I’m often asked what led to my converting from atheism to Christianity. The answer sometimes surprises: reality. Reality is the way the world really is. It doesn’t change according to our likes and dislikes. Because of this, when you don’t live according to reality, you bump into it. As an atheist, when looking for answers to important questions, I bumped hard into reality.
The first bump came as I tried to explain what caused the beginning of the universe. It’s not as complicated as you might think. There are only two options: something or nothing. This put me in a tough spot as an atheist. I didn’t want to say something caused the universe because that something would have to be immensely powerful, incredibly creative, and outside its own creation (i.e., outside time and space). That something was starting to look like God, and I did not want to say God caused the universe. Instead, I wanted to say nothing caused the universe. This is unreasonable, though.
As an atheist, I believed everything that exists is the product of blind, physical processes. I couldn’t explain where the universe came from because all I had to start with was nothing. But nothing comes from nothing. To say the universe came from nothing goes against our basic intuitions about reality. However, on Christian theism, there was more than nothing to start with. There was an uncaused cause. The Christian explanation lines up perfectly with the way the world really is.
That was the first bump. The next bump was the most difficult for me.
As an atheist, I knew certain things were actually wrong. I would have agreed that what happened in the furnaces of Auschwitz was wrong. What did I mean when I said it was wrong, though? I wasn’t merely describing my personal opinion or an emotion. I was describing the actions themselves. I was saying these things were wicked and evil, not the way they’re supposed to be. Notice something important here. For me to say anything was wrong in an ultimate sense, I had to appeal to an objective standard outside of myself. Right and wrong, good and bad, need to be details of the external world and not just personal opinions, but on atheism, there is no objective standard.
Every worldview needs to give an adequate explanation for the objective morality we perceive in the world. Every time I objected to something being bad, I bumped hard into reality. Eventually, I realized atheism couldn’t explain the existence of objective morality. Christian theism does. But there’s more.
As I wrestled with the idea that there was an objective oughtness to the world we live in, and I came to understand the universe had to come from something or “Someone,” I found myself bumping into another part of reality I couldn’t explain: the soul.
Souls are real, and this was a major problem for me. The existence of souls is not hard to recognize when we think carefully about reality. Let me show you what I mean. Have you ever had a song stuck in your head? To get that song out, do you crack open your skull, sift through your brain, and extract the song? Of course not. The song doesn’t exist physically. It exists in your mind. Your soul.
Not only was I aware of my soul, but I also knew there was something special about being human.
We all know humans are special. That’s why we cry out for justice in the face of injustice. I couldn’t ground this in my worldview. Remember, I believed that all things—even you and I—are the result of purely physical processes. In the end, atheism reduces human beings to cosmic junk, moist robots with no ultimate purpose or meaning. This is where my struggle came in. On atheism, nothing quenched my thirst for significance or my desire for justice. Nothing ultimately matters on atheism. This wasn’t the testimony of my soul, though. I knew life had meaning. I knew people were valuable.
I knew something else, too. I knew souls were real and they were special, but they’re also broken.
My soul testified to the knowledge that the brokenness I complained about “out there” in the world was also “in here” in me. I was broken and in desperate need of a rescue. In unguarded moments, I would let the desire for things to be made right slip because I had to live in reality. I knew I needed something atheism couldn’t offer. I needed forgiveness. Atheism does nothing to explain what makes humans special, and it has no answer to human brokenness. Atheism has no offer of true forgiveness. Christian theism does, though.
So why did I leave atheism for Christianity? As an atheist, I bumped into reality and started chasing the answers to my most difficult questions. In each case, atheism came up short. It’s simple: I’m a Christian because it’s the true story of reality.