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Sep 23, 2022 385 Christian Simon, Germany
Encounter

What Physics Could Not Give Me

The Question of Why

Physicist Christian Simon, 33, was an atheist for a long time and expected answers to all of life’s pressing questions from science— until he came up against its limits

I grew up Catholic, received all the sacraments as is customary, and was also quite devout as a child. Unfortunately, over time I developed a terribly false image of God: God as a stern judge who throws sinners into hell, but otherwise very distant and not really interested in me. I doubted very much that God meant me well. In my youth, I even became more and more convinced that God had something against me. I imagined that He always did exactly the opposite of what I had asked Him to do. At some point it was over for me. I didn’t want to know anything more about God.

Religion—A Thing for Weirdos

At the age of about 18, I was convinced that there was no God at all. For me, only what I could experience with my senses or what could be measured by the natural sciences counted. Religion seemed to me to be only something for weirdos who either had too much imagination or were simply totally indoctrinated and had never questioned their faith. I was convinced that if everyone were as smart as I was, no one would believe in God anymore.

After a few years of self-employment, I started studying physics at the age of 26. I was burningly interested in how the world works and hoped to find my answers in physics. Who could blame me? Physics can seem very mysterious with its incredibly sophisticated mathematics that very few people in the world understand. It’s easy to get the idea that if you could just crack these coded forms and symbols, unimagined horizons of knowledge would open up—and that literally anything would then be possible. After studying all sorts of subfields of physics, and even getting to grips with the most up-to-date fundamental physics, I sat down to work on my master’s thesis on an abstract theoretical topic—one which I wasn’t convinced would ever have any relation to the real world. I finally became very aware of the limits of physics: the highest goal physics could ever reach would be a complete mathematical description of nature. And that is already very optimistic thinking. At best, physics can describe how something works, but never why it works exactly the way it does and not differently. But this question about the why was tormenting me at this time.

The Probability of God

For reasons I cannot satisfactorily explain, I was gripped in the fall of 2019 by the question of whether there is a God after all. It was a question I had asked myself on and off, but this time it wouldn’t let me go. It demanded an answer, and I would not stop until I found it. There was no key experience, no stroke of fate that would have led to it. Even Corona was not an issue at that time. For half a year I devoured everything I could find on the subject of “God” every day. During this time I did almost nothing else, so much did the question captivate me. I wanted to know if God existed and what the various religions and worldviews had to say about it. In doing so, my approach was very scientific. I thought that once I had collected all the arguments and clues, I would eventually be able to determine the probability as to whether God existed. If it were greater than 50 percent, then I would believe in God, otherwise not. Quite simple, isn’t it? Not really!

During this intense period of research, I learned an incredible amount. First, I realized that I would not reach my goal with reason alone. Second, I had thought through to the end the consequences of a reality without God. I inevitably came to the conclusion that in a world without God, everything would ultimately be meaningless.

Certainly, one can try to give meaning even to one’s life, but what would that be but an illusion, a conceit, a lie? From a purely scientific point of view, we know that at some point in the universe all the lights will go out. If nothing exists beyond that, what difference do my small and large decisions, indeed anything at all, make?

Faced with this sad prospect of a world without God, I decided in the spring of 2020 to give Him a second chance. What could it hurt to just pretend to believe in God for a while, and try everything that people who believe in God do? So I tried praying, attended church services, and just wanted to see what that would do to me. Of course, my basic openness to the existence of God didn’t make me a Christian yet; after all, there were other religions. But my research had quickly convinced me that the resurrection of Jesus was a historical fact. For me, the authority of the Church as well as the Holy Scriptures follows from this.

Proof of God

So, what came out of my experiment in “faith”? The Holy Spirit awakened my conscience from its years of hibernation. He made it very clear to me that I needed radically to change my life. And He welcomed me with open arms. Basically, my story is in the biblical parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). I received the sacrament of reconciliation for the first time with all my strength. To this day, after each confession, I feel as if I have been reborn. I feel it all over my body: the relief, the overflowing love of God that washes away all cloudiness of the soul. This experience alone is proof of God for me, as it far exceeds any scientific attempt at explanation.

In addition, God has gifted me with a plethora of great encounters in the last two years. Right at the beginning, when I started attending church services, I met a person who was just perfect for me in my situation at that time with all my questions and problems. To this day he is a faithful and good friend. Since then, almost every month great new people have come into my life, who have helped me enormously on my way to Jesus—and this process is still going on! “Happy coincidences” of this kind have accumulated to such an overwhelming extent that I am no longer able to believe in coincidences.

Today, I have fully focused my life on Jesus. Of course, I fail at it every day! But I also get back up every time. Thank God that God is merciful! I get to know Him a little better every day and am allowed to leave the old Christian Simon behind. This is often very painful, but always healing and I go on strengthened. The regular reception of the Eucharist contributes a great part to my strengthening. A life without Jesus is unimaginable for me today. I seek Him in daily prayer, praise, Scripture, service to others, and the sacraments. No one has ever loved me as He does. And to Him belongs my heart. For all time.

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Christian Simon

Christian Simon currently lives in Clausthal-Zellerfeld/Germany and is completing his traineeship as a "career changer" for the grammar school teaching profession.

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