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I Was An Atheist Without Hope in Life. Then I Tried Praying.

Devin Rose - published on 05/19/14

There were few things Devin Rose wanted less than to become Catholic - but he also couldn’t rebut the Church’s arguments.

From the darkness of panic attacks, depression, and disordered anxieties, God brought me healing and faith through the Catholic Church.

Life-long Christians have trouble understanding what it must be like to be an atheist. And life-long atheists are similarly puzzled by how anyone could be gullible enough to believe in Jesus. I’ve seen both sides and got to tell my story on The Journey Home.

A Hail Mary in Despair

I was an atheist, had been my whole life, but I had a terrible secret: everyday I was tormented by paralyzing fear and anxieties. I was afraid of being humiliated in front of other people. And that very fear manifested itself in humiliating ways, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that was impossible for me to break.

I faced black despair: the absence of hope. I knew then why people committed suicide. When you have no hope and live in constant pain, you want your life to end. I wanted that. But I wasn’t yet ready to give up.

I picked up the Bible and began reading it. I said a single prayer: "God, I don’t believe in you, but I need help. If you are real, please help me."

It never hurts to say "please" you know. So I included that in the prayer. Never know; God might be big on manners. This was my Hail Mary into the endzone. If God was real, perhaps I would live. If He wasn’t, stick a fork in me, because I was done.

A Sapling Springs Up

I was reading the Bible, but truth be told it didn’t make much sense. If I were God I would have included a few more explanations and perhaps a tidy outline so interested folks could get the big picture.

Nonetheless, something was happening in me. Slowly at first, I felt a tiny inkling of the beginning of a hint of faith. I didn’t have faith yet, but I started to think that perhaps God might just exist. My anxieties lessened a smidge, which wouldn’t be remarkable but for the fact that they had only monotonically increased over the previous four years. Never had they retreated, even for a short time. This encouraged me to continue to read and pray, no matter how unintelligible the Bible seemed.

I guarded the little sapling of faith that was trying to grow, because I had to. Otherwise all the atheistic doubts would crush it underfoot. Atheism had had its chance. Now it was time to try something that offered hope and truth.

The Floodgates Open

I don’t know how, other than "God did it," but after months of Bible reading and prayer, faith exploded in my heart, and God came rushing in. I believed! I rejected atheism and put my faith in Jesus Christ. I repented of my sins. This is a mystery forever, how God moves in a person, especially one who does not believe in Him.

I joined a Baptist church, spent four hours at church on Sunday, went to Bible studies, started getting discipled by a wise and faithful middle-aged husband and father at my church, served the poor, the whole nine yards.

I felt called to get baptized, so I went up one morning at the altar call. Everyone clapped. I was nervous as hell going up for the baptism. It was on the second floor of the auditorium, with a clear plate of glass on the side of the water tank so that the whole congregation–all thousand of them–could see me getting immersed. My pastor quietly said to me as I was about to be baptized: "There’s only one rule: you bend your knees when I dunk you; I can lift you back up out of the water. You don’t bend your knees, you don’t come up out of that water."

I was baptized, and my faith grew by leaps and bounds. Becoming a Christian was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me. Thank you Jesus!

The Wrench in the Works

But I quickly realized something was amiss. Jesus said in John 17 that we should be perfectly one with each other. Yet we were not one. Christians were divided horribly, and over important issues. Who was right? Who was wrong? Or perhaps we were all wrong? Perhaps God had let the Church and all Christians fall into believing in errors, and no one could know the truth without error.

But if that were the case, how could we fulfill Jesus’ directive to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4)? Why did He say the Holy Spirit would lead the Apostles into all truth? He must have meant it. And He must have made it possible.

But who then was protected from error by God? The Baptists didn’t claim that, nor did any Protestants. Only the Mormons, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox claimed such a thing with any credibility.

I began to study and pray and think. The elephant in the room was the Catholic Church. I feared it like I feared few other things. It surely must be wrong on so many issues: contraception, Mary, the pope, the saints, purgatory. How could such things be defended?

I was ready to continue my rejection of Catholicism as I started reading about these issues. All that was needed was to see how flimsy the Catholic arguments were, and that would be that.

But the arguments weren’t flimsy. They were pretty good. And some were quite solid. And the counter-arguments made by Catholicism were strong too. How did I know which books God had inspired in the Bible? Hmm, good question. I started exploring that. My mind almost tied itself in a knot trying to figure out how Protestantism could successfully bootstrap its way up to sola Scriptura.

I read more. Surely some Protestant has found an ironclad line of reasoning on this issue. I searched and searched, and found nothing that satisfied. Oh, I read many theories and proposed explanations of how a Protestant could know the canon of Scripture with certainty, but even as a Protestant wanting to remain Protestant I saw the weaknesses of the arguments I was reading.

Go Where the Truth Is

I wanted few things less than to become Catholic. Even saying the word "Catholic" made me internally shudder in revulsion. But God had brought me from atheism to faith; He wasn’t going to lead me astray now. I confidently told Him that if I was going to do something evil or wrong, He could kindly smite me dead or show me that it was the wrong thing. He did neither.

Thirteen years later I am still Catholic, and I have never regretted it. Not to say that the Church doesn’t have problems–she does–but by God’s grace what she teaches is true. She is the only safe haven against the confusion of the world. God has safeguarded her; it was the only way it could ever be possible. And I am and will be eternally grateful to our Lord for His great mercy on me, a sinner.

Devin Rose is a professional software developer by day and a lay apologist by night. He lives on a farm outside of Austin with wife and two children. He blogs at St. Joseph’s Vanguard and is the author of The Protestant’s Dilemma: How the Reformation’s Shocking Consequences Point to the Truth of Catholicism.

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