The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why I Know God Exists

Throughout my almost 65 years I've entertained doubts about many different things, but one truth I have never doubted is the existence of God. Many years ago I wrote an article on the subject for a now-defunct newsletter. Unfortunately I no longer have a copy and cannot even remember the name of the newsletter. It's really no great loss since the article was little more than a litany of reasons (not proofs) for my unwavering belief. Each reason -- and there were dozens of them -- included a sentence or two of explanation. They were certainly not very deep or theological; rather they were just a collection of loosely related -- and often unrelated -- thoughts and feelings, the whys and wherefores of my belief.

I thought it might be interesting, though, to share some of these reasons with the select few who actually read this blog. And so I will attempt to recall and duplicate as many as possible. Some of these reasons are personal, in the sense that they probably would have little meaning for others. Even these, however, might be the spark that ignites similar reasons in the mind of the reader.

Because of their number I won't be able to include them all in one post, but will spread them out over several days, perhaps weeks.

Here goes...

1. The Jewish People. This little tribe of Abraham, God's Chosen People, is still a people after 4,000 years -- and this despite numerous attempts over the centuries by many nations, empires and ideologies to eradicate them. Seen any Hittites lately? Spoken with an Amorite or an Elamite? Had lunch with a Babylonian? No, they're all gone...except the Jews, the descendants of that tiny tribe from Ur of the Chaldees. Only God -- a loving God who keeps His promises -- could ensure their survival. They certainly couldn't do it themselves.

2. The Catholic Church. No other institution on earth can claim a 2,000 year lifespan. Human institutions come and go, but only one established by God could survive intact through two millennia of tumultuous history, especially when so many have tried so hard to destroy it. The Church's continued existence today is also one reason I will always remain a Catholic.

3. The Earth. That this little planet is so perfectly suited, not just for life but for human life, is a true miracle (and miracles come only from God). It exists in the midst of an unbelievably vast universe, an environment so inhospitable that, to our knowledge, life exists nowhere else. To think that this perfect place came about accidentally via some cosmic roll of the dice demands a leap of faith far exceeding my belief in the God that created it and the material universe in which it has its being.

4. My consciousness and rationality. That's right, the very fact that I'm conscious, that I'm aware of myself and of others and of the world around me, is remarkable. Even more remarkable, though, is my ability to reason, to make decisions about myself and that world, to learn, to understand, to grow in knowledge. In all this you and I are so very different from all other living creatures. Only humans have this ability. Only humans are created in God's image and likeness. After all, if we merely evolved from apes, why do apes still exist?

5. That atheists decide to live. Admittedly this is an odd reason to believe in God, but it relates to the fact that a true atheist would be filled with despair. After all, if there is no God, if we are just material accidents, then there can be no life after death, no heaven, no hell. Without a creator to give life purpose, there would be no reason to live. Why bother? Why go through life and all its suffering, all its disappointments, all its hurts and pains? And for what? For nothing lasting. And yet despite their beliefs (or lack thereof) why do atheists keep on living? I've always believed it's because no one is really a complete atheist. God plants a seed of belief, a form of divine grace, in every person's heart that causes each one of us to yearn for Him, to hope for Him, to want Him to exist. Sadly, those who reject this grace usually end up taking their own lives.

6. The Old Testament Prophets. And not just the Prophets, but the entire Old Testament. As I read, and re-read, and study the Old Testament I am filled with awe by the number of prophecies that point only to one reality, to Jesus Christ. This must be similar to the awe we encounter among the early Church Fathers who relied so heavily on Scriptural prophecy as a tool of evangelization among both Jews and Gentiles. Reading the Fathers one quickly begins to understand why they believed that the entire Old Testament had one overriding purpose: to lead us to Jesus Christ.

7. The Martyrdom of the Apostles. A person who goes willingly to his death when he could prevent it merely by making a statement, is either a true believer or insane. In the case of the Apostles, we encounter twelve such people (if we include Judas' replacement, Matthias). I consider it highly unlikely that Jesus selected twelve identically insane men from Galilee. These men, who witnessed all that Jesus said and did, including His death and resurrection, were quite obviously true believers. Their faith in what they had witnessed and in what they had received from the Holy Spirit was so strong that they would rather die than deny it. And it is their faith that has reinforced and lifted up my own along with the faith of countless others over the centuries.

8. Human agreement on good and evil. One of the more interesting things about us humans is not how different we are, but how much alike we are, regardless of when or where we live. As we scan both history and societies we find that there is remarkable agreement on what we as human beings consider good -- what we hold up as behavior to emulate -- and what we consider bad or evil. Where did this shared sense of right and wrong come from? Certainly not from a collection of evolved cells that could not possibly hold any preference for one type of behavior over another. No, it had to come from another source, from something, from Some-One, outside us, from a God who implanted within us His Law, His Natural Law, to ensure that we would recognize what is good and what is evil.

An aside: Even when we violate God's Law we try to rationalize our actions. For example, one reason I know that abortion is inherently evil is that those who support it are always telling us that they either: (1) are personally against it; or (2) want it to be rare. You see, at the deepest level of their being they know that abortion is evil because God's Natural Law within them tells them so. This is why they cannot bear to call themselves "pro-abortion," but opt instead to use the pro-choice label.

9. Bach, Mozart, Handel, the Modern Jazz Quartet, doo-wop, Charlie Byrd, Andrea Bocelli... I suppose I just could have written, "Music." Of course we all have our own favorites (some of mine are included in the title line) that range from baroque chamber music to hip-hop, and as a parent and grandparent I've learned not to play the music critic. I won't, therefore, try to argue my musical tastes over those of others. My point is that music is so uniquely human, so wonderfully different from anything else we do, so soothing, so invigorating, so complex, so simple, so beautiful that, in itself, it seems to point to God Himself. I can't imagine life without music, and apparently neither could Jesus. We know that on His last night with His Apostles, he joined with them singing psalms. And that those same psalms -- which I am sure were meant to be sung -- were on His very lips as He hung on the Cross. Music could come only from God, and what a gift it is!

10. Michelangelo. If you have ever looked at Michelangelo's work up close, you cannot help but see the presence of God in it. His David in Florence, or the Pieta in St. Peter's, or his remarkable Moses in the church of St. Peter in Chains (San Pietro in Vincoli) in Rome -- these remarkable marble sculptures come alive as you stand in awe before them. That someone could turn pieces of marble into these exquisite sculptures is almost beyond understanding...unless you accept that Michelangelo's talent was a very special gift from God, one that the artist acknowledged, accepted, and applied.

...that's enough for now. I'll add to the list soon, but I'm still visiting children and grandchildren so I have only limited time to do such foolish things as write in this blog.

2 comments:

  1. I'm so glad I found your blog while surfing the Internet. I immediately relate to your first sentence, "Throughout my almost 65 years I've entertained doubts about many different things, but one truth I have never doubted is the existence of God." Ditto for me. And I love your examples that tell why. Just beautiful! And, if you have more, I'll look forward to reading them.

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  2. If one *really* listens to "Tocatta and Fugue in 'D' Minor," forgetting its abuse in popular culture and remembering that it is a work written for church, by a man who said everything he wrote is a prayer, one enters as closely into the Beatific Vision as one can get on earth. The base picks you up off your feet with the awesome majesty of God as the soaring fugue pulls you up into the loving embrace of the Trinity.

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