One day, in 1843 in Chicago, I was robbed. That day, according to an old newspaper clipping, a robber killed my great-great grandfather as he returned to his boarding house. According to family lore, Aaron, my great-grandfather who was 15 and witnessed the murder, declared, “God would not let this happen; so God must not exist”. When Aaron had a family, intentionally or not he passed this lack of belief down to his son, who passed it down to my father, who passed it down to me.
Life without God is alright, since it is all I know. But it would be better to believe. Even better, would be to believe in an afterlife. Then I could talk with my dad. He died 23 years ago but I think about him every day. Occasionally, I look up in the sky and try to talk to him, especially of course when things are going wrong. But no stars twinkle in response. No warm winds sweep over me. Nothing lets me fool myself into believing that Dad’s listening.
About five years ago, I was watching my mother feed the goldfish in our pond. She would call to them; they’d see her image hovering above the pond and would swim in her direction. But, what if she had tried to explain to them about our human world? About our society and all the things we’ve built and accomplished? The fish couldn’t begin to understand of course. And it struck me that even though the spiritual world is equally unfathomable to me, it still exists. And if it exists, there must be an afterlife.
So, despite my ancestors, I’m having my doubts about not believing. Had there been no such concept as the afterlife, I would have come up with it on my own, so strong is my desire to talk with my dad again. I think this desire is a Will to Believe. I think, like the will to live, it’s in all of us.
I have two daughters in college. Both have joined a church near their school and gotten baptized. One is even planning to become a minister. This surprises everyone, including them, since they grew up without religion.
I think this is the will to believe forging its way back into our family. And I’m happy that my daughters feel they can talk to their dad and me when we’re gone. Then they can pass this belief onto their children. And what was stolen in a 164-year-old robbery will be restored.
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