Statistics show that many people brought up in one belief system, whether it be religious or atheist, change their beliefs at least once in their lifetime.
Many stop believing in the faith of their families, and so the percentage of people in most western countries who no longer believe in a God is growing. But perhaps surprisingly, studies in the US show that children of atheists are less likely (30%) to remain atheist than Christians (60%) or Muslims, Hindus or Jews (80%) are to remain in the faith they were brought up in.
I have collected stories of atheists converting to christianity, and you can find a number of them here. A few generalisations can be made from them:
- Most of the stories that I have found are of highly educated people – journalists, a judge and a lawyer, academics, etc.
- Most of these converts investigated the evidence carefully before deciding to convert, a process that often took place over a long period of time. Only a handful depended mostly on their experience of God, although a few others had some experience of God that combined with investigation of evidence to lead them to belief.
- For about half of these converts, strong friendships with christians led to them deciding to investigate christianity.
- Almost half converted to Catholicism – my guess is that this was because Catholicism has a sense of awe and mystery, and isn’t as narrow as much Protestantism.
- About a third retained significantly progressive political and/or ethical beliefs.
Two atheist professors: Holly Ordway and Rosaria Butterfield were both Professors of English and strong atheists. They each became friends with thoughtful christians who built respectful relationships and explained christian belief in convincing ways. When they converted, their lives changed significantly.
The things we do for love: three atheists convert: three atheists enter into relationships with christians, which leads them to re-think their disbelief. Eventually each decides that the evidence is sufficient to believe and follow Jesus. But the next part of the story doesn’t always go quite according to plan.
More atheists convert: five atheists who find themselves dissatisfied with their worldview and start to read up on alternatives. At ages from their 20’s to their 60’s, they convert to christianity.
A life-changing coincidence: a smart lawyer is on the way to becoming a judge when his marriage and life fall apart. The last thing he wants to hear is anything about God, but then a strange coincidence occurs …..
A slow year’s journey into light: an engineer and atheist gets to 40 without giving God a second thought. But a challenge from a dinner guest and a lot of reading eventually convince him that God is real.
An atheist legacy: he had educated atheist parents (his father was a philosophy professor) and a good education in music and writing, but when his mother was invalided and his father committed suicide, he began to reconsider his atheism. And so eventually he decided that Catholicism answered all the questions that his atheism could not, and so he converted.