Belief in God is not Possible until we are Ready to Believe

The Holy Spirit depicted as a dove, surrounded...

I have come to the conclusion that those who don’t believe in God don’t want to believe in God. There is nothing that a believer in God can say or do to change their mind for it must be accomplished by the Holy Spirit in the depths of those who doubt or deny His existence.

A couple of quick stories to illustrate my point.

When I was in college as a philosophy and English major, I did not believe in God or at least I denied that I did. I was a fallen away protestant and vehement in my belief. On a bus trip to NYC from Boston I was seated next to a priest. I had on several occasions tried to get the reading light to come on so that I could read and not be bothered by conversing with him. It seemed to be useless and so the priest began a conversation with me concerning faith and God. He was amiable and I thought I was holding my own in arguments for or against the belief in God. At one point I said to the priest, “If God really exists, why not just create a miracle and cause this light to come on so that I can read?” No sooner had I spoken these words than the light flashed on. The priest said that he doubted that I would take this as a sign that God existed and he was right. I immediately began to rationalize the event by telling him that it must certainly be a short circuit in the light or a loose wire. We continued to speak and the kind old priest had a wry smile on his face as he continued to tell me that I just couldn’t accept the fact that God had answered my request. I then, in an act of defiance, said to the priest that if that were the case, he had my permission to now turn the light off. And quick as that, the light went off. But I went back to my theories of loose wires and such. We left each other’s company amiably but with him jovially saying that God was trying to get me to know that He truly exists and that He wants me to come back to Him. It was of no use. I wasn’t ready.

My second story actually happened about a year or so earlier while I was in my college dorm room sleeping. In the dream, the room was as visible and real to me as it was when I was awake; I could see everything and indeed, I’m sure I could have picked up a book and read from it. The oddest thing however was that my dog of 17 years was sitting at the foot of my bed. He moved his mouth and my cognition of what he was attempting to do was to say goodbye. As I wondered at this in my dream, I awoke from it by a loud knock on the dorm room door. It was a phone call for me. Still wiping the sleep from my eyes, I went to the phone booth in the hall and picked up the phone only to hear my mother tell me that my dog from childhood had just been put to sleep. She just wanted me to know because I was very fond of him as we practically grew up together. Now the first thought that quickly ran through my mind was that God granted this gift to me because I could not be home to say my goodbyes. But as usual, I could not allow myself to hold to such nonsense. I went back to thinking that it was just an extraordinary coincidence.

Those are my personal stories and they revolve around minor or what we might call “silly” miracles or “signs”. But they illustrate our reluctance to change our minds when our hearts are far from accepting what our senses and our intellect are telling us.

My thought is that one need not try to evangelize or convert an atheist or an agnostic. All you can do is resist them in many of their preconceived notions. You can point out the utilitarian outlook of atheism as an affront to human dignity but they will not believe you or if they do they will not care and they may even endorse the idea.

God does speak to us but often we don’t allow our hearts to hear and God will not violate His gift to us of free will.

 

10 thoughts on “Belief in God is not Possible until we are Ready to Believe

  1. Thanks Daniel. You’re so right. It is sort of the point of my story about the priest and the light on mybus trip. He planted a seed that I never forgot. I’m sure he prayed for me and the Holy Spirit did the rest though I was a tough customer.

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      • I don’t squirm at that kind of story at all. Humans see patterns where there aren’t any, and remember things they way they want to remember them. Our brains just work that way. You find a flickering light convincing, I don’t. Meanwhile, thousands of innocent children starve to death, or die of preventable diseases or natural disasters, all while calling out to god to help them, and receive only silence. That ought to make anyone squirm.

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  2. You blame God for the fallen state of mankind and all the evil in the world? God is the only one that seems to be able to bring good out of evil. We will always have the poor, diseases (preventable or not) and horrible disasters but God can and often does unite people and motivates them to care for one another in unprecedented charitable acts. They give to the most neglected of people the experience of being loved for the first time in their lives. It is exactly that kind of love and caring that made Mother Theresa of Calcutta such a wonderful and holy woman. These evils are only motivation for Christians to get their hands dirty and help the suffering of others.

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    • No I don’t “blame god” because I don’t think there is one to blame or be angry with. But you apparently do believe, so I’m puzzled why you don’t “blame god”. We bring plenty of suffering on each other, just from competing for our planet’s limited resources, which gives us plenty of opportunity and motivation for charitable acts. So why do we have things like tsumanis and childhood cancer? Why send extra evils on us when we are so capable of generating our own?

      As for Mother Teresa, I have heard much about her glorifying suffering, talking about how holy it was, but what I never saw from her was any effort to put a stop to it. I’d have more admiration for her if she had been pushing education, sanitation, preventative healthcare, and creating jobs in the areas where she worked. I have read reports that she withheld painkillers from the dying because she thought suffering brought people closer to jesus. I don’t find that wonderful, or “holy”.

      You are describing a god who would cause an innocent child to suffer because a distant ancestor ate a piece of evil fruit, so now the world is awful? And that child suffers not for their own benefit, but so that other people might occasionally be moved to help? This does not motivate me to want to have anything to do with such a belief system. Much more comforting to me is the idea that the universe does not care about us. Stuff happens because stuff happens, and it’s not personal, or a punishment. Mankind isn’t fallen, we dragged ourselves up to where we are so far by our own bootstraps, and we’re on our own to improve things for our fellow humans.

      I’ve invaded your blog quite enough for now, I’ll leave you in peace. If your religion brings you comfort in a difficult world, then by all means follow it.

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      • That’s quite alright. I don’t mind your visits or questions in the least. I just want to assure you that faith is not a simple act for many people. There are constant challenges to our faith and we seek sometimes for years to either get an answer or finally acquiesce to the fact the Church has always recognized as a mystery: the mysterium iniquitas or the mystery of evil. The Catechism can help on this but if you would like to explore the inner workings of God and how he uses silence and darkness for the purging of our soul you may want to explore St. John of the Cross’s DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL. It explores the depths of suffering that God allows to bring some to the heights of spiritual joy. Loving God because he always mothers us is not the essence of love. It is when we love Him just because of Who He is. It is a love that endures the darkness and absence of of God’s lights. It pure unselfish love that loves God no matter what. You might see that kind of love in the story of Job as well.

        Stop by anytime. Thanks for the exchange.

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  3. This post does not really make sense to me, except for the part about not trying to convert atheists. I completely agree with that part!

    If someone spends years genuinely opening their heart to the “holy spirit”, and the holy spirit never shows up, then what? If the “holy spirit” does not exist, then that’s exactly what you’d expect. If the holy spirit is real, then why not go ahead and give the non-believer what they need to know god exists? There’s no violation of “free will” there. For a non-believer to make the choice to follow a god, first they would need to have some reason to think that god exists. I can’t make a voluntary choice to worship the Easter Bunny, for example, because I think the Easter Bunny is fictional. For me to follow your god, I’d need to be convinced that your god is not fictional. I put in years of trying, and nothing. Silence. Either your perfect god is a lousy communicator (not my fault), or wants me to be an atheist for some reason (also not my fault), or doesn’t exist.

    If there actually is an omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent god who wants me to believe, then he already knows exactly what it would take to persuade me of his existence. If he doesn’t care to send it, then there’s no point in preaching at me. I’m done waiting around, there’s work out there to be done to make the world a better place for other people. If your god wants to reach me, he knows where I live.

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  4. He may have sent it but you did not care to listen. I’m sorry you’re so angry with God but anything worth gaining is worth the pain of seeking. You’re not the only one who has suffered to find the answers and to find consolation in God. At times you can also find him in suffering. I pray that you don’t lose heart. Pax Christi.

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