by Spencer Smolenski

If five years ago you told me I would one day become a Catholic, I would have called you crazy. At that time, I identified as an  atheist, seeing religion as a superstition that irrationally placed  faith above reason. This idea pitted my lifelong interest in science  against Christianity, and I chose what I saw as the more real  between the two.

Yet, I had once identified as a Christian. Although both of my  parents were baptized into the Catholic faith, both fell away  from it and converted to Methodism. As a result, I was ignorant  of Catholicism and uninterested in it, and for the early years of  my life, I regularly went to the local Methodist church where I was  baptized. But, at around the age of three, my parents separa ted. After that, I lived with only my mother, and I went to church  sporadically.

During that time, church was something that I was accustomed  to, but I only had a vague understanding of the reason for going.  The purpose seemed clear enough to me–to worship God–but I  did not understand how church exactly was the means to that.  This stemmed from my extremely crude understanding of who  God was: merely an omnipotent being who could answer prayers.  So, as church did not have a strong impression on me, the memories from the non-denominational church I went to mainly revolve  around the donuts served afterwards.

A seminal moment in my life was when I began to question my  belief in God. As I had previously taken it as a given and at this  time was ignorant of the importance of church, around the age  of eleven I easily fell from the faith. From fifth to tenth grade I  identified as an atheist. The transition to atheism was simple. In  addition to seeing religion as incompatible with science, I had  begun to see the world through a nihilistic lens. What I saw as  a meaningless world rife with tragedy helped sustain my belief  in the absence of a good God. Turning on the goodness of life,  though, left me with an inferior replacement. The quality of my  life was at its worst when I identified as an atheist, as all the  goods of the world cannot make up for what is itself the good.  Yet, because the good is omnipresent, I often had encounters  with it as the author of my deepest intuition. This intuition for the  good is the natural result of the desire we have implanted in us  for God.

So, after a long withdrawal, I slowly came back to God’s light.  The genesis of this return was recognizing the vacuity of my life  and the superiority of religion. Although I did not fully recognize  it at the time, I was slowly drifting towards accepting Christian  moral teaching. This was bolstered by a change in how I viewed  belief in God. When I first made the transition to identifying as  an atheist, it seemed self-evident that belief in a god was irra- tional as it was an article of faith. Yet, I came to understand  that disbelief in a god was also an article of faith. I came to the  conclusion that, at the least, it is no more irrational to believe  in a divine being than to disbelieve in one, and that the former  actually seemed more rational than to believe that the universe  spontaneously came into existence.

Through a combination of intuition and reason, then, I gradually  came back to God until I again identified as a Christian. Our  modern scientific world is predicated on the idea that belief  should be restricted to what can be rationally proven. Yet, while  reason is a tool that can be utilized to reach many truths, it is  not totally sufficient. Faith, which is reached through intuition  for the good, is a necessary addition. Reason must be guided  by this. C.S. Lewis perfectly summarized the implications of this  intuition: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this  world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we  were made for another world.”

Coming back to the faith has opened me up to truths of which I  was previously ignorant. The crude understanding I had of God  has been improved, and now I understand that God is beauty,  truth, and goodness. He is the source of spiritual wealth which  transcends the material world. Church is the means to reaching  this other world, acting as a medium that transmits knowledge  from one realm to the other so that they can be in consonance: it  helps cultivate the habits of the soul necessary for virtue. Finding  God in the modern world is an extremely difficult process requi ring many leaps. Yet, in a world rife with tragedy, following our  intuition of an ultimate good is sure to lead us back to Him.

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