It is 11:02 p.m on a Friday night. Outside a howling wind accompanies the rain – which the weather gurus refer to as an atmospheric river. That means the rain stretches from Northern California all the way to Hawaii. They used to call it the Pineapple Express, but I guess that didn’t sound scary enough. I still prefer ‘it is raining cats and dogs.’

This week I had three young men in my office. They all are about to graduate and they are very good soccer (American usage) players. We were just kind of “shooting the shit” as vulgar people say when I suddenly asked them, “Do you believe in God?” This is not the kind of question one asks in public higher education, but I felt the urge plus I could always play the ‘senile card’ at my age if I had to.

One hour later, I had to wrap up the conversation or we might still be there. They hungered to express themselves and each one had a different answer. It was like one of those old insensitive jokes, ” An atheist, a Catholic, and a New Ager walk into a bar…” Although holding strong opinions, they politely listened and thought about each person’s answers and they shared personal experiences supporting their views…and they cared for one another. I just sat and listened.

The atheist is an engineering student and he loves studying physics. He sees the world as completely explainable through the laws of physics. I enjoyed his talk and greatly admired his scientific approach. The Catholic one went to a Catholic school as a child and although not dogmatic in his beliefs, the Catholic traditions provide him access to a deeper sense of spirituality and wholeness. I was touched by his humility. The New Age disciple described the world in forms of energy and he borrowed terms from both Buddhists and Christians. He had an enthusiasm for life and an openness to possibilities.

At the end, as they all walked out together, probably to finish the conversation over a few beers, they turned and asked, “What about you Gary? What do you believe?”

I told them that I embrace science … and I believe in God…but not the God I was taught about.

I also embrace doubt. I now am beginning to believe that religion’s purpose is not to provide answers but to create questions. All my life I looked for answers from religion, but couldn’t really accept what I was told. “Doubting” Thomas was presented to me as the least worthy of all the disciples because of his lack of belief in what he was being told about the resurrection of Jesus. Well move over Tommy, I would be right there with ya.

The funny thing is, I am developing a deeper faith through all my questions than I ever did with all my answers. I think sometimes having questions offers a more active, engaged, curious life journey than an answer based journey does. I know it allowed me to sit and enjoy immensely listening to three young men discuss their big life questions.

Man, that atmospheric river is really roaring outside.