Science and Belief

Jennifer Fulweiler was a committed, lifelong atheist who thought religion was for the intellectually inferior. But then life changed; science and reason were no longer sufficient. As she began a quest for spiritual truth, Jennifer researched every world religion but Christianity, which she felt the least likely to be true. But then her husband recommended she consider Christianity, the one major religion whose founder claimed to be God. Jennifer began a blog to chronicle her journey and the results led her to an unexpected place. Find out more here.

Questions for Discussion and Personal Reflection

  1. Jennifer notes that the love for her baby was a first indicator that life might be more than just chemicals in the brain. Are there any indicators that have led you to that same conclusion?
  2. What have you learned from historic Christian thinkers? (Aquinas, Augustine, Descartes) Consider checking one of their books out from a local library. When you look at the evidence about Christianity, in what ways is it compelling? Not compelling?

My name's Jennifer Fulwiler. I was a lifelong atheist, and I'm now a Christian. I write a blog called "Conversion Diary." It's a chronicle of the ups and downs of what it's like to have faith after an entire life of being an atheist. I never believed in God, not even as a child. When my dad would come read books to me at night, I believe I was in fourth or fifth grade, and our nightly reading was Carl Sagan's Cosmos. So I was very much raised on a diet of science and reason and evidence-based, rational thought. You believe what you can prove. I believe that I have hands because I can see them. I believe in a black hole, even though I've never seen one, but, you know, science can tell us about the way matter moves around it that we can observe. And so this very rational worldview always made sense to me on a fundamental level. Before I got to the point that I could really start researching faith with an open mind, something had to happen, and for me that occurred after my first child was born. I looked down and thought, "What is this baby?" And I thought, "Well, from a pure atheist materialist perspective, he is a collection of randomly evolved chemical reactions." And I realized if that's true, that all the love that I feel for him, that it's all nothing more than chemical reactions in our brains, and I looked down at him and I realized that's not true. It's not the truth. I didn't know where to go from there, but that's what prompted me to start researching topics of spirituality. I got my books about Buddhism, and you know, and about every religion except for Christianity. Basically, I assumed anything could be true except for Christianity, and my husband, who considered himself a non-practicing Christian, said, "You might want to start with the one major world religion whose founder claimed to be God. After all, that's a really easy claim to disprove if it's not true," and I thought, "Well, that's a fair point." I was such a through-and-through atheist that I have to admit I was ignorant of all these great Christian thinkers. What about Thomas Aquinas? What about Augustin? What about DesCartes? I mean all of these great thinkers throughout history were not only theists but Christians, and I was really surprised when I actually found these very intellectually rigorous books where people talked about their faith from a place of reason and not a place of emotion. And when I looked at evidence like that on the whole, I started to think something explosive, something world-changing happened in 1st Century Palestine. You have this guy named Jesus who comes from a lower-class region, gains a bunch of lower-class followers, and ends up being executed by the Romans, and yet in droves, you see thousands and thousands of Jews giving up these traditions that they had held dear for thousands of years. And the people who joined in on this new religion, there was no benefit for them. It was a persecuted religion. People who joined this religion didn't tend to work out too well. They tended to lose social status and often faced death. But I wasn't yet, you know, convinced and, and ready to become a Christian, and so I started a blog. I just threw out every hard question I could think of. I just put it all out there on the blog, and as I would watch the atheists and the Christians go back and forth and debate, I realized we atheists, we don't have the lock on reason that I thought we did. But what I saw with the Christians was they had that, too. They had all the knowledge of science and material world that, that we atheists did, but yet they had the total picture of the human experience of love and triumph and hope, and you know, they could articulate that in a way that the atheists couldn't. It wasn't until after I had made the intellectual decision to become a Christian that I think I finally believed it in my heart. When I set my pride aside and said, "Okay, I feel like I'm talking to myself, but Jesus I want a relationship with you. I, I want to know you even though I don't know how to go about doing that," this peace entered my life, this joy. The way my whole being was transformed, there was just no question that this is somebody real. I think that, not only am I more alive now that I'm a Christian, but I'm so much more intellectually alive. Finally nothing is off limits. I can ask questions about science but I can also ask questions about the spiritual world, and I'm free to really seek the truth.