From the time that I could think rationally on the subject, I did not believe in God…
What made me consider God’s existence a real possibility? The Lord of the Rings. I was a young teenager when I first read the Tolkien tomes, and it immediately captivated me. The fantasy world of Middle-Earth oozes life and profundity. The cultures of the various peoples are organic, rooted in tradition while maintaining a fresh, living energy. Mountains and forests have personalities, and the relationship between people and earth is marked by stewardship and intimacy. Creation knowing creation. Tolkien describes these things with beautiful prose that reads like its half poetry and half medieval history. Everything seems “deep” in The Lord of the Rings. The combination of character archetypes and assertive “lifeness” in the novel touches on an element of fundamental humanity. Every Lord of the Rings fan knows exactly what I’m talking about.
In my narrow confines of scientism, I had no way of processing what made Tolkien’s masterpiece so profound. How could a made-up fantasy world reveal anything about the “truth”? But I knew it did, and this changed my way of thinking. Are good and evil merely social constructions, or are they real on a deeper level? Why am I relating to ridiculous things like talking trees and corrupted wraiths? Why was I so captivated by this story that made fighting evil against all odds so profound? Why did it instill in me a longing for an adventure of the arduous good? And how does the story make sacrifice so appealing? The Lord of the Rings showed me a world where things seemed more “real” than the world I lived in. Not in a literal way, obviously; in a metaphorical, beyond-the-surface way. The beautiful struggle and self-sacrificial glory permeating The Lord of the Rings struck a chord in my soul and filled me with longing that I couldn’t easily dismiss.
An important piece I came to understand prior to my conversion was that my standard of proof was completely unrealistic. I wanted airtight proof before I could believe in God, and I came to realize almost none of the things I knew in life enjoyed this kind of support: my name, my date of birth, the reality of the outside world, the existence of other people, and a multitude of other things I was yet fully rational in believing. So my expectations about God suffered from a double standard.
“To believe in some sort of a God is fairly comfortable. It’s more inconvenient to believe in a God who is so specific and so particular that you can say: ‘There He is in history, there are His words, there are my responsibilities. I can’t make it up.'”
A young chaplain at one of the colleges of Oxford University made it his practice every year to interview each new student in his college. He wanted to get to know each one and to explain something of the religious program in that college. On occasion, after the chaplain had made his case for the program, a freshman would explain a bit awkwardly that he did not believe in God and probably would not be active in the chaplain’s program. The chaplain would than reply, “How interesting! And in which god do you not believe?” The student then would try to explain his atheism. The chaplain would smile and comment on the fact that he and the student had a great deal in common, for he did not believe in the existence of that god either.
God maintains a delicate balance between keeping his existence sufficiently evident so people will know he’s there, and yet hiding his presence enough so that people who want to choose to ignore him can do it. This way, their choice of destiny is really free.
I would rather live my life as though
there is a God and die to find out that
there isn’t, than to live my life as though
there is no God and die to find out there is. –Dag Hammarskjold Former Secretary-General of the UN
One of the peculiar sins of the twentieth century which we’ve developed to a very high level is the sin of credulity. It has been said that when human beings stop believing in God they believe in nothing. The truth is much worse: they believe in anything.