Sunday, December 28, 2014

Deconstructing "The Miracle on 34th Street"

At some point every holiday season, we sit down to watch The Miracle on 34th Street.  Not the atrocious 1994 remake with John Hammond and Matilda - a movie that, in my mind, had no business being made - but the 1947 version with Edmund Gwenn and Natalie Wood.  I've seen this movie countless times throughout my life, and the assumption I'd always made was that Kris Kringle was really Santa Claus and that the ending of the film confirmed that fact.  However, after watching the movie this year, I came away with a much different conclusion.

Kris Kringle was not Santa.  He was indeed "just a nice old man with whiskers."

Kris Kringle was simply an elderly man who had made it his mission in life to act as a sort of real-life version of Santa Claus.  I think he believed he was the real Santa Claus, perhaps due to some form of dementia or other psychological disorder.  But nowhere in this movie is it suggested that he is the jolly old man from the North Pole who delivers presents to children all over the world on a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer.  Sure, he acknowledges the reindeer in the beginning of the movie and even shows the drunk Santa how to lash the whip, but acknowledgement is really as far as the movie goes.

When Doris first meets Kris, she asks "Could you play Santa Claus?  Have you had any experience?"  Kris laughs and says "A little."  It is reasonable to believe that, although this line was crafted to make the audience wonder, the truth is that he HAS played Santa before.  Later, his interaction with the kids inside Macy's supports that theory.  Yes, he speaks Dutch to the child, however as Doris says, "Susan, I speak French, but that doesn't make me Joan of Arc."

Haven't you ever wondered why, when the children sit on his lap, he doesn't just tell them he'll bring whatever gift they've asked for?  Instead, he tells the parents where they can find those gifts.  He tells the boy's mother where to find the fire engine.  He tells another girl's mother where she can get skates.  Seems odd - why wouldn't Santa just bring them himself?

When Doris begins to question Kringle's sanity, she finds that he lives in a home for the elderly under the care of Doctor Pierce.  Shouldn't Santa live in the North Pole?  Or if Kris spends the "off season" as a member of the general population, wouldn't there be some questions about his whereabouts whenever he returns to the North Pole?  None of this sort of thing is suggested - instead, Dr. Pierce appears to know Kris well and seems to have a positive relationship with him.

As for the gifts, just about each one of them is explained throughout the course of the movie.  As already noted, Kris tells the parents how to get their children's requested toys during the Macy's scenes.  Later, we are shown a scene in which Mr. Macy gives Kris a bonus check.  Mr. Gimbell asks Kris what he's going to do with it, and Kris says he knows a doctor who needs a new X-Ray machine.  This is the X-Ray machine later given to Dr. Pierce at the end of the movie.  Then there's the part where little Tommy, after coming off the stand in the courtroom, runs over to Kris and says "Don't forget, a real official football helmet!" to which Kris replies "Don't worry, Tommy, you'll get it!"  At the conclusion of the case, the prosecutor (Tommy's father) exclaims "I've got to get that football helmet!" and runs out of the courtroom.
This brings us to the finale, where Susan's grand request for a house is fulfilled.  Not just any house, mind you, but the exact house from the photo she gave Kris.  If you notice, the picture is a page out of either a newspaper or magazine.  Additionally, you can see that there are other homes on that same page.  It is probable that this page came from a real-estate listing of some kind, and all Kris did was show Doris and Fred where to find the house knowing full-well that Susie handle the rest.  Remember, when they enter the home in pursuit of Susie, Fred says "The sign outside says it's for sale.  We can't let her down."  Kris didn't give them the house.  He just showed them where to find it.  As for the cane against the wall, it could've very well been left there by the people who moved out.  Or Kris might have left it behind either by accident or to solidify Doris' belief in him as Santa. 

Maybe everyone else already picked up on all these details and I'm late to the party.  I don't know, but these subtleties give me a new respect for Miracle on 34th Street as a remarkable piece of storytelling.  Just don't ask me to watch the 94 version.  I won't react well.

I hope you and your loved ones have had a safe and Merry Christmas.  As we approach 2015, I pray for a peaceful, prosperous, and uplifting new year for all of you. 

God bless,


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Review: Fort Reiley by Jerry Hanel

That's twice, now.
My go-to genres for reading have always been fantasy and/or science fiction.  I love the creative freedom of those worlds; they provide an open door of possibilities that don't exist in reality.  As a result, most books that are based in the real world tend to lose my interest long before I finish them.
In 2011, I bought Jerry Hanel's Death Has A Name, a paranormal murder mystery about detective Brodie Wade.  Though the genre is not normally my favorite, Death Has A Name sucked me in almost immediately and held me to the last word.  That, in and of itself, fascinated me, because I'm usually pretty hard to please when it comes to finding a good book.  But it was a great story with a unique premise and compelling writing, and I really enjoyed the ride.
Now, he's done it again.
Jerry Hanel's latest novel, Fort Reiley , follows the story of Harrison Kass, a mediocre reporter with a lead on a story and a past he'd like to forget.  During a stop in the small town of Fort Reiley , Oklahoma , he stumbles over something that is anything but mediocre: a town without children, adults who don't age, and a community that won't talk.  What Harry discovers turns out to be something most tabloids wouldn't print, a secret so dangerous that mere knowledge of the truth marks him as a dead man.  And it won't be long before that danger becomes a reality.
Character development is everything to me.  You can have the most interesting premise in the world, but if the character development is shallow, the story feels empty.  It's the personality, history, growth, and goals of the characters that drive any good story, and without those elements, the audience has nothing to make them care.  It is this type of character development that Jerry Hanel excels at, and when combined with the plot of Fort Reiley , these elements come together to create a fascinating and exciting tale. 
This book kept me up late almost every night over the past week because I kept telling myself, "Just one more page."  "OK, one more."  "Fine, one more."  Every chapter contains another exciting revelation or plot turn that kept me glued to my tablet.  I don't want to spoil anything about the story, but I will say that Mr. Hanel manages to take elements from some of the more recent storytelling trends and implements them in a very unique and believable way.  That, along with deep characters and a story that never stops moving - even in slower scenes - made my adventure alongside Harrison Kass an exciting and memorable one.
I sincerely hope that Fort Reiley garners a lot of attention, sales, and promotion for Jerry Hanel.  If you enjoy mysteries, suspense, thrillers, or all of the above, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't check out this book.
I don't know if he would be interested if the offer came to him, but I can say with 100% confidence that I think this story is extremely well suited to be translated into a movie or TV series were it to wind up in the hands of the right people.  I know I'd love to see it.

Purchase Fort Reiley at

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Seventy Times Seven

My father and I used to watch professional wrestling together.  It was one of a few things we shared.  He introduced me to it back in the mid-80's, which was when Hulkamania was booming.  We often watched it together on Saturday mornings and sometimes I could even get him to wrestle me with one of his big-buckle belts serving as the championship title.  When RAW started airing on Monday nights, we watched every week together.

I could go on for hours about my fascination with the wrestling business.  Dad used to point out to me when the wrestlers "messed up" because you could see how a move was done or watch a guy react to a punch that clearly never hit him.  It all had a very "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" feel to it, which of course, made me want to see behind the curtain.  Nowadays, the curtain has been pulled back, and the industry openly admits to being a staged performance.

As a kid, one of my favorites was Jake "The Snake" Roberts.  I mean, I liked Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage and all those big names of the time period, but there was something about Jake Roberts that grabbed my attention and held it firm as long as he was on the screen.  Of course, there was the eventual hope that he'd open his bag and dump Damien (his snake) onto his opponent, but there was more to Roberts than that.  He had a natural charisma that made you question how much of what we saw on TV was character and how much was actually his real personality. 

One of the most impressive aspects of Jake Roberts' character was his ability to deliver fantastic promos.  In the wrestling world, the word "promo" is used to describe any time a character speaks on the mic.  Today, most promos are (sadly) heavily scripted. Maybe not word-for-word scripted, but still planned out for the most part.  The person conducting the interview will ask pre-planned questions, and the wrestlers will give their pre-planned answers.

But back in the day, it was all improv work.  Part of being a successful character was being able to deliver interesting promos that sold the product.  The wrestler and interviewer would be put in front of the live camera and told "Talk about the upcoming match" or "Talk about what happened last week" or something general like that.  Since they were broadcasting live, they had only one take to get it right.  From there, it was up to the performers to make it happen.  And Jake Roberts always made it happen.

One of my favorite promos by Jake happened at Wrestlemania 6 before his match with Ted DiBiase.  This promo is widely considered to be one of the best promos in the history of the business.  I've posted it below.  Just to set the stage, Ted DiBiase played the character of "The Million Dollar Man," a rich guy who was so arrogant that he paid for his own title belt - the "Million Dollar Championship" - which Jake Roberts stole.

Sadly, Roberts never spent any considerable time at the top of the wrestling world.  Drug and alcohol addiction dragged him down a dark and dangerous road for the majority of his life.  He'd disappear from the wrestling world for a time, then re-emerge for another run.  Sometimes he'd be gone a couple of months, sometimes years.  Eventually, he disappeared for good.  As the business began to open up more, documentaries began to be produced.  Jake's battle with his addictions is well-documented in films such as "Beyond the Mat" and "Jake Roberts: Pick Your Poison."  In his defense, he had a worse childhood than many of us might have dreamed.  The kind of things he endured during his youth would be enough to drive most people to find some kind of escape.

As time went on, pictures and videos started surfacing on the internet.  Among other things, there were clips of him drunk at independent wrestling shows, unable to perform properly, and making a mockery of the amazing character he'd created during his run in the 80's.  Fans like myself thought it was just a matter of time before he was found dead somewhere.  But somehow, through it all, he hung on.

Fast forward to October, 2012.

Jake Roberts, over 300 pounds and barely able to move due to the years of abusing his body through both wrestling and drugs, moved in with another former wrestler, Diamond Dallas Page (DDP) to try to clean up his life for the umpteenth time (really, Microsoft Word?  You recognize "umpteenth" as a word?).  With DDP's help, Roberts was able to get himself on a good path for the first time in decades.  DDP's yoga program (creatively called DDPYoga) helped Jake get mobile again, lose weight, and finally begin to take hold of the demons that had held him prisoner for the majority of his life. 

But exercise, no matter the type, can only do just so much.  Jake was in need of surgery to help fix some injuries that had never healed and were inhibiting his recovery.  Wrestlers don't have health insurance, so, in January of 2013, DDP set up an Indiegogo donation campaign to help fund Jake's surgeries.

12 hours later, the following was filmed.  Watch the whole thing.  It's incredible.

Following Jake's surgery, he continued to walk the straight and narrow.  He kept up with his workouts, resisted temptations to return to the drugs and alcohol after 30 years of addiction, and today he is clean and sober and in great shape. 

See Jake's Transformation

So why am I telling you all of this?

Well, as I mentioned, this wasn't Jake's first attempt at getting clean and taking control of his life.  He had done it before, but it never lasted very long.  Doctors will tell you that addiction is a cruel mistress - your brain becomes so accustomed to the stimulation provided by the object of your desire that it begins to feel like a bodily need.  A requirement.  A thirst.  You feel like you just can't get by without satisfying that need.
As a result, when news got out about Jake's Indiegogo campaign to raise money for his surgeries, there were some wrestling fans who reacted harshly.  There were people who said things like "I'm not going to hand him money - he'll blow it on more drugs" and "If he'd been smarter with the money he earned, I wouldn't be expected to pay his bills" and so on.  It made me sick to my stomach.

Is there a limit on forgiveness?  Should there be? 

The answer is no.

Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven."  -Matthew 18:21-22

Everyone makes mistakes.  Sometimes we make a lot of them.  Sometimes we make the same mistake over and over.  Sometimes we know we're doing it, yet don't know how to stop it.  We're all human.  We're all imperfect.  And we all rely on each other to make it through this life.

Jake Roberts, regardless of past transgressions, reached out for help.  How could we, as fellow human beings, knock that hand away?  Why would we refuse to offer help to someone in need?  Because he screwed his life up by himself?  Because he has no one to blame but himself?  Because his choices put him in that position?

So what?

Who among us hasn't done one thing or another to screw up our own lives?  Who among us hasn't made poor decisions?  Who among us hasn't reached out to a fellow human being at one time or another and said "Please, help me."?

If someone reached back, were you thankful?

If no one reached back, did you wish they had?

Why not be that blessing to someone else?

Are we as a people so focused on results that we'd give up on a human being if the odds of success didn't look good?  It's not as though he was in a vegetative state in a hospital; he was injured and asking if anyone would be willing to help.  But since he'd failed too many times for some people's liking, they weren't willing to "risk" it for him again.  Really?  A fifteen dollar donation is too much to risk?  Thirty?  Fifty?  Is that the price limit on a man's recovery?  Should there be a price limit?

Here's a question: If Jake Roberts turned back to booze after getting his surgery, should anyone have regretted contributing?  If Jake Roberts used the donation money to buy drugs, should anyone have regretted contributing? 

The answer is "No."

I would've been upset, of course, but I would not have regretted it.  You can't control what other people do, you can only control what you do.  The donations Jake received helped give him a chance for a healthier life.  Whether or not he wanted to accept that chance was up to him.  But at the very least, when he extended his hand and asked for help, there were people out there to grab it.

Last month, Jake Roberts, with his life back on track after 30+ years of addiction, finally received his much deserved reward with an induction into the WWE Hall of Fame.  Addiction is a lifelong struggle, and he will have to battle his self-destructive tendencies until the day he dies.  Maybe he'll make it, and maybe he won't.  But at least for now, he's living life in a way he hasn't experienced before - happy, healthy, and alive.

Never underestimate the blessing you can be to another person.

Give without expectations.

Love always.

God bless,

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lost in Paradise

For the longest time, I used to ask God why I was alone.  I was never one to go out dating random girls, so it would've been easy to single out that fact as the reason.  But the truth was that I didn't have interest in dating anyone I didn't know.  I never believed my future wife would come from a random date - it would be someone I was friends with first.  That's not a knock in any way at people who do the random dating thing - I know people who met that way and have had long healthy relationships.  It works for some people, but not me.

Eventually, Laura came along.  We became friends online through a Christian message board.  Oddly enough, she replied to a post I had made about battling depression, and we talked back and forth for a few months before meeting in person.  To make a long story short, we've been together for almost ten years and have carved out a nice little life for ourselves.  God answered my prayers for companionship.

Another big thing on my to-do list was to get out on my own.  Where I grew up, independent living doesn't come at a reasonable price.  I lived in my parents house for far too long, and I needed to gain my independence.  A series of events in late 2009 led to Laura and I moving halfway across the country into our own apartment.  We've been on our own since then.  God answered my prayers for independence.

After serving the monster that is retail for far too many years, another goal of mine was to find a job where I could be happy.  Of course, I didn't put too much weight into this goal because, quite frankly, most people dislike their jobs.  But when I least expected it, I found myself in the job I have now.  I'm not going to go into detail, but I'm in a position that I actually like with a company that I respect doing something I actually believe in.  After so many years of horrible bosses, heartless customers, and meager pay, my current boss is awesome, I don't interact with customers, and I'm able to pay my bills while still setting some aside for savings. 

Will it last forever?  Few things do.  I'm aware that there's a near-certainty that my current job situation will not last, and I realize that there's a chance I may have to return to the nightmare that is retail employment someday.  But for now, I'm enjoying what I've been blessed with.  I'm doing something where I have the opportunity every day to help people get the best out of themselves, and it can be very rewarding.  God answered my prayers for a job that makes me happy.

My last big goal was to be a published author.  After years of rejections from publishing houses and agents, I finally decided to go the self-publishing route in 2010.  I fully expected to be met with harsh criticism - after all, if the experts of the industry didn't find any merit in my work, how would readers ever accept me?  But my books have all been met with overall positive reviews, showing me that sometimes the best way to reach your goal is to go out and do it on your own.  God answered my prayers for writing success.

In a way, you could say that I've reached all the goals I set out for myself in life.

So why do I feel so lost?

As you probably know by now, it's been almost two years since I've written anything of significance.  It's depressing.  It's aggravating.  It's suffocating.  Every time I sit down to write, my brain shuts down.  I stare at the screen telling myself, "Let's go adventuring!"  My brain responds by saying, "Nope, Nothing here today.  Please try again tomorrow."  I have ideas, but no words.  Images, but no expression.  And it wasn't until recently that I discovered that this dry spell of creativity extends to more aspects of my life than just writing.

I used to do video editing on my iMac that I'd upload to YouTube.  Somtimes they were goofy little shorts and sometimes they were vacation montages.  I loved it, and from what I've been told, others enjoyed my work too.  But last week, I tried to sit down and make a video for my first time in a long time, and nothing came together for me.  I couldn't get audio and visuals to line up.  The program wouldn't allow pictures to display properly and I just didn't have the energy or drive to keep pushing and researching until it was resolved.  I threw my hands up and walked away.

I also used to enjoy recording music.  I've never recording anything substantial because I'm not at all gifted musically, but I enjoyed dabbling with it and seeing what I could come up with.  Lately, I haven't had the ambition to do any of those things.

For whatever reason, my creative juices are shot.  And it's not that I don't WANT to do these things.  I have a ton of story ideas, a few videos I'd love to put together, and I still enjoy playing guitar.  But when I sit down to try to create anything, it all falls flat almost immediately. 

The only conclusion I can come to is that I'm supposed to be focusing my attention on something else right now.  If there's one thing God has taught me over the years, it's that he has a way of taking away or postponing the things I want until I do whatever it is that HE wants me to do.  I'm fine with that - I'm here to serve, after all.  There's only one problem.

I really don't know what he wants from me this time.

There have been times in my life when I've gotten so wrapped up in my own plans that I've unknowingly turned from the path God was leading me down and went my own way.  When I finally realized it and got back on track, God was waiting there to continue the journey with me.  I fear this may be one of those situations, but it's hard to determine when and where I may have gone astray.

I've considered the possibility that taking a break from writing was the wrong decision, but if that's the case, then getting back to writing would be the solution.  That's not working out at all for me.  I also thought that maybe God wanted me to take my writing in a different direction rather than continue with sci-fi/fantasy stuff.  In my last post, you can see my attempt to do that, but it ultimately hasn't gone anywhere either.

I've also begun to think that maybe the direction I'm supposed to go doesn't necessarily have to be a creative one.  Without revealing too much about my job, I'm in a position where I can help people bring out the best in themselves.  It's my job to encourage, develop, and guide others.  Is that my service to God now?  Is my task for God to help people through my position at work?  It seems a little too easy to me - this is what I get paid to do every day.  It doesn't feel like "above and beyond" or anything like that.  But maybe that's OK with God?  I don't know.

And because I know I have critics of religion who read this page, I'm sure some of you are asking "If you claim God talks to you, why doesn't he just tell you want he wants you to do?"  Sometimes God will do that.  But more often, we learn and grow better when we figure out things for ourselves.  If your calculus teacher gave you an exam and then stood there telling you all the answers every time, you wouldn't learn nearly as much as you would have if you'd taken the time to study and apply the material yourself.

Laura says it's possible God doesn't want anything right now and that this is just a waiting period.  God's timing is not our own, after all, but when things come up, I need to be ready to act.  I know this does happen, but is that what's going on here?  I'm not so sure.  I feel like I should be doing something.  And in the meantime, I feel like I'm a useless lump.

I received another positive review of The Fourth Dimension recently, and the reviewer mentioned that they hoped there would be more in the series.  I hope so, too.  I'm sure I'll be back at the grindstone eventually.  But right now, I'm just... lost.

God bless,


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Pieces of Ideas

I hope you are all doing well.  I received a couple of touching letters from readers of Building Blocks that really made my day.  I really appreciate your kind words, but I was only doing what God asked of me.

I still haven't been able to really motivate myself to dive headlong back into my writing.  Every time I sit down to try, my brain shuts down and says "Nope, not yet."  The desire is still there.  The ideas are still there - and more pop up every day.  It's the drive that's missing.  For years, I used to work a full day's shift only to come home and write for another four-five hours.  I just don't have the energy for that right now.  That's not to say I'll never do it again, but right now, I just can't get into that focused zone where the rest of the world does not exist and it's just me and my thoughts.

Still, I've been able to get a few pieces of ideas out.  Not too long ago, I wrote an intro to a story that I think could be fun if done right, but I haven't touched it too much since.  I haven't decided whether it would be a short story or a full-blown book, but I thought I'd share the intro with you all.


Untitled Work in Progress
by: Kevin Domenic

Antonio Cohen died Monday, June 10th 2013 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.  He was seventeen years old.

Before sundown, the finger-pointing began.  "It was that horrible music he listened to," they said.  "No, it was those violent video games."  Still others blamed TV and movies.  Mental illness.  Drug addiction.  The evening news described him as a paranoid youth with possible masochistic tendencies.  Within a week, he was reviled nationwide by millions who knew neither him nor his circumstances.

My name is Samantha Cedar.  I grew up with Antonio.  We weren't close; we weren't even friends.  But from kindergarten through fifth grade, we shared four out of six teachers.  We were in the same classes, shared the same lunch periods, and played on the same playground.  He was a pretty normal little boy back then.  At least, as far as I knew.  He'd play games with his circle of friends and sometimes get a little rambunctious in class.  There was one incident where he threw a paper airplane through the open window of Mrs. Batters' second-floor classroom.  I still remember the look on his face when she summoned him to her desk at the end of the day.  It was like he'd been caught with his hand in the candy jar.

It's funny; that kind of thing once seemed like such a serious offense.  Boys threw paper airplanes and shot spit-wads.  Girls passed notes and gossiped.  At the end of the day, we were just kids being kids.  But somewhere along the way, spit-wads became fists, and gossip became slander.  As the years went by, we became so caught up in our own egos that we were almost like caricatures of everything we thought we were or wanted to be.  Jocks saw themselves as heroes.  Cheerleaders saw themselves as princesses.  Theater students were hopeless romantics, and the band kids provided the soundtrack.  Each and every student was-whether they liked it or not-divided by their personalities and classified by their interests.  And for the most part, everyone embraced their roles.

And just about everyone saw everyone else as the villain.

Me? I was one of the popular girls.  In high school, I was most often lumped in with the cheerleaders because most of them were my friends.  I didn't cheer myself-I'm too self-conscious for that sort of thing.  But I went to all of the football games with the other non-cheer girls from our circle.  Sometimes we'd bring signs or paint our faces to support the team.  There were so many nights when I came home with a sore throat from screaming so much.

But that was high school.  But that time, we were already divided into our cliques.  Back in kindergarten, however, we were all equals.  Nobody had any pre-conceived notions about anyone else.  There were no expectations or assumptions about our characters or intentions.  We were kids; nothing more, nothing less.  And life was good.


Maybe it'll turn into a book or something one day.  It felt really good to write - like being back on my old bicycle after years of leaving it in our shed.  But I'm still struggling with my focus and concentration.  I just don't have the drive to push through it right now.  I'm confident I will get back to it eventually, but right now I'm just not ready.

God bless,

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Atheist Dilemma

For the last four years, I've made it a goal of mine to try to understand atheists.  I stress that word - understand ­- because no amount of logical thinking leads me to a resolution wherein I might agree with them.  I mean, I know God exists from my own personal interaction with him, so that won't change.  But I had hoped to at least be able to understand their point of view - to be able to follow their line of reasoning to a point where I could say "You know what? I get it.  I see why you believe there is no God."

I mean, I can understand why some might ask "How do you know your God is the right one?" or "How can you claim to know God's intentions?" or the ever common question of "If God is so good, why does he allow bad things to happen to innocent people?"  I understand these questions.  I have answers of my own, but again, they come from my personal interaction with God - something that the non-believer wouldn't have had without first taking a step of faith.  So I can see why someone who does not have a relationship with God might ask these things.

What I can't fathom is why people claim the absence of God to be an absolute fact.  Not one specific God, mind you, but any God.  The statement "There is no God" to me is akin to being handed a sealed box and told "There's no cookie in this box."  If you haven't opened the box to find out, how can you know for sure?  We've explored such a small fragment of a fragment of a fragment of the entire universe.  How can humans presume to know so much from that small fragment that we can actually say "There is no God."?  We haven't explored the entire universe - the entire cookie box, so to speak - so how can we say for sure?

I've talked with a lot of atheists over the past four years.  I've tried to engage them in debate.  I've tried to get them to explain to me what it is that makes them so certain that God does not exist.  Most of them sidestepped my questions.  I'd get responses like, "I'm not here to teach you.  Go look it up yourself," or the ever common "I can't help you if you're too stupid to see common sense."  It's hard to get any real answers from them.  And if they did afford me the opportunity to ask deeper questions, most stopped replying at that point.

Part of the problem, I've noticed, is that atheists state you cannot use religious texts to support your claims, nor can you use the idea that "God did it" to explain things that science claims to be impossible.  So trying to get them to acknowledge the possibilities of a divine being would mean trying to do so through human means - scientific means.  Of course, we have no scientific evidence that directly links our universe to a God, so atheists conclude there is no God.  The most confusing circle of logic for me is when you ask them how science proved there is no God.  They state it is not up to science to prove it - it is up the religious community.  Then why do they cite science when trying to support their claims that there is no God?  "You can't prove a negative," they say, meaning you can't prove it if you say something doesn't exist.  But you can - I can open the box and see whether or not there is a cookie inside.  If it isn't, I've proven there is no cookie.  With God, the universe is the box.  We have yet to explore the entire thing, so how can we say if the cookie is there or not?

The argument of Russell's Teapot has been brought up on more than one occasion.  If you are unfamiliar with it, the concept came from a philosopher named Bertrand Russell.  He stated that if one claimed a teapot was out in space orbiting the sun, it would make no sense for people to believe him just because they can't prove him wrong.  My problem with this notion is that technically, there are circumstances in which his claims could be verified.  If we had spacecraft traveling longer distances, or if we used a satellite or unmanned craft, we could verify or disprove the claim.  But for the sake of argument, let's just say we couldn't verify his claim.  Does that mean that it is a fact that there's no teapot out there?  Or would it be more reasonable to say  "There could be a teapot, but we have no way of proving it."?  Because regardless of whether or not it could be proven, if the teapot is out there beyond the reach of human observation, then the claim is correct.  How, then, can we say for a fact that there is no teapot based solely on a lack of observation?

Science is often quoted by the atheists I've spoke with.  The concept that science has learned how the various systems and mechanics of the universe work - systems that were once attributed a God or Gods - seems to make some atheists believe that the only reason early man believed in God was because we couldn't explain things like eclipses or the rising/falling of the sun.  Once science learned how they worked, atheists say the need for God disappeared.  Again, this seems illogical to me.

This argument could be compared to a man who discovers a car for the first time.  He disassembles it, studies it, reassembles it, and figures out how to use it.  That's what we've done with science - we've learned how the various systems of the universe work, how the human body works, how the earth has changed over the years, and invented ways of managing all of it in our day to day lives.  None of this explains how the car (universe) came to be or who assembled it in the first place.  If matter can neither be created nor destroyed, then we all must have come from some unknown piece of original matter.  OK, so where did that come from?  And whatever the answer is, how then did that come into existence?  How did the space in which this matter resides come into existence?  How did the very laws of the universe come to be formed, and what holds them in place?

I don't say these things to somehow "prove" God did it all.  I say them to illustrate just how little we know - too little to be able to say for sure that he didn't.

One person encouraged me to watch a Discovery Channel special where Stephen Hawking explains his theories about how life in the universe began.  I watched the entire special online so that I could learn what this well-known and highly-respected scientific mind had to say about the origins of the universe.  Unfortunately, zero questions were answered.  If anything, it gave me even more questions to ask.  Hawking postulates that the beginnings of the universe itself spontaneously popped into existence from nothing.  Comparing to a certain type of particle (I watched this a while ago, so I don't remember the name) that has been observed to pop in and out of existence randomly and spontaneously, Hawking says it's very possible that the same could be said of the initial makings of our universe.  How this argument disproves God in his mind is beyond me - if anything, it supports the Christian Genesis story.

When faced with these questions, most atheists reply with "Well, we are still learning and experimenting every day, so the questions we don't know the answers to will one day be answered."  But for me, the important questions will not be answered.  You can tell me how something works, but if you cannot tell me how it came to be and why it happened that way, it will not disprove the existence of God.  You can describe how each of the processes of the universe function together and why they are necessary, but if you can't tell me what makes them go, why they work that way, what fuels the engine of this plane of existence, then you cannot rule out the possibility of a God as the driving force behind it all.

Contradictions in religious texts are another hot button topic for atheists - if there are apparent contradictions in the text, then it must not be true.  First off, most of what seem to be contradictions can be explained by differing points of view.  Think of it this way: You're walking down a crowded New York City street minding your own business.  You hear a commotion behind you and turn around to see a car smash into another car.  The two of them then hit a bus while fleeing pedestrians run in all directions.  Some are knocked over and trampled, others escape just fine, and still others stand still watching the chaos.  The police arrive and start interviewing people.  Do you think each person's account of the accident is going to be identical?  It's unlikely.  Does that mean the event didn't occur?

Other contradictions arise from scientific discoveries that seem to counter the Bible's claims.  The great flood, for example, is often cited as being scientifically impossible because the atmosphere can only hold just so much moisture.  This is where the "God did it" argument gets so much flak. But is it impossible that God did it?  Well, to disprove the idea, one would first have to disprove the existence of God.  We already know we can't do that, so how can we rule out the "God did it" possibility?  Yes, it seems like yet another easy answer to explain something that, at the time, couldn't be otherwise explained.  But again, without disproving God, we can't know that for sure.

And why is the existence of such a divine being so impossible to begin with?  We see differing levels of intelligence in our own world.  A dog can't perform complex mathematical calculations.  A monkey can't draw up designs for a suspension bridge.  We are the most intellectually superior beings on this planet.  But what about the universe?  Are we really so pompous as to think that there is nothing out there that might possess a higher level of intelligence than we do?  And if there is something out there with an intelligence beyond our own, why is it so unfathomable that this level of intelligence might allow it to manipulate the laws of time and space in ways we cannot? 

One atheist recently argued with me that the ability to imagine something doesn't make it exist.  "I could tell you that there are sixteen magic unicorns living in the core of Mars, but that wouldn't make it true.  Without empirical evidence to support that claim, one would have to conclude that it is false."  Just because you can think of an absurd concept doesn't automatically mean that ANYTHING we cannot observe ourselves is automatically untrue or nonexistent. How can we presume we are so intelligent that we know whether or not there is a divine being? How can we presume that the fact that this being has never physically shown itself to us means it isn't there? How can we presume that our understanding of scientific principals is the highest understanding there can ever be? For that matter, how can we presume that this is the only universe? How can we presume there are no other planes of existence - alternate dimensions or universes where God may reside? Humans can't even make it back to their own moon, yet they presume to know enough to declare no sort of divine being could have ever existed.  It boggles my mind.

During these conversations, I've been accused of being unable to think objectively, rationally, or logically. How is it objective, rational, and logical to assume that there is no God when we have not discovered each and every place intelligent life may exist? How could humans possibly have observed the presence or absence of a God if we've not yet explored every inch of the universe (or other universes, if there are any)?  I've yet to have an atheist provide any real answers to any of these questions.

Another argument often posed is that a loving God would not allow the injustices of the world to happen.  People seem to think that God's purpose is to heed to every request/demand we have and solve the problems of society. We still have world hunger? Blame God. Men raping women? Blame God. Children dying of disease? Blame God. The problem is that they are placing God on the same level as humanity and judging his actions accordingly. But as the creator, he is above any other being and therefore above judgment. How arrogant are we to expect to tell a divine being what he should or should not do?  He possesses a higher level of intelligence and understanding than human beings are capable of, and to expect to understand everything he does is unreasonable.

In reality, man has been given free reign over the Earth. These things don't get fixed by God because they're not God's responsibility to fix. They are our problems, our trials, and our responsibilities.  If our children are starving, it's because we aren't taking care of them.  Not God, but us.

The final, and possibly the most common, argument against the existence of God is the actions of people who claim to follow him.  Religious zealots wage war on unbelievers.  Homosexuals are shunned by churches.  Priests are molesting children.  It's easy to highlight the belief systems of these types of people because their actions are quite the opposite.  Religion is an easy front - in the eyes of the offender, saying "God told me to do it" provides a way of shirking moral responsibility for their crimes.  But man is responsible for man's crimes, no matter who they try to blame.  If someone walked into a mall with a gun and started shooting everyone in the name of atheism, it wouldn't mean that all atheists are evil.  Further, this entire argument holds no water because the shameful acts of an evil man have no bearing on whether or not God exists - regardless of what the crime was. 

So, sadly, after all of this I find myself no closer to understanding atheists than I was four years ago.  I just don't see how it is logical to state "There is no God" without proof.  The atheist will respond to that statement by saying "I don't see how it is logical to state "There is a God" without proof.  I can understand that, but it makes far more sense to me to at least acknowledge the possibility rather than write it off entirely.

I'm sorry, guys.  I really do want to understand.  It just doesn't seem rational to me.

God bless,