posted on May, 27 2012 @ 04:08 PM
When I first came on this site, I announced myself as a former atheist who was now a Christian.
A few months ago, someone posted a comment on my Profile, asking if there was a thread explaining what happened to make the difference.
By telling the story now, on the(fortieth) anniversary of the event, I’m responding to that request (and possibly throwing some light on the way God
How did I become an atheist in the first place?
I was brought up in the Anglican church, at the “Anglo-Catholic” end of the church. Incense and “sung mass” and the English Hymnal. We learned
the teachings of the Christian faith at school, and I simply took them for granted. In my last years at school, though, I was beginning to question
how much of them I really believed. I was becoming sceptical about the miraculous element, especially resurrection, and my commitment was gradually
getting watered down.
This process came to a climax when we were visiting my grandparents one Christmas Eve. Ironically, the final trigger was the sermon at Midnight Mass.
I was listening to the unctuous voice of the preacher telling us about “the little baby in the manger”, and I could see no difference between the
way he was addressing the congregation, and the way he would have been talking to an audience of children. Seventeen-year old boys dislike being
treated like children. I said to myself “I don’t believe in this stuff”. Before going to sleep that night, I formally abandoned the Christian
faith and began calling myself an atheist.
So the key factor in this decision was honesty, recognising that I did not have the faith. I had no feelings of hostility towards the Christian faith,
but there was certainly a smug sense of superiority. The phrase “standing on my own two feet in the universe” appears in my diary. I thought of
Christianity as a psychological crutch, but I was tolerant enough to recognise that not everybody was strong enough to manage without it.
Then I went to university, which brought me up against the most important question in the universe;
How do I go about meeting girls?
This was a university which was still segregated into male and female colleges.
There was a great imbalance of male to female students; the figure normally quoted was “four-to-one”.
I noticed at an early stage that the three most popular ways of meeting the opposite sex were disco-dancing, left-wing politics, and religion, and
they were all barred to me, for different reasons.
I was obliged to try other approaches.
One good way to meet people seemed to be the bread-and-cheese lunches which were organised in different colleges to raise money for War on Want.
Nobody warned me that War-on-Want lunches were a hot-bed of Christian activity.
That was how I found myself, one afternoon, having coffee with a girl who then set about presenting the case for the Christian faith.
She wasn’t the first person to make the attempt, but in this particular case I was interested In following up the argument.
The meetings continued, though she was shrewd enough to guess that we were following different agendas, as my diary records;
“Later, in a period of rest, she asked me why I had sent her a note.
Because, I said, eventually, I had thought she might not be in if I didn’t.
She said that wasn’t answering the question.
We finally agreed that I had been driven by curiosity, which was (she said) the result of the Holy Ghost working in me”.
This may have been more true than I realised at the time.
I had admitted from the start that I regarded myself as an atheist, and I was arguing every step of the way.
The trouble was, I soon found that I was arguing against myself as well.
I would be on the verge of making a telling point, and then the answer that stopped me in my tracks would be coming from the back of my own mind.
For example, could a break in a rain-storm be an answer to prayer?
I was about to observe that rain follows from a sequence of events that goes right back to the beginning of the universe; so God would have to foresee
that prayer before the universe began and arrange things accordingly.
Then a little voice at the back of my mind said “Well, why not?”, so that was the end of that line of argument.
A more crucial turning point was the realisation that I had not been forced into unbelief by the lack of evidence for Christianity. If there was a
lack of evidence in either direction, that just left things evenly balanced.
The real deciding factor had been personal preference; unbelief was a much more comfortable, less demanding, option, and that was my reason for
Once again, this was the moment of honesty.
If my unbelief was a personal preference, it took away the defence that I “could not help” not believing.
If I was held accountable for making the wrong choice, there wasn’t any answer I could give.
This process came to a climax when I took back to my room, and began reading, the book she had lent me (“My God is real”, by David C.K, Watson).
The book set in motion a number of thought processes. I began to recognise how much of my character was governed by pride (“ the acknowledgement of
sin”). In fact the real remaining barrier between myself and Christianity, I realised, was that wanting to stay free of any emotional dependence on
religious support; in effect, I was proud of my self-sufficiency. Another train of thought was set off by the page which described how Jesus was
separated from his Father in the moments before death, a concept which had a great impact on me (“recognition of the Cross”).
There was one brief distraction; I went down to the student bar to get chocolate from the machine there. I caught sight of my previous girl-friend
with my successor, and this was enough to disrupt any train of thought for the next half-hour. Incidentally, there’s an incident in Pilgrim’s
Progress when the porter at the Wicket Gate pulls Christian inside, because, he says, Satan likes to take a last pot-shot at people he’s about to
I finally came to the point of making a decision. Giving up the attempt to work things out on my own, I decided to put my trust in an action of faith,
and I made the suggested prayer. I was expecting some kind of tangible spiritual change, but nothing seemed to be happening, so I went to bed.
Nevertheless, the point had been settled. I had made a commitment which I was taking for granted from the next morning onwards. So whether
Christianity could be “proved” was beside the point, in the end; it was a commitment of trust, based on the event of the Cross, and a greater
understanding of what the faith entailed was built up from there.
Yes, I had given up the “taught” religion, only to begin replacing it with a much more conscious and voluntary faith.