In the most recent issue of Christianity Today, Charles Colson–owner of an infamous scandal-to-salvation testimony–takes on your favorite topic and mine: Atheism. I’ll respond to his article, When Atheists Believe, but I recommend checking it out for yourself to see if it sparks any thoughts.

Colson’s main point is that quite a few well-known atheists have come to Christianity after–as he claims–examining the rationality of the religion.

Faith and reason are not enemies. We are given reason as a gift. And while we can’t reason our way to God (only the power of God can transform fallen men—I’ve seen that in prisons for over 32 years), I have long believed that Christianity is the most rational explanation of reality. And that fact, winsomely explained, can powerfully influence thinking people to consider Christ’s claims.

Why can’t we reason our way to God? Because God is not reasonable! If he was, then we could know about him using our “god-given” gift. No leaps of faith necessary.

What this article does not do is explain why faith in a deity is rational. Perhaps I expect too much. Colson claims that “the Bible speaks most accurately to the human condition—the very definition of a rational choice. It is rational to choose the worldview that provides the best choice for living, consistent with the way life works.”

What does this have to do with: an eternal, invisible a god, a magical (yet genetically inherited) sinful nature that dooms us to agony, talking snakes, global floods, men living in fish for 3 days, magical objects, blood sacrifices, prophecies, or god-sponsored atrocities? What is “rational” about this “worldview” that teaches about a demigod who: was born of a deity-impregnated-virgin, came down to teach to one small ethnic group for a few years, sacrificed himself in a brutal manner to himself, rose bodily from the dead, floated into the sky to be with the invisible deity-daddy, and who runs an exclusive “love me or be tortured for eternity” club based on thought crime?

That’s what we’re calling the “most accurate” depiction of and solution to the human condition? Mythology?

A. N. Wilson, once thought to be the next C. S. Lewis who then renounced his faith and spent years mocking Christianity, returned to faith. The reason, he said in an interview with New Statesman, was that atheists “are missing out on some very basic experiences of life.” Listening to Bach and reading the works of religious authors, he realized that their worldview or “perception of life was deeper, wiser, and more rounded than my own.”

He noticed that the people who insist we are “simply anthropoid apes” cannot account for things as basic as language, love, and music. That, along with the “even stronger argument” of how the “Christian faith transforms individual lives,” convinced Wilson that “the religion of the incarnation … is simply true.”

Atheists are missing out? On what–great music, feelings of euphoria, peace, and wisdom? I beg to differ! Perhaps Mr. Wilson did not have these experiences or see the wonder of art and life while he was an atheist, but we do. I admire thoughtful, wise thinkers of all backgrounds, but that doesn’t make their supernatural claims more true than anyone else’s.

As for why we have love, language, and music, that is not a mystery unattainable by science. In fact, these are already being studied, and our brain’s wonders and our social complexities are being explained just fine without a supernatural cause or construction.

The fact that personal testimonies of changed behavior and attitude are the swaying factor for Wilson illustrates why people do not come to Christianity because of critical reasoning. They come because they want something to inspire them to be better people; they come because they want happiness; they come because they want to have a community around them doing the same things. This is understandable, sure. But is it rational? Is it the best solution?

What do you think?

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9 thoughts on “Atheists Turning to Christianity”

Beechbum · October 24, 2009 at 11:45 pm

My point was not to 'blame' religion (or its mythical hero) for the atrocities or to say it was the cause of them, but in as much as parents are responsible for the care and security of their children, the multitude of human catastrophes has marched through history unimpeded. It is more a statement in regard to the ineffectualness of having a "skydaddy", or in the same light, the ineffectiveness of prayer. Therefore, the history of life on this planet has progressed in exactly the manner one would expect, if, there were no god(s), except for the atrocities perpetrated as a direct result of religious fever, bigotry, fear, superstition, ignorance and the arrogance of ignorance. Also, when I wrote ALL, I meant to include cataclysms of non-human origin as well. I mean, their invisible friend created the universe, right, what would be the big deal in diverting a hurricane or two, or maybe plopping down a couple of signs in an earthquake zone?

Beechbum · October 25, 2009 at 12:59 am

Pascal's Wager is, if one thinks about it, which they never seem to do, the 'inverse of a good argument' for believing in god(s), that is to say, the strength with which one feels that "Pascal's Wager" is in fact, a good argument for believing, is inversely proportional to the viability, effectiveness, or the benefit of believing. Allow me to reiterate, would god(s) worth the trouble be more respectful of honest skepticism, or maybe moderate belief? Or, would 'they' appreciate the hypocrisy? Easy one, hypocrisy only exists in human constructs. Now, the inversion, if god(s) do appreciate the hypocritical worship, adherence amounts to servitude or slavery. If, they are not omniscient and don't know of the hypocrisy, how can they be the god(s) of biblical mythology, hearing prayers and all? So, from my point of view, proportional to the conviction with which one holds "Pascal's Wager" as an argument for believing, the weaker the case for god(s) of biblical lore. In fact, the death bell for theism tolls as this argument becomes the last stand of the apologist.

Veronica · March 3, 2011 at 1:14 pm

(really like your page and spamming it with comments YAY!)

Just read an interview in my local paper with a young man, 20s?, who had found Christ. Don’t remember if he was an atheist beforehand or just “standard christian” (most Norwegians are baptised as a child and confirmated as 14-15 years, but never attend sunday service, never pray, never do anything. Oh, except church at christmas. Yeah. Hypocrites I call that.)

Anyway, he said things like “I am so happy to have this force in my life. I am so happy HE will show me the way” and yeah, guess you know.

And I’m like WTF?! Everything good in my life I made with MY own hands, everything that ever happened I thank ME for getting of my ass and DOING MYSELF. I and am PROUD of the fact that I found strenght within ME. Why would I want to suddenly start “blaming” God for that? God didn’t do anything, never saw God anywhere when my life was hard!!

To put your life, your talents, your self-taught skills, everything, in the hands of something “invisible”, why, why, why?! I don’t understand that. I understand growing up thinking everything came from somewhere, but not the opposite!

Should’ve we thank ourselves for what we have achived? I got that feeling from him, that “the great lord” did everything suddenly. Didn’t seem like the old “a miracle happended so I became religious”-story, but just I don’t know.. he woke up one day and went religious?!

Isabel · September 18, 2011 at 9:53 am

Again I can’t help but notice above yet another objection to the theoretical God for not preventing human suffering, and this I just can’t understand. If a god were to exist, changing natural to non-natural phenomena – i.e. diverting hurricanes and putting signs up in earthquake zones – would not be part of that god’s “job,” it would be OURS – to use our evolved reasoning skills, which agnostics and atheists have supposedly have such a healthy respect for, to make preparations and decisions in order to avoid the effects of those disasters as much as possible, since according to the laws of physics/nature they are inevitable. I really wish atheists would stop using this weak rhetoric, that there is no god because humans suffer and have made each other suffer. It’s just as bad as saying there must be god because that sunset was beautiful, or that poem made me cry, or I felt raptured while I was praying…

Julian · September 19, 2011 at 12:27 am

It’s funny, I’m a person who, until very recently, identified as not just an atheist but anti-theistic. I’ve undergone (am undergoing?) a conversion experience, but “rational” and “reasonable” are not words that I would use to describe the experience.

I would argue that the process actually involves abandoning reason and logic, not willingly, but out of compulsion, and that it is decidedly *unreasonable* and *irrational*. Every minute reason I’ve ever had for not believing is still present; I’m hyper-aware of the hypocrisy involved and there is no small amount of intellectual shame involved.

And yet…

The idea that someone could or would choose this process is absurd to me. I would suggest that those who claim to have reasoned their way to faith either have none, or are lying about the process by which they came to it.

Kevin · October 2, 2012 at 11:59 pm

As for why we have love, language, and music, that is not a mystery unattainable by science.

Science cannot properly study language any more than it can study mathematics. It can study a sound wave as a natural phenomenon that simply exists, but it cannot step outside of the fact that the humans who discuss language know, by simple virtue of being human, that it has a purpose. It is like the difference between money and gold. The latter is a scientific object, the former has a man-given purpose about which men can communicate with each other without testing it under laboratory conditions.

As for conversion being irrational, I do not get that. Atheism wants to be scientific, but asserts that, ultimately, scientists are looking for nothing. It is unsound, and involves cutting off inquiry and rational thought at an artificial point. A flying spaghetti monster? I am sorry, but that is not trying hard enough. Spaghetti is material. The assertion is that all material things are contingent. Why would God be made of spaghetti?

And talking snakes? Who actually believes, as a matter of scientific fact and not metaphor, that we are talking amoebae?

Limirless23 · July 3, 2013 at 10:33 am

The fact that personal testimonies of changed behavior and attitude are the swaying factor for Wilson illustrates why people do not come to Christianity because of critical reasoning. They come because they want something to inspire them to be better people; they come because they want happiness; they come because they want to have a community around them doing the same things. This is understandable, sure. But is it rational? Is it the best solution?

Faith is given, forgiveness is given, hope is given, love is given, peace, joy,grace, mercy…all the underlying attributes of love in this world, which bring community and relationship together, are first given by God, through His son Jesus Christ, and in the forgiveness of our sinful and rebellious hearts.. In this world people kill, they steal, they destroy one another; countries war against each, while the west tries to fill their lives with entertainment and fun, comfort and self success. Society cries out as we sink deeper and deeper into the quick sand that we are stuck in, while we continue to deny God, and think we are more intelligent and knowledgable, and yet struggle to be self sufficient and stable. This is the sin that ensnares our hearts: jealousy, gossip, rage, murder, revenge, malice, strife, sexual sin, dishonesty, theft…all of these things run rampant as we move further and further away from God. Jesus gives us a new isentity in Him, one that is filled with compassion for others, a hope for the future, and a rest in the present that surpasses all understand. There is power in a personal testimony…because there is power and life in the name of Jesus. Supernatural is supernatural…and trying to keep your eyes shut and to then build empires without his principles or help… just by looking at the moral corruption, and breakdown of family relationships we can see how easily sin

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