Questioning Everything, Finding Answers – Rick Allan’s Story

Feb 4, 2022

Side B Stories
Side B Stories
Questioning Everything, Finding Answers - Rick Allan's Story
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After skeptic Rick Allan was presented with Christianity and its effects on his family, he began to investigate the evidence for God and Christianity.

 

Rick’s website: askepticsjourney.com

Greg Koukl: Tactics – A Game plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions

J. Warner Wallace: Cold Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels

Unbelievable? podcast with Justin Brierley: https://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Episodes

Justin Brierley’s book: Unbelievable?: Why After Talking with Atheists for Ten Years I’m Still a Christian


Episode Transcript

Hello, and thanks for joining in. I’m Jana Harmon, and you’re listening to the Side B Podcast, where we see how someone flips the record of their life. There is a general presumption among atheists that there is no evidence for God, so they do not look, and they find what they do not seek, disbelief. But what happens when someone actually challenges that presumption and decides to investigate the evidence for themselves and that genuine search changes their minds?

That is the story of Rick Allan. He was a self-professed skeptic and former atheist who turned Christian. He challenged himself, pursued the truth, and discovered that there was a substantial amount of evidence for both God and Christianity. Today, he’s here to talk about his journey from atheism to a strong belief in God. I hope you’ll come along and listen to what he found.

Welcome to the Side B Podcast, Rick! It’s so great to have you here today to tell your story.

Well, thanks a lot. I’m really excited to be here and share it.

Wonderful. As we’re getting started, so we’ll know a little bit about you, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure. I live in the US, Midwest US for all my life. I grew up in Milwaukee and then moved to Minneapolis about 25 years ago with my wife, and we’ve been married for 27 years now, and two kids. They’re twins, a boy and a girl, and they are 19 years old and just starting college.

We’ll you’re from the cold country. I’ve spent some time in Minnesota and in Wisconsin myself in different jobs, but you are from Milwaukee. You said you grew up there. Tell me what your world was like growing up in Milwaukee from the sense of your culture, from your family. Was there any sensibility of God in that world?

There was. But it didn’t really affect me very much, I would say. We attended a Methodist church, I remember, growing up. And at some point, I don’t know, I was probably 10, 12 years old, something like that, my mom and dad moved to a nondenominational church. I don’t really know why. I remember my brothers and sisters were really angry because they had to be confirmed in the Methodist church and I got out of that because now we’re nondenominational.

Right.

Really, though, we went to church occasionally. I don’t remember any sermon or message from that time. It was really just something I had to do because we went with my parents. So I didn’t really have a lot from that perspective. I would say when I became a teenager, I didn’t even go to church anymore, and I kind of became… I don’t know. When I went to high school anyways, they were called freaks and jocks. And I kind of went the freak way, which just meant I partied and did things in the culture that some people don’t think you should do, with alcohol and all that kind of fun stuff. So there was really no religion at that point or God or anything. It just wasn’t even in the cards. It wasn’t a thing.

So did your family accept your unwillingness or your decision not to participate in any kind of a church activity?

You know, we didn’t even talk about it, to be honest. There was a lot of things going on with my family. My brothers and sister both had some problems, and my mom had some problems, and we moved out to Utah temporarily and came back after a couple of months. It just wasn’t a good time for the family, so I was pretty much on my own as a teenager, and there just wasn’t anything about God or religion in the picture.

So when you stopped going, did you just kind of release that part of your life without much thought? Or was it something that you decided to take on a nonreligious identity, like agnostic or atheistic? 

I’d have to say I was agnostic. There literally was not any thought put to it that I can remember.

So did you even consider what belief in God was? What did you think that religion was, apart from something that you just left behind?

Back then, I mean, it just was such a non-event. It just wasn’t there.

It just was not on the radar?

Not at all.

Yeah. And so what happened next in your journey? You were a teenager, you were partying, you just were being an average, I guess, teenager, high schooler around that time, and you didn’t think about God or religion much. What happened next in your life?

Well, I did go to college, and somehow I found a way to do well in my studies, which I didn’t in high school. And still maintain that lifestyle. So things were pretty, I would say, fun in college. Not knowing any different way. And then I had an internship in Milwaukee in my last semester, and that’s when I met my wife. She had an overlapping internship. She was going to Eau Claire in Wisconsin, and so that’s where we met. I actually interviewed her for the job, which was kind of fun. She was a believer but not a follower, I guess is the best way I could put it. She’d go to church sometimes, but she pretty much joined me in my lifestyle. We have kind of a joke that, during that time of life, that I didn’t force her to do anything. I just kind of showed the yellow brick road, and she just walked along with me on it.

But the fun, if I want to call it fun, started after college. Some time after college something happened to her. She had a drive to Milwaukee from Minneapolis with her sister, and her sister basically told her—I don’t know exact words, but ‘Did you know you can have a relationship with Jesus? Did you know it can change your life?’ kind of a thing. And she started to change. She went to church on Sundays without me. She became part of a small group which, at the time I didn’t even know what a small group meant. And I just really wanted nothing to do with it. I was afraid religion would take away the fun that we were having. I don’t know if you’ve heard—you’ve been around the Midwest here, so you probably know who Jesse Ventura is?

Oh, yes.

He was governor of Minnesota right around this time. And he did an interview for Playboy magazine, of all magazines, and in that interview, he has a quote, and I use this a lot in my talks. It’s, “Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers,” and I really, really resonated with that. So that’s where I was at that time. That was when we had moved to Minneapolis. There was a good side of it for me, is I could get a lot of stuff done. She was off doing her church thing, and I was doing projects. I’m a handyman, so I was doing a lot of projects. So from that perspective, I didn’t mind it too much.

So you didn’t resent her for having moved more towards this seemingly religious life?

Well, I wouldn’t go that far. There was some resentment there. I didn’t want her to do it.

Because, again, at that time, you just thought it was a crutch. It was for weak people, weak-minded people?

Yeah, I thought she was going to become a Bible thumper, and you know, some of the things that our lifestyle included, I knew were not included in a Christian or in a religious fashion.

How long did you all move in this direction where she was moving towards God and you were not?

Yeah. It was for quite a few years. So this was probably around the year 1996, or somewhere in there, and our kids were born in 2001, and she started taking them to church, and again, it was nice. I would have Sundays pretty much, in the mornings, to myself. I finished our basement and did some other things. But when the kids were like four or five, my sister once talked to me about, ‘You know, you really should go to church to support her,’ and my wife asked me to start going for our son because our son was like, “Why? I don’t want to do this.” So I started going with her to church to support her. But I think this is probably when I’d start labeling myself an atheist.

Hm.

Yeah. Church really turned me off. The whole idea of the Bible being a fairy tale, kind of made up. I really thought it grew over time, like the telephone game. And the thing about church was I never once remember any evidence being provided, about God, about Jesus. It was just Bible verses and talking about the Bible, and I always thought the worship just went on forever, and of course, at the end, then they always asked for your money.

Right.

So yeah, I was going the other way by going to church.

Interesting, interesting. As you were going the other way and embracing more of an atheist identity, were you looking more at the foundations of your own atheism? You had mentioned there was no foundational evidence for the Christian worldview being presented, but what about your atheism? Were you thoughtfully moving in that direction, like from an intellectual perspective? Or was it more because Christianity seemed rather anti-intellectual and just very off putting?

It was just off putting. It was all emotional. I didn’t know anything. I’ll just be honest. I didn’t want this, and I didn’t like it. I thought it was made up. One year, I went with my wife to a youth retreat. She had gotten involved in the youth group, and she asked me to go. It’s an extended weekend. And that really turned me off, too, because I just thought, “Now we’re trying to get these kids to believe this, too.” The ironic thing is, some years later, my wife and I actually ended up being directors of that youth retreat for about 200+ kids, so things did change.

Yes, they did! But at that time, it was adding more fuel to the fire, I guess, for you to turn away from all of that, towards atheism.

Yes, yes.

So I’m curious, were there other atheists in your world? People who believed similarly to you that reinforced your views? Or were you pursuing atheism more strongly on your own?

Yeah, I wouldn’t even call it pursuing. I wasn’t trying to be an atheist. That’s just where I was. And I’m a big introvert. I like being alone. So I don’t have a lot of friends outside of my marriage, but none of them that I did hang out with even, the ones I talked to from college, none of them—there was never religious talk. We just never really went there. That wasn’t part of our culture.

In the upper Midwest, it seems to be a nominally Christian or Catholic culture, is that right? So there’s a presumption of God somewhere in-

Yeah. I think that’s true. Yeah.

Yeah. So I would imagine you would find yourself in many ways a bit alone, in terms of your identity, just because of your circumstance and your personality.

Yeah.

Yeah. So your wife is continuing on in a Christian pursuit. She’s bringing your children. And getting indoctrinated, I guess, in your view. So what then happened next?

Well, so my first inkling that maybe something… I should start looking at this. It was the year 2006, and I had finished my first triathlon, and it wasn’t an Iron Man Triathlon by any means, but it was a triathlon, so it took a few months to train, to build up to do that. I hadn’t been a big exerciser before that. So I was working pretty hard at it. And I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I crossed the finish line. My kids and my wife were there, cheering me on, and I expected this accomplishment. And as I went across the finish line, the thought that came into my head was, “What’s next?” And I was like, “What is that about?” And I realized I had a really good time filling up my time. I had a lot of hobbies, and some of them are kind of unusual, so I was a volunteer firefighter, EMT, a lot of the civil service kind of stuff. Ambulance driver, weather spotter, and even a sheriff’s reserve deputy, and all of that took up my time, and I was just filling up all my time with stuff. And it started me thinking, “Well, what’s life about? What’s our purpose? Am I just going to keep… What happens when I can’t exercise anymore? And what happens when this stuff goes away?”

That was probably my first… started me just thinking. I really didn’t do anything about it. It just started me thinking. And the real catalyst then for the change was about a year after that. There was an organization called Life Action, and it came to our church, so I went with my wife, and I think it was four nights in a row. And our kids were about six years old, and what really hit me hard was the message that they talked about with morals and teaching your kids good morals. And I realized, “I’m going to have to start doing that even more so with my kids as they get a little older,” and I told you about my story. I wasn’t a good kid. I didn’t want my kids… I got lucky. I got really lucky to get out of that. And I didn’t want my kids to go down that path, but if I told them that and they could find pictures of me or whatever, they heard the stories, I would’ve been a hypocrite. I would have been saying, “Do as I say, not as I do,” and I didn’t think that’s a very good way to teach. And it occurred to me that—I’d been going to church now for some years, not liking it, but it occurred to me that Christianity was actually a really good standard, what Jesus taught was a really good standard. Of course, if it’s applied correctly, right? Because a lot of Christians, including myself, aren’t always the best at applying it correctly.

But that’s what really started me thinking. I’m a real big skeptic, a self-professed skeptic. And I’ll question everything. Even if I want to buy something from Amazon, I’ll research it so much because I don’t want to be wrong. But I realized I never… You asked this earlier. I never questioned atheism. I never even thought about it. And so this is when my journey started, that I realized I probably needed to start figuring this stuff out.

I know you say you really hadn’t questioned atheism. When I think about that, I think of not only the foundations for atheism or the grounding of it but also the implications. Like you mentioned a moment ago that you were wondering about what’s life all about, meaning, purpose, where do I ground morals? Did you realize at the time that your atheism didn’t provide some sense of objective grounding for those things? Or were those just more existential things that you felt and you really hadn’t associated them with your atheism?

Yeah. Really the latter. I really hadn’t associated. And actually I did about five years of intensive study on this stuff, and morals, believe it or not, were actually towards the end of really understanding that and putting it all together, that atheism and naturalism, you can’t really ground morals, but that was actually pretty late in the journey, where I kind of put that together.

Ah, I see. So you came to a point of realization, then, in your story that you said you never questioned atheism. What does that mean to you in terms of… How did you pursue that skepticism, that questioning, that question of atheism? What did that look like?

Yeah. For me, it was mostly podcasts, debates, and books. I just started reading and thinking, and I listened to a lot of podcasts on my commute. Now, back then I don’t remember all the technology, but I remember I always had to burn them to discs the night before to put them in my car. So I was burning CDs to listen to podcasts, and I don’t even remember all the podcasts back then, but that’s a lot. I just kind of immersed myself in the realm of this and listening to those kind of things.

At one point, the youth pastor at my church, he knew I was going through this journey, and he would just slip me little things. If you’ve heard of Greg Koukl and putting stones in your shoes, yeah, I think this youth pastor did that really well. I mean, he knew me and he knew he couldn’t just tell me this is right or whatever. I had to figure that out myself.

So yeah. So I listened and read and learned, and I was actually quite astonished by what I didn’t know. So, for example, even where I lived or how I grew up, I actually didn’t understand that Christmas was about Jesus Christ and that Christmas songs were about Him and about the story and things about hospitals and universities and relief organizations, they’re Christianity based. And I’d like to say I was deceived, but I think I was more ignorant than deceived. I was shocked. I was just shocked by what I learned.

So you started putting some pieces together, and I presume, along the way, you started asking some of the big questions, like, “How do we know that God exists?” and those kinds of big philosophical, theological questions?

Yeah. I’m an evidence person. So I started with God. Because I figured, “Well, if there’s no God, I don’t have to look at anything else.” So I started looking at the evidence. What evidence could I find that would potentially convince me of God or not? Is there good evidence of naturalism? Is there good evidence of the creation kind of view. So that’s where I started. And then I went to Christianity after I went to God. I would say I first became a deist. Deism is actually kind of easy. If you look at the evidence and you think there’s a higher being, which I think the evidence is pretty good for, obviously, getting to deism’s really easy, because now I can just say there’s a god, but he doesn’t really actively play in our world or anything, and so I could just stop there. And that seemed too easy to me.

So I did pursue the religions and looked at least the main religions to finally come to a conclusion of God and Christianity being the truth.

I’m going to back up for just a moment because the whole idea of evidence, especially in the world of atheism, is that you often hear the claim that there is no evidence for God, right?

Right.

So I’m curious what evidence you found that convinced you that God exists, that He’s not a product, a man-made product. He’s not the end of a legendary tale. But rather that there is truly an ontological essence in reality to the Person of God. There is Someone really there outside of the universe. What evidence led you to determine that that was true or real?

Sure, sure. Part of it’s a cumulative case. There’s a lot of, I think, lines of evidence that point to it, and when you’re looking at a picture, it may not be complete, but is it more complete than the other option. So that’s a lot of what I believe, but by far the most convincing thing for me was DNA, was the complexity of life. The code that is in the DNA . I cannot understand looking at that, how you cannot think that there is something behind that. There’s intelligence behind that. Any time you have codes, any time you see some pattern like that, it’s from intelligence. The alternative was naturalism, and the theory of evolution. If it was evolution, then it was orchestrated by something. If it was creation, then it was orchestrated by the Creator.

There’s machinery in our cells. I do believe in the irreducible complexity of some of these things. And just the complexity of the cell itself. And back when Darwin made his theories, they didn’t know any of this stuff. That is by far what immediately pretty much convinced me there had to be something more than just chance and random mutations over millions of years.

That there was a mind behind the immense information in the cell?

There’s always a mind behind information. We don’t look at anything else and say, “Well, that just happened by chance.” We don’t look at machines and say, “That just happened by chance.” If I went to the moon and there was, “Help,” scribbled on something on the moon, we wouldn’t say that just happened by chance by the nature. We wouldn’t have any idea who did it, right? But we wouldn’t say, “Oh, yeah. That was just made up. That just happened because nature must’ve done it because we can’t explain it other ways.”

So the God hypothesis is really, for you, the best explanation behind what we see in the intelligent complexity of the cell and that naturalism on its own, with its just random variations and mutations, isn’t sufficient to explain it. Is that what you’re saying basically?

Yeah. Yeah. And then you add on things like near-death experiences and the afterlife and fine tuning of the universe, and then you do come to the moral argument, and you just start putting those together, and the better explanation—it’s not airtight. I’m not going to ever be 100%. But the better explanation is certainly a God or a supreme being of some sort that created all this.

So you came to a place where you were confident that a supreme being exists.

Yes.

Like you say, you moved towards deism and that that was a rather… it was a step in a direction towards belief, certainly a belief in a higher being, but not necessarily in any particular religion. So then you mentioned that you started looking at the major religions. So if there was a god, then which religion worships the right god? How did you tease that out? How did you pursue that?

Yeah. I think again more from an evidential standpoint. So looking at the history of the religions, looking at their artifacts, if they have writings, looking at their leaders, and I don’t remember much about all the details back then, but it seemed that Christianity was evidentially better. I still didn’t understand the relationship and all that kind of stuff, but I got to a point where I believed it enough that I started moving forward. But as I’ll mention in a little bit, I actually kind of came backwards for a while. In 2011, when I knew I had changed and kind of figured enough out is I was camping. I used to camp every year with a college buddy, and that was back with the hedonistic kind of lifestyle, and I’d relive that on weekends camping sometimes, even though I’d changed for the most part at home. But this one time, we were up late at night, Saturday night around the campfire, and I ended up defending why I thought God and Christianity was true. I became an apologist that night.

Wow!

Yeah. That’s when I knew, “Okay, I think I’m probably moving in this direction. I need to keep going,” so I ended up becoming baptized. I kind of went all in. I attended Alpha at our church. I became an Alpha leader. I threw away all of my magazines. I changed all my playlists. I like to say I used to choose my movies by the content, and then I filtered it by them. And I was kind of all in. But I actually kind of changed my mind twice. I use hiking as a metaphor . When you hike uphill and you’re hiking up a big mountain, there’s a lot of switchbacks. You don’t just go straight up. And for a skeptic like me, it’s really hard to believe this stuff. And so I was doing these switchbacks, and then sometimes you get up almost to the peak. You can even see the peak. But weather turns you back or whatever, and you have to retreat. So I ended up retreating.

This was about five years ago, 2015, somewhere in there. I started doubting again, and I kind of kept it a secret from most people, but I was like, “Did I really look at all this stuff impartially?” I have so many Christians around me, and as you mentioned, Minnesota’s got a lot of religion. The US has a lot of religion to it. So did that influence me? How impartial I was. So I went back to the drawing board. I started listening to things and reading things again, and I got to the point where I had just found myself saying, “I’ve heard that argument. I’ve heard that.” It started becoming repetitive. And then, I downloaded a book called Cold Case Christianity by J Warner Wallace. And that book was a game changer for me. I’m sure you’re familiar with that book.

Yes, yes.

Yeah. That was a game changer for me because it’s so law enforcement based, and I have some of that in my background, and law enforcement evidence, it’s so tangible. And when he described the disciples as eyewitnesses and the Gospel being eyewitness accounts, that’s another thing that just blew me away. All this time, I had never really heard that. I’d never seen that. And that was a game changer for me, along with the reasonable tests. The whole “beyond a reasonable doubt, not all doubt,” all that kind of stuff. And that put me past the hurdle again. That book was really good.

Yes. J. Warner Wallace for those who aren’t familiar. He was, still is, a cold-case detective, and so he knows how to look at evidence, especially from a historical past and long past and look at what evidence is viable and what can be held as evidence, and then applies it to actually the events surrounding the person of Jesus, and you can draw conclusions based on what he brings forth in that book. And obviously it was convincing to you, right?

Absolutely.

Okay. Well, I’m curious. You mentioned the first apostles as eyewitnesses, but what role did the Bible and the Gospel, both of those, play in your conversion journey, if any?

Well, they did once I got to the evidence of those as well. So I was also astonished by the accuracy of the Bible, from the archaeology to everything in it, the stories, the people, the titles that they used, the geography, the town names, everything is so accurate. It became pretty evident to me that it was a work of nonfiction, not a work of fiction. And if all of that is nonfiction, all those archaeological and towns and all those things, that was a clue to me that the story actually didn’t grow over time. And when you think about the telephone game, if you tell a story, and somebody whispers it, all the way down the line, and then at the end, the story is completely different. What occurred to me was, if the Christian story… It’s not just part of the story that gets corrupted. It’s the whole thing. Nothing is like the beginning. So you can’t say that the Bible and all its accuracy is good, but the Christian stories must’ve grown over time. It doesn’t work that way. Everything grows over time. So that tells me that the stories are… Now they may or may not be true, but they are at least the stories that were told from the beginning. Because they didn’t grow over time.

But then you look at the character of the eyewitnesses that wrote these stories and the radical change that happened because of what they say they saw, not because of what someone told them or something that happened in the culture. It’s, “This is what we saw,” and it radically changed their lives, and some of them were Jews and they convinced other Jews, and something amazing must’ve happened. And there’s lots of theories of why… wasn’t the resurrection, you know, hallucination theory and all these other theories, but it all boils down to me that these eyewitnesses did what they did because of what they saw. What they say they saw. And all those other theories don’t work because they say they saw a resurrected Jesus. So those were the things that really drove me to, “You know what? This is a pretty accurate story, and I can’t think of any other reason for why it happened,” and I looked at miracles and things like that and came to the conclusion that miracles are possible and still can happen. That’s what really convinced me on the Christianity thing.

So it became intellectually convincing to you that it not only provided the best explanation for what you were seeing in the physical world but then the evidence for Christianity seemed to be solid historically, archaeologically, even textually, and from the words of the eyewitnesses and those kinds of things, including the resurrection.

Yeah. And put those same tests to the other religions. They don’t do so well.

Yeah. There aren’t very many religions that are grounded in historical time and space, that are factually oriented and can be tested.

Yeah. And the ones that can be tested don’t test very well.

Right, right. But there’s a difference between believing something intellectually, in your mind, that, yes, this could’ve happened, yes, this could’ve been true. This is relatively convincing. But then there’s the Person of Jesus and there are the claims of Jesus, not only that He is God but He is truth and that,  He offers something for us, and we call that the Gospel. It’s good news.

There must’ve been a point at which you, as your wife did, said, “Okay, there’s more to this than religion. There is something relational about it.” Can you talk about that? How that related to your own life?

Yeah. And Warner Wallace talks about “belief in” versus “belief that,” and so a good analogy he uses is a bulletproof vest. You can have belief that it’s going to stop a bullet, but until you’re willing to stand in front of a gun and test it, you may not have belief in. And so it’s that believing in, and I mean I’ll just be perfectly honest, it’s a struggle for me, as a skeptic, just in that nature of mine, to give in that way. But I’m always working on it. And what I do is I believe that God talks to us in our conscience. So that’s kind of how I live my life, is going where I feel He wants me to go. And that’s kind of my relationship with Him and how I go about it.

Yeah. It sounds like your intentionally tuned in, as it were, to His role in your life and following God and Jesus. So that’s amazing. Would you say that your life has changed a good bit since you moved from atheism to Christianity? I’m sure your wife is probably pretty happy about it, so that you are both on the same page.

Yeah. She was praying. A lot of people were praying for a long time, but she also knew she couldn’t push it. But yeah, night and day, from a life perspective and life-living perspective, it’s night and day. My mentality, too, of seeing other people and that they have a viewpoint, that they’re hurting, that I have to look at them, it’s an outward versus an inward kind of viewpoint, that God created that person. That person has worth.

But everything else has changed, too. Like I said, movies and how we live our life and how we brought up our kids. And it’s been great from that perspective.

That’s wonderful! Now you had mentioned one of the things that caused you to question your own atheism was when you were living your life, and it seemed that you had temporary purpose and meaning and hobbies and accomplishments but they didn’t seem to satisfy. You’d be having to look for what’s next. Would you say that, in some sense, Christianity has changed your perspective or your understanding of what your life’s meaning and purpose is?

Yeah. And I’ve read The Purpose Driven Life a couple of times and tried to apply some of that, and I think what comes out of that, for me, is going back to my purpose is to do what God directs me to do. I don’t know exactly what that’ll be. Right now, He’s directed me to speak about this, to present this to other people, to use what I’ve learned as a skeptic to present it. And that consumes a lot of my time now.

Well, it sounds like you are a life driven by purpose now, if you’re consumed by it, and that’s a really wonderful thing.

Yeah.

So if there are curious skeptics listening into your story today and you wanted to give them some advice based on your journey and as an ongoing skeptic, I guess in some sense you are-

Oh yeah.

… continuing to pursue the questions of life and evidences and how to answer those and what worldview provides the best explanation, those kinds of things. What would you say to someone who might be listening, if they are curious skeptics. Perhaps they’re a little dissatisfied with their own worldview.

As a skeptic, realize you may not have all the answers. I don’t have all the answers. I still doubt sometimes. I mean that’s okay. It’s okay to have some doubts. I have problems with things, like prayer that’s not always answered and all don’t go to heaven. I really struggle with the fact that I’m thriving and some people are just surviving. There’s a lot of problems with the world.  But not liking something and not liking the way things are doesn’t make something untrue. When my daughter started dating, I didn’t like it at all, but it didn’t mean it was untrue. So be open as a skeptic. Things you may not like may still be the truth, so you need to look at that.

From a social media perspective, I personally say no, don’t even go to social media. People are just so mean. I don’t like going there. I would say look for truth and look for both sides. There’s an explanation usually for both sides. Atheists give it and Christians give it. They have the same evidence they’re looking at. They don’t have different evidence. They just come to different conclusions. And they can be extremely…I mean I actually thought that Christians were not very educated or easily persuaded, maybe deluded kind of a thing, and I came to realize that there are some really educated and intelligent Christians, way more than I am, so be open to that. Listen to the experts, but ultimately you have to be the juror on the case. You have to look at the evidence they’re looking at, just like you would in a court of law. Here’s the evidence. I have prosecutors telling me one way. I have the defendant telling me to look at the evidence this way. Which is more reasonable? That’s what I did, and I ended up changing my mind. So that’s what I would say to nonbelievers.

That strikes me, that in that posture of your own search, you were trying to be as neutral as you could and allowing the evidence to lead you where it did, rather than having a predisposition or a closed offness. Is that a word?

I think so.

That you weren’t closed to what you were seeing. That you actually were open to consider the evidence, even if it wasn’t something that you really liked. I liked what you said there, that just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not true and that we need to be honest enough to go where the evidence leads.

Yeah, I think that’s really important when you’re looking at evil and suffering. That’s a hard thing to look at, and an easy thing to say there can’t be a God because of evil and suffering, but if, to your point earlier when you talked about it, is naturalism, if you apply it honestly. If you really look at atheism and naturalism and materialism honestly, then you can’t ground evil and suffering. There really isn’t evil and suffering. So yeah.

Yeah. Yes. So thank you for that. And as we turn to those believers or Christians who are listening who really want to help others to understand the truth of God’s existence and the reality of Jesus and the Christian worldview, how would you encourage them to engage with those who really don’t know?

Well I think you first have to look at the person. Because we all have different personalities. If they’re a skeptic. If they’re like, “I don’t believe any of that. It’s not true,” don’t start with the Bible. And don’t start with Jesus quotes and pray about it and, “Well, just have a relationship.” That is actually a turn-off to most skeptics. They’re like, “Yeah. That’s why I’m not going there.” Be prepared to have evidence or at least point them to the evidence, point them to books or point them to something to say, “There’s something out there evidentially that you can go look at.” And let them research themselves, as Greg Koukl said. Put a stone in their shoe. But don’t try to convince them with the Bible or any of that stuff. Because they’re not there yet. Maybe turn them on to say, “Did you know the Bible’s really accurate?” and them go try to figure that out themselves. That’s what I would say for skeptics and how to approach skeptics.

Well, that’s good. I think you’re leading with questions, right? To, like you say, put a stone in their shoe, referencing Greg Koukl’s Tactics book, if anyone’s interested in that. You’ve referenced that a few times. It’s really excellent in terms of starting conversations with… Putting something in their mind, like a stone in the shoe, for them to think about. For them to consider. Something that bothers them in a good way.

Right.

Yeah. So I think knowing resources is really good, and I think what you’re also saying is that we don’t have to know all of the answers in order to engage, although it’s helpful to know something, but also at very minimum, to know where someone can look to provide resources to help those who are really interested in things of evidence, but yeah. This is fantastic. Yes.

The other podcast that I’d recommend people point to… Obviously, this is a really good one because you hear people’s stories. The other one that really I liked was the Unbelievable? podcast by Justin Brierley. And the reason is because it really usually is a very civil conversation between an atheist and a theist or a Christian, so you can hear both sides of the story in a nice civil way. I really liked that podcast as well.

Yes, that’s my top podcast. I listen to it without fail every week. I think it really is… As you say, it’s not only the content between juxtaposing two worldviews, it’s really excellent because it has high-level guests on there who are extremely knowledgeable, but also the way in which they’re able to engage. I think in a very civil and diplomatic way, really listening to one perspective and responding, rather than just coming at the other person.

Yeah.

We’ve lost the art of civil discourse, and I love Unbelievable? for that. Of course, it is the British way, but Justin Brierley does truly an amazing job of moderating, sometimes in potentially contentious perspectives. So I am in total agreement with you on that recommendation. All of the-

And his book is pretty good, too.

Yes!

I mean, if you’re a skeptic, it’s interesting to read a book from someone who’s heard all the arguments for ten years and goes a particular way.

Yes. I think his subtitle is something like… I think the title of the book is Unbelievable? Why after Ten Years of Listening to Skeptics I’m Still a Christian. Something like that yes.

Yeah, yeah.

Yeah, so it’s been great. I will put all of the resources that you’ve mentioned in your story in the episode notes, in case someone is interested in that, but as far as you, Rick, thank you so much for coming on today and telling us your story. I appreciate your transparency, especially really letting us know who you are as a skeptic and that you always will be a skeptic and that that actually is not a bad thing. I think we all need to be thoughtful about our own worldviews. Like Socrates says, the unquestioned life is not worth living, and so I think we need to continually be thinking and rechecking and seeing where we are and making sure that we too are responsible for finding and adhering to those truths which we find are supported by the best explanation of evidence and the reality of what makes sense, to what not only we understand but what we experience, and it sounds like the Christian worldview has really brought a lot to you in your life, and I’m so happy about that. Thank you again for coming on board today.

You’re welcome, and I’d just like to say, too, I am presenting this information. I like to give the case for God and the case for Christ, so if anyone’s interested in having me speak, I’d love to do it, particularly in the Midwest, but I’m open to other options as well.

That’s perfect, and why don’t you give us the name of your website and address so that they can find that.

Yeah, it’s A Skeptic’s Journey, so it starts with just the letter a, askepticsjourney.com.

Perfect. And I will put that in the episode notes as well, so anyone who would like to get a hold of Rick or have him come speak with you or to you or even virtually I presume, I’m sure he would be happy to do that. All right. Thank you again.

You’re welcome. I really enjoyed the time talking about it.

Thanks for tuning in to the Side B Podcast to hear Rick’s story today. You can find his website and his recommended resources on the podcast episode notes. For questions and feedback about this particular episode, you can reach me by email at thesidebpodcast@cslewisinstitute.org. If you enjoyed it, I hope you’ll subscribe, rate, and share this podcast with your friends and social network. In the meantime, I’ll be looking forward to seeing you next time, where we will see how someone else flips the record of their life.

 

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