I think you might be encouraged by Richard Morgan’s testimony. He shared his story with Brian Auten.
He starts by sharing how he realized he’d always been an atheist:
But of course I grew up and I realised that in fact I did not need that kind of contact, that kind of moral support. I moved to France and fairly shortly afterwards I read Richard Dawkins’ book, The Blind Watchmaker and what was fantastic for me, and this is a real epiphany experience, was to realise that of course, all these years of searching for something spiritual, or Godlike, were bound to be completely frustrating, because God didn’t exist!
This book of Richard Dawkins seemed to make it clear to me that there was nothing to look for, so stop looking and get on with your life. What I’d also like to say now, which I never said before in public, is that I didn’t feel like I became an atheist, the feeling was more that I realised was that I always had been. I get the feeling that I never actually believed in God or anything else invisible, but I was looking—for some unhealthy psychological reason—and once I discovered and identified that reason and I had good explanations which showed quite clearly that obviously God didn’t exist, it was just a huge relief. It was literally becoming a… coming out as an atheist was really a “Hallelujah experience” for me. A so I more or less gave up any interest in anything like that at all.
Given his interest in Dawkins, he decided to join the discussion forums on his website. He found the discussions interesting, but also quite rude and vulgar:
And so I joined the forum, which was my first ever forum on the internet and I met these intelligent scientists and philosophers in this “oasis of clear thinking” and I was just absolutely horrified. At least half the posters devoted their time to saying rude things about believers using really foul language, mocking, as David Robertson calls them, the “hate’n’bile” squad. I thought, this is, you know, why are they like this.
Being as this was my first ever forum, I thought well I’m not going to question them, you know; I’m the new boy on the block. I’ll just try and join in and be like them, as it were.
One day, there was a sustained discussion criticizing a book by David Robertson, who wrote The Dawkins Letters. To the community’s surprise…
And we started criticising it and generally laying into him. And then one day, lo and behold, David Robertson himself appeared in the discussion, defending the points that he made in his book and answering the questions and criticisms that had been made against him.
I don’t know how many hours he must have spent just replying, very calmly and politely, to people who were issuing, sending out the most vile insults and criticisms. He just kept coming back and coming back, occasionally with a few words of Scripture thrown into his general discourse. But he just kept coming back and I thought – my initial reaction was, “What is wrong with this guy?” I even published a post myself saying, “What is he doing here? What is he trying to expect…I’ll say that sentence again, “Why does he keep coming back?” What kind of result does he expect?” And of course the more experienced posters on the forum said, “Oh, it is just another Christian attention seeker”.
And this carried on for days and days and days…became the longest ever discussion on the RichardDawkins.net discussion board.
The gentle, humble tone of Robertson’s approach, the inclusion of Scripture, and the wisdom of his words really made an impression on Richard Morgan. He eventually prints out all of his posts. After reading through them, he emails David. And in considering David’s response, he has an encounter with God and becomes a Christian. David eventually connected him to a church in the town where he lives in France.
At the end of the interview, Richard provides two key pieces of advice to other apologists who want to follow David’s example. The first is to “keep coming back.” And the second is “not to prove the other person wrong” but to “maintain the communication, to open up the communication.”
Overall, I think this is really encouraging. A persistent, humble, thoughtful witness on Richard Dawkins’ website led to Richard becoming a Christian! God is at work in unexpected places.
I’d encourage you to pray and to openly listen to God’s guidance on next steps. In addition, examine yourself and count the cost:
- How will you handle ridicule?
- Are you prepared to thoughtfully and substantially respond to the arguments on this website?
- Do you have the time to read, to research, to prepare, and to graciously write responses for the next few months?
- Do you have a strong prayer life and will you pray for each person in this skeptical community?
- Do you love the people in this skeptical forum? Is this initiative being motivated by love for their best interest?
There’s no shame in deciding this isn’t the right season or context for you to serve the Lord. If you do go ahead, I trust this community will be supportive and helpful to you as you engage with new friends in this other environment.