Another God Question

Updated on January 31, 2013
S.J. asks from Cherryville, MO
28 answers

Ok, so my last post got too long, so I am following up here. So many who responded earlier said I get to pick what I believe and one responder compared it to politics (which I liked the analogy btw). She commented that everyone in her church doesn't necessarily vote the same way she does, there are liberals, conservatives and all in between in the mix in her church, yet they all believe the same idea about God and that doesn't change things.

Well here is the thing...there is a big difference in believing in God and having our opinion as to what is right versus any political choice we make, who we vote for, etc. The difference is that there is a BIG decision being made FOR us when the world ends. I can go vote for someone and that doesn't send me to hell. It simply might make my life hell if my candidate doesnt win. =) But if I "choose" to believe what I want about God and I choose wrong, I am SCREWED! I go to hell. If I choose to believe that he woudln't condemn gays and that the bible really doesnt say that being gay is wrong, and then I get to the pearly gates and God says sorry, you were wrong, I really did say being gay is wrong - then what?!

I guess what I am getting at is that I really don't believe we can compare choosing a religion to any other thing we choose in our lives - where to live, who to vote for, etc. This type of "God" choice has a RIGHT and a WRONG answer, whereas it is neither right or wrong to vote for someone, it is just my opinion and my choice. Thoughts?

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So What Happened?

@ Kristen - going to hell isn't my primary concern at all. I think you missed the point of my posts. Although I guess that does beg the question, what is the point? That is for a whole different discussion!
@ Hazel - LOVE it. You think a lot like me. Which isn't why I love it necessarily, as I am open to conflicting opinions, but because it is intelligent discussion on this topic. Thanks for posting!
@ hell on heels - Love your answers - I guess for me, I am looking for something more. I want to be able when I am having an anxiety attack (just recently started, never had them before so not cool!) to pray to God and ask him to help me. But then my brain starts telling me how ridiculous it is that I am praying. Then I start having thoughts like this that cause every mom to sit and respond to me instead of doing their housework. I WANT to believe there is a God. But it is so hard! I was hoping someone here would convince me I suppose, in part, and also I just like the discussion. I am just going through some things right now and it would be nice to have a God who I could count on to help me. I do whisper some thanks to him quite often, almost nightly, for my healthy kids and such. I am not sure if that is crazy, but whatever. =)

Just to clarify re my last post, the people I am speaking of that condemn gays are not catholic. In fact, my upbringing in the catholic church was very fulfilling and amazing. Met some of the best people I have ever known there. Just thought I should make that clear. =)

ETA: No, it is def my entire questioning about God that is giving me issues. I was just using the "going to hell" example as just that. I was trying to explain my point - that I don't really think it is as simple as "just pick what you want and you will be ok as long as you are good" - although if it is, I am golden!

Let me explain more - my husband is a good man. He doesn't lie, cheat, murder, he works hard, he loves his kids and me, an all around good person. But he doesn't believe in God. He thinks people invented the idea of it to feel better about death, because it is really a scary thing. So, he does all these good things but yet has never been saved and doesn't believe in God. Say he dies tomorrow - what happens? Yes,, we are back to the whole heaven and hell thing, but I am trying to understand what everyone thinks is the crux of their "belief". Because for many, it really is that simple - if you are saved, you go to heaven. Well....what about my good man husband? And others just like him?

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answers from Grand Junction on

I am right there with you on this topic. I have a hard time looking at the history of religion in the world, to believe in organized religion. I also don't know how people can not see the manipulation. To me it doesn't seem realistic or rational- it almost seems like believing in magic beans and candy land....

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answers from San Francisco on

I think life decisions get a lot easier when you take the concept of god out of it. Personally, I believe in doing the right thing, not just for myself, but for society, to the best of my ability. Who cares about the rest of it?? In my opinion (and I know others disagree, and that's fine), I just don't see how such a thing as heaven or hell exists. Is it even reasonable, looking at the enormous universe that is out there, to believe that some supreme being gives a damn what happens on our tiny planet in general, let alone what each and every one of us does on a daily basis? In the grand scheme of things, there's no way we are that important. Which leaves us with just doing the right thing for the society in which we live. Like the movie said, "What if this is as good as it gets?" Me, personally, I think this is very likely as good as it gets. We all just have to do what we can to do right by others. How can you go wrong doing that?

ETA: Sister, I hear you! And I totally understand. I've been through some things in the past few years (near financial ruin, death of a best friend, some terrible things in my extended family) where I desperately wanted to believe in a god. Any god. It would have been such a comfort to pray and believe some greater power was listening. My grandmother said something to me that I actually found comfort in, though. She said, "I don't think things happen for a reason. I think they just happen." Sometimes you just have to let it go. Control what you can control, learn from your mistakes, and let the rest of it roll right off of you.

If you like the idea of putting your worries out there and letting go of them, then just do that. If you study physics, you know that energy and matter never go away, however they can be transformed. So putting the nervous energy/ worries/ negative thoughts out of your body rids your body of it and that energy goes somewhere else, right? In a very concrete way, physics performs the same function as god. Doesn't matter what you believe, the end result is exactly the same. Just a thought. :)

(...and my parents told me that majoring in Existentialist Literature was a waste! Ha!)

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answers from Baton Rouge on

Since no one really knows what happens to you after you die (or even if anything at all happens to you after you die), the only thing you can really do is follow what makes the most sense to you.
What if there really is one and only one god and it's Cthulu? Then the Christians are just as screwed as the atheists.

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answers from Portland on

Hi S.--

I should be doing the dishes, but wanted to grab a moment and share a thought which went a long way in how I perceive things of this nature...

I don't believe that there is a physical heaven or hell. I would think that, metaphysically speaking, hell would be the absence of whatever the higher power is, that love energy that's out there which can be called upon either in prayer or through ritual or reiki. Heaven-- I don't know that it is anything beyond our spiritual essences or energy being able to rejoin that realm without the complication of the physical realm.

Years ago, I asked an advisor this question: What sort of loving, caring parent would send their child to hell for not, in essence, agreeing with their philosophy? Personally, I find many instances in the Bible where God makes questionable choices. No caring parent would put something in a child's playpen and then say "Don't play with that. I'm watching you. I am offering this thing to you, but you can't really have it." Yet, this is exactly what happened in the Garden of Eden, and then the punishment was WAY beyond what most reasonable, rational parents would do. Instead of saying "Oops, I made a mistake, you weren't ready for that", He decides that they'll have no more fun time, just toil and labor, because they were disobedient. Toil and labor.

Or imagine having babies and then placing a bet with your enemy: Okay, I had these babies, and I'm going to let you at them, because you're talking a big game, Lucifer. I'm going to give you the power to influence them greatly--no holds barred-- and then, if they do what you ask instead of what I ask, I'm going to burn them to a torturous crisp for all eternity.

Who does this? What sort of loving, caring being decides to put their kids up as a 'prize' to be collected by their enemy? What sort of parent would tell their children "I brought you into this world and I want the best for you, but if you displease me by not jumping through my hoops, you get to go fry in hell. Even IF there are myriad ways presented in how you can have a relationship with me, even if there are myriad stories, I'll let you guess which way is the one Right way, and if you guess wrong--- well, so sad, too bad, to hell you go!"

This is why I am a secular humanist who is more or less 'way out there' and open to the idea of God being something else entirely. Perhaps I will indeed go to Hell... I don't believe so, but I also cannot perceive the threat of hell as being the creation and will of a loving and caring God. Especially when there are so many religions and tribes, spiritual beliefs and practices of worship in the world... only 32% of the world is Christian (says Christianity Today). If hell is for everyone else, what sort of creator decides that the other 67% are rejects? Can anyone imagine having three children and killing two because they displeased them, in order to prove a point?

Sorry if I seem like I'm off on a tangent. This is the crux of *why* I have had to reform my perception of God. I became a parent and knew I could not do that to my own kids, no matter how much they disappointed or disagreed with me. Even if they said "You're not my mom!" It would hurt tremendously, but I wouldn't wish them eternal torment.

ETA: I really liked what Hell on Heels had to say about "Some things happen for no reason whatsoever". That's actually a consolation for me too.

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answers from Santa Fe on

I totally agree with your husband. Really, I think it does not matter which religion you choose. There is not going to be some big judgment day where one religion wins and everyone else goes to hell. I don't believe in that! I think you don't need to worry at all about this. If a specific religion pleases you and makes you happy, go for it. But if you don't click with any religion that is fine too! I believe that all religions are man-made and no one knows for sure what happens when you die.

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answers from San Francisco on

When you consider how small we are compared to the universe, it stands to reason that the truth is too big for humans to comprehend. I don't think any one religion has it 100% right. The important thing is to live your life in a way you are proud of.

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answers from Seattle on

A couple years back, I was in Big Time Spiritual Crisis. Like, I was kinda white-knuckling it through life. I felt broken, alone, and hopeless.

At that point, I had made a lot of decisions about how the universe works. Thing is, it wasn't really working for me. Like, I had built my life around some fundamental "truths"...and in essence, that foundation was what was killin' me.

I guess, for me, it sometimes takes going into a pretty dark place before I'm willing or able to change my perspective. I can be pig headed, I guess. Well, there was this moment, those years ago, where I became open to something new.

I asked for some help and I tried to get real with myself and others. I decided to give hope another try.
In that whole process I had this lady-mentor who told me to start writing letters to god. She said to write out a description of god. I didn't like it, but I followed her advice 'cause she seemed to know what she was talking about.

One night, under this big ol' thunder storm in the high mountains, I started writing to god. I said, "I want you to be pure love. I want your face to be wrinkly love butter, and for kindness to leak from you like honey in the sun. I want you to be forgiveness and connection, light, warmth and goodness. I want to follow you towards those things, and I want to learn hope and discernment and humility. I want to learn how to let go of all my shackles and chains and love as big as you are." And I said to god, "god, I'm scared shitless that you'll abandon me. Are you gonna abandon me?"

And you know what? God said, "Sure Ephie. I am love and goodness. I don't get to abandon you. Only you get to abandon you."

So I guess, that's what I decided then and there.

Me? I think god is too big for a bunch of hateful stuff or black and white 'thinking'. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong. Oh well. I would have wasted my life on social justice and love. My loss :-)

Hugs. I hope you find the exactly right thing for you.

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answers from St. Louis on

Throughout the bible it is said, you answer to god. Not you and the chick that had an abortion, not you and the gay guy down the street, you answer to god for how you lived your life!

Personally I can't imagine standing in front of god and trying to justify why I was a hater!

Even if god said, oh by the way, I did not create gays they just did that on their own. You say good thing I wasn't gay.

Meh, maybe it is just me but it seems a lot less complicated since I don't do the things the haters are screaming about but even if I did, god forgives. :)

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answers from Jacksonville on

Well, here is something to think about.

In the constitution it says that all men are created equal, right? I think if you prohibit (consenting) people from marrying who they chose to, then you are violating the constitution. That is not treating all men/women as equals.
It subclassing a whole section of individuals.

Yet, the bible says that homosexuality is wrong, (and yes I am aware that it also says the law of God should come before the law of man)

So, what do you do? You can vote for what you believe is the law of God and go against the core belief of the constitution or you can vote for what you believe is the principal this country was founded on. I would say that presents a dilemma.

Personally, I voted for what I believe is equal rights for all. Why? Because I believe that God wants us to love everyone as equals. I believe the bible when it says, Love your enemy as thy neighbor. I think that forgiveness and judgement should be in the eyes of the Lord and not myself.

Banning homosexuals from getting married will not stop or decrease the gay population. It just prevents people from solidifying a bond that has already been created between them.

Just my thoughts. :)

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answers from Atlanta on

If you go based on that thinking, either Christianity is just wrong since people were around thousands of years before Christianity was even created. Or your God condemned a lot of people to hell for not believing in something that didn't even exist yet.

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answers from Washington DC on

Honestly, I never know how I feel about god (or God), but I still find myself saying little prayers without even thinking about it. I love writer Anne Lamott's approach that a prayer can be as simple as "please, please, please help" or "thanks" or "wow". I read that in one of her books years ago and think about it all the time. Her most recent book "Help, Thanks, Wow" speaks to that exclusively. I haven't read it, but have heard her talk about it on NPR. I find her approach comforting when I'm panicking about something.

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answers from Victoria on

I think your questions and anwers need to be asked and debated with a minister or someone who has studied these type of things. Also remember that people have relationships in different ways. Like my husband and I have a great bond, my best friend understands me and loves me, now another girl we just saw at a recent party cant stand me finds me annoying. I am the same person and how different people view me is some times misunderstoond. sometimes loved , some times enjoyed. Just like God misunderstood, loved, enjoyed. Go get real answers from several different "higher ups" in the churches. I do not think or believe you can choose what you want out of the bible. He said dont steal...I think your not suppose to steal!

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answers from New York on

This is where you use your judgment. Do you really believe in "hell fire" and "pearly gates"? In a God that would punish you for not being homophobic? Really? I think you're taking it all too literally.

I disagree with you that there's a right and wrong answer to the "God" choice. That's making it too simplistic, too human. I really think "God" is beyond our understanding as mere mortals. God is much greater than all that, while being within each of us at the same time.

The best we can do is to live what we believe to be a moral life -- treating others as we wish to be treated, and doing what we think is right.

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answers from Minneapolis on

When I was very young, I was quite concerned that I had been forced into the 'wrong' religion. If God wasn't catholic, would I be summoned to hell when I died? And what about all the little poor children in the world who had no religion? Were they all going straight to hell too?

I no longer believe that. I'm agnostic. It's more about doing good and avoiding what I know to be bad. It's not about judging others, standing on a platform declaring something is right or wrong. That is for each person to decide for themself. All I know is that if I do right, I can be at peace with who I am. I don't worry about going to a hell. I don't think there is a litmus test to get through the pearly gates. And that's not how I'm raising my children.

When they get to be adults or even teenagers, they know they can choose an organized religion of their choice if they so desire it. I don't fear they will choose the 'wrong' one because by then they'll be educated and hopefully wise enough to know what religions support their core set of values. They will know what if it isn't a good fit, the right thing to do will be to walk away. They won't be trapped by fear into staying with something they feel wrong.

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answers from San Francisco on

You are assuming that everyone's God is like your God. Different people have different ideas of what God is. Just like politics, we can choose to believe there is a heaven and hell, or we can choose to believe there is not. So, yes, you still have the same choices because maybe your God would send you to hell for something, but my God would not. The question "do you believe in God" means different things to different people because people have different opinions about who/what God is and what God wants and about God's temperament. It's all in what you CHOOSE to believe.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I don't believe in heaven or hell, as a "place" that we get sent to in an afterlife. I don't believe in an afterlife. I don't believe in anything with no evidence - like a soul, an afterlife, or a god who hears our prayers. Therefore I am an atheist.

I believe we are intelligent creatures that have evolved to a point where we can contemplate our own demise, this scares us, and we don't want to believe that we share most of our DNA with other animals on this planet, and like those animals, when we die, we die.

I don't believe there is a "right" and "wrong" answer to what truly are insignificant questions, like sexuality for instance, and if there was, or that we as mere human beings are expected to "choose correctly" or go to hell for eternity?!? There are a lot of Christians on this site, but there are millions of Muslims that believe Allah is the "correct" view of god. Then there are Hindus, Buddhists, and many, many other versions of religion. Many believing that all others are going to hell... Hell is a manmade concept that was created to control people and their behavior.

The "right" answer, IMO, is to do my best to live a moral and purposeful life, as this is the one and only life I have to live. The Golden Rule precedes any of the modern religions. The only "afterlife" I am preparing for is the legacy I leave with my children and grandchildren. If I am "wrong" and there is a god and an afterlife, I will have no apologies to make for my behavior in how I treated my fellow human beings, my animal companions, and this planet I had the amazing opportunity to live on.

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answers from Seattle on

Oh hun. If your primary concern is that you need to choose the exact right religion so you don't go to hell, you will never be certain of that and are almost certainly going to be unhappy/scared. That's a shame.

Instead of trying to figure out which specific belief system will get you to nirvana/heaven/etc and worrying forever that you've "chosen" the wrong one, why don't you live your life in a manner that you think a sane/rational/compassionate being/god/deity would find commendable. That way you ensure that your life here on earth (which is all you can know about now) is lived to its utmost potential. And chances are, any god that you would want to hang out with for eternity would find that life choice the best one.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

My only thought is thatI believe that there are going to be a TON of people from this day and age most unpleasantly surprised when they meet their maker. I won't say any more.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

I think we don't have to be puppets. God wants us to think and ponder and pray about what to think or not think. I think that He loves his children like we love ours. He is going to do everything in His power to get us home to Him.

We have free agency and are supposed to use it.

So it is up to you to draw on your own thoughts and feelings. To read, pray, and ask with an open heart what he wants to say to you. Then you have to be still and listen. You can listen while driving down the road. While walking on a tread mill. While you are laying in bed trying to go to sleep.

You will feel his conformation in your soul as to what you asked him.

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answers from Norfolk on

I don't think it's your belief in God that's giving you problems.
I think it's your belief in hell.
If you don't believe in hell - well, it solves it for you doesn't it?
Christianity has this way of condensing out and separating good and evil.
To be good you have to follow certain rules and to be bad you have to break the rules.
Purgatory is that little grey area where the difference is too even to split.
The thing is, good and evil are pretty subjective - what's good for one person is completely evil for another and vice verse.
And I believe there is good and bad in all of us.
Do you believe in free will?
Or do you believe that everything that happens is pre-destined and can only turn out in one way (as God wants it to)?
They are kind of opposite philosophies.
If you can choose - then you are in control and are in charge of your destiny.
If everything is pre-destined, then you have no control and what's going to happen to you is going to happen no matter what you do.
Reincarnation has it's appeal.
Although to some, the 'if at first you don't achieve Nirvana - try, try again' approach sounds awfully repetitive and punitive.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

I don't think anyone can convince you if there is a god or not. I chose to live my life as if there is. Besides, I would rather live my life in goodness and following my God and then die and find out there isn't any God than live my life as if there wasn't and find out there is.

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answers from Detroit on

I choose a god with unconditional love--no matter the choices I make. I take no action to intentionally hurt others, and I have faith my god does the same. I've lived in fear for most of my life, and I am tired of the burden. "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."

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answers from Dallas on

According to YOUR belief system. The big issue I have with the "being saved" doctrine is, if there is a tribe in the middle of nowhere that is not exposed to Christianity and the opportunity to be saved are they screwed? Which is not fair, because they were not "given the chance". And I REALLY have a problem with someone who is "saved" but is a child molester, wife beater, murderer, etc. Actions speak louder than words, even to God, I would think.

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answers from Williamsport on

I didn't see other posts.

You're not necessarily screwed for believing the right thing or not. I think people are called to believe or not and everyone does it in their own way-or not.

I was raised in an EXTREMELY religious home, rebelled, chose Atheism for a while, and now I believe in God. Not in any certain way, but just in that there is no PROOF to me in all the miraculous, beautiful and even horrible things this life offers that the "Is no God". I have very real spiritual experiences and I believe in miracles and divine inspiration and all that. I don't KNOW or anything, and lots of my friends are Atheists and they may be right in their beliefs, but I believe. It has NOTHING to do with heaven or hell for me, because you live your life how you feel is right for the sake of it, not for rewards. I believe everyone is created equally INCLUDING GAY PEOPLE, and it's not even a consideration for me. Why would God shut you out of the pearly gates for not condemning gays? Or do you mean if you are gay? I say don't worry about the pearly gates. There are way too many interpretations of way too many gods to worry about the specifics. Just be good and believe or not.

Also, I'm a very thankful person. No matter how much sh_t hits the fan, I'm still thankful for a million amazing things. For me, it's easier to be thankful to a divine force that to an accidental nothingness. But that's just a belief, not a factual analysis. Science has never disproven the existence of a God and never will. It will also never prove there is one. You have to chose how you feel.

****If your husband is a good an loving man who lives his life well, he won't be condemed by a God he doesn't believe in. But that's jmo, not a fact of course :)

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answers from Kansas City on

I strongly suggest you read Letters From A Skeptic by (Gregory?) Boyd. I haven't read any other responses but this would certainly and definitely help to straighten out some horribly twisted evangelical Christian views in our country.

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answers from Jacksonville on

I recently read the fiction book The Shack. It gave me a different way of looking at religion and God. You may enjoy reading it.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I didn't read your last post, but I don't believe in God. Personally, I can't think that someone who is supposed to be so good and wonderful, so powerful, etc would allow for so many horrible things to happen in the world. Terrorists bombing "in the name of God" is insane to me. Children getting cancer - no God would allow for that.

I don't have a problem with people who believe in God if it makes them feel better. If praying helps, that's great. What I do hate is people trying to force their opinions on others and people using God and/or the Bible as an excuse for being hypocrisy, hatred, bigotry, or looking down on anyone who chooses a different lifestyle than you do.

I don't force my opinions on others. I don't try to convert people to atheism and I certainly don't let God or the Bible or the Torah (since I was raised Jewish) or the Koran or whatever dictate my political beliefs. I don't let my beliefs negatively impact other people (i.e. gay marriage).

I think too many people use God and/or religion as an excuse and I think it's terrible. As I said, I don't have a problem with faith and prayer if people feel that it personally benefits them. But why does anyone's personal beliefs need to impact anyone else's life?

S. - none of this is directed specifically at you, what you believe, or what you said. I am simply giving my input.

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answers from Charlottesville on

Hi S.; thanks for being willing to open up your faith journey with us on this forum! I grew up in a Christian home, but over the past few years have struggled with doubt about my beliefs for a number of the same reasons you and other women on here have mentioned.

I think doubt can be a good thing if you let it be a catalyst for growth and seeking truth.

I highly recommend a book I just finished reading called "Faith and Doubt" by John Ortberg. He discusses how it's possible to have faith and doubt at the same time; and discusses a lot of the issues that cause people question God. He is an "intellectual" person and isn't afraid to address tough issues.

Second to that book, I recommend Lee Strobel's collection: "The Case for Faith", "The Case for a Creator", and "The Case for Christ". They are books and DVDs. Strobel was an atheist, and a former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, who became a Christian after he conducted a two-year investigation of the validity of major world religions.

Lastly, there is a movie (I watched it through Netflix) called "God of Wonders" that helped me in my questioning of the existence of a God.

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