Saturday, May 10, 2014
Review: Something Other Than God
I just completed a lengthy review on my blog about the Growth of Atheism in this country and what I might do about it, when I saw this book by Jennifer Fulwiler. I wonder if God smiled at those musings of mine and quietly whispered to me: “Well, that’s interesting, but why don’t you look here, at what I did.”
Jennifer Fulwiler was an atheist, raised by an atheist father, a good man, and a mother who believed religious dogma irrelevant. “Belief in gods and angels and stuff like that is a comfort to some people,” her father said, but “make sure you don’t fall into that; question everything.” And so she did --- but eventually she became part of the 70% raised-atheist who left their atheist religion. Reading how that came about for her --- and her “questions” along the way --- may answer many of your own questions about God, even those you could never quite put into words.
The earliest question Jennifer asks has to do with death: the end, nothingness. As a child, it was terrible to consider. She found no immediate answer to her question, and decided that “while it might not be a solution, chasing moments of happiness might be all I had.” And so that was what she chased --- and fleeting happiness became the goal and achievement of her life: a handsome guy, a luxurious apartment, money (lots of money), and parties (oh, lots and lots of parties). This was the happiness Jennifer sought and achieved at a very young age. Life was going just as she planned it.
That is, until things happened which she did not plan. Her rich executive soon-to-be husband came home and announced: “I quit my job” to pursue the starting his own company, to make more money, of course. It might be difficult for a while, but after all, he said: “The first million is the hardest.” They laughed and drank to their success; but it turned out to be harder than either of them imagined --- or planned.
Jennifer and Joe lost their luxury apartment, their luxury car, got pregnant (!), and had to move in with her mother. And along the way, Jennifer found out that Joe believed in God, and even considered himself a Christian (imagine that!). She found his thoughts interesting, as were the Christian neighbors around her, but Jennifer researched data to unmask the lies of Christianity (and the troubling insights of her husband), reading from Aristotle to Augustine, and asking questions that ultimately led her to Christianity, and then Catholicity. Dogmas were easy to research and understand, but spiritual things, right and wrong, were new ground for her. She KNEW that being a good person was a logical goal of life, but it troubled her how many people disagreed on what that meant. It wasn’t until page 151 of the book that Jennifer described reaching a point which took me so many years to reach: “The secret to being good is to be humble. And the secret to being humble is to be so focused on how you can make other people’s lives better that you don’t care who’s right or wrong.” Jennifer had found a key piece of wisdom, and she never again wrote of her longings for luxury homes or parties or money. She had learned that life was not about just making herself happy.
Jennifer and Joe eventually entered an RCIA program, to “maybe” become Catholic, but mostly to get more answers to their questions about the Catholic faith. One of the more troubling things for Jennifer centered around “a woman’s right to choose:” abortion and contraception. A turning point in her thinking occurred when Jennifer’s research led her to read how the American College of Obstetricians opposed late term abortions because they were unsafe for the mother --- and instead it favored the delivery and killing of a baby! Looking at her own child, Jennifer “was disgusted with the pro-choice movement.” A major threshold had been crossed.
But while more and more things logically led Jennifer to the Catholic worldview, she still found no reasons to seek this thing people called “a relationship with God.” Jennifer never prayed. She could study about God, but she could not find Him. And so He found her.
An illness which would likely lead to death, a total financial collapse, and a second, dangerous, unplanned pregnancy led her to plead with God “if You’re there.” And He changed her life; she found that prayers DO get answered, and then she changed her life, and her worldview.
“As an atheist I mourned the fact that nothing good would last; now it was time to accept the fact that good did last, and it would last forever. Only suffering would end.”
Jennifer’s life story ends as she makes her first Confession. “And never, ever could I have imagined what it would do for my soul to hear the words, My child, you are forgiven.”
Someone who once didn’t know about God, now knew she was loved by Him. All her other questions and doubts shrunk to insignificance. This is a true story about Jennifer, the family history she didn’t know about, and the people around her she never really understood. It is a good book for everyone, atheist to Catholic, to read, and especially for those who are confident THEY KNOW the truth about God and His ways (if He even exists) --- as Jennifer did.