In a Western culture of increasing skepticism towards conservative Christianity, what motivates intellectually-driven atheists to believe in the reality of God and become passionate followers of Christ? Review of social science literature confirms a predominant functional approach to religious conversion, effectively reducing a complex, substantive phenomenon to a partial functional explanation. In response, the chief focus of this book is to take a broader look at religious conversion to determine the precursors and pathways from atheistic disbelief to belief in God and Christianity within an educated population.
Findings are drawn from PhD-based research evaluating a broad range of functional and substantive variables influencing religious conversion. Data was collected through both survey and interview of fifty educated, skeptical atheists in the contemporary West who once held belief God and Christianity as implausible, unattractive, and irrelevant. Yet, they became utterly convinced that the Christian faith was true and good, worth personal life commitment.
These former atheists not only experienced a change of their worldview, but also a dramatic transformation of their ‘whole world.’ In-depth narrative analysis revealed the integrated, transformative nature of religious conversion in areas of sense-making, identity, experience, meaning and purpose, community, language, and spirituality. Overall, this book advances the case for using an inclusive, transformational perspective in future description, conception, and modeling for religious conversion of atheists to conservative forms of Christianity.
Jana Harmon is teaching fellow for the C.S. Lewis Institute of Atlanta and a former adjunct professor in Cultural Apologetics at Biola University.
Chapter One: Religious Conversion—Changing Stories of Reality
Chapter Two: Atheism and Christianity—Conflicting Worldview Stories
Chapter Three: Becoming an Atheist—Atheists’ Reasons for Atheism
Chapter Four: Being an Atheist—Atheists’ Views on Religion and Life
Chapter Five: Catalysts Towards Change—Disruptive Challenges and Longings
Chapter Six: Catalysts Towards Change—Disruptive Experiences
Chapter Seven: Questing Towards Belief—Seeking After Truth
Chapter Eight: Questing Towards Belief—Experiencing God
Chapter Nine: Putting the Pieces Together—the Complexity of Conversion
Chapter Ten: Putting the Pieces Together—the Comprehensiveness of Conversion
Appendix: From Atheism to Christianity—Unlikely Stories of Conversion
About the Author
In a cultural climate where “nones,” “exvangelicals,” and atheists often capture scholarly and media attention, Jana Harmon shifts our gaze in an altogether different direction. Through surveys and extensive interviews of fifty former atheists, Harmon documents the dramatic change in beliefs, identity, and sense of purpose by former atheists who discovered in (primarily evangelical) Christianity a more credible, coherent, and intellectually satisfying view of reality. Attentive to recent theories and methods in the study of religious conversion—indeed, to the complexities of the conversion process—Harmon’s book is a significant and welcomed contribution to contemporary studies on religious conversion.
Harmon’s book is an outstanding contribution. It achieves that rare balance of combining a scholarly account of conversion theories with some, often profoundly moving, accounts of the personal journeys that atheists have made towards faith. Harmon challenges the negative assumption that belief in God is not intellectually or existentially plausible. On the contrary, her painstaking and comprehensive research documents multiple personal stories that confound such prejudices. This book will be an excellent resource for academics and non-academics alike.
Jana Harmon has written a remarkable book that explores from within a Christian world view how it is that contemporary atheists in the West are increasingly and surprisingly converting to Christianity. As a teaching Fellow for the C.S. Lewis Institute of Atlanta, and a graduate of Biola University with an MA, in Cultural Apologetics and with this remarkable book based largely on her Ph.D. in Religion and Theology from the University of Birmingham in England, she has positioned herself as a wise apologist for a deep understanding of why atheists would reject the Western turn to scientific naturalism and, for many, the denial of God. Based upon in depth interviews with fifty converts from atheism, many who have appeared on her popular Side B stories podcast, a persuasive case is made that coverts are best viewed as responding to the reality of God’s presence as opposed to a scientific reductionism that denies that God exists other than as a delusion for which an atheistic worldview takes pride in declaring as the penultimate achievement of the increasingly secular culture of the West. Read this book with an open mind and like C. S. Lewis, you just may be surprised by joy.
Harmon’s book makes a critical contribution to understanding the dynamic and multidimensional matrix of conversion to Christianity. By combining narrative analysis, sociological insights, and an openness to spiritual realities, this book invites a deep analysis of the converting process that goes beyond typical reductionistic perspectives. Atheists Finding God reminds us that we are more than flesh and bones; we have spirits that long to be in relationship with the Triune God.
Harmon’s book is equally fascinating from a standpoint of pure research and study as it is from the standpoint of an effective biographical read. The language and structure are very readable and appealing to both the academic and the casual reader.