Sy Garte grew up in an atheist household. His ancestors for generations were atheists. His lateral relatives were atheists, and the people close to him in his life were atheists. He assumed atheism was normal. He didn’t question atheism or materialism as the basic assumptions of his life.
Sy Garte earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry and BS in Chemistry from the City University of New York. He has been a Professor of Public Health and Environmental Health Sciences at New York University, Rutgers University, and the University of Pittsburgh. He has written over 200 scientific publications in genetics, molecular epidemiology, cancer research and other areas, and he is the author of five book, and numerous articles published in Perspectives in Science and Christian Faith (PSCF) and God and Nature. He retired from a senior administrative position at the National Institute of Health. (See his biography at Biologos)
Wait a minute… articles on science and Christian faith?
He was an atheist and a scientist. So, what happened?
Well, Dr. Sy Garte has written a book about “what happened” – The Works of His Hands: A Scientist’s Journey from Atheism to Faith. I haven’t read the book (yet, I just ordered it), but I listened to an interview that I have embedded below, and it’s a pretty interesting story. I also added an interview of Sy Garte hosted by a once professed Christian turned hardcore atheist (the kind who isn’t content to allow other people to remain Christians).
I stumbled on the video a few years ago that was posted in March of 2015 by Maz, a woman who was raised in a radical, abusive home. She had just become a Christian, against her families’ wishes, and she feared for her life. Though she filmed the video alone, she spoke in hushed tones. The weight of her plight was evident in her demeanor, yet she was willing to face the consequences for her commitment to Christ. You can watch it for yourself below.
The video was hauntingly beautiful in its testament to the life changing reality of an encounter with God in Christ. Her own father sought to have her beheaded. The emotion of the moment was raw and real. She was leaving a testament to her love for God, knowing that her life might not end well.
I wondered about her and prayed for her years after she posted the video. She posted another video about a year later, and she was still doing well. She had matured some in her faith, but the darkness of her past and the threat that hung in the air seemed still present.
I searched a few times for a follow up video after that, wondering what became of her. Did she survive? Was she ok? Was her faith as vibrant after time had passed as the day she posted that first video?
Today, I don’t have to wonder anymore. I had subscribed to her channel. Today as I was going through my YouTube subscriptions her video that she did in March of 2019 was there on my computer. I watched it, and what a gloriously different demeanor she has now! She radiates the love of Christ.
See and listen for yourself her story in the first video. Her original story is amazing and compelling. She had trouble putting her encounter in words, but the love of Christ she experienced was overwhelming. She knew little about Christianity, but she knew the risen Lord.
I have been “collecting” the stories of people who became followers of Jesus from all sorts of different backgrounds, including different religious backgrounds. Some of the more interesting and compelling stories are from former Muslims.
In addition, the same coercive practices that grew Islam in the previous centuries are in operation today. While conquest isn’t broadly practiced as it was in previous centuries, strong prohibitions exist in predominantly Muslim countries and areas that inhibit people from leaving Islam. Families disown former Muslims and, in extreme cases, kill them. Those same inhibitions extend even into the west where the same cultural influences discourage leaving Islam or denouncing Islam.
For that reason, the testimonies of Muslims who become followers of Jesus Christ are remarkable and poignant. Afshin Ziafat’s story is such an example. His father disowned him immediately when Afshin admitted that he has become a Christian as a young man in Houston. The decision cost him his father and his family.
One of the hallmarks of the Muslim turned Christian phenomenon of the 21st Century is the way in which so many former Muslims become Christians. A very high percentage of those stories include experiences like visions and dreams of Jesus. Even Islamic radicals and ISIS jihadists have had these experiences that changed their lives. You can watch them tell their stories in their own words on the Muslim testimony page and Muslim/ISIS testimony page.
I have written a number of times on the subject of Buddhism as compared to Christianity. Buddhism attracted me as a young college student seeking truth. It lured me with the promise of harmony with the world and oneness with myself and reality. I was searching for meaning and purpose, and Buddhism promised a journey into a much larger universal reality.
Listening to the testimonies of ex-Buddhists is interesting to me. I could have gone down that road. I started tentatively down that road at one point in my life, testing the waters. When I found the Living Water, Jesus Christ, however, I didn’t need anything else to quench my thirst. I found what my soul was looking for.
As I listened to the testimony of a woman identified only as Madelena, I realized that part of the allure of Buddhism for her was just a mirage. She left the Eastern Orthodox Church she knew as a child to become a Buddhist, and she lived it for many years. The promise of losing oneself in some kind of cosmic oneness is the mirage she exposes in her testimony.
Madelena’s father was a priest in the Eastern Orthodox church. She described it as “intense”, but the religiosity turned her off. She knew what it was to fear God, but she didn’t know the love of God.
When her father separated from her mother, she and her mother were left without support from the church, feeling disconnected. A time of searching and experiences with depression and disconnection from family support led her to embrace Buddhism.
My thoughts today are prompted by a discussion with someone very close to me. We don’t see eye to eye on some fundamental things, though we do have many, many points of agreement. He does not believe that Jesus lived, died on a cross, rose from the dead, was God in the flesh and offers salvation to mankind for sin and restoration of relationship with God. I could summarize his beliefs as he has explained them to me, and as I understand them to be, but that isn’t the point here.
The bottom line is that these are my beliefs, and he doesn’t agree with me. He is very forceful and strong in his disagreement with me about these things. He is an intelligent person. He has read a lot and has a lot of knowledge regarding certain things, but his arguments are not convincing to me.
In our last conversation, which got heated, he challenged me on the basis that I came to the fundamental conclusions to which I still hold (now in my 50’s) in my early twenties. He contended that I have inflexibly held to my beliefs and have spent the last thirty-some years simply confirming the position I came to long ago.
To be honest, I have to acknowledge that he is right in certain respects. I have not changed the fundamental position to which I arrived years ago. And, I have been thinking about that ever since.