O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith


Conversions: Christian to Agnostic to Christian

posted by Jason Boyett

Today’s conversion story comes from Mike Wise. An Arizona singer/songwriter who hails from Denver, Colorado, Mike made the odd religious transition from Episcopalian Christianity into Agnosticism…and then back to Christianity.

—————-

Bio:

I am a 33 year-old, high-functioning autistic adult living in Tucson, Arizona. I am an aspiring singer/songwriter. I have a day job working as a temp for the University of Arizona (Go Wildcats!).


Conversion:

I was raised in a moderate Christian home. I was saved when I was 12, baptized and confirmed Episcopalian, then slid into more fundamentalist Christianity after high school. I de-converted into agnosticism at age 22 and reconverted to Christianity 10 years later.

What led to your conversion?

The first conversion happened theologically. I began studying apologetics so that I might be more equipped to defend the faith, and the things I learned left me with huge amounts of doubt in my brain. Questions that I think many of us ask…regarding judgment and eternal torment. I became an agnostic at age 22, but that was further solidified the next year when I lost my brother to a car accident. He was only 26. He was an epileptic and wanted to be used to minister to other handicapped people. God seemed to have other plans, I guess.

The conversion back to Christianity is a bit harder to describe. I guess I finally got to a point where I realized that everything I was doing and saying regarding faith was out of anger. I had some good conversations with my wife and some close friends, read Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, and one day finally decided to let it all go and give God another try.

What kind of impact did your conversion have on your friends and family?

The first “conversion” into agnosticism made me quite a cynic. I felt very jaded about most everything and some of that may have been grief as well. I also found myself getting angrier and angrier. It became harder to make friends, I was married and divorced to a woman within 2 years. It was just a bad time and — I don’t know if this makes any sense or not — but I didn’t really feel like myself.

Since coming back and finding a good holistic missional church to go to, I feel much more at peace. I still have many of the same doubts I used to have, but I trust in God to handle those things and to just focus on the work ahead of me. My anger has lessened and the joy of living has come back. I have had more control over fears and anxieties as well.

If that is not a testament to the saving grace of God then I don’t know what is.

What advice would you give someone going through the same experience or contemplating a similar conversion?

The best advice I can give is to be as honest with yourself as you can. I’ve been all over the spectrum of belief, and a lot of the choices I’ve made were based off emotion. I regret nothing — perhaps God allowed my time in doubt for a higher purpose. I’m not the type to lash out at non-believers because I understand what they are going through. I’ll talk to anyone about anything. You can tell me how much God sucks and I’ll listen with an open heart and do my best to share the good news anyway I can without forcing it. I might not be able to do that had I not been a skeptic myself.

If you are a Christian and you’re beginning to experience real doubt, it’s OK. You’re not a bad person, you don’t need to run from it. I believe God understands and will walk with you through whatever process you go through.

If you are a doubter and you’re thinking about giving God another try, be mindful of your expectations. God’s not
going to solve every one of your problems or take away all of your doubts just because you have come back. But if you come back with an open mind, I believe God will ease your unrest. It might not happen right away — you’ll need to hang through a bit — but it’s worth it. At least it was to me.

—————-

Thank you, Mike.

If you’d like to get in touch with Mike Wise, you can find him on twitter or via his music blog, No Sleep Till Nashville. You can also listen to his music here.

Previous conversion interviews:

Jessica Gavin: Universalist to Seventh-Day Adventist
Torie Brown Hunt: From Southern Baptist to Mormon

 



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David N.

posted February 11, 2011 at 12:23 pm


I went through a similar journey, but never actually gave up belief. I was angry and confused but just couldn’t shake the belief that God was there and somehow He was represented by Christianity. I know of others, though, who have become full-on agnostics. In the last year I’ve gotten back to a place of peace with God and gotten some things figured out…and I find myself not wanting to talk about it with those who aren’t there yet because, for lack of a better way to describe it, I don’t sound “legit” anymore. The inability to believe anything firmly is sort of a badge of honor in that circle, you know? So how do you talk about your faith with those who are still in the agnostic phase? Does it just come down to honesty and listening?



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Jeremy Myers

posted February 11, 2011 at 12:33 pm


Mike,
Thank you for sharing this. I hope your music career takes off!
I would love hear more about your missional church. Are they more active in the community than your previous fundamentalist church? How are they missional?
Also, I’m glad Blue Like Jazz had a positive influence on you. You know, they’re making a movie about it. It should be out this fall. I’m going to do a few posts about it on my own blog sometime soon. Steve Taylor, the former musician who is the director of the movie, had a big impact on my theological development. I don’t know if you would like his music, but I consider him one of my “formative theologians.” His music is not just music. It’s theology and missions put to sound.



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Tiffany

posted February 11, 2011 at 1:45 pm


Thanks for doing these blogs on conversions! I always find these facinating and I’m so glad that Mike found his way back to Christianity and is willing to share his doubts, struggles, and story with everyone!



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nnmns

posted February 11, 2011 at 3:12 pm


Those who say “God sucks” are not atheists and arguably not agnostics. To be an atheist you need to be very sure there’s no god (like I am). To be an agnostic you need, it seems to me, to have grave doubt about the existence of a god. To say “God sucks” is not to doubt a god exists, it’s just to bravely say it’s no good.
I question whether Mike was ever an agnostic in the usual sense of the term, though he clearly had doubts about the existence of some of the vilest parts of Christian theology, judgement and eternal torment. It sounds like he decided it wasn’t worth the effort to maintain his position out of the mainstream. That’s a pity.
Keep thinking, Mike.



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little lion man

posted February 11, 2011 at 8:23 pm


Atheism is almost as bad as religion, nnmns. You claim to know something that frankly is unknowable- unless you can prove to me that God does not exist.
I think Mike’s belief in God is fine. The belief probably isn’t hurting anyone. I think he is wrong to say that doubt is bad, though. Doubt keeps you from claiming to know things that are not provable and from joining religions that make unprovable claims to knowledge.
I do agree that it’s a shame that he blames agnosticism for his unhappiness. I’ve found it to be a happier and much more rewarding world view than what I had when I was religious.



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nnmns

posted February 11, 2011 at 11:32 pm


I would not try to prove no god exists. But I can point out that there’s no credible proof that any god does exist and if it were, say, any kind of Christian god it owes us some proof unless this whole Hell thing is fantasy (which of course it all is).
I am, admittedly, an agnostic but one so far on the non-belief end it’s only practical to call myself an atheist. I’d believe in a god in a minute if it gave sufficient proof it exists. Of course it would need to be really good proof but a powerful god could do it easily. And convince not just me, but millions of atheists and others of the wrong religion.
Since there continues to be no credible proof for a god, and since a god is such an unlikely thing to exist outside a person’s head I conclude there’s no god.



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Page

posted February 13, 2011 at 1:25 am


I can certainly identify with the emotions that come with the loss of a loved one. I find it beautiful that the resolution of some of those feelings allowed you to be at peace with God. Thanks for sharing this conversion story.



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LSaik

posted February 21, 2011 at 12:42 am


I’m relieved to read that there are many others wrestling with the Christian concept of judgement and eternal torment. I’ve been thinking about this subject lately and have been pondering Jesus’ words on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. I know this is only one very small verse in the bible and is not a firm basis for a doctrine but is Jesus in essence offering forgiveness for people without the pre-requisite of repentance? Like the Southern Baptist to Mormon conversion story I struggle to believe that people who have passed away without hearing the gospel will be damned. I know this sounds “Universalist” (and I don’t consider myself to be Universalist), but somehow I think that God’s salvation plan is much bigger and wider than we could imagine. When Jesus showed up, the Jews of the day and the preceding nation of Israel at large believed that salvation belonged only to them, not realising that God’s ultimate salvation plan (Jesus / the Christ / the Messiah) was much bigger, far reaching and inclusive than just one nation/race. So should it really be all that surprising to think it may be possible that God’s final salvation plan is still much bigger, far reaching and inclusive than what we as Christians currently know?



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Stubbycat

posted March 3, 2011 at 8:17 am


GOD is to be understood, not merely believed. We live in GOD like the fish live in the sea. What keeps us from practicing our existence from the standpoint of divine presence are our limited human beliefs, our false sense of life, substance and intelligence. The Son of GOD taught that we are all children of GOD. Is this connection material or spiritual? If spiritual, then MIND, SPIRIT is the divine matrix of our being and consciousness alone is determinative.This is the divine consciousness which Jesus practiced and the goodness of the “kingdom” which he brought to light. This is true Christianity which puts churchianity to shame.



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