A subtitle like “How I Lost My Faith and Found it Again Through Science” might lead one to think, “Terrific. An intellectually responsible book that will give scientific facts to help reinforce my beliefs.” It is certainly intellectually responsible, and it does provide plenty of insight, but Finding God in the Waves is the kind of book that disturbs the religiously comfortable and comforts the religiously disturbed. It’s a book that lovingly shines a spotlight on both the cognitive biases and the neurological benefits of faith.
If that’s not the brand of apologetics you’re looking for, maybe search out a copy of Mere Christianity instead. Alternatively, if you’re willing to compromise on “intellectually responsible” and “scientific facts,” there’s always Apologetics Press.
Prior to the release of his book, Mike McHargue has has become known as “Science Mike” through his podcasts, Ask Science Mike and The Liturgists Podcast. Those familiar with Science Mike’s work will feel right at home with the content and flavor of his book. However, familiar or not, the way McHargue lays himself bare with disarming candor is genuinely moving and worth one’s attention.
Finding God in the Waves is divided into two parts. The first is a straightforward, autobiographical account of his faith journey — the deconstruction of his faith. The second transitions into explorations of how faith is affected and reflected by neurology and cosmology— the reconstruction of his faith.
In Part One, Science Mike chronicles his religious development from the Southern Baptist Convention, to progressive Christianity, to atheism, and ultimately to a paradoxical blend of empiricism and mysticism.
As McHargue walks the reader through his journey toward atheism (sparked by reading the Bible), he raises quite a few points about the seeming implausibility of God. Admittedly, it was difficult to combat the expectation for some sort of resolution as the list of reasons to disbelieve grew. But resolution never came — at least not the kind I was initially hoping for. Honestly facing that divine tension, though, is central to Finding God in the Waves, and it’s where the book excels. McHargue drags the reader with him over the event horizon of apophaticism. Before you know it, you’re treading in open water with no life preserver in sight, but it feels like it’s the right place to be.
I doubt I’ll ever be able to resolve the contradiction between the indifferent universe I understand through science and the intimacy I find with God in prayer. All I know is that even when I was working through existential doubts about God’s nature and character, prayer was the one place where God consistently met me.
If it were even possible to neatly shut the book on atheism with absolute certainty, a 250-page memoir wouldn’t be the place to search for that. Furthermore, it should be said that this book is not really even about rejecting atheism. It’s about coming to understand it and empathize with it. McHargue goes to great lengths to articulate the abject loneliness and isolation he felt within his religious community as a closeted atheist for two years.
It would be all too easy to criticize such a book as being reductionistic or unorthodox. Dismissing it for those reasons, however, is to take a defensive stance that edges out any room for the bravery and honesty required to authentically explore the boundaries and limitations of one’s own belief system.
One of my favorite parts of the book is the list of hyper-empirical axioms (self evident “at least… even if…” statements) Science Mike created as he began to inch back toward some sort of belief in order to give himself stable intellectual grounding for his faith. For example:
Jesus is at least a man so connected to God that he was called the Son of God, and the largest religious movement in human history is centered around his teachings. Even if this is all Jesus is, following his teachings can promote peace, empathy, and genuine morality.
Finding God in the Waves is not for everyone, but that’s not a bad thing. I don’t think it was intended to be. It is, however, refreshingly candid, and genuinely moving. It’s difficult not to feel sincere empathy for McHargue as he experiences and grieves his loss of his faith and even harder not to get misty-eyed as he describes the mystical experience that resurrected it.
This book is perfect for people who are cynical, skeptical, numb, or anyone who knows someone in such a frame of mind and doesn’t know how to effectively connect with them. Finding God in the Waves is now available at booksellers.
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