I didn't believe in God. Then, I took anatomy.

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I’m not sure exactly when I stopped believing in God. I think it was sometime around the end of my junior year of high school. Typical adolescent pathologies were taking their toll, and I seemed unable to dispel them with a simple “Please God, help me feel safe.” Why was God suddenly absent? The idea of ‘God’ must have been a trick of the mind all along. This personal struggle, in combination with the trendiness of denying religious faith, allowed me to declare myself agnostic. It was simple, and it left me with an empty feeling.

I went through college and a few years abroad untroubled by the absence of God. I didn’t believe in God, but I also didn’t care about the debate in general. Obviously it couldn’t be proven one way or another, so why not focus our efforts and attentions on concrete, solvable issues? I was happy to think about other things; I had good relationships, food, health, etc. Life still had meaning, and the meaning was helping other people and having enriching experiences. I was fully able to do that without believing. Since Judaism allows it’s members to have any level of faith in God, I didn’t see a conflict between exploring my Jewish identity and my apathy about God’s existence.

When I decided to go back to school for speech therapy, I had to take a class in anatomy and physiology of speech. I remember that my mind started to change when we were learning about the lungs.

First of all, our lungs take oxygen made by plants from our environment and use that oxygen to infuse the bloodstream with energy. The fact that we’re able to use a by-product of plants to fuel our own bodies is incredible. How many years of evolution did that take? The action of breathing uses complex musculoskeletal movements that each baby knows immediately after his or her birth. The innate knowledge of infants is amazing. There are tiny cilia lining the walls of the oral passages that sweep out unwanted particles from the lungs. How did we evolve such a subtle thing? Then there are the bronchioles. They branch into smaller and smaller pieces, and their form changes according to their function. And nearly every person is born with this very complex piece of machinery perfectly in tact. There are tiny bones in the ear that allow us to hear, and the 12 cranial nerves with all of their branches looping through various places with near-perfect consistency allowing us to move our faces in so many different ways.

How is it that these many intricate structures were created? Evolution is basically the idea of chance. Even after all of these years of human existence, it just started to seem unlikely that chance had done all of this together at once. Plus, we’re only one species. There are many others out there, that are also perfectly functional with very different anatomies. How could chance be so good, so many times? And why is it that out of so many births, the vast majority come out flawlessly? It seems like if evolution is about chance, half of us should be walking around with gross deformities.

I believe in thinking rationally, and rational thought was telling me that God made us, and that God exists. Although I don’t really ‘feel’ God’s presence, I do see more evidence for God than against.

All of this isn’t to say that I believe in a God that’s watching over us, doling out misfortunes to the bad and wealth to the good. I’ve seen too many bad things happen to good people to take that approach. But I do think that God is in nature, or God is nature. I still believe in evolution, that organisms evolved, but I think that there must have been something else to fast-track the process. I like to call it God.

It makes me really sad that some religious extremists fight against teaching science. I think that science is an exploration of the beautiful planet that we’ve been given, and that there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work in tandem with faith.

It doesn’t always feel good to believe in God. I sometimes feel silly admitting to it, and I don’t want to be thrown into a category with zealots and willfully ignorant people. But for me, it’s a rational conclusion. So scientifically speaking, it’s the right thing.

Marina Gafni

Marina Gafni is a 28-year-old speech pathology student. She lives with her husband in San Jose, CA.


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