Summary: This is my personal testimony describing how I went from being a hardened athiest, to becoming a child of God.
Frank J. Gallagher
Abiding In The Word
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I was born in 1950, and from 1956 through 1964, attended a Roman Catholic elementary school. I was taught my Catholic faith by nuns, who right or wrong, knew what they believed and taught it with conviction and consistency. When I left grade school in 1964, I was a Catholic who believed what I had been taught.
Then I went to a so-called Roman Catholic high school. I say “so-called” because the priests there, in contrast to the nuns in grade school, did not teach a basic, fundamental “Roman Catholic” faith. In fact, they ridiculed what the nuns had taught me, and then as a replacement, offered their own personal brands of religion. These teachings were more in agreement with secular humanism and situational ethics than they were with Roman Catholicism.
By the time I reached my senior year of high school, the priests had torn down everything I had been taught as a child, but replaced it with nothing but doubts and questions. Their attitude was one exhibited by many arrogant liberal theologians in general, as well as agnostics and atheists. This attitude is that it is intellectual and open-minded to question and doubt spiritual things, and in contrast, it is ignorant and close-minded to arrive at some type of conclusion and to believe it. Such men remind me of the expression I once heard, that “you shouldn’t be so open-minded that your brain falls out!”. So by my senior year of high school, the teachings of the “good fathers” had effectively led me into becoming an agnostic in regard to spiritual matters.
Then in my senior year, my religion teacher spent time examining the “proofs” of the existence of God. I suddenly realized one day, that if the priests and nuns couldn’t agree on just about anything, and if so much of the religion that I was taught as a child was a lie, how could I know that there was even a God? As the priest showed us each “proof” of God’s existence, I realized that these were only arguments, not proofs, and I then started to question the very existence of God. By the end of my time at a Roman Catholic high school, I was an avowed atheist.
I went to a Jesuit college, hoping that maybe the priests who taught me in high school were just a bunch of kooks that I had the bad luck to get as teachers. I thought that certainly the Jesuits at college would have the answers. Was I ever wrong! The theology teachers I had as an undergraduate student were far worse that those in high school.
One lay teacher was a man who had been arrested for burning draft cards and for income tax evasion, all as an illegal protest of the Vietnam war. This was the teacher for my "Ethics" course, a mean-spirited liberal who came down hard on the only conservative student in class who would dare to disagree with him. Another lay theology teacher taught us about the life of Jesus Christ, not from the New Testament as some teachers might be inclined to do, but from the rock musical “Jesus Christ Superstar”. We sat in class and listened to portions of the musical, then engaged in serious discussions based on the words and lyrics. All the while, the material in the rock musical was treated by the teacher and students as being historically accurate and meaningful. Some conclusions the teacher drew from the musical were that Jesus never actually claimed to be God, Judas was a victim predestined by God to betray Jesus and then to suffer unfairly for it, and that Mary Magdalene’s feelings for Jesus were, of course, sexual. Any serious student of the Bible knows that the Scriptures do not support these conclusions, notwithstanding the fact that students of Andrew Lloyd Weber are free to arrive at their own conclusions.
Not surprisingly, my undergraduate experience only cemented my unbelief, and I spent the next eight years after college as a confirmed atheist. One of the things I enjoyed most was confronting Christians, who were all too willing to fall into my “trap” of trying to prove the existence of God. I say “trap” because I realized even then that it is impossible to prove God’s existence. No matter what a Christian argued, I had a plausible rationale to counter it. I would even attempt to “prove” that God doesn’t exist by cursing Him aloud with vile obscenities, and then daring Him to strike me down dead on the spot. The Christians would turn pale at my arrogant and blasphemous display, and the unbelievers would move away so that they were not between me and a window! When nothing resulted from my “challenge”, I would cite this as proof that there was no God to “strike me down”.