BA: Hello, this is Brian Auten of Apologetics 315. Today I am speaking with Richard Morgan, a former atheist, who found salvation in Jesus Christ. His testimony is fascinating, as part of his conversion story came about through his interactions on the Richard Dawkins website discussion boards. I’m interested in hearing about Richard’s experience, how he came to know Christ, and also asking him his thoughts on apologetics.
Thank you so much for joining me today, Richard.
RM: It’s a pleasure – I think!
BA: Well, I’m glad you could join me today in the same time zone. Tell us where you’re from originally, Richard, and where you live now and basically what keeps you busy these days.
RM: Well, I was born and bred in a tiny village in North Wales, so in spite of the way I am speaking to you now, I am actually British. I grew up in North Wales. I went to college in Nottingham. I’ve lived and worked and taught in Nottingham and Manchester. And then circumstances in my life brought me to live in France, and in 1984 I moved to Toulouse, in the South West of France, which is where I have been living since. When I was in England, I was a music teacher, then when I came to France, I switched subjects and became an English teacher and I am just about on the point of retiring now, after having spent 25 pleasant years teaching English in the South West of France, well known for its vineyards.
BA: Well, it must be a beautiful place, then.
RM: It’s a very, very interesting place. Historically, it’s very, very interesting. The people are interesting. We’re just one and a half hours away from the Mediterranean in the south and then to the west, we are one and a half hours away from the Pyrenees for skiing, so it’s, yeah, it’s a real spiritual place.
BA: I’m glad you could join me because I wanted to interview you today because of your story. It’s your journey out of atheism and some who are listening may have heard you on the Unbelievable? radio program, and their podcast. You were talking about how God found you – even through the Richard Dawkins website of all places.
Now, as I understand your story, you spent a good amount of your time looking for God earlier in your life, but you didn’t find Him. Then you gave up this search after reading Richard Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker. So, could you tell me first a bit about how you came to be an atheist?
RM: Yeah, this is very, very interesting to me. I mean even today I’m still surprised that I am a Christian when I think about, you know, the first 62 years of my life.
I was brought up in what you call a nominally Christian family. I was taken to Sunday School. But that was about it and then when I was a teenager, I met two Mormon missionaries and I became converted to Mormonism in a very typically American Mormon way – went away to college, forgot about it all, came back again to Mormonism. Went and served two years as a Mormon missionary in France and it was whilst I was actually a missionary that I began to doubt my beliefs, if you might say, and then a couple of years after I got back I realised that I just had no faith anymore in Mormonism.
But back in those days, you know we’re talking about the early to mid-Seventies, everybody but everybody was interested in the New Age, esoteric sciences – what the atheists now call the “woo-woo” sciences, you know, all kinds of parallel forms of alternative healing, astrology, numerology, all that kind of stuff and I found that very, very interesting. And I realised as I studied all that – that I was probably still looking for something else.
I’ve got to be honest, I never found anything – nothing! Nothing even slightly. Another important detail which people may be able to recognise as they listen to my words, I was aware that probably much more than seeking God, I was seeking a social context where I would be accepted. I think basically all of us deep down—we’re all looking to be accepted in some way or another. And I found that when I got speaking with people, who had something interesting to say spiritually, if they sounded interested in me, I found myself nodding my head in agreement with them.
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.
Of course, having read Richard Dawkins’ book, The Blind Watchmaker, I was most interested to go and read all his other books, and I found him to be an absolutely fascinating writer – so easy to read. I became very interested in the whole subject of evolution and the explanatory power, as far as nature and life was concerned, the explanatory power of evolution in helping me understand at least the nature of living things around me, if not the whole universe. I wasn’t actually all that bothered about the whole universe. Because as somebody once said, some famous biologist once said, without evolution biology makes no sense and I really… this seemed so obvious, and clear and logical and true and it was just scientifically fascinating.
Also I need to point out that I was living in France at that time, and France is a very unreligious country. It is perhaps one of the most secular societies in the world today. Nobody cares whether you believe in God or not. Religion is not discussed. You can, you know, in polite dinners you can talk about politics perhaps, you can talk about economics and after a few glasses of wine, you can talk about sex but not religion. You just don’t talk about it in polite society. It just didn’t matter; it was a non-subject.
I’ll give you a very fascinating statistic – this is an official statistic from a survey taken in 2007. Fifty-one percent of the population of France – 51% of the people – declare themselves to be Catholic. Now of that 51%, half of them do not believe in God. So half of all the Catholics in France are atheists and they don’t find that a problem at all. For them, Catholicism is a kind of condition, a state of being, the way you are. It is a social thing. But really, for at least a century in France, religion has not been an issue. You know if you go to church that’s your affair but nobody will ask you, nobody will talk to you about it. And atheism is as it were, the default attitude for the majority of people.
It was my interest in evolution, not the whole religious debate, but my interest in evolution, which meant that I kept following Richard Dawkins’ activities. In around about 2006, I found a site called “the unofficial Richard Dawkins site” which was run by a guy in New York, which was an excellent site. It had a collection of Richard Dawkins’ articles, lectures, talks, links to his articles. Very, very interesting and I got quite involved with that. And then one day I discovered that there was an official Richard Dawkins website and I thought that was fantastic. Richarddawkins.net – an oasis of clear thinking. This was really exciting for me ‘cause, you know, I felt this was my occasion to discuss evolution and all its implications with other people. With intelligent people, who, people who knew more than I did about this subject, which means just about everybody.
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. And there certainly were some very, very interesting discussions. But such a lot of, I’ve got to say it, pure filth and just mockery. I’ve since learned that this is not really just because it is an atheist site but is the nature of the internet. I don’t know if you have seen the recent film, “The Social Network”?
RM: But at one point, there is a girl who says to the main character, “You only just stay in your dark room and make snide remarks, because that’s what the angry do these days”. I realised that the internet is a place where people can hide behind their anonymity and just say rude things and enjoy themselves. As David Robertson says, for some of these people, you know, it is a therapy.
Anyway, I certainly did get involved with some interesting discussions, as you will see later.
BA: Yes. Well, let me ask you before we go on because I think that we definitely want to go down that road, but let’s go off on a “bunny trail” here for a minute. What was your view of God as an atheist before, you know, going into the Richard Dawkins’ forums? How did you view God? How would you describe that? As a crutch? Or just a nice story, or a delusion? How did you see Christians, or believers, and God Himself?
RM: Well, it certainly seemed to me that in some way, the brain was hard-wired to have a belief in God. It seemed to me there were very sound psychological reasons why God existed – the ultimate Alpha Male, if you like. Not necessarily a simple crutch – that would be too easy. Their notion of God is far too universal to dismiss it as a simple crutch. But I think evolution explained why people became to believe in God – it is that we have the capacity as human beings and our brain, to attribute ‘intention,’ to things and people. We know what people are going to do because we can recognise signs. If I see the lion standing before, salivating, I can attribute its intention – it is about to have me for breakfast. And I think from an evolutionary point of view, this is a very, very useful think to have.
Now then, the early humans used this as a survival strategy. It was clear that being alert to threatening forms of activity of on earth – storms, showers, lightning – being as these were harmful to them, it would seem logical to attribute some kind of agent to them. I mean it might be a good idea to get on the right side of the agent… it might be a good idea to get on the right side of the invisible agent who was sending storms and hailstorms and all kinds of earthquakes and other disasters. Therefore it is logical to invent some kind of religion and so religion arose in that way – remained integrated in society as society developed and society evolved… became more civilised – evolved along with society and became something more or less harmless.
And of course, I am speaking as somebody who comes from Britain. I had never been exposed to some of the more extremes of fundamentalism in the United States of America. I didn’t know anything about that. I thought it was a fairly logical harmless thing, but certainly no way to connect science or reasonable thought or philosophy, and, living in France, it just didn’t matter anyway.
BA: OK. Well, that’s interesting. Now as you were saying, you found the Richard Dawkins’ website; you became involved in some of the discussions there and you noticed the tone and the manner of most of the people ‘venting’ there, so to speak, and then you saw some interaction about David Robertson’s book, called The Dawkins Letters. Can you tell me a little about that and what was it about David Robertson’s interactions that got your attention?
RM: Yes. David Robertson is a Scottish Pastor in Dundee in Scotland. He is a Pastor, a very, very active Pastor, he is also a writer, he is also a very effective apologist. And after having read, “The God Delusion”, he published on his church’s site, a letter, an open letter to Richard Dawkins, in replying to the first chapter of Dawkins’ book.
Now this provoked a certain amount of interest, particularly on Richard Dawkins’ site and so David Robertson continued and wrote a letter in response to each of the chapters in “The God Delusion” and all these letters put together became the book, The Dawkins Letters. David did not set out to write a book as such… that became a book, the collection of letters.
Obviously this came to the attention of us Dawkins’ fans, that this book had been written – quite a few books had been written – criticising Dawkins. But The Dawkins Letters seemed to be the easiest “victim” of athiest attacks. In fact one lady on the Richard Dawkins’ site undertook to prepare a very lengthy review – a blow-by-blow analysis – of The Dawkins Letters, which she published and which we read because none of us in those days would dare admit that we had bought a book by David Robertson to read it. We just counted on other people who would read it and tell us what he said.
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.
Now then if you have heard that Richard Dawkins himself has been called “Darwin’s Rottweiler”, I can assure you that David Robertson is “God’s Scottish Terrier”, because once he gets his teeth in, he hangs on. He does not let go!
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”.
I’d like to add a parenthesis here that, in fact, yes in a way, David Robertson was attention seeking, but he wasn’t seeking attention for David Robertson. I think we all know for whom he was seeking attention.
And this carried on for days and days and days…became the longest ever discussion on the RichardDawkins.net discussion board. And then one day all of a sudden somebody said to him, “And we all know that David Robertson is a liar!” And I thought, “Oh, I haven’t noticed him being a liar”. Obviously as a Christian he was “deluded”, could be a fruitcake, but you know, he sounds perfectly honest and polite and so I did a very silly thing. I asked publicly on the site, “Um, where has David Robertson actually lied?”
This meant that I got shouted at in my turn! You know, “What is wrong with you?” “Of course, he is a liar”. “Everybody can see he is a liar”. So, I thought, I can’t really see it. So in the end I realised I was probably too unintelligent to recognise where David Robertson had lied and he must have been a liar been a liar because everybody else said so.
BA: You got to the point apparently where you seemed – and I read one of your articles – where you sort of, in your words, signed your own “death sentence” on the Richard Dawkins forums through a few posts that you wrote. So if you could kind of tell our listeners how that went down.
RM: Yeah well signing my own “death sentence” as you said, it happened in several stages. The first one was when somebody posted on the discussion board on richarddawkins.net, an article which talked about some crazy, lunatic Russian prophet, who had predicted the end of the world, convinced a group of people to hide in a cave with him in order to avoid the end of the world. And when the day came and the world continued to exist, he tried to commit suicide by beating himself over the head with a branch.
I realised that the members of the discussion board would mock him and make fun of him and generally take advantage of the situation to prove and show how all religious belief is deluded. And of course, they did. But a few of them went as far as to say, “What a pity he failed in his suicide attempt”. They said they would have preferred him to die. I just could not believe my eyes when I saw that. How could any civilised person say they want to see somebody die? And so I posted a protestation. And in reply, one of the most intelligent members of this discussion board just quoted a few of my words and wrote after it, “LOL” – Laughing out Loud. Just laughing at my protestation, my appeal to some form of humanity. And at that point I really began thinking, “Do I want to really be amongst these people?”
I’m not condemning all atheists – let me be quite clear, I’m not generalising in any way. I’m talking about anonymous atheists on internet discussion boards…
RM: …and the messages that they express. Which is largely extremely negative, extremely puerile, full of hate, full of filth. Some of the comments are vile and base and the remarks are just not worthy of any kind of intelligent discussion. I thought, you know, “Do I want to be among these people?” And I realised I didn’t!
When I protested about the reaction to this Russian lunatic’s suicide attempt, one or two of the other posters came out and they sort of timidly said, “Yes, well you’re right, Richard, we do understand”. But they really didn’t like me being there; they really didn’t like me saying anything like that.
And so I thought, you know, OK, I’ve got to leave this. And I came back to David Robertson’s replies to all our nastiness and unpleasantness, and our vicious attacks. I mean I was part of them; I even composed a piece of music to insult him, which I was later to learn, he downloaded onto his iPod. He used to listen to it in the car. Because in those days, I used to compose pieces of music to sort of… musical portraits.
I was personally very, very disappointed with the reaction of my fellow atheists. But not only that, I was impressed by several aspects of David Robertson’s participation in this debate. Firstly, he always kept coming back. And sometimes he said that he got up two hours early in the morning to give adequate responses to the criticisms. Sometimes he’d start his post by saying, “Oh, when I read that post last night, I almost lost the will to live!”
And then he continued by answering them. And some of them… You know, I mean he did defend himself. He didn’t just sort of lie down and say “Hit me!” He wasn’t the meek and mild kind of Christian, who says “I love you all; you’re all nice, etc, etc”. He did defend himself and he defended himself in a fairly robust manner several times and he didn’t hesitate to wish us well; he didn’t hesitate at certain points to say that he wished that we could come to a knowledge of God.
But of course, that’s a stupid thing to say on an atheist website, but he said it. And after I decided to break off my contact with the richarddawkins.net discussion board, I went and printed out all David Robertson’s posts. You know, we’re talking about 50, 60 perhaps 70 pages. I printed them all out and I took them out onto the balcony of my apartment in the south of France, which I often did with my cup of coffee, and read through them. And I found no lies, no lies at all. I found a lot of humility, a lot of intelligence, a lot of sensitivity.
I was a bit embarrassed by references to the Bible because that didn’t seem to make any sense to me. But I thought, you know, this guy has something! There is something going on here; he is worthy of my respect at least!
So I thought out of respect to him, instead of just disappearing from the Richard Dawkins’ website and disappearing from contact with David Robertson as well, I wrote to him. I just sent him and email saying, you know, I can’t believe in God; I am an atheist; I appreciated your comments; I appreciated your responses but I can’t believe in God. I’m not an athiest because I want to be an atheist; I’m not a happy atheist! I’m an atheist because I can’t believe in God.
Now then apparently David Robertson occasionally got that kind of email and sometimes it would be from an atheist pretending to be somebody on the point of being converted and then people would take his responses back to their own atheist website to, you know, to laugh at him and mock him – to mock him generally. And so he told me later that we was cautious in his reply and he sent me one of his fairly standard replies.
And this reply I received on the morning of Saturday, the 12th April, 2008. And in his reply, he asked two questions. The first one was, “Why don’t you believe in God?” and the second one was, “What could make you believe in God?” Now then when I read the first question, my first reaction was, “What a stupid question, you only have to read all the articles on Richard Dawkins’ site and his books, to know why most intelligent people don’t believe in God. That is a stupid question”. And then here we come, we’re almost at this critical moment in my life, the second question, “What could make you believe in God?” And this answer came into my mind spontaneously, which completely surprised me. My answer was, “Certainly not reason and science”.
And in that instant, in that very, very instant, some words came into my mind, which I must have learned years— 40 years previousl—in my Mormon days…some words came into my mind, “We love because He first loved us”. If you want to look that up that is the nineteenth verse of the First Epistle of John, Chapter 4. And in that instant, in that instant, there was a kind of perceptual change in my mind… I’m not going to say more in my heart but in my mind. In an instant my perception of just about everything changed. An image I like to use because it is accurate is that it was as if I was seeing precisely the same things as I was seeing before but whereas before everything had been a two-dimensional image in black and white, suddenly it sprang into a three-dimensional image in full colour.
I mean in that instant, I understood the expression ‘amazing grace’. I was absolutely amazed. That was at 10:24 on the morning of the 12th April, 2008. I remember looking at my watch ’cause I was thinking, you know, if I am having a nervous breakdown it might be useful to know what time it started to happen to me.
And, eh, I could not understand what was happening. I could not understand. I was certain, without having any rational explanation for it, that God existed, that He loved me without waiting for me to love Him.
That he loved me unconditionally without waiting for me to deserve it, or be worthy of it in any way, and at one level that made complete sense, because I know that, as human beings, we cannot give what we have not received, and we cannot give love unless we have received love. I knew that we as human beings need love; we need to love and we need to be loved. And here was the greatest source of all love manifested to me personally in this inner experience because somebody asked me, “What could make you believe in God?” after having spent years immersed in reason and science and philosophy. I realised that that was not the way to God and I was able to refuse that and in refusing that it was as if the gates of Heaven were opened up to me in a real instant.
And now almost three years later, I am still as amazed. I feel the love of God even more, should we say. It wasn’t just a one-off. Surely afterwards somebody from the Richard Dawkins site wrote to me very kindly and said, “I think perhaps you need counselling, Richard”. Another guy wrote and said, “Maybe you’ve had what’s called a temporary brain infarction?” I can’t remember who said that to me and I still don’t know what a temporary brain infarction is but if he is listening to your podcast, can I just tell him that this temporary brain infarction is obviously not very temporary. I must still be having it, because I still feel the love God as strongly today as I did three years ago.
BA: Well, that’s phenomenal. Now Richard, after this experience, what did you do and what changed from that point forward and what did you tell people and how did they respond? I want to know what happened after that moment.
RM: In my life’s circumstances virtually nothing changed. It was my perception of everything that changed. In my family I was already known as a bit of an “odd-bod”, so they weren’t particularly surprised, although my wife at the time was happy that I had, what she called “found religion”. But it was a total life changing experience. I mean I did not wake up the same way every morning. I started feeling these unusual things like joy and feeling a sense of belonging, you know, and I just wanted to fill myself up with this more and more, as you can imagine.
And I wrote back to David Robertson telling him this. And he has since admitted that at first he didn’t really believe me; he thought I was taking him for a ride, bless him. But I was able to convince him of my sincerity so we got the cogs in motion – got his contacts going – and found a church where I could go in Toulouse through people that he knew in France. And I have been going to that same church […] since May 2008.
But what was interesting now of course was that I still understand the same philosophical arguments against the existence of God. I’m still aware of what are supposed to be the scientific ‘proofs’ against God but it is as if there is an added perception being put into my mind to see beyond that and to see how limited and inadequate all these explanations are.
Science is very, very, good. Science in fact is the best thing I know on earth for doing science. Philosophy is a wonderful thing for doing philosophy. But neither of those bring you to any kind of meaningful, personal transcendental truth. Only a relationship with God can bring us to that. When I look at the Bible now I’m not surprised that in the Bible, we do not find adequate explanations of the theory of gravity; I’m not surprised that we don’t have an explanation of the Big Bang, the initial singularity and the number of plank units there are in the universe, because the Bible is all about God’s relationship with man. And I’ve always understood that, before being intellectual creatures, human beings are relational creatures. Everything that matters in life, in the last analysis, comes down to our relationships with others and as I now know, the ultimate relationship, a relationship with God.
So, in the early days of course, my main interest was filling myself up, filling myself up with more and more understanding and knowledge – knowledge of the Word of God and the experience of other Christians.
Of course, as a new convert, I suffered from occasional bouts of being over-zealous and I went back onto the Richard Dawkins site, to say nice things to them, which is a stupid thing to do because of course, they just replied with the most vile insults. However, the most powerful insult I received at that time, was in fact, one of the best compliments I’ve ever had in my life!
Because one of the posters was a guy called Steve Zara (?). He started posting under a pseudonym, like all the rest of them, but he was one of the few who agreed to post under his real name, when I said, you know, that we should be able to post using our real names. And he did. His name is Steve Zara.
Lovely guy, very, very intelligent guy and he wrote to me. I’m quoting, and it is still on the site and it is still on his blog, “Richard, I’m afraid you won’t here be treated as someone honest”. And he goes on to say that I reverted back to Christianity – listen to this – “after a full knowledge of all the detailed scientific and philosophical arguments against the absurd position of theism”.
Now that is the only time in my life that someone has told me that I had a “full knowledge” of something. He considered that I had a “full knowledge of all the detailed scientific and philosophical arguments against the absurd position of theism”. Therefore, knowing all that, becoming a Christian meant that I was not somebody who was “honest”.
Now, the fact of the matter is that today, whenever I real atheist posts on Christian sites, I can understand what they are saying; I know where they are coming from. I just want to reach down and say, “Yes, I know what you’re saying; I know where you’re coming from. I’ve been there!” This wonderful argument that you’ve just written about explaining how God can’t exist, I know it so well, I’ve used it a dozen times myself. But that’s not true! There is more to it than that!
So, as I have said before, when I became a Christian I didn’t cease to know everything I knew before. I didn’t forget everything I’d learned about evolution and evolutionary processes. I didn’t all of a sudden lose interest in the Large Hadron Collider that was promising to bring us proof of the existence of the Higgs Boson, the elemental particle which existed at the beginning of the Universe. I knew all this. I was aware of all this but I was aware of how limited it was. How it could not answer man’s deepest basic needs.
There is this famous French quotation, sometimes people attribute it to Pascal, other people attribute it to Jean Paul Satre. We don’t know who said it. In French it says, “Dans le cœur de chaque personne, il ya un trou en forme de Dieu”. David Robertson likes the English version. It says, “In every person’s heart, there is a God-shaped hole”.
I’m aware of the presence of this God-shaped hole, that only the love of God can fill it. That when you desperately try and fill it with so many other things – scientific knowledge, many kinds of activity, drugs, cigarettes… people try and fill that space, that God-shaped space in the heart, with so many kinds of things but none of them satisfy. Only the love of God can fill that hole and answer man’s basic needs, regardless of his culture, regardless of the country in which he was born.
You know, you hear the atheists saying, “Yes, well what you believe depends upon where you were born”. And that is so fallacious. That doesn’t say anything at all about the true nature of the human condition and man’s basic needs.
BA: Well, I’m curious Richard. You mention how in a sense you have been apprehended by God, but it wasn’t at the end of an argument or evaluation of evidence, so to speak, or of scientific or philosophical arguments. I’m curious what value you may see in looking at philosophical or scientific arguments. These sorts of things that the Christian apologist would typically use. What value do you see in those things?
RM: Well, if I can refer to my first experience of the Christian apologist, that is to say David Robertson. There are two things – the first is the most important thing was that he was always there! He always kept coming back. He remained within the dialogue. He kept the communication open. As we know when we say Apologetics 315, the end 3:15 if anybody asks us if anybody asks us for a reason for our hope, we must give that reason and David Robertson always did, regardless of the insults and the abuse that he received, he kept coming back. That’s the first thing.
The second thing is that there are two aspects to any kind of communication, that is to say, the contents of the communication and the fact of the communication itself. I am talking to you now here Brian, and there are two things going on. I am saying things to you, I am saying words and some of them might have a meaning to you and some of your listeners, but I am also maintaining a relationship with you. Myself as one human being to you, as another human being and maybe at the end of the day you or I will remember this conversation as an experience of human communication, without necessarily remembering the words that have been said.
I think one of the first roles of an apologist is not to prove the other person wrong because apparently nobody has ever been converted by losing an argument. But the role of an apologist is to maintain the communication, to open up a communication with those who might be seeking – by those who are willing to expose themselves – to different ideas. And of course, their language! Because there is no point in speaking the truth if you’re speaking a language that the person in front of you can’t understand, which is why it is also important for us to understand where atheists are coming from in their modern day arguments. And how many valid refutations and answers there are in the Christian message to all these criticisms.
BA: You know many of our listeners are probably going to be those who are interested in Christian apologetics. However, I’m thinking there may also be atheists who are listening, so if you had something to say to those who are unbelievers, what would that be?
RM: If there are unbelievers listening to what I’m saying now, the first thing I would say is “Why?” Why are you bothering listening to me? What do you think that I can possibly have to say to you that could be of any interest to you?
Now, I’m going to suggest what some of your possible motivations could be. It could be that you are just here to listen to this guy, Richard Morgan, who created such a scandal on the Richard Dawkins’ website. Maybe just listening to what I’m saying in order to be able to quote it back on your own atheist blog and say, “Yeah look at what this guy, Richard Morgan, is saying now!” Perhaps you’re just looking for more weapons to use against me! Well, if that is the case, well, God bless you! I hope it brings you happiness – it won’t! If you think it does, just do your own thing.
You might also be listening because you have a genuine open mind. Maybe you’re an atheist who says, “OK, science does not have the answer to everything and science and philosophy will never have the answer to everything. Maybe some other answers are available elsewhere”. And I do believe that those who listen with an open mind, and more importantly, an open heart, with a certain amount of humility to be able to say, “I don’t know everything”, then I believe those people are exposing themselves to the most dangerous experience of their lives! That experience is called, “conversion”. I believe those people are opening themselves to the most powerful explosion of divine love in their lives that they could ever imagine – that they could not even imagine! And they will have the same surprise as me. That they won’t have been reasoned into it; they won’t have been “logic-ed” into it; they will have been “miracled” into it, as somebody said in a film!
The fact that you are listening to me now does not mean that my words are full of wisdom – they’re not! The fact that you are listening means that you have the spirit of enquiry and that may be you are sensitive to the words Jesus spoke, when He says, “I stand at the door and knock”. Jesus has not invited you to come and knock on His door. He says, “ I am here; I’m standing at the door; I knock. All you have to do is open the door and invite Me in”.
I’d like to relate a little anecdote to you now, which shows how naive I can be. The first time I went to London to record a show with Justin Brierley – his show “Unbelievable” – I was seriously worried and Justin thought I was joking because knowing how unexpected and abrupt my conversion experience was, I said to Justin because we were waiting for our atheist to turn up, I said to him, “Oh dear, what if he got converted last night! Where are we going to find an atheist?” Because it just seemed so real to me that is was possible that the atheist who got booked in for the show could no longer be an atheist today – it can be as real and dramatic as that. As it turned out, he wasn’t converted, and he came and defended his atheist viewpoint, and he’s still defending his atheist viewpoint.
All I’m saying now to any unbelievers is that if you are willing to listen with and open mind and an open heart and just say, “Perhaps… perhaps I do not possess all the truth”. That is an act of humility and I know that God never rejects or ignores acts of humility.
BA: Well, thank you so much Richard. It’s been just fascinating hearing you tell this story. I know that part of what you’ve been talking about today is going to be in the next edition of The Dawkins Letters. How can you direct people to get hold of that book, or are there any other resources you would want to point our listeners to?
RM: Well, my conversion story – the version that was published in the Free Church of Scotland magazine, which is called, “The Record”, which is available – that it now already exists as an additional chapter in the second revised edition of, The Dawkins Letters by David Robertson and this of course can be found on Amazon.
BA: Well thanks so much for speaking with me today, Richard.
RM: Well, it’s been a real pleasure…I want to thank all of those who have had the patience to listen to me through to the end. Can I just apologise and say that I have not spoken much English for the last 27 years, so if my English sounds a bit weird to you, it’s only because it is a bit weird. But I want you to know that God can cut through any language barriers and cut straight through to the heart of a man.
BA: Well thanks so much. Take care.
RM: Thank you.
BA: I’ve been speaking with Richard Morgan. Links to the resources mentioned in the interview including David Robertson’s book, The Dawkins Letters, and a past episode of the Unbelievable radio program, can be found at today’s blog post at Apologetics 315. If you have enjoyed this interview, please share it with a friend and thanks to all who have been sharing apologetics resources through Facebook and Twitter.
This is Brian Auten of Apologetics 315 and thanks for listening.