Most mornings, I find myself neck-deep in a swimming pool doing low-impact and high cardiovascular exercise. For about an hour, I do this while talking with some friends I’ve made who are doing the same, though not for as long as I.
Two in particular provide for an occasional lively discussion on religion. One considers himself an agnostic but was raised Roman Catholic and volunteers at a paleontology lab at a local museum. The other says he is, “Episcopalian, or used to be, or I don’t know.” Mostly, he is a scientist, Ph.D. level.
Their opinions about religion are many and varied, but the short version is, they don’t like churches. I rarely get into it with them at this point, favoring just an amused smile over an argument. They know I’m LDS. They know I’m same-sex attracted. They know I’ve put my trust more in my LDS-ness than in my gayness. Neither of them have a problem with that, or at least not that they’ve expressed. They seem to enjoy my sense of humor about my condition and they’ve never been naysayers about my right and prospects for following my faith.
One morning, we got on the subject 0f religion and they launched their tirades, mostly a mutually congratulatory exchange about organized religion and their proud insistence that God can’t be proven. In both cases, they’ve had bad experiences with the church’s they once called home and negative views of all other churches.
I always think about my own faith at these times. One of their complaints about organized religion is that it ignores scientific evidence. Those are the moments when my amusement levels go up, because their objections are based on a lot of stupid stuff.
For example, the one who works in the paleontology lab often encounters people who insist that the earth is no older than ten thousand years. The problem with his argument is that, firstly, the common Christian notion is that the earth is to last for seven thousand years, including the millenium. This is based on the calculations of Bishop James User in the seventeenth century where he did some math based on the ages of the antediluvian patriarchs and significant events. He dated the creation in 4004BC and predicted the Second Coming in 1996. He got his seven thousand years from the Book of Revelation symbolism. My second part of my friend’s argument has to do with carbon dating and the fossil record.
What amuses me, apart from the fact that he got the number of years wrong from a creationist point of view, is that he thinks that such notions held by some Christians makes Christianity wrong. For people so methodical in their thinking, they so quickly believe such illogical thinking. Because some Christians or maybe even a majority of Christians believe something absurd, then Christianity is wrong and Christ doesn’t exist.
It is funny how triumphantly he declares the whole of religion to be wrong because of some unprovable ideas held by some religious people. The other friend just built on the illogical argument and launched a tirade about the motives of churches in sticking to such nonsense, not only condemning religious people but also organized religions and churches.
He did admit that scientists often act more on faith than evidence, assuming that certain things are true because they haven’t yet been dis-proven. In all of their ramblings about their problems with religion, I find myself often my own religious experience. I know that you can’t prove that God exists through science, but what I find interesting about agnostics and mildly religious people who prefer science is that you can prove the existence of God to yourself.
I can’t prove it to anyone else, but I know that God lives. What they can never disprove are my own encounters with God in my journey through life. I don’t know what goes on behind those amused smiles when I talk about the prayer experience I had where I turned my life back to God and the Church. I have a feeling they think I was just deluded, experiencing a highly emotional and mental disturbance that helped me make sense of the dichotomy between my same-sex feelings and the teachings of the Church.
They would probably think the same of the spiritually powerful experience I had praying about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. I testify of the these things in my own way and in many places. Some will feel the Spirit. Some won’t. I’ve come to understand that this isn’t up to me. My part is to testify.
My friends seem to take the attitude that “God can exist, as long as he doesn’t disagree with me.” I take the attitude that God exists because I’ve experienced him and it is up to me to agree with God and do what he asks me personally to do.
If God exists, as agnostics admit he may, then I would think it would be important to find out. I would also think that if one did find out, he would want to take advantage of the superior intelligence that God possesses. They say that God probably doesn’t exist because of things we know about the cosmos. I say that no matter how much you know about the cosmos, there is still room for God to exist. More than that, I say that I know God exists and that you won’t encounter him through science.
I like the story of Elijah in the cave where the Lord made himself know to Elijah:
Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
There are many arguments in favor of the existence of God in natural events like wind, earthquakes, and fire, but I believe it takes even more to truly know God.
I once stood out in a field away from the city under a cloudless night sky with an atheist friend of mine who declared as he looked up, “It’s times like this that I almost believe in God.”
It’s easy to momentarily believe in God as you see the awesomeness of natural events and the beauty of creation, but the only permanent understanding of God comes through personal encounters with him, through the still small voice.