by David A. Reed COMPLETE BOOK ONLINE
If you are reading this section before the rest of this book, it is probably to address the issue of credibility. There have been many fraudulent claims made in the name of Christianity, and especially in the name of Bible prophecy. Is this another attempt to sucker people into believing a lie?
Does this book present evidence that YOU will find convincing? Or, am I simply exhorting you to "have faith and believe," while offering the sort of flimsy 'evidence' that would convince only those who already believe? Please allow me to introduce myself and to acquaint you with my own skepticism.
Some people may guess that the author of a book such as this must have been raised in a Bible-thumping fundamentalist church, taught from birth to believe that 'the end is near.' "He must never have known anything else," you may naturally assume, "and his car must sport one of those bumper stickers that say, 'God said it, I believe it, and that settles it!'"
However, nothing could be farther from the truth.
When it came to religion, my childhood family had no outward signs of it. We didn't worship anywhere and were not even associated with any church. My father never spoke to me of his belief in God until I was nearly fifty years old, and then it was only a sentence or two. While growing up, I assumed he was simply not interested in religion. My mother, on the other hand, spoke often of God. She could best be described as a seeker, or better yet, as a hide-and-seeker. She expressed belief in God, but often in a questioning or critical manner. How could God allow this or that terrible thing to happen? Why didn't God make matters clearer in the Bible? Whenever I opened her Bible, I found that she had written critical comments or hostile questions all over the margins. Mama spent decades playing hide-and-seek with God. Dad simply hid.
While in elementary school, there was a period of a few weeks when I was taken with my younger sister to a Baptist Sunday school, while my mother attended church. The Baptist church had been my dad's official affiliation, at least by birth. He never attended with us, though, but simply dropped us off at the door and drove off for to sit in the car and smoke until it was time to pick us up again. Our time at the Baptist church was brief, ending soon after my mother's peculiar baptism. I never even found out why there were white fluffy sheep in the pictures of Jesus on the wall of the Sunday school classroom.
I describe my mother's baptism as peculiar because, as she stood robed and waist-deep in water with the pastor about to dunk her, she replied to his question, "Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?" by saying, "I accept him as my Savior, but not as my Lord." He baptized her anyway. But that episode was typical of Mama's hide-and-seek relationship with God. The game ended well, however, as she much later submitted to the lordship of Christ and experienced his peace during her final years even experiencing a personal revelation that had her bubbling over about his tender care during her terminal bout with cancer.
But, before that happy conclusion, my mother's game of hide-and-seek with God went on for years. After that brief period in a Baptist church, it took me next, as a seventh-grader, to a Unitarian church in the Boston suburb of Milton. It was a wealthy old church, or, at least, everyone there seemed much better off financially than our family with our beat-up twelve-year old car. I always felt like a low-class interloper when church emptied out into the fellowship hall for a consomme hour, with the beverage served in delicate china cups and saucers.
I still held onto a childhood belief in God, but this was soon to be assaulted, defeated and destroyed. As I look back now, the attack on what little faith I had was three-pronged.
First, there was the Unitarian Church. The denomination had only recently merged with the Universalists to form the Unitarian-Universalist Association, and the church we attended still displayed in its entryway a good supply of pre-merger literature. "What do Unitarians believe?" was the title of one pamphlet I remember well. It began by saying, "Some Unitarians believe in God, and some do not."
That was a strange position for a church to hold, I thought. But it still left room for me to be one of those Unitarians who did believe in God. Soon, however, I had to face the possibility that our pastor and his assistant were in the other camp.
As a Boy Scout I was working on the God and Country Award not simply another merit badge, but a major project that would result in the award of a pin much like a military badge of honor. Red white and blue cloth hung from the pin, with an enamel emblem suspended below it featuring a shiny cross. For Unitarians this was inappropriate, because the sect held that Jesus was nothing more than one of many good religious men of ancient times. It denied the doctrine of the Trinity and referred to its "Judeo-Christian heritage" in preference to calling itself a Christian denomination.
Still, Boy Scouts who were Unitarians could work on the God and Country Award, and, lacking a badge specific to their church, the Scouts pinned the Protestant version of the award on the chests of these boys.
The attack on my childlike faith came during one of the sessions when I met with the pastor and his assistant to discuss my beliefs, as required by the Scout program. The pastor asked me whether I believed that God really opened a path through the sea so that the Jews under Moses' leadership could walk out of Egypt on dry ground. I replied that, Yes, the sea had been created by God, so He could certainly cause part of it to dry up on that occasion. Instead of discussing it further, the pastor looked at his assistant and laughed heartily. "This boy's got a lot to learn!" he exclaimed to the junior pastor, and then he walked away.
I received the God and Country Award, pinned to my Scout uniform by the pastor in a ceremony at the church, but the net result was an undermining of what little faith I had at that vulnerable time of my life.
The second attack came from the scientific community. I was fascinated with astronomy and hoped to become an astronomer when I grew up. What was out there? Life on other planets? I wanted to be part of the effort to find out. This interest led me into contact with a local amateur astronomer who invited local kids to look through his telescope on Friday nights. A human-interest article in The Boston Globe gave his phone number, and, with some prodding from my education-minded mother, I made the call.
It turned out that Mr. Lucini (as I will refer to him here) and his wife were advocates, not only of astronomy, but also of atheism. Theirs was not the religious agnosticism of the Unitarians, but, rather, a fierce 'religion-is-the-opiate-of-the-people' atheistic hostility toward God. They began introducing me to "astronomy" books that were heavily seeded with humanism and arguments against the religion of the Bible.
Scientists and astronomers were my heroes, and I wanted to become one. So, I hung on every word I read in the books I was handed by Aldous Huxley, Julian Huxley, Harlow Shapley, George Gamow and A. I. Oparin of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. Were their attacks on belief in God and the biblical account of creation as solid as the rest of 'scientific truth'? To find out, I went on to read The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, and then his Voyage of the Beagle.
These books further undermined my faith, but the third prong of the attack, and the final fatal blow, came from my fallen flesh. My teenage sexual awakening brought with it a flood of fear and anxiety. Were my thoughts and my new bodily functions actually sins against God? Unable to talk with my father about such matters, I drew erroneous and deadly conclusions from the little misinformation I was able to gain from others.
Unable to banish the thoughts or the wet dreams, I felt condemned by God. There seemed only one way out. If I couldn't get rid of my sin, perhaps I could get rid of God. How could my behavior be sin, if there were no God to lay down the law? No God to say what was right or wrong? No God to hold me to account? The idea was appealing, but frightening. Could I embrace it? I was given permission to do so by my scientist heroes, Darwin, Huxley, Oparin and company.
So, I was 'saved' from sin by defining it out of existence. Absolute right and wrong had no place in a universe ruled solely by mathematical equations and laws of physics. Evolutionists didn't really present a completely convincing case, but I was persuaded to believe in evolution because it was the road to freedom from sin. If there were a God, I would be accountable to Him. But, if the first rational being in existence were, instead, an ape, then I was free from sin. I said goodbye to God and embraced the ape.
But, like my mother, I continued to seek. Not in the direction of religion, of course, yet I was still looking for answers. Without God, what is man's place in the universe? Do we really possess free will, or is that an illusion? Is there a purpose to life? Can what we do have lasting meaning? Or are we peripheral ephemerals, mere complex chemical reactions that achieved self-consciousness through an evolutionary accident? Do our choices and actions have any greater significance than the gas bubbles that result when you mix baking soda and vinegar? What conclusions had others come to? I began reading the classics and the works of the great philosophers. Were the answers found by Nietsche or Kant? Did existentialist Albert Camus figure it all out? What about Socrates and Plato?
My investigations did take me into religious writings as well, although I studiously avoided Judeo-Christian religious works and, by choice, remained ignorant of the Bible. (While an adolescent working on the God and Country Award, I had read the last book of the Bible, titled "Revelation" or "Apocalypse," depending on the translation, but at that time I concluded it fell into the same category as Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner" a drug-induced fantasy.) I read widely in this area, as well. Even Zen Buddhism caught my attention for a while, as I read both religious treatises and serious fiction such as Herman Hesse's Siddhartha.
I must admit that assembling an impressive list of "Books that I Have Read" that I could add to my college acceptance applications was in the back of my mind while reading about everything from Adam to Zoroastrianism. But my real motive was to find answers to my questions. I read intensely, the way a thirsty person drinks water or a hungry person consumes a meal.
Was there an explanation that fit reality? Had anyone really figured it out? If so, I wanted to know it. If not, then I wanted to be sure of that as well, and not to let the meaning of life pass me by because I had failed to examine a certain philosophy or to explore a certain religion.
In the course of this many-years-long investigation I rejected one 'answer' after another. They all seemed to have holes in their logic, false assumptions, deceptive reasonings, or simply unsatisfying explanations. Eventually, however, I came to the conclusions presented in this book. In these chapters I share with you the information that helped me reach those conclusions.
But, here, I had to present this brief history of my own personal search, so that you will realize I didn't just grow up accepting and believing the Bible. Please be assured, I will not insult your intelligence by asking you to believe simply on my say-so, or on the say-so of respected religious authorities. I have attempted in this book to present evidence the sort of evidence that it takes to convince a skeptic like me.