The following is a blog post from Matt Nelson. You can read more from Matt on his blog at Reasonable Catholic.
Conversions from atheism are often gradual and complex, no doubt. For many converts the road is slow and tedious, tiring and trying. But in the end unbelievers who find God can enjoy an inner peace that comes from a clear conscience in knowing they held to truth and followed the arguments faithfully.Of course not all converts from atheism become Christian or even religious. Some converts only reach a deistic belief in God (an areligious position that God is “impersonal”) but the leap is still monumental; and it opens new, unforeseen horizons.
The factors that lead to faith are often diverse. It is clear that every former atheist has walked a unique path to God. Cardinal Ratzinger was once asked how many ways there are to God. He replied:
“As many ways as there are people. For even within the same faith each man’s way is an entirely personal one.”
Of course, the pope-to-be was not endorsing the view that “all religions are equal” but rather that there always seems to be a unique combination of factors—or steps—that move each convert towards belief in God. It also seems that some of these factors are more prominent across the board than others.
Here are eight common factors that lead atheists to change their minds about God:
1. Good Literature and Reasonable Writing.
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.
Imagine you’re sitting in class with thirty-five other people on a Friday. It’s late afternoon and before your instructor dismisses you and your fellow students, he makes an announcement. He warns everyone to avoid downtown this weekend, because there’s a large (we’re talking hundreds of thousands) pro-life demonstration occurring there.
But just as soon as he says the words “pro-life,” there’s an overwhelming eruption in the classroom. It seems every student stands up from their chair and jeers and boos and hollers against the pro-lifers. You’re new to the group and their reaction takes you completely off guard. You’re shaken–because you’re pro-life.
From the moment the class booed and hissed at the notion of a pro-life demonstration, it felt almost impossible for you or anyone else to voice a pro-life point of view. The derision in the room was palpable.
Like most people, you like to think of yourself as independent and unconstrained by the thinking of people around you. But you’re sitting next to a good friend who knows you’re pro-life. And in the moments following the contemptuous crowd reaction you find yourself hoping he doesn’t say anything to tip off your sentiments. Continue reading →
The following is a guest post from the blog Ambling Saint. I’ve never heard of anything like it before.
At Easter 1985 I went to a J John evangelism talk. J John said that you could take the Bible, assume it is true and act on that assumption. Test it out for six months or so, believing it completely during that time, and then you could look back and see whether it had made a difference to you. I decided to give it a go for myself.
I got a Bible and highlighted it in different colours. One colour highlighted practical instructions – these being the things I now needed to do, and then a different colour for the blessing which should follow that particular action. I found out quite soon that a lot of the Bible is written in this ‘IF you do this, then THAT will happen’ style, which is quite easy to test out in this way. Continue reading →