Five atheists who lost faith in atheism

by Martin Saunders

Atheism is cool. At least, that’s the popular perception of a worldview that’s enjoyed a rebrand and a renaissance in the last couple of decades. Authors like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have issued forceful public challenges to the claims of the major faiths and the rights they’ve traditionally been granted, while well-respected and high-profile public figures have lent vocal support to their ideas. When Stephen Fry outlined an atheist (or even anti-theist) position on an Irish talk show, the interview went viral in hours, while comedian Ricky Gervais frequently uses his substantial platform to attack and undermine religion in film and stand-up.

Christians can naturally feel a little threatened by this kind of activity. Witness the scores of ‘response articles’ which appeared within days of Fry’s “capricious, mean-minded God” outburst. If we do feel worried or undermined in our faith, it should probably prompt some serious self-examination; a belief that is truly practiced in everyday life should be strong enough and have enough evidence to withstand a few specious celebrity soundbites. In fact, there are reasons to feel strangely positive about the atheist pronouncements of public figures. Not only are there countless people who have found themselves in church, or on an Alpha course, precisely because the arguments of Dawkins and others left them dissatisfied, but there are also many stories of formerly high-profile atheists who ended up losing their surety, and in many cases converting to the Christian faith.

Below are just five of those stories, of former atheists who found that their belief in nothing ultimately led them nowhere.

1. C.S. Lewis

Before he wrote the Narnia saga, some divisive sci-fi and the popular theology books that led to thousands of rational conversions (mine included), Clive Staples Lewis was a professed atheist. He spoke of a “blandly Christian childhood”, but wrote in his biographical work Surprised by Joy of his “seemingly firm belief in the inexistence of God”, which was later shattered by a combination of reading GK Chesterton and developing a friendship with JRR Tolkien. In perhaps the most famous passage from that book, he writes:

“You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”

2. Peter Hitchens

The younger brother of noted atheist writer Christopher Hitchens once shared his late sibling’s worldview. A journalist, author and conservative political commentator, he infamously set fire to his copy of the King James Bible as a 15-year-old at boarding school…

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