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What an atheist learnt from dating a devout Christian March 21, 2022

Posted by Pete B in Uncategorized.

There are a lot of lapsed atheists in the world. I used to not believe in God but that was over thirty years ago. In an article from 2019, journalist Michael Burton declared:

I’m an atheist. I have been for as long as I can remember. All my closest friends are atheists. We do atheist things like fear death and worry about the meaninglessness of life. Then, about a year ago, something quite unexpected happened: I fell in love with a Christian. A proper one, too. For her, God is as certain as daybreak and nightfall.

Michael Burton, https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/atheism-date-christian-love-religion-relationships-god-a8934071.html

Back in the final days of my own atheism I didn’t specifically fear death – I figured that once you were dead you ceased to exist and consequently weren’t to bothered about being dead. Life however was another matter entirely. Life, at times, was scary. I guess Michael understands that too – in another article he talks about the time in 2010 that he spent a year going blind. That’s another story, long before he met his girlfriend, but like every other human on the planet he still has troubles…

Whenever I’m going through emotional turmoil or have a tough decision to make, she’ll say, “I’ll pray for you.” This was infuriating at first. It was like I’d cut myself and she was saying, “Don’t worry, I’ll ask my imaginary friend to get some plasters.” In time, however, I realised that, for her, praying is perhaps the most intimate and loving gesture she can undertake.

I also used to think of God as “an imaginary friend” for people who didn’t know better. Atheists can be a bit arrogant that way …but I’ve since learned that Christians (and people of other faiths), can be a bit arrogant too, secure in our own belief and convinced that everyone else is wrong or misguided. Atheists make assumptions about Christians and people of other faiths, Christians make assumptions about atheists, and people of other faiths …and also make assumptions about people in other branches of our own faith.

A final quote from Michael (you can read more in the original article:

I’ve never read it but I have to say, the Bible is full of good stuff. So much fantastic life advice in that book. There isn’t an inspirational meme or a self-help topic that hasn’t been written about and worded better in the Bible. Although I don’t buy into the metaphysical aspect of it all, my girlfriend has quoted passages from the good book to me that I love.

I’d not have gone as far as say I’d never read the Bible. I was raised at a time when you occasionally had to. I was even sent to church and Sunday school until I was 8 or 9, but I never really read it of my own choice, at least not until after I’d met some ‘devout Christians’ at university.

For me however, it wasn’t just the ‘devout Christians’ that had an impact. I assumed they’d just been brought up that way. I was more surprised when my room-mate told me that he believed in God, but wasn’t interested in church or the Bible for now. He said he’d get serious about God when he was older – he wanted to enjoy life first.

It may seem foolish to ask an “imaginary friend” for help but if you believe in a creator God who actually wants to be involved in your life, then ignoring him seems totally crazy. If God is the reason you exist, then surely he should have some impact on how you live?

I was still an atheist at that point, but perhaps a less committed one, and when my own turmoil hit later, I did open a Bible, and gradually shifted from convinced but nominal atheist, to someone who was searching, and then from someone who was searching, to someone who felt found.

I’d unsurprisingly agree that “the Bible is full of good stuff”. In my initial enthusiasm I ploughed through the New Testament in four weeks and the Old in four months, but even after 30+ years of reading it there are some bits I’m still waiting to understand.


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