I was recently asked about how I came to Christ and after writing a brief summary was asked for more details. So here goes. I reached my teenage years as a fairly committed atheist. My family was at best nominally Christian, and church played virtually no role in my childhood. In fact, the only time I can remember going to church was, when as a Cub Scout, I need to attend once to get a merit badge.
Now perhaps I was sheltered, but I never received any of the harsh treatment the neo-atheist now claim befalls atheists to silence them. Sure people would disagree when I would express my atheism but that was about it. Some would try to tell me that I was not really an atheist, but rather an agnostic. But rather than feel threaten by such challenges, I would simply point out that I knew the difference. I was not claiming a lack of knowledge about God’s existence, but rather that God did not exist. I was an atheist.
But then truth has always been very important to me, and I have never been afraid to explore ideas, even controversial ideas and ideas that are out of the mainstream.
The roots of my atheist were not in any problem or bad experiences with religion, or any serious thought through position. Frankly I knew very little about religion. Nor was there anyone in particular who “led me astray.” Somewhere I did pick up a general rejection of Christianity, but that may very well have been because it was the most visible religion and thus suffered the most from my general rejection of religion.
Instead my atheism was more an expression of my interest in and love of science. This was the 1960s when science and technological advancements were still seen as positive developments that were improving life rather than threatening the environment, though that was beginning to creep in. Early in the decade my father as stationed at Vandenberg AFB in California, which is the west coast site for launching missiles and I loved watching the missiles go up. Not too surprisingly I was very interested in the Space program, and 2001 A Space Odyssey was my favorite movie.
For me God was simply what people believed in before science. Religion was simply and outgrowth of the belief in God. I do remember at some point saying the Atheists prayer – God if you are there show me. But that is about as far as it went. While I was an atheist, it was not that big of a deal with me, so I did not spend a lot of time on religion, it was not true, and therefore was a waste time.
Exactly when I changed from an atheist to theist is unknown to me, and since I don’t know when, I also cannot say how. But I do remember very clearly when I realized I believed in God, as it came as somewhat of a shock. I was driving west-bound on I-10 between Redlands and Loma Linda CA. It was a beautify day with bright sunshine and billowing white clouds. I don’t remember date, but given the weather and the lack of smog, my guess is that it was the spring time in 1974. I was praying to God, when it suddenly stuck me what I was doing. I was praying to God. Not some abstract prayer, not some just-in-case-you-are-there prayer, but a real sincere prayer. That’s when I realized that I believed in God, and like I said it was a shock.
Almost simultaneously with this realization something else happened, something that I really cannot put into words. What I now know to be the Holy Spirit let me know that this was an answer to my prayer about whether God existed. This was for me clearly a spiritual experience. It was not just a change of opinion; it was an answer to prayer where God touched my heart.
Thus this was a double shock, for not only did I realize that I had ceased to be an atheist, I now believed in God, a God who was more than an intellectual concept, but real presence, a God who answer prayer.
My first response was to tell God that I wanted to follow him. But I still had a long way to go for I can remember praying “Show me how to follow you, show me the true way, don’t bother with Christianity, I know it is false. I want to really follow you.”
Looking back now I can see that I still needed a lot of work. While I saw God as a personal God who did answer prayers, my idea of ‘salvation’ was more a spiritual evolution toward the truth. And while my view of God had changed, my view of Religion had not. I still saw a distinction between science and religion with science being clearly on the side of truth, which by default placed religion on the side of errors.
So I set off on my odyssey to find the true way to follow God by going in exactly the wrong direction. Thankfully God was not done with me and thankfully He is patient. More next time.
This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.