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How an atheist found God - Photo of the earth and moon to illustrate how the characteristics of the universe convinced an atheist to believe in God.

How an Atheist Found God

A personal account from an atheist who was convinced no god exists, and what facts led to God.

By Marilyn Adamson

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My question seemed to annoy religious people. "How do you know that God exists?"

Maybe they wondered about my motives. Or maybe they had no idea how to answer. Most of their responses were, "Well, you just know."

I wasn't trying to be difficult. But I certainly did not "just know." And I was hoping someone did!

After many months of this, I thought, "Here are the people who say they believe in God, but no one knows why!" It became obvious that God was completely fabricated. Maybe some people needed to believe in God but clearly there was no proof. No objective evidence. I came to the most stark conclusion...God did not actually exist.

Photo of Marilyn Adamson who was an atheist and came to believe in God through science and historical evidence, and now directs EveryStudent.com.I held this belief for years, not expecting it to ever change. But then I met someone who caused me to become interested in the possibility of God. She was caring, kind, and very intelligent. It bothered me that someone that intelligent could believe in God.

She talked about God like he was her closest friend. She was convinced he deeply loved her. I knew her life well. Any concern she would take to God, trusting him to work it out or care for her in some way. She would tell me, quite candidly, that she was merely praying that God would act upon her concerns. For over a year, I regularly saw what seemed to be answers to her prayers. I watched her life through a myriad of circumstances, and her faith in God was unwavering.

So, I wanted to believe in God on one hand, because I admired her life and her love for others. But I couldn't believe in something against my intellect, against my better judgment. God did not exist. A nice idea, but that was all. Wanting something to be true, doesn't make it true.

During this time I was developing a personally built philosophy.

I tried something that I'm not sure many people do. Every few weeks, I would study a particular philosopher's take on life – Nietzsche, Hume, Dostoevsky, Sartre, Plato, etc. – and then try to apply it to my own life. I was looking for the perfect, workable philosophy for life. I found over and over, that either their philosophies seemed lacking, or were too impractical to implement. But I kept searching.

I was challenging my friend with every question that came to mind about God. I would find myself writing out questions late in the evening. This went on for well over a year. One day she handed me a book1 that briefly answered questions like, is there a God; is Jesus God; what about the Bible. It presented facts. No comments like, "you have to believe."

I saw some evidence for God that was both factual and logical. The parts particularly convincing to me were the properties of water and the earth's position to the sun. It was all too perfectly designed, too perfectly put together. My faith in "nothing behind it all" seemed weaker than the possibility of God.

I then encountered a situation that fully challenged my current philosophy on life. What I had been putting my faith in proved to be completely insufficient. It shocked me to see that I was at a loss for a fully reliable approach to life. However, the situation resolved itself and I moved ahead. I have a pretty steady personality. Throughout my life, I never really felt "needy." No ongoing crisis. No big gaps or struggles. And certainly nothing I felt guilty about.

But the concept of God was something I couldn't get off my mind….was he there? does he exist? maybe there's a God…..

One night I was talking to my friend again, and she knew I had all the information I needed. She knew that I had run out of questions to ask. Yet I was still trying to debate, and prove my atheism was rational. In one clear, abrupt moment, my friend turned to me and said, "You know, I can't make this decision for you, and God's not going to wait forever."

And I immediately knew she was right. I was playing around with a very important decision. So I went home and decided that I was going to decide. I was going to either believe in God or I was going to end the subject forever and never allow myself to consider the possibility of God again. I was tired of dealing with this decision. I was tired of thinking about it.

So, for the next three or four hours, I reviewed everything I had read and observed. I evaluated it all.

One fact I had to consider was the earth's perfect distance from the sun. The earth is just a spec in size compared to the sun, and located with perfect separation to prevent us from burning up or freezing to death. It also spins on its axis at an enormous speed reliably allowing day/night every 24 hours, for steady heating and cooling and the right amount of sun exposure for vegetation. All the while, it's rotating the sun at nearly 500,000 mph, every 365 days. Unchanging. Mathematically measurable. Reliable.

I also found the properties of water amazing. Water has a unique surface tension, drawing water up against gravity to the tallest trees. A perfect boiling point keeping our bodies a steady 98.6 degrees. It's a universal solvent, allowing us to take in food and breaking it down to nourish the smallest capillaries. It's chemically inert, not changing the nutrients or medicines we take. And more.

Closeup photo of the earth, with the sun in the background, showing their relative position, a fact that helped convinced this atheist to believe in God.These are scientific facts that I couldn’t dismiss by philosophical wordsmithing. Such precision and intricate interdependencies made it seem illogical to say it all came about by chance. Also, historical evidence about Jesus and the reliability of the Bible further pointed to this most rational conclusion: God, a knowledgeable power infinitely greater than ourselves does exist. This was no longer deniable.

Then came another decision I needed to make. I knew I had to act on that conclusion.

Just intellectually concluding God existed was way too light. It would be like deciding...airplanes exist. Faith in an airplane means nothing. However, if you need to get somewhere and an airplane is the way, you have to decide to act and actually get on the plane.

I needed to make the decision to actually talk to God. I needed to ask him to come into my life.

After a few hours of thought I addressed God, "Ok you win. I ask you to come into my life, and you may do with it whatever you'd like." (It seemed reasonable to me, that since God exists, God had every right to influence and direct my life, if he wanted to.)

The next morning I still had tons of questions, but now they were about God. I felt I had just taken the first step and now wanted to get to know this God in whom I now believed. How does God view our lives? What does he value? What does he want me to know about him?

As I read the Bible it seemed that God was spelling out who he is and how he viewed this relationship with him. It was amazing. What really surprised me is how often he talked about his love. I hadn't expected that. In my mind, I was simply acknowledging God's existence. It was a logical conclusion that God exists. I had no expectations of him, but as I read the Bible, he chose to communicate his love to me. That was a surprise.

Now, my basic, skeptical nature was still there. The first few months or year, I would ask myself, "Am I really believing in God? And, why am I?" And I would methodically review five objective reasons why I believed God existed. “Well, because of the earth’s distance to the sun, because of the properties of water, because of…” So my "faith" in God did not rest on feelings, but on facts, on reasons.

To me, it's like the foundation of a building. The facts/reasons support my faith. It's like someone driving across the Golden Gate Bridge. They can feel whatever they'd like about the bridge. But it's the construction/design/materials of the bridge itself that allows a person to safely get from one end to the other.

In the same way, the objective reality of God--the logical, historical, scientific reasons to believe in his existence, are important to me. There are people who don't seem to need that. But I hate being fooled, and I have little regard for wishful thinking. The substantiating reasons for God's existence mattered to me.

My Experience, Part 2 – Further Evidence of God

Since that time, now that I've been in a relationship with God for a number of years----why do I now believe in God? What reasons do I have for continuing to believe in God?

I'm not sure any of these are going to be believable to you. But I'll try to put that concern aside and be candid with you. Previously my questions were about God's existence. After beginning a relationship with God, I saw additional evidence that God is real. Such as…

1. When I have questions, concerns, or would like insight on a matter, God speaks to me through the Bible.

A young man reading the Bible -- If you have questions, concerns, or would like insight on a matter, God speaks to us through the Bible.God offers to do this for anyone who trusts him. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”2

What God shows me in the Bible is always perfectly suited to my question, and a better, more satisfying answer than I expected. Here's an example.

One day, my schedule, deadlines, and obligations were crawling up my neck and tightening their hold. You know that feeling when you're so overwhelmed that you don't know what to do first?

So I got out a piece of paper and pen, and asked God: "Just tell me what you want me to do, and I'll do it." I was fully prepared for shouldering 100% responsibility, and was basically asking God to just set the priorities, tell me how to approach it all, and I would.

I then opened my Bible and immediately read where Jesus was talking with a man who was blind. Jesus was asking him, "What do you want me to do for you?"

I read it again. Jesus asked: "What do you want me to do for you?" Rather amazed, I picked up my pen and began writing an entirely different list of concerns that I would like God to act on. This, I have found, is characteristic of God. Reminding us that he is there. That he cares, he's capable and he wanted me to rely on him.

I choose that example because it's brief. But I could cite hundreds of examples where I was asking God a question and he perfectly, thoroughly answered me. It probably is the characteristic of God that I most appreciate and value--that he is willing to answer my questions.

This isn't something I learned from other Christians. It's just how my relationship with God operates. I ask a question, with an attitude that I really want to give him freedom to tell me whatever he wants to....to correct my thinking, to point out an area in my life that isn't right, to show me where I'm not trusting him, whatever. And he always graciously speaks to me.

2. Similarly, when I need direction for a decision, he gives it. I believe that God cares about our decisions. I believe he has a plan for our lives, that he cares about who I marry, what kind of job I have, and some decisions smaller than that. I don't believe he cares what toothpaste I buy or lots of mundane decisions. But decisions that will affect my life or what he wants to accomplish through my life...I think he cares.

When has God given me clear direction?

One time I needed to decide about a trip to the Middle East. There was risk involved, and I was willing to go only if God wanted me to go. It was important to me that I knew what he wanted.

Two different times I asked God about a job. Both times his leading on it was so clear, that any observer would have concluded the same. Let me try one thin slice of an example.

During my senior year of college, I had decided to take a job after graduation that would require a move from Chicago to California.

It was Christmas break, and I was now visiting my parents. One evening, I was alone and thinking through a long list of friends. I was wondering, “Who could I talk into moving to California with me to share an apartment with me?”

One person named Christy came to mind. She had already graduated the previous year and settled in a job in Iowa. I thought she'd be the perfect roommate, but I hadn't talked to her in several months. Just 30 minutes later Christy calls me on the phone.

Her first sentence was, "I heard you are taking a job in California." I was floored because I had only told one friend, in Ohio.

Christy’s next statement was, "Ok, I've got the pots and pans and dishes." I said, "WHAT?!" She was moving to the same town in California and was calling to see if I would room with her.

Ok, so you see my point.

Other reasons I still believe in God…

3. Explanations about life--why we're here, what the purpose is, what is important in life, what to value or strive for--God has better answers than anything I've ever read anywhere. I have studied multiple philosophies and religions and other life approaches. In the Bible, seeing it from God's perspective, all the pieces of the puzzle fit.

A young woman reading the Bible -- the Bible is like an operating manual to life on earth.There is still a lot I'll read in the Bible and close the Bible saying, "I don't get it." So I don't mean to suggest I fully understand everything in the Bible. Instead, I'm saying that life only makes sense from the perspective of what God has revealed. It's like reading the operating manual to life on earth, only we are not left to merely follow the manual. The creator is explaining to us how life works, and then offers to personally guide us through it, on a daily basis.

4. God’s love is deeper than intimacy with any human being. I say that married, with two children, and tons of very close friends. His love is perfect. He's incredibly gracious. He takes me right where I'm at and gives guidance. He intervenes with actions that leave me amazed as the observer. He is not a belief or doctrine. I see him act in my life.

5. He has done more with my life than I would have done on my own. This is not a statement of inferiority or lack of self-confidence. I'm speaking in terms of accomplishments that far exceeded what I ever had in mind. He provides ideas, direction, solutions, wisdom, and better motives than I could aspire to on my own.

Well, there is more, but I think that gives you enough. I'm not sure any of it is believable to you, but I've been as honest as I know how to be.

If you would like to see some of the evidence that moved me from my atheist experience to believing in God, please see these two articles:
      Is There a God?
      Why Jesus is God

And, if you would like to understand how a person can arrive at faith in God, I would invite you to sign up for a 7-email series that I wrote, "The Spiritual Adventure Pack." I explain proof, doubt, legitimate evidence for God's existence and against God's existence. You can discontinue anytime. And it's free. Please go to Reasons to Believe: The Spiritual Adventure Pack to sign up for it.

Bottom Line

When I think of the value of knowing God it is this: that we can understand life, we can proceed with clarity, we can avoid pitfalls, we can be led by God, know truth, be given strength/hope/peace, and enjoy the most important relationship, the one who will be faithful to us and constantly love us. God, who created us, provides this as nothing else could.

To go through this life with success and confidence, we must be connected to him, relying on him. Until we come to know him, we will always be searching, always be testing other possibilities, and find them lacking. But when we respond to God's offer to be in relationship with him, we are satisfied, complete. We now are equipped to live this life with a plan and with Someone who can lead us in it.

 How to know God...
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Footnotes: (1) Paul E. Little, Know Why You Believe, IVP Books (2) Psalm 119:105

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