Great Escapes: How the Raving Atheist Became the Raving Theist
In December of 2008 a popular blogger known as “The Raving Atheist” announced his conversion to Christianity and changed the site’s masthead to “The Raving Theist,” dedicating it “to Jesus Christ, now and forever.” The unbelievers in his readership reacted with a combination of vitriol and, for lack of a better word, unbelief. The Raving Atheist had frequently denounced such conversion stories as hoaxes and believed it could never happen to him, until he experienced for himself what he now knows was God’s grace. Nor did his readers have the benefit of the account he is about to give:
I grew up in a largely secular area of Long Island. My mother was the daughter of a Protestant minister, and my father was an agnostic whose family was once active in Communist circles. Although I attended my mother’s church every week until sixth grade, it was more for cultural and social reasons than spiritual ones.
I didn’t have a relationship with God; that wasn’t even something we talked about. But I remember once, when I was seven or eight years old, my mother fainted, and my first reaction was to run upstairs and pray about it, to ask God for help.
During my last year of high school, I began taking a greater interest in religion. I’d become close friends with a Reform Jewish kid who had a brilliant scientific mind and who openly mocked religion. That year I read Bertrand Russell’s essay “Why I Am Not a Christian.” I was captivated by the
irreverent humor and whimsical tone. His reasoning made perfect sense to me, and by the time I entered college, I considered myself an atheist as well. (My conviction was such that I saw fit to dramatically—and quite irrelevantly—proclaim that fact in the opening sentence of a cover letter seeking a PBS internship.)
In the summer after my freshman year of college, I hopped a bus to California, excited by the prospect of adventures out West. My enthusiasm quickly waned after a couple of weeks on skid row and a failed stint as a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman. I settled into a clerical job and found less seedy lodgings, then spent much of my free time holed up in the Los Angeles library, reading about cults and deprogramming. In addition to having a devout Scientologist landlady, I’d begun noticing the Moonies all over L.A.
One afternoon I just happened to loiter near a corner where the Moonies were proselytizing. They invited me into their group, and I hung out with them for a weekend retreat in the San Bernardino Mountains. When they tried to convince me to send for all my worldly belongings, my suspicions were confirmed. I packed my bags and headed back to college, determined to write about my experiences and my conviction that all religions were cults…
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