Question: So you used to be an atheist

Someone asked:
So you used to be an atheist/agnostic. How did you come to know Jesus?


I won’t bore you with too many details, but it was a very long journey. In the end no “proof” or “argument” won me over.  I also wasn’t looking very hard.  In high school a guy in my homeroom found out I played drums. He asked me to play, I politely declined, but he offered a ride and mentioned there was free lunch at church. I asked if there were girls.  He hesitated, then affirmed. My original motive was hot girls.

The church I attended was gracious enough to allow an atheist to play on their praise team.  I liked the sermons, I liked the pastor, I liked the people (well most of them anyway). But the gospel then was just another religion in a handbag full of them.

Around college a lot of the Bible began making sense. It was actually horrifying because nobody, and I really mean nobody, wants the Bible to be true. And I saw how the Bible played out in serious believers who actually read the dang thing and totally loved Jesus.  They were nowhere near perfect but man, were they passionate. My mockery of these weirdos soon turned to respect … and a horrible fear.

I could say I was “saved” in college, but I still lived exactly as I wanted to.  I didn’t understand the gospel until my mid-twenties.  It was not any overnight epiphany but a slow-burning revelation, understanding the person and work of Jesus, the God who became a man and whispered forgiveness through dying lips on a cross. I studied the Resurrection for a while because that would seal the deal for me.  And so it did.

Three years of seminary later, I’m preaching what I used to hate. Like a scaled down Apostle Paul. Having been an atheist/agnostic, I saw how much hatred and ignorance and straight up messed-up-ness I had, much more than I would have ever admitted on my own.  I see now that I had turned off entire parts of my brain to justify a godless universe, and when I talk to atheists today, I remember my former smug rage that worshipped the flesh between my ears. 

I also have the advantage of seeing church as an outsider.  So much of the American church makes no sense to me.  Reading the Book of Acts and then walking into a modern church is like meeting Superman who turns out to be a three foot troll.  The backdoor politics (which I’m well embroiled in now) is nauseating.  In most meetings I just sit there amused while elders argue over paint color and programs-programs-more-programs. I keep thinking, If God tore off the roof right now you’d be all be dead or blind. Can we do some Jesus work now? Think you can maybe keep half an eye on eternity?

Absolutely no one would ever have thought I would be a pastor, and a large sample of my church population is uncomfortable with it.  Which means there are people who are uncomfortable with God’s radical grace — you know, the God who can change Sauls to Pauls and Goliaths into dead.  I’m living proof that God can do as He wants. Not perfect proof, but yes, passionate.


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7 thoughts on “Question: So you used to be an atheist

  1. I would consider myself a former Christian, current atheist/agnostic, but still open minded. Your story is great and I appreciate it.

    Maybe my problem with religion isn’t religion, but rather the people that practice (or don’t practice) it. I always come back to the same fundamental problems with religion – that there are so many of them and everyone thinks they’re right. I feel like the only way I can be a Christian is if I cherry pick the beliefs that do not contradict science or logic. For example, it seems obvious to me Noah didn’t fit 200k species of animals on an ark, or that the creation story is literal, or that the earth is 6,000 years old – the contradictions between old testament God and new testament. Why a perfect God who knows everything created such a failure (who he apparently knew would fail) in humans. Etc. Etc.

    I admit that my understanding could be flawed, but I can’t make it work for now. I appreciate your story – If there is a Christian God, I can’t help but think it’s stories like yours that will help convert the most hard headed of us.

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing here and for your very gracious response. I recognize that not every atheist/agnostic is full of hate or has been “turned” by sour events. Sometimes it just feels that logic outweighs the supernatural claims of the Bible. Understandable.

      I would say that if we followed the Biblical claims on its own logic, then it’s not hard to imagine that the God who created every single thing could also fit an animal kingdom on a boat. That would be no sweat off His back. And the more I studied the Bible, even academically, the more those contradictions began to reconcile. Like I said, such discoveries were horrifying since our natural tendency is to disregard higher authorities or the supernatural, particularly in response to our current cultural schema shaped by the Enlightenment. We are really much more of a product of our times than we know, including how we think and how we approach thinking.

      To think critically, especially in admitting there is more behind the universe than our three lb brain could empirically find, is very much a lost art form. Most of us are obstinate in going down the rabbit-hole of theology and all things God; many would call it a fruitless endeavor when they have hardly tried. I would say the “church” has also hampered this by hypocrisy and dead religion. But it would be unfair to call an entire lemon patch rotten by a few nasty lemons. May you find your way, brother Atticus.

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  2. Love your story and how you have written it. I agree the church needs to do some Jesus work; programs and projects here and there are not getting the work done. It is called “busyness.” As for Atticus Finch, I see your dilemma; Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship with Jesus Christ. At least your are questioning; that is a sign of searching and that is a good thing. I have been a Jesus follower for many years and I still have a lot of questions. I just know who has the answers. I hope you find yours.

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  3. I appreciate the site, but this post specifically. Thanks for sharing your time and your story. As a church musician in somewhat of a leadership role, I’m always uncomfortable with the debate about only hiring musicians who are “of sound faith”. Your story encourages me. Again, thanks.

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  4. Hi JS Park! I have a question for you.

    I am came across this blog searching for people who used to be atheists, but were now Christians.

    I’m in a bit of a blunder. Every time I feel like I’m firm in my beliefs and my faith, some atheist comes along and completely shreds me to pieces(spiritually, of course). I don’t try to debate them, but just simply hearing one say “Gods not real. Prove He is real.”, makes me start to doubt like crazy. I hate this. I can’t stand knowing I’m so weak in my faith. Any advice?

    Thanks!

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    1. You have the bible as a big evidence-the truth. Everyone will find out the truth one day-they can either die without Jesus and end up in hell, realise the bible is truth on the day of the coming of Christ or Judgement day. God has actually spoken to me before, now that is evidence and I have seen Jesus (literally). Faith is believe or trust on something or someone. Just put all of your confidence and belief on what the bible states because that is the truth. Try to get closer to Jesus and have a relationship with God. You can pray with honesty, faith and ask for help. IMPORTANT: Don’t doubt your faith because that’s what satan and the demons wants you to think (it’s a trap). Questions such as “Gods is real if so Prove He is real.” are ridiculous if you ask me! honestly we all know God exist.

      Advice from my sister’ and I.

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  5. We are all born Atheists, all you know is what you have been exposed to, therefore that’s all you can know, if you take a child at 6 months and lock him in a cupboard and bring him out at 12 years old, what can he know, but only the cupboard. They did this with bastard children.

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