The conundrum that an atheist comes up against, time and again, is the very real presence of God. Thus, any intellectual argument is defeated in the heart, even though the atheist contends it is not so.
Born into a financially poor family in the South, and losing my father when I was but nine months old, put me at a distinct disadvantage. At least, prevailing wisdom would say that is the case. Looking back onto it, it was a blessing from God, each moment, though painful, was worth it for it brings me here today.
Yet one would not have discerned such an attitude if they were unfortunate enough to know me as a teenager or early thirty-something. High on my intellectual horse, given to delusions of grandeur because of my intellect, it was no fun to know me or live with me. Like Dr. Richard Dawkins, the brilliant evolutionist, but avowed atheist, it was my belief after a while that only by my own strength could I muddle through life. Early, and often, my rhetorical skills would land me in a heated argument, my then favorite tool when all else had failed. See, the eloquent can and will descend into the profane if all of their resources are spent. Moreover, my own lack of insight led me to believe halfheartedly in what I was saying. Which character in The Wizard of Oz said, "If I only had a brain?"
Some minute talent was present in my soulless body but even success as a writer, and in other endeavors, eventually wound up in the gutter, because one can only tread water for so long before drowning in the abyss of sin. Even now, people like some of my old work, not knowing that it is without merit. Hateful, philosophic garbage spew forth from someone who was actually fearful of every shadow because I had tasted the effects of loving God and had rejected it.
My soul was yearning for contact with God, but pride stood in the way. How could I wow crowds of friends and strangers with rhetoric and wit if I only spoke of love for a God? No, that attention was more important, vital even, to my survival. In this case, like so many in society, I was afflicted with a modern case of Botulism of the Soul.
Eventually, in a fog of despair, I sought out the Bishop of the Diocese. Oh, I was not Catholic. Baptized at age 14, no faith did I call home, but there was something about Catholicism. Little did I know that one does not just call up a bishop, but he patiently spoke with me, a caring man, a friend then, and now in retirement. Yet, in spite of that tug, I persisted on my own path, unaware that a date with destiny would arrive that would bring me to the floor, sobbing, begging for God.
In the springtime of a certain year, while out with a group of people who all got by because of the degrees they used after their names, came an incident that for many might seem trivial, but for me was the end of the line. Long had I been a conservative hawk about many things, especially crime. Yet while drinking, this respected person, meaning the author, suddenly awoke in jail, unaware that he had, for the first time in his life, been arrested for anything. The charge was resisting arrest and the conclusion was guilty!
As I lay there, waiting for my wife to come and fetch me, I turned to God again. How could I survive? My reputation! My freedom! Me, Me, Me! Yet God saw to it that my heart opened and thought about my wife, a brilliant researcher obtaining her PhD, always telling me that my behavior was wrong, and loving me nonetheless. How could I face her? I hurt her, God, and everyone. There I was, at the foot of the cross, playing my part in jeering Jesus! I was guilty of everything.
As I lay there praying, a miracle occurred, of which I cannot describe now. Let me state that God came into my life but I was still fidgeting. Soon out and about, as I sat in a waiting room, a lady started a conversation with me. At the end, as I got up to leave, SHE SAID, "Find a church and start going." What? How did she know about my conversations with God, all that I had promised Him?
I sought out several priests, found a home, and began my journey; my pilgrim's walk into the desert, to worship God. Struggle? Yes. Yet everything is better, sweeter than before. My love affair with God is stronger each day and my wife and I are happy. As a Catholic, called to live for Christ, life is good.
Thomas is a writer residing on the East Coast with his wife and seven cats.