Encounter Heading: Skeptic's Guide

11.4



An Atheist’s Encounter
with God



Richard Morgan was a British atheist, an expatriate living in France. He searched for God and Meaning but even after finally converting to atheism admitted to the very end that he could not live happily with his disbelief. Yet when Richard Dawkins’ writings first led him to conclude that there is no God, he felt relief and joy that he had the answer and that his searching could end. Dawkins himself often appeals to the freedom and relief one feels in one’s conversion to atheism though he quickly derides theists who dare to speak of their relief and joy in discovering God. Often the joy in conversion to atheism follows from a new sense of moral freedom, a relief that a God with his arbitrary rules need not be feared. Whether the rules are arbitrary or actually beneficial is a very different question we cannot touch on here. But for Richard Morgan, whatever the complete reason for his relief in confirming atheism, he could not be free of his anguish and hunger for God and Meaning.

Engaging the Richard Dawkins website, he found there stimulating scientific information, arguments, and conversation. However, he eventually became disillusioned with many of his fellow atheist bloggers for their very heartless and even cruel verbal treatment of their opponents. Some seemed to even hope for the deaths of some hapless, “deluded” religionists they had heard of. Morgan began conversations with David Robertson, a Christian critic of Dawkins and a persistent blogger on the Dawkins web site. Responding to one of David’s questions, “What could make you believe in God?”, Richard quickly answered, “Certainly not proof and evidence.” Instantly a verse from the Bible he had heard long ago came to mind, “We can love Him, because He loved us first.” These words had always stimulated a sense of longing within him. But now something was different, now something came over him that made him aware that the words were true. Before his very eyes the world had changed. From a black and white, two-dimensional world to a brilliantly colored three-dimensional world, as he put it, God had given him new sight that would lead to new life.

It bothered him when a fellow blogger accused him of intellectual dishonesty for coming to belief. He said Morgan “knew too much” having been so long on the Dawkins website. What his detractor didn’t seem to realize was that this kind of experience is good evidence for belief. Our experiential awareness that something is true is our essential reason for believing such foundational beliefs as the veridicality of our senses or our reasoning. Without good reason to disbelieve, this is sufficient reason to believe. And as we look at the various reasons given to disbelieve in God or Christianity, as we see throughout this website, we find that nothing stands as good or sufficient reason for disbelief. Usually skeptics ultimately fall back on the claim that there is no good reason to believe. That is often their foundational argument. But if religious experience is good reason for belief, that alone can justify belief.

Richard’s experience follows the kind of experimental testing that we should think would lead one to God if a good and sufficiently knowledgable and powerful God does exist. Shouldn’t we expect that such a God would reveal his (or its) existence to any who seek such a God? Interestingly, this is exactly what the Christian scripture says one should do to find God (John 7.17, Jeremiah 29.13, Matthew 7.7-8, etc.). Richard may not have overtly and audibly called upon God, at least not in his later years, but his longing for God was a nonverbal cry to God to which God was not deaf. Certainly God does call people who do not seek, though we shouldn’t presume God has any obligation to do so. Unless we seek God, we should not expect that we will find God. On the other hand, some seekers may need to wait many years before finding (as was the case with Richard). But as the writer of second Peter says, God is not slow or unfaithful in fulfilling his promises as some people think of slowness or unfaithfulness (2 Peter 3.9).

Please look at Richard Morgan’s own very interesting account of his experience to expand this very brief summary:
Morgan’s encounter.


For more about a kind of atheist prayer experiment to find God which was carried out by a number of people in 2012 see my comments at the Atheist Prayer Experiment.

Encounter has a number of
other accounts of seekers and non-seekers who have found experiential evidence for God or Christianity. The first few we might note can be found in my debate with Paul Doland. We will attempt to bring up links to other accounts once we get the website more completely rebuilt. Thank you for your patience.


Dennis Jensen, July 2013 (rev. November 2013; links added March 2015)

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