Former atheist Alister McGrath becomes a Christian because of science.

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The testimony of former atheist Alister McGrath. He is currently a theologian, priest, and a scientist.

Spiritually, God is the oxygen of my existence; I would find it very difficult to thrive without a belief in God. Of course, the word “God” needs some clarification. It means different things to different people, even though there are often clear areas of overlap. To clarify: I believe in the God who is made known and made available through Jesus-that is, a personal God who I believe knows me as an individual, cares for me, and enables and inspires me to live my life with a firm sense of purpose and a deep satisfaction in the service of others. That situates me within the generous parameters of Christianity.

I haven’t always seen things this way. When I was growing up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, during the 1960s, I came to the view that God was an infantile illusion, suitable for the elderly, the intellectually feeble, and the fraudulently religious. I admit this was a rather arrogant view, and one that I now find somewhat embarrassing. My rather pathetic excuse for this intellectual haughtiness is that a lot of other people felt the same way back then. It was the received wisdom of the day that religion was on its way out, and that a glorious, godless dawn was just around the corner.

Part of the reasoning that led to my conclusion was based on the natural sciences. I had specialized in mathematics and science during high school, as preparation for going to Oxford University to study chemistry. While my primary motivations for studying the sciences were the insights they allowed into the wonderful world of nature, I also found them a convenient ally in my critique of religion. Atheism and the natural sciences seemed to be coupled together by the most rigorous intellectual bonds. And there things rested, until I arrived at Oxford in October 1971.

Chemistry proved to be intellectually exhilarating. As more and more of the complexities of the natural world seemed to fall into place, I found myself overwhelmed by an incandescent enthusiasm. I chose to specialize in quantum theory, and found it to be mentally demanding, almost to the point of pain-yet rewarding. Although the quantum universe fascinated me, I was increasingly drawn to the biological world, intrigued by the complex chemical patterns of natural organisms. In the end, I decided to research advanced physical methods of investigating biological systems, under the supervision of Sir George Radda, who later became chief executive of the Medical Research Council.In the midst of this growing delight in the natural sciences, which exceeded anything I could have hoped for, I found myself rethinking my atheism. It is not easy for anyone to subject his core beliefs to criticism; my reason for doing so was the growing realization that things were not quite as straightforward as I had once thought. A number of factors had converged to bring about what I suppose I can reasonably describe as a crisis of faith-or lack thereof.

“Atheism, I began to realize, rested on a less-than-satisfactory evidential basis. The arguments that had once seemed bold, decisive, and conclusive increasingly turned out to be circular, tentative, and uncertain.”

Continue reading his testimony: Breaking The Science Atheism Bond.

17 responses to “Former atheist Alister McGrath becomes a Christian because of science.

  1. The world is complex. . .therefore the Christian God. . . . This is another form of “intellectual haughtiness” in my book. Probably the most honest thing to say might be, I chose to suspend reason and become a believer. I don’t think people generally choose to believe in one religion or another by studying biology, but maybe the writer is one. That’s fine, but says nothing about people who choose not to take the same leap.

    • He didn’t “suspend reason” and neither is he indulging “intellectual haughtiness.” He entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ, which is something atheists don’t understand, and never will until it happens them.

  2. And the satisfactory evidential basis for God is…? If it was so satisfactory, why the different beliefs or people of no beliefs?

      • Atheism doenst only entail rejecting God, it entails trying to give other answers to existential questions because it rejects God. Most of these answers atheism tries to give involved faith based assumptions. That is why it is a leap of faith. As one atheist explains:

        “[The atheistic worldview] is similar to the worldview of religion—neither can be shown to be true or false by science, or indeed by any rational technique. Whether theistic or atheistic, they are all matters of faith, stances taken up by tiny creatures in an infinitely rich environment.”

        -Crispin Sartwell (‘Irrational Atheism: Not Believing in God Isn’t Always Based on Reasoned Arguments And That’s OK.’)

        • No, atheism is only the lack of belief in a deity.

          As has been stated in Russell’s teapot analogy (and not reliant on evidence), it is a lack is belief UNTIL evidence is provided.

          Atheists as a generalization only share in the lack of un belief. After that, you’re going to get differing world views from atheists since it’s not a belief / non belief “system”.

          Equating a lack of belief with faith is ignorance.

        • Ummm…

          Atheism is a statement of disbelief in any deity.


          Atheism makes no claims of morality, no claim of certain knowledge of unanswered questions, and no answers to the great existential conundrums. That’s because atheism has no “revealed texts” or “holy books” that claim to have those answers.

          The only requirement of atheism is a lack of belief in some 3000+ deities.

          Christianity rejects one deity less is all.

    • Atheism entails no beliefs. If someone is an atheist, it means that they lack any belief in a god or gods. Every baby ever born has been an atheist, and if a person lived somewhere where they never heard of religion, and they didn’t invent their own, they would be an atheist. When it comes to unanswered questions like the origin of the universe, it doesn’t take a leap of faith to say “I don’t fully understand how that happened.” That’s what most atheists say, because even with theories of the Big Bang and inflation, no one understands it all. It’s okay to not know, but it’s not okay to pretend you know.

      • Sure an atheist lacks belief in a god or gods but that doesn’t mean they don’t hold beliefs. They believe in science and reason and logic etc.

        A newborn baby doesn’t have the cognitive ability to be an atheist or theist.

        It’s fine to ‘not know’ if that’s your conclusion. There are plenty of things I don’t know but the search continues. If though you’ve considered the presented evidence and using your reasoning faculties concluded that there are reasonable grounds for proposing that there is an intelligent source to the universe, you’re not saying you understand everything about ‘how the universe began’, you’re saying it makes sense to you that there is an intelligence involved. That’s not pretending you know something you don’t, that concluding intelligence based on your processing of the evidence. Plenty of highly reputed scientists have reached that conclusion.

        • “They believe in science and reason and logic etc.” … Nope, there are religions that don’t believe in any gods. Jainism, some branches of Buddhism. As an atheist all my life I can assure you there are legions of unreasonable atheists who don’t know a thing about science😉

        • Sure an atheist lacks belief in a god or gods but that doesn’t mean they don’t hold beliefs. They believe in science and reason and logic etc.

          Anyone who isn’t crazy believes in those things. Muslims believe in ‘science and reason and logic’, what does that have to do with the truth of Islam vs Christianity?

          A newborn baby doesn’t have the cognitive ability to be an atheist or theist.

          Atheism is the lack of belief in the existence of a god or gods. Agnosticism is the belief that we cannot know for certain whether a god or gods exist. Babies are born without beliefs. Therefore, since atheism merely requires the lack of a belief, while agnosticism requires the presence of a belief, babies automatically meet the definition of atheism but not of agnosticism.

  3. Very interesting story. I believe C.S. Lewis also took a long time to arrive at a faith in God “kicking and screaming” as he is quoted as saying.

  4. Pingback: Atheist Shotgunner #2 – Jason Mevin. | James Bishop's Theology & Apologetics.·

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