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A Meandering Journey from Atheism to Catholicism

I was born in 1962 in Abilene, Texas. My father was a Nike missile radar operator in the Army, raised in the Baptist tradition, and my mother was raised Methodist. My dad got out of the Army, and we moved to Dallas when I was a year old. My dad entered the new field of computer programming and stayed with it until he retired. My mother worked for the phone company for a few years, until my little brother came along.

We did not go to church much until I was ten years old, when neighbors invited us to their Pres- byterian church, where my parents remain members until this day. My earliest memory related to faith was a conversation I had with my Methodist maternal grandmother when I was five or six. She told me about how Jesus was the Son of God and that He died on the cross for our sins. If I believed in Him, I would be saved from hell and would go to heaven when I died. I certainly wanted to go to heaven, so I wanted to believe in Jesus. But I wondered if my belief was good enough and real enough. I had been given a book of Bible stories, which I tried to read sometimes, thinking it was a good thing to do. I found some of the stories difficult to believe, and I had trouble staying interested.

My real interest in childhood was science and technology, especially airplanes, rockets, and robots. I had a poster showing all of the planets on my bedroom wall, and I remember watching the Apollo missions on TV with great interest and excitement. My favorite cartoon as a little boy was Jonny Quest, which was about the adventures of the son of a scientist. I wanted to be an astronaut or scientist when I grew up.

Atheist Teenager

When I was twelve, I entered the communicant’s class at my church. I faithfully attended and tried to learn what was taught. Since I hadn’t been baptized yet, I was baptized at that time and became a full, communicant member of the church. However, my commitment to science seemed to be at odds with my minimal Christian faith, and any enthusiasm I had at my baptism soon faded. I continued to be involved at church, as was expected of me, and I tried to learn what was taught in Sunday school, to please my teachers, but my heart was not in it.

Instead of religion, I subscribed to a kind of technological optimism, as was preached by Gene Roddenberry, the creator of my favorite TV show, Star Trek. Roddenberry envisioned a future where science and technology had solved the major problems of human existence. On the earth of Star Trek, there was no more war, poverty, disease, or hunger. The conflict of the show came from interaction with strange or hostile beings in other parts of the galaxy.

Although my interest in science and science fiction had led me to a vague atheism, there were two things I encountered that opened the door for later faith in God. The first was an essay by my favorite author, Isaac Asimov. Although I first came to Asimov through his science fiction stories, he was very prolific and wrote on a wide range of topics. One essay, called “The Judo Argument,” looked at attempts to prove the existence of God by appealing to science. Asimov examined these arguments and showed that they didn’t work, but he surprised me at the end of the article. Although he believed that science could not prove the existence of God, he said that science could not disprove it, either. From the scientific point of view, the existence of God was an open question. This surprising conclusion was something I never forgot. The second influence was the movie Star Wars. It had the look of science fiction, but it also had a mystical aspect with the presence of the Force. It appeared to challenge the idea that science, technology, and space travel were incompatible with religion and the supernatural.

I remember, in high school, considering the possibility that there were some things in the world that were beyond the reach of the scientific method, and that religion might know something that science did not. Therefore, I thought that I should someday do research on all of the major religions of the world, to see if they might have something worth knowing.

Conversion

In my junior year of high school, some Christian classmates of mine — Mike, Chad, and Doug — would talk to me about their faith. I respected them because they were smart, especially in science and computers. In the minutes before physics class one day, Chad showed me how there were Old Testament prophecies that predicted Jesus Christ, yet they were written centuries before He lived. I had an epiphany right then that the Bible had to be a supernatural book. It was written by multiple authors over the course of many centuries, but it had a coherent message that could only be possible because of divine inspiration.

From then on, I wanted to learn everything I could about the Bible. I started reading the Bible, watching Christian TV programs, reading Christian books, and listening to Christian music. I reasoned that if the Bible was from God, there was nothing more important I could know about. All of this soon led me to faith in Jesus as my Savior and Lord, and was the beginning of my journey as a Christian believer.

My favorite Christian TV program was Zola Levitt Live. Mr. Levitt was a Jewish convert to Christianity, and I liked his program because he talked about the Jewish roots of the Christian Faith, and how Jesus was a fulfillment of the Old Testament, which was the very thing that began my conversion. This was the subject of a book he co-wrote called The Bible Jesus Read is Exciting. I read this book and have loved the Old Testament ever since then.

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