My God, Your God? – Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION

No man really becomes a fool until he stops asking questions.

 Charles Steinmetz (1865 – 1923)

    If a book be false in its facts, disprove them; if false in it reasoning, refute it. But for God’s sake let us freely hear both sides if we choose.

Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826)


This book looks at the subject of God in a much different manner than typically is done. There is little emphasis on religion and more emphasis on reason, logic, history, science and experience. Some of the source material will surprise you. It is how I as an engineer would approach any other subject. The results, I believe, you will find interesting and some you will find profound. The approach is best described as out-of- the-box thinking. Even if you are normally offended at the mention of God, I think you will find my approach interesting, enjoyable, thought provoking, and not offensive. Some of the material presented is original and hopefully gives new insight to both our own human nature as well as the nature of God. We are linked to God in a relationship that is part of His plan. In researching this book, I took the approach that there is no question which is off limits, and I would go where the evidence led me. Be aware that I maintained the utmost respect for God and as I learned about God, He was exalted higher with each new bit of knowledge. The God I now know is awesome, loving, dynamic, and contemporary with today’s times. He is also beyond comprehension. While I believe I have answered many new questions, there are many questions yet to be answered. Finally, I must say I have grown in my relationship with God as a result of this book. May you have a similar experience.

God, in one form or another, has been a topic of man’s thoughts since the beginning of remembered human history. The concept of God is present in most all the major civilizations, and perhaps the word, god, is one of the most used. God occurs in many different forms, but the concept is the same: a powerful, supernatural entity that is responsible for some or all aspects of our universe. There is much difference in gods among the various societies of the world.

There are 3 major religions, Christianity – 33%, Islam – 21% and Hinduism – 14%, in the world that account for 68% of the population. The minor religions comprise 18% of the population, while the nonreligious are the other 16%. Counting the minor religions, there are many, many different religions. This fact raises numerous questions. Is God the same for all the different religions or are there different gods? Is their only one true god? Another question is, did God really start the creation of each of the various human civilizations, or is the concept of a God a product of humans acquiring consciousness and the ability to think and contemplate? Simply stated; did God create us or did we create God with our imagination?

Given that over 80% of the world’s population believes there is a God provides some evidence that God really does exist. However, popular vote does not mean truth. In fact 100% of the population could believe there is a god, and still be wrong. What about you? Do you believe that God is real? Do you realize how important that question is?

In my youth, I believed in God, although not very strongly. Then at age 18, I decided that God just did not make sense anymore and that science was the way to truth. Being a seeker of truth, I decided to let what I believed to be driven by truthful evidence. That meant that I would go contrary to the beliefs of most friends and family. I did not make a big deal out of my new beliefs, but it did not take long to become devout in my non-belief. I was just starting my study of electrical engineering, so science became my guide for beliefs.

After nearly 50 year of serious non-belief, I decided to reexamine my position of non-belief in God. I realized that I had formed my original position without much thought, and I had the view there was a slim chance that I had been wrong all those years. I began a detailed program of study and reading on the subject of the truth of God. As an engineer, the approach was analytical and without emotion. I read books by Christians, atheists turned Christian and atheists. To my surprise, I found there was much solid evidence supporting the truth of God and little refuting the idea. Even the scientific evidence supported the truth of God. And the arguments presented by the atheist authors were weak. How could I have been so wrong for so many years? After 50 years of being an atheist, I became a Christian and God accepted me into a relationship. The point I need to stress here is that you should do your own detailed study of the question about God, and then form your own belief. Don’t go with what I believe, but go with your own sense of truth. Is the answer to the question really that important? I think it may be the most important question that you will answer in your life. Look at how Pascal considers the question.

Pascal’s Wager

No discussion about belief in God is complete without some comment about Pascal’s Wager. Blaise Pascal was a seventeenth century mathematician who formulated the interesting proposition about consequences of your belief in God. There are four possible results. From the website’s_Wager the argument runs as follows:

  1. If you erroneously believe in God, you lose nothing (death ends all),
  2. If you correctly believe in God, you gain everything (eternal bliss),
  3. If you correctly disbelieve in God, you gain nothing (death ends all),
  4. If you erroneously disbelieve in God, you lose everything (eternal damnation).

The obvious best bet is to believe in God, for you stand the chance of winning everything. Whereas, not believing in God, you stand the chance of losing everything. A belief based on the wager, alone, would not be sincere. I believe Pascal thought the wager should be a motivation to study and reconsider a position of non-belief, rather than a tool for deciding to believe or not. While it is possible, I am not aware of anyone saying they believe just to be safe. It is as if even a non-believer knows that lying to God, if He existed, will not work.

I should point out that Pascal’s analysis only considers the consequence after death. An even greater reward for believing is the relationship with God while here on earth. If you become a believer, you will change and you will like your new self.

Purpose of this book

The purpose of this book is to motivate the objective, truth seeking non-believer to consider seriously the question of the truth of God, and then make up their own minds. I do not propose anyone believe exactly as I have come to believe. I do not propose you adopt any particular religion or denomination. Our differences in background will cause many of our beliefs to be different, and that is okay in the eyes of God. I would also add that the believer should find their beliefs will be reinforced by this book, but again, our beliefs will likely be different in certain areas. I should point out that there are fundamental truths and everything is not up to our own opinions. While we may have differences in some of our beliefs, we will most likely agree on the fundamental truths.

If you have come this far, I am pleased; at least you have been confronted with the idea of considering your view about God. Should you decide to go further, then this book will be an example of how to proceed. It is my story and therefore the first part of the book title is “My God”. If you follow through, and develop your own beliefs about God, you have the second part of the title, “Your God?

If you are a non-believer, then I have one more initial thought for you. If a person is an atheist, does he not have some definition of the god he does not believe in? I also would say to the atheist, tell me about the god you do not believe in. I probably do not believe in that god either. Does this mean that the atheist must have an understanding of numerous gods in case he may have missed the one that he would believe in? It appears that to be a rational atheist and not believe in any of the “many” gods, one must be somewhat knowledgeable in them all. Is this not a reason for further study? I will tell you now that the God I have come to know is very likely different from the perception you may have about God. My God is loving, fascinating, interesting and dynamic. He is not like the passive God that I knew of as a youth.

In this book I will address four questions about God:

  1. Is God real?
  2. What is the nature of God?
  3. What does God expect from us?
  4. What can we expect from God?

This book has a goal of getting close to an answer for these questions even though an ironclad, definite answer probably is not always possible. The book is written for both the believer and the truth-seeker considering the truth of GOD. To have a belief opinion, you must have some knowledge and understanding of the subject. How can you have a belief about something you know nothing about? Even when you have completed this consideration of God, you will have a perception which will be incomplete and with probable error. God is too complex for us to have a complete and totally accurate understanding of Him.

 As it turned out for me, the first question came relatively easy and to the affirmative. After a short period of study it was obvious that God was real. Also, the questions 3) and 4) are relatively simple and are answered in the Bible. The hard question is number 2), what is the nature of God? There seemed to be no end to new topics to explore in this subject. I would point out that some people may not have their answer to number 1) until they get into the nature of God. Then, it should be apparent that if you can describe the nature of a being based on real evidence, that being must be real.

So what qualifies me to address the above four questions? I am no religious scholar and have only a limited number of years in study of the question of God. And yet, as the book title states I am seeking a definition of my God, and that makes me uniquely qualified. Anyone else can only make suggestions as to what my belief in God should be like, but it is up to me to decide what my beliefs are. In addition, having been both a non-believer and now a believer gives me a perspective into the questions that a person without that experience might not have.

I am a retired electrical engineer and as you might expect, this analysis will be from a scientific, analytical and rational approach. I do promise there will be no math, but just logic and reason that everyone can understand. Engineering is best defined as a narrow in-depth focus on a particular area of science combined with economics and the financial viability of the work. My career was in the area of research and development of semiconductor devices; and as a result, I do have considerable experience of analysis in science and engineering. I also have experience in the completely different field of marketing research, looking at the viability of the new products under development. I would add that I have had success in each of these areas and that I know how to do objective research. For the past three years I have done extensive reading and study in various Bible studies. In addition, there are other seemingly unrelated fields that I will show are pertinent to have an understanding of God. I have read books by devout believers, as well as atheists. Again, I would submit that I am uniquely qualified to define my own beliefs. My approach has been to ask any question that comes to mind, however unorthodox, and then accept the answer, wherever the evidence leads me. This is a basic tenant of science and engineering. If I were living in the 15tth century and the church authorities found out about my unorthodox thinking, I probably would have been burned at the stake by now. I would point out that the resulting set of my beliefs may be unique to me, but in reality, they are in line with mainstream Christianity and are arrived at by reason and not by following any particular doctrine. I think it is profound that by taking a completely open approach to understand God, that I have come in line with mainstream Christianity. I would also add that with each realization in my beliefs, my faith was strengthened and never once was diminished.

In talking about GOD, it is difficult to not talk about religion. Unfortunately, religion often involves man’s vivid imagination, which is probably the reason for most of the differences in the various religions. So which religion is the purest and from God without the additions of man’s erroneous thoughts? I have an opinion, but I cannot truthfully answer that for you; only God can. Interestingly, religion is a major input in forming our perception of God but not the only input. When religion is a factor, I will approach the subject from the perspective of Christianity, as that is with what I am most familiar. To say my understanding of other religions is limited is an understatement. One final point about religion is that many atheists say they do not believe in God when what they really mean to say is they do not believe in religion. Religion throughout history has brought about many great things, but man, in the name of religion, has done many terrible things. Unfortunately, many people tend to remember only the terrible things, and that is the cause for their non-belief in God. Belief in God and belief in religion are not the same thing.

I believe that every person should go through some process of understanding their own beliefs. I hope, my approach, or some aspect of it, will be of some use in your own personal consideration of your God. What I say applies to both believers in all religions as well as non-believers.

When I accepted Christ and became a believer, I developed this intense interest in knowing better who this God that I experienced really was. I also knew that I needed to resolve the questions about the differences in religion and science that before was part of my justification of being a non-believer. First, I came to believe that there should not be any conflict between the science that I had always strongly believed in and the God I now strongly believed in. Therefore, the first purpose of the research was to resolve those apparent conflicts and enhance my understanding of my God.

When I accepted Christ, I knew it was by the grace of God I was saved and not by any works I might have done. Works are not a prerequisite for being saved. However, after accepting Christ, I felt this strong urge to do something to make myself worthy of God. Works naturally follow the acceptance of Christ and this is confirmed in scripture. What could I do to spread the Word as instructed in the Bible? I had the inclination to tell everyone I knew about my conversion experience; however, I well remember that was a complete turnoff to a non-believer. Therefore, that approach would not work. As an atheist, my primary justification was the apparent conflicts between science and religion. There seemed to be a stronger case for science than belief in God, and therefore, I rejected God. Now, if I could truly resolve the differences between science and belief in God, then these reasons for being an atheist would disappear. And this might cause some scientists and engineers with beliefs like those I once had to also reconsider their position, and then possibly accept Christ and become believers as I had done. And this book would be a way to reach these non-believing technologists as well as any other atheist.

God Exalted

Be aware that I will pose some rather extreme hypothesis about God. I also recognize that some religions probably would not approve of such an analysis of their god. Some long term Christian beliefs will be questioned, and sometimes, I will determine some are not correct. At times it may appear that I am trying to lower the exalted state of God. Be aware that is not the case, and that I am seeking the truth about my God. And in every case where it may appear that I am trying to bring God down a notch, in the end I find God is exalted even higher than before, higher that I initially thought possible. Again believe me; I have no agenda other than to seek the truth. I truly am following the paradigm as Plato stated, “We must follow the argument wherever it leads”.

At times, I may express opinions different from others as there is much variety considering the various religions. It would probably be difficult to have a discussion about God without being at odds with some other beliefs. Be aware I have the utmost respect for the opinions, beliefs and traditions of others and I am not intending to insult or degrade these views. I do apologize if I offend others and request you accept my apology. I would hope you will do the same for me. Keep in mind; these views expressed here are my own opinions and my own individual beliefs.

I do not expect you to accept the final view of God with which I may end. Possibly some of my opinions would be in agreement with your own. What is more important is that you think for yourself and refine and better determine your own belief in your God. Possibly, the methodology and the thought processes in this book may be of help.

In his book, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins (2006) stated, “If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheist when they put it down”. I would say if this book works as I intend, atheists and doubters who open it will begin their own searching for the truth and many will be Christians when they put it down. Be aware if you are an objective, truth-seeker and non-believer, there is a high probability that your core belief will be threaten. Are you up to the challenge?

Incidentally, I should tell you, Richard, that your intentions did not work for me and in fact my faith was strengthened because, even as a novice Christian, I could see through your weak and often false arguments. You have an easy to read writing style and I would recommend that Christians read your book just to see what atheists think. I make this recommendation without fear of losing a single soul to atheism.

A brief preview of the book

To give you an idea of what is in store for the reader, I present a brief description of each chapter. Chapter 2 covers the basic methodology used in my research and analysis of the question of God. The key thing to remember is that I approached the subject as a scientist without emotion, not as many atheists would have you believe.

Chapter 3 covers the strong beliefs I had as an atheist. Chapter 4 covers my life with my Christian wife, Barbara, and then the story of how I came to believe. Chapter 5 gives my perspective on the amazing Christian Bible, not from a biblical scholar’s perspective but rather from that of a novice, lay person. Chapter 6 covers some interesting attributes about God that you can determine just by reason. Chapter 7 gets into the important issues of science and the Bible, including creation and evolution.

Chapters 8 through 11 cover human consciousness, what it is, how it came about, and then the important aspect of how it made Homo sapiens complete human beings, all in fairly recent times. In this analysis not only did I resolve a major area of conflict between science and the Bible, I came as close as possible to proving that God really does exist.

Chapter 12 covers the important topic of prayer and our relationship with God. The important question, “Does prayer work?” is answered. Then a controversial topic, involving free will, is presented in Chapter 13. This is where some believers will depart from my thoughts. Finally, Chapter 14 summarizes the book and presents a long list of attributed that were learned about God and then what you should do if you become a believer.

Finally, I will close this chapter by telling you that this project has been a fantastic journey and very rewarding. It has been even more rewarding than during the time of discovery when I was a young engineer doing research and development. That was a most exciting time for me. If you enjoy logic, discovery, and out-of-the-box thinking, then you should enjoy what I have to say. I hope you can share some of the excitement I have experienced as you learn and see your beliefs challenged.

Wallace (Shaun) Shaunfield Copyright 2010

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