I had a pleasant childhood, growing up in in Maryland with my grandparents. They were secular and my grandfather was especially so, being an atheist. Despite that, I did attend a Christian Sunday school for several years while growing up. My older sister and I eventually revolted and my grandparents stopped dropping us off at the church doors.
In high school I had a religious experience where I felt that God put a burden on my heart. I prayed a sinner’s prayer and soon after, I got heavily involved in a local church. After high school, I attended an evangelical Christian college (Liberty University) where I received a degree in religion and Biblical study with the original intent of becoming a pastor. I was opened to whatever the Lord wanted me to do. After college, I was often heavily involved in church as a teacher, committee member, fill-in worship leader, and an occasional fill-in preacher. I’m not someone who read the Bible – – I studied it from cover to cover. I was a fundamentalist and I believed that the Bible was inerrant (at least in its original language). I also raised a large family of 5 kids to believe the same.
Those who knew me saw my sincerity. I was told often that I was patient and kind. I was a true believer. I remember feeling terribly sad about “a world that was going to hell” because they didn’t believe in Jesus.
But I also remember some rather naive beliefs in my early adult years where I thought that every little thing that happened to me was tied to God’s will, and I believed that God was involved in even the smallest details of my life. I know I wasn’t alone as it was often encouraged from the pulpit.
One silly memory of mine was of getting mad at God at 17 when I came down with a particularly bad head cold. I thought to myself, “God! I have so much to do! Why did you allow me to get this bad cold!?”. Similarly, if there was a car accident or some other minor calamity, I concluded that God was involved or possibly even responsible. And if someone had a disability, it was likely God’s hand that was in play. Natural disasters? Yep, God.
As I grew older, my perspective started to change because of logic and reason. If I caught a cold, I realized it was because I had been exposed to one of the 100 or so viruses that caused it, such as the rhino-virus. Was God to blame? Of course not. Car accidents typically had a logical cause when distraction and/or a driver mistake was accounted for. And if someone had cancer, was God to blame? No, cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. The causes can be many and may include chemical or toxic compound exposure, or different types of radiation (including the sun), and there’s also a strong correlation to a person’s family genetics. God is not the cause.
But what about major weather events? Hurricanes? Tornadoes? Or earthquakes? Volcanoes? And tsunamis?
Was God the author of all of that death and destruction? My opinion about God being the cause of natural disasters wasn’t black and white anymore. I wasn’t sure. The science of weather forecasting, meteorology, etc., helped to show us predictable patterns and the causes for many catastrophic events. I felt uncertain about it all.
But then one day, my oldest son declared that he was an atheist. His change of heart rocked my world and it put me on a spiritual journey that took many years. This short blog series shares my journey.