When I developed software for a living, I was constantly concerned about making sure I was working with the most current version of the code. Otherwise, I was essentially wasting my time because I was fixing the problem in the wrong place.
It’s not a bad analogy to convey how my personal belief in God evolves. I'm always working to refine my current version of God.
Though I firmly believe in a supernatural Creator, I continue to seek better understanding or knowledge of Him.
I’m fairly certain that I found God one night, but that didn’t turn out exactly like I’d planned. Mostly, that was because I lacked a plan.
I finally decided one night that I wanted to know if God really existed. Otherwise, I was ready to drop the pretense of attending church and going through the motions to proclaim my Sundays free forevermore. I decided I was ready to become an atheist.
I was either going to stay awake all night praying desperately, pass out from exhaustion, or have a real experience with God. Expecting nothing to happen, I naturally assumed I would be an atheist by morning. After bitter disappointment in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, what more or else should I expect from an invisible God?
And here we are, reminding me of my dad’s favorite expression, “Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it.”
Now, in less than a week, before several hundred people and God, I’m going to stand up and argue with Ed Buckner to say what happened that night was real.
Happy, happy, joy, joy! I expect a full house.
I’m sort of hoping for a mostly “hostile” audience.
Otherwise, I’ll just be “preaching to the choir.”
Although I have no experience with formal debate, I consider myself to have a distinct advantage over Ed Buckner.
He’s got to try to convince me and everyone else that my personal experience was not real.
That’s a tough sell, especially for me.
I also happen to think I’ve got a pretty good argument to substantiate maintaining my personal set of beliefs to give the observers something to consider.
But we'll see next Saturday.
For those who will not be able to attend our debate – sorry, we just found out that it will not be recorded – I’ve asked and answered a few questions of myself that might come to mind during our event.
Feel free to ask your specific questions via comments. I’ll do my best to answer them all as well.
What do you mean by seeking God? I mean looking for raw data that can be processed into information. Seeking truth.
What exactly did you pray that night? I literally begged God to reveal Himself. I remembered the words in the verses Matthew 7:7 and Revelations 3:20, connected the dots, and put a little sincere effort behind it.
What did you see or think you saw? Literally, I saw the light. My very dark bedroom lit up in the still of the night. As soon as I began to realize what was happening, I think my unspoken words were something to the effect of “Holy crap!” and I shut them as tight as I could. I was ashamed of myself for my doubt. I didn’t handle my “close encounter” with God very well.
And what happened? I felt at peace. I felt I lost something…the ability to hate other people. Don’t miss it a bit. I can't really give a better description for what happened, but I can say how I changed.
Why do you believe it was more than just a self-induced hallucination? It's a fair question: if my experience was the sole product of wishful thinking, why would I want to destroy the result? Nevertheless, my journey toward seeking truth to articulate to others began with Richard Dawkins and the research for Divine Evolution. I don’t see myself as completely unlike Charles Darwin. I now have a theory, and most of what I read and discuss about our database of knowledge acquired through science has been in earnest effort to refute it. I’m still troubled a little by the fertile mule.
Do you believe in a creator God or an Intelligent Designer? I don’t know; does it matter? I’m not very good with labels. How about a supernatural creator who designs life intelligently? I see extraordinary evidence for design in the human immune system, solar systems, the food chain, bats, dolphins, and zedonks. I listen to the “poor design of the vas deferens” argument with amusement, as if humans routinely create things with more elegant design than a living organism. When I can compare the elegant design of living organisms created by humans to the work of God, then we might have something to discuss. Until man makes an eye better than the one God designed, I’ll reserve my criticisms of what we were given at birth.
Do you believe in the God of the Bible? Yes, absolutely.
So, you believe the Bible is the literal word of God? Not entirely. I didn’t say that. When Jesus is quoted, absolutely. In other words, I accept the divinity of the Christ. Other than that, I believe the Bible was written by men inspired by God. I’ve written an article titled Encouraging my Christian friends to think which points to what seems to be obvious discrepancies in the text. But the Bible is not a book written by one person; it’s an anthology written by many people.
Aren’t you just another Christian apologist? I do not apologize for my faith nor feel the least bit ashamed or embarrassed by it. I don’t ask that you believe exactly what I do. I do not claim exclusivity to God is found through Christianity. I only say that I believe Christian faith is legitimate and worthwhile for me to have. My goal is not to convert the entire world to Christianity. My goal is to point out the obvious – we should all seek the truth. Before you decide in which distorted image of God is best to believe, first seek God and settle the question in your mind about if any exists – the choice between seeking God and intellectual laziness, if you will.
Is that all you’ve got in terms of argument? No, not at all. My positive argument for belief in God also relies on personal experiences with paranormal or supernatural entities. Actually, if one looks at the history of articles written for the Examiner, I am confident that a clear picture of what I believe and do not believe will emerge. But I also need to save something for the debate.
Wait a minute – what did you mean, distorted images of God? Are you suggesting Christianity is not perfect? Define perfection. While you’re at it, write a definitive explanation for every parable and quoted word of the Christ. I certainly can’t.
Don’t you write about a lot of non-Christian ideas such as reincarnation? Well, yeah. It doesn't mean that I necessarily believe in reincarnation. It simply means that I found some interesting information and threw it into my mental blender with everything else.
Why don’t you attack other religions? Mostly due to ignorance. In private conversation with friends, I might semi-jokingly describe Mormonism or Catholicism as “cult-like.” What little I do know about the two religions admittedly sounds kind of weird. True, the story of how the angel Moroni brought golden tablets to Joseph Smith sounds kind of weird, but how much more than the Judeo-Christian account of Moses and the Ten Commandments? Catholics might pray to saints, but if my next home in Savannah appears possessed, I’d call for a Catholic priest to perform an exorcism. In other words, I’m not sure that people who don’t believe exactly what I believe will necessarily burn in Hell, though I do believe Hell exists.
If you believe all this stuff and you don't expect to change your mind, why did you just say you were quitting? Perhaps you should not think of it as quitting from the Examiner as much as consolidating my writings into one source. I am spread too thin, and my first responsbility to my family is to write detective novels. They actually sell. With my earnings from the Examiner and the meager royalties from epress, I've only recouped the money spent on lyric reprint permissions from Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger/Keith Richards in Divine Evolution. Writing the book was a labor of love.
What about your “attacks” on science? If pointing out what I perceive as obvious flaws in the prevailing scientific theory is considered an attack, so be it. All I have done is read a plethora of information about a subject from a variety of sources, then I form opinions and express them in writing. I believe I have a fair understanding of the overall requirements for the Big Bang to create the universe, chemicals to coalesce and form simple life via abiogenesis, that simple life to differentiate and become more complex through speciation, and how natural selection explains variations within a species. It's my opinions that make some readers upset, not the science behind them. I do regret the personal insult to Richard Dawkins with the suggestion he could be an imbecile.
He’s a very smart man, and I knew better.
But hey -- nobody’s perfect.