The atheists are at it again, with the U.S. Supreme Court about to consider a case that has come before it in which communal prayers recited before public meetings are targeted by the militant atheist movement, which wants those prayers to be cast into the “outer darkness.”
And outer darkness is about the only thing that atheists seem to believe in, since they ridicule and mock the ideas of God, creation, heaven, hell, an afterlife — you name it, and they don’t believe in it. Remember John Lennon’s post-Beatles hit, “Imagine”? The lyrics pretty much sum up the atheists’ world view: Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were no God, no heaven or hell, etc. ? As I’ve said many times in posting on the Salt Lake Tribune website (that forum is clogged with atheists and scoffers, despite the state of Utah’s strong identification with the Mormon church): “If you can’t see it, touch it or spit on it, you atheists insist that it doesn’t exist.”
Atheists all seem to be convinced that they’re oh, so smart; such brilliant, logical beings, looking down on, and smirking at, the rest of us dumb, brainwashed sheeple who believe in “fairy tales about an imaginary man in the sky,” yadda, yadda, yadda. If you don’t believe that an atheist is the smartest man in the room, just ask him, and he’ll assure you that he is.
Atheists will tell you that many people are believers in a Creator, and an afterlife, and a soul, because they were brainwashed in Sunday School, and they aren’t capable of thinking for themselves, and it’s easy to be a believer, because then you don’t HAVE to think … They’ve got a justification for their non-belief, and an excuse to ridicule you BECAUSE you believe, at every turn. They’ll tell you, with smug certainty, “There’s no god; no heaven or hell. When you die, that’s it; you’re gone. Because there’s no such thing as a soul, either.”
Sure, guys; sure. This whole world, this whole universe, just happened by accident one day; something big went BANG! and, hey presto, we had a world, with people, animals, yadda, yadda. Logic — that quality the atheists all profess to hold in such high regard — dictates that that notion is nonsense. It flies in the face of all that’s reasonable. It is equivalent to saying that Rembrandt’s masterpieces all painted themselves.
Did I ever lean that way? Well, sort of, when I was young and foolish, with little life experience but a lot of self-righteous idealism — typical of a lot of young people. I started reading books by a man named Philip Wylie, who was a professional scoffer (he’d been raised as a Presbyterian, but cast that off in early manhood, apparently), and because he sounded so smart, and hip, and COOL, I began thinking just the same way he did. Or rather, DOUBTING just as he’d started to doubt as a young man.
That part of my life passed fairly quickly, and I just didn’t think much about religion for a long time. I had a career in journalism with the Madison Courier, incessant reading for pleasure in my off time, a growing alcohol habit which I tended to with great care, and religion just sort of took a back seat, for a long time. I hadn’t been real big on it as a kid growing up at Trinity United Methodist Church, but we went every Sunday (Dad and I reluctantly) because Mom insisted on it. Her dad had been a Methodist minister, and she was devout and serious about her faith.
So I sort of believed, in kind of a passive, not-into-it-all-that-much way, and just let it go at that. Religion wasn’t anything I hated, like the atheists do; I didn’t feel like I had to PROVE — or rather, DISPROVE — anything about it. I didn’t obsess about it, like so many of the atheists do.
My realization that religion, or rather, faith, and belief, wasn’t just about some minister, or priest, conducting the service on Sunday, and people sitting and listening passively, came along very slowly and very subtly. When I was young, and up into middle age, I had looked at the older people who were the most regular communicants at church, and I would think, “Well, they’re here every Sunday because they know they don’t have much longer to live, and they want to make sure they’re right with the God that they believe in.”
Then, as I got older myself, I began to notice things about my own life. About the way things worked out; about how, even though I was too close to the trees at the time to see the forest, there appeared to be a pattern to the way my life developed; one I had had no consciousness of at the time the things were happening. I enlisted in the U.S. Army right after high school, on my dad’s suggestion (thank you, Dad; best advice I ever got). I can still hear him telling me how it might help with my medical expenses in later life. What 18-year-old thinks about “medical expenses?” But I followed his advice — and today, as a retired senior citizen who is a military veteran, I am fully covered by the VA health care system, so I don’t have to get involved in any way in the god-awful mess they call “Obamacare.” Thanks again, Dad!
As a child, I was a voracious reader (as I still am). It was something I couldn’t have stopped any more than I could have deliberately quit breathing. Mom, who was a devoted reader herself, used to get put out with me, and tell me to go out and play for a while and quit “reading your eyes out!” But it did no good; reading was my life. And, as is the case with many compulsive readers, from an early age writing, composing, came naturally to me, too. I wrote for myself, essays for school, whatever was the excuse, I would put pen to paper. Some people are born natural athletes; I was born a natural journalist. And my love for the printed page, and for compiling printed pages of my own, led me to a job with our local newspaper, which lasted 40 years. Assisted, of course, by my Army service where I learned to be a reporter.
And in more recent years, especially since my retirement, several things have happened in my life that have convinced me, without a doubt, that there is a Creator, and that He intervenes in human affairs. No, I’m not going to share those incidents with you; everybody should have a few secrets they don’t share with anybody.
Now, I certainly didn’t mean this essay to be “about me.” I’m just using my own life to try to illustrate what I think happens in so many of our lives: Things — often but not always — fall into place, gradually, imperceptibly, as your life goes on, and because if you’re like most of us you’re too busy LIVING that life, that you don’t notice. Except, maybe, in later life, when you have more life experience, and more time to ponder things, and a mindset that will allow you to do that. Then, you may start seeing a pattern — a plan. Things happened for a reason. There weren’t really any “coincidences.” Someone — call it God, or Allah, or Brahm, or the Creator — has a Divine Plan for the world.
Do you remember the Sandy Hook massacre of 20 young children and several adults at an elementary school? I’m sure that some of you reading this heard people say, with obvious distress, “Why would a merciful, loving God allow those innocent little children to die such horrible deaths?”
At first glance, it sounds like a logical question. Something that might push some people toward the beginnings of disbelief, assuming they were believers before. But let me point out a piece of significant 20th Century history to try to show why, even though things like that are horrible, they could be part of a Divine Plan that we humans can’t really understand.
Adolf Hitler is considered by many historians to be “the most evil man in history.” That’s debatable — Stalin and Mao Tse-tung each was responsible for more deaths than Hitler — but there is no question that the Nazi leader caused millions of deaths, including those of 6 million Jews deliberately massacred in the gas chambers.
Now, I remember distinctly in reading about Hitler’s childhood, that when he was 5 years old he was playing near a canal in his hometown, fell into it, and would have drowned if it had not been for the quick rescue performed by a passing resident. During World War I, when he was a messenger in a German infantry unit on the front lines for the entire four years of the war, there were numerous occasions when Hitler narrowly missed serious injury or death during battles — but always, somehow, escaped unharmed or with slight wounds. A number of years after the war, after looking at photos of the then-Fuehrer of Germany, a British Army veteran was convinced that Hitler was the German soldier he had in his sights during a battle late in the war, but allowed to walk away unscathed because Hitler had lost his weapon and was defenseless. Hitler’s comrades used to joke that if you stayed near him in battle, you would never get hurt.
Later, during the rise of the Nazi party, Hitler’s achieving of power, his transforming of Germany, and his initiation of World War II, he survived a fulissade of bullets fired at members of his party during a street demonstration in 1923 (a number of his followers were killed), and several assassination attempts, including the final one in summer 1944 which left him wounded — but alive and still in command.
And most historians agree that, when Hitler finally died, it was by his own hand, in his bunker in Berlin, as American and Russian forces closed in on the collapsing Nazi regime.
A cynical atheist probably would say, “You see? An evil creature like Adolf Hitler survives all those close calls, so he can kill millions of innocent people! That proves there is no God!”
Except that it proves nothing of the sort. No one can know for sure, but here’s my guess at the reasons: The Jews, God’s “chosen people” according to the Bible, were desperately seeking a nation of their own in Palestine during the 1920s and 1930s. For 2,000 years, Jewish groups had after-dinner toasted with the same phrase: “Next year, in Jerusalem.” What if God decided that, in order for a “saving remnant” of the Jews to finally found the State of Israel, a horrendous tragedy would have to befall the Jewish people as a whole — horrendous enough to arouse the sympathy in the world that would assure that it was founded. And what if God, being God, knew that Adolf Hitler was the only human being who had the abilities and motivations to put such a tragedy into motion?
That sounds horrible, doesn’t it? I can hear readers crying out in disbelief, saying, “No! God would never do that!” and the like. But here’s the thing: We are humans — mortals. WE wouldn’t do that, if we had the power. But God, is God: The Creator. His ways are not our ways, and we are not capable of understanding some of the things that he causes to happen in the world.
To get back for a moment to the Salt Lake Tribune, whose regular posters are the most negative, hard-core liberal, anti-religion group I’ve ever encountered in one place: When anyone defends the Mormon church, or religion in general, in a post about a story having to do with faith, their typical reply is, “Prove it. Prove God exists. Prove that the Trinity actually appeared to Joseph Smith. Where is your proof?”
I always explain to them that we’re not in a court of law; that religion doesn’t have to be “proved.” Somewhere in the Bible, it says that faith is believing in that which cannot be proven. You either believe in the tenets of your particular faith; or, if you are a disbelieving scoffer like the typical atheist, you don’t. OK; nobody says you have to believe. But I’d say that most atheists, deep down, are not totally comfortable with their negativity, their unbelief. They have to constantly try to destroy others’ faith, to attempt to bring them over with the atheists, into that outer darkness.
And why is that? Because they’re afraid. Afraid that maybe, just maybe, when they die, the darkness won’t just close over them and usher them into oblivion. They’re afraid they’ll come back to consciousness, open their eyes, and find Someone bending over them — Someone surrounded by a blinding light, and with enormously kind eyes, gazing into their own. And when they finally manage to say, “Who — who are YOU?” the Being will answer, “Why, son, I’m that guy you didn’t believe in!”