The liturgical feast of Pentecost marks the beginning of the Church, when the Holy Spirit came down and laid the gifts on the Apostles.
Fr. Rob Clements, of the All Saints Catholic Newman Center in Tempe, says in his homily (paraphrasing): “So, we believe first, that leap of faith, then the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of understanding.”
Sounds like a plan. But what about atheists, how does it work for them?
Jennifer Fulwiler answers that question for one atheist — herself — in her new book, “Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidently Found It.”
Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidently Found It
Author: Jennifer Fulwiler
Release date: April 29, 2014
Length: 248 pages
Order: Ignatius, Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, etc.
Fulwiler was raised in an atheist family, with a father who was an engineer, very confident in science, and a mother who didn’t much care either way. Being atheist does not always mean an overt violence toward religion or God. In Fulwiler’s case, her mother and father explained what religion did for some people but accepted science as a better way of looking at the world.
Fulwiler had no faith with which to take a leap. The big questions of life always nagged her and as she grew, she began to understand that her father’s science did not explain all things.
Like when she fell in love.
She read about the biological and neurological origins of attraction but couldn’t explain what poet Robert Bly called, “The Third Body,” the ethereal thing that happens between a man and a woman. She fought it and then had a child. She came to understand the biochemistry of childbearing and its power: the little child made attractive and vulnerable so that we will care for it. Science could not explain the complication of pro-creation, the path from The Big Bang to the mini-me one holds in their arms after birth.
“What if there is a god?” she was forced to ask herself. She began to study religion, like many of us have, and came to the conclusion that only Christianity offered hope in its mix, hope for herself and her children. She read the blogs of the Christian people who went wide with their beliefs and who fought with and derided each other. Among all these conversations she
could not understand the spectrum of doctrine but the questions would not leave her be.
She created her own blog to deal with these questions and invited only a handful of others who had demonstrated constraint and reason in their discussions. She asked them her questions and they answered with humble, though totally reasonable confidence.
Her husband, Joe, read over some of the answers from these people, and realized the only ones answering, the only ones invited by Jennifer, were Roman Catholic. He challenged them immediately, asking: “Why should Christians follow a bunch of corrupt old guys and not just interpret the Bible as they see fit?”
An answer blew him away because the analogy was made to the Constitution and the founding of this country. The Founding Fathers created a Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution. What would have happened if they handed the Constitution to all the people and said, “Make of it what you will?” Joe thought about it and realized that the same thing would have happened that happened with Martin Luther and the Reformation; not unity, but chaos.
The fight that Fulwiler had in coming to terms with her own mortality and answering the big questions was one that most of us never have to endure. While I am not fond of clichés, especially as a writing instructor, I must use one here — this is a real page-turner. Every time I thought she was there, something else would happen: financial problems, medical problems, spiritual problems, all because she demanded understanding first, before she would believe.
If I recommend one book — other than the “Good Book” — this is that book, a powerful testament to the power of God working through His Son to reach us despite our self-erected obstacles.