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Is there anyone that was an atheist who is now religious?

(73 Posts)
JazzAnnNonMouse Sat 05-Oct-13 20:16:30

I know plenty of people who are religious from upbringing, and plenty of people who are atheist despite a religious upbringing however I don't believe I know anyone who is now religious with an atheist upbringing.

I know some whose family were religious but they lost faith and have regained etc but is there anyone who had a completely atheist upbringing who is now religious? If so, what changed?

I am agnostic.

JazzAnnNonMouse Wed 09-Oct-13 20:36:18

Home - why was reading the prophesies different from reading another religious text for you? What made you believe that particular one?

HomeIsWhereTheHeartIs Wed 09-Oct-13 20:53:44

Well (not that I have made a study of other religious texts!) but the gospels and other sources from the same period give such a lot of detail, and the Scriptures are fulfilled so completely that the more I looked into it, I found it harder and harder to dismiss them. (Read the book of Isaiah chapter 53, for example).
What made you post, OP?

JazzAnnNonMouse Thu 10-Oct-13 00:02:31

Just interested to hear stories and I'm kinda sick of being an agnostic - would like to be sure in myself either way but think I'd need some kind of out of body experience to convince me.

What made you start reading the gospels in the first place?

HomeIsWhereTheHeartIs Thu 10-Oct-13 05:35:14

I went to a school with a very strong Christian ethos (controversial I know! Ha ha) and started asking questions of some of the Christian teachers. A book called The Case for Christ was recommended to me,(which much better explains about prophesy, legitimacy of gospel writings etc than I can hope to - well worth a read), and very gradually my heart began to open to the idea of God, and very gradually I began to pray, and began to recognise God's presence in my life and in the world. (Not sure how to link to the book?)
Since then I've done an Alpha course, and attended a series of talks called Just10 that really helped with any initial questions/struggles I had. The church I now go to is full of people, like myself, who came to Christ as a teen/adult rather than having been brought up in a Christian home, and everyone's story is different.
I suppose no matter how much people list their reasons for their faith, it still requires that 'leap', but for me it's been the best decision I have ever made. Having a relationship with God makes me feel complete, assured and cherished. But most importantly for me I feel as though I know the 'Truth' about the important questions we ever ask in life.
Maybe have a read of the book of John, chapter 4. Sounds like it might be relevant to you.

somewherewest Thu 10-Oct-13 19:55:34

I was an atheist in my teens and early twenties and was more or less brought up one. My parents were both vocal atheists, but I also spent much of my childhood living with other relatives, who were more agnostic/indifferent. The only remotely religious influence in my family was my very mildly Catholic grandmother. In hindsight I imbibed atheism fairly uncritically from my mother before going off to a very self-consciously left-liberal university where it was intellectually fashionable, so I didn't really question it until well into my twenties. It would take an essay pretty much to explain why I became a Christian, but I've always found the assumption that atheism is an inherently open-minded, questioning position a bit mystifying, as that wasn't my experience at all. I can think of other atheists/agnostics who've become Christians, some quite late in life. Basically people who are naturally questioning are more likely to depart from the beliefs they were raised with, whether those beliefs are atheist, Christian, Jewish, whatever. Naturally unquestioning people will stay put.

somewherewest Thu 10-Oct-13 20:00:06

One think I should add is that I was always fascinated by religious belief on an intellectual level, even in my most militantly atheist phase. I think I always wrestled with the fact that atheism is fairly emotionally/aesthetically threadbare. Doing a history degree & PhD also helped - its impossible to understand anything about the history and cultures of Europe without some grasp of Christianity.

DioneTheDiabolist Fri 11-Oct-13 00:42:47

1919, what do you mean when you say all faith is blind?

madhairday Fri 11-Oct-13 10:47:54

That's really interesting, somewherewest. I see myself as a questioning person and did indeed do my best to depart from the faith I was brought up in from quite little, indeed to the extent of doing a theology degree at a normal uni, which would test anyone's faith to the nth degree wink - however, God kept pulling me back, however much I tried to pull away and find my own way, and in the end I found that I could be both questioning and have faith. They are not mutually exclusive at all.

niminypiminy Fri 11-Oct-13 15:06:07

I think I would agree with you, somewherewest, that the idea that atheists are somehow more open-minded and questioning than believers doesn't match my experience. My experience is that a lot of the things that atheists say and think about religion are received ideas -- I know, because I have parroted them myself in my time. My experience is that becoming a Christian involved a long period of questioning, of emotional, and spiritual and intellectual exploration, and critically re-examining quite a lot of the things I'd been presented with as 'truths'.

Cuddledup Sat 12-Oct-13 08:00:04

Have been following this thread with interest. I've come across this interesting blog by Jennifer Fulwiler. She's gone from being devout atheist to fiesty catholic mother of 6. Any interview with her on youtube is really interesting. This is a film of her daily life

BackOnlyBriefly Sat 12-Oct-13 12:12:01

Strictly speaking every religious person was atheist to start with. We are not born Christian or Muslim. I know that's not the group the OP meant though.

The next group will be young people who were not pushed into following a particular religion from an early age. They can be considered neutral until they look into it later and decide. It's quite likely that at least some will become religious.

The last group would be people who have thought long and hard and decided to declare themselves atheist. It must be relatively rare for them to become religious later.

After all, if you normally make your decisions based on faith then to change religion all that is required is to wake up one morning and 'feel' that god wants you to be muslim, Jewish or Methodist. But if someone arrives at atheism through thinking clearly about known facts then to backtrack they need to change the facts or stop thinking clearly.

BackOnlyBriefly Sat 12-Oct-13 12:21:21

Btw don't want to take this off topic, but anyone convinced by the alleged prophesies made about Jesus in the Old Testament might want to read them for themselves - as opposed to listening reverently while someone else reads them.

Actually read the passages and also the bits before and after for context.

If there were any that clearly stated something that came about later than they'd be displayed in 6ft high gold letters on the Vatican and on the door of every church in the world.

What we're talking about here is along the lines of:

"And the lion smote the other lion thrice"

"yep that's clearly referring to the 2nd world war. Either that or West Ham winning the cup"

CoteDAzur Sat 12-Oct-13 13:10:59

"Strictly speaking every religious person was atheist to start with. We are not born Christian or Muslim"

Except if you are Muslim, in which case you believe that everyone was born Muslim (before their culture or circumstances perverted their natural state). That is why converts call themselves "reverts".

CoteDAzur Sat 12-Oct-13 13:13:18

"critically re-examining quite a lot of the things I'd been presented with as 'truths'"

Like what? I'm curious.

Are we talking about truths like "Earth is round" (fact) or "Wear a coat in winter lest you get cold" (wisdom) or what?

CoteDAzur Sat 12-Oct-13 13:17:35

"atheism is fairly emotionally/aesthetically threadbare"

Like chemistry and physics, you mean?

And so? I don't expect my emotional & aesthetic proof for a Creator who now expects worship from us?". Imho, the answer is "No, there is no such proof, therefore I cannot believe your God hypothesis".

Why would you expect your emotional needs to be satisfied from such a question? Go hug the DC for that smile

blueshoes Sat 12-Oct-13 14:27:39

I think some people are naturally more spiritual than others. I have almost no spiritual bone. Whilst I was brought up protestant, I struggled to figure out what the big deal was. I tried to make myself feel guilty for my sins but heck, I was birdhappy and could not keep it up.

I gave up. I almost never think of God now. I think of all the bad things that happen in the world and if there is a God, where is he/she in all this?

On the other hand, some people even if brought up atheists might feel there is some greater order or something missing in their lives. Therefore, when they find religion, it is like a key turned in a lock. I imagine they would be your converts.

Religion has a way of finding people when they are down in their lives or they meet some adversity. The window of spirituality opens then. If it gives them answers or comfort, then that is not a bad thing.

BackOnlyBriefly Sat 12-Oct-13 15:45:28

Cote, "reverts" makes me laugh, but they are serious aren't they. Some Christians talk as though we are born Christian, but they mostly don't insist on it if asked to spell out how that works.

If I was truly born muslim then the pork sizzling on the stove right now is probably a terrible sin! mmm I can't wait.

HomeIsWhereTheHeartIs Sat 12-Oct-13 22:37:46

BackOnly When i read the OT (for myself) I found lots of things to be very accurate. Psalm 22 describes Jesus on the cross and his treatment by the Romans for example: "they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment."

Rosieres Sun 13-Oct-13 08:54:13

Responding to the OP, I wasn't brought up in church, my father was a maths professor so I lived and breathed critical/logical argument from the earliest days, and in my teens I would say I straddled the agnostic/atheist boundary. If I was honest I would say "agnostic" as I genuinely didn't know if there was a God, if I wanted to appear a bit edgy and cool I would say "atheist".

But I had a very close friend who was a Christian and, as folk in their late teens will do with their close friends, we talked about all sorts of things, including the purpose of life and whether there was anything more to it that just what we saw in front of us. I recognised that my agnostic/atheist perspective was woefully inadequate on addressing questions which I saw were vitally important in how I was going to live my life and how I viewed the world. It also wasn't a purely academic question - in the sixth form I was in I noticed that the small number of committed Christians (my friend included) had a qualitative difference to them - less petty, more open-hearted and open-minded, seemed to be a bit more "together" in themselves, a quality of being at peace with things relative to the rest of us. And the particular Christians I knew weren't judgemental, quite the reverse - they seemed to move easily between the different cliques that the college tended to divide itself up into and were very accepting of the diversity of people there.

So I decided to take a chance and see if the Christian faith could work for me, which I did when I went off to university. I saw it as an experiment (I was doing a science degree, after all) that if it worked I would have gained something very precious, and if it didn't then I would lose nothing, except for a bit of time while I tried to work it out. And over 20 years later I am still here, as committed as ever. Having completed my psychology BSc I later went on to study theology in a secular university context, so I believe I can say that I have thoroughly thought through what I believe. With my background and experience I do find it a bit trying when people on internet forums say "Christians believe what they believe because they do so unquestioningly, they uncritically accept what they are told". Absolutely not in my case.

I was pleased when I heard Prof. Alister McGrath speaking a few years ago about his journey to faith. He had been a committed atheist, and was a very serious scientist, studying for a DPhil in Molecular Biophysics at Oxford. But he began to see that Christian narratives about how the world is gave answers to his questions that were stronger than the other narratives that he had come across, including those from scientific materialism. He looked into Christianity with the sceptical mind of a trained scientist and found a coherent explanation of the world and how to live a meaningful life, and he converted to Christianity because the explanations it offered he found more compelling than any others. While I am not as bright as Prof. McGrath, I could very much empathise with how he had found faith.

BackOnlyBriefly Sun 13-Oct-13 10:10:15

HomeIsWhereTheHeartIs at least you were able to produce one. Most people who talk about OT prophecies can't. They just 'know' they are in there somewhere.

Trouble is that the guys who wrote the Jesus story knew about Psalms too so it would be just as fair to call it a quote.

There are other reasons to dismiss it though. Most of it describes a scene that hasn't happened. At least I don't recall many dogs and bulls at the crucifixion. If it was meant to convey the information that later on Jesus would be crucified then it did a really poor job. It doesn't mention nails or a cross and sounds more like someone stabbed by highwayman, but I 'think' it's someone saying "I'm having a really bad time, everyone has turned against me" rather than real bulls. A bit like 'the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune'.

If it's a prophesy then surely it should say so. Otherwise what was the point?. Bearing in mind that god would have had to break his own rule about interfering to make some guy write that bit. Others here have explained why god doesn't just turn up and tell us things directly, but he supposedly told that guy directly.

There are other passages that at a stretch predict a messiah would come and he did. There are long lists of people who turned up and said "Yeah that's me on page 221. Worship me". From Simon Magus to Sun Myung Moon (moonies).

Regardless of the existence of god we can all agree on the existence of people who would read a bit in the OT and then claim it's a prophecy they are fulfilling.

Also of course the idea of god providing proof of his existence goes against one of the central beliefs of christianity. Christians will tell you that God is meant to be found through faith. If god left evidence then he removes the possibility of faith and wrecks his own plan.

Earthymama Sun 13-Oct-13 10:19:34

I was atheist at 21 after a Christian upbringing. My political views pretty much meant I no longer felt at home in the Church, then I questioned my faith and realised it was habit. It had been fantastic when I was younger though.

Now I am a Pagan, who loves the Earth and all its Wonders and who has discovered Science and doesn't care that scientists mock me!!

It is all good as long as your Faith doesn't tell you you are better than people who don't share it.

In that case, stop being so silly and get over yourself.

madhairday Sun 13-Oct-13 14:14:39

Very interesting and encouraging account Rosieres.

What happened when you first went into the 'experiment' out of interest? Was it a merely cerebral exercise which turned into something more or was there something that spoke to your emotions in it early on as well?

I love Prof McGrath's story too, resonant of CS Lewis.

Rosieres Sun 13-Oct-13 16:10:00

madhairday - I recognised that a strict proof of God's existence or non-existence was probably something that I wouldn't be able to find (far greater minds then mine had been searching for such proof for centuries without a 100% indubitable answer either way). I recognised that what would constitute proof for me would come from trying to live as a Christian, and not just do the intellectual heavy lifting, and see what happened.

In a way I was a bit of a coward, because while the friends who inspired me had been in the town I grew up in, I decided I would throw myself into it and see what happened when I started at university. I figured that if I found nothing in faith and walked away from it all I could easily just go and find a different group of people to hang out with, and my Christian friends from back home who I very much valued wouldn't know and wouldn't feel let down in any way be me rejecting what was precious to them. So it was a full on phenomenological experiment, going to church, reading books, spending time with Christians, asking questions, etc. but with an easy way out if I felt it wasn't working. I felt that you could only test the hypothesis of faith by actually trying to do it - proof of the pudding is in the eating and all that, and that I wouldn't really understand what faith was by keeping it at arms length. If there was a chance that I could find something more in life, an extra dimension that seemed to be there in the lives of some of the Christians I knew, then it was a risk worth taking.

DioneTheDiabolist Sun 13-Oct-13 20:35:26

This is a really interesting thread OP. Thanks for starting it. I love reading about the beliefs others hold, be they about god or about other people.

SatinSandals Sun 13-Oct-13 20:45:14

I know lots of people. My father for a start, he started to go to church when he was an adult and got confirmed when he was over 50 yrs. I know a vicar who took himself off to church as a teenager to find out what it was all about.
I find it bizarre that people should just follow their parent's beliefs. You can bring them up a certain way, but they get the same free choice as everyone else.

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