The Richard Dawkins effect: Could the atheist's rants against Christianity actually be winning people to it?

One academic writes of how reading Dawkins' The God Delusion actually converted her to Catholicism

Published 16 April 2014
AP/Akira Suemori
Professor Richard Dawkins, the author of The God Delusion

An interesting article appeared on the Dead Philosophers Society a few weeks ago from an academic who shares that reading Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion actually led to her conversion. 

Judith R Babarsky, an academic on the faculty at Holy Apostles College and Seminary, says she was recommended the bestseller by her eldest stepdaughter.

Babarsky did, it appears, already have some kind of faith in one God but regarded it as "unexamined" until she read the bestseller.

Having been initially "intrigued" by the blurb on The God Delusion, she goes on to say she "barely made it through a third of the book".

There were, she writes, "no cogent arguments" for or against the existence of God.  Instead what she discovered were statements about Jesus that were "so ill-informed that I resolved to actually learn something about Jesus Christ". 

"Truthfully, I found the book a waste of my time," she writes.

But perhaps a waste of time that wasn't such a waste after all as it was reading Dawkins' book that pushed her to delve into the issues she says were "holding me back from a full commitment to faith".  

She doesn't say what those issues are exactly beyond a need to find a sound intellectual basis for faith in Jesus Christ.  

"I realized I was no better than Dawkins.  I was basing my faith on inner feelings and a perceived sense of my world, having never thought much deeper than surface level ... In reading to refute Dawkins as well as educate myself and find answers to questions, I discovered the God-man Jesus Christ." 

But her search didn't end there as she delved into Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth and this in turn solidified her conclusions that faith in a supernatural God who came to earth in the form of Jesus Christ to atone for mankind's sin does indeed make sense, even though it cannot be proven by scientific method. 

"I believe that, while science has many valuable insights to offer us, it is not the final word," she says.

Today she's a happy Catholic - admitting that it resonates with her more emotionally and intellectually than "watered down" Protestantism. 

"If anyone had told me five years earlier that I would one day become Catholic, I honestly would have laughed in their face ... And had my stepdaughter not recommended that I read The God Delusion I might never have gone on to pursue my own honest and intellectual search for the meaning of my life.  I would still be lost and wandering with only a convenient and partial faith," she writes. 

Babarsky's conversion story has been picked up by Telegraph columnist Damian Thompson who shares his own story in a hilarious tongue-in-cheek piece on it in which he shares his own story of an old schoolfriend, Michael, who had been an atheist for decades until he read The God Delusion. 

When Michael called up Thompson to tell him he'd returned to the Catholic fold, he admitted to being a huge admirer of Dawkins the biologist.

"But then I read The God Delusion and it was ... total crap.  So bad that I started questioning my own faith," Michael shared. 

Thompson wonders whether it isn't some covert operation by a secretly Christian Dawkins to win people to the faith he spews vitriol on in public.

"If I were a conspiracy theorist, I might conclude that Prof Dawkins secretly converted to Christianity decades ago, and then asked himself: 'How can I best win souls? By straightforward argument, or by turning myself from a respected academic into a comic figure fulminating against religion like a fruitcake at Speakers' Corner, thereby discrediting atheism?'" 

We can only wonder how many other former atheists have given up on their anti-God convictions upon closer inspection of Professor Dawkins's views?

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