I strongly caution you, these principles are probably not exactly what religious figures and scriptures were trying to tell me. They are merely what I heard.
I have always hated authority. I don’t know why. I have never wanted to rule over anyone or anything but likewise I resent any claim of authority over my body, my actions or my life. I understand the nature of the social contract of course and how our representative democratic society of laws is vastly superior to anarchy but I have never felt any lessening of resentment toward the concepts of power and authority. God, for me, came to embody everything that I resented in authority-a nebulous being of unanswerable power demanding allegiance and threatening consequences. I rebelled. I sought a life of science and reason. I felt that man could live independently of God and I developed the utmost contempt for people of faith. The faithful in America are aware of this attitude among us Godless city dwellers on the coasts. It’s a shame how much this country is divided.
I have always recognized that religion brings a deal of peace to the faithful in this world. Religion gives people hope-something to look forward to after death and something to give the here and now meaning. People have done some amazing things in the name of faith. Of course I never saw any of that. I viewed the religious as mindless slaves to the unknown. I viewed their peace and tranquility as artificial and based on a lie. I was arrogant enough to look down on the happiness and peace of mind of others. I saw the horrors perpetrated under the guise of religion or by the misguided faithful. So often we atheists and agnostics indict all religion for the crimes of the passionate and hateful few.
I got through much of my youth without God. I got sober without him and have stayed that way on my own. I have created a life without God and I don’t have regrets. Nonetheless, I have arrived at a point when I am forced to question my own beliefs or lack of them. Atheism and agnosticism are creeds in and of themselves. They are supported by logic, argument and felt with passion just as much as theologies. Any faith or lack of faith without questioning, however, is blind and I do not respect blind faith. So I have begun a process of introspection to question the validity of my beliefs.
I have flirted with atheism for a time but only at the lowest and angriest points in my life. For this reason, when I coolly consider God and the hereafter, I believe myself to be an agnostic. I am a student of science and I need evidence. So often I hear people cite what they deem unanswerable questions of the universe as proof of God but I find that through science almost every question has a logical answer. Why is the sky blue-because only blue light is of a high enough frequency to penetrate the atmosphere while most other sunlight is reflected. Why is the grass green-chlorophyll. I don’t see a necessary great design in the universe indicating God’s inspired hand. Out of millions of light years of space and countless stars and planets, how many contain absolutely nothing? Most of our DNA codes for absolutely nothing. Photosynthesis is only 3% efficient. I see waste and inefficiency everywhere in nature. Our planet, while miraculous in form, is delicate and took billions of years to evolve into what it is today. Countless species have been discarded by nature as failed experiments not fit to survive in their respective environments. I do not see omniscience in the evidence of nature.
Of course I am still left with one unanswerable question. I believe the scientific record. I believe more or less that evolution created all of the species on this planet through the dumb luck of natural selection. I believe this planet and our solar system coalesced from cosmic dust left behind from other supernovae and the Big Bang itself. It can all be traced back to that one moment when matter, energy, space and time were formed. Yet what caused the Big Bang? Why should anything have happened or be at all? Existence, when examined at the ontological level is as surreal as nothingness or an absolute power. Everything has a beginning and every effect has a cause but what or who is the beginning of all beginnings and the cause of all causes? Science will never give me that answer. The prime mover can only be found through religion, conjecture or not at all.
There is another reason that I now seek answers to some deep internal questions. I read a great deal. I am an educated man with a college degree. I have crammed my head full of facts and figures. I have also emulated every facet of a successful life that I could. I have sought a career, love, travel, experience and possessions. I have developed my writing ability, the calling that I feel born to do. I feel, in 27 years of life, proud of what I have been able to accomplish. Yet something gnaws within. I have never known peace-not the way the religious know it. I have recently returned to AA meetings and I have begun a workout regimen with the intention of feeling better about myself. AA, of course, with its 12 steps has forced me to encounter the age-old God question once more. For the first time I am trying to approach this question with no cynicism or preconceived answer. I want to know, once and for all.
Herein lies my dilemma. I listen to countless stories of how heroic men and women came to find God. People who in their darkest moment, when they asked for it, were filled with a warm, reassuring feeling that they felt was grace. I have heard of God’s power restoring these people to sanity. I believe in AA. The program works; I have seen firsthand the most hopeless cases restored to sanity. Yet each time, when someone speaks of God and their evidence of his will, I hear only coincidence and wishful thinking. This is a large world. There are billions of us and coincidences are bound to happen all the time. I am not surprised when I meet someone with my birthday or encounter someone in a far away land who grew up down the street from me. I’m not sure that there is any coincidence God could rig that would make me truly believe. I don’t trust my feelings or intuition as they are entirely subjective. I have had so many meaningless feelings of hope or impending doom. Our emotions are so often at odds with our reason that I cannot trust either.
So here I am. For the first time in my life I honestly seek God. I seek his answer. If he is as wonderful and powerful as they say then my feeble empiricism will be no match for His truth. I have asked for His strength at the darkest moments of my recent life. I have sought his love. Sometimes I think he has passed right by me on a subway train scurrying through the tunnels deep beneath the city. This is a hard old world with so much evil. I don’t blame God for any of it-we are responsible for our own fates and actions. I still don’t beseech God like a mythical gift giver. All I ask is to know whether He’s there. If I could choose my God he would be Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting. I seek the gruff old man with the bushy beard whose dark eyes have seen much. My God has a soothing voice and wears large old sweaters that smell like a grandfather-pipe smoke and Old Spice and every now and then, when I really need it, I can cry into his should until I feel strong enough once more to face the world.