From Atheism to Christianity: A Personal Journey
by Philip Vander Elst
Do you find it difficult to believe in God or accept the claims of Christianity? I did, when I was an atheist, but I changed my mind, and my reasons for doing so may be of interest to you in your own personal journey and attempts to make sense of life.
I am a freelance writer and lecturer. Since graduating from Oxford in 1973, with a degree in politics and philosophy, I have spent most of my professional life in politics and journalism, loving, as I do, the world of books, ideas and debate. Two questions in particular have always interested me. Is there a God? And, if there is, what is the connection between God and freedom?
Growing up in a non-Christian family with intellectually gifted but unbelieving parents, I used to think that belief in God and the supernatural had been discredited by the advance of science, and was incompatible with liberty. Religious faith seemed to me to involve the blind worship of a cosmic dictator, and the abandonment of reason in favour of ‘revelation’. Why, in any case, should I take religion seriously, I thought, when the existence of evil and suffering clearly discredited the Christian claim that our world owed its existence to a benevolent Creator?
My scepticism and hostility towards Christianity, which developed in my teens under the influence of thinkers like Ayn Rand and Bertrand Russell, grew even stronger while I was at Oxford. Then, at the age of 24, I met my future wife, who turned out to be a Christian. Shocked by the discovery that this highly intelligent and beautiful woman was ‘one of them’, I determined to find out whether there was any good evidence for the existence of God and the truthfulness of Christianity, making it quite clear from the outset, however, that I was not prepared to become a believer just to cement our relationship!
I started to read C.S. Lewis, whose Chronicles of Narnia I had enjoyed as a child. I did so for three reasons. First because he had himself been an atheist, and might therefore be able to answer my many questions and objections. Secondly, because I respected his intellect. Here was a man who had graduated from Oxford with Triple First Class Honours in Classics, Philosophy and English, and had then become one of the greatest British academics of his generation. If he could have made the journey from atheism to Christianity, perhaps I was mistaken in thinking that you had to bury your brain in order to believe in God…
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