My mother is a devout Christian today, largely if not wholly due to the change that happened in my life. But whatever faith she had at the time of my birth she kept to herself.
My older brother and I weren’t raised to believe any particular thing, but I suppose due to the unique conditions surrounding my father’s departure several relatives attempted to reach out to us. You could say I became a Christian at the age of 9, when I made the decision to be baptized. However, a combination of what I thought were shallow and hypocritical church teachings and an unusually troubling home life that seemed to go on without regard for my fervent prayers pushed me to atheism by middle school.
At 16, I rediscovered the authentic God that I still hoped existed, and the experiences I had around that time will live in my memory forever. To be clear, the hypocrisy, shallow teachings and troubled times hadn’t completely gone away, but I no longer sought truth in human choices.
The road has been smooth at times, and rocky at others, but it makes little difference to me. The life awarded to me as a believer in the God of Jacob, and in the Gospel of Christ is one of continual discovery, deeper meaning, authentic relationships and an authenticity of being that, in true Kierkegaardian fashion, motivates me to see the best in people and strive for something good in this dark world.
Some people convince themselves that God cannot exist because he wouldn’t let so many horrible things happen, or because logic and science seem to oppose religion. I don’t see things this way. I believe that evil is an active force upon humanity, and any semblance of peace, justice and wellbeing I consider a gift. Pain and suffering are to be expected—it is our health and prosperity that is undeserved. And on the second point, I find no fissure between faith and reason. Books can be—and have been—written on this subject, but I will only say that there will never be “scientific” proof that God does or does not exist, but there is something far more beautiful and more in harmony with the experience of the soul in Christianity than in any other faith, practice or lack thereof.
Enlightenment brought us into a new era of understanding that changed the world for the better in many ways, but it saw no value in a faith that was unfalsifiable, and therefore dismissed it. But from my perspective, nothing that the Enlightenment brought to fore is of any value without faith. The classic virtues—justice, prudence, temperance and fortitude—are empty and crippled without faith, hope and charity.
My Christianity has made a tremendous difference in the choices made in my life, and in the attitude with which I encounter any situation. There is very little consensus about what the “afterlife” really looks like, so I don’t really concern myself with it. And even if the whole thing is a scam and my brain has been playing tricks on me, I will not regret having lived the best life I could for those around me.