Nominal Christian, Mormon missionary, atheist, and now a born-again Christian, Richard Morgan recently spoke to Apologetics315 about his life-changing, or saving, experience on none other than Richard Dawkins’ infamous website.
Having been through his share of religious inquiry at a young age, Morgan realized that he was constantly in search of something, whether it be spiritual or not.
Embracing answers in whatever shape they took, he found himself a Mormon at one point in his life after meeting two Mormon missionaries. But after becoming a missionary, he began to have some serious doubts about his beliefs, which later caused him to abandon that religion altogether.
Blindly searching still for something to hold on to, Morgan shared in his interview, “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.”
Having grown out of the need for that kind of moral support however as he aged, Morgan one day began to read Dawkins’ book, The Blind Watchmaker which revolutionized his life and made sense of everything he had been experiencing.
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The book made one thing clear: There was nothing to look for, so stop looking and get on with your life.
“This was a real epiphany experience… to realize of course all those years of searching for something spiritual or God-like were bound to be completely frustrating because God didn’t exist.
“I didn’t feel like I became an atheist, the feeling was more that I realized I always had been,” expressed Morgan. “I had a feeling that I never actually believed in God but I was looking for some unhealthy psychological reason [to believe]… coming out as an atheist was really a hallelujah experience for me.”
Morgan’s interest in evolution increased dramatically after reading the book, redirecting his attention towards understanding the nature of living things around him more than trying to understand things that were above.
More than the religious debate, it was his interest in evolution that led him to follow Richard Dawkins. Upon finding the author’s actual website, Morgan was excited to communicate with scientists and philosophers who could offer more insight into evolution.
But rather than discussing the nature of evolution in the “oasis of clear thinking,” Morgan was horrified to discover in his first forum that more than half of the people devoted their time saying rude things about believers using extremely foul language.
“I don’t know if you’ve seen ‘The Social Network’ but there’s one point where a girl says to the main character ‘Just stay in your dark room and make snide remarks because that’s what the angry do these days.’”
After witnessing the discussions firsthand, the newly minted evolutionist agreed that the Internet was more a place where people could hide behind their anonymity and say rude things as a kind of therapy.
Still searching for answers however, Morgan continued to be a part of the community, drawn particularly to a discussion on David Robertson’s open letter replying to Dawkins’ first chapter of The God Delusion.
Prompted to write a response to each of Dawkins’ chapters in the book, the Scottish pastor eventually compiled all the letters into a book called The Dawkins Letters.
Criticizing the book in the forums, members began to attack the letters until one day Robertson himself appeared in the discussions and began defending the points he made.
“I don’t know how many hours he must have spent just replying very calmly and politely to people who were sending out the most vilest insults and criticisms,” Morgan recalled. “He just kept coming back and occasionally with a few words of Scripture thrown into his general discourse.”
Unable to understand what was wrong with Robertson, Morgan himself posed a question on the discussion boards asking members why the pastor kept coming back and what result he expected. One of the seasoned and experienced posters on the forum commented, “It’s just another Christian attention seeker.”
“Yes, David Robertson was seeking attention but it wasn’t for David Robertson. We all know for whom he was seeking attention,” expressed the now Christian Morgan.
For several days the attacks continued, until one day someone replied that David Robertson was a liar. But Morgan throughout all of the threads had not noticed this and asked where the pastor had lied, bringing him a bout of criticisms as well.
“I was probably too unintelligent to see where he was a liar,” remembered Morgan.
As time went on, he began to see more and more the brutality and harshness of the chats, recalling one shocking post where the site administrator had published an article about an extremist Russian prophet who tried to commit suicide when his prediction for the date of the end of the world failed to come true.
A couple of posters in response to the story regretted that the fallen prophet had failed in his attempt to put an end to his life. Stunned by the level of inhumanity, Morgan wondered how any civilized person could say they wanted to see anybody die. Writing a protestation to some form of humanity in the forums about his shock and disappointment in the members, one respected member on the site simply replied to his post with an LOL– laugh out loud.
It was then that Morgan realized he did not want to be a part of these people. “I’m not condemning all atheists,” he clarified in the interview. “I’m talking about anonymous atheists on internet discussion boards and the messages they express which are extremely negative, puerile, [and] full of hate…”
Coming back to Robertson’s replies to all the “nastiness and unpleasantness,” which Morgan himself was a part of, composing a piece of music just to insult the pastor, Morgan reread the debates and was impressed at several aspects of Robertson’s participation.
First, his persistence and continual presence in the discussions astounded Morgan. Robertson always came back and sometimes got up two hours earlier in the morning to give adequate response time to the criticisms.
Secondly he defended himself in a robust manner while not hesitating to wish everyone well. He wasn’t the meek and mild kind of Christian who said “I love you all and you’re all nice,” but the kind of Christian who stood up for what he believed in.
Printing out over fifty pages of Robertson’s posts, Morgan read through all the posts again and found no lies. What he discovered instead was humility, intelligence, sensitivity, and several references to the Bible.
In his confused state, without God or a community of atheists to turn to, Morgan started to post on The Free Church of Scotland’s forum, which the Scottish pastor was a part of.
Writing to Robertson about how he appreciated his responses and comments, Morgan shared how he couldn’t believe in God. “I’m not an atheist because I want to be an atheist. I’m not a happy atheist. I’m an atheist because I can’t believe in God.”
In response to Morgan’s post, Robertson, the “resident fruitcake” at the Dawkins’ forums, asked him two questions which subsequently changed his life: 1) Why don’t you believe in God? 2) What could make you believe in God?
Dismissing the first question as dumb, Robertson’s initial reaction to the second question was “certainly not proof and evidence.”
At that moment, Morgan’s instinctive response conjured up to his memory, probably from his previous Mormon days, the verse, “We love because he first loved us.” And in that instant, Morgan understood the expression “amazing grace.”
“I was certain without having any rational explanation 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.”
“Science and philosophy are wonderful manifestations of the enormous capacities of the human mind, but the Word of God is truth, and truth is what it took to set me free,” Morgan stated. “Only a personal relationship with God can bring us to any kind of meaningful, personal, transcendental truth.”
In his renewed experience with God, he went back on the Dawkins site and posted about his newfound faith to which many replied with vile insults and commented, “You need counseling” and “This is a temporary brain infraction.”
But now, three years later, the “temporary brain infraction” Morgan was affected with continues to persist. Morgan is still amazed and feels the love of God even more now every day, being plugged into a church, which Robertson referred him to.
“I didn’t cease to know everything I knew before and I didn’t forget everything I learned about evolution or all of a sudden lose interest. I was [just] aware of how limited it was, how it could not answer man’s deepest needs.
“There’s a famous French quotation that says, ‘In every person’s heart there is a God-shaped hole.’ I am aware of the presence of this God-shaped hole and that only the love of God can fill it.”
Advising believers to speak to people in their language and maintain open lines of communication as Robertson had before in the forums, Morgan noted, “There’s no point speaking the truth if you are speaking a language that the person in front of you can’t understand.”
“It’s important to understand where atheists are coming from in their modern day arguments and how many valid refutations there are in the Christian message to all these criticisms.”
Speaking to atheists, Morgan said, “Science and philosophy do not have the answer to everything. If you are willing to listen with an open mind and an open heart and just say ‘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.”
Referring to Revelation 3 where Jesus spoke, “I stand at the door and knock,” Morgan concluded, “Jesus hasn’t invited you to come and knock on his door. He says, ‘I am here, I am standing at the door, and knock.’ All you have to do is open the door and invite [him] in.”
Morgan’s testimony is now a part of the revamped edition of The Dawkins Letters, by David Robertson.