A Journey from No Religion, to Christianity, to Atheism and Back Again

Atheism can be built on the power of belief as much as Christian faith is.

A listener to the Unbelievable! podcast wrote in to Christian Premiere Radio in the UK and shared his faith journey. He was invited in for an interview. His story is a modern tale.

Jim Thring grew up in a non-religious home. He didn’t know much about religion, which is a typical experience for people growing up in the increasingly post-Christian world that characterizes the UK in the 21st Century.

He became a Christian in college. It wasn’t something he set out to do. He didn’t go seeking for truth. Friends of his introduced him to Christianity. They invited him to believe, and he accepted the invitation.

Over the years, though, his faith waned. It became shallow and lifeless. He eventually walked away and became an atheist. He says his atheism become harder core when he came across the New Atheists and began reading their books and attending their lectures.

He was an atheist for almost a decade. He joined the British Humanist Association. He “rode the rhetoric” of people like Christopher Hichens and Richard Dawkins to justify to himself intellectually that he had made a sound decision.

As time went on, though, he began to question the rhetoric. Some of it seemed shallow. Many atheists were putting Christians down as “people who weren’t thinkers or rational at all”. It seemed as if they were simply against whatever Christians said. If Christians believed something, they were against it.

He remembered people he knew from years earlier who were “a lot smarter” than him who were still Christians. He began to soften in his atheism. He began to realize that reason, logic and rational thinking are tools available to more people than atheists, and they don’t inexorably lead to atheism.

He began to realize that a person can dismiss anything. Dogmatic people dismiss things out of hand, and atheists can be as dogmatic as believers.

Darren Brown talks about the “power of belief” as a stimulant. Jim would listen to that and think to himself, “Yeah! That’s what belief is, and now I am free from all that.” As time went on, however, he began to see that his atheism had a powerful stimulant behind it as well.

The maxim that “for everything there is a material explanation” is a very powerful belief. “It means that it doesn’t matter whatever evidence someone puts in front of you, it doesn’t matter what arguments, however well-constructed they might be, or how valid they are, you’ve got a reason to dismiss them.”

He began to be honest about where his atheism lay. Thus, he gradually began going to church again with his wife and spending time with her church friends. He began to take another look at Christian arguments.

At the same time, he sought to address the issues he had with origins, evolution and young earth. He wanted to take a different look at those issues from a different perspective, but he didn’t want a source that was just a “Christian institute”.

He came across John Lennox, the professor of Mathematics at Oxford, and read his book called Gunning for God: How the New Atheists are Missing the Mark. Lennox put those issues in perspective for Jim, but he also addressed the evidence that Jim thought were “knockdown arguments” against the Christian Faith. Lennox turned them around and applied them to atheism.

Jim’s deconstructed faith began to be rebuilt. Jim’s journey is an interesting one. To hear the whole story, I have embedded the interview below:

Many people have journeyed to faith from Atheism. You can listen to more stories of people who have journeyed from faith to atheism here.

Rejecting the Right God

If anyone is going to reject God, they should at least be sure to reject the right One (or ones).

It occurs to me that the “new atheists” are rejecting the wrong God (or gods, if you like). They are famous for saying that they don’t believe in the Christian God any more than they believe in Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but does that make any sense?

Does anyone believe that a flying spaghetti monster or Zeus are possible competitors for the category, God of the universe? It seems to me that, if someone is going to reject God, they ought to be rejecting the right One (or ones). There aren’t that many contenders

Not all gods are “created equal”. Zeus or a “flying spaghetti monster” are not on a par the Christian concept of God, to say the very least. The same can be said of the Islamic view of God or any other major world religion view. The concept and “proofs” of God are much more sophisticated than the weak understanding displayed in a comment that likens them to flying spaghetti monsters and Roman mythology.

The ignorance of the new atheists about these things is rather shocking, though it shouldn’t be altogether surprising. They admit they find no use for such things as gods. Most of them have spent no time studying or considering a robust concept of the divine. The ignorance is, therefore, willful and inexcusable.

Anyone can knock a flying spaghetti monster out of the air. Try taking on the transcendent of God who created the universe. That’s a more noble task.

I can’t do justice to the subject in a short blog, but I will try to summarize my thoughts. The only serious contenders for consideration as God are the gods of the major world religions. They can’t all be true, of course, because they are incompatible with each other[1], so which one, if any of them, is the most likely candidate?

I will weigh in, for what is worth, but I would like first to address the modern, western concern over the idea of an exclusive God. Some people with western sensibilities seem to believe modern people should not be so exclusive in our conceptions of God and religion. They say there are many religions, and “Why can’t they all be true?

Having studied world religions in college, I can say that there are many similarities in world religions, but there are some significant differences also. For instance, it’s hard to reconcile the way different religions deal with suffering.

On the various conceptions of God, the various religions are fundamentally different and mutually exclusive. They may have some appearance of sameness on the surface, but they are fundamentally different.

Those differences ultimately mean something. We don’t brush incongruities aside in scientific endeavors just to be polite. We take them seriously in the pursuit of truth. If the various religions have opposing truth claims where does that leave us?

Continue reading “Rejecting the Right God”