Ahead of Unbelievable? the Conference 2017 Justin Brierley traces...
After giving birth to her first child, Jennifer Fulwiler began to question her long-held atheism.
Jennifer Fulwiler was a confirmed atheist from childhood. She couldn’t remember a time in her life when she actually believed in a God.
Her parents wanted to bless their daughter with a steady diet of science and reason. Jennifer recalls how, as a child, her father would read Carl Sagan’s Cosmos to her as a bedtime story. Her parents wanted her to grow into a rational adult. And she did. She grew to adulthood with the notion that the universe was solid, essential material, and that anything that transcended into the level of the metaphysical entered the realm of fiction.
This began to change when Jennifer’s first child was born. As she looked at the child, her analytical brain began to work. She questioned what this child was, and the answer came back that he was a collection of chemicals and materials structured into higher-order processes. She then had to ask what the love that she felt for the child was. Rationally, it could only be chemical processes within her own body. This, she realised, simply wasn’t true.
Realising that her line of thought had taken her into the realm of the spiritual, Jennifer decided that the most logical line of reason was to research. Taking this initiative, she got her hands on books related to spiritualism, Buddhism, Hinduism and mysticism. The one subject she purposely avoided was Christianity. Jennifer’s atheistic parents hadn't spoken much about religion in general. But they had spent a great deal of time convincing her that Christianity was patently false.
Surprised by evidence
It was Jennifer’s husband – a non-practicing Christian, who pushed her to try the research on Christianity. He pointed out that Jesus claimed to be God, and that, if untrue, this would be a very easy claim to deflate the entire religion. This made Christianity the one religion which could be objectively falsified.
Jennifer humored her husband, but quickly discovered that her condescending, dismissive attitude toward Christianity and Christians was wrong. She was shocked by the intellectually rigorous material and tradition underlying the belief system. She was transfixed by Christian thinkers such as Aquinas, Augustine and Descartes. She realised her concept of Christianity had been woefully two-dimensional.
Her next surprise was the substantial amount of evidence that exists for the historical Jesus. This was not, however, enough to convince her. She decided to do something unconventional. She started her own blog, throwing difficult questions out onto the internet like juicy steaks for atheists and Christians to fight over on the message boards. To Jennifer’s surprise, the Christians did not come off as ignorant morons! Both the Christians and atheists seemed intelligent and reasonable in their responses. However, what she did notice was that the Christians appeared to have far more grounding for fundamental things such as love and joy.
A new sense of joy
Jennifer finally made the decision to become a Christian, talking to the air and hoping that someone was listening, asking Jesus to have a relationship with her. She was answered with a sense of joy and purpose which changed her life.
Far from intellectually chaining her, Jennifer has found that her new Christian outlook has freed her to pursue all avenues of inquiry - scientific, philosophical and spiritual - something her atheism never allowed her to do.
Jennifer has achieved some notoriety on the internet with her blog, which keeps a log of what it is like being a post-atheist. This has brought her no small amount of attention both from Christians and atheists, eager to see her story and test her conclusions. Since her conversion, Jennifer has started her own ministry, which includes speaking at conferences and events, a regular radio show and several books.
Unbelievable? presenter Justin Brierley blogs on all things theology, apologetics and ethics.