I am taking a MOOC on the New Atheism. This takes me back to a point in my philosophical studies, or maybe that was only the setting, not the reason behind the personal debate, when I came to the conclusion that the existence of God, on one level, can neither be proven nor disproven. The choice was mine. I was Prometheus holding fire, choosing either to engulf my creedal universe in flame or to let the flames of incense burn more brightly before the Divine Altar.
I say, “on one level,” for it seems that only on the human plain can this fact can be debated. “Below,” on the level of creation, God’s existence is a given, indeed, a sine qua non, upon which the mountains, the seas, the earth, the stars, the universe itself rests, the He IS who IS, before opening his hands and releasing the first matter, the first energy, and history began. “Above,” on the level of the spirit, God is encountered, perceived, “in one’s face,” a fact, a reality to which even the evil spirits whom Jesus exorcised attested.
Thus, it is only on the level of the human mind, the human will, that we can contest the “existence” of God,…that we can dismiss Him is fairly easy, as easy as it was for the serpent to convince Eve that evil was good and good was evil, that disobedience meant divinity and that God wishes us not to become like him. Now, if we can so easily redefine good and evil, it is but one small analogous “step for mankind” to make God disappear from my horizon of reality, a step which many in our world have seemed to stride continuously with aplomb.
The ability to do such is strictly individualized; one cannot impose disbelief on another, no matter how hard one tries…as is attested to artistically in Myles Connolly’s Mr. Blue, and humanisticly by the shedding of blood with the martyrs in the Middle East. Thus, on that day long ago, in the Jesuit Philosophate in Aurora, Ill., I faced my crisis of faith alone, to believe or not to believe, that was the question.
Hubris would prompt me to fabricate a fantastic faith experience that rescued me from the precipice of disbelief, but, regretfully and realistically, while the realization of the alternatives are indelibly etched itself on my memory mother board, the willful act of choosing is nowhere to be found. Perhaps, like so many of us today, the lethargy of inertia, acedia personified, languidly poured itself over my aboulia, congealed, and I simply continued on in my present state of affairs, that of a Jesuit Scholastic, not oblivious to but without reference to the question and selection a course of action.
Thank you, God, for we know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.[Rom 8:28] I may not have been loving you at that time as I should, but, out of Your love and mercy, you seem to have called me according to Your purpose. Thus, while it was not a faith experience on my part that motivated the ersatz “choice,” it was another in the endless manifestations of Your love, Your mercy, Your tolerance, Your patience, Your exasperated, chortling curtailing of my wayward steps to lead me by Your path, Your Way, back home to You.
Regardless of my lack of true involvement in the decision, both the confrontation of the alternatives and the sin-tainted nature of my lack of attentiveness to the magnitude of the moment underlies my empathy and, indeed, agape for self-professed atheists today. Note that I direct myself to the underlying persons and not the fallacy, however tenaciously they attach themselves to it. Before God, we all stand naked of our beliefs, clothed only by our deeds. Before Jesus, all sinners are equally loved and stand in need of redemption.
Does this exonerate me from propounding the Truth, from exposing falsehood, from inviting understanding, from encouraging wisdom? Absolutely not. With rigor and fortitude, I must proclaim the Gospel in season and out of season. However, as the Church has pointed out, today, people are more persuaded by the personal witness of one’s life that the persuasion of one’s doctrine. They must go hand-in-hand. My witness must substantiate the credibility of my doctrine and my doctrine must inspire the reality of my witness.
I guess it comes down to the fact that I’ve been there and done that. There, but literally for the grace of God, sit I. And from thence derives my empathy and agape. I thank You, God, for Your gift of my faith; help me to cherish it both now and until the end of time. Amen. Alleluia!!!
 Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
 Note that this includes faith as manifested by deeds.