I mentioned this book in my Seven Quick Takes last week, but it was so good, I felt like I had to devote a whole post to it.
As I mentioned last week, I recently read (really, frantically devoured) Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiller. Before her book, I’d never really read a modern conversion story (I read Dorothy Day’s story for one of my religion classes in college, but nothing since then), and as a cradle Catholic, I don’t really have the same sort of story. Yes, we all have our little conversions here and there where we come back to the Faith or are renewed by it. But, the story of going from an atheist to a Catholic is really interesting.
While the book is laid out in chronological order, the more important structure is how Fulwiler’s conversion is so methodical and logical. She goes from a complete doubter of any sort of god, to seeing how a logical belief in God and in the Catholic faith makes the most sense.
No, I can’t relate to her story in going from no faith and belief in God to the most structured and ancient of Christian denominations. But, Fulwiler’s life (college, professional work, being a mother) is something that I can relate to. I can connect with her on a level of being a mother and having a new understanding of mortality.
One of the parts of the book that struck me the most was when she has one of the first inklings that she’s searching for God (without, of course, knowing that’s what she’s searching for). At this point, he first baby was born not long ago and she’s realizing mortality and the desire that all of us have, deep down, to know that there’s something after this life.
She thinks about her baby eventually dying and becoming part of the fossils that she saw in Mexico when she was growing up. For the first time, she realizes that this idea doesn’t really bother her and she wants to know why:
“I sat like that for what felt like hours (though was probably just a few minutes), lost in thought, breathing in the icy wind that wound through the skyscrapers. Finally, I stumbled across the answer, and the words rang through my mind like a bell: I don’t think it’s true.”
She realizes that atheism can’t account for the bond and the love that she had with her husband and her baby. It explained the chemical reactions, but she was starting to realize that there was more to that at the core of who we are as people — she starts to consider the idea that we might have souls. This idea, of course, wrecks complete havoc on her firm atheistic beliefs and is the foundation of the rest of her conversion story.
Finally, one thing that surprised me about the book was how she doesn’t really talk much about her confirmation into the Church (she was baptized a Catholic as a baby). At first, I was a little disappointed that there was so much background to her conversion and I thought the lack of reflection on her actual baptism to be a little unsatisfying.
But, then I realized why I (think) she did this. The important part of her story is the journey of how she became Catholic, not the actual moment itself. The moment of any sacrament is deeply personal; it loses something when he have to put it into words. In hindsight, I’m glad she kept those moments to herself, forever something between her and God.
I highly recommend Something Other Than God and you can get it all kinds of places (but, here’s the Amazon link). If you’d like a little intro to Jen and her writing, check out her blog, Conversion Diary.