What Makes Us Believe In God
Story of how I chose belief over atheism as a child
I thought to share this story because people often ask me to tell them my story of how I came to believe and about religious conversion because I converted to Islam as a teenager. I thought that I would share how I came to believe in God in this article and another time tell the story about how I came to convert to Islam.
I am writing to anyone interested to know.
Perhaps it is interesting because most people think religion should come from one's family or culture. Yet the Quran persuades us to look at the world, study it and think well then come to our beliefs. I did not have the Quran at that time, but as a child, I was trying to learn about the world and began to wonder one day where all things come from.
The Beginning: What is Death?
So, when I was about eight years old I was like most children, I had to ask where I and my sister came from. We were brought by a fairy or a stork or were found in a cabbage patch, it seemed to change each time. However, I became very confused when an aunt of mine passed away. I think it was probably the first time I heard of someone dying and immediately asked my mother in all earnestness, where did she go? There was no clear answer at the time. She was gone.
Not knowing what death was or where my aunt had gone threw me into confusion and anxiety. I was perhaps eight or nine years old and I felt that death was something scary and mysterious. I was trying to understand it. I do not remember how she died, but maybe it was in her sleep. In any case, I somehow knew that sleep was related to death and so became afraid to go to sleep at night. I was afraid that I would not wake up and had no idea where I would go.
Also, what about my parents…what if they did not wake up either? For some reason, I was often afraid that if I was away from my mother for too long I might not see her again. Each night my parents would send me to bed in the early evening and they would stay downstairs to watch television. There were murders and violence usually. In fact, sometimes I came back downstairs when I was afraid and saw murder scenes. They did not want me to see them, of course, but I came down because I was afraid of sleep. It seemed that the theme of death was often around us.
Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash
A Place After Death
Once I was at my grandparent's house, and they were very religious Roman Catholics. I guess I felt closest to my grandfather, in some way. He worked as a deacon in the Catholic Church and would say things like “God Bless,” which no one else seemed to say. My father’s family were atheists and my great aunt would sometimes scare me with stories about imaginary things, such as Jack Frost, who would come to freeze my toes off if I got out of bed while at her house.
At my grandfather's house, they did their best to help me feel comfortable and tried to use religious beliefs to calm me. Once my grandfather and my mother came to put me to bed together as they knew I was scared. I cried all the way up the stairs. So my mother took my hand and pretending to read my palm told me that I would live a long life so there is nothing to worry about right now. I asked her how long would I live.
“Over ninety years,” she replied automatically.
“That is not long!” I protested. I thought that at least we should be able to live for two hundred years or so. I mean, ninety is less than a century. What could we do during that time? So, she then tried something else.
“Well, some people believe that if you are good you will go to a place called heaven,” she told me.
Somehow this seemed like the first real answer to the question of where will we go? So I began to calm down a bit. I cannot say I truly believed everything at first though. I was actually coming wise to the fact that adults tell us stories such as Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, Jack Frost, and others to try and control us. We were often discussing at school whether Santa Clause existed or not. Some claimed to have seen him, others did not believe in him and many were skeptics. So I did not believe it straight away, but I began to ask questions. I saw that this, unlike Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and various other tales actually explained something that I could find no real answer to.
“What is paradise like?”
“It is beautiful?”
“Is everything made of gold?”
“Yes, and you get to sit with Jesus if you are good.”
So Jesus was there too.
I used to attend Sunday school and go to church with my grandparents. I was not a Muslim yet, this is the prelude before I came to that. Actually, I liked the sense of belonging, and at the same time, I felt that there was something within me searching for something higher. My mother came from this Roman Catholic background so she told me that there is another life after death — at least the Church says so (she was not really clear over whether she was convinced or not).
A Non-Religious Answer To The Question Of Death
On the other hand, my father, an atheist, from a family who was not religious gave me another answer.
“What happens when we die?”
“You just become dust and bones and go into the earth and nothing happens after that.”
It is interesting that the Quran mentions this as the answer of non-Muslims to revelation. That they do not believe they can be resurrected. My mind began to consider both of these possibilities. Are we really here on this earth without a purpose, an aim, a reason, and we will just die and go into the earth again without any reason again? Why was I here then? I also began to think of great people such as Einstein who spent their lives trying to figure out answers to big questions or people who spend their lives trying to improve the world or achieve something. So, if they die, it is all in vain? That’s it? Just a name in the history books? And maybe it will be wiped out someday.
My heart was telling me — or something was telling me — that life has more meaning than that. It must have. All the suffering, tiredness, and hard work, can it really all be for nothing? And a person who does a lot of bad, harms a lot of people just become dust the same as someone who does good?
The more I tried, the more I could not accept.
Searching The World
So then I began looking at the world. I looked at the trees in our garden. Hanging my head out of the window, I looked at the trees of different types and shapes. We had a conifer tree and an apple tree. There were also bushes with berries. How did all of these green plants come about? It seemed that my father’s answer was that they were just there and they had no Creator or purpose.
Photo by Xavier von Erlach on Unsplash
Looking closely I tried to imagine the plants and trees there without purpose or Creator. Was it possible? They seemed to lose their beauty like that. Slowly, the more I looked at the world, which I often did when we were traveling a two-hour drive on the motorway to see my grandparents, the more I became convinced in my belief in God.
On the motorway, we would go past meadows that were sometimes green and had cows and sheep feeding off them. Other times there were yellow, orange, or pink fields. Sometimes they were empty and sometimes there were horses and cattle. I looked at the meadows and the different types of trees, also different shapes and sizes, and with leaves sometimes green, yellow, or other colors. Sometimes tall, other times stocky. This was compared to the blue sky and white clouds that seemed to move across the sky.
I often fell asleep watching all the scenery as the car passed by this view. The more I looked and pondered the intricacies of nature, the more I was coming to believe in a Creator, in God, who my grandparents believed in and my grandfather often said, “God Bless!” However, this was a very logical and rational belief and I did not actually feel any connection or feeling in my heart with this Creator. This is the only reason I began to doubt if I was correct or not. In fact, I once spoke to a teacher of mine at university. He said he knew all the arguments for belief in God and he actually wanted to believe, but he just did not feel anything. Therefore, the connection is obviously important to believe and I did not have it quite yet.
I once had a question, if God existed where was He?
When I was eight I used to think that God must be in the sky on a cloud. However, as I got older I realized that this could not be the case. That would mean that airplanes and birds would fly past Him and see Him, but no one has seen God. Was He behind the cloud? I thought. Then I realized that God could not be in the sky because it would not explain where the universe came from in its entirety.
Was God in the Universe? But there were people like Neil Armstrong who went into space and did not see Him, and He could be hit by meteors or taken down a black hole. It seemed that being in space was not possible. Also if He created space, how could He be in it? So I thought and thought some more until I came to the conclusion that God is not on the earth, in the sky, or in space because He created those things. God would have to be outside of space and time because He created these things and He would not be a man or like any creature since He created men, women, and all creatures. This was my childish thought process to try and grasp the issue. Perhaps some people will read it and laugh…
Towards A More Personal Relationship
So this is how I developed a very intellectual explanation of God. I wanted to know God and make it more personal, however. In school, however, we used to have a special Christian group, which I used to attend. It was optional, but I used to like to listen to the different speakers talking about the Bible or giving some other advice. So this man began to talk about his relationship with God. He said he made Him his friend and told him everything and asked Him everything. It sounded very appealing, having that kind of close friend who was always there and you could tell everything to, and they would always hear and answer and never betray so I decided to try it.
In fact, I used to listen to an audiobook that contained a set of stories about a girl called Margaret who was coming of age. Each day she would return home from school and talk to God saying, “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret.” Then she would tell him her worries, fears, and about her day. I was influenced by both the man and such stories. I began to talk to God, in my head. However, the main thing I used to ask God, at that time, was to show me that He is really there.
“Give me some sign,” I used to ask. Sometimes I would put my hands in the air while lying on my back in bed while asking this. I had not realized that my sister could see my hands but could not hear me and did not know what I was doing.
“What are you doing?” came the voice in the dark.
“Um…nothing.” I was just stretching. This continued for some time. I would often notice that when I was alone I would not feel entirely alone and always seemed to have the feeling that someone was with me, watching me. When I was younger this made me imagine ghosts, goblins, rats, spiders, lions, and other harmful things in the room. I would not be able to get out of bed until the sun rose. However, when I look back now, was I feeling that the All-Seeing Creator was watching me? Was that why I felt I could not be alone? So my journey to believe in God began as an intellectual journey looking for answers to life and the world. It then turned into a spiritual quest for connection and getting to know this Creator.
The more that I began to speak with God, and at times see my requests answered, the more I became convinced of His existence. There remained something in the way, however. I still felt that there was a barrier between me and God and began to ask God to remove it. I wanted to be closer, for some reason. This spiritual search began another one with me asking God to guide me and show me which religion I should be following. I was aware that I was only Christian because my family was and I felt something was missing. There were so many religions around me and I wondered, which one was right, and how could we know. In fact, was it possible for us to know or not? This began another story
I hope to write about that in the next story….
To be continued…
This article was previously published in my medium account
Thanks toNancy Blackman (hide)