Giving Up on Atheism
by Robert Velarde
While riding in the sidecar of his brother’s motorcycle on the way to the zoo, C.S. Lewis became a Christian. He later described the experience as not being particularly emotional: “It was more like when a man, after long sleep, still lying motionless in bed, becomes aware that he is now awake.”1
The great Christian thinker Augustine heard a child singing, “Pick it up and read.” After picking up Paul’s letter to the Romans and reading a passage, Augustine committed his life to Christ.
On the way to Damascus, Saul saw a bright light, heard the voice of Jesus and ultimately became a dedicated follower of Christ. Saul later became known as the Apostle Paul.
Conversion stories fascinate me. C.S. Lewis came to faith via a journey that led him through, among other beliefs, atheism, pantheism and theism.2 Augustine grew up in a home with an alcoholic father and a devoted Christian mother. Like many young adults, Augustine rebelled. He eventually left home and joined a cult. Paul was a Jew and, therefore, a theist, but was anti-Christian, spearheading early persecution of the Christian church and its members. His conversion was so powerful and dramatic that this one man literally changed the spiritual face of every place he visited.
The Road to Atheism
My own journey to Christianity had a lot of twists and turns. Having been raised in a nominally theistic home, I had a basic but undeveloped sense of God. Since my family never regularly attended church, I had only some vague idea of “God.” Eventually this turned into deism — the belief that God exists, but is distant from creation and has nothing to do with day to day events, much less an interest in people as a whole or individuals in particular. By its very nature, deism rejects the possibility of miracles, as well as the main theme of Christianity — the Incarnation.
During my second year of high school I seriously began questioning the reality of God. Any theistic leanings I had diminished and eventually faded — smothered, really, by my exposure to atheistic literature of an existentialist bent such as the writings of Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. I also reveled in the nihilistic follies and despair of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and Douglas Adams.
The end result was agnosticism on my part — that is, I claimed that the existence of God could neither be proven nor disproven. “We just don’t know,” was my attitude toward anything religious.
By the time I reached college, I considered myself a skeptic. On a good day I would see myself as an agnostic, while on a bad one I’d view myself as an atheist. In either case, I lived my life as though God did not exist. In that sense, I was what I’d call a functional atheist.
In retrospect I realize that my rejection of Christianity stemmed from what Josh McDowell considers the three most common excuses for rejecting Christ: pride, moral problems and ignorance. I did not want to yield to anything, preferring myself as the ultimate authority in my life. Morally, I didn’t want any cosmic interferer telling me what was right and wrong. And, frankly, I was ignorant about Christianity on many fronts, especially when it came to the truth of its teachings and the evidence behind it…
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