At my baptism a few years back, I gave a short testimony. It explained my path to becoming a Christian and how a reaction against new atheism was a catalyst. I’ve reproduced it below:
My being here today taking part in this ancient Christian ceremony would be a surprise to many people who’ve known me over the years, because for most of my life I have been a strident unbeliever. From a pretty early age I had fixed onto the idea that believing in God was as silly as worshipping Zeus, Ra or Thor, because to my mind science had shown that there was no need for any of them. And this was not a view I was embarrassed to share with anyone who would listen, and indeed with many who wouldn’t.
Such was the ardour of my atheism that it survived undented the fact that for most of my teens my best friends were not only believers but the sons of the Baptist ministers, with the result that I spent more time at church events than many Christians. In his testimony at his own baptism, one of these friends would say he knew was a Christian after an experience I witnessed. Some of us from the Church’s youth group were sat around in a circle, our heads bowed in prayer – or to be more exact they were sat in a circle praying, while I sat upright looking bored – and whoever was saying prayers at that point asked God to give us faith. At which point – a – gentle – but – unmistakable breeze – started – blowing – through – the – room. Pretty weird huh? Well I didn’t think so; I set off in search of a more “rational” cause and came back a few minutes later very pleased with myself for having discovered that the breeze was in fact nothing more than a draft created by somebody opening a door.
Now, confronted with such human conceit, God did what he often does and sent a messenger to confound it. Admittedly these messengers are seldom Richard Dawkins, but the evangelical atheist had the paradoxical impact of turning me away from his creed. The picture he painted of believers as dogmatic, delusional and even dangerous ran counter to my own experience of Christians, who had tolerated and indeed welcomed an at times rude and disrespectful unbeliever into their community.
This discordant note made me listen with fresh ears to debates I had thought closed. I began to wonder if evolution and its miraculous life giving power, far from negating the need for a creator strongly suggested the likelihood of one. And as I looked into scripture for its own value rather than as a source of debating points, I realised the reams of antiquated, barbaric injunctions that fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist atheists alike had led me to believe would be there, simply weren’t, and instead there was an altogether more appealing system of ethics built around just two positive, powerful commandments: love your God and love your neighbour.
This re-evaluation meant that by the time I had come to Oxford I was looking for a community where I could worship my God and after some searching I found it here at Wesley Memorial. This is warm, welcoming and wonderful church and to be accepted into membership here is a great honour.
So let me conclude with this, I am only here today because of people, who instead of telling me about God’s message of love, showed me it in their own lives. Their kindness was such an articulate argument, for the Christian message that it swayed even a sceptic like me. I am blessed to have known them, I am blessed that through them I know him, and I am SO blessed that he has given me you, the best friends and family I could ask for.