This world exists.
As far as I know, unless I am dreaming, I am in this world, and this world exists.
Even if I am dreaming, and this world is not real, I exist. I know, "cogito ergo sum" and all that, but still.... if I am here, or am dreaming I am here, regardless, I must be somewhere, feeling these feelings, thinking these thoughts.
And if somewhere exists, it had to have come into existence somehow. And by that logic, I too must have come into existence as well, at some point. Therefore, by some process, this world, and the things and people in it, were caused to exist (created, if you will), at some point in the past.
I have on good evidence that I came into existence a number of years ago, born to a mother and father. Medical records (amongst other things) attest to that fact. That matter is pretty simple. As for this somewhere, wherever it is I exist, that's a whole different thing altogether.
To simplify greatly, there are two explanations that you typically hear. Painting in broad strokes, I will refer to them as Science and Religion.
Science tells us that everything that exists came into being on its own, more or less at random, for no reason, through no fault of its own, or anybody else's for that matter. Out of nowhere, by accident, the world just came together perfectly, and we are the sum total of many other such random, causeless "happy accidents" that have happened over an indeterminate period of time. In short, we just happened.
Religion, on the other hand, tells a different story. Though the various religions differ on the details, ultimately, it comes down to a god (or gods) deliberately, purposefully (for whatever reason) crafting and fashioning the universe, and us (that is, human beings) to live in it. In this case, our very existence is a gift, given to us for a purpose.
In looking at the two options, I have historically gone with Religion, specifically Christianity. That is how I was raised, and is how I have lived for most of my life. My level of faith hasn’t remained constant, however, and many times I have doubted Religion's view, and wondered if maybe Science was right after all.
But it made no sense. As far as I know, nothing of value has ever created itself. To take it one step further, I have never heard of anything ever creating itself. Science has done a pretty good job (for the most part) in describing the world in which we live, but has not yet, in all this time, given a good explanation as to how it got here. The closest it seems to have come is in postulating a starting point (the big bang), and extrapolating from there. Essentially, it’s describing a what but not a why. Most people seem to be content with this as an explanation. But not me.
Even in the depths of my doubt of the existence of God, I have not been able to shake the idea that this world had to have had a creator. Can Science really come up with an explanation as to how something - everything, really - seems to have created itself out of nothing (ex nihilo) at some point in the past, and that this type of event has yet to happen since? Deep in the core of my being, I believe that this what has a who behind it, and not only a who, but a why.
The question then becomes, who is this who? There is, however, no shortage of options offered by various people at various times. As I said before, I have been raised to believe in God as described by the Bible, as worshiped by Christians. Examination of other concepts of God haven't, to my mind, proved superior, or even sufficient. The God of the Bible makes the most sense. I have chosen to remain with the identity and description of God that I have held as far as I can remember. So, since I believe in God, and hold the Scriptures to be the truth, it is my duty to seek out God, to live in what way He prescribes, since I owe Him everything, even my very existence.
But how? Even at this point, there are so many options. Seemingly countless ways of interpreting the Scriptures pop up everywhere. I've often said if you asked 100 Christians about a particular topic, you'll get at least 200 different opinions. The differences among various Christian denominations aren't all inconsequential, either. There are monumental clashes of ideology, and since it's as important as we are told (because we are talking about devotion to the Almighty Creator and Sustainer of the universe), this is not a decision to be made lightly. Resting on the laurels of the traditions I've been raised on just won't cut it, for if we were mistaken, the consequences are eternal.
So who has it right? The Catholic church? What about the Orthodox? Is it one of the mainstream American Christian groups, such as the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians? Should we follow the Emergent churches, bursting with new ideas, or the Restorationists, those who eschew tradition and history in order to go back to the "original" church? Is it the Amish, who shun the outside world and its technology, keeping themselves separate from everybody else? Or how about the plethora of independent "non-denominational" groups? Or can anybody just come up out of the woodwork with an idea and a passion and still please God?
This is where I'm starting. This is where I am. Where do I go from here?