I have had many conversations with people from different beliefs, backgrounds and ways of life. One thing I have found, at least in my own experience, to be universally true is that people who hold to an atheist view claim to have come to that view through rational thought. That is often accompanied by a belief that they are “smarter” than religious people.
The reality is that is not true. Studies show that the beliefs of atheists and religious people alike are formed by personal experience, not rationality or intellectual ability. Neither atheism nor religion has a corner on intelligence or a lack thereof.
NEITHER ATHEISM NOR RELIGION HAS A CORNER ON INTELLIGENCE OR A LACK THEREOF.
Plenty of very intelligent and not-so-intelligent people are on both sides of that fence. The reality is that people are shaped by experience, culture and upbringing.
Then, later, people claim to come to their beliefs through rational thought. Not true, but hey, we all like to think we are smart.
THE REALITY IS THAT PEOPLE ARE SHAPED BY EXPERIENCE, CULTURE AND UPBRINGING.
Christians shouldn’t make the mistake of believing people are argued into belief any more than an atheist should make the mistake of believing they arrived where they are through rational thought.
Christianity has grown over the centuries through Christian witness, just simply sharing your own experience as a believer.
I may surprise some, but coming to faith in Jesus doesn’t even require a Bible or a church (that doesn’t mean those things are unimportant. It does require sharing the Gospel and personal experience. So here’s mine.
COMING TO FAITH IN JESUS REQUIRES SHARING THE GOSPEL AND PERSONAL EXPERIENCE.
Many years ago, I claimed to be an atheist. Like the standard atheist, I believed I was a rational thinker and religious people were not. Looking back now, I realise that was not the case.
I had a few friends who were atheists, and my experience with them, not my own rational thinking, led me to that view. Another interesting fact is that all people are subject to the effects of groupthink and echo chambers, atheists and otherwise.
We had been married for less than a year when my wife came to a place where she trusted Jesus. She was listening to Chuck Swindoll on the radio, and He gave a basic Gospel presentation.
She had never doubted the existence of God, but she had not understood that Gospel, God’s plan for reconciliation through the blood of Jesus. She prayed that day in the car, asking for forgiveness of sin, understanding that Christ had paid the price for the sins of all mankind on the cross.
She called the radio station to let them know what had happened. They told her to find a Bible-believing church and begin attending.
That’s not bad advice, but it would have been helpful had it been more specific. Thus began a 10-year journey of struggle for both of us.
Christine wanted to find and attend a church with other believers, but I did not. Due to my condescending atheist intellect, I found her newfound faith annoying.
She had some pretty wild church experiences, but that’s a story for another day. She would share with me as she was able about her experience. I didn’t want anything to do with it.
Things got heated when she wanted to give money to a church or ministry. I told her, “churches only want your money”. Knowing what I know now, if you’re looking to make money or take advantage of people, there are far easier ways to do it than church.
We had many negative interactions about faith over the years, but one in particular sticks out in my mind.
We were having a particularly rough time and Christine told me, if you die, you’ll never see me again. We had a lot of difficulties early in our marriage, but I always loved my wife. There was never any question about that.
That particular experience gave me a jolt, not that I believed it, but it was an experience nonetheless. It was not long after that, we were again having a particularly difficult time.
My wife told me during that time that she had prayed and told God that she couldn’t do it anymore, He was going to have to intervene. She turned me over to Him.
At the time, I was a beer salesman. People hear that and think it’s an easy job. Beer is not a hard sell. People drink when times are good; when times are bad, people drink more. It was more about competing for market share than getting people to buy beer.
Anyway, that’s probably irrelevant. Part of my job was doing promotion work in bars and nightclubs. We would buy drinks, have contests and give away merchandise to customers.
On New Year's Eve, I was doing a promo at a so-called “Gentleman’s Club”. It was anything but. As was often the case, I drank way too much. I would usually drink and drive without giving a second thought, but for some reason, on this particular night, someone gave me a ride home.
It was good that they did because I was so drunk I didn’t even know where I was. My ride dropped me somewhere in my neighbourhood. I remember falling down in the snow and just laying there.
I hated myself, and I hated my life. As I watched the snowflakes gently drift from above, I decided to lie there and freeze to death. In the place I lived at the time, a few times a year during the winter, someone would be found who had passed out outside after they had too much to drink, who had frozen to death. I had heard it was an easy way to go. You went to sleep and didn’t wake up.
It was a strange feeling to feel that way and make that decision. A bright light shone on my face as I was lying there, near to drifting off to sleep. It wasn’t anything supernatural. It was my porch light.
Apparently, I had somehow found my way into my backyard, and my wife heard me out there. She found me lying in the snow and dragged me into the house. She was not happy. We had made plans for the evening, but I was late and unable to follow through.
The next few days felt empty. Christine took the kids to visit her parents for a few days. Her visiting her parents wasn’t necessarily related to New Year's Eve, but it wasn’t unrelated either.
I would come home from work to find an empty house and be left alone with my thoughts. I did a lot of contemplation over the next few days.
My family eventually came home. That night, I was lying in bed and came to the place where I agreed with God about who I was: a sinful man in need of His grace.
I was convicted. My skin crawled, I felt like I had dirt under my skin. I could have changed my ways, but I wanted and recognised a need for more than that. I said, to my wife, “You know all of that stuff we have been talking about? I understand that now”.
We prayed together. I changed my mind and agreed with God about who He says I am. I accepted Jesus as my saviour, recognising that it was for me He shed his blood on the cross.
There I was, a new creation in Christ, without even a Bible or a church, just experience and the witness of my loving wife.
The next day, I woke up and returned to the same job, doing the same thing, but I was different. Things began to change. I had an interest in the Bible. I even started looking for a church with my wife. I shared my experience with my work colleagues.