My Testimony: How Atheism Saved me and Why I Care so Much About the Truth

My Testimony: How Atheism Saved me and Why I Care so Much About the Truth

I was raised in a Christian home. I had the benefit of being raised by a Dad who was passionate about Christ, and about church attendance and creation. My Dad was always showing me interesting stuff from John Mackay the creation guy.

I stopped attending church shortly after high school, spent the first half of my twenties partying, drinking, hooking up, etc.

There are few moments in my life that I know for certain dramatically and instantly changed my life in some really unexpected way.

The first was an ordinary afternoon, catching the train home from the local skatepark.

But riding scooters should be…

I met a girl, got her number, and she eventually became my first serious girlfriend.

If it wasn’t for that moment, I most likely would not have ended up spending most the rest of my life since living and spending time in and around Brisbane city. I definitely wouldn’t have met at least two of the best friends I’ve ever had (R.I.P. Ricky Blinko) and all of the innumerable other events that resulted from this encounter.

She was at least partly responsible for motivating me to transition from a completely irresponsible teenager on a skateboard, to a slightly less irresponsible young adult with a steady job and a driver’s license.

The second was the night I totalled my car and broke every bone in my face (but no others!).

Besides the facial reconstructive surgery and a month of two of spaghetti and meatball smoothies, a lot of other things happened following this period that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Slightly more detailed version of the accident story: I had lost my driver’s license for six months on account of being a ‘slightly less irresponsible young adult’. The day I got it back I was on my way to a friend’s house to celebrate and didn’t get there. I fell asleep behind the wheel, ran head first into a ditch and ended up bruised, broken, and living back at my old man’s house. Which was not where I had planned to be after getting my license back.

If it wasn’t for that car accident I probably wouldn’t have become anywhere near as close as I did with my other two best friends. I wouldn’t have learned, and been surprised by who my real friends turned out to be (at least, that’s the way it felt at the time). I wouldn’t have ended up chatting away on social media and been set up on a blind date with my other serious pre-Christian relationship. It wouldn’t have led to a long list of other small details that all steered me, inevitably, towards the third and most dramatic event of all.

The night everything changed.

I’ll never forget it.

It was about nine Call Of Duty’s ago, on an ordinary weeknight, lounging around with friends and roommates, stuffing around on Facebook (back when it was big but not totalitarian, social engineering big) and my friends were on the couch, chatting and watching television.

For no particular reason, a couple of them started a conversation about the Bible, or at least, why it was ridiculous. In retrospect I can see that I made a good choice, but within about five minutes I would find myself wondering why the hell I opened my stupid mouth. It was a conversation that inexorably steered me in the direction towards life, and away from death. I can say with confidence that my non-christian friends saved me (or played a critical and necessary role in it).

In my naivety, I casually threw out an off-hand comment, in defense of the Bible, because you know I wasn’t a churchgoer or anything but I was all like ‘cool with God’ or whatever.

Oh man… Oh, oh man.

What followed was an evening that changed the course of my life forever.

My friends and I ended up in a massive discussion. We talked for most of the night about God, creation stuff, evolution stuff, nothing was off-limits.

We were all friends, and we all cared about each other, but the tension was unmistakable. There was some deeply rooted emotion bubbling just beneath the surface and it was clear to me that this was something very close to their heart.

We talked, long, long into the night; way past where I personally maintained any real interest in the topic. At that time I struggled to maintain a real interest in anything that required more than the bare minimum of responsibility. But the conversation that night has never left me.

My friends said a lot of things that were quite shocking to me at the time.

“Religious leaders and priests and stuff during the X century (I can’t remember what my friend said, probably somewhere around the Middle Ages) literally just “ripped pages out of the Bible they didn’t like!” and changed the text, so the Bible is total bullshit, etc., etc…”

“Yeah man, I know what you’re thinking, but I’ve been reading heaps about it lately, evolution is pretty rock solid, I’ve totally changed my views”

Stuff like that.

I woke up the next morning, and realised that I had no idea what I was talking about… could evolution really be true? I mean, pretty much all scientists and non Christians believed it after all.

One of my first questions was ‘could God have used evolution to bring about life?’

I quickly decided (or at least, I was pretty confident), after a cursory glance at some really common sense evidence and exegesis, that the answer was no. It was either one or the other. The God of the Bible, or the God of naturalism (evolution).

For example, it is straightforwardly true that if you read the first chapter of Genesis, it explicitly states that God made the world in six days. It even takes great pains to specify that ‘there was evening, and there was morning’.

The order in which God created life according to Genesis is fundamentally at odds with the order in which life arose through evolutionary biology (or any other belief that depends on a billions of years old earth).

And sure, if you want to be clever, you can say that ‘if you don’t read anything (and I mean anything) into the first two chapters of genesis, then it doesn’t explicitly distinguish any length of time for the ‘days’, or for any time in between them’.

But to be frank that’s pushing the limits of common sense. You ask a ten-year old what the first chapter of Genesis tells us, and the answer will be simple “God created the world in 6 days, and rested on the seventh”.

Note: Later on, reading Dr Jonathan Sarfati’s outstanding book “Refuting Compromise” pretty much crushed any remaining doubts I may have had about reading billions of years into Genesis… like a Christmas beetle under a sledge-hammer.

So was evolution true?

This was a key period of time in my life and I wasn’t sure what I was doing exactly. All I knew was that I didn’t want to be ignorant, and I didn’t want to just rely on what someone else told me. So I did the only sensible thing I could think of…

I quit my job and went to university to study evolutionary biology.

Not just any university, I went to a world top 50 university, because I wasn’t messing around.

And because of this too…

“Great is Truth and Mighty Above All Things”

In 2010 I spent a year studying my prerequisites to enter a science degree. I also spent enormous amounts of time pouring through creation and apologetics literature, everything I could get my hands on. I had a few documentaries produced by Creation Ministries International and others that I devoured. I was reading articles on the internet, creation magazines, books, apologetics, everything.

I’ll be honest, I was becoming skeptical of evolution early on.

For example, during 2010, whilst re-learning high school math, biology and physics, I began learning about evolution.

After reading through so much creation material by that point I had heard numerous times about things like:

  • Haeckel’s embryo’s
  • The peppered moths and natural selection
  • Vestigial organs
  • Convergent evolution etc, etc.

I had already heard a lot about why these were all red herrings. I’d also learned that today’s high school textbooks still teach this same stuff!

Sure enough, I flipped open the assigned text for my biology course, the latest edition, which I’d recently paid like $80 for and sure enough, there were the drawings inspired by Haeckel’s embryo’s in all their glory.

The peppered moths? Same thing. We learned about them in class after I’d already learned why they weren’t really evidence for evolution.

It was all there just like creationist’s had said it would be. I was amazed.

None of this required extensive knowledge of science either. Much of it was quite simple.

I learned about vestigial organs. A vestigial organ is supposedly some physiological feature that appears to have no function, or appears to have lost its function, or its function appears no longer relevant.

The simple fact is that the definition of a vestigial organ assumes that evolution is true. To try to claim that some body part has ‘lost its function’ assumes that it ‘used to have one’. But it was supposed be the evidence.

I read that high school biology would teach me that the tail bone is a vestigial organ (which is exactly what we were taught). I also read that this wasn’t true because the tail bone actually had a very important function. The tail bone is the bone that anchors virtually all the pelvic floor muscles… it literally holds your digestive system in place!

This was all really simple stuff, and throughout my degree I began to learn much more about evolution, and more of the complicated nuances. Over time I saw that, no only was much of the ‘evidence’ over stated, there many very valid objections which simply were not being dealt with, or were being casually dismissed because, y’kno, evolution was a proven fact.

I began to see a bigger picture. I came to see evolution as a theory carried on the shoulders of a century of social and academic inertia and in many cases literal silencing of the critics.

I learned that most of what I was studying, even in my evolutionary biology courses was neither detrimental to, or even in conflict with a creationist model of biology because it regarded only small, trivial changes in organisms.

Of course I was also encountering other topics in apologetics and finding similar results.

Another book that knocked my socks off was Lee Strobel’s “A Case for the Real Jesus” which I miraculously stumbled upon at some Christian conference for like $3 bucks.

It wasn’t just the ‘facts’ that I was learning about though, I was learning tons about just thinking in general, how to think clearly and care about the truth.

At university I studied both philosophy and evolutionary genetics, which I’m so grateful for. While I’m no philosopher, studying the basics has given me a good intuition for smelling bullshit, both in the world, and within Christianity itself.

Shortly after ‘the night that changed my life’, I remember trying to explain to one of my friends that ‘I could just feel that God was real in my heart’. But the more I studied and learned the more I came to realise that not only was this statement unnecessary, it was false and naive.

I could just as easily said the same thing if I’d become a buddhist or a humanist or anything.

What I should have said, and what is actually true is that much more than some subjective, untrustworthy feeling, God’s presence is clearly seen all around us by the things which are made (if I was being fair to my past self, I might say this is what I was trying to describe, but it wasn’t really.)

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Romans 1:20 – via Bible Gateway

Then of course there is the actual salvation part.

Depending on what you think it means to ‘become a Christian’, I remember there was definitely a specific point in time (I don’t remember exactly when) where I explicitly and verbally confessed my sins and committed to following Christ and living my life to honour him, which I’ve done ever since. In principle however I had done this in my heart long before that moment.

Somewhere around this same time, I found a church (I looked up Creation Ministries International to see where and when they would be giving a talk nearby, and used that as a good litmus test for that church). The same church where I met my wife.

Note: before you say it, yes meeting my wife and getting married were dramatic ‘life changing’ events. But they were not ‘unexpected’ and dramatic in the same way. I’ll say instead that getting married is one of the best things that has happened in my life.

So one thing that I think that many critics might be tempted to say is that I’m only still a Christian because I was born into a Christian home.

No I’m sorry but that’s really, really stupid.

For starters it is a firmly established and unfortunate statistic that well over half of all teenagers and young adults who grow up in a Christian home are leaving the church in their late teens and never coming back. So I am the exception, actually. Not the least because I had a taste of what the world had to offer, and to be honest, I liked it.

Poker is a game of skill. That’s all I’m saying about that.

I found my way back to Christianity because I realised the Bible was true.

Besides the compelling case I’ve already made above for my faith being grounded quite firmly in my pursuit for truth, my mother was never a regular church goer, and I went to a public school my entire school life.

I stopped attending church and lived almost totally for myself throughout my early twenties. I had no shortage of non-christian friends and motive (including romantic) to abandon my faith.

I literally went to university to study biology and evolution, in order prove to myself (and others) that I was not being one-sided, and because I genuinely wanted to know what was true.

Far less than 10% of my entire extended family are committed Christians.

I’m not criticising anyone. All I’m saying is it’s simply true that I have never been pressured, or indoctrinated by anyone into my faith. Perhaps that happens in some circumstances, but not mine.

In one way or another, I can trace all of the above back to that one night. I thank God for it now, but at the time if I had known what would eventuate I admit I may well have decided to keep my big mouth shut (but then again, I also know that sometimes I just can’t help myself).

If it wasn’t for that conversation, I may not have decided to go to university. I almost certainly wouldn’t have ended up in the church that I did, which means I wouldn’t have met my wife, I wouldn’t be a PhD student now, I wouldn’t have my son and daughter (and any future bubs), and I wouldn’t have this blog.

Conclusion

This is a weird post to try to draw to a conclusion because, on the one hand there is so much more I want to say, and on the other hand because it hasn’t really concluded. I’m still living to honour Christ every day. I’m still learning all the time about the Bible, science, Christianity and everything else that interests me.

I could say so much more about the all the innumerable little extra details that have reinforced my commitment to knowing the truth, and learning about Christianity.

Things like one of my favourite philosophy lecturers who was always emphasising clarity of expression. It rubbed off and is one of my main motivations. Or one of my TAFE teachers who taught me the importance of checking my sources, or more specifically, understand why you believe something to be true.

The reality is I’m a Christian because I believe it’s true and not for any other reason. Christianity has nothing to offer me if I don’t think it’s true.

I don’t mean that Christianity has nothing to offer, only that all of it utterly hinges on whether or not it’s actually true.

Christianity did not ‘fill an emptiness in my heart’. I love this quote from C.S. Lewis:

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

Swap out that port for a rum n dry, and that could have just as easily been my quote (although I would’ve said it with much less eloquence).

It’s because the Bible is true that I’m a Christian, and I never would’ve put the effort in to learn that had I never had a conversation with my non-christian friends, one night, many years ago.


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