I have to admit that she is not one of the New Atheists I have read, so I really didn’t know anything about her or her views until I read the article linked above. Based on what she wrote, I can see why her early experiences with religion drove her away from belief in a deity. At the same time, however, I find her reasoning as to why she became a Christian to be a bit unusual. In the end, she says that Western Civilization was built on Judaism and Christianity, and we must protect it against its many foes. While that is clearly true, I don’t see how it drives a person to faith in Christ. I see faith in Christ as very personal. She seems to see it in a more political light.
Now, to be fair, she does give a personal reason as well. She says:
Yet I would not be truthful if I attributed my embrace of Christianity solely to the realisation that atheism is too weak and divisive a doctrine to fortify us against our menacing foes. I have also turned to Christianity because I ultimately found life without any spiritual solace unendurable — indeed very nearly self-destructive. Atheism failed to answer a simple question: what is the meaning and purpose of life?
I think she should have led with that reason. Nevertheless, as I have said before, God calls us in many different ways. I encourage you to read her article in its entirety. If nothing else, it gives another perspective on how terribly weak the atheist worldview is.
I was sent this very interesting video from Living Waters, a ministry founded by Ray Comfort. It’s a discussion among three men associated with the ministry and Josh Timonen, a former associate of Richard Dawkins.
The video is rather long and a bit disjointed, so I thought I would give you a summary, along with my “color commentary.”
Josh Timonen was an American computer programmer who was also an atheist, and he spent a lot of time reading atheist websites. That’s how he learned about Richard Dawkins. However, he noticed that Dawkins didn’t have a website. After watching “Root of All Evil?”, he found an email address for Dawkins and wrote to him, offering to build him a website. To his surprise, Dawkins responded. They decided to meet. While Timonen and his wife (also an atheist) were traveling back to the U.S. from India (they were volunteering for a charitable organization there), he met with Dawkins (who lives in England), and Dawkins decided that Timonen should definitely build a website for him. This was just before The God Delusion was published, and Timonen’s work on the website earned him a mention in the preface:
Nowadays, a book such as this is not complete until it becomes the nucleus of a living website, a forum for supplementary materials, reactions, discussions, questions and answers – who knows what the future may bring? I hope that www.richarddawkins.net/, the website of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, will come to fill that role, and I am extremely grateful to Josh Timonen for the artistry, professionalism and sheer hard work that he is putting into it. (p. 7)
Timonen then started to work on a documentary with Dawkins, but because of some people associated with Dawkins (Timonen calls them “unstable”), Timonen decided to stop working on both the documentary and the website. He didn’t want to be associated with Dawkins anymore. This did not go over well, and Dawkins ended up suing him in 2010. However, that lawsuit was dismissed, and Timonen’s countersuit was settled out of court.
Timonen and his wife then moved to Portland, Oregon. The riots that happened there in 2020 became a wakeup call for him. He was distraught by the violence and was disheartened that many of his atheist friends (and the media) supported it. As a result, he and his family (by this time, they had a daughter) left Portland and moved to Waco, Texas. They started homeschooling their daughter (as atheists), but they decided that she needed some socialization. His wife mentioned a “cowboy church” nearby (Top Hand Cowboy Church), so they decided to see if it would give their daughter the socialization she needed. Mind you, they were still atheists at that point. However, they decided the church worked for their daughter, so they kept going.
Of course, hearing the Word preached (even though he didn’t believe it) made an impact. At some point, he realized:
…ok, I see how [the church is] benefitting the community, the people that are going. Maybe I should give it a better shake…so I started reading the Bible…when I got done with that I…thought to myself well, that’s something, but there’s still a lot of crazy stuff in here that I don’t think I buy.
However, he did come to the realization that he had always just accepted what the atheists said and had never really looked into it for himself. Thus, he read Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Christ. He eventually realized that he had to:
…deal with the fact that it was real. That Jesus was real.
He started reading the Bible again, and he also read more books about the Bible. Of course, since he and his wife were experiencing this church together, he also had a lot of discussions with her about Christ. Eventually, he was convicted that what the church was teaching is true. He says
I didn’t have an answer for every atheist thought that had come before…but that conviction is there, in the moment, that seed, that initial peace, that you know is true, and you’re like, well the rest of it will figure itself out.
I love that statement. He didn’t think he needed an answer to every atheist argument, because he was convinced of the truth of Christianity. More Christian organizations need to stress this fact. Understanding the truth of Christ doesn’t require answering every challenge to your faith. It simply requires realizing that God’s truth outweighs those objections.
Of course, as a homeschooling advocate, I also love the fact that homeschooling his daughter played a pivotal role in his journey to Christ. Had they not been homeschooling, he and his family would never have gone to a church.
Let that be a lesson to the churches out there: People come to you for lots of reasons other than to hear the truth. You shouldn’t expect them to believe what you believe right away. Rejoice for whatever reason they have come, and simply preach the Word. If you do that, you will transform lives. Just look at Josh Timonen’s!
I was totally sold on evolution. It was my religion; it defined how I saw everything, it was my value system and my reason for being.
In his incredible book, Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Human Genome, he tells the reader some of what led him to change his mind. He defines the “Primary Axiom” as the belief that man is merely the product of random mutations plus natural selection. He then writes:
Late in my career, I did something which for a Cornell Professor would seem unthinkable. I began to question the Primary Axiom. I did this with great fear and trepidation. By doing this, I knew I would be at odds with the most “sacred cow” within modern academia…To my own amazement, I gradually realized that the seemingly “great and unassailable fortress” which has been built up around the Primary Axiom is really a house of cards. The Primary Axiom is actually an extremely vulnerable theory – in fact, it is essentially indefensible. Its apparent invincibility derives largely from bluster, smoke, and mirrors. (2nd edition, p. vi)
Once he realized that the Primary Axiom is indefensible, he had to reevaluate his entire worldview. He started off coming to the conclusion that there must be a Creator, and then he began submitting to Jesus. He left Cornell University specifically because the academic environment was hostile to Christian values, but he has not stopped using his scientific talents. He continues to publish in the peer-reviewed literature, doing original research that demonstrates how indefensible the Primary Axiom is (see here, here, and here, for example). He is also president of Logos Research Associates, which is focused on original scientific research related to the field of origins.
As those who have read this blog know, science turned me from an atheist into a Christian. While science was clearly a part of Dr. Sanford’s conversion, he makes it clear that his experience was different from mine:
I would not say that science led me to the Lord (which is the experience of some). Rather I would say Jesus opened my eyes to His creation—I was blind, and gradually I could see. It sounds simple, but it was a slow and painful process.
On a personal note, I read Dr. Sanford’s book shortly after it was published in 2005, and I was impressed. Twelve years later, I met him at a Creation Science Fellowship Meeting in California, where we were both speakers. A few months after that, he came to Anderson University to visit with me and discuss a research project that we are currently collaborating on. I have to say that in addition to being a brilliant scientist who is deeply committed to the Lord, he is a truly gentle soul who wants to show everyone the love of Christ. I am thrilled to call him my brother.
If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I collect stories of atheists who became Christians. This one is very interesting to me for two reasons. First, I know Dr. Kramer personally. He and I met several years ago at a conference that we both attend regularly. He was familiar with my books, so he introduced himself to me. I got to know both him and his wife, and we became friends. I always look forward to seeing them at the conference. Second, as the title indicates, atheism was more of a “transition point” on his journey. I have encouraged him to write about this for some time, and I am thrilled that he has. I hope you enjoy reading it:
Dr. Sy Garte holds an earned Ph.D. in biochemistry from the City University of New York and a B.S. in chemistry from the City College of New York. He is an accomplished scientist, with over 200 publications in the peer-reviewed literature. Throughout his career, he held several very important positions, including Division Director of Physiological and Pathological Sciences at the Center for Scientific Review, which is responsible for thousands of grants that provide hundreds of millions of dollars to support important medical research. I didn’t know anything about him until one of my readers sent me an article he wrote in Christianity Today. I was immediately hooked by its title:
I Assumed Science Had All the Answers. Then I Started Asking Inconvenient Questions.
Essentially, Dr. Garte was raised a communist and an atheist. As a result, he relied on science to provide answers to all his questions. However, as he got older, he started asking questions to which science has no real answers. He then met some scientifically-minded Christians who led him to church. That led him to read the Bible, which he says he knew was false, even though he had never read it. Not surprisingly, he was surprised by what he read. Eventually, an Evangelical preacher on the radio led him to his Savior.
Because I am a scientist, I know a lot of people who think like Dr. Garte once did. Some of them believe science has all the answers because they were indoctrinated to believe it and simply won’t consider how absurd such an idea is. Others believe it because science has produced a lot of wonders that make our lives healthier, easier, and more enjoyable. Others believe it simply because they think it’s “cool” to say inane things like, “I believe in science.” I have many Facebook “friends” who fall into that last category. However, like Dr. Garte, anyone who understands science and thinks deeply about it will end up agreeing with Dr. Erwin Schrödinger, the man who gave us our modern view of the atom:1
…the scientific picture of the real world around me is very deficient. It gives a lot of factual information, puts all our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but is ghastly silent about all that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight; it knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains, but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously.
Obviously, Dr. Garte came to agree with Dr. Schrödinger, and he has now turned to the Source of real Truth, which is wonderful!
I learned about the power of the Bible as a guide from God to the central questions of our existence. I learned that the true purpose of science is to describe how things are, not to engage in misplaced speculation about why the world is the way it is. I learned that modern atheist taunts about the purposelessness and meaninglessness of the universe and our own existence are not only false but destructive. Most importantly, I learned that nothing I have learned came through my own merit, but only from the grace of our Lord, whose love and mercy are beyond understanding.
1. Erwin Schrödinger, Nature and the Greeks and Science and Humanism (Cambridge University Press, 2014) p. 95. Return to Text
I have always been amazed by the many different ways God calls His people to Him. For me, God used science to convince me that there had to be a Creator. From there, I came to realize that the Creator is the God of the Bible. For others, it’s specific people who are influential in their lives. For others, it’s a specific experience or a long list of experiences that add together to lead them home. To see what I mean, read some of the accounts I have written about atheists who became Christians.
This account is of Bill Hayden, a famous politician in Australia. He worked in government for 35 years, ending his storied career as the Governor-General of Australia, the highest executive office in the land. His atheism became well known throughout Australia when he was sworn in to that post. Usually, the Governor-General swears an oath on the Bible, but Hayden ignored that tradition and simply gave an affirmation. In addition, by tradition, the Governor-General is also the Chief Scout of Australia. However, Hayden refused that position, since his atheism was incompatible with the Boy Scout Promise. Instead, he took the role of National Patron for the Australian Boy Scouts.
Why was Bill Hayden an atheist? In an interview, he gave several reasons. His father was an atheist, but his mother was a devout Catholic. He had some bad encounters with pastors and priests. He couldn’t believe some of what he called the “tall stories” in the Bible, such as Naoh’s Ark. However, the turning point in his life came when his five-year-old daughter was hit by a car and killed while crossing the street after Sunday School. A kind priest tried to help him find comfort in prayer, but he found no comfort there. That seems to be the moment he decided he was an atheist.
What called him back home to God? Once again, there were several factors. However, the biggest seemed to be a nun named Sister Angela Mary Doyle. She worked with him to pass what is now called Medicare, Australia’s socialized medicine program. In the interview, he said that when he was with her he thought:
I had been in the presence of a holy one, a holy person. I felt it was something that suffused my system. My chest felt heavily congested with the feeling that I have been lucky…that I had been with a particularly holy person.
That gave him something to which he could relate, and he eventually shed his atheism to follow Christ. Towards the end of the interview, he gives some sound advice to those who are having doubts about Christianity:
Understand your faith. Don’t let your faith be damaged by the failure of a few agents who never allowed their faith to guide them.
As a young man, he certainly didn’t understand the faith. The “tall stories” to which he refers are not hard to believe at all. In fact, they are easier to believe than the tall stories that one must believe in order to be an atheist. However, to see that, you must understand the Scriptures. When his daughter died, he didn’t understand his faith enough to see how it should have comforted him in his time of grief. In addition, we must all keep in mind that many individuals who claim to represent Christ do not actually follow Him. We should not use their actions to judge the faith that they claim to represent.
Several months ago, one of my readers on Facebook sent me an article Dr. Picard wrote. It describes her journey from atheism to Christianity, and I loved reading it. I really wanted to write about it as soon as I had finished reading, but every time I had a chance to blog, there was something else that I thought I needed to cover. Then I forgot about it. I was probably distracted by something shiny. That happens a lot. Recently, I was reminded of her story, so I want to share it, because in many ways, it is a lot like my own.
Of course, the best way to read her story is to just click on the link above, but I will add a bit of my own “color commentary,” just because I relate to so much of what she has written. For example, aside from the grade school part (it was junior high for me), the first paragraph of her story could have been written by me:
As early as grade school, when I was a voracious reader and a straight-A student, I identified with being smart. And I believed smart people didn’t need religion. As a result, I declared myself an atheist and dismissed people who believed in God as uneducated.
If you have been reading my blog long, you probably know that I was once an atheist. However, the more science I learned, the less intellectually tenable that position became, so I eventually came to believe in some sort of Creator. Over time, lots of additional study led me to believe in the God of the Bible. As a result, I am always interested to learn about other atheists who became Christians. Indeed, I have a category about such people on this blog. I am especially interested in those, like myself and others (see here, here, and here, for example), whose spiritual journeys were particularly influenced by science. I came across another example just a few days ago.
His name is John T. Tolbert, and he is currently working as an evangelist in Asia, primarily with the Vietnamese people. However, he wasn’t always interested in bringing people to Christ. As a child and young man, he thought that there must be a God, but his parents were divided on the subject (his father was an atheist and his mother was Irish Catholic). Because of his mother, he spent eight years in Catholic school, but he says that he never even opened a Bible. Then, when he was in basic training for the Vietnam War, he was given Mark Twain’s book, Letters From the Earth. The book was published after Twain had died, but its content focuses on his disdain for Christianity. Despite having never read the Bible, Twain’s book convinced Tolbert that there is no God.
After the war, Tolbert went to university and eventually studied to be an attorney. He ended up practicing law in Wilmington, Delaware. That’s when his life took an amazing turn. According to him:
…our law firm was retained by the pastor of a church and I was assigned the case. This pastor always brought a Bible with him, and often prayed about decisions that had to be made – right in front of me, and out loud. I had never experienced such a strange thing.
However, thinking I was so much smarter than he, after a few weeks, I challenged him. I picked up his Bible put it right up to his face, and said “How can you believe the Bible when it is wrong in the very first chapter?” He smiled, and responded, “What do you mean, Mr. Tolbert? Evolution?” I said “Yes. Six day creation, Noah’s Ark. Come on!” He smiled again, and asked me a question that changed my life. He said, “You’re a lawyer right? Do you always form conclusions before you’ve studied both sides of the evidence?”
Obviously, that statement made Tolbert realize that he had never properly investigated Christianity. So, the pastor gave him some resources that were focused on the scientific evidence for creation. As an attorney, Tolbert was familiar with the fact that evidence can be “twisted” to fit a particular view, so after reading the books, he checked their sources to see if they were being honest about the data. As he says:
There was no distortion, twisting or misquoting. I slowly pushed my chair back from the table covered with all the original source materials, and said to myself, “Evolution is the biggest fraud that has ever been perpetrated upon the world. I have been deceived.”
Now, I don’t completely agree with Tolbert’s last statement. Evolution itself is not “the biggest fraud that has ever been perpetrated upon the world.” When we knew little about genetics and the details of the cell, evolution as a creation story actually made some sense. However, the more we have learned about the details of biology (especially molecular biology and genetics), the less tenable it has become. Add to that the fact that the fossil record speaks strongly against it, and you end up having a hypothesis with little scientific merit. However, the hypothesis itself is not a fraud. I would say that the certainty with which some promote it is a fraud, at least from a scientific point of view.
Nevertheless, Tolbert’s story is fascinating. While he is not a scientist, he was trained to examine and evaluate evidence. He was given the scientific evidence for a Creator, and he ended up finding the evidence persuasive. That led him to Christ. God calls to all of us in different ways, because He desires that we all come to know Him (2 Peter 3:9). I pray that you come to know Him as well!
In 2009, one of the largest German events celebrating the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species, was headed up by Dr. Günter Bechly, a world-renowned paleontologist with an incredibly impressive list of original research published in the peer-reviewed literature. At the time, he was the curator of the Stuttgart Museum of Natural History, and he wanted to show, in no uncertain terms, that there is absolutely no scientific dispute about origins. As a result, one of the displays in his museum’s celebratory exhibit (shown above) was a scale with creationist and intelligent design resources on one side and Darwin’s book on the other. Darwin’s single book tipped the scale, indicating that the weight of the scientific evidence was in evolution’s favor.
…and what I recognized to my surprise is that the arguments I found in those books were totally different from what I heard either from colleagues or when you watch Youtube videos where the discussion is around intelligent design versus NeoDarwinian evolution. And I had the impression on one side that those people are mistreated – their position is misrepresented and on the other hand that these arguments are not really receiving an appropriate response. And they have merit.
He ended up being scientifically convinced that Intelligent Design is the better explanation for the amazing world he had been studying his entire career, and he made that decision public in 2015. Then he faced a firestorm.
Two people recently shared with me a very interesting article written by Dr. Sarah Irving-Stonebraker, Senior Lecturer in Modern European History at Western Sydney University. It is entitled, “How Oxford and Peter Singer drove me from atheism to Jesus,” and I encourage you to read it in its entirety. While I can’t speak for Oxford University, I am safe in saying that Dr. Peter Singer would not be happy with that title. He is a fervent atheist and a champion of the idea that some human lives have little or no value. I am sure that if he learned he helped “drive” a fellow atheist to Jesus, he would be more than a little annoyed.
How did he accomplish it? He gave three guest lectures at Oxford University, where Dr. Irving-Stonebraker was a junior research fellow. At that time, she was an ardent atheist. She attended Dr. Singer’s lectures and was stunned by their content. Essentially, Dr. Singer believes that atheism tells us there is no intrinsic worth to human or animal life. An organism’s worth is contingent on the cognitive abilities of that organism. As a result, there are some animals (chimpanzees, for example) that have more worth than some humans (newborn infants and mentally disabled adults, for example). Dr. Irving-Stonebraker writes:
I remember leaving Singer’s lectures with a strange intellectual vertigo; I was committed to believing that universal human value was more than just a well-meaning conceit of liberalism. But I knew from my own research in the history of European empires and their encounters with indigenous cultures, that societies have always had different conceptions of human worth, or lack thereof. The premise of human equality is not a self-evident truth: it is profoundly historically contingent. I began to realise that the implications of my atheism were incompatible with almost every value I held dear.
As a result of her “intellectual vertigo,” she began to explore avenues that she had never explored before, including theology. She began reading Dr. Paul Tillich and was attracted by the intellectual underpinnings of Christianity. However, she was not convinced.