“The mire of nihilism” - Christine Mooney-Flynn's Story

“The mire of nihilism” - Christine Mooney-Flynn's Story
Side B Stories
“The mire of nihilism” - Christine Mooney-Flynn's Story

Jan 19 2024 | 01:02:19

Episode 0 January 19, 2024 01:02:19

Hosted By

Jana Harmon

Show Notes

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: You stuff. It's all about identity, being very egotistical about who I am, how am I perceived labeling myself in again as far away from Christianity or any western organized religion as possible? It's very cool. It's all very cool. I don't need religion. I'm new age or I don't need religion. I'm an atheist. [00:00:24] Speaker B: Hello, when for joining in, I'm Jana Harmon, and you're listening to sidebeastories, where we see how skeptics flip the record of their lives. Each podcast we listen to someone who has once been an atheist or skeptic but became a Christian against all odds. You can hear more of these stories on our Sidebeastories website or YouTube channel. We welcome your comments on these stories on our Cybe stories Facebook page or through our email at [email protected] we love hearing from you. In today's culture, it's not uncommon to hear that people are open to anything but Christianity. There has been an antichristian seed sown so much that many ways of pursuing fulfillment and forming beliefs are all right as long as it's not towards organized religion, and especially if it's not towards Christianity. After all, logic, science and religion don't really go together. Besides that, being spiritual without being religious is much more socially acceptable. You can pick and choose what pieces and parts of spirituality best suit you, or you can reject any form of spirituality altogether. In either case, you become your own God. You decide what is true and what is good, and you control your own life. And that feels like the best way to go, or so it seems. But what happened when someone has tried life without God or tried life with self made spirituality and come up short? Where then do they go? [00:01:59] Speaker C: Well, that depends on whether or not. [00:02:01] Speaker B: They'Re willing to open the culturally forbidden door of Christianity, whether or not they are willing to pursue what is truth above all else. That's what happened in Christine's life. She had a choice to make. Was she willing to give Christianity a try after she had long written it off? I hope you'll come along to hear her story of her long resistance against God and how she finally came to believe. [00:02:34] Speaker C: Welcome to Sidebeast stories. Christine, it's so great to have you with me today. [00:02:38] Speaker A: Thank you so much. [00:02:40] Speaker C: I love getting started just to find. [00:02:42] Speaker B: Out a little bit about who you are. [00:02:44] Speaker C: Now, before we enter back into your. [00:02:46] Speaker B: Childhood and your story, tell me about. [00:02:48] Speaker C: Your life at the moment so the listeners can get an idea of who you are. [00:02:52] Speaker A: Yeah, sure. Well, I am a catholic wife and mother of five children and one in heaven. I homeschool all of our kids and also help my husband with our family business. We are sole owners and a small family business that takes up a lot of our time along with our kids. And I'm also a podcaster and [email protected]. When I have more time than I currently do, but usually, yes, I am there. [00:03:22] Speaker C: That is amazing. I never cease to be amazed by those women, those people who have so much on their plate. You are raising five children, but yet you make time to actually use your wisdom and experience to help others. That's incredible. Makes me so intrigued as to who you are in your story. So let's get into your story. Let's start back to your childhood where you were born, your family. Tell me about what that looked like. Was God a part of your family ritual or routine or belief? Or was he out of the picture at all? [00:04:04] Speaker A: My parents are both raised Catholic, but by the time I was born, they had gotten away from the faith. My dad especially, was pretty antagonistic against it. My mom just didn't see much meaning in it. So after they were married, my older brother had been baptized. But by the time I came along four years later, that was not even a topic for discussion. We were from New York and had moved to North Carolina when I was about six years old, and so moving from a more cosmopolitan type area mindset. We'd also lived in southern California and then coming to the Bible belt, where there were very few Catholics, but everybody was more of a, I guess my best friend growing up, her father had been Baptist, and everybody on his side of the family was Baptist, and I was surrounded by Baptists. Catholics were a few and far between. I had a few jewish or mormon friends, but mostly Baptist. And that difference from where we had come from in New York and our own home life and southern California, that was pretty shocking. And I felt very out of place. And I didn't understand anything about God or the faith, except for what my best friend sometimes would take me to mass, or mom would make me go to mass with them on a Sunday morning after I'd spent the night on a Saturday. But I wasn't catechized at all. And anything, whether outwardly said or maybe just implied religion was a problem. It was a problem of a lot of problems or the root cause of a lot of the problems in the world. And it was more for people who needed some kind of guidance that they couldn't just follow their own inner moral code. Then they maybe need somebody outside of them to tell them what to do. And so maybe a weaker set of people. There's a lot of narcissism and ego in all of this. But at the same time, because my parents had been raised Catholic and they were raised with this wonderful moral code, they are wonderful people. It was a very loving home. My parents have a sacramental marriage, so they have been married for almost 50 years. And they. They raised us to be respectful and care for our community and. And all these things that you see, you know, now, now I see as part of the catholic sacramental life, but they were trying to do it without the bedrock and where they even learned it from. So without that, there were a lot of missteps along the way. And ultimately, we still have our questions about why are we here? Who made us, where are we going? And I didn't have any good guidance on how to answer those questions, and so I went in some wild places searching for them. It was a very loving household, but one that did not want anything to do with any kind of organized religion at all. [00:06:54] Speaker C: So you moved to the Bible belt, where there were all these strange christians, and it sounds like an informed view that, again, belief in God and Christianity, that was for other people, not for yourself. It was for more weak minded kind of people who needed a crutch. Did you experience that when you encountered, or did I presume you encountered some touch points of authentic Christianity among your friends or in your world when you moved to this new environment? [00:07:34] Speaker A: There were times at this age, I was so young, most everybody who went to church just had to because their parents were bringing them. I would hear of people who would have these live simple, beautiful lives, and they would talk about their faith in God. And I thought, that must be so nice. That sounds really nice to be that simple. I didn't think that there could be logic and faith side by side. So I had pretty negative experiences with most christians either. If they didn't know why they were really going to church and they couldn't explain to me much about the faith, there were some outright negative experiences. So I really didn't have, besides hearing about people occasionally in news stories, then they would attribute their overcoming of whatever challenge because of their faith in God. I really didn't have any positive experiences with Christianity, unfortunately. [00:08:29] Speaker C: So were they generally nice people? They just had no clue in terms of when you asked them questions about why they believed what they believed, they just didn't have answers. So I imagine that reinforced your perception of christians as being weak or weak minded, that they really didn't know why they believed, and it wasn't substantive. And you mentioned that you didn't believe that faith and logic went together. What informed that same idea? [00:09:01] Speaker A: That there's science and there's reason and then there's things that you can't see. I think, again, this goes back to just kind of the general household view that this is just kind of an unnecessary man made construct for people who just need to get by day to day to make themselves feel good or feel better about their lives or where they're headed. It was never presented to me that you could have both. [00:09:27] Speaker C: I would imagine, too, at that time. I mean, you're moving probably into adolescence, and a lot of what we think is formed by our identity. I'm wondering, how did you perceive yourself during this time if you knew that religion was for other people? It was for someone else, but not for you? You were probably, did you put a label or an identity on that? Did you consider yourself atheistic or agnostic or just skeptical, or did you even think about it? [00:10:03] Speaker A: No, I thought a lot about it. I was very new age, actually, because I have these questions of why am I here? Where am I going? Where did I come from? I went looking for those answers because I was very interested in them, and I love the bookstore. So I wound up in the spiritual section of the bookstore, just devouring as much as I could. And also, there's, again, so much ego in all of this, because I would read these books and I would think, well, sure, they got published, but they don't really know the full truth. I have figured this out. It was a religion of one. I pieced together a lot of stuff just based on what I liked. I would pick up something from here. I didn't like the rest of that. Toss that. It was very individualized and narcissistic, to be honest. So that was another thing that the more I grew in this new age spiritual type, spiritual, but not religious type of belief, the worse I thought about christians. And it seemed like all the christians that I knew wanted to tell me about Jesus and heaven, only to let me know that I probably wasn't going to go to heaven at the end of my life based on my beliefs or who I seemed to them to be. So I figured that this couldn't be right. I didn't understand the concept of hell is a tough one anyway, for a lot of people. I didn't understand anything about that hell. It just seemed like if there was a loving God or a creator of the universe. He wouldn't do anything like that. He certainly wouldn't promote this mean spiritedness of a lot of the christian that I encountered, at least the ones that were willing to tell me about their faith. I heard a lot about the rapture and that I was going to be a slave of Satan for a thousand years, a lot of times. So it really just didn't make me feel very good about christians in general. And then I came across and I was developing and researching, I was doing dream interpretations, journaling and chakras, all this stuff. And I was just piecing together something that felt good and fulfilling, way more so than anything that I had learned about Christianity, which as I got older and finally turned towards Christianity, realized I didn't know much of anything about Christ. So all these perceptions were wrong almost entirely that I had of Christianity. [00:12:20] Speaker C: Yeah. I'm curious. It raises a question for me. As someone who considered yourself intelligent, I would imagine you believed in logic and science, but yet you're willing to pursue something which is a metaphysical reality, the new age belief, or you were piecemealing things that seemed good or satisfactory to you, but yet did you feel that that integrated with your self perception? As someone who was logical and scientific and didn't need kind of, in a way, I'm trying this together. [00:13:01] Speaker A: Yeah, good luck. Because it really didn't make sense at all. I would say when they're very hypocritical, I would say one thing, believe another. All those plebeians who believe in that, they needed this organized church. But besides the logic, the science, what you see is what you get type things. I was still very interested in dream interpretations and also hook, line and sinker with the whole Star wars spiritual force thing. I mean, the Star wars movies were playing constantly in our house growing up. So this good and evil eastern type of religion stuff, spirituality, yin yang, was also very interesting to me as well. So I figured that I had just figured it out. I don't know. There's really no logic to it. I would go back and look at, like, what you were so discerning about what you believe here, but you never question this, what are you doing? It was very super hypocritical. And I do remember being called out on this a few times over the years and just thinking, well, whoever is calling me on it, they just don't get it. They don't have the inside scoop like I do. I've got these feelings and these dreams and whatever else that I'm piecing it together. If they don't understand how I'm doing it, then that's on them. But now, looking back, I have no idea what I was trying to make sense. [00:14:23] Speaker C: Well, obviously you were pursuing spirituality in some form for a reason. Like you said, you had some big questions about who are we and why are we here, and what is this all about, and where is this going? Like we all have, and some pursue more intentionally than others. But it sounded like you moved towards spirituality in an ironic kind of way, just not organized. That anathema of organized religion, that was not something you wanted to have anything to do with. And so it sounds like you had, in a sense, some kind of permission, self permission, to pursue being spiritual and not religious. So what were you finding? Were you finding answers to those big questions? In your pursuit, you could retrofit pretty. [00:15:19] Speaker A: Much any of these beliefs into what I was experiencing, or oftentimes it was to explain or give myself permission to act in pretty immoral ways. This is just part of my spiritual journey. I'm learning and growing and blah, blah, blah, pretty woo stuff. But the answers were not satisfactory, and I wound up eventually realizing how unsatisfactory this belief system that I had constructed was. And I wound up becoming an atheist at that point. Full on to nihilist, which my husband never got to, he said, but man with his atheism kind of encouraged me down that path, and I went all the way down into the muck and mire to nihilism. I was pretty miserable for a long time. It was not satisfying, these answers. And I used to have a lot of dreams, like I said, and I was interpreting a lot, but after a while, the dreams stopped coming and I would go to bed and wake up and there'd be nothing that I could remember. Whereas previously there'd be a lot of interesting things, things that would actually come true and things I just enjoyed the whole journal dream interpretation experience anyway. And when that stopped, I felt as if the universe, the force, whatever it is, had abandoned me in some way. And I became very angry and felt like, well, maybe if I'm not getting the dreams anymore, that I really relied on and loved getting. And I was always excited to go to bed and see what would happen that night in dream, if that's done. And I can barely remember that it even happened at this point, because it's been so long since I've had a cool dream or anything that's come true. Maybe I was just making it all up. Maybe it just happened that some of the things came true, but any of my belief systems were they? Did anything make sense? Was it any of it real? And I had decided at that point, this is somewhere in my twenty? S that no, I must have been mistaken. It was all false. My mom still during this time had some new age. The two of us were both pretty new agey actually. I would get angry at her for even mentioning any of her belief stuffs because I didn't want to anymore. I was completely cooked when it came to the new age spiritual stuff and I just figured that there was nothing at all. It is all just what you can see under a microscope. We are, poof, at the end of our lives. Nothing meaningful. And so at that point I was a pretty miserable, pretty miserable sad person. Maybe not all the time outwardly, but I was really struggling at this point and I was very much kind of deadened or numbed to the whole just to life in general. So it was not a happy. [00:18:08] Speaker B: I'd like to pause for a moment and ask you a question. Do you have big questions about God, the Bible or our world today? C. S. Lewis used both reason and imagination to address some of the most important questions of his day. In his legacy, the C. S. Lewis Institute has developed a series of articles called challenging questions that tackle important topics about faith in a winsome and thoughtful yet concise way. While the answers may not be exhaustive, they address the core of the issue and are easy to share with others. Each month a new question is addressed by a key scholar, faith, or thought leader. Our hope is that these questions and responses offer food for thought and encourage you to go deeper in your own journey. You can find these articles at our award winning C. S. Lewis Institute website. That's www.cslewissinstitute.org forward slash publications. Now back to our story. [00:19:12] Speaker C: Yeah, I'm sorry to hear that. It sounds like it was very difficult. But you said you moved into atheism. You accepted reality for what it was, that this is all there is and there's nothing more. Even I find that interesting. Despite the fact that you had had actually, it sounds like palpable dreams and experiences to make you think that there is a metaphysical reality. But yet at some point you rejected all of that and said, this is all there is. And you went down the road towards nihilism, which I also find to be quite interesting. It reveals for me a bit of your ability to introspect, to understand that if you believe in atheism or that the natural world is all there is, that there are implications that come with that, and nihilism is a part of that. For those who aren't familiar with the term, can you explain what nihilist is or nihilism, or what that means? [00:20:16] Speaker A: Yeah, I mean, the way I was feeling at the time was that, well, nothing mattered. There wasn't really any right or wrong. We are just here experiencing physical reality and really just trying to get by day by day, week by week, year by year. In the grand scheme, the history of the world, the future of the world, none of it matters if you have a child. Well, that might just be to fulfill some own selfish desire of your own. If you want to go on vacation, same thing. But these are just blips of emotion in an otherwise flatlined experience. It was an existence. Nothing past what we see. And when we die, everything goes poops back to dust. The best you might get is a legacy to leave behind you. But even that doesn't really matter, because what matters, nothing matters. There's nothing. [00:21:16] Speaker C: So it sounds like, too, that it was kind of a rough patch in your life to live in that kind of reality. It's one thing to believe it, or that you are an atheist, or that you take on that identity. It's another thing to actually live out the reality of that belief. It sounds like you actually understood the implications of what your beliefs were and that you lived in that reality for a period of time and that it was not a good place to live, in a sense. [00:21:48] Speaker A: Yeah, it made me very hedonistic. Right. Because if there is nothing past this, then I should enjoy the stuff that I can experience physically. So it included a lot of wine, drinking a lot of money, spending. My spiritual life was very impoverished, but I was not acting physically impoverished in any sense of the word, whether I was eating or drinking or vacations or spending whatever it was. So there was a lot of fluff and show on the outside and a lot of emptiness within. [00:22:28] Speaker C: So how long were you in this kind of period of living as a nihilist? [00:22:38] Speaker A: By the time I would say that I was an atheist and I didn't believe in God, I had already become a mother, and my husband and I were together. We were married. So I remember sitting on the edge of our bed, coming to a conclusion that I did not believe that God existed. [00:22:55] Speaker C: I'm sorry to interrupt. And you said your husband was an atheist as well, is that right? Or you mentioned that. [00:23:02] Speaker A: Yes. He's a very smart man, and so I just assumed that he had done his research and due diligence in figuring out that he was an atheist. And I didn't really have anything that I would have called myself at this point. But the more I respected and trusted his mental abilities, I just figured, okay, well, I guess I'm an atheist, too. But as time went on and we were hanging out with more atheists and pretty antireligious folks, I remember just taking on that it was really same with the new age stuff. It's all about identity, being very egotistical about who I am, how am I perceived labeling myself, again, as far away from Christianity or any western organized religion as possible? It's very cool. It's all very cool. I don't need religion. I'm new age, or, I don't need religion, I'm an atheist. [00:23:55] Speaker C: Right. [00:24:02] Speaker A: Know, I dabbled and try to think, well, maybe Judaism that seems like Christ is just a middleman, so maybe I could do that. And that fell away by the time that I met my husband and he was an atheist. So I kind of assumed his belief system over time because I wasn't feeling anything and I didn't have any beliefs in God anymore anyway. And I got to the point where I remember sitting on the edge of our bed saying, I don't believe in God. I don't believe in God. And I had to say it a few times. It's almost like the first time you say something vulgar and it sounds really weird coming off your tongue at first, and then the more you say it, the easier it gets, and suddenly you have a potty mouth. So I was saying, the more I said it, the more it just became part of my belief system. The problem in all this, and I mean, I say problem, but it's not a problem, is I had become a mother, and I would look at my son and I completely fell in love with him. And I became petrified that there was nothing. But I was committed to the fact that there wasn't anything past his life. So all this care I was spending or this care I was giving him, the time I was spending caring for him, the late nights, diaper changes, feeding, loving, it didn't matter. It was all meaningless. And I had such a hard time with that because it didn't feel meaningless. But again, I'd already committed to nothingness, which meant that I will die and go poof. He will eventually die and go poof. And that also terrified me because I didn't want that. I loved him so much. I didn't want him to go poof at the end of his life and that I might never see him again in some afterlife, which actually, it started to push me a little bit to think about all this stuff again, rather than just say, well, I've written off God and faith. I'm an atheist now. But it actually made things worse for a time because then I was really scared that there wasn't anything past this life and I was going to lose him eventually. And so I became even worse off for a while. In my belief, he was more downtrodden, not looking back. A lot of this could have been postpartum hormone shifts and things too. But my intense feelings for my son and this passing on creating new life really intensified my beliefs, and I started digging into them again and struggled with the fact that there wasn't anything past what we had in this moment or 100 years from now. There was nothing. So that really made things worse for a while. I would say that I was probably atheist and really into nihilism for a short amount of time, maybe just a couple of years, but atheism was maybe about ten years. [00:26:38] Speaker C: So over time, then it made you rethink or to question, is there something more? Did you go on another quest to seek what happened? [00:26:51] Speaker A: Yeah, I noticed I was getting very skeptical about everything. Even my mom would send. I think at this point we had two children because she was sending boxes for holidays. And I was like, why are we even doing this? I don't even believe in Christmas. Why are we celebrating this? It's just extra work. It's just setting my son up, my daughter, to think things that aren't really true. Even we got to the 4 July, I was like, oh, I don't want to do this. Just another made up thing. Everything's made up. It's so much work. And the first thing that happened that kind of shifted is I got tired of being skeptical all the time and just a no negative person, which I had become very cynical. And I would say the first word out of my mouth for anything was no. And I got tired of it because my children were so joyful and young and energetic, and I didn't want to squash that either. And it was kind of contagious, how happy they were. So for the first time in many years, they kind of drew me out of that negativity and thinking that there wasn't any reason to do anything and thinking maybe my children are seeing a reason to have fun and be joyful and play. Maybe there's something that I should reevaluate. So it's really my children's youthfulness that helped start to pull me away from the extreme skepticism I had been living in. For the past several years. [00:28:09] Speaker C: And I presume was your husband questioning or observing or wanting something more at the same time, or was it you just on your path? [00:28:22] Speaker A: He had started earlier, and he had even asked me for some books that I used to like to read when I was new age. And he was reading Nahan, and I was like, what is going on? Why is he reading eastern religious type of things or wanting to know about my new age stuff? I was like, you can read. I saw some books left. I was like, you can read it. It's not true, but whatever. Have at it. So he was clearly seeking, and I started noticing a lot of books coming in the mail, and they started off as more eastern religious type things and then moved into philosophy. And then there's Aristotle, and then there's Aquinas, and then my husband's going to mass. He was ahead of me on this, and I remember being very angry at him about that. [00:29:04] Speaker C: So how long did you live in this kind of state where you're seeing something in your children that's joyful and almost pure and understanding of life and enjoying it, and you knew that you weren't. So there was that tension. So how did that push you forward? What did you do? Did you start reading books? How did you start pursuing this issue again? Is there more to life than this? [00:29:32] Speaker A: Sure. Well, actually, it was Pat, my husband, who at this point was starting to. He would do his morning computer work at a coffee shop, and apparently he was going over to the catholic church that was just two blocks away. And he's know, I really would like you to come to mass. At some point. I was like, whoa, pump the brakes. [00:29:54] Speaker C: Was he believing at this time that he had moved from his atheism to belief in God? [00:30:01] Speaker A: Yeah, he was several long months ahead of me, and I was very angry at him for, because I felt like, because he was an atheist, and I value his opinion very much. I followed him into outward atheism. It was something that I finally would say out loud, that I was an atheist. I was committed to it. So I did that because of him, kind of. He led me down there and then he left. And I was, that's so unfair. But at the same time, if nihilism and atheism are real, then it doesn't really matter because nothing matters. So that irony was not lost on me that I was angry at him for leaving me down in the muck and mire of atheism. But, yeah, he got out. I remember going for a walk together, and he said, I would like you to consider Christianity. I'm learning a lot about Jesus. Do you know who he is? I was like, oh, yeah, sure, I know who he is. Our Lord and savior, really being really awful about it. And I said, look, fine, I will try out some different churches, but there's no way in hell I'm going to be Catholic. I'm sure the Holy Spirit was laughing at that point, but I was very adamant about it. There's no way. And within, like, six months, I was getting so I had grown up, I knew, being in the Bible, but I figured if Christianity is real, if I'm going to just do this for Pat because it was important to him. And I was also seen, too, to step back a little bit. The world is a nutty place. And I knew that I could try as best I could to teach our children good moral values and to be upright citizens and not do anything terrible. But knowing myself, too, at some point, you stop listening to your parents and you listen to your community and your peers. But what if your community and your peers are crazy and they are immoral? So I started getting a little concerned that I could only lead the kids so far on our own. And that's when I kind of became a little open to the idea. Well, Christianity does have the Ten Commandments. I guess that's a good start. And maybe if we get the kids around like minded children and they grow up, they won't be total degenerate. So I was slightly open to the idea of maybe taking the kids to some kind of christian church at this point, too, just for their own moral development, hoping that maybe, again, like my parents had done, try to teach the moral code without the foundation of the code. Right, which failed because I was a pretty degenerate person for a long time as well. But I figured that if this stuff was true, that Pat was trying to tell me was true, if it's true, then you got to take it pretty seriously. I'd been with somebody whose father had terminal cancer and had decided then to start being a Christian. And I remember thinking that was pretty hypocritical. Oh, you're only Christian because you're going to die. But of course, now I know that those are powerful, those deathbed type conversions are very powerful. And I pray for his soul often because he did, to make great attempts at the end of his life to be a believer. But the church that they had picked to go to was a former movie theater with stadium seating, and they shot t shirts out of a cannon into the crowd. And it was very gimmicky mood lighting, and I hated all of it every time I would go. So I knew that didn't feel like if you have the creator of the universe and the sustainer of all life probably doesn't do t shirt cannons. So I didn't want that. I didn't want mood lighting and fog machines and celebrity pastors. So I knew I didn't want that. Catholicism, to me, seemed like a lot of pomp and circumstance, a lot of sitting, standing, bell ringing, things I remembered of my youth that I would make fun of to my friend. And her mom would get angry at me for in the middle of mass, so it had to be in between there. I had known a few Lutherans growing up, and they seemed more reverent and respectful and less showy in their church services. So I said, okay, we can go to a lutheran church. I will do that. So we did try Lutheranism first, and Pat was very understanding. He said, but if you do this, I would like you to come to daily mass with me sometime. Marriage is not compromised. I'll go. But I was pretty sold on the lutheran stuff for a while. This was good enough we got here. This is good enough. No further. [00:34:40] Speaker C: Yeah. So I'm curious. Just good enough in terms of, okay, I can tolerate this. This might be a place where my children can learn morals. It might be helpful for my marriage and for my family. But was there any belief on your part, or was this just a structure or an organization that could provide some kind of unity and direction for your family? [00:35:05] Speaker A: Well, I decided, okay, so a few things happened kind of simultaneously, and really, my conversion picks up very quickly. At this point, I really started paying attention to spirituality, probably at the young age of six or seven. And I was spiritual, but not new age until my early twenty s, and then another, or I guess about 20 and then another ten years of nothingness. And then God kind of made me christian and then catholic within a matter of months at this point. So he moved in quick, and I think he figured that I had spent enough time dancing around all this stuff, so he helped me out very much at the end there. So at some point, Pat said, I think you'd like this one book. It's a case for Christ by Lee Strobel, the case for Christ. And he know it's about a husband whose wife had converted to Christianity, and he was an atheist, and he set out as a journalist to try to deconvert his wife. And I was like, well, we come from a family of journalists. So I was like, well, that's kind of interesting. And the atheism thing. Okay, you got me. So he just kind of left the book there for me and I started reading it, and there were a lot of hang ups that I had besides just being anti religion or anti christian because of the negative experiences that I had in the Bible belt of people telling me I was going to go to hell and the rapture and all this stuff. I also had problems with the problem of evil, which is a big one for a lot of people. How does God let bad things happen to good people? How does God let good things happen to bad people? Especially? I had a cousin who had committed suicide, and I just couldn't wrap my head around that really well. How would God allow that sort of thing? So those were hang ups. I also wasn't quite sure that Jesus wasn't anything more than a myth. I didn't believe in the historical case for Jesus. And chapter by chapter the author goes through, and he's interviewing different experts, including an anthropologist. And that was my background was anthropology. So it got me, I was interested in that. It was well written. I was intrigued by how the story would end. The main issue that I had was that we had this idea that we had collectively as humanity had read in its ledger with all the sin and everything, and how Jesus was able to wipe that clean by his life and death. And I would hear people say, know, jesus died for your sins. What does that even mean? I don't even know what my sins. What are you talking. I didn't understand the idea of sin, why it was know, let me live my life, you live yours type thing. And there was a chapter about the atonement, and it was written well enough for my limited understanding at the time to get it. And it was really just clicked. And I think I was reading the book on my kindle at this point because I remember nursing one of my children. It was kind of dark, and it was right in the same spot, maybe two years earlier that I had sat in my room and said, I don't believe in God. And I remember getting to this point through the chapter on the atonement, and everything just started clicking. And the main problems that I had had about Christianity I was noticing had been answered, and I was sitting in the dark with just the light from my phone. I thought, I think, do I believe in Christ? Now? This makes sense to me. Could I possibly be Christian? I thought, holy moly. That's even scarier than not believing in anything existing. So new questions and fears got opened up by this well timed recommendation for my husband to read this book. And I decided to embark on a 30 day challenge for myself, which I didn't tell anybody about at first because I was too nervous and embarrassed to even admit that I was thinking about Christianity. But I decided for 30 days I would read the Bible and I would pray. And I bought a little cross necklace off Amazon. It's like, I think christians wear cross necklaces. I could do that and I guess I could go to church. That seems like it's a waste of my time on a Sunday. But you know what? I'm going to go all in 30 days. I will act just like a Christian as what I thought a Christian would act. And if I get to the end of the 30 days and I realize that I was wrong or I was previously right, Christianity isn't real. I'll give it the good try. But if I realize it's not right, well, then I can just be more confident in atheism. Look, I tried Christianity for real this time and I found it lacking. So I could just go back to atheism and I would be satisfied there. And if I got to the end of the 30 days and I realized that Christianity is true, that's for future Christine to worry about. I was too scared to even think about what that might mean. And I started journaling and I was thought, well, this will make great, kind of like a great pro atheist blog at some point to go back and look at all the journals and everything that I wrote. And as it turned out, it didn't take 30 days for me to believe in Christ. It took about seven. Once I said, okay, I'm not going to be resistant to this. I will listen and try my best and see what I can do to believe in all this stuff. The Lord just swooped right in and made me a believer really quickly. [00:40:23] Speaker B: Wow. [00:40:24] Speaker C: So when you opened up the Bible to start reading it, did you start reading like in the gospels of the life of Christ, or where did you start reading that? It felt so compelling to you. [00:40:36] Speaker A: I started actually reading at the beginning. I think I found a Bible plan, actually. So I read a little bit of the Old Testament and then some of the psalms and then the New Testament. At the time, a jewish friend of ours had just come home or come back to the United States from living in Israel for five years, and he was living with us. So I had my own personal Old Testament, or at least the Pentagon scholar in the house because he was very serious about his faith. So I'd get up early in the morning and I would read the Old Testament and jot down a lot of questions. And he helped me because he's a very intelligent, well formed individual. So he would give me some really cool answers to my Old Testament questions that I had. And then Pat, my husband, had been researching and had already, at this point, been going to mass pretty frequently on his own. So he was giving me, and he had been doing a bunch of research on philosophy. So I had my big questions about problem of evil and suffering. He was able to answer those in a way that was satisfactory. So finally, after years of not having good answers to questions, I had two very intelligent people in the home at the same time being able to answer a lot of the questions that I was now having when I was giving Christianity a good, solid try. [00:41:51] Speaker B: I'd like to take a moment from our story and ask for your prayers. Prayer has been a vital part of the DNA of the CSOs Institute ministry since its inception in 1976. Time and again, as we've faced various challenges, God has led the men and women of the institute to fall on our knees in prayer and to seek his path and power. We have seen God graciously respond many times. If you have a heart for prayer and for the CSOs Institute, would you join us? We'll send you prayer requests once every few weeks. If you're interested, go to our [email protected], and click the get updates button. Now back to our story. [00:42:39] Speaker C: Wow. So, yeah, that's very helpful. I'm sure when you have questions and there are people who are informed right there to have meaningful conversation and discussion, it makes me think of such a contrast to what you had as a child. But here you are at a very different time in your life where you're actually seriously pursuing it and you're willing to see what's there. And obviously, the apologetic book that you had written or read gave you some indication that perhaps there is good reason, rationality, logic, even science in some regard, to show you a worldview that may actually be true and real, and then you gave it a chance. It sounds like you say God swooped in and took advantage of that moment or that opportunity in your life where you were actually willing. I think the willingness to me is the willingness to, in a sense, give God a chance. Is this really real? Especially after years of resisting once you became willing? It's amazing that actually, like you say, it didn't take that long to believe, right? [00:44:02] Speaker A: Maybe God knows that I probably would have gone back to resisting heavily very quickly, had he not? So, thankfully, he worked with the willingness that I was able to give at the time. But again, we had been going to a lutheran church at this point because that was part of my experiment on myself. So I committed to going to church on Sundays. And we've been going, and it seemed good enough. It checked the boxes. But then this was around Thanksgiving. By Christmas time, we were going to eat our Christmas Eve dinner, just pad myself and our three children at this point, and it was sleeting outside. Roads were a mess. We were going to go to the lutheran church for Christmas service the following morning, and dinner was going to be ready in the next, like, 30 minutes. And Pat just comes in room and he says, I need to go to mass. I've got a well timed roast happening. We need to eat. We've got children that need to eat dinner. He's like, I'm sorry, I really have to go. And I was so angry at him because he might ruin my Christmas Eve dinner. And then also, he has terrible eyesight, and it was nighttime and he doesn't like driving. And now suddenly he's going to get on slippery roads in the dark and drive to a church. Why would you do that to yourself? But that made me stop and think a little bit. That man, if my husband, who hates driving and has bad eyesight, doesn't drive at night, wants to leave on this bad weather evening and go to mass, there might be something to that. Again, I trust him very much. That kind of made me not be so angry at Catholicism anymore. If my husband's really. He must really think something's true about that. And I didn't realize the difference in denominations at this point. I really thought it was just like, your preference. You pick one that you like. But that instant on Christmas Eve made me think that maybe Catholicism should be looked at a little bit more deeply. Husband's need to go to church on a bad night and then learning more about the nuances of the faith that I didn't understand previously. And I felt everything just fall into place. And I realized that I had been focusing on the wrong things in the mass. When I had gone either as a tourist or somebody had been dragged along as a kid or to funerals that I had to go to. I'd been focusing on all the wrong things, and this was it. [00:46:32] Speaker C: So then you joined with your husband and your family in this unified belief, I guess. And so at that point, you believed that God was real, that Jesus Christ was able to somehow take care of the red ledger. That somehow it was not just for someone out there for your husband or for someone else, but it was actually for you, right? That his sacrifice was personally applied to you. And I presume at that point you understood what sin was and all of that. Wow. What an amazing thing. At that moment. Then you all came together in this common belief. Now I'm wondering, you've lived a lot of different lives, in a sense, growing up without God and then moving into new age spirituality and then fully into atheism and nihilism, and then finally finding Christ. [00:47:43] Speaker A: What has changed is everything. I used to be hedonistic, narcissistic, really, especially when it came to motherhood. As much as I loved my kids, I love my kids. I would get frustrated when their needs would overshadow my own or say when my husband's. The attention he would receive for his achievements overshadowed mine because all I had was my own personal ego to fall back on. But as I've lived the sacramental life, there's just been a release of a breath I guess I had been holding all my life, like this tension of trying to make my way in the world come hell or high water, and get my way, because otherwise feeling I'd be trampled on by whatever. I can just be at peace with where I am. And not to say that I'm always peaceful, but to be content in my station in life, not comparing myself to others, willingly dying to self so that I can grow in holiness and help my husband and children grow in holiness. It is a constant. I remember right after we converted, we had a particular instance with a family member who needed to go to rehab for drug use. And in the past, before conversion, I would have been like, you know what? They did that to themselves. That's their problem. They can get themselves to rehab. I don't want anything to do with it. They're lost. They can come back when they're all cleaned up. But since converting around the same time this all happened, we were convinced that we needed to. I took off time from work. I left my job for the day. We went down and sat with this person and talked to them for a long time, followed up. We got them to a rehab facility, followed up, did things and made that were very inconvenient, emotionally and physically for us. And it felt so good. We felt at peace with what we were doing. So it was a huge difference. At the time, I realized there was a very stark difference from who I normally would be in that situation to who I now was as a believer. And over time, our marriage has gotten better, and it's easier to lay down one's life for one's friends as we go along in our married life and family life. And the home is filled with joy and much less bickering than it used to have. All good and beautiful things, for sure. [00:50:21] Speaker C: So your whole life has changed. It sounds like your perspective, not only what you're doing, but why you're doing it. And I love the tone that you're laying over your life, and that is of self sacrificial love. I mean, that's extraordinary, extraordinary reflection of not only your transformation, but who loves you and who you. It sounds like you've learned to love not only God and Jesus, but also to love your neighbor as yourself. I know that just because you're Christian doesn't mean that difficulties and struggles don't come right. I mean, it's not all glorious and shiny. I think you had mentioned you've lost a child. Even so, there are struggles within the christian life, but yet there's a different way of looking at it and living through it, isn't there? [00:51:16] Speaker A: Sure. Very much, yeah. I think the miscarriage that I had was in between my three year old and one year old. And as that was happening, I realized at that moment that it seemed like all the faith that I had been growing in and the learning that I had been doing the praying, it all kind of came together in that suffering. And it made sense of things in a way that previously, where I had struggled with, say, the death of a family member or hardships along the way, which felt very catastrophic and destructive to my faith. As difficult as the infant loss was, it made sense of everything, and it was very bittersweet. There's the consolation along with the desolation in that moment. And that's way, again, where I could notice a difference between my personal before Christ and after Christ that I have in my life timeline. There's a huge difference in how I would have approached that loss versus how something like that would have affected me previously and much more beautiful in its own way. [00:52:34] Speaker C: Yes. And that is a beautiful testimony, really, to the depth of your faith. And we know that the problem of evil and suffering is such a problem for people who don't believe. But yet, as a believer, like you say, somehow suffering can make sense. We can make sense in and through the suffering, even though it's still difficult. [00:52:56] Speaker A: Right? [00:52:57] Speaker C: Yeah. What a beautiful testimony, Christine, for those I just think of who might be listening here, they may be spiritual but not religious. They may be completely anti christian. They may be stuck in atheism or nihilism. You have been in all of those places, and I'm just wondering from what perspective you might advise someone. I think of the example of your husband and the willingness that you developed over time to actually pursue something that seems so real and true to someone around you. But how would you advise someone who may be in a place of willingness or seeking or searching to figure things out or life isn't satisfactory, or they think there has to be something more to make sense of the world or themselves? [00:53:48] Speaker A: Well, it worked for me, and maybe it'll work. It's basically Pascal's wager, which I realized after the fact. But setting this kind of 30 day experiment, being open and willing, and I think for me, the 30 days felt long enough to give it a good try, but not so much that I felt overwhelmed by the length of time that I had to pretend to be christian or fake it till I made it. I think for anybody who's actually willing, giving it a good effort, giving yourself a little 30 day faith challenge, finding good resources to learn about the faith, getting yourself around people who are living the faith beautifully and well, dedicating yourself to go to church during that time, and praying, even praying the prayer, God, if there is a God, save my soul, if there is a soul, or whatever it is. So something like that, even if you're not totally sure yet, I think God can work with willingness. And it might not be seven days or 30 days later that you feel like you've got a handle on the faith or your faith trajectory, but it's worth a shot, I think, at the very least. [00:55:02] Speaker C: Right. And before that, 30 days in your life, you had actually read least trouble's case for Christ. So you had some at least intellectual satisfaction that it may be true and you were willing to give it a try. [00:55:16] Speaker A: Yeah, that was a very good baseline to just get over the hump that Christianity is for numb skulls and people who aren't very intelligent or knowledgeable, and to come to find that in that particular book, there's so many different experts that are interviewed that clearly show that these are intelligent people who believe in Christ. [00:55:37] Speaker C: Yeah, I think that's really wise advice in our own humanity. Like you said earlier on, you were kind of picking and choosing the things that sounded good or felt good to you. And oftentimes we can develop a misconception, as you say, about certain things, and then we point ourselves towards things that we want to be true or things that feel good or whatever. But I appreciate in your story that you actually were able to open yourself to, okay, what is it really? Not just what I want to be true, but what is it really in and of itself? Yeah. And that's the hardest thing, I think, for all of us, really, is are we willing to seek truth above all else rather than all of these things we want to be true or don't like or do like or whatever. But it sounds like you landed in that place from your perspective now, how would you advise us as christians to engage either thoughtfully, with more intellectually or with our lives, or just examples or what do you recommend for us? [00:56:50] Speaker A: I was baptized a little over five years ago now. And in that time, just living a christian life, a joyful life, I think, is a huge part of it. This isn't a burden to be a Christian. It's a joyful thing to do, and our lives are better for it. So even in the past five years, my parents, who are still not practicing any religion, have become much less antagonistic, maybe part way because they don't want to ruin a relationship with me or cause tension. But at the same time, I think over the last five years, they have seen how crazy the world is and seeing how our home when they come to visit is almost like a little beacon of normalcy and love and joy and fun and laughter. And clearly there is something there that is causing that. So we have tried very hard in making our home into a domestic church. It looks like christians live here with crosses on the way of a crosswall. We've got spiritual reading out all the time. We pray before meals. We say our morning prayers together as a family. And having people who come into our home see this, whether it's family or friends, seems to have been a really big influence on some. Pat and I are the God parents of two of our friends who came into the church this past Easter. And they said, both of them have said that our family life and being witnesses to how loving we all are and how we live was a huge influence on how they perceived the faith. [00:58:27] Speaker C: Scripture says they'll know we're christians by our love. And it sounds like you and Pat and your family are just an embodied example of what true faith actually looks like and what life can look like, and that you make it attractive and appealing for those who don't have it. And I think that that's incredibly powerful and incredibly. [00:58:53] Speaker A: Yeah, it seems like it's been very helpful. And, I mean, look, it's not easy. And I'm not saying our hope life is perfect by any means. But there is certainly love. And that our love for each other is obviously stemmed in our love of the Lord. [00:59:07] Speaker C: Yeah, that's really beautiful. And it doesn't hurt, too that you and your husband both are very intelligent and that you're active in pursuing truth. And. [00:59:20] Speaker A: Anybody who comes with a philosophical question, Pat, can answer it. So I know that's helpful. I'll feed them and be very warm and welcoming. And Pat can tell them all the tough stuff that they need the answers. We've got a good balance. Yeah. [00:59:35] Speaker C: What a beautiful, I mean, it's just what a marriage and a family should be mean. And it comes together beautifully. Christine, what a beautiful story. And I keep using that word because that's what it love. I love that you started questioning because you saw this beautiful joy and miraculous life through your children. And now here you're telling me that your family has embodied that and it's because of your faith in Christ. It's so inspired by that and hope that, I mean, that's what you want for everyone, right? You want everyone to experience the joy and love and the truth of Christ. And it sounds like you and your whole family are just wrapped up in that. And what a blessing to know you and to know pat and to know your story of your family. And I can imagine that your children are just growing and learning and seeing it in an embodied way. And what a beautiful witness to the world in this chaotic world that we're living in, that you're an embodied example of what life could look like in Christ. And I just want to thank you for coming on and telling your story and showing that that is possible for those who seek and who believe. So thank you so much for coming on. [01:01:08] Speaker A: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for having me. [01:01:10] Speaker B: Thanks for tuning into cybe stories to hear Christine Flynn's story. You can find out more about her podcast, her memoir, and her recommended resources in the episode. Notes for questions and feedback about this episode, you can contact me through our email. Again, that is [email protected] also, if you're a skeptic or atheist who would like to connect with a former guest with questions, please contact us again on our website or email and we'll get you connected. This podcast is produced through the C. S. Lewis Institute through the help of our amazing producer Ashley Decker and audio engineer Mark Rozera. You can also see these podcasts again in video form on our YouTube channel through the excellent work of our video editor, Kyle Polk. If you enjoyed it, I hope you'll follow rate review and share this podcast with your friends and social network. [01:02:04] Speaker C: In the meantime time, I'll be looking forward to seeing you next time, where we'll see how another skeptic flips the record of their life.

Other Episodes