David Wood: Why i am a christian? transcript

Transcript (Youtube) of the testimony of a former atheist

There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. (Prov 16:25)

Want to go for a ride?

David Wood
David Wood

Imagine an underground world made of concrete and steel, stairways and tunnels, just enough light to see the signs on the walls. Suppose there were people who live down there all their lives and were never allowed to visit the surface and that these people were told from the time they were born that this world is all that exists. Won’t they believe what they’re told to believe? Won’t they try to live like it’s true? Suddenly a mad man stumbles down the stairs and says to the people here

Don’t you realize that you’re underground? Don’t you know that there’s an amazing world right up those stairs?

A tomb, no matter how spacious is still a tomb. The people answered him, they said

We understand our world just fine without you rambling about another, go back to your flying spaghetti world fool. We’re the enlightened ones down here

and then rejecting the world above, they sunk a little deeper into the world below.

When I was five years old …

I had a dog named Goliath. One day, my mother received a phone call, she turned to me, it was tears in her eyes and informed me that Goliath had been run over by a bus. I looked at her and thought to myself ‘So what, it’s just a dog’, but my mother was sad and I couldn’t figure out why. I soon noticed that other people got sad when something die, it seemed really weird to me; crying isn’t going to change the fact that it’s dead so why are you crying? I also noticed that people didn’t share my amazing insight into the nature of reality. I remember sitting beside a lake when I was eight years old watching ants matching in perfect formation and it suddenly became entirely clear to me that ants rule the world and then tricked us human beings to think that we are in charge. Do you have any idea how powerful and brilliant they must be if they had managed to deceive the entire human population? Few years later, I figured out that pets actually control the planet. Whenever a cat or a dog would look me in the eyes, I would think that it was communicating with me, silently bragging that they were much more intelligent than humans are. So part of my youth was spent talking to animals telling them ‘I know what’s going on here, i’m on to you’, but I grew out of that silliness.

By the time I was in 10th grade …

I was convinced that I controlled the weather. I didn’t know how I controlled the weather, I just knew that I did. It would start raining and I would think :

okay, how did I do that?

I also had the ability to control time but I didn’t know how to use this ability yet. That summer, my best friend from elementary school died. Jimmy had always talked about going Para-sailing, he finally got the chance and his harness broke; he plummeted to his death. When I heard about it after knocking on his door, I had the same reaction I had when my dog Goliath died namely; so what?. But this time was different, it seemed like I should be bothered by Jimmy dying, so I started wondering if something might be wrong with me. After pondering this for several months, I realized why I was different; I had evolved to a higher stage of humanity. These sad little emotions the rest of you have are like vestigial tails leftover from our primitive life forms but humanity 2.0 had arrived and you earlier models were now obsolete.

The following year, I had a life changing experience.

I was running from the police in the middle of the night and they had me surrounded on three sides. The fourth side was the Mahoning river, so I jumped in and swarm across and started walking my way through the trees on the other side. I eventually emerged from a patch of woods and I found myself in someone’s backyard. In front of me was a beautiful garden, I started to walk around the garden but then I stopped to philosophize. I thought :

I don’t care about the people in that house, so why am I going out of my way to avoid stepping on their vegetables, why am I being so courteous?  because I had been brainwashed, that’s why. I’ve been breaking the law for years and yet society has been manipulating my behavior all along, greatness had been polluted by mediocrity.

As I stunt my way through that garden, I had an incredible rush of freedom. The world has all of us on a leash, a leash made of rules, ‘do this, don’t do that’, but it’s a leash that slips right off as soon as we recognize that we don’t have to do anything anyone tells us to do. Of course, if you really want to break free from your handlers, seems like you have to do the opposite of what you’ve been told. Going down.

Started studying bomb building when I was 18, nothing fancy, I got a copy of the N-August cook book. I learnt how to make pipe bombs, I learnt to put together a home-made grenade launcher, I bought a book on disguises so I won’t be recognized but it all felt a bit amateurish so I decided to become a chemistry major in college where I can learn to build something a little more sophisticated, but my plans of becoming a bomber had to be put on hold because there are more important things in life, anyone can blow up a bunch of random people, you don’t know them.

If you’re sick of life, dangling at the end of society’s puppet strings, the killing has to start much closer to home.

My dad was the only relative I had within a few hundred miles so he obviously needed to die and I had a ball pin hammer that would do the trick. Interestingly, some of my amazing insights into the nature of reality actually slowed me down. My dad was sitting beside me on the couch and I was about to beat him to death, I had the hammer under a cushion, but I suddenly realized that he was reading my mind; and not just him, everyone in the world was reading my mind, I was part of an experiment and billions of people were in on it, they’re all waiting to see what I would do and as soon as I attacked my dad, the walls would rise up, the observers would rush in and the experiment would be over. So as my dad is reading my mind, i’m channeling my thoughts to him as we sit there. He’s watching television, i’m thinking :

look at me while you’re reading my mind. Look at me right now or i’m going to burst your head open.

Finally I channelled to him, ‘you think i’m stupid, i’m not falling for this’, then I got up and walked out, but it wasn’t over. After a while, my senses returned to me and I walked into my dad’s bedroom at about two O’clock in the morning, thanksgiving day. I stood over him with the hammer and I tried to think of one wrong thing he had ever done to me; nothing came to mind. So I drew back my arm and came down on him with all 230 pounds. I didn’t know how fast blood could come out of somebody’s head. Kept hitting him until I was sure he was dead and I walked outside and drove away. There’s no rush of freedom this time, I didn’t feel anything anymore.

Did I mention that I was an atheist?

I understand that most of you atheists out there live perfectly normal lives but I can never understand why you would want to. Think about it, we’ve got this massive universe and over here is a tiny little crawl of a galaxy. Out of one the spiral arms of this galaxy is a thoroughly unremarkable ball of hot gas. Circling this ball of hot gas is a pathetic speck of cosmic dust we call earth and crawling all over the earth are these feeble, selfish, self-destructive lumps of cells constantly deluding themselves into thinking that what they do is so important but the universe couldn’t conceivably care less, whether you love your neighbour as yourself or you torture to death for fun, so you might as well do whatever you feel like doing with the little bit of time you’ve got, and what are my atheist friends going to do with your 80 years or so? Let me guess, you’re going to go to school for a while then get a job, work for a few decades, maybe pick up a family along the way, then retire and die of old age or some illness. How original. Free thinkers huh? Believe it or not, some people don’t want to live like cattle, some people don’t want to follow this pattern that we’re all expected to mindlessly follow. Some would rather bash a man’s head in or shoot up a theater or walk down a school hallway stabbing people.

Why shouldn’t they? Because it’s wrong? Says who, your grandma? or should they try not to hurt people because people have intrinsic value? Here I thought that human beings are nothing but machines for propagating DNA. Most people don’t want to kill and slaughter but for those who do, our civilization is rapidly destroying any significant reason they might have for resisting the urge to kill and slaughter. Young people are lining up to dance to the music of their DNA, all you can do now is hope that they get tackled when they stop to reload or that they make some huge blunder when their bloodbath begins.

I made a huge blunder when my bloodbath began; I underestimated the amount of damage the human head could endure, crushed skulls can apparently be pieced back together by doctors. My dad had brain damage but he survived the attack. I was taken to a mental hospital and later to jail.

Jail is a place to sit back and reflect on the things you’ve done.

You’ve got plenty of time to sit back and think :

why did I get caught? What steps can I take to avoid getting caught next time?

and without all of the empty repetitive tasks that ordinarily keep you mentally sedated, you’ve got plenty of time to figure out what’s most important to you. The most important thing to me was not being a slave to people for whom I had nothing but contempt, but people had controlled me in various ways throughout my life and this meant that they would need to be taught a lesson.

I had a list of people going back to kindergarten who were going to be brutally murdered but doubts occasionally crept in. I would ask myself

is there a point to any of these?

Nothing really matters, so what difference does it make whether I do everything i’ve been planning or I do nothing at all; there’s no blue ribbon for making the right decision here because there is no right. But when I would start to think that life off the leash was just as meaningless as life on the leash, I start to lose my mind. I was able to hold things together to some extent mentally because I had something to do, but if what I had to do was pointless, then holding things together was pointless. So I was at an edge and there was nowhere to go but over it, but life has a way of giving us an alternative at just the right moment

[Singing: When a man’s an empty peddle, he should be on his meddle, yet i’m torn apart just because i’m presuming that I could be kind of human if I only had a heart]

When I was in E Block in the jail, I met a Christian

… named Randy, a guy who had turned himself in for 21 felonies. Randy seemed like he was from another world; there would be a fight in the dorm and he wouldn’t watch, he would turn his head away and pray for it to stop, our main source of entertainment and he’s praying against it; Christians cracked me up.

Randy was lying on his bunk reading his bible one night and I walked up to him and said:

do you know why you’re reading the bible? You’re reading the bible because you were born in the United States. If you had been born anywhere else, you would have believed in something else. If you had been born in China, you would be a Buddhist, if you had been born in India, you would be a Hindu, if you had been born in Saudi Arabia, you would be a Muslim because people like you believe whatever you’re told to believe.

I’ve since heard other atheists saying the same thing in almost exactly the same words so I take it this is a common atheist view of Christians which is hilarious in its level of hypocrisy. I believe that the universe exploded out of nowhere for no reason, and that life formed on his own and that consciousness was a natural product of particle interactions in our brains and that moral values were nothing but societal indoctrination, and Jesus’ followers made up a story about him rising from the dead because they wanted his message to spread. I believed all of these without anything remotely resembling a careful investigation of the evidence which means I believed a lot of what I had been told but i’m pointing a finger at the Christian, why? Because it’s much easier to make fun of someone else than to do the difficult work of putting together a coherent well grounded believe set.

Something interesting happened when I made fun of Randy; he fought back. Lots of Christians will go into retreat mode if you start arguing with them, they don’t want to cause a scene but Randy sat up on his bunk and proceeded to embarrass me about some of the things I was saying. I was totally shocked, I didn’t know what was going on. I am the smartest, most advanced human being the world has ever seen and night after night when we’re arguing, Randy was just taking me to a school, and he wasn’t smarter than me, he didn’t have any special knowledge or degrees, he wasn’t a scientist or a philosopher, he just had an annoying habit of questioning everything I would say, and when I would try to answer his questions about what I was saying, it would become clear to him and to me that many of my beliefs when put into words sounded really really stupid. Things that made perfect sense when unquestioned made no sense at all when questioned.

I became so frustrated by our arguments that I began looking for other ways to defeat Randy. I made fun of him for getting molested when he was a child. I saw his 12 year old sister in the visiting room and I said some things about her (that i’m not going to repeat here). I keep messing with him till he got upset and when he got upset, I’d say

look at you, getting angry at me, you call yourself a Christian.

Oddly enough, Randy and I became friends. We would stay up all night playing cards, throwing a roll of toilet paper around like it’s a football, and of course arguing about the bible. But I was still looking for ways to defeat him at something so we got into the world’s first ever fasting battle; it wasn’t a battle for him, he wasn’t trying to out-do me at anything but I was certainly trying to out-do him. Randy would fast for long periods of time with nothing but water. After a while, I joined in, and whenever he would complete a fast, I would start my own fast and then go a few days longer than he did. For our first exchange, Randy fasted one week; I knew he wasn’t eating because he gave me all his meal trays. When he was finished, I said:

alright, i’m going ten days.

I had never gone a day without food in my life but I went ten days straight just so I would know that I had beaten the Christian.

We went back and forth with me always going a few days longer than he did. Eventually he asked me ‘hey, how come you always fast a little longer than I do? Are we in some sort of competition that I don’t know about?” I said no I hadn’t even noticed, just coincidence I guess. Randy fasted 40 days; he went 32 days on nothing but water and then he added liquids like Cool Aid for the rest. He told me that Jesus had gone 40 days, that’s why he picked the number 40. I said alright, i’m going 42. Even six weeks with nothing but water and rage;

I was going to beat Randy and Jesus.

On the 11th day of my fast, a guard came in and told me to pack my stuff. I had passed out earlier and hit my head on the way down. The medical staff knew my mental health history and they thought I was trying to starve myself to death. I’m trying to beat the Christian, they think that i’m trying to commit suicide really really slowly but they had seen that I had lost enough weight to realize that there was a problem and the blood pressure monitor that the nurse put on my finger said that I was dead so I had to pack up my books, philosophy and science, the apologetic books that Randy gave me and head to my new home- a cell with a camera where I can be watched day and night.

Living the dream, I lost about 80 pounds from fasting, I developed a horrible rash all over my body, it felt like poison ivy, it’s called Shingles, it’s caused by vitamin deficiency. I was having blackouts, I was getting tunnel vision, the doctor at the jail said he was going to tube feed me, the social worker was talking about having me sent to my third mental hospital and when I wasn’t reading, all I could think about was taking people out to the woods and peeling their skin off but I found renewed purpose in my lonely cell. With a library at my disposal and nothing else to do, I had a perfect opportunity to prepare for an epic showdown with Randy. I could study the bible, put together new arguments, go back to E-Block and destroy the faith of my friend.

I asked the chaplain for some bible studies, he gave a series of studies on the gospel of John with graded assignments. So here I am, a rapidly deteriorating atheist, sitting in a poorly lit cell, doing my bible homework, getting straight As. I haven’t eaten in days and I read about Jesus saying

I am the bread of life, he who comes to me will never go hungry.

I’m obsessed with liberating myself from a society that has me trapped in a six and a half plain foot cell and I read:

the son sets you free, you’ll be free indeed.

I’m wondering how long my body can take what i’m doing to it before my heart stops and I read :

I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me will live even though he dies.

Kind of creepy when a book talks to you about…what do I know, I used to think that cats were talking to me.

Lying on my back, day after day, reflecting on life and theology and philosophy,

… three things started to destabilize my entire belief system.

First, what’s called the design argument finally hit me. I was looking at a wall and how the bricks were arranged and I thought to myself,

if someone told me that these bricks went into this order by some process that didn’t involve intelligence, I would smack them in the mouth, and yet I believed that life formed without intelligence when the most basic living cell is unimaginably more complicated than some bricks stacked on a wall.

Why did I blindly accept the extraordinary claim that life arose spontaneously from non-life without demanding some very good evidence?

Second, I found out how Jesus’ apostles died; most of them went to their bloody death claiming that they had seen him risen from the dead. My explanation for the origin of christianity had always been that the apostles made up a story so that they could spread his message but now my explanation wasn’t making sense. If you’re willing to die for something, you have to believe it. When a terrorist blows himself up, he’s obviously sincere. So the disciples, the apostles had to believe what they’re dying for, but this means that they were convinced that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead. Now, usually, when someone is willing to lay down their life for something, it’s for an ideology that they got from someone else and that ideology could be true or false. The disciples were dying for something that they saw. What could have convinced so many different people that they had all seen a resurrected man? I could explain one witness by saying he’s crazy, but all of them? Something was going on here and I had to figure it out but I couldn’t come up with any explanation for why they had that level of confidence other than they actually saw him.

Third, I started worrying that Jesus might actually be better than me. Now if you’re not a complete moral relativist or maybe one of the new atheists, it’s probably obvious to you that Jesus is better than me but I wasn’t the clearest thinker on moral issues back then so getting my mind around this was very difficult. Here’s the problem that emerged: I had two beliefs that just didn’t go together. On the one hand, I believed that human beings are lumps of cells, meaningless lumps of cells, that everything we did was pointless. At the same time, I believed that I was the best, most important person in the entire world. How is it possible to be the best, most important worthless lump of cells? If there were to be some sort of best person, that would require something like a standard of good and that would require something like God, and then someone like Jesus would be better than me.

So my beliefs were breaking down at the foundational level,

and once the foundations start crumbling, everything starts coming down. I went from believing that I was the best person in the world to thinking that I was the worst person in the world, and in a moment of clarity, it all just hit me thinking i’m a guy who once choked my friend until bloody foam came out of his mouth. I hit him with a shovel because he disagreed with me, I don’t even remember what it was about. I used to watch my mum’s boyfriend beat her and I wouldn’t lift a finger to help her. Not because I was scared, I was 200 pounds and I had a gun, I could have stopped him at anytime, I just didn’t care and I was proud of the fact that I didn’t care.

I thought about what I had done to my family, what I was doing to myself. They brought me food every single day and I was starving to death because I wouldn’t eat it. There are other starving people in the world but at least they can think straight; I sat there thinking about torturing people. My skin was turning yellow, I was scratching myself bloody, what sense did it make to think that I am the best in anything?

When I was thinking about that situation, it feels like I had just been stomped relentlessly into the ground, and when I thought that, I started comparing it with the little hospital stay about a year and a half earlier. I got into a fight with seven guys; i’m not saying that to be tough, they won that one. I got one of them, he hit me with a gun and hit him with these guns and then his six friends got on me, and got me on the ground and then took turns soccer kicking me in the head. But I was comparing that to the situation I was in, I was thinking, I was okay the next day, I had scratches on my neck, I was dizzy walking around, I had my arm in a sling but I was okay. Fighting seven guys is a joke compared to what I was going through in that cell. I feel like I had just been stomped into the ground and when I thought that I felt like I had been stomped into the ground, I had another flashback.

One night I was walking home from a friend’s house and a storm hit. The rain was so bad I could barely see, lightning was striking all over the place and I looked up and mockingly said:

is that supposed to scare me?
If you want me to believe in you,
you better come down here and make me believe.

I wasn’t serious but given my circumstances in the jail, I had to start wondering if God had taken it seriously. That normally wouldn’t have been an option, I didn’t think like that but since my entire world view was crumbling, I wasn’t in a position to dismiss alternatives. But there’s a problem; if there was a God involved in all of these, if right and wrong weren’t merely useful fictions, I was in all kinds of trouble, not just for what I had done but for what I was. How is the worst person in the world going to ever do the right thing? There’s no magic switch that I can flip and “oh now I care about other people”. So how was I going to do anything right? And then it hit me that there are two possibilities; either i’m violent and selfish and uncaring and that’s just the way things are or there’s someone who can help people like me. Either i’m all messed up and I just had to live with that or there was someone who could deal with this sort of thing, and when you start thinking like that, I would say you are about two inches away from becoming a Christian because when we ask ourselves

who out of anyone ever, who had the ability to take psychologically, spiritually and morally shattered people and give them new life?

We had a list of one, there’s one person on the list, he’s the one who said :

I am the door, if anyone enters through me, he would be saved and we’ll go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal, and kill and destroy, I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

I didn’t know what Jesus was,

who he claimed to be but I knew that it was Jesus or nothing, it was Jesus or nothing. If anyone has God’s stamp of approval, it’s the guy who rose from the dead. History is filled with dead options; Jesus is the last living option.

So I bowed down on my bunk, not sure of much of anything and I prayed, I didn’t know how to pray but I prayed and I said

God, I don’t know if i’m going to believe in you tomorrow but I believe in you right now. If you can do anything with me, you’re welcome to it,

and then I continued with the kind of sinner’s prayer that I had read in those bible studies, and when I sat up from that prayer, the entire world looked different, like everything was a different color. For the first time in a lot of years, I didn’t want to hurt anyone, and I had a strange sense that I had somehow known the truth all along. God created the universe but we’re something special, we’re created in God’s image, but we reject God and in rejecting God, we strive to twist and work His image which we bear.

For years, I was willing to sacrifice everything for a kind of freedom, just a freedom from external control. It’s a false freedom because we just end up using it to degrade and destroy ourselves; tarnishing the image of God so that we won’t be reminded of what we are and what responsibilities we share. True freedom is found in not having this inclination and desire to turn against our creator, that’s the true freedom.

After I prayed, I felt like I had been fighting; not figuratively fighting, I mean physically brawling my entire life and that I finally had a chance to sit down and rest.

That rest never went away.

As C.S Lewis put it

“I believe in Christianity because I believe that the son has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else.”

Lots of people in their testimonies will share their stories of what happened after they became a Christian, we can talk about that some other time. Right now I just want to explain why i’m a Christian and my reason for being a Christian has never changed. I stand on the words of the who rose from the dead because there is no other place to stand, and just to show you that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever, i’ll conclude my story with the words of another Christian from nearly 2000 years ago. The apostle Paul tried to annihilate Christianity before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Shortly before his death, he wrote a letter to his friend Timothy and said In words that can be echoed by thousands of other Christians over the centuries:

I thank Christ Jesus our lord who has given me strength that he considered me faithful, pointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer, and a prosecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord has poured out on me abundantly along with the faith and love that reigned in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst but for that very reason, I was shown mercy so that then me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. As for the king eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, we honour, glory forever and ever. Amen”.