The Unpopular Story of Atheism to Faith


i-think-i-found-something asked a question:

I just want to start out by saying that I love your blog, it gives me reassurance about my faith in Jesus Christ each day, which is something I have been especially needing lately, so thank you for everything you do. I wanted to ask you about your journey towards Christianity. How did you go from being atheist/agnostic to believing in the Christian faith?


sstellarr asked a question:

What made you convert back to Christianity after being an agnostic atheist? I am currently an atheist and I go to a catholic christian school. So far I can’t find anything worth converting to Christianity.


Anonymous asked a question:

I need advice J.S. I have a brother who is an atheist. I am worried that our relationship will come to an end because of our differences. He is looks at everything in a logical manner and it can be very frustrating to talk to him. He always wants to debate. He even has begun to twist my words which greatly upsets me. This is such a dumb question but how do I talk to an atheist like him? I’m tired of his ‘logic’ when there is nothing clean cut about humanity. He’s so emotionless to everything.


Hey dear friends. I know that as a former atheist turned Christian, my own testimony is very, very unpopular. I always hesitate to share this on my blog. I’ve been blasted through messages and reblogs for my lack of intellectual honesty or my shoddy reasoning or my void of self-respect, and to be truthful, it does sting. Of course, some of the hate is understandable, but some of it’s just plain mean-spirited and dehumanizing. I don’t mean to have a “persecution complex,” but I’m always surprised by the vilifying reactions.

So whenever I bring this up, I want you to know that my own story is exactly that, my own story, and it’s not a knock against other atheists or an attempt at converting someone’s view.  My own journey isn’t a “template” to throw at atheism, nor am I saying that every atheist will “come around” the same way I did.

Please also allow me to blow up a few myths up front.

– Yes, atheists are capable of moral good.  They’re not eating babies in their basement.  The argument from morality (or ontology or design), while a worthy contender, is not going to win points here.

– No, not every atheist thinks Richard Dawkins is the Queen of England. His work is a starting place at best, an amateur college essay at worst. There are much more thoughtul scholars out there on both sides, such as Bertrand Russell and the ever-reliable Hitchens.

– No one anywhere has ever been “proven wrong” into Jesus. What I mean is, it’s not like someone brought a foolproof argument where I replied, “You proved my atheism wrong, now tell me about Jesus.” So while apologetics (the defense of faith) is helpful, it can also be cold and arrogant. This is true of any relational interaction. The more you think you’re right, the less anyone will hear you.

So there are three things to please keep in mind.


1) I became interested in Christianity because of Christians.

Every preacher I’ve heard is always guilt-tripping about “be a good witness,” which is true. The Christian is called to live out what they’re saying.  But think of the opposite way to phrase this without scare tactics.  It also means that when Christians live out their faith — not perfectly, but passionately — then it opens doors and hearts.  Rather than saying, “Don’t mess it up or they won’t believe Jesus!”, I would rather say, “Imagine the possibility if you lived like Jesus.”  I don’t want to look backwards, but forwards.

No one ever beat me in my arguments over religion.  I studied it too hard, and the burden of proof was on an invisible creator.  I was the master of semantics and beating up a mistake in your logic.  Plus, Christians had a long history of atrocities to answer for; everything was stacked against them.  But what I could not argue with was when I met some dang Christian who clearly wasn’t insane.  I would meet yet another Christian who was living a wholly different life, an unnatural life, an unexplainable life. And these weren’t people who grew up in the church or had easy lives. These weren’t people who came to Christ out of fear or gullibility or a last resort. They were reasonable. They were loving. They sacrificed. They treated me like a human being and didn’t talk down to me. It wasn’t for a pat on the back or for my approval.  They loved me, but didn’t need me.  They served me, despite the fact that I was undeserving.

 

2) I came to Christ over a long, arduous, up-and-down journey that was not an overnight epiphany, but a slow-boiling awakening.

My dear friend, it doesn’t matter if you’re with a fellow Christian or atheist or Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist or Wiccan — everyone needs room to figure things out.  I know that for some of us, we can clearly remember our day of salvation, whether it was saying a prayer or going up to the altar or writing our name on a card.  I did none of these things.  It took months and years of wrestling with doubts, asking hard questions, and checking my own bias both for and against faith before I began to settle into Jesus.  I stretched and agonized my way into belief.  When you collide a worldview with another worldview, it takes a lot to process. It’s painful. Everyone inherently believes their own truth is just as true as yours. Each person is also figuring these things out on their own. So we really need grace for each other, regardless of what we believe.

If you’re anxious to bring everyone to Jesus all at once, I respect that.  Even atheists respect that.  But even the truly intrigued will need time to process, reflect, and rotate the prospect of faith before committing.  Please don’t rush that.


3) I care if you love me, not win me.

Sometimes when I’m asked, “How did you go from atheism to belief?” — it feels like someone is looking for a switch to flip in someone else.  I’m not saying that’s your motive.  But I hope you still love your atheist friend no matter what.  I hope we can just be friends even if nothing changes.  And if your atheist friend ever does believe, I hope you’ll still be their friend instead of moving on to the next one.

When I first went to church, no one treated me as a project.  I wasn’t some “get” for the Lord.  No one was keeping score.  They weren’t even self-conscious about being self-conscious.  They were confident and humble enough in their faith to simply let me be.  When we talked about faith, sure, we argued.  When we brought up church history and apologetics, sure, it got heated.  But most of the time, they just loved me.  I loved them back.  And slowly, I began to investigate what they were saying, because to my horror, I thought maybe there really was something to it.

You see, part of love is not winning, but losing.  It’s humbling ourselves.  It’s recognizing where we got it wrong, and to meet in our common weaknesses.  It’s not to overpower or prove a point or boast in our platforms.  Jesus won our hearts by losing, all the way on a cross.  This is the work of love.

Christians are called to hang with each other, no matter who or what we choose to worship.  Even Christians themselves don’t always worship the right things, and we’re still called to love each other.  We carry one another’s burdens; we consider others’ interests better than our own; we love as Jesus loved us (Galatians 6, Philippians 2, John 13).  It’s not because we’re trying to win anyone.  Jesus did that part already.  But mainly, he does that through us.

Not everyone is your brother or sister in faith, but everyone is your neighbor and you must love your neighbor.

— Timothy Keller


— J.S.

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3 thoughts on “The Unpopular Story of Atheism to Faith

  1. Thank you for this! I know a friend of my brother that is really struggling right now. I don’t know I can say with certainty that he is saved…maybe, maybe not…he’s been going to church after being rejected by his family and labeling himself as an atheist for years. He’s had a rough upbringing. I mean rough…gone through some crap that no child should; so he’s wrestling with his past, his past sins, and some doubts about the Bible and about God in general since he’s recently been injured pretty bad. He’s really been on my heart and I’ve been praying for him A LOT this week. I’m going to send this to him. I so appreciate your honesty! Blessings.

    Like

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