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When an Atheist Discovered Sin

April 30, AD 2012 15 Comments

I was an atheist. I didn’t believe in God and tried to convince those who did that they were stupid for doing so.

If you had asked me then whether I thought “sin” existed or whether I had ever sinned, I would have laughed. “Sin is a Christian concept intended to induce feelings of guilt for imagined offenses against an imaginary god.” I may have even started singing “Spirit in the Sky” to you for satirical purposes.

No, I had never sinned. But, like anyone, I knew that sometimes I did things that hurt people. And afterward if I thought about it, I would feel bad and even go and apologize. Maybe these feelings of guilt were genetic in origin, or socially constructed, but I didn’t try to explain away my hurtful actions with such popular rationalizations. Even as an atheist, I had the sense that free will existed and that there were objective moral standards–whatever their origin–that it was wrong to transgress.

After fighting a losing battle against social anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and depression, I gave Christianity an honest look for the first time in my life. I ignored my gut reaction against the word “sin,” and started trying to understand what the Christian Faith said was the cause of sin…and the remedy for it. As I prayed, and as faith was given to me by God, I realized that the evil things I had done not only hurt others; they also were offenses a good God, who loved me and was deserving of all my love.

We never want to hurt someone who loves us. Much less someone who, if it were possible, loves us perfectly, with complete selflessness. When I came to believe in Jesus Christ, I realized that I had hurt Him through my sin, and the pain of it was great. But the remedy was even greater: God’s mercy. Discovering that Christ was mercy and love–merciful love itself–literally evoked tears of sorrow and gratitude. While we Catholics downplay the “conversion experience” that Evangelical Protestants consider the moment of salvation, the fact is that repentance and joy in receiving God’s forgiveness is just as much a part of Catholic theology as it is that of Protestantism.

All those years of living without hope and without God in the world, all the weight of decades of unrepented sin, were gone in an instant. The waters of baptism flowed over me, and God’s grace filled me. I now understood the parable Jesus told of the servant who was forgiven for much and in turn needed to forgive the little that his brother had done against him. And I long for all people, especially my friends and family who don’t know Christ, to turn to Him in faith and receive the mercy He longs to give them.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Devin-Rose.png[/author_image] [author_info]Devin Rose is a Catholic writer and lay apologist. After his conversion from atheism to Protestant Christianity in college, he set out to discover where the fullness of the truth of Jesus Christ could be found. His search led him to the Catholic Church. He blogs at St. Joseph’s Vanguard and has released his first book titled “If Protestantism Is True.” He has written articles for Catholic News Agency, Fathers for Good, Called to Communion, and has appeared on EWTN discussing Catholic-Protestant topics.[/author_info] [/author]

Filed in: Columnists, Sacraments, Spirituality • Tags: ,

About the Author:

Devin Rose is a Catholic writer and lay apologist. After his conversion from atheism to Protestant Christianity in college, he set out to discover where the fullness of the truth of Jesus Christ could be found. His search led him to the Catholic Church. He blogs at St. Joseph’s Vanguard and has released his first book titled “If Protestantism Is True.” He has written articles for Catholic News Agency, Fathers for Good, Called to Communion, and has appeared on EWTN discussing Catholic-Protestant topics.