I had planned to write another short story for this month (and may do it yet) but I simply haven't been able to sit and focus long enough to do it. Thanks to the nearly 400 people who read THE FLOWER, though! That's a great response to a single work of short fiction.
As I was pondering what to write this week, I got a response to a FB post I made from an acquaintance of mine. My original post was actually just a musing thought on what makes a "great" day great, but for some reason my friend posted back a rambling comment on "this is why he didn't buy into religion" that concluded with: "Why do I have to believe in a make-believe person to be accepted? Why? People don't have to convince each other that the sun is real, they can see it, plain and simple."
I thought about that comment all day, and when I got home this afternoon I posted a series of replies to his question, all with the view of explaining why I believe, as I do, that God is real and that Christianity is the only valid path to reach him. It wound up being a long response, and honestly, I wanted it to be seen by more than the handful of people who would scroll through all the replies on a FB post that was already several days old. So, I am copying, pasting, and editing a bit, and placing it here for all of you to see and read. I want you, too, to understand WHY I BELIEVE.
I was not offended at all by what you posted, Brandon, and I can understand when people get frustrated with religion. Of course, most of the time, when Americans say "religion" they mean "church". The problem with churches is that they are made up of people, and people, even the best of us, can be jerks on a bad day - and some people seem to have LOTS of bad days! But that doesn't stop many folks from thinking church ought to be a perfect assemblage of lovable individuals doing good constantly and never offending or giving offense, and that's just not reasonable. No group of humans could meet the expectations some people have about church. Churches are not display cases for saints, they are hospitals for recovering sinners.
Now as far as GOD, the object of religious faith, goes -
Well, look at our world, this remarkable planet we live on. Look at our solar system. Look at our galaxy and the universe that spawned it. There is a precision to it all, a structured, ordered plan that simply cannot be a product of chaos. Study things like the "Golden Ratio," or the Fibonacci Sequences, or the fine-tuning of earth for life, or the incredible complexity of the cellular flagellum that one-celled organisms use to propel themselves, and the incredible amount of information encoded in a single strand of human DNA. Individually, perhaps ONE of these anomalies could be coincidental - but when you pile them one on top of another and realize how necessary they all are for the very existence of life - well, they SCREAM that design and purpose were involved. The very nature of creation DEMANDS a creator.
So if we presume a creator, then we have to presume that He is a being of remarkable intelligence, surpassing the limits of human intellect even as our perception of ourselves and our world surpasses the self-awareness of say, a caterpillar or a slug. And yet, before I disparage humanity too much, look at us compared to every other life form on earth. WE alone write. We alone question. We alone are sentient, self-aware, creating beings capable of complex thought and abstract ideas. The gift of consciousness is unique to humanity. Why would an intelligent creator design an intelligent being unless, at some point, He intended to communicate with us?
So then, we look at all of human history for signs of divine communication. There are five major religions all around the world - Christianity in all its various stripes, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism. There are others, but these are the main contenders. Which one of these gives the most evidence of being objectively true?
Islam stands or falls on the word of one man, Muhammad, who claims that God spoke to him, telling him that he, Muhammad, was the last and greatest of all prophets. What did Allah then tell Muhammad to do? To make war on his enemies, convert them by force, to mutilate their dead bodies if they refused to acknowledge him as prophet. Allah also told Muhammad that it was acceptable for a man to marry four wives at a time - but then, since Muhammad was the Prophet, the rules didn't apply to him. HE could have fourteen wives, one of them only eleven years old at the time she married Muhammad. Was any prophet ever more patently self-serving? The Quran contains some beautiful verses and a strong moral code, but the God it reveals is a vicious creature who allows his prophet to do terrible things, including murder, in the name of his faith, and encourages the followers of Islam to a never-ending jihad against the infidels (that includes people of all other faiths, or no faith at all). Such a god is not worthy of worship.
Hinduism and Buddhism are strongly derivative of each other, Hinduism being the elder of the two and the childhood faith of Gautama, who became "the Buddha." Both of them propose that we have infinite lifetimes to ascend the Karmic wheel, no matter how much we sin, we always get second chances in the next life, being born and reborn and reincarnated again and again, until eventually, the highest thing we can aspire to is to become nothing - cosmic bits of the universe without individual awareness or existence. As for historic evidence, Hinduism is not linked to any real historical events or founders; it is an ancient mythology with no history to back up any of its claims. The evidence does indicate that Buddha, at least, was a real historic individual who lived around 600 BC, but the earliest account of his life was written some 300 years after his death, so there is simply no way to verify any details about him - there are no contemporary sources.
Judaism is strongly linked to some real history - although evidence for the Exodus is somewhat sketchy, new details are constantly emerging and events from the time period after that are confirmed more and more by archeology every year. There are some rough passages in the Old Testament, no doubt - the conquest of Canaan was brutal, and some aspects of the Mosaic Code ring harsh to the modern ear. However, the wars of Israel were temporary in nature, however brutal they may have been in the short term, and the promise was that the Messiah, when he came, would bring a new Covenant that corrected the shortcomings of the old one.
So that brings us to Christianity. The existence of Jesus of Nazareth is a historical fact, verified by multiple sources of His life inside and outside the New Testament. Three of the four Gospels were written within 20-40 years of the life of Jesus, while the eyewitnesses of His life were very much still alive. Every single book of the New Testament was finished by 100 AD - the last few by John, one of Jesus' disciples whom later sources say lived to be over a hundred years of age. The ethical teachings of Jesus have withstood the test of time, the books of the New Testament have been passed down with remarkable textual accuracy, and most of all, Christianity is rooted in an EVENT - the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead in 33 AD. Without the Resurrection, Christianity is a delusion at best and a horrible fraud at worst. With the Resurrection, it is the best and most plausible account of God and His dealings with man. And despite the best efforts of critics to deny, debunk, and disprove it for two thousand years, the physical Resurrection of Jesus remains the best and most likely explanation for the origins of the Christian faith. As a historian, I think the Gospels pass every reasonable test of historical accuracy and I believe them to be the true and accurate record of the life of Christ, as well as His death, burial, AND Resurrection. And THAT is why I am a Christian.