Can a Christian vote for a Mormon?

Governor Mitt Romney of MA

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Mitt Romney’s Mormonism has been put into the campaign spotlight once again. Per the NY Daily News:

The Rev. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas was introducing Perry to conservatives at the Values Voters Summit when he dissed Romney, saying that, as a Mormon, he isn’t really Christian and, thus, isn’t competent to run the country.

“I think Mitt Romney’s a good, moral man, but those of us who are born again followers of Christ should prefer a competent Christian,” Jeffress told the crowd in Tiffin, Iowa.

Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons.

“Rick Perry’s a Christian. He’s an evangelical Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ,” Jeffress said. “Mormonism is not Christianity. It has always been considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity.”

There are a lot of troubling things with this statement by Rev. Jeffress. To start with, the world “cult” is often thrown around loosely in Christian circles. If you define “cult” in the harsher sense as “a quasi-religious organization using devious psychological techniques to gain and control adherents” then I’m not quite sure Mormonism qualifies. If Jeffress means “a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious” then I think his criticism hits the mark. Mormons do have some rather weird beliefs that do not mesh with orthodox Christianity, such as the doctrine of divine progression, that God has a physical body and lives on the planet Kolob, etc. However, how this exactly is all relevant to Romney’s candidacy is a bit hard for me to follow. Mormonism might be theologically out to lunch in the sense that its teachings are unorthodox and its claims are based on fables, but it doesn’t follow that all of their beliefs and ethics are therefore untrue.

For example, if I understand the Mormon view of humanity correctly, God the father used to be a man on another planet. The father god progressed into Godhood by living after the laws of the God on that planet. He then came to this world with his wife (a goddess?), and that they had billions of spirit babies in heaven. These children include the entire human and angelic race on earth, from Jesus to Lucifer to me and to you. All of our memories of that pre-existent state in heaven are erased at our birth. Therefore, human life is a sacred gift and elective abortion is grounds for being dismissed from the church.

Now, that is an odd theological view of humankind, but nonetheless it serves as their basis for being pro-life, which I think is a correct ethical belief. Someone else who may have no faith at all might simply believe simply read an embryology textbook and find out that human development begins at fertilization and come to the same conclusion as the Mormon, that abortion is wrong. The point is that people can hold true beliefs that are derivative from that faith but can be defended as true separately of it, and that includes people whose faith we might think is pretty “out there”.

What is important is not how Mr. Romney derives his beliefs, but what his real beliefs actually are and how they are relevant to the presidency. As far as I can tell, Mormons like most theists (and even many non-theists) hold that human life is precious, that morality is objective and binding, that all have certain natural rights etc. One’s theological beliefs should not decide whether one is fit for the presidency, but their qualifications to actually do the job in question. I think that attacking a person’s credentials to be president based on their faith is wrong, and only serves to further the unfortunate stereotype that Christians are illogical bigots.

(In case any of you are wondering, I have no dog in this fight. I am undecided and probably will remain so up until the time of the primaries. I did not vote for Mr. Romney in 2008.)

Is Intuition an Unjustifiable Reason for Faith?

The Thinker

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The writers at LiveScience.com tell us that those who are more intuitive are people who are more likely to have faith in God.

Shenhav and his colleagues investigated that question in a series of studies. In the first, 882 American adults answered online surveys about their belief in God. Next, the participants took a three-question math test with questions such as, “A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?”

The intuitive answer to that question is 10 cents, since most people’s first impulse is to knock $1 off the total. But people who use “reflective” reasoning to question their first impulse are more likely to get the correct answer: 5 cents.

Sure enough, people who went with their intuition on the math test were found to be one-and-a-half times more likely to believe in God than those who got all the answers right. The results held even when taking factors such as education and income into account.

The headline of the article reads that “belief in God boils down to a gut feeling”. I think some may read this article and walk away with the feeling that belief in God is therefore unjustified, or even irrational. To use an example, a football coach may decide to “go for it” on 4th and short based on a hunch and have it end up backfiring and costing his team valuable field position, or possibly even the game. The last thing fans want to hear from the coach is that he went with his gut. Intuition isn’t always the best justification for our beliefs.

But when considering the question of God’s existence, the answer is not like taking a math quiz or gambling field position in a football game. Some truths that are known intuitively are perfectly justified. Intuition could be defined as pure, untaught, inferential knowledge. In other words, some things are self-evident. Take for instance moral facts. Moral facts cannot be proven scientifically. You can describe what happens to a woman psychologically or physiologically when she is being raped by a man, but science cannot tell you why one ought not to rape a woman. That is something we infer based upon on our moral intuitions. We just know that some things are just plain wrong. Thomas Aquinas once wrote  “A truth can come into the mind in two ways, namely as known in itself, and as known through another. What is known in itself is like a principle, and is perceived immediately by the mind….It is a firm and easy quality of mind which sees into principles.”

Moreover, if we continue to ask for justification for everything we can possibly know, we fall into an infinite regress. Greg Koukl states that..

If it’s always necessary to give a justification for everything we know, then knowledge would be impossible, because we could never answer an infinite series of questions. It’s clear, though, that we do know some things without having to go through the regress. Therefore, not every bit of knowledge requires justification based on prior steps of reasoning. Eventually you’re going to be pushed back to something foundational, something you seem to have a direct awareness of and for which you need no further evidence.

Furthermore, if God does exist and he wants to be known and he wants us to act a certain way towards him and our fellow-man, one way he can make himself known is through instilling in intuitions so that we respond in such a way he would like. We can then choose to stifle those intuitions, play dumb and demand an unreasonable amount of evidence – or we can choose to respond.

Finally, I would also say that being a more reflective person does not necessarily mean one will end up being an atheist or an agnostic. Quite the contrary. As Francis Bacon famously quipped. “A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.”

When one seriously reflects on things such as what could be the first cause of the universe, or why the universe displays such exquisite design, or what is the basis for moral facts, or how the Christian faith originated, they will find that faith cannot only be grasped intuitively, but also intellectually.

Science Sez So: Man Made God

This week the L.A. Times ran an op-ed piece written by two atheists who use neuroscience to show us that God is a human invention. Cutting edge stuff, I know.

In recent years scientists specializing in the mind have begun to unravel religion’s “DNA.” They have produced robust theories, backed by empirical evidence (including “imaging” studies of the brain at work), that support the conclusion that it was humans who created God, not the other way around. And the better we understand the science, the closer we can come to “no heaven … no hell … and no religion too.”

Like our physiological DNA, the psychological mechanisms behind faith evolved over the eons through natural selection. They helped our ancestors work effectively in small groups and survive and reproduce, traits developed long before recorded history, from foundations deep in our mammalian, primate and African hunter-gatherer past.

Game over, right?  As I gather it, their argument runs something like this:

  1. Psychological mechanisms are the byproduct of natural processes, viz. natural selection.
  2. Faith in God, religious experience, etc. is the result of these natural, psychological processes.
  3. Therefore, religious belief is invalid.

This all seems so groovy and scientific, but at bottom it is a bunch of fallacious hooey. (Hooey, I say! Fighting words!)

1. The argument commits the genetic fallacy. The genetic fallacy is based solely on something or someone’s origin and not its current meaning or context. The truth of a belief is independent of how we came to know it. I could believe that Des Moines is the capitol of Iowa from reading tea leaves. It doesn’t mean that Des Moines isn’t the capitol of Iowa; it just means I have some lousy justification for thinking that such is the case. Even if we grant that human beings have some fallible and possibly sketchy reasons for believing God might exist, it doesn’t follow that God doesn’t exist.

2. The argument is bulverism. Bulverism is when the argument is assumed to be wrong and then we’re told why the person believes the argument instead of being told why it is really wrong.The writers say that the religious believe for their need of attachment and protection. They go on to write that  “among the psychological adaptations related to religion are our need for reciprocity, our tendency to attribute unknown events to human agency, our capacity for romantic love, our fierce “out-group” hatreds and just as fierce loyalties to the in groups of kin and allies.”  What’s being said goes something like this:

  1. You say God exists.
  2. Because of your psychological need for attachment, protection, to explain the unexplained, etc, you personally want there to be a God.
  3. Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

That doesn’t follow at all. It would be an equally fallacious assertion for the Christian to say to the atheist “you say God doesn’t exist only because of your psychological wish to make your own rules and have no higher accountability for your life”. That’s just attacking the person, not the arguments. I will say that I do find it ironic that the writers of this piece act like they’re being objective and are themselves free from psychological factors. Along these lines, I find this truthful admission from atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel to be refreshing. Nagel says

“I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and naturally hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope that there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”

Again, this doesn’t prove atheism to be true or false. The point is that no one is completely free from psychological factors in their beliefs.

3. The argument is question-begging. What the writers are saying is “we know religious beliefs aren’t true because there is no God, so religious beliefs have to be explained by purely natural means”.  If there is no God, then our religious beliefs are selected by evolution strictly for survival value, not for truth. But if God exists, wouldn’t it be rational to think He would want us to know that He does, in fact, exist? So God could either guide the process of evolution in such a way that human beings will develop basic cognizance that He is real, or He could simply just instill a belief in us that He does exist and that he wants a relationship with us. We then could choose to suppress that knowledge or not. That seems to be the point of what Paul was saying in Romans 1:

…The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened…

4. The argument is self-defeating. If naturalism is true, then all of our beliefs; not just religious ones, are the byproduct of blind, unguided material forces. If our cognitive faculties cannot be trusted to have true spiritual beliefs, what makes us think we can we trust them to produce true beliefs about anything related to the real world? Purely naturalistic evolution is not concerned with learning truth, but survival:  feeding, fleeing, fighting, and reproducing.  Charles Darwin himself admitted:

With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?

J.B.S. Haldane, the famous biologist said something similar:

“If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of [physical materials] in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true … and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of [physical materials].”

In his book Miracles, C.S. Lewis also addresses this in the chapter aptly titled “The Cardinal Difficulty of Naturalism”

“If all that exists is Nature, the great mindless interlocking event, if our own deepest convictions are merely the by-products of an irrational process, then clearly there is not the slightest ground for supposing that our sense of fitness and our consequent faith in uniformity tell us anything about a reality external to ourselves. Our convictions are simply a fact about us-like the colour of our hair. If Naturalism is true we have no reason to trust our conviction that Nature is uniform.”

Any theory that leads us to such radical skepticism about our beliefs – not just our religious beliefs, but all of our beliefs, including our scientific beliefs – is self-defeating. On the contrary, the theist has no reason to doubt her cognitive faculties if they are given to them by God; who would want her to have true beliefs. The theist is actually justified in believing that they actually can take advantage of “our mind’s greatest adaptation: our ability to use reason”.

Imagine that.

Finally, I have to say something about this –

 It is conceivable that St. Paul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus was, in reality, a seizure caused by temporal lobe epilepsy.

So Paul may have had a seizure that caused him to have a religious experience and go from persecuting the church to being its greatest advocate? Did the women at the tomb have an epileptic seizure that caused them to see an empty tomb and an angel? Did the disciples who said they saw Christ after his crucifixion and burial, did they also experience some sort of seizure that caused them to believe they saw the risen Jesus? The disciples claimed they saw the risen Jesus individually and in groups; were they experiencing some sort of seizure that caused them all to hallucinate the same thing?  Does that even remotely explain the historical facts? But I guess I’m just leaning on some psychological crutch and not using my ability to reason. Right?

The Christian and the Euthyphro Dilemma

Bust of Socrates in the Vatican Museum

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One of the arguments raised against God being the basis for morality is the age-old Euthyphro Dilemma. Socrates, in Plato’s dialogue, asks Euthyphro: “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” The modern adaptation raised against theism goes something like this: “Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?”

The Catch-22 for the theist is this:

  1. God could command any arbitrary thing that popped into his head – like killing kittens – and we’d be obligated to obey and call it good because God says so. Or
  2. God answers to some sort of higher moral standard outside of himself, thus he cannot be the basis for our morality.

Based on biblical teachings, I do not think the Euthyphro dilemma poses a real problem for the Christian at all. If the statements found in the Bible are even possibly true in what they say about God, then the Euthyphro dilemma is really a false dilemma.

  1. “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” (Referring to evil as darkness and light as good) (1 John 1:5)
  2. “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8)
  3. God is triune “And I (Jesus) will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (Jn. 14:16)
  4. God is eternal and necessary. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (Jn. 1:1-3)
  5. God’s character is unchanging. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. “ (James 1:17)

So if God is light and he is unchanging, then He cannot on a whim become a “dark god” and command torture of little babies. If God is love, then what he commands will by necessity be loving. If God is triune, then his morality is not found outside himself, but within the persons of the Trinity. The persons who make up the Godhead relate to each other freely not out of law or arbitrary demands,  but out of perfect and maximal love for the other. “For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.” (John 3:34-35)

So assuming the Bible is correct in what it says about the nature of God, God cannot have other traits then the ones that He possesses,  thus there is no arbitrariness. Furthermore, there is no higher moral good than love of the self-sacrificial, agape kind. God’s commands flow from his loving nature, and the New Testament command is to believe in Jesus Christ  love as Christ loved. (Jn. 13:34-35, 1 Jn. 3:22-24) There is no love standard that the triune God answers to outside of himself, He is necessarily a perfectly loving being by his very own nature.

Moreover, we read that whether we know God or not, He has “hard-wired” all humanity to recognize his commands. The commands aren’t imposed on us from the outside, but rather we recognize internally that we ought to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we do love our neighbor as ourselves, then we won’t steal from them, sleep with their wife, kick their cat, throw fireworks at their dog, etc.

“Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.” -Romans 2:14-15

The Christian has a special advantage. Not only does the Christian experience the benefit of having their sins forgiven, but they also God’s very own Spirit living within her, enabling her with divine grace to keep God’s commands.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.  (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal. 5:22-23)

To close, if the Christian theology and anthropology is correct, then Euthyphro dilemma really is not a dilemma at all. Socrates may have stuck a pebble in Euthyphro’s shoe (or sandal, I should say) but for the Christian believer, there is no quandary.

Damned Nonsense

C. S. Lewis

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If you do not take the distinction between good and bad very seriously, then it is easy to say that anything you find in this world is a part of God. But, of course, if you think some things really bad, and God really good, then you cannot talk like that. You must believe that God is separate from the world and that some of the things we see in it are contrary to His will.

Confronted with a cancer or a slum the Pantheist can say, “If you could only see it from the divine point of view, you would realize that this also is God.” The Christian replies, “Don’t talk damned nonsense” for Christianity is a fighting religion. It thinks God made the world – that space and time, heat and cold, and all the colours and tastes, and all the animals and vegetables, are things that ‘God made out of His head’ as a man makes up a story. But it also thinks that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists loudly, on our putting them right again.

C. S. LewisMere Christianity

The very idea of a resurrection

Not Jesus' tomb, but a tomb none the less.

Image by callmetim via Flickr

I’ll be the first to admit it – the very idea of a resurrection, naturally speaking, is a pretty zany idea. (Yes, I said zany) It’s seen an affront on our modern sensibilities. Dead people simply do not come back to life after three days. So it seems crazy to some that Christians hang their faith on such an improbable event that supposedly happened in history.

But really, that is actually just a philosophical objection to miracles. It’s one I used to have, and I believe it’s worth answering. I’ll attempt to do so in a future post. But for now, believe it or not, regardless of what one thinks philosophically about miracles, there is actually some very solid historical evidence that backs up the claim of Jesus’ resurrection without appealing to Biblical inerrancy or special revelation. Rather historians approach the bible as any other work of ancient antiquity. Contemporary historical scholarship – liberal, moderate and conservative – share in common the acceptance of some bare facts about what happened after Jesus was crucified that might surprise you.  So what are these facts? There are actually several, but for now I’ll give just three.

1. The empty tomb

This fact is a little more contested, but Dr. Gary Habermas of Liberty University has compiled a list of more than 2,200 sources in French, German, and English in which experts have written on the resurrection from 1975 to the present. 75% agree to the empty tomb of Jesus. There are many reasons why they do, I’ll lay out three here.

  1. Christianity started and spread like wildfire in Jerusalem, the city where Jesus was buried. The Jews and Romans both did not appreciate this young, new movement at all, which is exactly why they crucified Jesus. All they needed to do was produce a body and it would’ve ended it right there, or at the very least, ended it for the majority of Christians who would then begin to doubt the apostles claim of seeing the tomb empty.
  2. Stronger still, the enemies of Jesus did not contest that the tomb was empty. In fact, Matthew 28:15 tells us that the earliest Jewish response was to accuse the disciples of stealing the body.  Think about that for a second. Rather than just pointing to where Jesus was buried and just have a good laugh at the disciples’ expense, their opponents themselves admit the tomb was empty by saying the disciples stole the body.
  3. Women, of all people, were the first to report the empty tomb to the disciples and written in the gospels. In that day making up such a story would actually hurt their case, because women were second class citizens and were treated more like property than people. Take for instance such rabbinic sayings found in the Talmud, such as “blessed is he whose children are male, but cursed is he whose children are female”, or “sooner let the words of the Law be burnt, then to be delivered to the hands of women”. The famous Jewish historian Josephus notes that women’s testimony was not accepted in court. If the story was made up, the disciples would’ve reported themselves as the first witnesses of the empty tomb, and not damage their own case with this embarrassing admission.

2. Jesus’ post-mortem appearances.

On multiple occasions and under different circumstances, people and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead. This fact is virtually undisputed among contemporary scholarship, even from among the most skeptical of scholars such as Gerd Lüdemann.

For one, we have Paul, who became a convert to Christianity after persecuting the church based on an experience with the risen Christ. He claimed the disciples saw the risen Christ.  Secondly, we have extremely early evidence of an oral tradition being passed along from 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 which says:

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.”

Scholars believe this is a creed because of its style and non-Pauline language.  Paul converted around 1-3 years after the crucifixion.  This creed probably goes back at least to Paul’s fact-finding visit to Jerusalem around AD 36, when he spent two weeks with Peter and James (see Galatians 1:18-2:9).  At the very latest, he could have had it no later than when he visited the Corinthians in 51 AD. So this is extremely early source data, stuff historians geek over. It’s definitely far too early for legendary development.

Finally, no matter what critics think of the gospels, we also have them as source data of what the disciples believed they had saw written within 25-60 years after the fact.

Most importantly, we know they believed it. We have several ancient sources that show the disciples willingness to suffer and die for their claim. While people convert to different religions all the time, and may indeed be willing to die for their beliefs, the disciples would have known what they were suffering for was a lie or not. And liars tend to make bad martyrs.

3. The Jewish theological beliefs of the early Christian community underwent several alterations that are unexplainable apart from the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

These mostly come from historian N.T. Wright, and they are listed as follows.

  1. Jews had a long-going debate of the nature of the afterlife and resurrection. You can see this reflected in Jesus’ own time. The Sadducees believed there was no resurrection. The Pharisees believed in the resurrection (and Jesus sided with them) and that it would happen on the last day. There was no debate within the Christian community after the resurrection: You go to heaven when you die and then get a body identical to Jesus’ resurrection body on Judgment Day.
  2. Resurrection goes from a peripheral issue in Judaism to a central one in Christianity.
  3. There is also a new metaphorical concept of resurrection, referred to as being ‘born again’. The spirit of a person is already resurrected upon believing upon Jesus. (Romans 6:1-11). The body one day will be resurrected.
  4. There is a new association of the concept of resurrection to the Messiah. The Jewish Messiah was not thought to ever die, which is why they all abandoned Jesus, and why Peter went so far as to deny him.
  5. The idea of a single man resurrecting from the dead before the ‘last day’ was an entirely new idea.  Now Jesus is the “firstfruits” of those who rise.
  6. The Christians had a new eschatology which centered around the return of Christ.
  7. The concept of a suffering Messiah, bearing the sins of the world becomes part of the central message. This was a foreign idea before.

All told, these facts are rather inexplicable and naturalistic explanations don’t offer a full explanatory scope for them. In fact, most naturalistic explanations that have been contrived over the years have fallen by the wayside. The inference to the best explanation, whether we like it or not, is that the resurrection actually happened. The reason those who deny it does not seem to based on historical information, but because of their own presuppositions.

In future posts I’ll discuss some of the competing explanations and then we’ll deal with the so-called problem of miracles.

How I became a Christian – Part 2

Hell on Earth (album)

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I spoke of my “Fall” in the convenience store. Now we’ll look at the ramifications. As a kid, I never questioned the existence of God, even though it wasn’t something that was necessarily preached to me. I would not have classified myself as a “born-again” person as a child in any sense of the term.  As I grew, I became less apt to follow my conscience and more inclined to do whatever I felt like doing, just so long that I could get away with it.

My parents unfortunately became addicted to alcohol as I got older.  I took the streets with my friends, playing wiffle-ball, basketball and doing goofy stuff that kids do, mostly to keep away from my house as much as possible.

We moved to another neighborhood around the time I turned 13, and that was about the time I became an atheist. I began to ask questions about life’s meaning. In my observation, life seemed so utterly meaningless. Because my family situation was becoming increasingly chaotic with all the drinking, and because of what I learned in school about Darwinian evolution (primordial-soup-to-people through an unguided process of chance and necessity with no end in view) and psychology (God is just wish-fulfillment) I came around to the sentiment that there was no sense in having faith. No one really provided me with any alternatives at the time.

My trouble with God as that my life seemed so unfair, but I oddly enough I never questioned of where this sense of justice within me arose. Not only was my life an injustice, but others’ lives also seemed so unfair, the world that God was supposedly sovereignty controlling was a mess, and I had been given what I believed were scientific and rational reasons to reject God.

The funny thing about it was that I presupposing infinite knowledge was possible by claiming there is no god. Despite my claims, I couldn’t prove that there was no god, as if I had comprehensive knowledge of the entire universe.  So in one sense I was positing omniscience while denying the Omniscient one at the same time.

I feel as though I was a very consistent atheist, as far as that is actually possible. I say that because I was very nihilistic.  Nothing was particularly right or wrong, because morality had no real basis. There was no point in being moral for the sake of convention, I would act in whatever way served my best interests at the moment. It didn’t help that I was re-enforcing my nihilistic views with gangster rap, either. This led to a very grim outlook on life, and because of that I self-medicated myself with drugs, particularly with weed.

My friends were all into the gangster culture, which is sort of funny because we were mostly white kids living in the suburbs. There was a low-income housing project in the county I lived in, and some of the inner-city gangs flocked to the area to sell drugs, and they started making an impression on some of the youngsters in the neighborhood. I befriended these people through an association from high school. While violence between other social groups occasionally broke out, we were hardly gang-bangers. We were really a pack of hooligans looking to get high and have fun.  (Can I use the word hooligan?)

I was very hostile to anyone who tried to preach the gospel to me. I had several people try and talk to me, ironically some of which were among the people I partied with. Because their lifestyle was inconsistent with their message, I told them where they could stick their gospel. To me, it was all an illusion for the weak; fairy tales and myths.

After about two years of this, and seeing my friends lives getting more out of control, I began to re-consider my worldview. There had to be more to life than just satisfying my pride and mental and physical cravings. And it couldn’t be through just finding meaning in work and family, either, as demonstrated by the brokenness that I saw in the lives of the parents of my friends, and in my family.  The knowledge of God was something I was suppressing. I didn’t want to accept that there was a God because I really didn’t want to be accountable for my behavior. But if we were not here by accident, how then should I live and why?

No matter how much I tried to deny morality, I couldn’t make it really compatible with naturalism, (although I know plenty of people try to find a way to squeeze it in).  And were all these people who claimed to find meaning in God really just deluding themselves, or was there something more to it?

to be continued