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Unidentified Man #1: I believe in figuring out my own way to confess.

Unidentified Woman #1: I believe in the power of numbers.

Unidentified Man #2: I believe in barbecue.

Unidentified Woman #2: I believe in friendliness.

Unidentified Man #3: I believe in mankind.

Unidentified Man #4: This, I believe.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Every Monday morning, we hear another installment of our series, This I Believe.

And today's essay comes from Bill Nunan, of Manhattan Beach, California. Mr. Nunan works as a satellite communications engineer and holds a Ph.D. in fusion plasma physics from UCLA. He sent us his thoughts on the boundaries of knowledge and faith. Here's our series curator Jay Allison.

JAY ALLISON: Bill Nunan grew up in a religious family. Writing this essay, he said, was like coming out of the closet to his friends and relatives who may not know where he stands in his religious beliefs. While he no longer recites the creeds of his youth, he has developed his own. Here is Bill Nunan with his essay for This I Believe.

Mr. BILL NUNAN (Manhattan Beach, California): I believe that God does not know the future. I arrived at this belief after a long and difficult journey through, and eventually away from, the faith in which I was raised.

When I was young people told me, God knows everything. For years I tried to force my beliefs to conform to this view. But finally I took my personal leap of faith. I believe that God loves honesty more than conformity. And so I decided to go where the spirit moved me, even if that was away from the spiritual home of my ancestors.

I believe the fate of our world is not locked in by Scripture, but that the future is shaped by the laws of nature and by what we humans voluntarily do during our time on this planet.

Many people believe every sunrise and sunset, every birth and death, every earthquake, flood and plague is a voluntary act of God. Like most scientists, I believe that involuntary laws of nature explain the behavior of planets, tectonic plates, weather systems and viruses. The earth continually spins and dispassionately quakes. Catastrophes happen infrequently but they are manifestations of the same laws of nature that always govern the universe.

I believe God never tweaks the laws of nature to achieve some desired outcome. Having accepted this, I do not agonize over why God allows evil to occur.

I don't expect God to intervene to help my team win a basketball game either. As a kid, I thought God knew who would win before the game began. But today I'm convinced nobody knows for sure, not even God.

When I studied science and engineering in college, I met lots of people who had stopped believing in God. They asked, if science explains the behavior of everything from electrons to galaxies, then who needs God? I decided I still did. I agreed that science eliminates the need for a creator, but the creator is only one of the masks of God.

The dispassionate mathematical laws of physics seem austere and impersonal, like a star or the moon. But the universe contains more than that. It also includes creatures like us who create purpose and meaning. Gravity does not care, but I do.

Physics does not explain the difference between sound waves and a song, or the difference between sex and love. Physics explains my body, but not my soul.

I believe my soul inspires me to make decisions to diminish pain and increase love in the lives I touch. Lots of times I try, but I fail. On a good day I actually get it right and God is pleasantly surprised.

Mr. ALLISON: Bill Nunan with his essay for This I Believe. Nunan said writing this essay gave him the chance to reconcile and distill his religious and scientific beliefs.

If you'd like to summarize your personal convictions in 500 words, visit NPR.org for more information about our series. For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.

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INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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