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.


  1. I've been following Jennifer's blog for about a year and a half, and read many of her older posts that describe her journey from atheism to the Catholic Church. One post that struck me in particular, was when she described reading the Gospels for the first time. To her horror, she found the only one she could understand and identify with was Pontius Pilate! That astounded me. Having been born and raised a Catholic, I identified with almost everyone in the Gospels EXCEPT Pilate. It took me many years to be able to grasp what he was saying when he said, "What is truth?" or when he said, "I find no guilt in this man, no cause of a charge against him. Therefore I shall punish and release him." The logic of that astounded me.
    So glad Jennifer finally got her book published; she and Joe have an amazing life, and I really like how she explains how an atheist thinks, and what their point of view is. I really helps, because they are as mystifying to me as I probably am to them.
    Thanks for the review. Can't wait to read the book myself.
    God Bless. ~ Fran

  2. This book was an interesting read, but not one with "new" insights for me; I didn't underline much in the text. But at one point I interrupted my reading and wrote on the first blank page inside the cover. I had a sudden insight on what Jennifer was thinking, as she KNEW some truths of Christianity, but still found it hard to accept them. This is what I wrote:

    "She now sees like the blind person who now sees. She used to touch things to know that they existed, but now she can see things in the distance but may not be able to touch them --- to know in the way she used to that they are truly real. Her mind must think it strange --- that something could be real that she can't touch."

  3. Thank you, Tom! This book and Jennifer's story is intriguing...I'd love buy it as gifts for people in my family like the "original" Jennifer. Praise God for hope!

    1. I'm torn, Tiff, to say that this is a good book to gift to atheists and/or "cultural" Catholics. It does contain a very reasoned walk from what I view as a pretty common (and getting more common) mindset in this culture, but ... I see more and more that people don't reason very well any more. They "feel" something is true or false or good or bad --- and usually in relation to themselves, who they prioritize. I read another book which I will review here shortly (Making Gay Okay) which is less on reasoning and more on facts and data --- which it largely lets speak for itself, with a limited number of questions or examples to make its point. The book is focused on the Gay agenda, but the underlying philosophy is that of the atheist or any other "I KNOW THE TRUTH" (and you're wrong) philosophy raging through this culture. Neither book can be explained in a Tweet, the attention span of many younger folks, but this other book made some very hitting examples of why our thinking may be wrong.

      Hope you had a great Mother's Day.

    2. Thanks for more clarification, Tom. I know what you mean about people not reasoning very well any more...I'll look for your next review!