About this blogger:
Ronda Chervin received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Fordham University and an MA in Religious Studies from Notre Dame Apostolic Institute. A widow, mother, and grandmother, she currently teaches philosophy at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. Write to her at chervinronda@gmail.com.
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In the '60s, I thought this emphasis on congregational singing was to encourage good Catholic hymns like "Immaculate Mary" and so forth … but after the Council, they threw them out, too!
— Fr. Valentine Young, OFM (2007)

   Send an E-mail to Dr. Ronda Chervin, Ph.D.
How to convert atheists?
published 6 April 2013 by Dr. Ronda Chervin

HIS SUBJECT CAME UP RECENTLY. There was a famous Jewish background but atheistic philosopher, Mortimer Adler, who was converted primarily by St. Thomas Aquinas’ 5 Ways to prove the existence of God. That is rare. Most atheists become convinced in the reality of God and/or the Divinity of Christ because of many diverse kinds of religious experiences. C.S. Lewis, for example, was moved to consider the reality of God because of the virtues he found in Christian friends, but then by the famous argument in Mere Christianity that Christ was either a mad-man, a liar, or really God as He claimed.

Here are some examples of conversions in my own family from atheism. Myself you can find on www.rondachervin.com free e-books – leaflets – the one called Saved: the story of Ronda Chervin’s conversion.

My twin-sister thought I was crazy to think God existed or that Christ was divine. She was a materialist when I converted at 21. What got her started toward her conversion to the Catholic faith a few years later was that she suddenly saw my soul in the midst of a conversation. She saw it in my eyes. This religious experience got her to think maybe immaterial things exist such as souls.

It is my belief that many people convert from atheism in relation to their highest value. My sister’s highest value was beauty. She was a modern dancer at the time. But she also loved the beauty of classical music. She would listen to Verdi’s Requiem over and over again and she got a sense of Christ from that music. Also she loved St. Augustine’s Confessions.

My mother, brought up as an atheist, and an ex-Communist, thought I was crazy, also. From the loving friendship of many Catholics, she begin to look into the faith. For her friendship love was the highest value. She converted some 10 years after I and my sister became Catholics.

My husband was brought up orthodox Jewish. His story can be found in the book of stories called Bread from Heaven sold by the Association of Hebrew Catholics. Basically, when he was a youth he wandered out of the Jewish ghetto on the lower East Side and came to the public library. Reading from A-Z he came upon Jesus. He was fascinated. He became an atheist as a teen, as did many second generation American Jews. He met me in his 40’s. He thought he might find Jesus through osmosis if he married a former Jew who was a Catholic, even though I was an atheist with only a cultural Jewish background. I prayed and prayed he would have a vision of Jesus. Once he was near a huge crucifix in Rome and Jesus said in his heart: You need me more than I need you! He was not a philosopher but a fiction writer. He spent 20 years working on a novel about Christ and Satan in the Desert, the question being how can Jesus tell us to be lambs when to survive we have to be wolves. This book Children of the Breath, available from CMJ Marian publishers ends with Jesus leaving the desert to become the sacrificial lamb. He became a Catholic at 60 years old partly by reading the Baltimore Catechism which was much clearer than the many books priests and philosophers gave him to read. His highest value was life and he longed for the eternal life Jesus promised. When he asked a famous Jewish convert why He became a Catholic, that convert, Charles Rich, said simply: “because you get more.” Appealing, in this way, to a similar background on the Lower East Side filled with push-carts!

My father was baptized in the Presbyterian Church because of his Christian mother. He became an atheist at age 12. So strong was his atheism that he spend many decades writing atheist leaflets, especially trying to prove that the famous American Presidents were all atheists. He was alarmed that his divorced wife and children would become Catholics. Nothing in what I gave him to read reached him as much as that I read a biography of Lincoln and put post-its on the famous passages where Lincoln said he could not stand the tragedies of the Civil War deaths without his faith in God. My father did not realize that many Presidents who were not Church-goers were still believers in God and often in Christ. Years after his death I met a Catholic woman who lived near my father. She said that in the year before he died I spoke to a Catholic priest. I will not know till heaven what that conversation was.

I prayed for each of these family members every day of my life. I am sure that some of my arguments filtered through but it seems as if prayer was the most important help. We must always remember that God loves every person infinitely more than we do. If, as we teach, when they die they see Jesus, and they followed the light as much as possible, they will choose Him and be saved. We are not to judge how much they followed the light, just to pray for them. “Love covers a multitude of sins,” Jesus taught. Since we rely on this concerning our own sins, we must do so when thinking about the sins of others whether sins of doubt or moral sins.