Findings & Footnotes

■  Although recent research and media accounts have focused on the process of losing one’s Christian faith, following the growth of the unaffiliated, there is a countercurrent of new research looking at how atheists are becoming Christians. Of course, there have long been popular treatments of Christian conversions in the form of apologetic literature, but the new book Atheists Finding God (Lexington Books, $100) by Jana Harmon represents a more scholarly approach to this subject. This is not to say that Harmon’s book pretends to be disinterested or objective; her own evangelical faith shapes her analysis, as she views the conversion accounts she studies as “transcendent experiences” leading interviewees to the truth of Christianity. That said, Harmon finds interesting patterns among the 50 ex-atheists she interviews, including the finding that two-thirds of them were certain about their atheism, convinced they would never abandon that position. It was only after some catalyst “disrupted the status quo” and caused dissatisfaction that they were led to question their own atheism or begin investigating Christianity. As to how they became atheists, most cited difficult experiences in life that they could not square with a just and good deity. Many developed intellectual objections to God after such experiences. About one-fourth of the interviewees had some exposure to nominal Christianity, while 18 percent attended church regularly, and only 10 percent expressed some form of belief in childhood or adolescence. The book’s concluding section studies how the narratives about these ex-atheists’ lives have changed. Many of them held on to skeptical beliefs about Christianity even after having converted, but gradually most saw themselves as apologists for the rationality of evangelical beliefs.