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Why I Believe

I love and thoroughly enjoy believing that I have free will; that I have a soul; that god exists, and that my existence will continue on in some sentient format forever; that I will be reunited with loved ones after death; I love the feeling of love, fulfillment, joy, and hope these beliefs instill in my life on a day to day basis. I love the amazing miracles I see every day that reassure me that the divine exists and is all around me.

I appreciate the patience these beliefs provide me; the profound sense of meaning and value for every kindness and good thing that I encounter and that I can muster for those I love; the stability and peace in my own mind it offers as I take care of a parent succumbing to alzheimers and endure my own challenges as an aging grandfather. Any ridicule or condescension directed at me for these views pale to insignificance against the hope and peace these beliefs offer to temper the agony and grief that can sometimes be very difficult to bear in my time here.

Without these beliefs I was a wreck of self-centered angst, anger and hopelessness, living in abject poverty without good motivation or consideration for others. I changed my beliefs, and my life completely changed. More importantly, I changed. There are a lot of people here at UD that helped me accomplish this, even if you didn’t know it at the time. I was looking for a way to believe in god again, and you offered exactly what I needed.

And the great thing is, even if god and the afterlife doesn’t exist, even if I’m a stupid, foolish idiot for believing, at least for the duration between now and non-existence I have had that joy, sense of love, hope and fulfillment, a profound sense of value and meaning, along with the other successes in my life that those beliefs have apparently wrought. And if there is nothing but nothingness awaiting me when I pass, there will not even be the opportunity for me to be disappointed or feel chagrined. I will just be gone, after living a wonderful life thanks to the beliefs – and the faith – that saved me.

Happy New Year!

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32 Responses to Why I Believe

  1. The sad part is, you will go to hell. As your flesh burns and you cry for God, nothing of your “profound sense of meaning” will be of meaning to Satan.

    There’s no hell. I’m just pointing out that in your hypothetical fantasies you’re missing a crucial point.

  2. Hi WJM,

    Thank you for posting such an honest and God honouring testimony. I too am grateful to God for saving me and for giving me this opportunity to live such a wonderful, meaningful life that I never knew was possible.

    I was very touched to read about your support for a parent with Alzheimer’s as on the 8th Dec my own mother finally passed away after having suffered many years with this awful disease.

    I came to faith at the age of 38, having spent roughly 25 years of my life in and out of alcohol/drug addiction. I’m 46 now and just as in your testimony above, my life completely changed the moment I believed.

    I do not wish to start a debate about anything you have said, as I concur fully with almost everything, however I would like to give my opinion on ‘free will’, and why I think this to be greatly misinterpreted by many Christians today.

    When God put man on the earth He gave him instructions as to how he should live. Many people seem to think that Adam and Eve were only given one command (Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil), and that they were possessors of a God given gift called ‘free will’, which of course meant that they had the freedom to make whatever choices they decided upon. And while I wouldn’t argue that they weren’t given the responsibility to make certain choices, they certainly weren’t free to choose whatever they so desired.

    We read in in Genesis that they weren’t only not to eat from a certain tree but they were to ‘tend the garden’ ‘go forth and multiply’ ‘subdue the earth and all that lives on it’ etc. This was God’s will, not man’s.

    I don’t believe we have such a thing as ‘free will’ because the bible teaches, in my view, very much the opposite, and it is this understating that makes me even more grateful to God for saving me, because at the end of he day He didn’t have to. Scripture tells us time an time again that we do not choose God, but He chooses us. We are unable to even have faith in Him, He gives us faith. We cannot even believe in Him, He gives us faith to believe … and so on. But the most amazing thing about this, again in my opinion, is that His Salvation is not for ‘everyone’, but only for the Elect, those whom He chose for salvation ‘before even the foundations of the earth were laid’.

    My belief is that we serve either one of two masters. Scripture tells us we are either ‘walking in obedience to God’ or we are ‘slaves to sin’. So where’s our free will in that context? Yes we can make ‘choices’, but we do so within this construct – ‘Who do we serve?’.

    As I was discussing with a friend the other night;

    I work for the Church of Scotland in a Care Home for the elderly. The moment I enter that building I have the freedom to make certain choices, but I do not have free will. For instance I can decide in what order to hand out medication, but I can’t not hand it out. I can make a decision on what order I give an individual their meds, but I can’t decide to give them a double dose, or none at all.

    And the reason for this is very obvious; there are certain policies and procedures that I must adhere to, or I may very well find myself in severe trouble. However, if I entered that building with complete ‘free will’, then surely if I deliberately chose to overdose someone nothing could be said about it?

    In my opinion Adam and Eve, and all of humanity thereafter, are bound by this same constraint – our will is not our own, we serve either of two masters.

    But this is not something that we should consider limiting our freedom, but something extremely liberating instead. And it should make us all extremely grateful to God for having chosen us to be partakers in His eternal plans.

    Happy new year to you, and to all at UD.

  3. Why do you believe William? What made you leave atheism? What are the building blocks of your particular belief now?
    With regard to Alzheimer and sudden revivals of memory or faculty in dying persons:

    Even more interesting than these physical revivals, however, are revivals in mental functioning. Myers (1892b) had referred to the “sudden revivals of memory or faculty in dying persons” (p. 316), and there are scattered reports of people apparently recovering from dementia shortly before death. The eminent physician Benjamin Rush, author of the first American treatise on mental illness (1812), observed that “most of mad people discover a greater or less degree of reason in the last days or hours of their lives” (p. 257). Similarly, in his classic study of hallucinations, Brierre de Boismont (1859) noted that “at the approach of death we observe that… the intellect, which may have been obscured or extinguished during many years, is again restored in all its integrity” (p. 236). Flournoy (1903, p. 48) mentioned that French psychiatrists had recently published cases of mentally ill persons who showed sudden improvement in their condition shortly before death.
    In more recent years, Osis (1961) reported two cases, “one of severe schizophrenia and one of senility, [in which] the patients regained normal mentality shortly before death” (p. 24). Osis and Haraldsson (1977/1997) reported a case of a meningitis patient who had been “severely disoriented almost to the end,” but who “cleared up, answered questions, smiled, was slightly elated and just a few minutes before death, came to herself” (p. 133). Turetskaia and Romanenko (1975) reported three cases involving remission of symptoms in dying schizophrenic patients. Grosso (2004, pp. 42–43) described three dementia cases that had been reported to him, one by a colleague and two by a nurse. In all three cases, the patient had not recognized family members for several years, but shortly before death they all were said to have become more coherent or alert and to have recognized family members. Such cases are few in number and not adequately documented, but the persistence of such reports suggests that they may represent a real phenomenon that could potentially be substantiated by further investigations. If so, they would seriously undermine the assumption that in such diseases as Alzheimer’s the mind itself is destroyed in lockstep with the brain (e.g., Edwards, 1997, pp. 295–296). Like many of the experiences discussed in this chapter, such cases would suggest that in some conditions, consciousness may be enhanced, not destroyed, when constraints normally supplied by the brain are sufficiently loosened.
    - Irreducible Mind, Edward F. Kelly

  4. Hi WJM,

    I found your post very moving. Thank you for sharing it with us, and a happy New Year to you, too. I hope you continue to experience an abundance of miracles in your life, this year.

  5. Ah, but do you have that sense of sublime wonder, William, so characteristic of arch-deist, Einstein, which Dawkins has in such rich abundance, as he wonders at the marvel of all matter being just a bunch of molecules; mind, too; understanding, all kinds of faculties, you wouldn’t think inanimate matter could breed?

    What are we missing not being atheists, eh? I eat my heart out thinking about it sometimes.

  6. Posters over on TSZ believe, including Lizzie, that the environment selects! Nature is blind and mindless. Just how can it select anything?

  7. Why do you believe William? What made you leave atheism? What are the building blocks of your particular belief now?

    Simply and briefly put, I believe because it works for me and every day I experience that which supports my belief in astounding ways. I left atheism because it didn’t work for me. It left me miserable, a bad person with a wrecked life.

    The main aspects of my current belief system is that God is the source of being; is as omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omnipresent as is logically possible (god cannot make 1+1=3, nor can god make evil things good); that I have free will (even though I deliberately hand my life over to god’s will), that we all have an eternal essence or soul that is an individuated aspect of god, and that individual existence extends beyond death.

  8. You DONT have a soul

    You are a soul.
    You have a body.

  9. Joe:

    That is a serious point, the analogy of selection does tend to be over interpreted subtly. A safer term is differential reproductive success, which underscores that it is loss of varieties that is happening. It remains the case that it is chance variation that is being asked to write the software of life.

    Chance would get fired by Microsoft, for good reason.

    KF

  10. CH: Worth a pause and a think . . . then another think, too. KF

  11. chris haynes:

    You DONT have a soul

    You are a soul.
    You have a body.

    I like this. That’s the problem faced by the Singularitarians who think they can gain immortality by uploading the contents of their brains into a machine. Unless they can also come up with a method to upload their souls into the machine, I’m afraid they’ll be dead as a doornail.

  12. You see… like the ‘iron rainbow’ people, they have to re-invent language and do all in their not inconsiderable power in the legislatures of the West (which are owned by the big corporate beasts of banking and commerce), to enforce ubiquitous adoption of their new lexicon; language which frequently, as in the case of the term, ‘natural selection’ go further than Orwell’s Newspeak in emptying the original term of any kind of sense, in favour, not of nothing, but of nonsense.

  13. that the environment selects!

    I look at it as different boundary conditions influence future events. The environment is a boundary condition. As we go from environment to environment, there are different boundary conditions. I don’t think this is the least bit controversial. What is controversial is just how far a set of boundary conditions can influence future events.

    One of the boundary conditions that trumps most others is all the machinery of the cell; gene expression, DNA replication and correction etc. It is quite clear that these internal boundary conditions have restrained all organisms from deviating too far from a basic prototype no matter how much variation there is in the external boundary conditions, the environment.

    Until the Darwinist admit such their beliefs are nothing more than wishful thinking and definitely not science. They are as Will Provine said, just exhibiting faith. It is faith in a process that has never shown itself to produce anything of consequence.

    Yes, the environment selects but only within a very limited envelope.

  14. The OP is an expression of Pascal’s wager.

  15. That’s Pascal’s wager: Belief in a non-existent Deity is just as fulfilling as not believing in a Deity, and you are no worse off after death with either one.

    But-
    while those who do not believe in a Deity may say that they are just as fulfilled as those who do believe in a real Deity, the situation after death will be markedly different.

    As JWTruthInLove mentioned in reply #1,Pascal’s wager has a hole in it. The side of the wager where there is no Deity does not change, but on the other side, where the Deity exists, it is not enough to just believe in *a* Deity. One must actually believe (and put faith in) *the real* Deity.

  16. CH @ 8:

    Well said :) exactly so.

    14 & 15:

    What I have said is not Pascal’s Wager at all, because what actually happens after death is irrelevant to what I gain in the here and now by having those beliefs. If it’s a bet, then call it William’s Wager, and by the fact that those beliefs transformed my life from misery to joy, I’ve already won the bet.

  17. I don’t know why I believe and always believed. I just do. There is a reason, I’m sure, but I can’t flesh it out. I think it’s a spiritual thing.

  18. Concerning duality….for the Christian it is important to understand that you are not a soul with a body, but you are both.

    Platonic Dualism rejected the body as sinful and Cartesian Dualism isn’t a much better alternative. Thomistic Dualism recognizes that in God’s eyes the body is just as important as the soul. We will be reunited with a our perfected, resurrected body at the end. If this is God’s plan for our body/soul then it is important to recognize that neither necessarily takes precedence.

  19. Ellijacket, from my schooling that is also my understanding of the body-soul relationship.

  20. Was there a time when you were very devout as a child, William?

    A beautiful thread header, by the way. It has the beauty of inspiration: an eloquence only the heart can mediate. A wonderfully upbeat, personal cameo in this jaded old ‘vale of tears’ we inhabit.

    Certain things came too easily for me when I was younger, so that, in a general way, even after my life was similarly turned round, like yours, with the realisation that the faith of my childhood was true, I lacked motivation in whatever work I was employed in.

    Then one, day, a very wise, old, Polish cafe-proprietor told me that I should always do my best, no matter how humble the task, for the glory of God. And from that day, I never looked back. I always enjoyed my work (gardening, aside…).

    I don’t suspect a parallel with your experience in that you’ve always come across as a very solid, professional type, with an extremely incisive mind: a kind of pillar of this blog, in fact; whereas my life has been somewhat more idiosyncratic.

    But I mention it, as such turning points are little miracles in that they can occur in an instant, and take radical effect more or less immediately. In some respects, similar to NDEs.

    A great example, imo, is in the Solzhenitsin anecdote I mentioned earlier, where the old boy just drew a cross in the sand – while Solzhenitsin had more or less been waiting to be clubbed to death by a guard! But he realised that with Hope – and, to an extent, the theological virtues form a continuum – we are unconquerable, even by a seemingly unconquerable super-power.

  21. @ WJM
    Very uplifting post WJM.

    @PeterJ #2
    I’ve read your testimony Peter, its truly incredible; you’re an inspiration.

    @CH #8
    That is one of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes.

    I believe, because I think the Christian worldview provides some of the most coherent answers to the questions any worldview must come to answer. Why are we here? Where are we going? What is our purpose? etc. But I also believe because I think the Christian worldview is backed up by evidence that supports its foundational claim, the resurrection of Jesus Christ… the Shroud of Turin, eyewitness testimony and the Paraphysical (demonic possession).

    Example: Take a case study of demonic possession, conducted by Dr. Richard Gallagher, a board certified psychiatrist in NY State, who received his training psychiatry from Yale University. Dr Gallagher concluded after careful observation that this particular case study was a bona fide and clear-cut example of demonic possession.

    For those interested in reading Dr. Gallagher’s findings in the New Oxford Review, here’s the issue. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up after reading it.

    (February 2008 issue of the New Oxford Review Vol. LXXV, Number 2.)

  22. OT: Amber fossil reveals ancient reproduction in flowering plants – January 2, 2014
    Excerpt: A 100-million-year old piece of amber has been discovered which reveals the oldest evidence of sexual reproduction in a flowering plant – a cluster of 18 tiny flowers from the Cretaceous Period – with one of them in the process of making some new seeds for the next generation.,,,
    It appears identical to the reproduction process that “angiosperms,” or flowering plants still use today.,,
    The pollen of these flowers appeared to be sticky, Poinar said, suggesting it was carried by a pollinating insect, and adding further insights into the biodiversity and biology of life in this distant era.,,
    During the Cretaceous, new lineages of mammals and birds were beginning to appear, along with the flowering plants.,,,
    “It’s interesting that the mechanisms for reproduction that are still with us today had already been established some 100 million years ago.”
    http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/.....ing-plants

    Flower in Amber Shows No Evolution – January 5, 2014
    Excerpt: The origin of angiosperms (flowering plants) is often called “Darwin’s abominable mystery” by evolutionists. This find does not solve the mystery. It only reinforces the impression of complex systems appearing out of nowhere, then remaining virtually unchanged for 100 million years or more.
    http://crev.info/2014/01/flowe.....evolution/

  23. Axel,

    I can’t say that I was ever meaningfully devout about anything other than my own ego and atheism. When I realized I wasn’t fit to run my own life and decided to look for god, that’s when I started seeing the miraculous every day – including my wife being faith-healed of supposedly terminal cancer.

    I could fill a book with the unbelievable wonders I’ve experienced since.

  24. KRock: Thanks for that Gallagher reference. That’s an interest of mine.

  25. Hi William- FYI:

    Genetic algorithms employ goal-oriented targeted searches to solve the problems they are designed to solve. Dawkins’ “weasel” is a perfect example.

    Quite the opposite is Darwinian evolution, which isn’t even a search- natural selection is blind and mindless, with the variation being happenstance/ accidental, ie genetic accidents. Take the target phrase out of the program and there is no way the program could find it. And that is what darwinian evolution is- no target, just survival. No search, just survival. Survive, reproduce and repeat when possible just isn’t a creative process.

    And the funniest part of all is the “feedback” system darwinian evolution employs and relies on- survive, reproduce, repeat when/where possible- can’t even be accounted for via darwinian nor any other stochastic processes!

    “Oh no Joe but “genetic algorithms” have the word “genetic” in it so it must mimic evolution!”

    Intelligent Design Evolution, yes. Darwinian evolution, definitely not.

    The poseurs over on TSZ don’t know what they are talking about, as usual.

  26. @ 14 & 15:

    It is NOT an expression of Pascal’s Wager as WJM isn’t saying, “what could it hurt to believe, just in case.” He is saying, “I believe (for numerous other reasons) and should I be wrong, as some suggest, I cannot be disappointed.”

  27. ‘I could fill a book with the unbelievable wonders I’ve experienced since.’

    Wow! As a remarkable person, with a remarkable worldly intelligence, ‘finding your way home’, through self-analysis and God’s grace, may have made it inevitable that your subsequent life should have been so wonderously blessed. But it’s still awesome to read.

    Had you been more shallow, though not as joyful as you are now, you would probably have not become so unhappy and broken as an atheist. An odd thought how God often works in that way – and so many others!

  28. Joe,

    Well, it passes the time and keeps the synapses firing, even if it is otherwise a waste of time at TSZ

    Axel:

    I’ve often pondered the means by which I’ve been brought to where I am now – the unfathomable twists and turns that relied on countless other preparations that were entirely out of sight and impossible to foresee or even imagine. Preparations that included modifying my views through various means, preparing me emotionally through challenges and tribulations and the delivery of “what is best for me” in packages I would never have chosen for myself, but which contained far more than I could have ever hoped for.

    I don’t know how many times I rolled my eyes, cast them upward and said to god, “okay, if you say so ….” and then watch the road that had appeared to me to be a dead end suddenly turn into opportunity and reward.

  29. ‘I don’t know how many times I rolled my eyes, cast them upward and said to god, “okay, if you say so ….” and then watch the road that had appeared to me to be a dead end suddenly turn into opportunity and reward.’

    I know, William. And I often find a wry humour in God’s covert machinations, right then!

    This Captcha is very artful of you, Intelligent Design; checking on me like that! I had to have four shots at getting 9 – 1 = 8 (or some such), for my last post, folks. I kept putting ’0′! Sums were never my strong suit.

  30. ‘Thomistic Dualism recognizes that in God’s eyes the body is just as important as the soul. We will be reunited with a our perfected, resurrected body at the end. If this is God’s plan for our body/soul then it is important to recognize that neither necessarily takes precedence.’

    ellijacket #19.

    Thomist or not, I don’t think it’s quite as straightforward as that, ellijacket. Not only is God spirit, and the angels being pure spirits, of a higher order than us, but the catechism states that, while we are body and spirit, the spirit is the more significant. I forget how it was phrased in the old penny catechism. It’s the mind’s precedence over matter we talk about so much on here.

    I suppose, ‘necessarily’ is the operative word in your last sentence quoted above, insofar as our glorified mystical body will be fused with our spirit, in our adoptive divinity in Christ’s own Mystical Body – since he took our human nature, and will be our template.

    Another clue to the ambiguity with regard to the senses in our devolved kind of divinity in our glorified bodies, may be the ‘other worldly’ experience of unimaginable colours and sounds, attested to by people who have undergone NDE’s.

    I had a little theophany fairly recently, in which the beauty that I was looking at seemed to be actually felt by my eyes, as well appreciated via the normal optical, neural networks (or whatever you mad boffins call them…). Extreme beauty seems to be something felt by our eyes, as well as seen. It’s wonderful, but it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense.

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