The Logic of Atheism Drove This Scholar to Jesus

Logic is an amazing feature of the universe God created, but one that is unfortunately often ignored. It is no longer taught in public schools, which is obvious from the tenor of public debates over politics and religion. And those of us who attend weekly worship services at our local church also get very little, if any, teaching about logic. But if we are to think well and critically through life, logic is indispensable, especially in a hostile, post-Christian Western culture. (The one encouraging bright spot in this logical wasteland is the growth of Christian (and public charter) classical education, but it’s only a drop in a very large bucket at this point.)

Most people tend to think that logic drives people away from Christian faith, but logic is in fact one of our faith’s most powerful allies. I recently learned about an atheist turned Christian who found this out much to her surprise. Sarah Irving-Stonebraker was once a committed atheist, and she tells her story of coming to embrace the Christian message in a piece at The Veritas Forum. Growing up in a “loving, secular home,” as she puts it, she just knew that “Christians were anti-intellectual and self-righteous.” She doesn’t seem to have known any Christians at the time, but that is the perception in the Western cultural air we breathe.

Growing up in Australia, she eventually went off to Cambridge and Oxford to get her Ph.D., and encountered atheist ethicist Peter Singer. The logical implications of his atheism drove her to Christianity:

I remember leaving Singer’s lectures with a strange intellectual vertigo; I was committed to believing that universal human value was more than just a well-meaning conceit of liberalism.  But I knew from my own research in the history of European empires and their encounters with indigenous cultures, that societies have always had different conceptions of human worth, or lack thereof.  The premise of human equality is not a self-evident truth: it is profoundly historically contingent.  I began to realise that the implications of my atheism were incompatible with almost every value I held dear.

What were those implications of her atheism? She doesn’t exactly spell it out in the article, but as I often point out, if all we are is lucky dirt then, logically, we have as much value as dirt. She obviously figured out that the logic of atheism leads to the opposite of “universal human value.” The bloodbath of 20th century communism (estimates of 100 million killed) is the perfectly logical conclusion of atheism. You can’t get to Western liberal values of respect for human dignity from atheism, but you can from Christianity. It was Christianity that gave us these values in the first place.

She also noticed that the Christians she was meeting were not at all like the caricature she held of them. And when she started to dig into Christian theology, she found an intellectual depth she wasn’t expecting. Not to mention what she learned about that message at the heart of the gospel:

Christianity was also, to my surprise, radical – far more radical than the leftist ideologies with which I had previously been enamored. The love of God was unlike anything which I expected, or of which I could make sense. In becoming fully human in Jesus, God behaved decidedly unlike a god.

She eventually realized the beauty of the counter intuitive logic of Christianity, and that it makes perfect sense. While every religion on earth basically comes down to moralism (be moral and earn God’s favor), Christianity teaches there is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor. As condemned sinners, he himself became a man and died in our place, paid the penalty for the guilt of our sin, and then gave us his very own righteousness—Most definitely radical.