My two-sentence conversion story

October 7, 2006 | Atheism, Conversion | 10 comments

I’ve been struggling with putting together a conversion story. I get asked so often how I got from there to here, from atheism to Catholicism, that I’d like to put together a story of my journey to share with others. The problem is how to condense it. It’s been such a wild ride, influenced by so many factors, that it’s hard to make it a brief story.

In particular, I’ve been trying to come up with a very quick version to share in social settings. Just this week two people have asked me to explain how I ended up converting to Catholicism, and both times I ended up hemming and hawing, sharing a couple of the things that were big influences, but ultimately just saying “it’s a long story.”

And then a few minutes ago I saw the quote below on a blog, and I knew I had my short answer.

I did a brief stint as a Catholic while I was growing up, but the whole sin/sinner thing didn’t appeal to me. Far too much guilt. The way I live; I’d spend my life in the confessional.

I know this mentality well. Once I got to the point of believing that some sort of higher power/spiritual realm existed, I got into create-a-God mode, looking for the religious belief systems that was most convenient for me. In this mentality, the Catholic Church was out because I didn’t need all that guilt stuff, there’s no way I’d forego using contraception, they were too hung up on “sin”, I didn’t agree with their zero-tolerance abortion stance, etc. etc. I actually started going to an Episcopal Church because I wanted “Catholic Lite” — the incense and rituals without the confining, antiquated rules.

It was all about what I wanted to be true.

And then, in large part thanks to conversations we had on this blog (here and here are a couple of examples), I started looking into some of the teachings that I had previously blown off without a second though. To my amazement, I found myself agreeing with things that I would have violently disagreed with before. I read and read and read some more, and the deeper I dug, the more I felt I was hitting upon truth. Even the most outlandish doctrines checked out.

After doing enough 180-degree turns in my views on various matters I finally clued in to the fact that I had not been searching for truth. I’d been searching for comfort.

Reading that quote today and being reminded of my old mindset made me realize that there is a short version of my conversion story:

When I decided to stop talking about being “open-minded about religion” and actually open my mind to religion, I became a Christian. And when I set aside what I want to be true to seek what is actually true, I became a Catholic.

10 Comments

  1. Jim McCullough

    Excellent summary!

  2. SteveG

    WHAMMO! Way to go Jen!

    So that must be your elevator pitch, eh? 😀 Some pitch!

    Also, we must have been reading the same blog (starts with a ‘T’ and sounds like inertia). 😉

    I had the same reaction to that same few sentences. I remember that I used to think like that, but it’s so foreign to me now. It was so disconcerting to read.

    That’s not meant as any kind of dig against the person who posted it, and I do in fact understand where she is coming from. But it’s just so…wrong…on so many levels. I am glad I am not there any longer, as comfortable as it might seem…it’s really not.

    Anyway, great post as usual Jennifer!

  3. Jeff Miller

    G.K. Chesterton also put his conversion simply “To get rid of my sins”

    I would put my own conversion from atheism quite simply also:
    “Sheer Grace, sometimes I cooperated.”

  4. melanie b

    Great summary.

    Edith Stein, who was born a Jew, did a stint as an athiest, became a Catholic, became a Carmelite nun, died in a concentration camp and is now a saint, said: Whoever seeks the truth seeks God.

  5. Kiwi Nomad 2006

    I am reading your blog with interest. I was brought up Catholic but have been ‘long gone’, just hanging somewhere vaguely on the edges. But I would probably like to find my way back.
    Earlier this year I visited Lourdes where I met a Kiwi priest who seemed to be in touch with the ‘living waters’. And two days ago I was at a funeral where the wife spoke of the ‘healing’ her husband had had, when he had a ‘God experience’ in ICU. She spoke from the heart. I have not been ‘converted’ myself, but I seem to be meeting some believers lately who have made an impact on me.

  6. Tim

    You, my friend, are a thinker….

  7. SteveG

    kiwi nomad,
    You will be in my prayers.

  8. SteveK

    What a great and powerful testimony you have Jen. I sincerely mean that. Be prepared for God to use that testimony in a BIG, BIG way.

    My wife also has a great testimony and she speaks to small groups on occasion. It’s amazing to see how God uses that story to impact the lives of others.

  9. Layla

    That is absolutely beautiful, Jen.

  10. Georgie Tamayo Clemens

    Beautiful, just beautiful! Sometimes I think I’ve missed something by being “born into” Catholicism. Thanks for the glimpse of your story.

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