An Atheist Becomes a Christian After Reading The Lord of the Rings

The view from inside Bag End. (Photo by Kathleen Wile)

The view from inside Bag End. (Photo by Kathleen Wile)

If you hadn’t already guess it by now, I am a nerd. As a result, you will probably not be surprised by the fact that I have been a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings since I first read the series in the late 1970s. More importantly, however, I am married to one of the world’s biggest fans of the trilogy. She knows pretty much everything about the books and their talented author, and in her mind, they tell the best fictional story ever told. She also liked the movies that were made based on the books, even though she had some issues with them. As a result, when we went on a speaking tour of New Zealand several years ago, we wanted to see at least some of the sites where the films were made.

Pretty much the only place that looks anything like it did in the movies is Hobbiton, the town where Bilbo Baggins lived. My wife and I toured it eagerly and were thrilled to learn that we could actually go into Bilbo’s “home,” Bag End. In actuality, the inside of Bag End seen in the movies wasn’t at the Hobbiton set. It was on a sound stage somewhere else. However, the owners had excavated a small cave behind Bag End’s entrance. We went in, and she took the photo you see above, allowing us to always remember the view from Bag End.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I ran across a very interesting article entitled, I Was an Atheist Until I Read “The Lord of the Rings.” The title alone is intriguing enough, but longtime readers of this blog are probably aware that I collect stories about atheists who became Christians. If this story isn’t a perfect fit for my blog, then, I don’t know what is!

The author’s name is Fredric Heidemann, and his story is quite thought-provoking. Essentially, he says that reading The Lord of the Rings made him realize that things like beauty and morality aren’t just social constructs, as most atheists suggest. Instead, they are real things that are the result of the fact that our minds are more than just signals traveling around our brains. This concept presented him with some serious problems. As he writes:

My attempts to explain these problems in my naturalistic, atheistic worldview fell flat. The idea that being, beauty, and morality were merely productive illusions imposed on us through biological hardwiring crafted through the random process of natural selection rang hollow.

As a result, he started questioning the atheism in which he was raised. Although he still had many objections, he eventually worked through most of them and joined the Catholic church in 2006. I wish he had spent more time on that process in his article, but his main point was how The Lord of the Rings made him question his atheism, so that’s what he focused on.

I find his story fascinating because it is so different from mine. As I said, I was a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings from the time I first read the books, and that was when I was still an atheist. The story didn’t cause me to question my atheism in the least. In fact, I actually remember writing a high-school paper about how fantasy stories like The Lord of the Rings demonstrate where religions come from: the active imaginations of those who want to believe there is something “more” to this existence than biology, chemistry, and physics.

God truly does speak to our hearts in many different ways, gently calling to us, if we will only listen! I encourage you to read Fredric Heidemann’s story in its entirety.

4 Comments

  1. elizabeth koning says:

    Your words about Lord of the Rings made me cry. I’m not sure why except I know Tolkien suffered great anguish because his children seemed to have lost Faith. So have mine. I hear people say Lord of the Rings is just a long drawn out fairy tale and yet for me it’s the Catholic Faith, with the Blessed Sacrament central to the tale as nourishment for the pilgrims. When I read the Canticle of Canticles it always takes me to Tom Bombadil and his lady Goldberry. Tolkien was a wonderful writer with a great God given mind which he used so well. You’re wonderful too, also with a great God given mind which you use so very well. Thank you and God bless you and your family, and may you be blessed with all the joys of Christmas. Warm wishes, Elizabeth

  2. John D. says:

    The first company I ever started was called Stronghold Films, in honor of the great cleft at Helm’s Deep. The trilogy were the first “big” books I ever read and I wasn’t seen outside during a good chunk of that chidhood summer! So I guess I’m also a nerd! Haha.

    I was also raised Catholic (like Tolkien), and while I no longer identify wholeheartedly as such, I do love the faith and feel they do much that is righteous and good. Their Cathedrals are second to none.

    One thing I got from the books was a slight sense of Manichaeism.. However I think in the Silmarillion (I couldnt get through it unfortunately) it states that Iluvatar made Melkor?

  3. Alvin says:

    If im not mistaken, its JRR Tolkien who made CS Lewis a christian.

    1. Jay Wile says:

      He certainly helped lead Lewis to faith. This is a good article about that.