When sceptics convert: 3 former atheists walking the path of CS Lewis
by Justin Brierley
Ahead of Unbelievable? the Conference 2017 Justin Brierley traces the stories of three women whose intellectual journey led to their conversion from atheism to Christianity
When Oxford academic CS Lewis wrote about his adult conversion from atheism to Christianity in Surprised by Joy (HarperCollins) in 1955 it became an apologetics classic, one still read by Christians and seekers to this day.
His story included the realisation that his belief in justice and morality required a transcendent moral lawgiver and that Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God only made sense if it was true.
But there are many modern-day converts whose journeys echo Lewis’ own search for truth. Christians can learn much from what brought others to faith. These are three stories of how morality, beauty and love led three sceptics to the person of Christ.
As any parent knows, the birth of a child is a life-changing event. Priorities, lifestyle and sleep patterns are all quickly rearranged to accommodate the now-most-important thing that has come into one’s life. For some people, however, the change runs even deeper than that.
Jennifer Fulwiler grew up in a loving family, but one in which religion was painted as clearly false. Jennifer says that she never remembers a time when she believed in God. Raised on a diet of “science, reason and evidence-based rational thought”, her bedtime reading was Carl Sagan’s astronomy book Cosmos. From a young age she knew that the world ran according to a well-established set of natural laws, and science was the de facto way of understanding everything. All the evidence confirmed that we live in a material world of matter, molecules, electrons and protons, with no need for God. Jennifer remained a happy atheist as an adult and into the early years of her marriage.
However, shortly after the birth of her first child, she experienced a dramatic shift in her thinking. Jennifer described it this way: “I looked down and thought: ‘What is this baby?’ And I thought ‘Well, from a pure atheist, materialist perspective he is a randomly evolved collection of chemical reactions.’ And I realized if that’s true then all the love that I feel for him is nothing more than chemical reactions in our brain. And I looked down at him and I thought: ‘That’s not true. It’s not the truth.’”
This moment was a turning point for the young mother. She embarked on a quest to see if religion made sense and started to look into spiritualism, Buddhism, Hinduism and mysticism. The only religion that was off the table was Christianity – her parents had done a thorough job in ensuring Jennifer regarded it as patently false. Eventually her husband (also a non-believer at the time) persuaded her to look into the claims of Christianity. After all, if it was false, it should be easy to dismiss…
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