I'm a former atheist. Ask me anything.

I was an atheist for years before recently finding faith again. If you have any questions about “the atheist lifestyle,” I’d be happy to try to answer them.
.

What made you start believing again?

Oh my, am I happy to know you’re here, we have quite a few atheist/agnostic posters on CAF, which I’m sure will benefit from this thread.

p.s Welcome Home.

What was your experience as an Atheist like?

I think it was a combination of two things. Lately, I had been kind of coasting at work, not approaching new projects with the dedication I used to have. One of my younger colleagues is a Mormon and works very hard. I would look at him and think about the faith he lives by and what a good example he sets.

Then, at about the same time, I started listening to a series of lectures on CD about the history of Christian theology. The ideas in the lectures – the Trinity, the incarnation, grace, and so on – called out to me.

So, in effect, I asked myself, Why should I continue to resist believing in something that is intellectually satisfying, comforts me, and will help make me a better person? There was no reason to keep resisting. So I opened my heart and mind to God.
.

To be honest, it was painful.

This was the topic of an interesting on-line conversation I had once with a group of atheists, about what I called “the terror of atheism.” For me, being an atheist was frightening and ultimately depressing. As much as I tried to find meaning in worldly things, nothing gave me the sense of purpose and satisfaction I had had when I was a believer. I had everything I wanted in worldly terms, but I was unsatisfied because I was spiritually starved.

Some atheists agreed with me – they found it terrifying, too. But there were others who claimed to have no discomfort at all with a purely “naturalistic” worldview.
.

I think I know of some people here on the boards who fit this description. What made you become an atheist? And how long were you an atheist? Was it a matter of pride and hurt which prolonged your decision to become a believer again?

p.s. The idea of not having God in my life scares the heck out of me.

Can you share some of your arguments that you held against the Christian faith in general and Catholicism in particular?

How did you reconcile these arguments?

God bless you

I’ll start with how long I was an atheist, because that’s the easiest one to answer. :wink:

I first became an atheist when I was about 17. I stayed that way until I was about 25, when I became a sort of Deist. That lasted for maybe 7 or 8 years, when I went back to being an atheist. When my father died – I was 42 at the time – I briefly considered becoming a practicing Catholic again. But it didn’t “stick.” I finally came back for good about a month ago.

I think I became an atheist partly because the Catholics around me didn’t seem very Christian, and partly because I didn’t know any “intellectual” Catholics, for lack of a better term. My parents were both devout Catholics, but they didn’t have much interest in the theological/philosophical side of the faith. Hence, they weren’t really in a position to help a curious, questioning son think about, for example, why the Church wasn’t against all war when Jesus told us to turn the other cheek.

What kept me from returning so long? Well, I thought the only rational thing to do was not to believe. And I thought it was wrong to do anything that was not rational. So I pushed away thoughts of God – it was all “superstition.” But then I think God allowed me to feel how empty my life really was.
.

Did you attend a Catholic school for any part of your childhood? If so, what didn’t connect with you/didn’t help you with your struggles to understand the philosophical aspects of the faith? Did you ask your teachers to help you with that or could you not put it into words, if you know what I mean?

First, thanks everyone for your kind words and blessings!

Probably the biggest stumbling block for me was the problem of evil. How could an all-good and all-powerful God permit the Holocaust? If he had the power to stop it, why didn’t he? I still find this to be one of the hardest arguments for apologists to handle.

As for Christianity, the apocalyptic sayings of Jesus seemed to me to be explicit prophesies that did not come true. How could this man be divine if he thought the kingdom of heaven was going to arrive during the lifetimes of his hearers?

Then, regarding Catholicism in particular, the Church’s sexual morality was an issue. It seemed cruel to tell married couples that birth control, including non-abortifacients, was sinful. All the Protestants of the world seem to be doing just fine using condoms, and they all are convinced they’re living Christian lives. Why is the Church being so stubborn on this?

Those are some of the main arguments, I think. A lot more would probably come to mind if I thought longer. But that will give you an idea.
.

This is a sad fact. I wish there were more Faithful, on fire, Catholics around me. :frowning:

I thank you for your answers and story. It’s inspiring. :slight_smile:

God bless!

Good question. No, I did not attend a Catholic school. My three older brothers attended a Catholic high school. But I asked my parents if I could attend the public high school, and I think they said Yes largely because they were really strapped for cash at that point in our lives. Given what I’ve heard from my brothers about the Catholic HS, I’m not confident that anyone there could have been of help. :shrug:

My Latin teacher was Catholic and went to our church, and looking back, I think he would have been a great resource. But I think I was too shy to bring up spiritual issues with an adult at that time.
.

Sadly, your account doesn’t surprise me. Our Catholic schools/CCDs gave up teaching from a classical approach to the modern one of “meeting students’ needs” mentality. And the results are in. Young people leave the Church as soon as they encounter ideas they have no answers for or any way of delving into that would help them keep their faith. So instead of having the tools they need to be young Christian adults they waste their youth floundering in a wilderness of sin and confusion. That’s my take on it. Does it speak to your situation?

A perfect definition of faith.:thumbsup:

I love learning about people’s conversions especially of atheists/agnostics, how much of a role did your parents play in respect to your conversion (you said they were devout). They must have been praying for you, correct? I’m in the process of praying for all atheist members but most especially for one individual who I care deeply for. I hope your presence here gives some atheists pause because many of them use rationality as their reason for leaving their faith (although I believe there’s more to it than just that).

p.s. What were you doing while you were an atheist, I mean how did you manage your life if you felt empty inside? God bless.

Was your atheism based more from the intellect, or was it of the heart? Your Catholic faith today – is it more of the heart than the intellect?

I think it does. I was in CCD in the late '60s. About all I remember was doing crafts, role playing about “moral” challenges, and learning the sacraments from pictures on a flip chart. I’m sure there was a lot more to it than that, and I sympathize with the teachers who gave up their Saturday mornings to teach CCD. But I don’t think we learned anything coming close to apologetics.
.

:slight_smile:

I honestly don’t know if my parents were praying for me. I guess they probably were. Actually, I think even more than that that my father and his sister (who died this past February) have been praying for me after death, and that those prayers may have led to my re-awakening to God. I’m sure your prayers will bear fruit some day!

My parents didn’t proselytize, though my mother always made it clear that she was disappointed. (She’s living but has Alzheimer’s.) They did set a good example in terms of being generous, patient people, and volunteering for Mobile Meals, Boy Scouts, and service to the parish.

While I was an atheist, my daily life outwardly wasn’t all that different. It was my inner world that really changed. I now have something higher to focus on.
.

That’s hard to say. My Catholic faith today, I think, is definitely more of the heart. I realized emotionally that something was missing, and that need was satisfied by the faith I had left.

My atheism was, at least on the surface, more from the intellect. In thinking about God, I had reasoned to the position that there very probably was no god. But I’m sure there was an affective part of it, too. Some of my closest friends were atheists, for example.
.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.