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Why I am a Christian

I would love to say that the heavens tore open and the angels came down and I saw God, but that is not how it went. I would love to be able to say it is because Christians are such nice people who are leading the revolution to make the world a  better place, but it is not like that either.  I love books so instead  it came through a book: the Bible.

I used to be a Marxist – I rarely called myself that back then, partly because Marxism just seemed like common sense to me. I was a materialist: everything is just matter in motion, no gods need apply. Religion was for old women, like my very Catholic grandmother.  No one with any brains would go for that stuff.

I promised my wife that I would read the whole Bible. So I did, from end to end. I was shocked: God told the Jews to wipe out people, to play dirty tricks on them. It was full of all these rules about animal sacrifice and these overly long visions of prophets that made them seem more mad than wise. Then there was Jesus performing miracles – and everyone knows that miracles go against science. Etc.

So at first reading it did more harm than good. My mother-in-law, another very religious old woman in my life, said it was because I had read it like a paperback novel. I forgot to pray! Right: pray to a god who is not there. And besides, I am not that simple-minded when it comes to books. But it was that – knowing about books – that was my undoing.

I had read communist histories of China so I knew what a history book is like when it is blinded by its own ideas. To my surprise the Bible was not like that. And the miracles were rare and surprisingly matter-of-fact.

Then there was the Resurrection when Jesus rose from the dead. The truth of Christianity rises or falls on that one piece of history. I thought it would take me 30 seconds to show how it could not be true. But 30 seconds turned into 30 minutes then 30 hours then 30 days then 30 months – it became all I could think about – and yet still I failed. I thought of everything, like maybe he played dead or his followers went mad. Surprisingly none of it held up.

I did not want to be a Christian. First, it is what my wife and mother-in-law wanted and I did not want to give in to them (and in the end I did not: I became something that in their eyes was even worse than a Marxist: a Catholic. It nearly tore my marriage apart). Second, it went against my intellectual pride. I did not want to be told the answers – I wanted to find them out for myself!  But then I remembered something a favourite schoolteacher once told me: the truth is more important than your pride.

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Abagond

What do we already know about me from this blog?

  1. I am a married man who works in New York and lives in the mountains nearby: “I am sitting in a bus station in New York… When I was young, I fell in love with a beautiful island girl. We got married and lived in a house in New Jersey. And then we moved to the mountains where we still live. Every day I take the long bus to the city to work.” (Jan 27th)
  2. I have two young sons and my mother is still alive (Mar 13th). I also have a sister, who at least was once alive (Apr 30th). (In fact, I have three brothers too, but had no reason to bring them up.)
  3. I once worked in New York as a fact checker for a magazine (Apr 4th).
  4. I went to school in New York since when I wrote a letter to myself leaving school, I said: “The New York that you know says that the truth is unattainable and, besides, it is not really all that important after all. Do not be deceived! You are too young to understand why the people around you talk that way.” (Apr 11th).
  5. I am somewhere between 30 and 60.  I speak about sex and middle-aged men (Feb 1st) and say that I have the same trouble with my wife. And I also say “when I was young, I fell in love” (Jan 27th) – not the sort of things someone who is say, 25 or 30 would write. Given that I do not remember a time before television (Apr 4th) I was born some time after1945, making me less than 61.
  6. I grew up in America, at least in part: “Growing up in America I was taught that there was something special about the country” (May 16th).
  7. I am Catholic: “As a Catholic, I am not offended by ‘The Da Vinci Code'” (May 21st).
  8. My father was still alive when I got out of school: “Your father is more than twice your age. That makes him more than twice as wise, all things being equal. He is not always right, but he is two times more likely to be right than you are.” (Apr 11th).
  9. On television I watch “American Idol” (Mar 15th).
  10. Among writers I seem to like Orwell, Augustine, Thucydides, Shakespeare and Christopher Hitchens.
  11. I read The Economist.

That picture is not me – it is, of course, the British actor Ian McKellan. You might know him from the movies as Gandalf, Magneto, Teabing or Richard III. I look nothing like that!

I loved McKellan as Richard III, which is why I put his picture there. It is not how I look but in some strange way that is hard to put into words, it is how I feel. Not how he is in this picture, but how he was in the movie, even though Richard III is an evil character. If that makes sense.

– Abagond, 2006.

See also:

  • Abagond – in which I tell all in 500 words or less
  • archaism – more on the Richard III thing

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