Jennifer Fulwiler has written a memoir of her journey from atheism to Roman Catholicism in SOMETHING OTHER THAN GOD: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It (Ignatius, 2014). Raised by unbelieving parents she suffered from being one of few non-Christians in her Texas neighborhood. She transferred from Texas A&M to the University of Texas at Austin because she couldn’t stand the Christian atmosphere of Aggiedom. She married a professing but non-practicing Christian and they struggled to establish a business together. She became pregnant and found that she suffered from an acute blood disorder that produced life-threatening clots in her legs. When she was delivered of her baby son she discovered that she increasingly found it difficult to believe her atheistic creed. She was obsessed with protecting her baby from harm because she was acutely aware of human mortality. As an atheist she had absorbed the belief that humans were nothing more than the results of a bunch of neurons firing and that nothing of a person lasts beyond death, that all their dreams and joys and sorrows simply cease to exist when they breath their last. She quotes Bertrand Russell who recommended that people should build their lives on a “firm foundation of unyielding despair”. While that had been her intellectually honest belief she realized that now she didn’t think that it was true. She had experienced a different kind of love in her marriage to Joe and in becoming a mother that had the power to alter everything within her.
Atheism could not account for the bond that Joe and I shared. It offered no lexicon for capturing what I saw in my child. An atheistic worldview could offer an accurate explanation of the way my brain chemistry had been altered to experience more of the sensation we label “love”, but I was certain now that that explanation would stop short of the full truth. It would be like confusing a picture of the Grand Canyon with the actual place; there’s nothing false about the picture, but it would be foolish to confuse the piece of paper with the real thing. There was more to human life than the atoms that made up our bodies – I was sure of it.
Maybe humans really did have souls that really did have a connection to some other dimension. Maybe people are more than the sum of their molecules, and I’d been driving myself crazy by denying this most fundamental of truths. Perhaps the inner agony that had erupted since Donald’s birth had been caused by the friction of trying to jam the square peg of atheism into the round hole of reality.
I was in dangerous intellectual territory. Becoming a mother had undoubtedly triggered an evolved instinct to value my offspring, so my biology would tempt me to be open to any idea that told me that Donald was valuable on a cosmic level. On top of that, the love I felt for him, regardless of where it came from, left me feeling exposed and vulnerable……But as I watched my tiny son sleep, the curves of his body illuminated by the city lights that filtered in through the window, I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was no longer an atheist. (pp.58-60)
Jennifer had many questions which she shared with others on a blog she began. You can see her current blog on www.ConversionDiary.com. She was helped by many bloggers who turned out to be Roman Catholics. After a tortuous pilgrimage, through many scary career and medical problems and pregnancies she and her husband were received into their Roman Catholic Church in Austin, Texas. A pro-choice woman embraced the pro-life movement.
This memoir is well-written and rings with authenticity. It is heart-warming and encouraging to see the spiritual journey of a modern woman who does not shrink from the questions of suffering and freedom in the context of marriage and family.