"Why I Became An Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity". I'm pretty embarrassed to admit that, previously, I had only been aware of one preacher turned atheist, namely, Billy Graham's former preaching partner, Charles Templeton. My (devout Christian) mother and I once had a brief conversation about him, but quickly came to the conclusion that Templeton was "never a real Christian". He must have had "head knowledge", about Christianity, but without the all important "heart knowledge", we reasoned. (Much later, I would also read Templeton's de-conversion story, "Farewell To God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith", in addition to other similar books such as this one, this one, and this one. These last 3, in particular, are excellent.)
My purpose here is not to provide a review of John Loftus' book, in terms of its contents, but rather to try and capture in words the incredible impact it had on me at the time. Loftus has said on his blog that his purpose, in writing WIBA, was to overwhelm the believer, and indeed this is precisely what happened in my case. I believe that most Christians have little difficulty maintaining their faith, even when challenged, since it is propped up by dozens, if not hundreds, of individual pieces (& thought patterns) they deem to be solid on their own (and even stronger together)...if one of those pieces takes a hit, hey, no big deal, there are still plenty of reasons to continue believing! These reasons are constantly re-inforced through conversations with Christian friends, weekly church attendance, and an extremely limited exposure to skeptical arguments (the internet is changing the latter, as Christian apologist Josh McDowell has noted recently). But what happens when a sizable number of those pieces, propping up your worldview, are attacked simultaneously? Well, this can cause one to question their entire paradigm, and in my case, that paradigm was the truth of Christianity.
As difficult as this may be for some people to believe, I was a man in my 30's who had never seriously considered the fact that Christianity might be completely false, in even its most basic claims. I was just SO sure it was true, to even bother investigating it too deeply would literally have felt like a complete waste of my time. I believe this is why most Christians don't bother reading skeptical books, such as those written by the so called "new atheists". Contrary to what many think, Christians are not (generally) afraid of these books, they just deem them completely irrelevant. The real believers KNOW Christianity is true and, besides, if ever they need to brush up on the intellectual arguments, in favour of the Christian faith, a Lee Strobel book is never far away. (Irony intended)
The night that I finished this book is forever seared into my memory. After reading the last sentence I just sat there, in bed, my head spinning as I tried (in vain) to process everything I had just read. It was in that very moment I reached a watermark in my de-conversion journey. Had John Loftus convinced me that Christianity was false? No, not fully. But he had convniced me this was a distinct possibility. That watermark came in the form of a question, "What if I'm wrong?". I made a commitment to myself, right then and there, to continue my investigation regardless of where it might lead. It was a scary, and yet somehow strangely exhilarating feeling.
I'd like to close this post with a quote, from James F. Sennett, that captures well how I was feeling at the time (also reflected on page 13 of WIBA), "Once I had no doubt that God was there but I resented him for it; now I desparately want him to be there, and am terrified that he might not be."