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Atheist Tuesday: Atheist Club Sponsor Comes to His Senses

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This article by Casey Deans is from from WORLD on Campus

Psychology professor Rich Suplita used to sit in the University of Georgia’s Tate Plaza holding a handmade sign that read “Ask an atheist” any time a preacher came to campus to share the gospel. As the faculty sponsor of the school’s atheist club, he was adept at explaining how to tackle the issues of life without God.

“Essentially what I was trying to do was offer an atheistic apologetic of how you can explain whatever happens to be true through the lens of atheism, and I think I was pretty good at that,” Suplita said during a recent interview.

He was so good, he almost convinced himself. But after six years denying God’s existence, Suplita had a dramatic change of heart. When he visits Tate Plaza now, he’s the one sharing the gospel.

Suplita grew up in a legalistic Christian denomination, which he declined to name, that equated salvation with good works. As he got older, Suplita could not reconcile what he saw as a contradiction in his church’s teaching that a person is freely granted salvation through the grace of God but then has to work to maintain that salvation. He said he could not believe in a God who would give salvation freely at first but make the assurance of that salvation contingent on a person’s ability to stop sinning.

Unable to believe in God, Suplita embraced the ideas of atheistic humanism. He went to graduate school at the University of Georgia and earned his doctorate in psychology in 2005. By the fall of 2010 he was teaching everything from introduction to psychology to pharmacology and neuroscience and had become the school’s best-known atheist. His ability to present atheistic apologetics made him popular with the 50-member UGAtheist club, which he sponsored.

Suplita said he believed the God of the Bible was unjust in many of the judgments that he carried out, and that a good God who allows evil to happen in the world could not exist. He often quoted 1 Samuel 15:3, in which God commands the Israelites to go to war with the Amalekites and to destroy them.

“It actually lists to put to death the men, women, children, infants, cattle and sheep, basically, to wipe them out entirely,” he said. “And that whole idea of God commanding His army to kill babies, if you just extract that from everything else there is about God, then it seems so atrocious that the conclusion is, ‘Well, a monster like that must not exist.’ That was my point at the time.”

If someone had asked him last fall if he believed in God, he would have said definitely not. But now, Suplita says he is unsure whether he ever really believed that in his heart. He could give a whole list of reasons why he thought it was ridiculous to believe in God, but he now wonders whether he really believed what he was saying.

“It was more like I was trying to convince myself,” he said.

Suplita always struggled with the atheist worldview’s existential crisis – the idea that if atheism is true, life is ultimately meaningless and not worth living. Suplita realized that the existential crisis extended far beyond the parameters of his own life. If it were true, it would mean the same thing for the lives of his daughters, aged 10, 7 and 4.

Suplita said that while he could spend his time on campus telling his students that there was no God, he could not bring himself to tell that to his own children. He could not justify teaching them that their lives were meaningless and that there was no God to glorify.

Last spring, near Easter, Suplita went to an event at Tate Plaza that was sponsored by Watkinsville First Baptist Church. He listened to the preacher and talked with some of the church’s members. They encouraged him to re-read the gospel of John and to reconsider the truth of biblical Christianity. A few weeks later, Suplita prayed to receive Christ as his savior.

He still believes the existential crisis is real, but he now understands its purpose is to point people to God.

“Only when you postulate an eternal God that you can actually have some sort of meaningful relationship with can you get around that existential crisis,” he said.

Belief in the existence of God, the invitation to have a personal relationship with Him and the opportunity to live to bring Him glory were the answers to the meaning of life that he was looking for, Suplita said. Only when he saw that there was life after death and a purpose for life here today did he have hope, security and a reason for getting up in the morning, he said.

Suplita’s decision to embrace Christianity got him kicked out of the atheist’s club, even though he offered to stay on as its sponsor. But the reactions of his former friends, who decided he must have gone “off the deep end,” hasn’t deterred him from his new faith.

“It’s helped give me peace in that sense, in that my life’s about something and the lives of my daughters are about something that is lasting and enduring and can never fade away,” he said. “And there is intrinsic hope in that.”

***Photo by Christopher Deans

44 Comments

  1. Suplita always struggled with the atheist worldview’s existential crisis – the idea that if atheism is true, life is ultimately meaningless and not worth living.

    I have never had such a “crisis”, since I don’t believe that a God is required to make life meaningful and worth living.

    Life is meaningful and worth living to me, with or without a God.

    I question how many atheists actually have such a “crisis”.

    • Nohm, we’re all praying that you will have that crisis before it’s too late. Your few decades of blissful ignorance in this life will seem like nothing 10,000 years from now.

      • Glenn,

        Do you believe that a God is required to make life meaningful and worth living?

        Why, or why not?

      • Oh, and Glenn, since I’m sure you miss me saying this (because it absolutely applies here):

        A Muslim would say the same thing to you. They would be praying that you will see that ascribing partners with Allah is a sin worthy of Hellfire. Your few decades of blissful ignorance in this life (i.e., Christianity) will seem like nothing 10,000 years from now.

      • Nohm, you’re right! I do miss hearing that.

        If a Muslim told me that, I would point out that by his own belief (and his holy book), Allah will reward him with what Allah considers to be sinful and off limits. As he was trying to come to grips with this inescapable truth, I would encourage him to stop trying to earn his way to Heaven and trust in Jesus Christ.

        However, since you’re not a Muslim I’ll skip the intermediate steps and just encourage you to repent and trust in Jesus Christ.

      • Glenn, you’re missing the point.

        If you wouldn’t be affected or swayed by a Muslim saying that he’s praying for you to have your own crisis (realizing that ascribing partners with Allah is hellfire-worthy), then why would you think it would work that way for me?

        Also, your concept of “what’s in paradise is viewed by Allah as sinful” is incorrect. Wine and such (and, seriously, don’t do the “72 virgins” thing because not all Muslims, or even a majority of them, believe in that… that comes from a hadith — not the Quran — that not all Muslims view as authoritative) are sinful in *this world*.

        Paradise is different, and has different “rules”, so to speak.

        I encourage you to learn about Islam at some point, as I have. Learning about it didn’t turn me into a Muslim, obviously.

      • Nohm,

        Maybe you’ve been talking to liberal “Muslims”. Read Surah An-Naba 78:31-34 in the Koran. A Muslim who doesn’t believe their own holy book is no Muslim.

    • Glenn wrote: “Read Surah An-Naba 78:31-34 in the Koran.

      I have. It’s this:

      78:31 Lo! for the duteous is achievement –
      78:32 Gardens enclosed and vineyards,
      78:33 And maidens for companions,
      78:34 And a full cup.

      A Muslim who doesn’t believe their own holy book is no Muslim.

      I agree. Who is talking about “Muslims who don’t believe in their own holy book”, Glenn? I’m not.

      Unless you’re pointing out “maidens for companions”, which is not the same as “72 virgins”. I’ll point out again that the “72 virgins” thing comes from a hadith.

      There’s an important difference between the two.

      Or were you talking about something else?

      • And, Glenn, I can assure you that the Muslims I speak with, just like the Christians I speak with (such as yourself), are anything but “liberal”.

  2. *shrug* So he wasn’t a True Atheist. That’s all I have to say right?

    Basically he converted because he had an existential crisis. Nowhere does it say anything about evidence or anything substantial. And it says he still has the crisis, but now he has a pat answer that he regurgitate on command.

    It’s great that he found something that makes him feel good, but do you have any reason to believe he’s a True Christian?

  3. I encourage everyone to read the link I posted above, along with the WORLD article that Steve linked to at the top of his post.

    In that WORLD article, Rich responds to a few questions in the comments. His answers are, to me, extremely illuminating about both the article and his viewpoints.

    • Interesting, I didn’t see anything other than ‘I desperately needed magic purpose in my life’, was there anything I missed?

      • Yes, BathTub.

        Read through the comments in both articles and you will see Rich clarify some issues. This is especially important in the WORLD article’s comments, as he clarifies exactly what he intended by the whole “existential crisis” comment.

        As you will not be surprised, it’s nowhere as thrilling as the article made it out to be.

  4. Glen I don’t think you, Steve or anyone else is a “true” Christian. Not in the sense that you, Ray, & Steve mean it. Good grief, the sloppy thinking is catching. 🙂

  5. Golly. An ex-christian/ex-athiest/now-christian-again proves what point? Man’s gonna be Buddhist by next year.

    You want I should put up links to the life stories of ex-christians who STAYED atheist?

  6. So Steve & Glen

    Please prove that you are “true” Christians. You might reply that you are born again but plenty of born again bigots just like yourselves have given up their faith so that can’t be right.

    Perhaps you would reply that you’ve accepted Jesus as your Saviour for the right reasons. But plenty of ex-Christians would say exactly the same so that can’t be right.

    Perhaps you would reply that you have a personal relationship with Jesus but other ex-Christians would say the same so that can’t be right either.

    And seeing that neither of you know what the future will bring you have no idea if you’ll give up your faith or not & having given it up, according to Steve & Ray’s silly interpretation of the Bible you were suddenly never a true Christian at all.

    Crazy isn’t it? But then self-contradictory definitions like those for “true” Christians can never be met.

  7. OH and Steve

    If someone becomes a Christian, then becomes an atheist, then becomes a Christian again does that mean that they really were a “true” Christian to begin with?

    And if they stop being a Christian again does that mean that they have stopped being a true Christian, were never a true christian to begin with or that Ray & you are both so into worshiping your own egos that you refuse to admit you were wrong?

    Which is it?

    • No.
      Yes.
      No.
      Read your bible. Or borrow one.

      • Clever responses…once again you have no argument Steve.
        What if his bible isn’t the right one? I mean…there are so many different versions…and you guys don’t even follow the original one…and how does that help this argument anyways?

      • Thanks, Davy. I try to write fun answers in as short a time as possible due to my lack of time.

        May I send you a free copy of “The Case for Christ”? This will answer that “different versions” argument. Written by Lee Strobel, he was a Harvard educated journalist and atheist who set out to disprove Christianity. Guess what happened?

        Love to send you a copy.

      • given the short attention span atheists have with Christian answers

        Where did this idea come from?

        Written by Lee Strobel, … who set out to disprove Christianity.

        In the most Christian way possible. I do encourage you to read the book, though, Davy… or at least look up the refutations online (there are both written and youtube versions of this). He asked some very “imaginary atheist” questions to believers; I’m of the opinion that the whole thing was a set-up, since I’ve never seen atheists asking the questions, in the way he asked the questions, to anyone.

        In short, like most other apologetics, “The Case for Christ” is written for believers only, and is written to support their beliefs.

      • Thanks and no thanks…I’m not going to spend my precious time on it anyways. Thanks again for not having a answer of your own. But now i am supposed to take Lee Strobel’s word for it? Just looking him up online and getting a summary was enough for me to turn away.

      • Steve wrote in reply to Davy about his answers to me “I try to write pithy answers to silly questions in as short a time as possible given the short attention span atheists have with Christian answers and due to my lack of time.”

        Just a few points:
        1) Since all your replies are silly shouldn’t we be giving “pithy” answers to you?

        2) I’m NOT an atheist as I’ve point out to you before. Don’t worry I won’t expect you to accept your error. Not with your worship of your own ego and all.

        3) You assert that I should read the bible. See the problem is Steve is that I can put the bible in its historical context [in addition I know several people who have degrees in Hebrew or ancient Greek] so of course I arrive at different interpretation to you. I don’t just assume that I can pick up a text that was written thousands of years ago and half a world away & immediately assume I can understand it just like I would a newspaper from my own time and country.

        Finally since you’ve previously admitted that a “true” Christian can give up their faith then it seems that the interpretation of the bible by Ray’s ego and by your’s differ since Ray says no “true” christian can ever give up the faith.

        I guess one of you isn’t a true christian after all. Or maybe you’re just wrong in your interpretation. Which do you think is more likely Steve?

      • You wrote: “Finally since you’ve previously admitted that a “true” Christian can give up their faith”

        I never said that. If I did, it was a typo. A true Christian will never, can never, give up their faith (they may certainly have doubts though).

  8. Hi Steve,

    I’m curious. If you were out to disprove Islam, would you go interview a bunch of Imams as to what their opinions are on the divine origin of the Qur’an?

    Why, or why not?

    Would you uncritically accept everything that they said?

    Why, or why not?

    If you answered “no” to both questions, you’ll understand the problems I have no just with Lee Strobel’s books, but with Lee Strobel himself.

  9. “The fool has said in his heart there is no God”. We are told that faith comes from hearing God’s word, and without faith it is impossible to come to God. We are also told that if you seek Him, you will find Him. These questions and answeres are meaningless unless they are genuine, Truly there is no point to dead end questins and debates if one is not intested but being contentious and walking around with inflated egos about your God given mental capabities. If you are truly interested contact me. I know that there are only two types of people in this world, those that beleiev in Jesus Christ and those that don’t. Period! If you are interested read John 3:36

    • Lee Minnaar wrote: “We are also told that if you seek Him, you will find Him.

      Been there, done that. Muslims say the same thing about Allah, too.

      I know that there are only two types of people in this world

      I agree; people who believe that Mohammed was the final prophet and the Quran is Allah’s divine message to the world, and people that don’t.

      Period!

  10. God Bless all who commented! I have been unable to fully comprehend some things but I held on to what I knew was true, to give me some assurance that I was not wasting my time trying to understand someone telling me they are trying help me. I am glad I did! I hope you will not be stopping your quest to try to understand an attempt for others to give you information they believe will give you eternal life after death!

  11. Hey Adam, read the bible. In the book of romans God has a court case, present we see in the first three Chapters the unbeleiever, the moralist and the Jew. God then turns around and states that there is none righteous. romans 3:10 God always tells us “the why and what for” in Romas 3:23 that all have sinned, romns 5:12 it is because of Adam’s sin. Romans 6:23 that this sin brings wages of death, and He mentions that God’s gift is eternal life thru Jesus Christ. Romans 10:9-10 tells us for this to be true for us, we are to beielev in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, recognizing that we are sinners and that Jesus is God and romns 10:13 tells us that we are to ask, in faith. This is what makes us “born again” read john 3:3. There is nothing else we can do, but repent and turn to God

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