If you want to remain a confident atheist, be careful what you read

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Reasonable atheists eventually become theists because they are reasonable; and furthermore, because they are honest. They are willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads; and in many cases the evidence comes to the atheist most coherently and well-presented through the writings of believers in God.

Author Karen Edmisten admits on her blog:

“I once thought I’d be a lifelong atheist. Then I became desperately unhappy, read up on philosophy and various religions (while assiduously avoiding Christianity), and waited for something to make sense. I was initially appalled when Christianity began to look like the sensible thing, surprised when I wanted to be baptized, and stunned that I ended up a Catholic.”

Dr. Holly Ordway, author of Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms, describes the consequences of reading great, intelligent Christian writers:

“I found that my favorite authors were men and women of deep Christian faith. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien above all; and then the poets: Gerard Manley Hopkins, George Herbert, John Donne, and others. Their work was unsettling to my atheist convictions…”

Dr. Ordway mentions the eminent 20th century Oxford thinker, C.S. Lewis. Lewis is a prime example of a reasonable but unbelieving thinker who was willing to read from all angles and perspectives. As a result of his open inquiry, he became a believer in Christ and one of modern Christianity’s greatest apologists.

G.K. Chesterton and George MacDonald were two of the most influential writers to effect Lewis’ conversion. He writes in his autobiography, Surprised By Joy:

“In reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for… A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.”

Author Dale Ahlquist writes matter-of-factly that “C.S. Lewis was an atheist until he read Chesterton’s book, The Everlasting Man, but he wasn’t afterwards…”

Ironically, it was C.S. Lewis’ influential defenses of Christianity that would eventually prompt countless conversions to Christianity—and his influence continues today unhindered. Among the Lewis-led converts from atheism is former feminist and professor of philosophy, Lorraine Murray, who recalls:

“In college I turned my back on Catholicism, my childhood faith, and became a radical, gender-bending feminist and a passionate atheist …. Reading Lewis, I found something that I must have been quietly hungering for all along, which was a reasoned approach to my childhood beliefs, which had centered almost entirely on emotion. As I turned the pages of this book, I could no longer ignore the Truth, nor turn my back on the Way and the Life. Little by little, and inch by inch, I found my way back to Jesus Christ and returned to the Catholic Church.”

For an in-depth account of Murray’s conversion, see her book: Confessions Of An Ex-Feminist.

Read the rest here.

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Categories: Christianity

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7 replies

  1. Here are my opinions of some of the main reasons these people you mention converted from what they claim as atheism.

    “Then I became desperately unhappy,” The obvious trigger for many conversions including my own father. This makes Karen Edmisten a former unbeliever rather than a real atheist.

    “I found that my favourite authors were men and women of deep Christian faith.” She fell for the persuasion of personal heroes, therefore Dr. Holly Ordway was also just an unbeliever not a real atheist.

    “G.K. Chesterton and George MacDonald were two of the most influential writers to effect Lewis’ conversion.” If it takes just a couple of books to persuade someone to put faith into a god rather than accept reality it again shows also that C.S. Lewis was also just an unbeliever and the fact he was bought up religious as a boy in Ireland he obviously never really got it out of his system.

    Lorraine V. Murray’s conversion has a lot to do with being born into a Catholic family, “She indulged in a series of love relationships in college, all of which crashed and burned.” Here is also a trigger for her so called conversion. She also was an unbeliever but never really left the religion so was never a real atheist.

    A real atheist understands the scientific concepts of life discovered over the last 200 years but understands the emotional and spiritual aspects of religion, and therefore would never substitute knowledge, science and reality with ancient beliefs, books and superstitions no matter who preaches religion to them or any amount of unhappiness they endure.

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    • Hi Steve,

      You willfully oversimplify conversion when you say:

      “If it takes a just a couple of books to persuade someone to put their faith in God rather than accept reality…”

      This is especially misguided when I hear people tell me all the time that their deconversion began with a YouTube video or blog post or book. Simple things can lead people to reject a faith they once held dear yet it is absolutely impossible for the same thing to work the other way?

      Anyway, who can say with any amount of certainty what specifically causes people to accept Christ but the individual themselves? It could be a Bible tract, movie, blog post, book, conversation with a believer, personal tragedy, sermon, anything really.

      The working of the Holy Spirit on the heart of a non-believer plus one or more earthly things is how the conversion process begins, always. Of course there is a sanctification process but it all starts somewhere.

      I get you have an opinion, we all do. But how can you say Ms. Edmisten and Dr. Ordway were not true atheisst when they say they she was? What gives you the right to judge her when believers turned atheists find questions about the genuineness of their former faith unconscionable? Do you think these women might find your comments presumptuous and insulting?

      If you would like to have a reasonable debate, that would be great. But, you haven’t yet said anything substantive or particularly meaningful which leads me to believe you are simply here to waste my time.

      James

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow… so this means, we Christians also need to be careful to what we are reading? Just a thought actually. 🙂
    This post reminds me to read Mere Christianity of CS Lewis. Thanks! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • You ask “Simple things can lead people to reject a faith they once held dear yet it is absolutely impossible for the same thing to work the other way?”

      Well yes, I believe there has to be a difference, however my main point is that so many people label themselves as an atheist but always have this spiritual interest in the back of their mind due to upbringing, historic events, or one of the many other influences and have never really completely doubted there is a god or a higher power and this can be triggered through an emotional moment such as simply reading books of people you admire and realising they are Christians. They have just needed such an incentive to make the decision and from here transition to religious indoctrination is a simple process.

      The devoted Christian will probably never be de-converted by a simple single event, however there have been devoted Christian ministers and priests who have become atheists. These people do not suddenly decide to become an atheist because one of their hero’s wrote a book it will be an in depth gradual process because they have had to realise over a period of what usually is many years that they have been indoctrinated into believing things that they now realise are not true. And yes, it is a very emotional process of rejecting the emotional beliefs that locked in their indoctrination as a permanent mental state.

      A real atheist rejects all the gods and deities without question because they believe in something else without an underlying belief waiting to break out into religious faith. This may be wasting your time James, however it is merely a relevant comment for people to read, so do not knock yourself out with a response.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Christians do indeed need to be careful but we can also be extremely confident in our faith and not worry.

      I would absolutely recommend Mere Christianity if you have not read it before. It’s one of my favorite books.

      God bless,

      James

      Liked by 1 person

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