I’ve been seeing posts on Facebook and elsewhere about this story:
An interesting turn of events. Once you start realizing that the Christian faith is plausible and that any other worldview or system of thought also requires a great deal of faith, things can get interesting. Salvo readers will remember the story of The Raving Atheist in issue 17. I’ve put it up online now for those of you who may have missed it. Excerpt below:
How the Raving Atheist Became the Raving Theist
. . .
In the late nineties I attended a series of continuing education courses in philosophy. The professor, a philosopher who edited and wrote the introduction to Bertrand Russell’s collection of essays, was very sarcastic. He hated religion and religious people. I got to know him and soon was engaging in debate with other lawyers about atheism. My focus on atheism as a lifestyle led a friend to suggest that I begin a blog.
So in late 2001 I began co-writing a political blog with a college acquaintance, my posts focusing frequently on religion. Soon I started my own blog attacking religious people as demented, deluded “Godidiots.” I wrote scathing essays explaining how the “culture of belief” was destroying America. I would track down faith-based blogs, ridicule their motives as suspect, and pronounce them guilty of insanity—despite the fact that these people lived simple, good lives.
True atheism, I believed, was not about “live and let live.” It was a cause that needed an evangelist as much as any faith. In an effort to provide a set of atheistic principles for such a ministry, the “basic assumptions” of my blog declared that all definitions of God either were self-contradictory, incoherent, and meaningless or could be refuted by empirical, scientific evidence.
Despite my bold posturing, I felt ill-versed in scientific matters, and I recognized that my “logical disproofs” could only go so far. In fact, in an early essay I conceded that it was technically possible for a rational person to have a belief in God. To my mind, however, it was still only possible in the sense that one might be sharing the room with a purple hippopotamus that evaded detection by darting away the moment one tried to turn around and see it. In other words, there was no evidence for it. So while it was a possibility, it wasn’t worth much consideration.
Surrounded by Life
In late 2002 I attended a blogger party where I sat next to a Catholic blogger named Benjamin. At one point the conversation turned to abortion, and I asked Benjamin’s opinion of the practice. The calm, confident reply was: “It’s murder.” I was stunned. Here was a kind, affable, and cogently reasonable human being who nonetheless believed that abortion was murder. To the limited extent I had previously considered the issue, I believed abortion to be completely acceptable, the mere disposal of a lump of cells, perhaps akin to clipping fingernails.
This unsettling exchange spurred me to further investigate the issue on Benjamin’s blog. I noticed that pro-choice Christians did not employ scientific or rational arguments but relied on a confused set of “spiritual” platitudes. More significantly, the overwhelmingly pro-choice atheistic blogosphere also fell short in its analysis of abortion. The supposedly “reality-based” community either dismissed abortion as a “religious issue” or paradoxically claimed that pro-life principles were contrary to religious doctrine. Having formerly equated atheism with reason, I was slowly growing uncertain of the value of godlessness in the search for truth.
I nevertheless continued my atheistic ravings full force. In early 2003 I engaged in a particularly venomous exchange with an online Catholic scholar over Thomas Aquinas’s “first cause” argument. In a later, conciliatory gesture, I linked to a post-abortion healing blog favored by my religious adversary—an act that brought me into contact with a group of pro-life advocates whose selfless dedication to their cause moved me deeply. I was inspired by their gentle and reasonable writings, particularly the story of a woman named Ashli, who wrote with painful honesty about how her late-term abortion had affected her. She now channeled her suffering into efforts to help women in similar situations and save them from the fallout of abortion.
I began communicating with Ashli, and eventually she asked for my assistance in some of her pro-life work. When she gave birth to a healthy baby girl on Mother’s Day 2004, I decided to use the occasion to announce that the Raving Atheist would become, in part, a pro-life blog. This decision stirred an angry mutiny among my readers. But I had become convinced that the secular world had it wrong on the very foundational issue of life.
With Ashli’s encouragement I began volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center. Suddenly I was surrounded by life. Here were people who were kind and loving and who lived out their faith in a very tangible way. The pictures on the walls of the center confirmed this. Smiling babies were everywhere. The tangible expression of pro-life work was life itself. It was becoming clear to me that people who lived out their Christian faith were happier and better people as a result.
. . .