The Reasons I Decided to Become a Christian
Copyright © November 2, 2009 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.
In 1975 and 1976 I had a job as an Engineer in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and I spent approximately one-half of my time working on the island of Puerto Rico.
After work in the evenings there was very little to do. Almost every radio and television station broadcasted their programs in Spanish. Even the John Wayne movies had John Wayne speaking in Spanish (not Spanish sub-titles but actual Spanish sentences instead of English sentences). Since my knowledge of Spanish was very elementary the only way to pass the time was to read. As the weeks stretched into months I started reading a wide variety of paperback books.
I would buy the paperback books at the Miami airport bookstores and I would take the books with me on the airplane. That way I had something to read in the evenings at my motel in Puerto Rico. I read a variety of books, including fiction, westerns, mysteries, science-fiction, and several "How To" books.
One day in Januaray of 1976 I noticed a small book for sale with the title "An Explanation of the UFO Phenomena From a Christian Perspective." I was mildly interested in UFO's so I bought the book. As an Engineer I had a pretty solid background in science because my Engineering degree had required me to take many, many college courses in chemistry, physics, thermodynamics, and advanced calculus. Therefore I read the book with the critical eye of someone who has a reasonable background in science and who could not be easily persuaded by inaccurate information. As I read the book it made me stop and think carefully about many things I had only casually thought about in the past. When I finished the book I had a very strong desire to learn more about God. Therefore over the next several months I read a variety of religious literature written by a lot of different people who had totally different opinions about some very basic religious concepts.
One evening while reading inside my motel room in Puerto Rico the answer about "God" finally dawned on me. I was devastated that the answer hadn't occurred to me earlier in life.
Following is a very brief summary of some of the more important concepts that led me to my understanding about "God."
Is There Really a God?
- Is the Earth a Simple Cosmic Coincidence or Was the Earth Created?
My academic education from the first grade through four-years of college had consistently taught me that the Earth was a cosmic coincidence. My former textbooks had presented two basic options for how the Earth was formed:
The first thing I did was carefully examine both of the above theories to determine if one of them was superior to the other one. Based on my meager knowledge of the universe I knew that outer space was a huge lifeless freezing cold vacuum where life, as we know it, could not exist. There is no oxygen or hydrogen or water in outer space. But if the elements that make water don't exist in space, then how did the vast majority of the Earth's surface become covered with water? I knew for a "fact" that there was a tremendous amount of water on the Earth. But where did all that water come from? And where did the air that we breathe come from? Neither of the above two theories had any answers to these two simple questions except to ridicule anyone who would ask such questions and not simply accept the scientific explanation that "it just happened" on faith. That was unacceptable to me so I had to personally reject both of the above scientific explanations about how the Earth was formed.
- The Big Bang Theory: There was some type of huge cosmic explosion and the entire world was created as a result of this magnificent historic event.
- Evolution: The Earth gradually formed in space over a period of trillions and trillions of years.
- Did Man Evolve or Was Man Created?
The next question I needed to answer was how did people, and animals in general, get on the Earth? I had three basic theories to evaluate as follows:
(Note: The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America contains the following statement that was agreed upon and signed by our nation's founding forefathers on July 4, 1776: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." The U.S. Declaration of Independence is a historic political legal document and it reveals the unanimous beliefs of a group of very important and influential men who lived more than 200 years ago. These men believed in God and they believed that God created mankind. Although this is not proof of creation it does encourage a person today to carefully consider the opinion of these 56 very intelligent men who were willing to put their reputations, their wealth, and their lives at risk based on their beliefs.)
- Evolution: Animal life gradually evolved over trillions and trillions of years. But this theory assumes the existence of a single cell organism to begin with. There is no explanation of how life entered that first cell that eventually became a man. And there is no explanation of how a simple single cell organism somehow figured out that it needed to "see" or "hear." How did a blind deaf cell know that it needed these senses? And these senses are extremely complex in their basic functions and in the way they relay their data to the brain. To believe in evolution requires that a person simply believe that "it just happened" because there is no valid scientific explanation of how or where animal life came from. In addition, all our current scientific data is actually in opposition to the theory of evolution since we know that instead of evolving that more and more species are actually becoming extinct each year. Therefore, I had to personally reject the theory of evolution.
- Space Travel and Colonization: The next theory is that the Earth was seeded with people by transporting them by spaceship from some distant world and colonizing the Earth. Once again, based on my scientific background, I knew that Alpha Centauri, the closest star, was approximately a 3,000 year journey away if you could travel at the speed of one-million miles per hour. And even if that were possible, I still had to explain how mankind got on that distant planet to begin with. If evolution was scientifically impossible on Earth, then I could not force myself to believe that it was somehow possible on some distant planet. Therefore, I had to reject this theory.
- Creation: The Earth and mankind were intentionally created by God. This requires that a person believe in a supreme being. However, unlike the above two theories, this one did not require me to abandon any of the scientific principles that I currently understood based on my formal education of 16 years in school. To accept this theory I simply had to believe in God and in science. At the tender age of 27 this seemed like the most logical choice if I was going to be true to my own conscience.
- Are There Many Gods, or No God, or One God?
- Multiple Gods: In grade school I learned about the different gods of the Romans, and the Greeks, and a variety of other civilizations. When I went to grade school these gods were taught as part of our study of mythology. We were never taught to believe in these gods. We were just being educated in what some primitive people believed in. And, according to mythology, these gods were always arguing and fighting with one another about something. Therefore, as an adult, it was relatively easy for me to reject the idea of multiple gods.
- No God: When I was attending college this was the "unspoken" opinion of most of the faculty and many of the students. But if I accepted this theory then I would be left with no explanation for where the Earth came from. Therefore, unless I could come up with at least some plausible explanation for the existence of the Earth, I had to rule out the possibility of there being No God.
- One God: This is the foundation of many of the most popular religions on the Earth at this time. Therefore, this theory needed to be examined in more depth.
- If There is One God Then What is His Name?
- If God created the Earth and mankind, then God also created the thousands of different languages that exist all across the globe.
- Since God perfectly understands all these different languages, is it reasonable to believe that the name of God is correct only when it is spoken in one specific language?
- This was an intellectual dilemma for which I did not have an answer.
- If God only has one correct name that can only be correctly pronounced in one language, then are the people who speak that language the only people who are important to God?
- If that is true, then why did God allow so many different languages since He knew that the vast majority of the people on the Earth would never learn any language except the language spoken by their parents in the land in which they were born?
- I could not answer this question to my own satisfaction.
- Instead, I chose to believe that God understands the motives within a person's heart, and if that person truly believes in Him and truly wishes to honor and worship Him, then God would accept that person even if that person only spoke the language of his or her birth.
- Does God want everyone to know about Him or just a few very select special people?
A careful study into the question about whether or not there is a God will eventually result in having to answer the question about whether or not God can be found by anyone who diligently searches for Him, or whether He can only be found by following the guidance of a small group of people who claim that they have special information about God that is only available to them and to the people who join their group.
- Is there secret hidden knowledge about God available only to a select few? The number of groups that claim that they have some type of special secret knowledge about God is truly overwhelming. If you will just become a member of their group for the rest of your life, and if you will make a vow of secrecy to never tell anyone outside the group what you have learned, then they will gradually reveal their knowledge to you based on your willingness to serve God and do His will as defined by the leaders within the group. The more you serve the group the higher in rank you will rise within the group. Unfortunately there is no way to honestly know if any one of these secret groups actually has a "special revelation from God." There is also no way to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each of these different groups prior to joining them because their activities are kept secret. Therefore I made the personal decision not to join any of these groups because my original objective was to find out if there really was a God, and it did not seem logical to me to believe that God would hide himself from everyone except one very small group of people.
- Does God reveal himself to anyone and everyone who diligently seeks Him? There is an overwhelming amount of information about God available to anyone who wishes to study religion in great depth. This knowledge is freely available to anyone who looks for it. However, I also discovered that very few people actually go looking for this type of information. The vast majority of people simply are not interested in learning about God by searching for Him on their own. Therefore, I eventually reached the simple conclusion that God was easy to find by yourself if you will just take the time to look for Him. This is the path I chose to follow and it has consistently proven to be the right choice for me.
- Is one religion or faith the best way to learn about God?
After reaching the conclusion that there is one God, and that He can be found by anyone, the next question that needs to be answered is which religion or faith most closely teaches the truths about God. There are two basic options to choose from:
- God does not care which religion you practice as long as you practice some religion: This point of view has been around for a very long time. However, it is difficult for an intelligent person to accept this point of view because each of the major religions claims that it is the only way to worship God and that all the other religions are false religions. If a person accepts the statement that all religions are basically equal before God then that person must immediately reject the basic premise of each religion that it is the only way to God. This creates a paradox and therefore it can't be true.
- There is only one true religion just like there is only one true God: If God can be found by man then there must be some way that man can worship God in a manner that would be pleasing to God. Once this conclusion is reached the next major decision has to be which religion is the one that God wants you to participate in?
- Which religion is correct?
A correct answer to this question is the key to finding God and worshiping Him in a manner that is pleasing to Him.
However, the correct answer can only be reached by simultaneously answering several different but related questions:
- Does God always tell the truth? Does God expect His followers to always be truthful to everyone?
The answer to these two questions was intuitively obvious to me.
However, some religions only expect their people to tell the truth to each another and they have permission to lie to everyone else if they believe it is appropriate.
- Yes, God is always truthful.
- Yes, God expects us to always tell the truth.
Since I have a very high opinion about the integrity of Almighty God, it was impossible for me to believe that God would approve of lying.
Therefore I could not seriously consider any religion that provides conditions under which its people can tell lies.
- Does God tolerate differences among His people or must everyone do everything exactly the same way at exactly the same time?
Some religions have very strict formal procedures for doing everything, and other religions have less formal procedures.
I was not able to determine if more or less formality was preferred by God.
However, I do know that God made each one of us different from everyone else. If God intentionally created so much diversity among his children, then it seemed logical to me that God might accept a little variation in the way that we individually chose to honor and worship Him as long as we don't do something that is offensive to Him. But that is just my opinion. You will need to make your own decision in this matter.
- Does God want His people to live in peace or in constant fear?
Since each one of us achieves religious insight at a unique time within our own lives, it did not seem appropriate to me to force a person to make that decision based on when another person decides that the time is right to make the decision. Given a little more time and access to a little more information a person may chose the right religious path on his or her own. But if that person is forced to make a religious decision or face death then I personally do not believe that God accepts that person's decision because it was forced on him or her. However, some religious faiths believe that God honors a decision whether it is voluntary or forced. However, my personal opinion is that God only accepts religious decisions that are voluntary. You will need to make your own decision about this issue.
- Some religions actively promote peace and harmony within their own religious community and with everyone outside their religious community.
- Some religions believe that they alone have a right to live here on this Earth and that God expects them to exterminate anyone who does not share their faith.
- Does God need your help to achieve His will?
Some religions believe that God needs your help to achieve His will here on this Earth.
Some religions believe that God's will on this Earth will be done regardless of what you do.
I do not know the answer to this question but I have personally chosen to believe that God's will on this earth will be done regardless of what I do or don't do. You will need to make your own decision in this matter.
- Does God want you to make a personal decision to follow Him or can someone else make that decision for you?
Some religions believe that a child's parents can make the decision about a child's eternal destiny by performing some religious ritual for the child while the child is still an infant, or at some time before the child achieves the status of adulthood.
In other words, once a child's eternal destiny has been decided for the child, the child can do anything he or she wishes during his or her entire life and that child would still go to heaven at the time of death.
I do not know if this is God's plan or not, but it did not seem to be consistent with God being a true and just God who says that He will judge each and every one of us based on our own actions instead of the actions of someone else. Therefore, I could not personally accept this religious concept. Instead I chose to believe that each person must individually make a decision to accept or reject God.
- Is suicide acceptable to God?
Some religions believe that any type of suicide is a one-way ticket to an eternal hell.
Some religions believe that religious suicide is a one-way ticket to an eternal heaven.
There is no scientific way to prove or disprove either one of the above two opinions.
Therefore I had to answer this question for myself using common sense. Suicide is murder. Murder is wrong. Therefore, if God always tells the truth, and if God is always consistent and He does not change, and if God does not want us to commit murder, then God would not be pleased with anyone who commits suicide. Based on this simple reasoning I had to conclude that suicide is not acceptable to God and therefore it should be avoided.
- Does God want you to sacrifice the lives of your children to please Him?
Some religions believe in child sacrifice.
If God demands the lives of little children then how did you get to be an adult?
This ancient religious practice is totally offensive to me and therefore I could not seriously consider any religion that currently practices it or that has a history of practicing it.
Unfortunately this religious practice periodically reappears during serious hard times. Therefore I needed to mention it here in the hope that you will not personally choose to follow any religion that advocates child sacrifice as the way to appease God so that God will bless you.
- Do you get one lifetime to find God or do you get reincarnated many times?
If you don't find God while you are here on this Earth do you get multiple chances to come back to the Earth until you eventually find God?
If this is true then nobody ever needs to find God and you can do anything you want and you will keep coming back again and again and again.
Therefore I had to personally reject the theory of reincarnation.
- Where does your spirit go when you die?
There are three predominant religious views about what happens to you when you die:
- You simply die and that is the end of you. Nobody has an eternal spirit and therefore there is no such thing as life after death. (Note: Although an atheist would resent being referred to as a person who has a religious faith this is indeed the belief of those individuals who deny that God exists.)
- Your spirit becomes part of a huge universal spirit. Everyone has an eternal spirit and regardless of what you do while you are alive, when you die your spirit simply becomes part of some large spiritual body. This belief is very popular with people who are basically good people and who do not want to be restricted in any way by any type of religion. These people have chosen to become their own God and decide what they should do and shouldn't do. Since they don't intend to do anything really bad it becomes intellectually easy for them to believe that their eternal spirit will simply mingle with other eternal spirits. The major problem with this perspective is that these people have replaced God with their own beliefs. Therefore, I could not personally adopt this philosophy.
- There is a place of eternal joy called heaven and a place of eternal punishment called hell. Although there is nothing that can support this belief while we are here on this Earth, this teaching is the only one that appeals to my personal understanding of what a true and just God would do. However, many people choose to reject this belief because they don't personally wish to believe in a place called hell and therefore they make all types of excuses why hell cannot exist.
- What are the most important principles or rules of the religion?
Each major religion has one or more primary religious principles upon which it is founded.
To be a member in good standing in that religion the person should adhere to these major principles.
The Christian religion has two basic principles upon which all the other Christian principles are derived:
- Love God with all your heart, mind, and spirit. Heaven is a place for people who love God and who truly want to please God. Heaven is not a place for rebellious spirits. Therefore, the first rule of Christianity is that you must love God above everything else. It is still okay to love others, but God must come first.
- Love your neighbor as yourself. When asked to define the concept of a neighbor Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. A Samaritan was the most despised person on the face of the Earth at that time. Therefore, Jesus told us to love everybody, including our worst enemies. We are not only commanded to love them but also to pray for them and to forgive them. When I first became a Christian I did not fully appreciate the importance of this commandment. But as I grew in the Christian faith the fundamental truth that underlies this command has gradually become obvious to me. Perhaps it will also eventually become obvious to you.
- If you make a mistake does God reject you and cast you into Hell?
In the Christian religion there is a difference between eternal salvation and eternal rewards:
- Eternal Salvation: The moment a person accepts Jesus Christ as his or her Savior then that person's soul is forever safe in the hands of Jesus Christ. Jesus' death on the cross was the full and final payment for the eternal souls of everyone who voluntarily chooses to put their trust in Him. After a person is saved through faith in Jesus Christ that person does not have to do anything else to go to heaven. And if a person does something really bad then that does not cancel out Jesus' death on the cross because Jesus' death paid for all the person's sins: past, present, and future.
- Eternal Rewards: If a person does good works that deserve a reward then that reward will be waiting for that person in heaven. If a person doesn't do anything that deserves a reward then there will be no rewards for that person in heaven. The "saved" person's soul will still go to heaven but that person will be one of the "least in the kingdom of heaven." However, being one of the least in the kingdom of heaven would still be infinitely better than being cast into an eternal Hell.
After carefully thinking about all of the above issues I reached the following conclusions:
After a person decides to accept the Christian faith then that person will need to find and attend a local Christian church on a regular basis.
- There is only One God.
- God created the Earth and everything on the Earth and everything in outer space and everything in heaven and in hell.
- Anyone can find God. There is no small group of people who know some spiritual secret about God.
- God always tells the truth and he expects us to always tell the truth.
- God desires for His followers to live in peace with everyone.
- God is not pleased with someone who commits suicide or someone who sacrifices the lives of little children.
- A decision to believe in God must be voluntary.
- A person who believes in God must also love God.
- If a person loves God then he or she will want to worship God in the way that God says He is to be worshiped.
- A person who pleases God will go to heaven. A person who rejects God will go to hell.
- The only way to please God is to become a Christian. A person can become a Christian by accepting God's Son Jesus Christ as Savior.
- The Holy Bible tells the truth about God and about His Only Son Jesus Christ.
However, a person needs to be very careful about which "Christian" church to join because all churches are not the same.
- Some churches supplement the Holy Bible with one or more additional "holy books" which are considered equal to or better than the Bible. In my opinion, it is very easy to deviate away from the teachings of the Holy Bible if you are following the teachings in some other book.
- Some churches select a few passages from the Holy Bible and base their entire faith on those few verses. They basically ignore all the other teachings in the Holy Bible.
- Some churches teach that certain parts of the Holy Bible are true but other parts aren't true, or those other parts are no longer valid and can therefore be safely ignored.
- Some churches teach from the Holy Bible and from nothing else. They believe every word in the Bible and they teach the entire Bible from cover to cover. And they encourage their members to read the Holy Bible for themselves and to practice what it teaches. This is the type of Christian church that pleases God.
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