I don’t know if many other Christians or religious folks in general have ever made the attempt, but I myself have tried numerous to be an atheist. Now, when I say that, surely it easy to be thought that I have weak motivations for being a Christian, or that I’m trying to compromise my faith and find a way out so as to avoid moral obligation and so on and so forth, but I think that my attempt to be an atheist is rather different.
I grew up in a home that wasn’t explicitly religious nor necessarily implicit. I myself held the naive and childish view at a young age that God created the earth, and appealed to that as some abstract fact regarding the reason for my existence. I even remember in the first grade (2001) sitting in the aisle seat on a bus on our way to a field trip talking to my friend Wesley about babies. I can’t remember what he said, but I replied to his statement with “Well yes, but all babies were created by God”, and that was a really conclusive statement for both of us and thus the conversation was over. However, it was only four years later that my childish naivety grew into an explicit rejection of God’s existence.
Now, when I say that I was an atheist, I am not saying that it was some dark area in my life where emotional struggle was rampant and the hard life of a 10 year old can really take a toll on his religious beliefs. I made ignorant statements such as “science disproves God”, life originated from rocks in outer space, and many of the like. I argued with my brother for a number of years over God and Christianity, even had some discussions with my father (who is a “Platonic Mystic” so to speak) on the subject. However, around 13 or 14 years old I started going to church and calling myself a Christian, when that didn’t last so long until I was about 16. I was an agnostic for a year, and then finally converted at the end of February 2011 my sophomore year of High School.
To this day, I do praise God for how far I have come. I have become heavily involved with the Christian lifestyle, where I was once ignorant of church songs, scripture, theology, and other things of the sort that one learns when becoming a Christian. However, it has only been 2 years. I am young, and I am immature for where I’m at. I understand that I have much to learn and experience, and that it will probably be a few decades before I even get a proper grasp of where I need to be. However, it is because I recognize my own immaturity and my own ignorance that I know one day I will strive to be something of a certain character as opposed to right now. Generally speaking, a Christian character.
Then again, in light of where I came from, and what I’m far more used to than what I am now, I am quite baffled that my life took the direction it did. Even though, sure, I was naive ad had no real substance behind my rejection, I still have this “seed of doubt” in me that sheds light upon everything else that I want to trust, and adopt. And therefore, I think I would be honest in telling you that for quite some time I have tried to be an atheist as opposed to a Christian. I want to reject God’s existence, and I want that to be easy.
I understand that might sound strong, and you might revert to the feelings I described in the first paragraph regarding my thoughts on this. But, I think I can explain while still maintaining some empathy on your behalf.
When I became a Christian, I was far aware of the implications of it. I remember shopping with some friends at Wal-Mart the day I converted, and I left the group to sit in a lawn chair and just think over and over again in my head how happy I was and how things were gonna change for the rest of my life and into eternity. However, it wasn’t long until I remembered just the position I was in not too long ago before my conversion.
I studied atheism religiously. I was probably familiar with Richard Dawkins a few weeks after my conversion, and purchased his book not too long after that. I read it, and was presented with some questions I knew that I needed to address. It was probably from that moment I knew apologetics was something I wanted to get heavily involved in. I started with some videos by Ray Comfort on YouTube, then to William Lane Craig debates, then a book by Francis Schaeffer, and that ended up being my apologetic training for probably a year.
However, I came to a halt when I first encountered Bart Ehrman (liberal New Testament scholar). His books just utterly ruined me and my trust in the Bible, and so I renounced Christianity in January of 2012. However, Dan Wallace (New Testament scholar from Dallas Theological Seminary) not too much later revived my trust in the authority of Scripture and thus I repented and was reconciled. In February of this year, I read George Smith’s Atheism: The Case Against God (1979) and retreated back to a soft skepticism regarding the existence of God by his discussion on religious language. I read some treatments of religious language by Swinburne, Geisler, John Hick, and others and abandoned my skepticism first planted by Smith.
Later, I read Michael Martin’s The Impossibility of God (2003) and had serious doubts towards the coherence of the doctrine of God’s eternality. I also read William Rowe’s God and the Problem of Evil (2001) and his essay on the evidential problem of evil and was also challenged by his arguments. However, my doubts on God’s eternality were removed by reading Eleonore Stump, Brian Davies and others, and my issues with the evidential problem of evil were somewhat lightened when I read Ronald Nash and was recommended certain works by Marilyn McCord Adams.
Hence, I use those examples of where my faith was challenged because my motivation was to see if I could be moved so as to reject my Christian position altogether. And so far, in every case, none have succeeded in doing so. Now, I am not saying that if there are any substantive books on atheism that could change your mind, those are it. No, rather I am saying that I have approached some of the toughest books against Christianity, that have gained wide attention from numerous philosophers and theologians, and have tried to see if I could be with that crowd of people who say that those books really are devastating. And my current position is that they do not succeed in their defense of atheism, or showing some inconsistencies in the doctrines of Christianity or general theism.
I have read Nielsen’s Atheism and Philosophy (2005), Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian (1957), and I have read Freud, Edwards, Kurtz, Flew, Smith, Oppy, and a number of others, and have tried to find something among them that I can use to gain some substance for rejecting God. And I can say with what I think is as honest as any Christian theist can say in respect to the evidence, is that I believe that they all fail. I myself used to be agnostic, had my doubts and my rejections, and so I think I would be sympathetic and easily swayed in turning back to that position with no problem – I just needed good reason.
However, to this day, I sincerely believe that Christianity is true, and that it cannot be done.