Nuno Bandeira left the Catholic Church when he was 8 years old and didn’t come back to Christianity until his late 30s, after having a series of conversations with a friend in which he found that Christian beliefs “resonated with me.”
In between, he spent about three decades as an atheist, became a scientist, and even spent a couple of his teen years as lead singer and guitarist with a heavy metal band.
Now, Bandeira plans to use the knowledge and experience he has gained on his own spiritual path to help teach a class called “Christianity Explored” at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 1831 South El Camino Real, Encinitas.
The class runs for six Sundays, from April 23 to May 28, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Anyone who is interested is welcome to attend the free class, and lunch will be provided. Those who want to attend are asked to register at http://www.redeemersd.
“Essentially the goal here is to help people get a better understanding of what Christianity really stands for,” said Bandeira, 43, one of three people who will teach the course. A resident of Carmel Mountain and father of two, Bandeira is a native of Portugal. He teaches computational biology at UC San Diego.
While some might see inherent conflicts between science and religion, Bandeira doesn’t see it that way.
“I think there are a lot of connections on how the two things are approached,” he said.
For example, he said that when he came back to the Christian faith after such a long separation, he sought to delve into what he called the “data,” the text of the Bible, rather than relying on hearsay. And he said the process of gaining understanding in religion is similar to that of science, because it often takes a group of people working together, holding discussions and asking questions, to make progress.
Starting from the Bible, rather than accepting misconceptions, he said, is a “science-based approach.”
And he noted that even though he is a scientist, he recognizes the shortcomings of science, such as an inability to provide a mathematical model of human consciousness.
The two disciplines overlap, but they are separate and distinct, Bandeira said. The Bible is not meant to explain how things work. “It’s not a science book.” And science “is not meant to decide how we should behave.”
During the class, which Bandeira is helping to teach for the second time, participants are encouraged to come prepared with questions, and even non-believers are welcome.
“We don’t expect this is in any way a conversion shop, it’s more to promote understanding,” Bandeira said.
Participants “will have a forum to feel safe, ask questions and debate different points of view,” he said. “There’s no expectation there will be any particular outcome.”
One purpose of the course will be to dispel misunderstandings about Christianity. As a scientist, Bandeira said he accepts evolution as a concept that makes “perfect sense.” The Bible, he said, states that God created the Universe, but it doesn’t specify how, or how long it took, whether immediately or over millions of years.
He added that he believes most Christians accept the theory of evolution but that a relative few loud, high-profile dissenters create the perception of more conflict than exists in reality.
Joining Bandeira in teaching the class will be Pastor Hunter Benson from Redeemer Church and Dr. Satyan Devadoss.
Along with his atheism, Bandeira has also left behind his musical career. He and several high-school friends performed in their home town for a couple of years, before they all left for college and the band broke up. The group was a typical hard-rock outfit, complete with loud guitars and long hair.
But the band’s name may have foretold Bandeira’s future spiritual explorations – “Inner Sin.”