To many who know me, this testimony may seem to be only a fleeting phase. I admit that I have undergone many transformations in the past few years. I have gone from a former would-be minister, to volatile adolescent, to a dilettante of eastern philosophy, to avid atheist. The latter being with what most people are familiar. I have written in many blogs, â€œpreachedâ€ to many people I know about atheism (Oh, the irony), attempted to debate with public Christian groups, and been an overall â€˜trollâ€™ on the internet in order to further the â€˜causeâ€™ of atheism. I can only hope then, that people see this testimony as both a sincere recantation of those beliefs, and a firm statement in my belief in Jesus Christ. I have prayed to God for the strength to show the world my faults, and through Him, I am able to do this without shame.
Before I reached High School, I wanted to be a minister, but in retrospect, this did not come from a real devotion to the Lord, but rather, it was an outlet for a shy young boy to stand out amongst his peers. Being â€˜religiousâ€™ was my way of gaining praise from my peers and loved ones, but by â€˜religiousâ€™, I just mean that I had certain gifts in academics that allowed me to remember an awful lot about what we learned in Bible school, and what I read in the childrenâ€™s Bibles that I had. I never really had knowledge about putting those lessons to use though, as I was a loner when I was young. I did not have many friends until I was in middle school, and I did not go out very much even when I did finally have a set group of friends.
It is important to note that I did not consciously manipulate and fool those around me into thinking that I was pious. I simply thought I was religious and therefore in the right. There was nothing sinister about it, and in fact, realizing that hardly anyone wakes up in the morning and says, â€œWell Iâ€™m going to be a manipulative asshole todayâ€, is an important lesson that I have learned. We, as people, always think we are in the right, but so often, we are victims to our own arrogance and vanity.
My â€˜faithâ€™, which I now see as having been weak, began to seriously crumble when I entered High School. I had a girlfriend and more friends, and I was finally being exposed to the temptations of actually â€˜having a lifeâ€™. I began going out more and more, and when I say my faith crumbled, I certainly do not mean that I started using drugs or drinking alcohol. I actually only drank about two times before college, and I never touched drugsâ€¦ever. I just mean that I failed to have God with me. I did not live out my faith. I was morally weak, and my immaturity, unwarranted sense of self-importance, and arrogance played a large role in it.
I was never truly â€˜realâ€™ with myself, and that carried over into my college years. I was also having small spurts of things like training for long distance running of weight lifting, but I never had the commitment to actually improve my athleticism. I always had the capacity to be a straight A student, but I never really applied myself as much as I should have. I made the Deanâ€™s List several times, but then I would have semesters and classes that I just thought I could blow off. I was ignorant to the blessing of being in college, and to my â€˜shortcomingsâ€™ in the more social realm of life being a byproduct of my own insecurities and willingness to blame others.
Once in college, I became disillusioned with the world. I saw how much gray there was, and I somehow took it personally, as though I had been lied to my whole life. I thought of myself as a good, strong, moral person (as no one usually sees their own mistakes), and my own arrogance lead me into a rut. I became very cynical. I was cynical against institutions that were praised, individuals for being regarded as heroes, and especially of religion, as I thought it to be more or less a delusional lie.
I found, however, a temporary peace in my arrogance and ignorance. I had always been told how â€˜smartâ€™ I was, and I began to thrive off that. I began reading more, and one of the books I read was â€œThe God Delusionâ€ by Richard Dawkins. That book moved me from â€˜fence sittingâ€™ about my belief in God to being an out and out atheist. I became active in my atheism. I treated it as though I was trying to convert people. I would go into blogs, chartrooms, online forums; I would post videos, and even openly challenge â€˜theistsâ€™ to debating the existence of God. I would do this as often as I could. I came across many interesting people, who adamantly challenged me. When I say â€˜challengeâ€™, I mean they answered my call for a â€˜debateâ€™, and they used their faith and knowledge about God to combat my ignorance and arrogance. They did not penetrate me much though, but they still played an integral part in my salvation as I would find out later.
As much as I had â€˜faithâ€™ in science and reason, the only real satisfaction that I had was telling myself how much smarter I was than the rest of the world. I felt better about myself because of all the fools around me who put their faith in nothing, a delusion. I got such a kick out sites like www.gotquestions.org, which would go to such lengths to contradict the infallible science. I thought that all of the â€˜born againâ€™ Christians were fools, fakers, or weak conformists. Yet, the only arguments that I was really proposing to them were just regurgitations of Dawkins, Hitchens, and other cynics, or I was speaking out of my own personal pain. I was still very much disenchanted with life, and felt that I deserved so much more than I had.
This disenchantment helped me start a very unhealthy lifestyle. I used marijuana, but not every day, but I still looked forward to getting high in order to have a good time. Partially due to this, and being in a new school environment, I found myself alienated from many social activities, and it only declined.
This pattern of behavior continued until last winter, when for about three days I found myself in a depression. I simply did not want to talk to anyone, be around anyone, or even be awake, because being asleep was so much better than bearing the loneliness and emotional pain that I was feeling while awake. I felt unable to â€˜make anythingâ€™ of myself. Then somehow, I thought of my Grandmother and what she would have said to me. She would have told me to stop crying and get on with it. This was a stepping-stone into a life with Christ, as my Grandmother has always displayed amazing strength and love, and she is deeply religious.
It was then that I realized that so many people around me experience similar things. As much comfort as I thought I was receiving by listening to â€˜highly artisticâ€™ and â€˜super emotional and deepâ€™ music to heal my wounds, I simply was not helping anything. I was just being reassured how wronged I was. Therefore, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I set goals for myself for my grades and physical health.
After a few stutter stepsâ€¦I had the best semester of college that I ever had. My grades were fantastic. I was able to finally quit smoking cigarettes and marijuana (cold turkey mind you!), I met a wonderful young lady who is quite inspiring, a whole lot of new interesting people, and with all of that it was easier to just be a happier person.
I still felt slightly empty though. This is where I find it a bit hard to explain. I just somehow started going to church a little bit more, and I started to reopen my mind to the idea of religion. At first, I told myself that it was a cultural thing. Church and religion was just a community thing where people could come together to help heal each other of the mutual problems that I thought I had conquered myself.
But I still was not satisfied. There was still emptiness in my heart.
Then one lazy afternoon on the coattails of the cruelest winter I had ever experienced, I was listening to a Podcast talking about philosophy. It questioned our very existence. Then in some of my classes I was reading absurdist and existentialist works. I just felt lost in meaninglessness. So I was trying desperately to fix it.
I was overwhelmed once again. The conclusions and reasoning that I came to on my own failed me once again.
Even with all of my accomplishments that semester: the grades, the physical health, the friends, etc. I still felt overwhelmed and alone.
Then I found myself picking up a Bible, that came to my apartment by offhand chances (I had brought it down with me from home shortly before, just because I thought to have it), and I opened up to a passage in Matthew that I had highlighted when I was younger and a believer.
It was a parable about not worrying about things. That God provides. God provides for all of the other creatures of the world, and do they complain? Do they feel sorry for themselves? No. So why do we feel sorry for ourselves? Do not worry, God was telling me. And that was another stepping stone.
I found myself becoming more and more accepting of the idea of God. Then I understood faith. Faith is believing that God will lift you up and stay with you, despite your sins and inadequacy. I understood that God was not simply a â€˜sapientâ€™ creature with a beard in heaven who was the pinnacle of what a man should be. God was beyond me. Beyond any of our comprehension. A force of nature, who speaks to us in terms that we can understand and communicate with each other, but is so beyond all of us.
I understood that the world we live in is nothing without God. All of our arrogance and accomplishments are not greater than the Him. I understood that humans were more than the sum of their parts. We are more than just a hunk of cells. As wondrous and Biology is and how much splendor it shows us about life, they only illuminate the glory of God. We are more than just a mass of matter. We have souls, we have personality, we love, we hate, and we do so much. If I lose my arm, I am still the same person.
I realized that all of the stock I put into art, science, and the ability of man to conquer everything was folly. We cannot cash our own checks.
I realized that all of the pain I had in my life, from problems with my parents and friends, with the world around me, and most importantly with myself were all cured. I realized how blessed I actually am to have the life that I do and the friends that I do. Instead of simply being grateful, I am now inspired to show my gratitude through a life under Godâ€™s will. I have asked Jesus into my heart, and for him to take control of my life.
I have never felt a contentment like this; one so consistent and satisfying. He truly is the bread that always satisfies.
This was all progressive over a few weeks time span. I was talking to some of the Christians that I â€˜battledâ€™ as an atheist, and what they were saying was starting to make a whole lot of sense to me. I have been talking more and more to â€˜born againsâ€™, and their stories and what they are talking about makes total sense to me. I know exactly what they are talking about, and I know that they feel things that they cannot totally express in words. And they were strangers at the time.
Strangers, who I never met before, were experiencing the same things as me. I felt God then, and knew that Jesus was in my heart.
I pray that I can continue to be humbled and be in his care. And I have faith that I always will, and that He will be there until death.
I challenge everyone to lay down their arrogance. Read the Bible. I mean READ it. Read it all. It is entertaining to say the least, and understanding the messages and the truth in it are essential to developing a personal relationship with Jesus. I am working on forming a network of friends and loved ones who have also found Jesus, so that I can strengthen myself that way. We are called to serve in a ministry and show Godâ€™s love in all that we do, and I am undertaking that in my journey as well.
I challenge you all to do the same.
I pray that this testimony of an atheist has given hope to you, and that I can continue to be Godâ€™s instrument.