I’d like to continue the theme of explaining why I don’t believe in gods. But at this point I’d like to simply relay parts of my own story of my search for gods. As I’ve said several times anecdotal stories rank low for me when it comes to evidence, but we all share our stories because it is at least a small part of what makes us who we are. This is my story which means that it’s not yours and so there is no pressure from me whatsoever to suggest that you should change your views based on my story. You can take it or leave it as you like – perhaps you’ll relate, perhaps you won’t. Also note that this is not a full story of my experiences with ultimate questions – there are other details sprinkled about my blog. A full story would be too long.
The Jewish God of My Youth
When I was a young boy I strongly believed that the God of Judaism that my parents had described to me existed. It’s been too long to remember, but this probably lasted until very early high school. There was no interaction that I ever had with this being. It was simply a belief I had because the existence of this God was taught to me and I thought I had good reasons to trust the people who described this to me – after all my parents were honest, loving and caring people and a lot of my rabbis displayed these same qualities.
The Move Toward Doubt
But again no interaction at all with this being, so in my high school years I grew to doubt the existence of God (at that point in my life I didn’t really consider that polytheism was actually a “live” option, so the question was more about God than gods). I began to realize that the only reason why I had believed God existed was because I had trusted those who told me. As I met other people with many different beliefs I realized that this was not a good enough reason to say I believed it. After all, I was unable to sense the existence of this being and the world seemed to go on without any influence from Him (yeah, “Her” or “It” weren’t even possibilities I thought about back then). This was too long ago for me to remember details, but I do know that if I had been asked if I believed God existed I would have said that I was doubtful of it.
Becoming a Born-again Christian
Late in High School I met a very charismatic born-again Christian who tried to convince me of the evangelical Christian worldview. We were good friends, but whenever that subject came up I fought tooth and nail with him on it. I told him to give up because I wasn’t about to become a Christian and even doubted the existence of God anyway. I got a break from his stubborn evangelistic efforts my freshman year of college, but the summer after that he convinced me to begin reading passages in the Tanakh that he suggested. I was very surprised to read Isaiah 53, and Daniel 9:24-27 became very convincing to me as a prophecy of Jesus. Long story short, a week or so before my 2nd year of college I prayed and believed that I had become “born-again”. I still had my doubts, and felt no interaction with God, but my belief had been pushed past the line where I felt it was honest to say I believed.
I began to study more apologetics (especially prophecy) in that first year I was a Christian, and also heard several testimonies that impressed me greatly. At some point in this first year I felt I was certain of my belief. I was afraid of being disowned by my parents, and I decided to write a very long letter to my parents explaining the reasons I believed, and also that I still felt Jewish because I thought Christianity “fulfilled” Judaism. I know there are some who see this as “tricky” but it was what I believed. My parents told me that they still accepted and loved me but wanted to discuss these things with me. At one point when my father asked me “do you think you may ever change your mind again?” I said emphatically “absolutely not, I am sure of what I believe and will never change.” At this point he expressed his concern that I was brainwashed.
Fervently Seeking God
Throughout my time as a Christian I found several different groups to fellowship with and followed advice from many on how to grow closer to God. I truly believed that some kind of “relationship” was possible with God, even though I knew it was different from relationships with people. But the problem for me was that no matter what I tried or even didn’t try (as some suggested I was trying too hard) this relationship never materialized in any way.
My doubts began to grow again as time went on. I prayed “Lord I believe, help me overcome my unbelief” countless times, but that help never seemed to come, and the questions I had when I had first become a Christian never got answered in a way that made sense to me even though I had thought they would be resolved in time and with study.
A Trip To the Land of Milk and Honey
When I had become a Christian I had felt I had found something truly wonderful, and the connection with my Jewish roots made me want to share this with other Jewish people, and even wondered if God wanted me to move to Israel to share this message. In my last year as a Christian I had finally saved enough money to take a trip to Israel to seek “God’s will” in this regard. After there was not a feeling or sense or any inkling of any kind on this trip I returned home and only lasted a few more months continuing at the church I had gone to. I had held on a little more than 5 years, and I felt it was only fair to inform my pastor since I had been teaching some Sunday School classes at the time.
The Search Continues
At this point I had felt that I had found the wrong religion, but still felt like there was “somethiing” out there, and so my search continued in full force for about a year or so. I was now open to any and all possibilities and spent time with Bahai’s, Unitarian Universalists as well as Mormon missionaries (I sought them out so no need for them to get on their bikes 😉 ). Throughout this time I prayed to “any God or gods or forces or agents which represent true goodness” to reveal themselves to me, and I think it is clear by now what the results of that were. Since that time I’ve felt it wiser to focus more on objective and rational reasoning to try and make sense of reality. I’ve also come to grips with the fact that at this time in history a lot of our ultimate questions are simply out of reach and elusive.
I was told many times back then, and some still tell me today that they have either “met” Jesus, or have a relationship with God, and I think that was one of several things that gave me hope and kept me believing the Christian message and seeking Jesus for more than 5 years (without it I likely would have left earlier). But at some point living vicariously through other people’s experiences just isn’t enough of a reason to take on a worldview. I am aware of many of the answers that believers give to people who have experienced similar stories to my own and all of them seem only like possibilities. But if I believed in all possibilities I’d believe in many a strange things. That gods do not exist is the more likely conclusion for me in the light of these experiences as well as some of the other things I’ve written and will continue to write.