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Author details his discovery of faith

Date: 12/9/2008

By Natasha Clark

Assistant Managing Editor

HOLYOKE The Creator. G-d. Supreme Being. Allah. Many cultures have many names for God in Kabbalah there are 72 alone.

People have sought solace in religion or God to gain meaning in their everyday lives. But what about non-believers? Where do they seek comfort? In 2000, self-described atheist Chet Galaska landed himself in the doctor's office stressed, overworked and exhausted. Eight years later, to Galaska's surprise, he is "Finding Faith in a Skeptical World." On Dec. 13, Galaska will be signing his book of the same name at Barnes & Noble in Holyoke.

"I'm hoping that when [skeptics] read this book they'll be curious enough to learn more," Galaska said.

His book is aimed at those who wouldn't give a second thought to religion or those who may be teetering on the edge of uncertainty. Galaska, a Longmeadow resident, admits that even his new found belief in Christianity was gradual. The book is about all the issues that stood between him and faith.

The millennium wasn't the first time he was exposed to religion. Galaska grew up attending Mittineague Methodist Church in West Springfield in the 1950s, and his family faithfully attended weekly services.

"I learned a lot of stuff at church, but I dismissed it all," he said.

His college years at Drew University were marked by historical significance such as the the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy and the Charles Manson murders. While some were probably clinging to something to believe in, others may have been wondering what kind of God would allow such brutality. Galaska was busy answering "Does God Exist?" for an essay and according to him, there just wasn't any substantial proof none that his minister back home could back up either, and so Galaska continued on his path sans any spiritual guidance.

Religion never played a big part after he married his wife Lisa. It was easy she was a believer, he wasn't. When his first of two sons, Jon, was born, he thought it was only fair to expose the youngster to organized religion and let him make up his own mind.

And then, as Galaska wrote, "It happened. I read to [four-year-old] Jon nightly, and every evening for weeks he asked me to read 'P.J. Funnybunny.' There were lots of books in his room, including 50 Golden Books the thin ones with identical gold and black spines that were stored together on one shelf. I knew one of those books was the Little Golden Book about God which we had never read. As I entered his room, I said my first genuine prayer in decades, and told God that if Jon wanted to read that Golden Book instead of 'P.J.' I would believe.

"Jon had 'P.J.' in his hands, put it on his bed, walked over to the bookcase, pulled out the 'God' book, and handed it to me, saying, 'I want to read this tonight.'"

It was enough to give Galaska shivers up his spine, but not enough to embark on a relationship with God. While he didn't blame anyone in particular for his lack of faith in God, he said the media and many unanswered questions didn't help.

He said that modern day media uses "subtle, little applications that give you more reasons to not believe in God."

"When I was growing up people took religion more seriously," he said.

Galaska also said when those who claim to be Christian don't act in a Christian way, people look at Christians as "hypocrites and paint religion with a broad brush."

Galaska hopes that "Finding Faith in a Skeptical World" will entice readers to keep an open mind. In fact, that is what led him to where is today. Eight years ago when his physician Dr. David Ballan mentioned handling his stress through religious faith the skeptic in him returned. Except this time, Galaska quieted him.

"I went out of curiosity," Galaska said. "Just curiosity."

Galaska will be on hand to discuss "Finding Faith in a Skeptical World" on Dec. 13 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, 7 Holyoke St.