Religion was an unpleasant topic in my family when I was growing up. My mother regarded all religionists as either hypocrites or fanatics, so when my father joined the Jehovah's Witnesses and began preaching door to door, there was trouble. A truce was called, and from then on my dad rarely mentioned his beliefs. When the taboo topic did crop up once in a while, it would lead to shouting and bitterness.
What I heard about religion and God from my friends sounded like a fantasy. How could anyone worship a phantom God who kept himself hidden? Certainly not I! I automatically dismissed such concepts as the blood of Christ washing away my sins and Jesus dying for me on the cross; I could not fathom anybody falling for such ideas or worshipping a God who was always angry and who showed less tolerance for humanity than an ordinary civilized person would. I reasoned that the Creator should at least be wiser and more mature than his creatures.
And why, if he wanted us to know about him, would he give us only one book that was written thousands of years ago and that I couldn't decipher? And why would he make it a sin to add anything to it? Why wouldn't he give it to us straight? If human beings were capable of making themselves understood, then why did God - who created the human beings - insist on talking in riddles?
Religion, I decided, was not for me. I didn't even try searching along those lines. I had rarely attended church, barely skimmed the Bible, knew nothing about God and Jesus, and made fun of people who prayed and turned to God for help. The idea of a God upholding the universe appealed to me, but unless someone who really knew the truth could explain it to me properly, I had nothing to pin my hopes on and would have to remain agnostic.
Like everyone else, I sought happiness. I would set my sights on something, acquire it, then find myself holding a big, empty balloon. I spent a great deal of time shopping, mainly for clothes. I tried to get ahead at work. I changed the color of my hair often. I thought that if I got married I'd be happy. Once married, I realized I needed a divorce to be happy. I had a string of relationships. I moved from country to country. I became more and more frustrated. I was doing everything within my power to be happy and nothing worked. At night I lay awake wondering where it would all lead. Would I simply die one day, and would that be the end of me? Miserable as I was, I still wanted to live forever.
I enjoyed reading and had managed to fill my head with earthly knowledge that represented a giant pile of jigsaw puzzle pieces that didn't fit together. The more I learned, the more confused I became. I had many questions but no answers.
My brother Michael had begun his search a couple of years earlier and in the process had found The Urantia Book. "You would love this book!" he insisted. But when I saw that it talked about God and Jesus I refused to look at it. The last thing I needed was to be converted to some wacky religion.
When yet another relationship ended, I was forced to temporarily move in with Michael. Several times I went along to visit his friends in Topanga Canyon, David and Barbara, who had given him the book. They all radiated a certain peace whereas I usually felt extremely agitated; the contrast was noticeable, even to me.
One evening the book lay open on Michaels dining room table to "Dawn Races of Early Man." Years earlier I had helped my parents put together an educational filmstrip that dealt with this topic, and in our research we found that the available human knowledge was largely conjecture. But the way this was written, the authoritative tone in which the subject matter was presented, impressed me and I couldn't stop reading. They - whoever they were - were stating facts and clearing things up for me.
When I reached "The Survival of Andon and Fonta" light bulbs exploded in my head. This book is telling me the truth! We will not die! There's a big universe out there that is fully under control, and there is a God after all! All the knowledge I had accumulated over the years clicked together, the pieces of the giant jigsaw puzzle forming a coherent picture of the universe that resembled a detailed tapestry. The astounding thing was that I recognized the picture as something familiar, something that Jeep down I had known all along but couldn't see because it was blocked. Now the veil was lifted. I saw angels going from one planet to another carrying beings around in their arms; everything was connected with ladders and invisible wires, and I was a part of it! This life was not the end at all - it was the beginning! Although I still had two thousand pages to go, I knew that this book would give me it to me straight. That was the happiest day of my life, April 18, 1977. 'You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. "I wept tears of joy and relief.
On that day I turned my life around 180 degrees. All my attitudes and values were changed in one fell swoop. I read the book for three months straight, barely coming up for air. I learned where I came from, where I was going, and why I was here. What I had believed to be important was meaningless, and that's why happiness had eluded me. I discovered that there is no happiness apart from God. The stress and tension dropped away, the furrows in my brow relaxed, and I still hadn't read a word about Jesus - that came much later. In fact, I resisted reading about him until I had exhausted all the other papers. But when I finally did, I was ready to accept him and his teachings wholeheartedly. Since that day I have had peace of mind - the peace which passes all understanding.