Are all religions true, provable, genuine? Or, as atheists, agnostics, and other scoffers might put it, “If you can’t see it, touch it, or spit on it, it doesn’t exist.”
That is a difficult question to answer, isn’t it? We members of the human race, hundreds of billions of us over many thousands of years of history, have tended to create our own, varied religious beliefs, often based on where in the world we live, how we interpret things about our daily lives that we can’t explain, and a number of other things.
An atheist, a proud unbeliever, would probably say, “It’s all made up; you people just concocted a fairy tale about how we got here, that there is ‘some kind of god’ watching over us, and various other things. It’s just all nonsense.”
NOW, ALTHOUGH I disagree strongly with that opinion, the atheists have every right to believe in it if they want to. BUT, by the same token, all Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and those of all other faiths, have a right to believe what THEY believe, also.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that all those members of different religions have to agree with whatever all the other faiths teach. But, it also doesn’t give them the right to publicly ridicule another religion, physically attack members of another faith, or burn down or otherwise destroy places of worship or monuments of another religion. And, sadly, that unofficial ban on such hatred and intolerance has been violated, over and over again, by a large majority of all religions, for thousands of years.
And, once again, that is also part of the right of people to believe what they want, about whatever they want to. And of course, this includes the atheists, agnostics, and other non-believers.
THEY LOVE to confront believers as if they are defendants in a criminal trial. “Have you ever seen any god? Have you ever seen an angel? Have you ever heard a god’s voice? Have you ever seen a miracle occur? No? Then, heigh presto! That proves those are all just imaginary things, manufactured by people who want to control their fellow human beings!”
And if believers then counter, “If you think there is no God, no Heaven, then YOU prove it,” then of course the atheists, cocky and know-it-all as usual, answer, “You can’t prove a negative.” How convenient!
Of course, it’s not true that no one has ever seen an angel, that no one has ever gone to heaven — briefly — with God or whatever you want to call Him telling them that they must go back to normal life in the world for a while, that no one has ever seen the Virgin Mary — ever hear of the Miracle of Fatima, in Portugal, in 1917? And I’m sure that every religion has had such occurrences, at different times, at different places in the world. Just because there was no one there with a smart phone camera, recording it for history, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
Followers of religious faiths over the centuries have built some of the most beautiful structures — churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, whatever they’re called — ever created. Imagine a Christian looking at a Russian Orthodox cathedral, and marveling, “Did you ever see such a beautiful church in your life?” But if an atheist was with that Christian, he/she would sigh, shake their head, and say, “Imagine how many poor, hungry children could have been fed with all the money they wasted on that useless hulk!”
OF COURSE, the Christian might reply, “Imagine how many workmen it took to build that cathedral, and how many of their children were fed with the wages they received!”
But there are ways that hint at the truth of religious faith, without pointing out obvious things to the doubters. For instance: On April 23, 1616, both the immortal English playwright William Shakespeare, and the author of what is considered the first novel in history, “Don Quixote,” Miguel de Cervantes of Spain, died.
Oh, the unbelievers will say, don’t forget that Spain had already switched to a new way of counting days, while England had not, so that Cervantes actually died 10 days before Shakespeare! See, we proved them wrong again! Wink-wink, nudge-nudge!
OK; but when each man died, it was April 23 in his nation! Think that kind of coincidence just “happened”? These were two of the greatest authors of all time — and they both died the same day. Sounds like more than “coincidence” to me.
AND THEN we have John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, two of our Founding Fathers in the United States of America, both of whom served as our presidents. They had many political differences in their careers, but became much closer friends in their last years. Did you know they both died on July 4, 1826 — the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which was composed by Jefferson? Another “coincidence”? HA!
I’m going to wind up this column — before I start to bore you — with a brief tale of how religious faith changed my life. My grandfather was a Methodist minister; my mother was very devout. Every Sunday, Mom, Dad and I would attend church services. I never doubted the existence of God, and Heaven, the truth of the Bible, etc., but they didn’t play much of a part in my life for many years.
In both my childhood, my service in the U.S. Army, and my many years as a newspaper reporter, I did things that should have appeared ill-advised and societally wrong to me, but which never did, for a very long time. My drinking grew heavier until I had become an alcoholic. I never harmed anyone, never did anything that I knew was illegal, but I couldn’t seem to see that I was traveling down the wrong path.
FINALLY A sudden health issue put me into the hospital for the first time in my life. I had to stay for four days, and during that time I had plenty of time to think. And the first thing I thought of was, “Old boy, you’ve got to stop drinking, or you’re going to kill yourself!” And somehow, I was able to quit, cold turkey, and haven’t had a drink for 24 years.
I gradually realized that some of the other things I had been doing were giving me a bad reputation in my home town. And, somehow, I was able to stop those things, too.
And then one day, I got to thinking, “Why don’t you say a prayer before you go to bed each night?” So I began doing that. Occasionally I would ask the Lord for help in getting a much-needed larger source of regular income. And, gradually, things started happening, things I couldn’t have predicted and didn’t really understand, that did just that.
It all changed my life, for the better. And now occasionally, I’ll glance up at the sky and think, “Somebody up there likes me.”
I learned, through experience but not “Sunday School” or anything like it, that yes, God exists, He hears our prayers, and often He will cause good things to happen for us, even though we may not realize it at the time.
And, as Ebenezer Scrooge said at the conclusion of “A Christmas Carol,” “I’m not the man I was.”
Thank you, Lord.