Janesville doctor writes about faith

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Marcia Nelesen
Wednesday, January 23, 2013

— When Ron Ragotzy's mother got him a Bible for Christmas about 15 years ago, he vowed to read it.

Ragotzy didn't get much past the first 11 chapters of Genesis, but he's worn out those pages, and they now provide him a blueprint for a peaceful life, he said.

"That tells the whole story," Ragotzy said. "The rest of the Bible is just talking about Genesis."

Ragotzy, 55, a Janesville allergist, wrote and published a book—"Raising Abel: the Life of Faith."

As he studied Genesis, Ragotzy immersed himself in studies about the writings, which make up the first book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament. He interpreted the stories as relating to each other, something he hasn't seen others do.

Ragotzy included his personal experiences in his book, including what led to a well-publicized suicide attempt in 1995.

"I always felt like I was looking for something," Ragotzy said in a recent interview. "It was there, that quest. I wanted comfort and peace, and it seemed like I was getting farther and farther away from it.

"I think I had a spiritual disease. I had this want for faith, and I was destined to suffer from it until I had a spiritual solution."

Genesis helped him understand why previous efforts to fix his life had failed, Ragotzy said. At the time of his suicide attempt, he said, he was hiding depression and caring for a handicapped child. His marriage was failing.

"You get to a point, and taking away pain is finding comfort," he said.

In reading Genesis, Ragotzy said, he learned that searching for peace and happiness produces "thorns and thistles ... We fail and we kill our spiritual sides."

For example, he never had been able to make sense of the story of Cain and Able. Now, he understands the metaphors: Cain is the side of us seeking happiness. Abel's gift is acceptance.

Genesis "is a guide for what we all go through in our journey of faith in our lives, and it happens to everybody, whether you want it or not," Ragotzy said.

"If you keep understanding your life through these chapters, it will make things a whole lot simpler and more peaceful.

"Some people can live a life of faith and not have to understand it," Ragotzy said. "I wasn't one of those. I really had to understand what faith was."

Some ask, "Faith in what?" he said. "It's just … faith. Faith that things will work out, that this will teach me a lesson. I have faith that even it something seems pretty bad, it's going to help me in the long run."

He hopes the book will help others in their spiritual journeys: "Are they still being Cain? Or, have they become a Noah, and they're building their own ark."

Last updated: 8:00 am Monday, April 29, 2013

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