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Why I believe in God

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
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God, unicorns and your beliefs
  • LZ Granderson says belief in God isn't a matter of certainty but of faith
  • He says his pastor, Rob Bell, is being challenged on his new book
  • Bell says discussion of doubt about heaven or hell or other dogma is divine
  • Granderson: Admitting doubt is natural and should be supported

Editor's note: LZ Granderson writes a weekly column for A senior writer and columnist for ESPN The Magazine and, he has contributed to ESPN's "Sports Center," "Outside the Lines" and "First Take." He is a 2010 nominee and the 2009 winner of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation award for online journalism and a 2010 and 2008 honoree of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for column writing. Watch him Tuesday on "CNN Newsroom," 9 a.m. ET.

Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) -- I would like to share with you a little story explaining why I believe in God.

I understand such a conversation may be an automatic turnoff to those of you who do not believe in a higher power, but I assure you there's a nugget in this story for everyone. After all, when you get right down to it, we all believe in something.

My story begins with a little restaurant off Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids called Rose's. It's not too fancy and a little pricey, but the location's good and the pizza's better. Over the years I must've eaten there at least a hundred times. But on this one particular day, something strange happened on the way to Rose's -- I couldn't find it.

Now maybe I was tired or maybe I was so hungry I couldn't think clearly, but for about 15 minutes I would either turn down the wrong street, turn in the wrong direction or miss the street I needed altogether. Even when I would tell myself to pay closer attention, I still was having a hard time finding Rose's. In fact, I became so frustrated I actually had to take out my GPS to find the restaurant I've been driving to since the '90s.

Weird, right?

But once I finally got my bearings, parked and started walking down the street toward the restaurant -- scratching my head and mumbling to myself -- I saw God.

OK, it wasn't literally God.

Granderson: Why I believe in God

It was my pastor, Rob Bell who, despite going to his church, Mars Hill, for years, I had never met. I'm not sure why -- it's not like I was ducking him and I don't think he was avoiding me -- it just hadn't worked out until that day. The day I got lost trying to get to a place I always go. On the same day I started reading this book, "Love Wins" by, yep, you guessed it, Rob Bell.

Read more about Rob Bell and his book on the CNN Belief Blog

"I love your book," I blurted out as we approached each other.

Rob, who was with his family, smiled, said thank you, and asked "Which one?"

True faith does not require us to have all of the answers.
--LZ Granderson

"All of them," I said, which was true, though I was thinking about his latest more specifically.

That was about the extent of our exchange -- he was being pulled by his young kids and I was terribly late for dinner.

Now to some, me aimlessly driving around trying to find Rose's and running into Rob is no more than a coincidence.

But I chose to see something else.

I chose to see God.

That may come across as a bit self-righteous, which I can completely understand. After all, even if there is a higher power many refer to as God, why would God bother to have me run into Rob? Why doesn't God, I don't know, spend that time curing cancer instead?

My answer is simple: I don't know.

That's not me using a get out of jail free card, that's me proclaiming faith.

One of the biggest problems with religion in general, and evangelical Christianity in particular, is the claim of having definitive answers about an infinite being. But true faith does not require us to have all of the answers. Faith, as it relates to spirituality, isn't knowing something others don't know -- we call that a secret -- but rather belief in something that can't be empirically proven or disproven.

In other words, to truly be a person of faith one must accept the fact there is no tangible evidence there is a God. If such evidence existed, we wouldn't need faith. And on the flip side, atheists cannot prove without a shadow of a doubt there is no God.

So while I can't prove God intended for me to run into Rob on the street that day, the skeptic cannot prove that some form of intelligence -- God, if you will -- did not. This is what I meant when I said we all believe in something. When you get right down to it, everyone is walking in faith... it's just not faith in the same thing. Thus I find the religion vs science debate a tad useless in the larger scheme of things. To me religion is man's attempt to figure out who God is and science is man's attempt to figure out what God is up to; both saddled with the same flaw -- man

In challenging our understanding of heaven and hell in his book "Love Wins," Rob is being painted by many evangelicals as a betrayer of Christianity. It's easy to see why from this passage in the first chapter:

"Gandhi's in hell?

He is?

We have confirmation of this?

Somebody knows this?

Without a doubt?"

Gandhi, of course, was a Hindu and Christians like Rob are to believe that anyone, no matter how much good they might've done on Earth, are hell-bound if they are not Christians. To some, a pastor openly questioning an essential part of Christianity is career suicide. This is why he's been on shows like "Good Morning America" and on the cover of Time magazine to talk about why he wrote the book.

Belief Blog: Christian author's book sparks charges of heresy

"Lots of people have voiced a concern, expressed a doubt or raised a question, only to be told by their family, church, friends or tribe: 'We don't discuss those things here.'

"I believe the discussion itself is divine."

This passage is why I attend Mars Hill. Where others see a betrayer, I see a man of incredible faith. To admit doubt removes the arrogance of certainty prevalent in so many evangelical Christians and atheists alike and replaces it with the humility -- and even peace -- that comes with not knowing the answers. I do not find the mystery to represent the absence of God but rather his presence.

If we could figure God out, he wouldn't be that impressive.

And if the promise of heaven, or the threat of hell, is the only reason to seek his face, I can see why some Christians find questioning the existence of either to be problematic. I can see why some chose to denounce Rob's book.

Maybe it was just a coincidence that I got lost going to a place I regularly visit, running into someone I knew but never met, to offer my hand in appreciation at a time when so many others turned theirs away.


But I chose to believe it was something else. More importantly, I have peace in knowing there's a chance I'm wrong. For it is within the bosom of doubt that my faith in God is nourished.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

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