The expression ‘ignorance is bliss’ comes to mind when I compare who I am today with whom I was in the past. Previously, the presence of God in my life gave purpose and meaning to all that I did. I might have asked myself questions such as, “What would God want me to do?” or “What could I do to please God?” The answers to these questions invariably lied within the framework of the Catholic faith. Catholicism is a beautiful religion that harbors ideals and morals to which I will always try to remain steadfast; however, recently I have undergone an introspective spiritual journey that has uprooted fundamental beliefs that I have always accepted as true.
Human Anatomy inspired my soul searching journey. As I traversed the beautiful landscape of the human body, I found myself spending endless hours in the lab poking, prodding, and dissecting what makes the human body tick. What else could I say but, “Absolutely beautiful.” Here is God right in front me. The body’s design is so elegant, complex, and fragile that surely the blueprints were drawn by the hand of God. Biochemistry, while not palpable, added to my homage of God’s intelligent design. The interplay and complexity of the human body on a molecular level, in a sense, gave me a feeling similar to that of kid looking up at the stars feeling profoundly small in comparison for the first time.
I never really gave much thought as to what was so controversial about Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Inherently, Darwin’s theory is juxtaposed to Creationism, something in which my religion fundamentally believes. Scientifically and spiritually I was not shaken and, in fact, was able to fuse these conflicting theories by assuming that evolution was God’s mechanism through which he created mankind. In this way, God’s attention was still centered on humans and He smiled down with affirmation as I attempted to live a life which He approved. My house of cards came crashing down on me however, when I visited an exhibit featuring Darwin’s Theory of Evolution at the Museum of Natural History in New York City. I was looking at the rib cage of a bat when all of a sudden it came to me. There in front of me was the exact same structure that I had studied in anatomy, only miniaturized. These ribs not only facilitated breathing, but also gave protection to all of the vital organs that lay beneath them. Form and function…beautiful. I touched my own ribs and realized for the very first time that I am nothing more than an animal.
One may say, “But God has given us the ability to reason and have free will.” To that I pose the question, “What is your favorite animal?” Whether it is a lion, a dolphin, or a dog, there is something unique about that species that sets it apart from all others. There is always something that makes a species special and allows it to thrive. If it does not thrive, it perishes. Nature is harsh and cruel. Consciousness and reason has allowed our species to flourish. We have not always possessed this talent, but it is one that has developed over years of evolutionary trial and error.
Throughout mankind’s history, humans have had the flawed tendency to believe in their own superior place in the universe. The Geocentric Theory placed Earth at the center of the universe until the late 16th century. Copernicus then disproved this through his astute observations that the sun is in fact at the center of the solar system (Heliocentric Theory). Furthermore this solar system is not even unique. There are countless other solar systems that are placed inside the Milky Way Galaxy. To top it off, this galaxy is among countless others like it throughout the universe. If I were to venture, there are probably even grander substructures still that cannot be fathomed by the limited perspective of the human mind. The most arrogant assumption that I have made throughout my life is that mankind has been formed in God’s image. How could this bold claim be true with such compelling evidence as man’s similarities to a bat as is evident in the rib cage?
So there I was: disillusioned, feeling a bit betrayed, and questioning God as a major motivator in my life. Why should God be concerned about something as insignificant as me? My place in the universe is not particularly special, my body is not much different than any other mammal’s, and my consciousness merely developed due to pressures on man to survive.
Through it all, my belief in God has never wavered. All I have to do is look to nature to find proof of His existence. God’s beauty and majesty is everywhere. From the stars in the sky to the subatomic particles that bind our universe together; it is all too fantastical to believe that this universe just so happened to exist without a master mind. But the question begs, where and how do I fit in? My perspective on life and religion has changed and I certainly cannot go back to the place I was before. Once my feelings of betrayal and disillusionment subsided, it became necessary for me to redefine my faith. I started with the certain premise that God created the universe and cares equally for all creatures, great and small. What is impossible to prove is the extent to which He is engaged in mankind. I wholly believe and feel the presence of God in my life each and everyday. Perhaps this comes from my desire to not be alone, my tendency towards optimism, or due to the presence of miraculous events, but I like to think it is something so much more fundamental. It comes from within your soul, and is something that resonates from your core. Even during moments of doubt, God’s presence is always at least tucked away in a corner of my soul. In the end, these experiences may have lead me to humble myself to a position of less importance within the universe, but I feel very comfortable with my place in the world, even empowered and liberated. Most importantly, it has reaffirmed my belief, faith, and commitment to an awesome God.
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