I've been lurking around here for a couple weeks now, but haven't really introduced myself. Hi. I'm Dustin Widmann.Wait, you already knew that? ... Damn, oh well. Problem rectified?
Maybe not. I really feel like I should say more, but I'm at a loss for words.
I'm new here too. I'm probably a bit more out of place than you are as I am a christian. But if thats not quite the equivelent to having the plague, then i'm always looking for friends :-)
Whats your story?
Thanks for the welcome. No, it's not the plague. It's another perspective. Having multiple perspectives is important when you're trying to see a whole picture, don't you think?
My story though? That's an awfully broad topic though, don't you think? A lot can happen in 25 years! If you narrow it down for me I can divulge all sorts of information ... I assume; however, that you must be looking for the usual introduction seen around here. The usual being something like, "I used to think this, but now I think that.", effectively. Very well, I guess I can oblige. :)
So here goes. When I was young, when it came to philosophy and religion, my parents did ....... Nothing. They encouraged no philosophy/religion, neither did they discourage any. I'm fairly sure that stems from them being forced to go to church, strictly on time, every single Sunday during their respective upbringings (and they've said something along those lines anyhow). I *elected* to start going to church somewhere in there, with a person who was a friend of mine at the time. Partly I did it out of curiosity, partly just because people I knew were doing it. I didn't have strong beliefs on the subject. When I was 13 we moved to Wisconsin, so I was effectively isolated for a time, and that gave me a lot of time to think. For a long time I don't think I thought much about religion/philosophy/etc at all. I was contented with being a miserable excuse for a- ... oh, wait, a teenager, right. I guess I was around 16 when I started asking myself those sorts of questions, and trying to find my own answers for them. I still ask myself questions today. My line of thought with regards to the questions I asked myself has led me far away from religion. Questions like, "Why are there so many religions? Since there are so many, why should I believe this one? Why do religions borrow entire pieces from other religions?" , or perhaps, "Why do people think they live on after death, complete with things like memories, personality, &c, when those things are all reside in our brains?", or "Why are humans so arrogant as to believe they were created in the image of a perfect being?", "Why do religions change their game as time goes along?", and so on and so forth. There are an infinite number of questions that can be asked, and an infinite number of answers accompany them.
A bit long and rambly, but maybe that shed a sliver of light on my perspective.
Thanks for taking the time, I was a bit vague about your story! Very interesting though, I do enjoy hearing about how people get to where they are. You haven't asked about mine so I am taking a liberty in telling you - feel free not to read on! I will be selective too as 40 years would be a lot to cover.
My parents were not Christians and there was no church attendance, except weddings and funerals. My first venture into the questions of life was when I was 7. Disturbed by my thougths I went to my dad and asked, 'If we do not know what it is like to be dead then how do we know if we are alive.' I guess it was a kind of a Matrix question! In my teenage years I thought quite deeply about life and how absurd and meaningless it was. I had university, marriage, work, retirement and death ahead of me, but to what end? This did take me to the edge. I had walked the path of Neiche who saw that without God we enter into nihilism, and Bertrand Russell who said that we have no choice but to build our lives on the foundation of unyielding despair. Which is why the French existentialist Albert Camus regarded life not just as meaningless but twisted and cruel and that suicide was the only philisophical question left to discuss. This lead me to look at the Christian worldview, by accident to begin with as my girlfriend happened to be a chrisitan. What I discovered, I found much more satisfying. I had questions like yours and questions about our experience of reality. Examples:
1. I intrinsically know right and wrong but find it hard to live with my own failure to live upto what I think is right. Lying is wrong but I lie, stealing is wrong but I have stolen, making people pay when they hurt you is a madening passion but when you do it, it has no reward only regret. Not to mention hurting the people I love the most. I suffer and I cause others to suffer, sometimes despite wanting to be better than I am - and at other times wilfully so. Multiply my experience by 7 billion and you have a world of people who suffer and cause suffering.
And yet, I am outraged at injustice, and have a nagging, no pervasive sense, that the world should not be like this. People should not be like this. I think thats a feeling common to our clan (humanity).
For me, the biblical idea that the world wasn't once like this, that it was the perfect place that part of me longs for now, and that humanity turned away from its creator introducing sin explains this. The strong feeling of justice I have makes me think that the idea of a final judgment by God is right and necessary. I'm outraged if people get away with crimes they have committed in this life, and if I am just a man then surely God's sense of justice is greater than mine.
The problem that leaves me with is that I know what I am like. If I want justice which is common to man, then God will have to judge me too. I don't like that. Or atleast I need a way out. Pulling myself up by my own boot straps doesn't work for me. Like a child I could say, i'm sorry I wont do it again, but its not true - I keep doing it, even when I don't want to, and other times I do want to! So religions that are 'try and be good enough' and be in our club and God will let you into heaven - don't cut it for me, or I think for anyone.
Does Christianity have an answer? Yes, in Jesus' death and resurrection. I know from the universal sense of justice that God must be just, but He must also be compassionate and loving and merciful. So when Christianity says, God became a man and stepped into my shoes to be punished for my wrong doing then - it has my attention. I don't see that in any other 'try harder' religions or 'ignore the problem and change your perception of reality' religions.
Then there is the problem of why there is many religions and athiests. Christianity says we naturally do not know God because our sin has seperated and cut us off from Him until we personally are forgiven. God is distant and 'unknowable' naturally, not because he is deistic or physically distant, but I am morally distant from him, which makes me relationally distant from Him. So there are many religions, and 'most' (i think is true) people have a sense of the transcendent and that there is a God - but everyone is fumbling around in the dark - the result of that fumbling is many religions trying to find the God we all know is there - but don't know. My take then is that atheism is a moral problem ever before it is an intellectual one - no offence intended.
Lastly, when I became a Christian - you will appreciate this least of all - my experience was inline with what the Bible says. My 'conversion' was quiet but the effect was an unexpected feeling of being 'clean.' My conscience seemed to instantly get an overhaul and the God I didn't know relationally and experintially turned into the God I now knew. Not in the sense of Fred next door, but a majestic sense of divine presence, of love - intense love. Of prayer being transformed from feeling I was talking to myself to feeling that God was close, in the room. The Bible went from being words on a page to having intrinsic beauty, meaning and power. Thats lasted for the last 18 years.
So thats my story, sorry its a book!