- Religion and Philosophy
My Encounter with the Dreaded Christian
I used to be an atheist. I used to think that religion was for the weak minded. Those people who need hope in the supernatural in order to live, those people who judge everybody around them. I thought that religion gave people an excuse to be self righteous and that it was the root cause of the evil in the world. I used to think that the concept of a loving and just God was ridiculous. How can a loving God allow such suffering in the world? How can a just God allow rapists and murderers into this heaven for simply believing in Him? These people who believed in this must not have thought their beliefs out, they must not have much knowledge about scientific theories, and they must be ignorant.
In my first week of University I attended a pseudoscience lecture. During the lecture the professor asked us to break into groups and take a survey. One of the men in my group seemed very knowledgeable about the subject matter. After some discussion about cosmological theories, science and pseudoscience I had a fairly high opinion of this man. He seemed intelligent and well read. Then the subject of angels arose, and he said he believed in these creatures. My heart dropped, I had somehow wandered right into a conversation with a nut. Now, I avoided religious people like the plague, I did not want to be looked down upon especially by somebody who believed in angels. I put up my walls and gave the man the cold shoulder for the rest of the class. I answered questions in the fewest words possible and left immediately after class. I went home regretting that I had given the man my phone number earlier in the class, I was certain I would receive a message or a call.
Sure enough it was only a few days before he texted me asking me to grab a coffee with him. I declined as politely as I could and put him out of my mind. For the next few weeks I talked to him on in off in class and rejected every invitation sent my way. One day I was feeling rather down and did not want to go home after class as I was having family issues. I texted a few friends looking for a distraction when I received another message from this man. He was asking me to grab dinner. Desperate for a distraction I agreed and met up with him. Dinner was quite entertaining; I was reminded of the man’s witty sense of humor and was completely at ease with him. We started to meet up often and he did not mention his religion or ask me about my beliefs. I had never met somebody who had such a wide range of random knowledge. He researched anything that came to mind; I found that there were few things he was completely ignorant about. He loved science, and history. Had a passion for law and literature, and a social life that seemed impossible. Overall, he was a smart, well rounded individual.
Eventually the topic of religion came up in class; my new friend was quick to jump into discourse with the professor. He was respectful, yet pointed out the flaws in the professors understanding of the religions. This lecture sparked a conversation between my friend and a woman about Judaism and Christianity. The conversation was highly entertaining and quite informative. After that I was less reluctant to talk about religion, somehow sensing this, my friend began to talk to me about his faith.
He encouraged me to think about my preconceived notions when it came to religion and especially Christianity. He challenged my understanding of cosmological and scientific theories. Eventually I began to examine my mindset. I realized that my opinion about religious people had created a division in my mind. There were the normal people and the religious people. There were the intelligent people, and the religious people. I realized that I was a hypocrite. I was judging these “religious” people for beliefs I did not understand, while accusing them of judging me. I was using my childhood knowledge of the Catholic faith to judge a wide range of religions. I was using my memory of a childhood Bible that I read through to judge the scriptures. This man had made me face myself. He threw my insults aside and waited patiently while I realized that my insults were aimed in the wrong direction.
A short while later I attended my friend’s church. I was still quite arrogant and I thought I was going to go to his church and find flaws. Find a group of self righteous hypocrites. I mean not every Christian could be like this friend. As soon as we walked in the doors of this church I was thrown off. There were no pews, there was no gold and there was no chalice on a pedestal. This church was a room with folding chairs; everybody was hanging out drinking coffee and talking about their week. I was baffled; this was not what church was supposed to be. When one of the men said to stand for worship I felt a little more secure in my judgments. This was it, the nutty behavior I was waiting for. I stood with everybody else as some men in the front began jamming on the guitar and bass. I stared as they started to sing a fast paced song; people were clapping and dancing to the music. These were not the hymns I remembered. This was something entirely new to me. After a few songs the lead singer said a quick prayer, and then a couple jokes before telling us to go hang out. Some of the church members introduced themselves to me and I realized that they were all normal, although perhaps a little friendlier than I was used to, people. After a few minutes the pastor started his sermon. I wasn’t sure if I could even call it a sermon, he showed us a PowerPoint presentation riddled with jokes and culturally relevant references. As I said I had only a catholic background, I thought that pastors would be wearing white robes and reciting chants. This man was wearing jeans and a t-shirt while talking about The Simpsons.
I left church with a lot of questions. My friend was patient and answered as many as he could. There were some he couldn’t answer and was happy to say he didn’t know. He wasn’t worried about knowing every answer to every question; he was ready to look for the answers with me.
I started to dig, I attended the church on and off for a few weeks. I read a little bit about the scriptures, eventually reading the Bible itself. I went through a point in time where I refused to go to the church because I was afraid of becoming brainwashed. I wanted to do my research by myself, with no interference. Like this I could be sure of where my thoughts were coming from. My friend understood, he continued to go to church and I continued to study.
I soon learned that science and religion are not mutually exclusive. In fact the current model of the Big Bang theory works very well with what is described in the Bible. I also realized that evolution definitely had a place in this belief system. These realizations were comforting to me as I do trust in both theories.
Soon enough I stopped reading about the science, and started to focus on the history. I was astounding; this Jesus character had really existed. He was not a mythological character; he was a real man who lived a real life. Of course this did not convince me that he was the Son of God, but it did convince me that I did not have all my facts straight.
I don’t know what the turning point was. I don’t know when I had enough time to myself, but one day I decided to attend the church again. Nobody asked where I had been, nobody questioned my sudden return. They just greeted me and talked to me the same as before.
This is the story of my finding out that I was being an ignorant and stubborn hypocrite. I decided to share it because it is also the story of how I made one of the biggest decisions of my life…without even realizing I made it. One event didn’t cause me to become Christian, one person didn’t cause me to reconsider my beliefs, and one church didn’t change my view of religionists. However, one God did change my heart.