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Author Topic: Atheist converted by books.  (Read 2508 times) Average Rating: 0
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Doxa
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« on: October 15, 2009, 12:16:26 AM »

Greetings friends,

I must apologize for having ignored the Christ for so long.

Twenty years have gone past in my life, and yet I did nothing to convert. Though I was raised by secular atheists, one of whom has a grave hostility to religion, that is no excuse. My lax behavior and, yes, verbal assaults on religious people was part of my life until 2009. All I could do was laugh at how "silly" religion, and especially Christianity, were. After years of being told by my father how ridiculous it was, I suppose that one could not blame me; still, it was unacceptable. Cynicism was the only thing which came from my atheism, as I had no hope for a higher purpose, morality, or truth. Thank God I found something...

In mid-April, I was reading political commentary, when a certain pundit began talking about God-given rights. Usually, I would have rolled my eyes at this, but the defense of God was so eloquent that I decided to read more history on Christianity. This decision brought me to the life of Saint Thomas of Aquinas, the Italian Catholic who wrote several arguments for God. After being fascinated by this man's life and works, I read his Summa Theologica, written between 1265 and 1274. The logic, the questions, the objections, and the assertions of this amazing tome of logic managed to convince me of God's reality in mere days! It feels almost as if something drew me to Aquinas and his works. I hope that he rests in peace.

By mid-June, I had found another writer, but this one was much nearer to the modern age: C.S. Lewis. Though he is famous for his "Narnia" chronicles, the first I heard of him were his apologist works. His eloquent defense of religion, and then specifically of Christianity, in "Mere Christianity", broke the final atheist bone in my body. The sad and yet glorious explanation of his fall into atheism at college and subsequent conversion back to Christianity, described in his autobiography, "Surprised by Joy", inspired me. It was as if stars were floating in front of my very eyes, and suddenly the world seemed much brighter and more real. Something else was up in the aether, and something higher lived beyond the stars. It's amazing what mere books can do for us...

Sadly, I must admit that I have never opened a Bible. This is a great tragedy for me, especially since what was basically my whole conversion to Christ this past August. From April to July, I was unsure about whether Christianity was more likely than mere Deism. I did not know whether there was simply one God, - a monarch of the sky - or the Trinity of Christianity. A particular dream of mine, in which Christ beckoned to me, seemed to seal everything together. I was convinced of the holy power of Christianity when, a mere three nights ago, an awe-inspiring coincidence was made known to me. In early April, when I was reading about Christian Charity for the first time in my life, I came to Saint Martin of Tours, who cut his Roman legionary cape in half to clothe a freezing beggar in Amiens. This was the first saint I had ever heard of, and, after my private conversion a few days ago, I checked his name again to see where his feast day falls. I was given the shock of my life; amazingly, Martin's feast day falls precisely on my birthday. A second saint, Theodore the Studion, had crossed my path eight years ago, when I was watching a documentary on Iconoclasm in 8th century Constantinople. His heroism in defying Iconoclasm seemed very impressive to me; well, eight years on I found out that his feast day is also on my birthday.

There is certainly more to the world than my poor, hateful atheist father could have imagined. I hope that I can come to the Christ! I have never been baptised, nor do I know any passage of the Bible beyond the appearance of Cain and Abel. Since my private conversion mere days ago, research upon research has taken me to the conclusion that Orthodoxy is the true Christian faith. The keeping of ancient customs, the usage of the original Greek, its logical arguments against the Filioque, and the concept of Sin seem so true. However, I am still an infant in terms of knowledge, for I have never been inside a Church, and the nearest Orthodox places in this city require an extensive set of directions to find. I hope that I can find the Christ.

Thank you for reading this, and for giving me a place to introduce myself. It would be most helpful to get this thing into order before I set out for the local Orthodox churches. There are five autocephalous "Orthodox" Churches in this city - Serbian (which has services very infrequently), Russian (St. Vladimir), Greek (St. George), Coptic (St. Mena), and Antiochian (St. Antonius). How am I to make a choice, being a mere English person with no knowledge of Greek, Russian, or Arabic? Your help is appreciated. Smiley
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« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2009, 12:30:14 AM »

Welcome to OC.net. That's quite a story. I've been struggling with atheism/agnosticism for a few years now, flipping back and forth between that and Orthodoxy. I wish I would find the right book to set it all right for me! Smiley Regarding choosing a Church, I guess there's a couple schools of thought as to how to go about it. If it were me, I'd first find out if any of the parishes in your area use English (if that is your native tongue). From there I'd just pick a parish randomly, attend on a day when they are having services, and see how things go. Others might visit every parish/priest and see which they liked the best or felt best facilitated their spiritual growth. If I could say anything else, it would be, take your time, enjoy the journey, and don't get caught up in the small issues that might present themselves.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2009, 12:31:26 AM by Asteriktos » Logged
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« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2009, 12:33:02 AM »

Welcome to the forum!

I am so glad you are seeking out Christ!

You may want to call the churches to see when their liturgies start and to see if they have English liturgies.  You may want your first experience to be in a church where the liturgy is in English.  If none of them have English services, they'll probably have liturgy books which translate and which will help you follow along.  
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« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2009, 12:37:59 AM »

Yes, these sound like good courses of action and advice. Smiley Your words are appreciated, my friends!

I've heard that the Antiochian church is most likely to speak in English, if not have Liturgy in that language. Perhaps I will begin there, though I am still a tad unsure of myself. Asteriktos, I prefer the idea of personally speaking to the priest, as conversation with God is one-on-one, so it might as well begin that way for me! Here's hoping I can continue on the path to loving the Christ and being His bride, as it were.
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« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2009, 01:06:52 AM »

Welcome to the forum!  Thank you for sharing your account, particularly your vision of Christ in a dream.  Such visitations are rare in this world, and you are truly blessed to have been visited by our Lord in such a special way.

May God guide your steps in the days ahead.
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« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2009, 09:41:15 AM »

DOXA

Welcome to the Convert Issues Forum which we hope is a place  where inquirers, catechumen, and newly converted may ask their questions about the Orthodox Faith in a safe and supportive forum without retribution or recrimination. We try to provide insight in the basic teachings and practices of the Orthodox churches by providing direct and simple answers with sources.

Once again welcome to the Convert Issues Forum!

In Christ,
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« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2009, 10:22:16 AM »

Welcome to the forum!

You would be surprised at how many people there are that could tell some variation of your story.

Look forward towards Christ and don't use your past as a reason to punish yourself.
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« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2009, 11:33:45 AM »

Dear Doxa,

I am in a way like you, because I, too, was raised by entirely secular parents (in the former USSR), and never received any religious education or upbringing. And I, too, found Christ and His Church very late in my life, when I was already in my 40-s. In my case, though, it wasn't the books but, rather, the beauty, the aesthetic influence of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy.

As far as what parish to choose: the nearest one to where I live happens to be Greek, and I do not know much Greek, and I am of the Ukrainian ethnic origin; however, I never felt unwelcome or uncomfortable there. The services are mostly in English, with just a few insertions of Greek liturgical exclamations that never bothered me.

Welcome to the OC.net! This is a great site, I hope you will stay with us and find a lot of useful and interesting stuff here.

George
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« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2009, 11:02:45 PM »

Welcome and thank you for sharing your journey. St. Vladimir would have an English liturgy if it is OCA (Othodox Church in America); likely old slavonic if it is ROCOR
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« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2009, 11:51:51 PM »

Hi, I'm a Copt named Mina  Smiley

If you live in the Coptic Southern Diocesan area, which is between Georgia and Florida on the East and Texas on the West, then that parish might have mostly English (with traditional Coptic hymns and some Arabic).  Otherwise, usually it's 45/45/10 Arabic/English/Coptic.

God bless you on your journey.  Please do share with us your story as you progress.
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« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2009, 12:02:06 AM »

Doxa, Welcome to the forum and best wishes as you continue along your path to Orthodoxy.   Smiley

Just beware of the temptations of falling back to atheism or something completely different.  Try not to allow culture and language barriers to deter your path to Orthodoxy.  I concur with the others on finding a Church which performs DL in English.

minasoliman, based on Internet searches of the 5 Churches mentioned by the OP, Maritime Canada is where the OP is most likely based.
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« Reply #11 on: October 16, 2009, 12:06:38 AM »

Doxa, Welcome to the forum and best wishes as you continue along your path to Orthodoxy.   Smiley

Just beware of the temptations of falling back to atheism or something completely different.  Try not to allow culture and language barriers to deter your path to Orthodoxy.  I concur with the others on finding a Church which performs DL in English.

minasoliman, based on Internet searches of the 5 Churches mentioned by the OP, Maritime Canada is where the OP is most likely based.

I attended a Coptic Church in Montreal where they also prayed in French.  Pretty neat.
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« Reply #12 on: October 16, 2009, 12:17:48 AM »

I attended a Coptic Church in Montreal where they also prayed in French.  Pretty neat.

Seigneur, prends pitié - Lord, have mercy in French.   Smiley  French is a language that I understand quite well.
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« Reply #13 on: October 17, 2009, 10:14:00 AM »

Very interesting! So, welcome and best wishes to you. God has made His part of the job, now it's all left up to you.

Start reading the New Testament and pay attention to the Gospels for a start. The people here at the forums and probably the ones in your local churches (especially if there's a spiritual confessor) will help you with any question you might have. Although I'm sure that they have already been answered somewhere. Wink

Lord, have mercy.
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« Reply #14 on: October 17, 2009, 12:52:01 PM »

It's generally reccomended that the Gospel of John is always a good place to start. After that, read the book of Acts. You can pick up a copy of "The Orthodox Study Bible" from Amazon.com pretty cheap.
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« Reply #15 on: October 17, 2009, 05:08:10 PM »

It's generally reccomended that the Gospel of John is always a good place to start. After that, read the book of Acts. You can pick up a copy of "The Orthodox Study Bible" from Amazon.com pretty cheap.

Actually for my then fiancee (now wife), who is Taiwanese with a typical Buddhist-Confucian background and so, like the OP, knew basically nothing about the actual Biblical text/stories, our priest started her with the Gospel of Mark. It covers all the basic information quickly and succinctly. The Gospel of John gets very deep, very fast--it was written well after the other 3 and assumes an audience of Christians who already knows the basic facts and are ready to go deeper.
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« Reply #16 on: October 17, 2009, 06:12:21 PM »

It's generally reccomended that the Gospel of John is always a good place to start. After that, read the book of Acts. You can pick up a copy of "The Orthodox Study Bible" from Amazon.com pretty cheap.

Actually for my then fiancee (now wife), who is Taiwanese with a typical Buddhist-Confucian background and so, like the OP, knew basically nothing about the actual Biblical text/stories, our priest started her with the Gospel of Mark. It covers all the basic information quickly and succinctly. The Gospel of John gets very deep, very fast--it was written well after the other 3 and assumes an audience of Christians who already knows the basic facts and are ready to go deeper.

I agree. And, also, I think one fragment of New Testament that is very good for a beginner is the Sermon of the Mount from the Gospel of St. Matthew. At least to me, it has always been the biggest emotional as well as intellectual/ethical boost. The personality of Christ is revealed so wonderfully in these lines, "blessed are the meek... the peacemakers... first go and be reconciled to your brother... settle matters quickly... give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you... love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you... when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing... do not judge... ask... seek... knock... in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you... by theor fruit you will recognize them... who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice, is like a wise man..."
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« Reply #17 on: October 17, 2009, 07:54:49 PM »

Good to see you here.

Read anything by C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton.

And remember that all five jurisdictions are Orthodox. Go to the one in which you can grow.
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« Reply #18 on: October 17, 2009, 09:19:59 PM »

God bless you on your journey, Doxa.  I came to Orthodoxy from a place not too different from the one you came from.

You listed four Orthodox Churches near you, the Serbian, Russian, Greek, and Antiochian churches, who, while having cultural variances, are united in one Orthodox faith.  The Coptic one is of the non-Chalcedonian faith, so it'll be different from the four (Eastern) Orthodox churches.
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« Reply #19 on: October 21, 2009, 09:34:38 AM »

You listed four Orthodox Churches near you, the Serbian, Russian, Greek, and Antiochian churches, who, while having cultural variances, are united in one Orthodox faith.  The Coptic one is of the non-Chalcedonian faith, so it'll be different from the four (Eastern) Orthodox churches.

That's right! First of all, Doxa, you have to make a choice between the Eastern (Chalcedonian) Orthodox Church and Oriental (non-Chalcedonian) Orthodox Church.
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« Reply #20 on: October 26, 2009, 09:00:45 PM »

Two books that played a remarkable influence on me was The Orthodox Way by Bishop Ware and On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius. Both presented the Christian Faith in a way that I was largely unfamiliar and opened me up to a greater and deeper understanding of the breadth of the Christian Message. That said a hardened Atheist would fine little solace in either of these.
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« Reply #21 on: October 26, 2009, 09:57:45 PM »

Two books that played a remarkable influence on me was The Orthodox Way by Bishop Ware and On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius. Both presented the Christian Faith in a way that I was largely unfamiliar and opened me up to a greater and deeper understanding of the breadth of the Christian Message. That said a hardened Atheist would fine little solace in either of these.

I just finished The Orthodox Way by Bishop Ware. I thought it was absolutely excellent.

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« Reply #22 on: October 26, 2009, 09:59:39 PM »

Two books that played a remarkable influence on me was The Orthodox Way by Bishop Ware and On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius. Both presented the Christian Faith in a way that I was largely unfamiliar and opened me up to a greater and deeper understanding of the breadth of the Christian Message. That said a hardened Atheist would fine little solace in either of these.

I just finished The Orthodox Way by Bishop Ware. I thought it was absolutely excellent.



I find no better introduction to Orthodox than that book. Inspired.
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« Reply #23 on: October 26, 2009, 11:33:17 PM »

Dear Doxa,

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful, moving, and well written testimony of your journey from atheism to Faith in God. You say that you hope to find the Christ, but it is evident from your eloquent words that Our Lord has already found you!

I'm sure many sincere Orthodox Christians (like myself) would love to see you embrace their particular Orthodox Church. We all have such love and respect for our own traditions and culture, and yet we are all members of one Body- the Body of Christ.

For now, I don't want to overwhelm you with advice about what books to read and what prayers to pray, etc. I'm sure that all the above recommendations are excellent and worthy of consideration. But at the moment, I would simply offer a small word of caution: do not delve too deeply into complex theological disputes and philosophical debates. Simply rest in the joy of having experienced the divine touch upon your life, and simply bathe in the divine presence. It is quite possible that at this time you are experiencing God in ways far more profound than those of us who have been Christians for decades.

Orthodoxy is all about embracing divine mystery; and I'm sure that your awareness of the reality of an ineffable God defies rational explanation or verbal articulation. Yet, it is most certainly the most real experience of your life.

So, my dear friend, enjoy this grace that has found you out. Bathe in it. Rest in it. Enjoy it. Don't try too hard to understand it. Our Lord Jesus Christ simply says, "Follow Me." So, take hold of the holy hand that has touched your heart. Allow His hand to lead you to humility, alms giving, prayer, and service to your fellow man. And when you are plagued by doubts and assailed by disappointments and disillusions, simply prostrate your mind and heart before Our Lord and trust in His mercy and grace.

What a privilege and blessing to come to the knowledge of God through Christ Our Lord! You are now on a spiritual journey that will be more difficult and painful than you could ever imagine; and yet it is a journey that will lead you to places and experiences more glorious than you could ever dream.

Thank you again for sharing this joy with us. I will leave you with one more small piece of advice: begin praying the "Jesus Prayer." This prayer can be prayed in any situation and for any need. You may even pray it on behalf of others. You can pray it any time, and it is good to pray it repetatively. The prayer is simply:

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on Me a Sinner."

Please do keep in touch with us. Don't hesitate to PM me if you have any questions at all.

Peace to you my friend. Smiley

Selam,

Gebre Menfes Kidus
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