My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I can think of an awful lot of people who I’d give this book to:
Christians trying to understand atheists (like a pal of mine who said, “I just don’t know how those people don’t believe in God.” I almost shoved my copy into her hands. Almost.)
Atheists trying to understand Christians.
Protestants trying to understand Catholic teachings.
Catholics trying to understand Church teachings.
Catholics understand but struggle with following Church teachings.
Anyone wanting an inspirational story of change and redemption.
Yes, that really is an awful lot of people …
Jennifer Fulwiler was raised by loving parents who didn’t push their atheism on her or do more than tell her to think for herself. However, that in itself was enough to produce a dedicated atheist, especially when told to an intelligent youngster who applied herself with the passion that only youth can muster to facts and logical conclusions.
I looked at the ammonite settled in between my soggy sneakers and I understood for the first time that my fate was no different than its own.
I had always thought of these creatures as being fundamentally different from me. They were the dead things, I was the alive thing, and that’s how it would be forever. Now I wondered what had kept me from understanding that to look at these long-dead life-forms was to look at a crystal ball of what lay in store for me—except that, unless I happened to die by falling into some soft mud, I wouldn’t end up a fossil. Ten million years from now, there would be nothing left of me.
There was no solution to my problem, because it wasn’t even a problem; it was just a new awareness of reality. But as I took one last glance at the pickup before it disappeared from view. I felt like there was some answer in that brief flash of happiness I’d experienced while driving the truck. The grim truth I’d uncovered hadn’t gone away, but it was somehow rendered less significant when I’d been immersed in the distraction of having fun.
Her only encounters with Christians were, frankly, off-putting and tended to be with friends who were not at all equipped to discuss faith versus scientific truth and logic. So Fulwiler spent many years losing herself in fun to distract herself from the awareness of mortality.
When Fulwiler became a wife and mother, the life-altering love she experienced tipped the scale against atheism. It defied logic. It defied scientific explanations. With this realization, she began searching for the truth. That truth led her to a place she’d never have expected, conversion to Catholicism.
On the surface, this is Fulwiler’s story of her conversion. However, because she required so much reflection, connection, and research before relinquishing her old beliefs, it is also a primer on logical investigation and thought. Finally, it is a exploration of Catholic teachings and how they apply to modern life. Because Fulwiler had to thoroughly understand what she was learning, she takes care to make sure the reader also understands what she’s objecting to or accepting.
This isn’t done in a dry or preachy way. Au contraire, I often found myself laughing, especially at the time she sat in a bathroom stall for hours, reading a Bible furiously searching for answers and just as furiously spinning the toilet paper roll to send away people who knocked on the door. And there are moving and insightful moments such as when she is reading C. S. Lewis, listening to Tupak Shakur, and melding her thoughts about both into realizations about hell, heaven, and purgatory.
I recently read St. Augustine’s Confessions, the first autobiography ever written. It is a moving and completely honest book about one man’s search for ultimate truth. On many levels Fulwiler conveys the same passionate desire to know what is true, what can be trusted, as that young African seeker did 1,600 years ago.
Augustine’s book is a classic because it spoke so directly to the people of his time and yet resounds its message through the ages. Other Christian classics do the same. Francis de Sales with his Introduction to the Devout Life, Teresa of Avila with her Interior Castle, and Thérèse of Lisieux with The Story of a Soul all addressed problems of their time with advice that is still applicable and invaluable today. They reach us now because the human soul always struggles with the same problems and they speak in a way that transcends their own particular eras.
Why do I bring them up? Only time will tell if this book is a classic that transcends our time. I think it is nuanced, well written, and relatable enough that it could.
What I do know is that, like those classics, this book was written for our time. Right here, right now, our country and the Western world are crying out for a way to make the world make sense. Jennifer Fulwiler’s book spells it out in a way that cannot be ignored by any honest truth seeker. She tells of the truth that transcends mere facts while speaking the language that our modern, science loving, atheistic world understands.
It is truly a classic for our times.