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Finding Beauty, Finding Jesus through Stories

View of the NZ countryside from the doorway of Bag End, photo credit: Kathleen Wile

[Originally published as An Atheist Becomes a Christian After Reading The Lord of the Rings]

If you hadn’t already guessed by now, I am a nerd. As a result, you will probably not be surprised by the fact that I have been a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings since I first read the series in the late 1970s.

More importantly, however, I am married to one of the world’s biggest fans of the trilogy. She knows pretty much everything about the books and their talented author, and in her mind, they tell the best fictional story ever told. She also liked the movies that were made based on the books, even though she had some issues with them. As a result, when we went on a speaking tour of New Zealand several years ago, we wanted to see at least some of the sites where the films were made.

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Pretty much the only place that looks anything like it did in the movies is Hobbiton, the town where Bilbo Baggins lived. My wife and I toured it eagerly and were thrilled to learn that we could actually go into Bilbo’s home, Bag End. In actuality, the inside of Bag End seen in the movies wasn’t at the Hobbiton set. It was on a sound stage somewhere else. However, the owners had excavated a small cave behind Bag End’s entrance. We went in, and she took the photo you see above, allowing us to always remember the view from Bag End.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I ran across a interesting article entitled, I Was an Atheist Until I Read “The Lord of the Rings.” The title alone is intriguing enough, but I collect stories about atheists who became Christians. If this story isn’t a perfect fit for me, then, I don’t know what is!

The author’s name is Fredric Heidemann, and his story is quite thought-provoking.

Essentially, he says that reading The Lord of the Rings made him realize that things like beauty and morality aren’t just social constructs, as most atheists suggest. Instead, they are real things that are the result of the fact that our minds are more than just signals traveling around our brains. This concept presented him with some serious problems. As he writes:

My attempts to explain these problems in my naturalistic, atheistic worldview fell flat. The idea that being, beauty, and morality were merely productive illusions imposed on us through biological hardwiring crafted through the random process of natural selection rang hollow.

As a result, he started questioning the atheism in which he was raised. Although he still had many objections, he eventually worked through most of them and joined the Catholic church in 2006. I wish he had spent more time on that process in his article, but his main point was how The Lord of the Rings made him question his atheism, so that’s what he focused on.

I find his story fascinating because it is so different from mine. As I said, I was a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings from the time I first read the books, and that was when I was still an atheist. The story didn’t cause me to question my atheism in the least. In fact, I actually remember writing a high-school paper about how fantasy stories like The Lord of the Rings demonstrate where religions come from: the active imaginations of those who want to believe there is something “more” to this existence than biology, chemistry, and physics.

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God truly does speak to our hearts in many different ways, gently calling to us, if we will only listen! I encourage you to read Fredric Heidemann’s story in its entirety.

Dr. Jay Wile

Written by Jay Wile

As a scientist, it is hard for me to fathom anyone who has scientific training and does not believe in God. Indeed, it was science that brought me not only to a belief in God, but also to faith in Christianity. I have an earned Ph.D. from the University of Rochester in nuclear chemistry and a B.S. in chemistry from the same institution.

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