Guest / Limited Access /
The Atheist's Dilemma
Photo by Jason Grow
The Atheist's Dilemma

I don't know when I first became a skeptic. It must have been around age 4, when my mother found me arguing with another child at a birthday party: "But how do you know what the Bible says is true?" By age 11, my atheism was so widely known in my middle school that a Christian boy threatened to come to my house and "shoot all the atheists." My Christian friends in high school avoided talking to me about religion because they anticipated that I would tear down their poorly constructed arguments. And I did.

As I set off in 2008 to begin my freshman year studying government at Harvard (whose motto is Veritas, "Truth"), I could never have expected the change that awaited me.

It was a brisk November when I met John Joseph Porter. Our conversations initially revolved around conservative politics, but soon gravitated toward religion. He wrote an essay for the Ichthus, Harvard's Christian journal, defending God's existence. I critiqued it. On campus, we'd argue into the wee hours; when apart, we'd take our arguments to e-mail. Never before had I met a Christian who could respond to my most basic philosophical questions: How does one understand the Bible's contradictions? Could an omnipotent God make a stone he could not lift? What about the Euthyphro dilemma: Is something good because God declared it so, or does God merely identify the good? To someone like me, with no Christian background, resorting to an answer like "It takes faith" could only be intellectual cowardice. Joseph didn't do that.

And he did something else: He prodded me on how inconsistent I was as an atheist who nonetheless believed in right and wrong as objective, universal categories. Defenseless, ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
March
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this IssueIs Longer Life Better?
Subscriber Access Only Is Longer Life Better?
Gilbert Meilaender looks at the case for using science to extend human life.
RecommendedHow a Man of the Coasts and Cities Found Christ
How a Man of the Coasts and Cities Found Christ
My story of ditching hypocritical religion and secular hedonism for the joys of true discipleship.
TrendingOld Hollywood’s Abortion Secret
Old Hollywood’s Abortion Secret
What a culture of death tells us about a culture of life.
Editor's PickHow Science Became a Weapon in the Mommy Wars
How Science Became a Weapon in the Mommy Wars
Peer-reviewed research intensifies parenting debates… and can leave us even more confused.
Christianity Today
The Atheist's Dilemma
hide thisMarch March

In the Magazine

March 2013

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.