Archives for September 2015

Devon Gales and the Bulldog Nation

images-5Life is more important than football.

Most people play sports simply because they love the competition. I certainly do.

For example, if you want to see me run, you basically have two options: either put a gun to my head, or a tennis racquet in my hand.

Even when the outcome of the contest has been determined, true competitors never stop playing hard.

Naturally, I’d prefer that you chose the tennis racquet over the gun. I will run to win a point, or if a very large animal is chasing me, but jogging and pleasure are mutually exclusive ideas, in my opinion.

Of course, everybody knows that Georgia plays Alabama in Sanford Stadium this coming Saturday. But we can talk about that contest later, after the game has been played.

Today we need to talk about what happened last Saturday, the tragic accident that occurred in the game against Southern University.

The halftime show by Southern’s renowned marching band was supposed to be the major highlight of the game. And the band was terrific. They put on an incredible show for the crowd in Sanford stadium.

Heck, they were entertaining people on their way inside the stadium.

And somebody forgot to tell Southern’s football team they weren’t supposed to play hard and make the game competitive.

At the  intermission the score was only 20-6, in favor of Georgia. The previously unstoppable Bulldog running game had only gained thirty-five yards prior to halftime.

To their credit, Southern’s players never stopped trying to execute their game plan, refusing to play the role of a “cupcake” opponent, even late in the third quarter, after Georgia’s lead became comfortable.

Then the tragedy struck unexpectedly, on a routine play.

While blocking on a kickoff return for the Jaguars, a young man named Devon Gales suffered a very serious spinal injury that required major surgery.

Gales currently remains paralyzed. He has transferred from Athens transferring to the Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta for specialized medical care.

This young man from Louisiana was just trying to make a clean, solid football play on the field. The player from UGA that he was trying to block didn’t do anything wrong, either.

One could say that it was simply bad timing, due to an awkward angle and a confluence of unfortunate circumstances. There was no malicious intent on the part of either of the players involved.

It just…happened, a freak accident that has very unfortunate consequences. Accidents happen.devon-gales-fund

And talk is cheap. Talk won’t help Devon Gales — we need to put our money where our mouths are. The Bulldog Nation needs to step up to the plate for this young man, in a big way.

Southern University has set up an official fund to which donations can be made to help this young man and his family with their medical expenses, through this link.

This weekend, 92, 746 fans will pack into Sanford Stadium to watch Georgia play Alabama. Many of these people are paying $350-$400 per ticket to see a football game being shown on national television. By my calculations, if you can afford a ticket to the game, you should be able to give $50 to the Devon Gales medical expenses fund.

Even if you blew all your money on tickets, consider this — you could sell those tickets, donate $100 to the Gales fund, take the wife to dinner, and watch the game for free on TV, like I plan to do.

Of course, I don’t actually have tickets to the game, so it’s really easy for me to suggest that you sell yours. I can’t afford to go to the game…but I can afford to give $50 to this very worthy cause.

Don’t be a cheapskate!

If only 30,000 ticket-holders to the game (not counting students or Alabama fans) gave $50 to the Devon Gales fund, we would raise $1.5 million urgently needed dollars to help this young man face the long and difficult road to recovery, still hundreds of miles from home.

In other words, his family needs every penny we can afford to give so please, give generously.

Atheists and miracles

maxresdefault-3Miracles are events that cannot be explained by natural or scientific laws —  suggesting that these inexplicable events may only happen because of divine intervention by a supernatural deity.

Therefore, it never occurred to me that an atheist might believe in miracles.

So when I watched an interview with Oprah Winfrey in which prominent atheist Dan Barker claimed that he had prayed in the name of Jesus Christ and as a result, a man was instantly healed of laryngitis, it frankly caught me by surprise.

Even more interesting was my discovery that former pastor Jerry DeWitt‘s autobiography Hope After Faith contained multiple claims of divine intervention that ranged from the mundane (“magnetically” led to find an allegedly special triangle-shaped rock) to the truly spectacular (the spontaneous healing of a brain aneurysm allegedly caused by his prayers for a miracle in the name of the Christ.) 51NMBhIfa0L._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_

Both Dan and Jerry asserted that remarkable phenomena occurred as a result of their fervent prayers — in fact, they seemed to be bragging about it. Otherwise, why would they even mention that these alleged miracles took place, if these men didn’t want us to believe something truly inexplicable had occurred because of something they had done?

Yet when pressed to provide a rational explanation for such an incredible coincidence, if it was not an act of God, atheists can’t explain what happened.

Atheist scientist Jacalyn Duffin’s involvement in the verification of an alleged miracle healing was just as impressive as Jerry DeWitt’s aneurysm story because of the medical documentation in the case.

The Vatican had rejected the claim that the victim of acute myeloblastic leukemia had been miraculously healed of a relapse after appealing in prayer to Marie-Marguerite d’Youville for intervention on her behalf. d’Youville was under consideration to become the first saint from Canada at that time.

The extreme skepticism expressed by the Vatican about the claim meant that Duffin, the atheist, would have to confirm that the cancer had indeed relapsed and subsequently went into permanent remission after the alleged miracle occurred, if d’Youville was to be canonized.

The Vatican’s position was that the disease had never relapsed, but had been in remission the whole time. However, Duffin confirmed that the cancer had indeed returned, and then mysteriously disappeared after the “miracle” cure.

Duffin confirmed that patient had a very serious form of cancer, received treatment, the cancer went into remission, but then the acute myeloblastic leukemia had come back with a vengeance.

Then a miracle occurred.

photo of J. Duffin by Wieke Eefting

photo of J. Duffin by Wieke Eefting

Duffin frankly admitted, “We speak of the medical possibility of cure in first remission, but not following a relapse.”

As a result of her contribution to the body of evidence that swayed the Vatican’s position to accept the claim as true, Duffin was invited to the ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica. Strangely enough though, as with Dan Barker and Jerry DeWitt, Jacalyn Duffin remains an atheist in spite of her participation in the verification of the inexplicable, miraculous healing of a woman dying from cancer.

She wrote, “Though still an atheist, I believe in miracles—wondrous things that happen for which we can find no scientific explanation.”

That simply doesn’t make sense to me. How can an atheist witness miracles that have allegedly been performed in the name of Christ and still not believe in God?

Isn’t that kind of like believing in magic without a magician, or creation without a Creator?

Benefit of the doubt

DivineEvolutionCover_eBook_finalI realize that atheists aren’t that much different than me…as documented in my very first book, Divine Evolution, I described how I very nearly became an atheist myself.

In a chapter titled “Personal Experience”,  I talked about the time when I questioned whether the biblical Jesus was any more real than Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.

Therefore, I can understand how many people become atheists — especially after struggling with serious issues such as the problem of suffering and death.

As my friend Frank Boccia wrote in his essay on rationalism in regard to his experiences during the Vietnam War, sometimes good people were killed and bad people survived. Hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis also claim hundreds or even thousands of innocent lives per year.

Bad things happen to everybody, sooner or later.

The harder truth to accept is that everyone’s days are numbered. We might see the sun rise in the morning, but we also might not. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. We’re all going to die, eventually.

And I’m obviously not just saying this in an effort to cheer you up…

Probably the biggest difference between the average atheist and me (aside from belief in God, of course) is that I will freely admit that I believe supernatural miracles have actually occurred, even though it logically seems to be a point beyond dispute.

For example, the creation of this universe from nothing — meaning the Big Bang anomaly — was a supernatural miracle. So was the animation of lifeless matter.

Yet some people infatuated with science think there are “natural” scenarios by which these miracles may have occurred which are perfectly reasonable and rational. By their reasoning, any hypothesis that does not require divine intervention is considered acceptable and more believable than the alternative, which is to say “God did it!”

Now when Dan Barker told Oprah Winfrey that he prayed for a man and that man was healed, my first instinct wasn’t to accuse him of lying. If anything, I found myself wanting to ask Mr. Barker questions to find out more about the incident in question — after all, it isn’t every day that a prominent, outspoken atheist claims to have prayed for and received a miracle performed in the name of Jesus Christ.

Dan’s firsthand account of alleged divine intervention hasn’t been the only one of its kind, either.

In his book Hope After Faith, recently converted preacher-to-atheist Jerry DeWitt claimed to have been the conduit for a miracle far more remarkable than the one described by Dan Barker.

Jerry told the story about the daughter-in-law of someone he referred to as “Brother Page.” She had been hospitalized with a brain aneurysm in Mobile, Alabama.

He claimed that despite the fact he had no idea where he was going, by putting his full faith in God to lead him, Jerry drove forty miles straight to the right hospital by a force like the “sort of invisible pull between magnets.”

Without asking anyone for help or directions, Jerry chose the elevator button for the right floor. Even more incredible, in a city with several hospitals and a population around 200,000 people, without any “misses” or false turns, Jerry DeWitt claimed that he walked straight to the right room, where he found Brother Page visiting his daughter-in-law.

Convinced he had been led there by God, Jerry later wrote,

I prayed for Brother Page’s daughter-in-law but it was not a prayer of supplication. I was so convinced by my connection with God that I made a declaration. “In the name of Jesus Christ,” I thundered by the hospital bed, “be healed.” Though there were no physical signs that Brother Page’s daughter-in-law was healed that day, I strode out of the hospital in complete confidence that she had been healed.

Hmm. A truly remarkable claim — but Jerry wasn’t finished telling his extraordinary tale.

After a long, unrelated anecdote about a church revival where he’d been preaching at the time these events took place, Jerry continued his story by saying,

After the spiritual high of the revival, which concluded with the astounding news that Brother Page’s daughter-in-law had been healed from her aneurysm, I was feeling depressed and enervated. It was mystifying to me that I could move the faithful at a revival and even be guided by the hand of God to heal a sick woman, yet I could not find steady work or even keep food on the table at home. I was beginning to resent my fellow evangelists: they were not demonstrating the signs and wonders that I felt like I was demonstrating, and their messages were extremely shallow. Yet they were all far more successful than me.

Now, in all honesty, I confess that I do not believe that Dan Barker or Jerry DeWitt were directly responsible for these alleged miracles.

However, I must admit that I believe that Dan and Jerry were telling the truth about what they saw. I also believe that both men witnessed phenomena truly inexplicable according to natural law.

As with Dan, I have a few questions I’d like to ask Jerry and the doctors involved, assuming there is no evidence that she underwent surgery for this condition:

  1. Does indisputable evidence of the aneurysm exist in this woman’s medical records?
  2. Can the attending physicians confirm that the aneurysm was healed without surgery?
  3. What is the rational “medical” explanation for the disappearance of this woman’s aneurysm?
  4. In other documented cases of the treatment of an aneurysm, what percentage of them were cured by spontaneous remission?

This is not to challenge the veracity of Jerry’s “anecdote” of an atheist witnessing to a miracle; this is how I would normally attempt to gather additional information — by asking questions.

More importantly, I tend to believe guys like Dan and Jerry far more than I would believe “liars for God” (that’s a joke!) like legendary phonies Robert Tilton, Benny Hinn, or the infamous “Dr.” Mike Murdock when they claim to have witnessed a miracle. I’m willing to give Jerry and Dan the benefit of my doubt because they have no reason to lie.

Just like Jerry DeWitt, I deeply resent the wealth of Joel Ostend, Creflo Dollar, and others that I derisively call “prosperity pimps”, reaping millions of dollars in offerings by preaching a false gospel that claims God will reward those who give more than they can reward with earthly riches.

I’m not the least bit surprised that the supernatural creator of this entire universe would choose to perform a miracle through a future atheist over any of those charlatans who prey on the gullible poor.

Jerry DeWitt’s problem appears to be that he believed he “was guided by God to heal a sick woman.” But it sounds to me like Jerry has given himself glory reserved for God. Jerry didn’t heal anybody.

If his story is true, God performed the miracle of healing.


Lying for Jesus

southernprose_cover_CAFGIf the ability to annoy atheists actually produced income, my personal wealth might rival that of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. I don’t even have to try hard. Merely expressing my opinion does the trick just about every time. Annoying atheists seems to be a talent that comes quite naturally, about as difficult for me as breathing.

Of course, it isn’t my intention to anger people that I’ve more than likely never met face-to-face, but often it can’t be helped. My only alternative would be to remain silent about what I believe to be truth and keep my opinions to myself.

However, we independent authors are expected to promote our own books, aren’t we? How else might readers discover my work?

A nonfiction book with a title such as Counterargument for God shouldn’t leave much to the reader’s imagination about where I stand on the subject of theology any more than Christopher Hitchen’s book God is Not Great, or The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.

Now I don’t consider myself a Christian apologist (even though I freely admit that I am a Christian) because I rarely if ever use theology to argue against atheism — I prefer using clear logic, scientific evidence, an understanding of statistics and probability, and good, old-fashioned common sense to illogical arguments and Bible thumping.

The (shorter) second section of my book defends my Christian beliefs (and the Bible, to some degree) against the most popular attacks used by prominent atheists like Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and David Silverman of American Atheists.

When I “attack” atheism using logic and science, it appears to have an unsettling and detrimental effect on the atheists who read my work. Many of them tend to display very childish and irrational anger. I’ve been called virtually every name in the book in deliberate attempts to offend me — one that notably included a very ugly euphemism for a certain private part of the female anatomy. These insults roll off me like water off a duck’s back.

It doesn’t seem to help matters that on those rather frequent occasions that the atheist resorts to ad hominem attacks, my habit has been to declare victory for my argument, offering the rationale that the person who first resorts to personal insults has implicitly conceded they lack a better argument. That really seems to infuriate my critics.

The cleverer atheists are subtle with the personal attacks — they will snidely ask if the science in my book has passed peer review (it has, but it isn’t “my” science) and when I should expect the Nobel Prize, knowing that I don’t claim and have never pretended to be a scientist.

But again, making an atheist mad isn’t my true objective — inspiring them to think about what they truly believe is my real goal.

For example, when I see Facebook pages that claim to foster debates and conversations between creationists versus the advocates of evolution theory, I usually provoke several people to anger simply by pointing out the title of the page indicates that the people there really don’t understand the argument. Evolution theory does not and cannot compete with the concept of creation. Evolution cannot happen until creation has already occurred, either by an act of God or by some truly incredible good luck. Those are the real choices.

Because life cannot evolve until it exists.

Now am I “lying for Jesus” when I state this rather obvious fact? Of course not. I’m simply applying logic to a problem created when science told us that our universe had an origin and something came from absolute nothingness.

Today though, I’m not interested in rehashing the science debates. Nor do I plan to revisit the philosophical debates — as fun as it might be to ponder childish questions like “can God create a rock so big He couldn’t pick it up?” or “did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?”, nothing is gained by wasting one’s time in such trivial pursuits.

I remain curious about this concept of “lying for Jesus”, though — what exactly does that mean? Would lying for Jesus be such a bad thing?

The rationale of many of my atheist critics seems to be this — the Bible prohibits lying in the Ninth of Ten Commandments, therefore “lying for Jesus” must be a very bad thing.

Of course, these same people will then ask if German citizens who lied to protect Jews from the Nazis were committing sin.

We know all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God…but the Ninth Commandment isn’t really about lying. It specifically uses language that prohibits “bearing false witness against your neighbor.”

In other words, the Ninth Commandment is about committing perjury to incriminate an innocent person.

This isn’t to say lying isn’t a sin, but every lie might not be a sin. If your wife asks “does this dress make me look fat?” skillfully avoiding the truth may be considered a shrewd act of self-preservation rather than a bald-faced lie with malicious intent.

The most recent example of my being accused of “lying for Jesus” came from the person still upset about my recounting of the NDE account of Pam Reynolds. He just can’t seem to let Pam’s story go.

Apparently his chief complaint (now) is that I won’t “correct the record” for what he describes as an error in an article I originally wrote in 2010, when I was writing for

The problem is that I haven’t written for in more than three years. I have no desire to get reinstated to contributor status simply to edit an article that’s more than five years old now.

Furthermore, other than his opinion, my critic doesn’t have any evidence that  justifies his challenge to my veracity. Not to mention that my article was based on recorded interviews with the people directly involved in her case — Pam and Dr. Spetzler. If someone’s word is to be taken at face value, in my opinion it should be one of those people who were actually witnesses in the room.

In my blog titled “Atheism and the near death experience“, I made it crystal clear that I don’t feel a need to prove Pam’s story is completely accurate in every minor detail. Her story is only one of many examples of corroborated veridical NDE information.

In my mind, the question has never been whether or not Pam could be proven “clinically dead” beyond all doubt at any point in time during her operation, but whether or not her mind accurately recorded a new memory while separated from the brain some point. If Pam was able to accurately recall information to which her normal senses were never exposed, it would admittedly be one of the better examples of corroborated veridical NDE information, but hardly the only one allegedly created while the spiritual mind was temporarily separated from the physical brain to which it is normally connected.

My refusal to accept this person’s hypothetical scenario as the most probable alternative — that Pam had experienced anesthesia awareness and awakened during her surgery, enabling her to literally see the brain saw and hear the conversation between the doctors that she claimed to “remember” after recovering from surgery — just doesn’t seem plausible, considering the testimonials and rather convincing body of evidence we have at our disposal.

His alternative interpretation of the evidence begs this question: why would Pam protect her doctors from a malpractice lawsuit which could potentially reward her with millions of dollars in a settlement, if the doctors had truly botched her surgery? Why would she lie to protect Dr. Spetzler?

All of this said, I can think of a scenario where telling a lie can be a very bad thing. In fact, I read an account of a somewhat insidious lie cloaked by religion in Jerry DeWitt’s book Hope After Faith: An Ex-Pastor’s Journey From Belief To Atheism.

Jerry told a story about a close friend who called one night in desperation. He wrote, “NaTosha told me her brother had been severely injured in a motorcycle accident in the Lake Charles area. NaTosha tearfully explained that the ER physicians had failed to revive her brother and that specialists were on their way.” (page 237)

NaTosha never asked Jerry to pray for her brother’s recovery or on her behalf. He simply assumed that’s what she expected. His lost faith prevented him from even going through the motions of acting like a minister.

Instead, as Jerry puts it, he “turned to reason” for the first time, saying, “NaTosha, it sounds like everyone at the hospital is doing everything they can. Your brother is a young man and a strong man. They’re bringing in specialists, so we’re just going to have to wait this out and see what happens. But NaTosha, I’m telling you that it sounds like he’s going to be all right.”

Say what?

Until that last sentence, Jerry had spoken what he knew to be the truth. But he ended their conversation with a comforting lie, telling her what he thought she wanted to hear.

From his description it sounds like NaTosha’s brother might have  been dead when she called — remember that she told Jerry that the doctors had already failed to revive him?

At that point recovery would have required nothing short of a miracle, or divine intervention. Jerry’s lie offered NaTosha nothing but false hope. However, Jerry wasn’t lying for Jesus.

He was lying for Jerry.



Atheism and the near death experience

images-7Those familiar with my work know that I’m fascinated by certain aspects of the near death experience.

However, all NDEs are not created equal.

Some reveal more valuable information that other NDEs. And some accounts are fraudulent, of course.

No matter what information a specific account may contain,  my atheist friends refuse to believe them — they simply can’t afford to believe any of them could be true, because the only thing that could possibly continue to exist after the death of these material bodies is an immortal soul.

Instead, the atheist will vehemently protest that every NDE is nothing more than a pleasant  hallucination produced by the human brain in order to ease the transition from life into death.

According to them, the NDE is evolution’s contribution to death to make the experience slightly less unpleasant. But this creates a problem for NDE claims where the person describes a totally miserable experience in hell — what are we to make of those particular “anecdotes” of dreadful hallucinations?

If NDEs are nothing but hallucinations, why would some be pleasant and others unpleasant? Perhaps it is possible not every NDE account is a hallucination, or a lie. In fact, there is a category of NDE phenomena that offers clear and confirmable evidence that the physical brain and spiritual mind can literally separate, called corroborated veridical NDE accounts.

This phenomena suggests that the mind can actually learn accurate information apart from the physical brain — information that can later be independently investigated and either corroborated or debunked by third-party observers.

One of the most famous cases of corroborated veridical NDE information (and a personal favorite of mine) comes from a woman named Pam Reynolds, as she underwent a special procedure called Operation Standstill to remove an aneurysm at the base of her brain.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Spetzler described the preparations for Operation Standstill (beginning at 5:04 in the video) as follows:

“Prior to the operation starting, a lot of activity goes on. The patient is put to sleep. The eyes are taped shut. There are little clicking devices put in each ear in order to monitor the brain. The patient is then completely covered. The only thing that is really exposed is the area where we work.”

Remarkably, under those well-documented conditions, Pam claimed to accurately recall specific details of a conversation between her cardio-vascular surgeon and Dr. Spetzler. Pam also accurately described the surgical equipment that Dr. Spetzler acknowledged had not been opened until all the preparations had been made.

Dr. Spetzler also said in the interview,

“I don’t think that the observations she made were based on what she experienced as she went into the operating room theatre. They were just not available to her. For example, the drill and so on — those things are all covered up. They’re not visible. They were inside their packages.  You really don’t begin to open until the patient is completely asleep so that you maintain a sterile environment.”

Why are Dr. Spetzler’s observations so important? He was there, in the room, when these events allegedly took place.

Yet when I mentioned Pam’s story again in my article about the so-called “God helmet“, one particular critic got very upset and posted several long, rambling, and very angry comments that challenged the veracity of the information reported in my article.

With literally no evidence to support his claim, this person audaciously determined that Pam must have been suffering from a case of anesthesia awareness, even though he wasn’t there to witness the events. This person practically accused Dr. Spetzler of committing medical malpractice with no evidence to support his claim, in his desperate zeal to convince me that the details I reported about her story were wrong.

I’m not going to keep arguing about Pam’s case with this person, though. I feel no need to prove to him the story is true. Quite frankly, I don’t need this particular evidence to be true. I do believe it is true, but I confess that I don’t have any special attachment to Pam’s story — I’ve never even met the woman. Therefore, I’m not desperate to prove the allegedly corroborated and veridical evidence settles this issue once and forever. I have no vested interest in that one particular case. Her story is but one of many incidents of corroborated veridical NDE information – admittedly one of the better examples, simply because of the medical instrumentation carefully monitoring her condition.

But her story is far from the only example. There are thousands, perhaps even millions of other accounts that contain new memories that may potentially be investigated and confirmed to be true. I have no interest in arguing incessantly with one persistent critic about Pam’s case.

The NDEs of Colton Burpo and Michaela Roser provide equally compelling examples of corroborated, veridical NDE information — Colton allegedly learned of a sister who died in his mother’s womb, while Michaela overheard and accurately remembered a conversation her family had in the hospital cafeteria while she was undergoing emergency surgery. And if only one of these claims of new knowledge learned during a near death experience can be successfully corroborated, then we can reasonably conclude that solid scientific evidence exists for the immaterial soul.

The problem for my atheist critic is that every alleged account of corroborated veridical NDE information must be successfully debunked, or strict materialism (the prevalent worldview for atheism) will have been proven false.

In contrast, if the details provided in only one of these events can be successfully confirmed, it will have proven that the mind and brain truly do separate at the moment the brain dies, while the mind apparently continues to live.

Not every NDE offers no new and unique evidence that could be independently investigated and verified, of course.

For example, medical records can prove this 16 year-old boy named Mike had a heart attack in school, but his experience contained no claims of new information learned while the mind was possibly separated from the brain. At most, Mike’s story should be classified as nothing greater than an interesting but unverified anecdote.

In fact, the most interesting aspect of Mike’s alleged experience with his deceased grandmother was that she told him that he had a purpose for his life, and his subsequent transformation from a materialist to a more spiritual person.

Mike says, “What I care about now is pretty much everything that you can’t really buy.”southernprose_cover_CAFG

His mother Karen seemed to back up Mike’s claims that he became less materialistic after his near death experience, saying, “I think he sees the world differently. I think he lives each day to the fullest, because he might not be here tomorrow.”

This is true for anyone reading this article. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

My question for the atheist is this: even if you don’t believe that Mike’s experience was real, why would you want to try to deprive people like him of the positive changes that come in their lives as a result?

Even if you believe Mike’s memory is nothing but a pleasant delusion, why would you work so hard to rob him of the joy that his newfound belief in eternity gives him?

Does the thought of someone else being happy really make the typical atheist that miserable?

Rationalism (written by Frank Boccia)


Editorial note: the content below is unedited. Only format changes have been made to the content to improve readability. This post does not necessarily reflect my own personal views, but those of the credited author.

Normally I write everything posted here, but on rare occasions, I’ve seen fit to make an exception and publish the (properly credited) work of another writer.

This happens to be one of those rare occasions…a very pleasant surprise, written and submitted for your consideration by a friend.

My friend (and fellow author) Frank Boccia is a very interesting man.

His book The Crouching Beast was firsthand account of the Battle in the AShau Valley for Dong  Ap Bia — more popularly known as “Hamburger Hill”. Frank’s work received rave reviews from the most important critics one can possibly encounter — people who “have been there” and lived through the experience the writer has attempted to describe.

His critics unanimously agreed — Frank is a great writer with the uncanny ability of being able to put the reader in his shoes. And now without further ado, these are Frank’s thoughts on rationalism.

I am a rationalist.

I was born that way; it’s the way my brain is wired. Being a rationalist does not imply that one necessarily has one belief system rather than another. It is simply how we see and evaluate the world. We see cause and effect, in linear paths.

But that is all: My father was a thorough rationalist; a man whose occupation involved the formulation of the theories of statistical economics. He was also a devout Roman Catholic to the end of his life.

Many atheists, on the other hand, are anything but rational in their arguments, which often are emotive and diffuse. Nor does being a rationalist mean that we are always rational in our actions. The human psyche is not that simple.

I mention all this to lay the background for what has occurred over the past year or so of my life. Whatever religious faith I had died quickly in the irrationality of war: Some died, some lived, and a rational brain had no choice but to see in that the work of random chance.

The explanation given by some, that God had “a plan” for them, filled me with disgust and scorn. It struck me as the worst of egocentric self-congratulation: “God spared me because He has a plan for me. He doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the ones who died.”

What I saw was that some who died were among the best of men, while some who lived were among the worst. Where is the justice in that? Where is there a rational explanation?

So I lived my life, seeking, as ever, cause and effect, factual data over speculation, concrete evidence over wishful thinking. I retained enough of my boyhood schooling to acknowledge the rational structure, built over the centuries by brilliant men, of the church I was raised in, but that’s what it was: A structure, and empty of any real meaning.

So I might have ended my days. Then came a crushing blow: I was diagnosed with a crippling, deadly disease, with no known cure. Life changed: From climbing mountains to laboring to climb steps. From easily lifting one hundred pound cases to barely hoisting fifteen pound boxes. The diagnosis was quick and to the point: I had perhaps three years to live, and they would be a miserable three years.

I accepted this with no particular regret, and certainly not denial. Did I not already know, from my experiences in combat, that life was a crapshoot? That we lived or died by chance, and by chance alone? Then why get upset over this? In the infamous phrase of the new millennium: It is what it is.

author Frank Boccia

author Frank Boccia

I was content to live out the rest of my life with as much dignity as I could, and accept the hardships that came with the disease. And they were many: Surgery after surgery.

Three code blues in a hospital, during one of which I almost died. Uncontrolled internal bleeding. Lung cavities filled with fluid, making breathing difficult. Pain was a daily companion. I was alone, and dying, but this was, after all, what the dice had ordained.

Then, a year ago, quite by chance, I began corresponding with a relative, one whom I had known, of course, but had had no particular contact with. Acquaintance became friendship; friendship became intimacy, not of the body –impossible in any case, but also because we were separated by thousands of miles– but of the spirit, the heart and the mind.

I was ever the rationalist; she the spiritualist, but we shared so many things, and chief among them the beauty and wonder of the world we live in. Gradually, I became aware that for her, all this beauty, all the affection and even love that had burgeoned between us, was a part of her faith. She neither lectured nor questioned; she simply lived as she believed her faith required her to.

She began to pray for me, for my health and for my soul. I accepted this with grace, but the rationalist in me shrugged. My fate was sealed, by the words of the experts. No one survived this disease. And my soul was as dead as my body soon would be. But I thanked her for her love and caring.

I was alone, and lonely. Oh, my writing kept me busy, but I was still alone. It is one thing to be lonely. It is quite another to be lonely with the knowledge that one will never be anything else in his life. This too had to be accepted. It is what it is. For all the affection and love that our correspondence brought, my life was one of isolation.

The side of Frank he wanted the reader to see

The image of Frank he wanted the reader to see

And then something extraordinary happened. I met someone, someone who was not daunted by my disease, my crippled body, my severe limitations. She too was alone, and hungered for the same things I did: A smile, a touch of the hand, the feel of a warm human presence.

I had not dared think this was possible. When I told my cousin about this, she was elated, but also said, almost complacently, that this was what she had been praying for, throughout the year.

Of course, this had no bearing on what had happened. It was, as everything else in my life had been, chance.

Chance. The god of my life.

But back to this year. I had companionship, and a dear friend. I had purpose. And then, during a routine visit to the clinic for my weekly chemo treatments, came the electrifying news: No more treatments. My numbers were stable, and the oncologist decided there was no further need for chemo.

The disease was in remission –and that had never happened before. Never. No one lived past three or four years with this disease. I had lasted seven years, and now could face the future with hope. The damage was irreversible, and considerable, but it would not get worse.

Both of the women in by life were ecstatic, and both told me of the countless prayers they had offered over the months. Both firmly believed that this unprecedented recovery was due to those prayers, and the love behind them.

I am a rationalist.

I began to look at my past, and this time with an unfettered mind. I went back to the war, and the countless times I should have died. I won’t list them here; but they are many, and in some cases inexplicable, such as the time when I and four others were surrounded by a vastly superior force.

I looked at my life since. Many bad things had happened, but none of them had been truly life-destroying blows. I had survived. And now, the past year… chance had led me to my cherished cousin –a routine e-mail. Chance had brought to me a wonderful, loving woman who will share the rest of our lives with me.

Chance had decreed that I would not die in a hospital bed, or of a failed heart, or of the many times when the medical professionals had shaken their collective heads and written me off. Chance had made me the only known survivor of this deadly disease… chance.

But rational people must look at the evidence. I know about probabilities. I invented and perfected a sophisticated game that was based entirely on probability. I can calculate odds. That is why I never play the lotto. That is why I never draw to an inside straight. That is why… I could no longer believe in chance. The odds were too great, too improbable.

The other reality that begged for my attention and evaluation was the fact that both the women I love so deeply are women of faith. They believe in a God who can and does respond to prayer. They believe in the spirituality I had rejected so many years ago. So had my father, probably the best man I have ever encountered, and certainly one of the most intelligent. Another close friend, a third woman, whose life has been intertwined with mine for so many years, is also a woman of faith and belief.

The rational mind does not inexorably gravitate to a belief system. I once saw a debate (and it is flattery to call it such) among Madeleine Murray O’Hare, a fundamentalist preacher, and an agnostic. The two irrational people were the preacher and the atheist. They simply proclaimed, and sat back, satisfied. The agnostic was probing, asking and answering difficult questions.

In the end, the atheist and the fundamentalist had the same closed mind, the same self-righteous contempt for anyone else’s views, and the same unreasoning certainty. The only difference was that the preacher was by far the politer of the two.

So my rationality has led me to at least question my rejection of the spiritual. No, I do not and never will believe in ghosts or crop circles or anything like that. I can’t cease being rational. But I must admit what the evidence presents: Life cannot be pure chance.

When one person decrees that the complexity of life on earth began as a fortuitous combination of chemicals, and another says that in fact it began as a deliberate and rational design, the rationalist must judge between the two without considering either the source nor the linguistic labels usually associated with the two. The first statement is almost always phrased something like this: “The rational explanation for the origin of life is the spontaneous creation of self-propagating cells…” while the second is almost always stated “Religious dogma, or Creationism posits the creation of the universe by a Supernatural Being…”

Neither statement is factual. Both are opinion: That is, in one the speaker assumes the quality of rational thought by simply stating it. One might as well assume that one’s height is 6’6″ by asserting it is so. In the second, that same speaker, again through assertion, attributes irrationality to the statement.

But a truly rational mind doesn’t do that. We must look at the evidence. Which is the more unlikely: That life began as an entirely (and to date not reproduced in nature) accidental combination of specific chemicals, or that some degree of rational thought on the part of a being whom we refer to as the Creator resulted in its present complexity?

This last is not my argument: It was stated, and much more clearly, by C S Lewis, and a more rational man never existed. Those who know him only for his childish Narnia series and have never read his serious novels and his essays and other analytical works would have no idea of his brilliance. I must agree with Lewis. I must see what has happened in my life, and what is the world is, and reject the notion that all this is governed by the laws of probability, as my game was.

Such a conclusion is too irrational.