When I hear someone say there is no God, I think, and sometimes say, If there is no God, that topic would never come up.
I grew up in Mt. Book, “over the mountain” from Birmingham, Alabama. In their youth, my parents attended Southside Baptist Church, in Birmingham, where their fathers were deacons. After Mt. Brook Baptist Church was built, we attended there. Well, my father and I went to Sunday school, my mother mostly did not go to church. She didn’t like the Baptist Church, generally. A young Episcopal minister named Lee Graham started a new church in an old farm house where the Mt. Brook Library later would be built just west of the fire and police station in Crestline Village. My mother was drawn to attend Rev. Graham’s church. In time, she started taking me and my younger brother Major to St. Luke's. By then it was in the old Steeple Arts building on Church Street. You’d have thought the world had ended, based on the loud outcry from my grandparents and their minister. My mother stood her ground and forced me to take Confirmation classes on Saturday mornings at the church. I hated grammar school!!! Saturday was my day off!!!! I hated Confirmation classes. When the Bishop came to Confirm our class and gave us Communion, the wine went down my throat wrong. I thought I was going to die, but said nothing as I struggled back to the pew where my parents sat. My mother then tried to persuade me to become an Acolyte, but I declined. By college, I no longer attended church regularly. I still believed in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but I had many other things on my mind.
I was reminded of all of that after reading an article in the Mountain Brook newspaper Village Living (villagelivingonline.com) about a new book on the existence of God. Below the article was one reader comment, and I submitted two comments, which were accepted. Homewood lies just west of Mt. Brook, "over the mountain".
Addressing an enduring question of life: Homewood author Richard Simmons publishes ‘Reflections on the Existence of God’
by SAM CHANDLER
January 23, 2020
Photo by Erin Nelson.
Best-selling author Richard E. Simmons III, a Homewood resident and Mountain Brook High School alumnus, published his 10th book in December.
In “Reflections on the Existence of God,” he seeks to answer one of life’s most enduring questions: Does God exist?
“Believe it or not, I’ve spent really the last 25 to 30 years researching this book,” Simmons said, “and when I say researching, I’ve been reading books, articles. I’ve got thick files of all these articles I’ve accumulated over the years.”
The 10-chapter book consists of 57 short essays that take about six to eight minutes to read. In them, Simmons examines topics such as evil, morality, meaning, human experience, evolution and the psychology of unbelief, among others.
He said his goal was to write a well-researched book that could be easily digested.
“So many books on the existence of God are very lofty; they’re weighty. Nobody likes to read them, so I didn’t want to do that,” Simmons said. “My real desire was to write something that my children could read and understand as a 20-year-old, 21-year-old and as a 22-year-old.”
Simmons said he wrote “Reflections” with three audiences in mind. The first is young people, particularly as they prepare to go to college. Simmons said many students lose their faith during their time on campus.
“So often it’s because they had doubts and questions, and nobody ever answered them,” he said.
The second audience is skeptics.
“I really believe that this is a powerful book,” Simmons said. “Most atheists have never really looked at the evidence for the existence of God.”
The final audience is adult Christians. Simmons said he wants to equip them to engage with the secular culture in which they live. Already, he has heard from readers who told him the book strengthened their faith.
“If you’re a Christian and have doubts and are struggling with issues, you need to read it,” he said.
Simmons wrote the book over the summer, in July and August, and edited it in the early fall. He completed some of his work on beach getaways, but he composed most of “Reflections” from his dining room table.
Simmons said recent events have validated his decision to publish the book when he did. While watching a Democratic presidential debate a few months ago, he saw a TV advertisement promoting atheism.
“The spokesman for the commercial was Ronald Reagan’s young son, Ron, who said, ‘I’m a lifelong atheist and I’m not afraid of burning in hell,’” Simmons recalled. “And I was shocked not by so much what he said, but by the fact that this commercial was on national television.”
Just two days later, Simmons read an article in the Wall Street Journal about the faith decline in America. Two weeks after that, he read another article in the same publication that reported 44% of Americans ages 18 to 29 identify as Nones.
“It basically means they’re not affiliated with any religion, any church, any faith belief,” Simmons said, “and that’s a pretty large number.”
Simmons didn’t become a Christian until he was a 20-year-old student at Sewanee: The University of the South. He remembers enjoying a great life but experiencing internal emptiness.
“Sewanee is an Episcopal college, so I started going to church, but that didn’t do much,” Simmons said. “And then finally, it kind of came to me that what was lacking in my life is that I didn’t have a personal relationship with God.”
Simmons said all people have a God-shaped vacuum in their hearts that only Christ can fill. Before his conversion, he said he “was trying to fill it with all types of things” that weren’t working.
Simmons majored in economics at Sewanee and then embarked on a successful business career. He was the CEO of a large insurance brokerage firm before shifting professional gears.
In 2001, he opened The Center for Executive Leadership, a faith-based ministry headquartered on Union Hill Drive between Homewood and Mountain Brook. Simmons focuses on counseling businessmen and professionals, speaking frequently to large groups of men.
“I like to tell people I’m probably more of a speaker than a writer,” he said, “but my books come straight from the series and presentations that I make.”
Simmons has published books about wisdom, humility and purpose, among other topics. His best-selling book is the “The True Measure of a Man,” which has sold about 60,000 copies and examines masculinity.
“In our culture, it’s all about performance out in the workplace,” he said. “... That’s so false.”
In his latest release, Simmons tackles an existential question. A person’s answer, he said, influences every aspect of his or her life.
“It has a huge impact on your worldview,” Simmons said. “It influences the way you see morality. It impacts the way you see purpose in life and meaning in life.”
Through penning the book, Simmons discovered the evidence for God is “powerful” and “compelling,” while the evidence for atheism is “very weak.”
He said the strongest argument for theism, and Christianity specifically, is the fine-tuning of the universe. There are 122 variables that must line up in perfect precision for the universe to exist, Simmons said, and if one is just a tad off, the universe would implode.
“More and more are coming to the conclusion that it’s divine,” Simmons said, “that God is behind it.”
“Reflections” is available in hardback for $19.99 on Amazon, at Books-A-Million and other local retailers. Copies also can be purchased from The Center for Executive Leadership’s website, thecenterbham.org, and its office. The Center can be reached at 205-789-3471.
On the God question
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On proving God exists
Nice article. I wonder if Mr. Simmons reports in his new or earlier books himself having direct experiences with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, angels, demons, etc.? If so, how did that affect him?
I was born in 1942 and grew up in Mt. Brook and attended Mt. Brook Baptist Church and then St. Luke's Episcopal Church. By law school, I did not attend church regularly. However, I still believed in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit when I had the first direct experience in early 1987. That's when I shifted from believing God exists, to knowing. That’s when Jesus and Archangel Michael went to work on me, and in a few years were joined by Melchizedek. There was some beauty but mostly it was a lot of tests and being stood before a mirror, with plenty of refresher courses. I became convinced Jesus never left and salvation through him is proportionate to living as he lived and taught in the Gospels, which can be summed up: Not my will, but Thy will, O Lord, be done. Today, I wonder when I am ever not in church?
There is a lovely article in Village Living about my brother Major's son, Holt, by his second wife, Leslie. The article takes head-on that Major killed himself in 2010 and tried to make it look like murder. The article paints the awful impact on Holt and his family and their heroic evolution through and beyond.
I lived in Key West when two Birmingham friends called to say it was in the news that Major was missing. A Birmingham News journalist, via introduction from one of my two friends, interviewed me that dreadful morning. When he asked if I had any thoughts about what had happened to Major, I said, since he asked, I am a mystic, and shortly before he called it came to me out of the blue that Major killed himself and tried to make it look like murder. The journalist said cold chills were running up and down his spine, because the same thought came to him out of the blue just before he called me.
I reported that conversation on my blog that day. Page views jumped about 8-fold for the next month. I received emails from Alabama people I did not know. I published the text of most of the emails. Lots of people in Alabama thought I was nuts, or worse. A popular blogger in the Birmingham area suggested I may have had Major killed. The blogger had a lot of readers who sided with him, even though I gained nothing from Major’s death but a lot of grief for writing about it on my blog.
It later was given to me to investigate what really happened to cause Major to kill himself. I became satisfied that I got to the bottom of it, but could not prove it in a court of law. Nor can I prove in a court of law that God exists, nor any of the countless direct experiences I had with what there is much mention in the Bible and other scriptures and spiritual texts.
On proving God exists
Dreams last night indicated I need to say a little more, which I wanted to do in my first comment, but there was an understandable length limitation on reader comments.
Here's what happened that shifted me from believing God existed, to knowing.
My physical health was poor, my spiritual health about the same. I quit practicing law and moved out west, hoping that would help. By early 1987, my sense of having failed in every way a man could fail was overwhelming. I prayed one morning, "Dear God, I do not wish to die like this, failed. Please help me." I paused, said, "I offer my life to human service." About ten days passed. I awoke maybe 2 a.m. and saw two etheric beings hovering above me in the darkness. They were white with a tint of blue, dressed like in a shift or robe. I thought angels, but saw saw no wings. I heard spoken into my mind as clearly as I could hear with my ears, "This will push you to your limits, but you asked for it and we are going to give it to you.” I recalled my desperate prayer. I saw a white flash and was physically jolted by something electrical. That happened two more times. I was shaking. The two beings faded out. The changes began, slowly, inexorably. In time, I came to understand the two beings were Jesus and Archangel Michael.
If deemed appropriate by Village Living, I wish to add that I self-published a number of books, non-fiction, poetry and fiction, reflecting my evolving perspective of heaven and earth dynamics. Some of those books are in the Linn-Henley Research Library in Birmingham. Although out of print, some of those books can be found at online book distributors, including amazonbooks.com, by entering my name in the search bar.
Written last fall and recently available is A Southern Lawyer Who Became a Mystic , published by Absolutely Amazing Books in Key West, which has published a number of books written by Key West authors. My new book is a trilogy of three short books: A FEW REMARKABLE ALABAMA PEOPLE I HAVE KNOWN, about six larger than life people who influenced me during my formative years; LAW & SPIRIT, about my jolting transition from practicing human law to practicing spiritual law, with a flashback to my sometimes amusing and sometimes agonizing experiences at the University of Alabama School of Law; and SPONTANEOUS RAMBLINGS ON SOUL ALCHEMY, which consists of essays I wrote and online discussion with other people about heaven and earth matters, including different perspectives of some Bible passages and Jesus. $9.95 paperback, and soon in Kindle; available at amazonbooks.com: A Southern Lawyer Who Became a Mystic