From atheism to Christianity: a conversion story through books

Back in this post I was talking about how I strongly encourage Christians to ask the tough questions about their faith. To summarize what I said there, occasionally I meet Christians who seem hesitant to delve too deeply into their faith for fear of what they might find. It’s a shame because, in the opinion of this former atheist, by asking challenging questions and seeking answers Christians have absolutely nothing to fear, and everything to gain.

“So where do I start?” is a frequent response I get to that statement. I’ve finally had a chance to put together a list of books that I found helpful when I was first asking the tough questions of Christianity. I think it would be a good jumping-off point for lifelong Christians (especially Catholics) who don’t feel like they have a lot of knowledge of the how’s and why’s behind why we believe what we believe. This would also be a good list for people who are not Christian but are curious about the religion.

These are by no means the only sources of information I used — the conversion process was a long road that involved lots of thinking and reading (and eventually praying) and gathering data from tons of different sources. These books alone were not enough to convince me to convert; all the information in the world would not have been enough had my heart not been open to it (as I talked about here). But they are, I believe, good places to start.

One of the reasons it’s taken so long to put this together is because I don’t want to present this as any sort of definitive list or hold myself out as an authority on the subject: I offer this as a humble account of my personal story, detailing some books that I found compelling in my search for truth about God, the world and the human experience.

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The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

case for christ From atheism to Christianity: a conversion story through booksMy conversion to Christianity had a very clear beginning: the day I walked into a bookstore and saw this book. In my vague search for religion up to that point, I had been planning to explore Buddhism and other Eastern belief systems first (then Judaism, then Islam, then Baha’i, then that Wicca/”earth goddess” stuff that my friend from college was into…anything but Christianity!) It had never once occurred to me that there was even the most remote possibility that the Christian claims about Jesus could be true, so I was planning to skip over all that. But one day back in July of 2005 I walked into a bookstore, saw this book from way across the room, and knew I wanted to read it. I had no idea what it was, just that I was oddly drawn to it and had to go see it.

As it turns out, the book was exactly what I needed to read. Former atheist Lee Strobel lays out the data that convinced him that the Christian claims about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are true. It’s not that the book was perfect, or even that I instantly believed after reading it (I didn’t). But it did open my eyes to the fact that Christians had a much better defense for their beliefs than I’d expected. I wrote about it at the time here.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

mere christianity From atheism to Christianity: a conversion story through booksI read Mere Christianity shortly after I finished The Case for Christ, and it added fuel to the growing fire of my interest in Christianity. It was the first book I read where a Christian looked at Christianity from a rational, questioning point of view. One of the reasons this book was probably so helpful to me is that Lewis was himself a former atheist, so he knew how to explain his faith in a way that made sense to nonbelievers.

By What Authority? by Mark Shea

by what authority From atheism to Christianity: a conversion story through booksAt some point along the way I bought a Bible and started reading it, which left me with more questions than answers (as I talked about here). Around that time someone suggested I read By What Authority, saying that Shea (a convert to Catholicism) provided a good, readable explanation of the concept of Sacred Tradition. I would love to spice up the story with tales of how I wrestled with accepting the notion that God gives us doctrine through the Catholic Church…but, honestly, it was a slam-dunk. This was the missing piece of the puzzle. I had been leaning towards Catholicism for a lot of other reasons, but understanding the concept of Sacred Tradition was what finally made all of Christianity make sense to me.

I still had questions, though. What about the bad popes? What about the Crusades? And, most pressingly, what about those teachings that were just obviously antiquated and oppressive (e.g. their stance on contraception)? I figured that a lot of those crazy teachings must be optional, that perhaps they were categorized under “suggestions” rather than official teachings. I decided to keep reading to see what I’d find…

Catholicism for Dummies by John Trigilio and Kenneth Brighenti

catholicism for dummies From atheism to Christianity: a conversion story through booksI admit I was a bit embarrassed to buy a “Dummies” book on such a serious topic, but after multiple people recommended it I sucked it up and got Catholicism for Dummies, thinking that maybe I could slip on a fake Summa Theologica cover if I were to read it in public. icon smile From atheism to Christianity: a conversion story through books Indeed it was very helpful — not, of course, for gaining deep knowledge of any one area of Catholicism, but for answering some of my basic questions and pointing me in the right direction for further explanation. For the first time, I started to think that a lot of that Catholic stuff that I had written off as oppressive or old-fashioned might actually have a whole lot of wisdom to it.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (version by Fr. John Hardon)

catechism From atheism to Christianity: a conversion story through booksAt this point I decided to hear it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, and get a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the official exposition of the teachings of the Catholic Church. Though you can read the full text online for free on the Vatican’s site here, I decided to get this version since a) I didn’t want to read that much text online, and b) I heard that this arrangement by Fr. John Hardon was more readable. Reading it was amazing. It was so…not what I expected. Here’s one excerpt (chosen quickly from the copy sitting here on my desk) that is the type of thing I found interesting:

[W]ith his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God’s existence. In all this he discerns signs of his spiritual soul. The soul, the “seed of eternity we bear in ourselves, irreducible to the merely material”, can have its origin only in God.

The world, and man, attest that they contain within themselves neither their first principle nor their final end, but rather that they participate in Being itself, which alone is without origin or end. Thus, in different ways, man can come to know that there exists a reality which is the first cause and final end of all things, a reality “that everyone calls God”.

The more I read, the more I became enthralled. As I’ve said before, when I read the Catholic Church’s official teachings on God and what they claim is God’s one true church, I felt overwhelmed with the peace of certainty that I had found truth.

Making Senses Out of Scripture: Reading the Bible As the First Christians Did by Mark Shea

senses scripture From atheism to Christianity: a conversion story through booksNow I felt ready to deepen my knowledge of the Bible — I’d previously read through most of the New Testament, but didn’t know where to go from there. We didn’t own a Bible in my house growing up, so I had almost zero familiarity with it. I’d flip through some of the Old Testament books and think, “What on earth is going on here?”

I read a few books on the topic of getting a basic understanding of the Bible, and this one was my favorite. Mark Shea walks the reader through an understanding of the Scripture as seen through the eyes of the Apostles themselves. The Bible, especially the Old Testament, was a lot more understandable once I understood that different books were intended to convey their truths in different “senses”: literal, moral, allegorical or anagogical. This book really illuminated the Bible for me.

The Good News About Sex and Marriage by Christopher West

good news sex From atheism to Christianity: a conversion story through booksBack on the topic of Catholicism, the one thing I couldn’t quite understand was the issue of contraception. I’d been living in this cycle of “Jen thinks she knows better than the 2,000-year-old Catholic Church” –> research and reading –> “Jen does not know better than 2,000-year-old Catholic Church” for a few months, so I was at least open to hearing the Church’s point of view on this one. And, on a gut level, something was starting to ring vaguely true about the notion that contraception might not be the best thing for individuals or society. But I still had a lot of serious reservations.

That’s where Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body came in. Unfortunately, I was too sleep deprived at that time to get through the massive tome, amazing as it was. So that’s where Christopher West came in: he’s made his career making the wisdom of the Theology of the Body accessible to everyone. The Good News About Sex and Marriage explained a lot of the questions and concerns I had about Catholic teaching on the relations between the sexes. Reading this book helped my husband and me familiarize ourselves with the basics so that we could move on to other sources which explained them in more detail. To our shock, we found ourselves agreeing — even though we had some serious issues going on at the time that would make following these teachings very difficult — after finding what we had found in our research and conversations (and prayers), we knew that we would have been lying to say that we didn’t think this was true.

When we actually started to apply these teachings to our lives, everything changed — our relationship to each other, to God, to our vocations, to our children — everything. We found ourselves standing in wonder at how our life had done a 180-degree spin and been turned on its head by what we once assumed to be oppressive rules, and it was then that something that we’d come to believe intellectually about Church teaching became something we knew in our hearts: this stuff doesn’t come from people.

The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton

everlasting man From atheism to Christianity: a conversion story through booksI read The Everlasting Man shortly after I came to truly believe in God, and found myself wanting to shout, “Yes! Exactly!” all throughout this book. In this classic work, Chesterton makes the case that Christianity is something that rings true both to the mind and the heart. It takes what we know of the world through science and what we know of our souls through human experience and brings it all together. Though he doesn’t use this exact analogy, I found that this book helped me articulate why I came to believe that Christianity is the box top to the puzzle of life.

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So there it is: a very abbreviated version my my conversion story as told through the books I read along the way. As I said above, none of these books will convert anyone since that is not something a books alone can do. I think they will, however, provide great starting points for believers who are eager to ask the tough questions of their faith, or for nonbelievers who are starting to think that there might be something more to this whole God thing than meets the eye.

The bottom line is this: if you are seeking God with humility and an open heart, you will find him. And asking tough questions will only speed up the process.

Feel free to use the comments to share your favorite books on these topics as well.

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Enter the Conversation...

62 Responses to “From atheism to Christianity: a conversion story through books”
  1. Jordana says:

    There are some good sounding books on there that I haven’t read yet. I’ll have to see what I can get from the library. This is the book list, I posted on my blog a while back.

  2. Lee says:

    Jennifer, I’m thrilled that God used my book in your spiritual journey! All God’s best to you as you walk with Him! — Lee Strobel http://www.LeeStrobel.com

    • Korage says:

      Lee. Unlike you. I was a former christian turned Atheist. Do you know our difference? I am not pressured to profit off christianity. I am ChineseAmerican raised amongst diversity in USA. If you’re white or suckered in a southern surburban redneck area.. then you’ll surely revert back to the narrowminded conservative redneckkkracker republican christians.

      • Korage says:

        There are seculars and Agnostics. They simply are very different as they don’t know much about christianity or don’t care much about Christianity. Do you know what an Atheist is? We are educated of religions and we dispel them.

        So seeing seculars or agnostics turn christian.. but then claiming that they were Atheist. So lame.

        Christians says i have no authority because I am not christian. But I was. lol Christians say every other type is going to hell, but we’re not as hell is unreal. haha. You were never an Atheist, but you can be convinced of being Atheist. In so many ways… xD

        • Neil Breed says:

          Korage,

          I feel very sorry for you when you hear the words ” Go away from me, I never knew you” Its funny how Christ and God are all around this evil mixed up world controlled by Lucifer but it’s a shame folks like yourself can not see it. I will pray that you return to Christ as your Savior….not that you return to RELIGION…which is what you and most of the world hates. If you took the time to read and understand the Bible you would see Christ for whom he is ( The Savior of Mankind) and religion for what it is…mortal mans way to control the masses. I suggest you really read the bible May God Bless You

    • Korage says:

      I should also let you know. That I am an Atheist that doesn’t drink alcohol either. Cause I think you might had have 1 too many.

  3. will says:

    IIRC, Hardon’s book pre-dates the official Catechism of the Catholic Church; it isn’t simply another version of that book. Though, indeed, I’ve heard good things about it.

    If you haven’t read Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce I highly recommend both of them. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy is good, too.

  4. Jenny says:

    Hey Jenn,
    I just started “Devout Life” tonight, and I think I’m falling in love with this whole other St. Francis who I’ve been neglecting for entirely too long! Anyway, I know you love him, so happy (early) feast day, and thanks for pointing me in his direction.

  5. Elizabeth...mommy...etc says:

    kudos again!

  6. Tausign says:

    All I can say is WOW.

    You need to get this post highlighted somehow on your sidebar (Maybe Conversion Part III – My Conversion through Books) or something like that. Any one of these alone can bring an eternal change to some soul.

    Now here’s a recommendation for you. Have you read ‘The Reed of God’ by Caryll Houselander? She is a Catholic author who wrote in the 1940’s and 50’s. If you do a google search you’ll find out more about her.

    It’s not very large but incredibly insightful and if you enjoy good writing style you’ll love it. This was actually my wife’s book and I had placed it in my car door pocket to read if I ever got stuck somewhere. Well it sat there for many (at least 5) years before I picked it up.

    I just couldn’t believe how much she affected me (and I’ve read 100’s of good Catholic books). I’ve read it many times and can now pick it up an go to any page and be ‘launched’ into a ‘Lectio Divina’ type meditation.

    I’m willing to bet that she will become one of your favorites and that like MANY others you won’t be satisfied until you consume everything she has written. Please give it a try.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Can you state what about the books changed your mind? Arguements, ideas, concepts, feelings, etc… As an atheist I get annoyed when people don’t go into detail about these things. Either you’re right and I’m wrong or you in error. Either way it is nice to know. But many “slamdunks” tend to be lacking.

  8. WSG says:

    I had a similar experience with The Case for Christ. Great list, I’ve just recommended Mark Shea to a formerly Protestant friend of mine who is considering joining the Church

  9. Lady of the Lakes says:

    Wow thanks for the book list! I have been doing more reading lately and I will have to get my hands on a few of the ones on your list. I just recently ordered The Everlasting Man for my husband who expressed interest in reading it and I thought I might read it too. Your blog never fails to make me stop and think about things, I think it is partly because we come from such a similar background. I too was raised without religion. I, however, wavered between believing in a “higher power” and not believing at different points in my life. I can certainly identify with a lot of the situations you talk about in relation to your conversion process.

  10. Leslie K. says:

    Father Hardon’s work on teaching the Catechism was masterful. As one of his Marian Catechists, I learned so much from the course he designed.

  11. Judy says:

    I’ve been looking for something like this for a while – thank you for the recommendations, I’ll definately be looking into them!

    Another good one I read a few years back and keep picking up again from time to time: “He Chose the Nails” by Max Lucado – I’d just started teaching in a Catholic school and it was given to me by the religious education coordinator – great read too.

    Hope the morning/evening prayer is still going well too!

  12. Jess says:

    Very timely post for me! Thanks for the recommendations.

    You mentioned in a previous post that I look at more Orthodox sources and while I am exploring I think that it is important to gain a fuller understanding of Catholicism. Is Orthodox more of the practice prior to Vatican II? I know Catholics are in districts of sorts and members are assigned a parish, how does it work out if you want to align with a more Orthodox church yet there isn’t one in your locale? I suppose the same question would apply if you wanted a more modern version of Catholicism too.

    I am most interested in By What Authority? I have a fairly extensive evangelical background, even attended private Christian school in high school, so it will be interesting to read this former evangelical’s thoughts on Catholic tradition.

    I already have one of Lee Strobel’s books, The Case for the Creator, I believe is the title.

  13. Tim J. says:

    Jen, welcome home!

    I’m a convert to Catholicism, and many of the books you list have also been important to me. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis, in particular.

    There are some on your list that I haven’t yet read, though, so thanks for that.

    I was never an atheist, but was completely adrift through college, and after. The question of Sacred Tradition figured large. I first came to experienced this concept by the lack of it, though, as a young, sincere but searching and questioning Protestant.

  14. Christina. B says:

    Cool…Lee reads your blog!!

    You have a great list it seems…I havent read them all but I love C.S.Lewis

  15. Jennifer F. says:

    Thank you all for your comments!

    Lee – WOW. Needless to say, I was really excited to read your comment.

    Tausign – I will definitely check out that book.

    Jess – Great question. Because I didn’t want to screw up the answer, I emailed a friend who’s good at articulating this sort of thing. He writes:

    If I were asked for the short and punchy answer, I’d say that “progressive” Catholics often talk a lot about “This is what we believe/do now” while orthodox Catholics talk about “This is what we have always believed/done”. Traditionalists (in the more regrettable form) sometimes become overly focused on, “This is what we did *then*.”

    At root, “orthodox” means “right doctrine”, and in Catholic terms it means “thinking with the Church” on matters of doctrine rather than picking and choosing or intentionally pushing the envelope.

    Does that help?

  16. Jess says:

    Yes, thanks. However, I guess I am still confused about specific churches. Are some labeled as Orthodox and others as Progressive, sort of like denominations in Protestantism? Or is a Mass standard across the board? It would seem that there could be some conflict of interest if a parishioner were Orthodox yet their assigned parish had a more progressive priest or vice versa.

    Or maybe I am just getting ahead of myself and I need to get reading. :-)

  17. Anonymous says:

    Samuel Skinner
    Hello? What about the books changed your mind. Can someone pule ease answer this?

  18. Sarah says:

    Phew! I have three of the books you mentioned (By what Authority, the Catechism, and Catholocism for Dummies (which I put in my bookshelf sideways so that you can’t read that it is a “for dummies” book but it has been well-thumbed through again and again!)) but I can’t wait to read a few more of those referenced. One of the main books, for me, that first began my quest was “Surprised by Truth” followed by the Scott Hahn conversion story (and his related books). Finally, I LOVED (more than “By What Authority” which I think I need to re-read anyway) “Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic” which helped me out with my Evangelical/Fundamentalist background.

    I’ve been thinking about reading “The Theology of the Body” and feel like I really should now that you referred to it as well (God is speaking to me somehow through my favorite bloggers!) . . . wish me luck and thank you for the great book referrals!

  19. queenie says:

    Hi Jen, Who doesn’t love lists? What about great works of fiction that also provide apologetics? Those who love both would appreciate Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. Just amazing.

  20. Jennifer F. says:

    Anon -

    Hello? What about the books changed your mind. Can someone pule ease answer this?

    Well that would be a really, really long comment. :) That’s also kind of the subject of this whole blog. You could also check out some of the books yourself if you’re interested.

    Jess -

    The “Orthodox Church” is actually an entire denomination, but they’re not part of the Catholic Church (e.g. they don’t recognize the authority of the Pope). When we speak of “orthodox Catholics,” that is not a different denomination but rather a type of person within the Church who follows Church teaching. What you see in practice is that very few Catholics label themselves “progressive” or “orthodox”. Even those who don’t follow Church teaching usually aren’t trying to make a statement about it, they’re often just unfamiliar with what it is the Church teaches.

    From what I’ve found, there are very few Catholic churches that are so “progressive” that the Mass would be invalid (actually…I guess there are none since the bishop would probably quickly put a stop to it if the Mass were invalid). And for us, that’s what a church service is all about: the Eucharist. So I would say that it would be fine for someone who considers him or herself to be an orthodox Catholic to just go to their parish church, even if the priest had some “progressive” ideas, since they would still be able to receive the Eucharist, in which we believe that God is truly present somehow (I would have never seen this one coming, but I actually do believe that).

    So the short answer is this: Catholic churches are just Catholic churches. There are no official labels. It is a safe bet that every Catholic church is holding a valid Mass or else its doors wouldn’t be open.

    Hope I answered that OK. :)

  21. Jess says:

    OK, so one last question. So Mass is just Communion (as a Protestant would label it)? I guess I thought there was a lot more to it than that, a message or preaching which is why I was confused. Protestant services don’t always include Communion, the focus is more on the message the pastor is giving, so it would matter if the pastor was more liberal or conservative.

  22. Jennifer F. says:

    Jess -

    Good questions! There are other parts of the Mass: readings from the Bible, greeting others, a sermon by the priest, etc. But the central event is the consecration of the Eucharist. Here’s why (from Wikipedia):

    [The Eucharist] is a memorial which does not just bring to mind the event celebrated, but also makes it truly present. The Eucharist is therefore understood to be not simply a representation of Christ’s presence, or a remembrance of his Passion and Death, but an actual participation in the Sacrifice of Christ, the manifestation in the present, of an event that occurred once for all in time.

    The Eucharist makes present that one sacrifice, not a different sacrifice…the only difference is in the manner in which it is offered — the Church teaches that the Mass is the sacrifice at Calvary made present in an unbloody manner.

    All of the events in the Mass are important — if, say, the priest gives a sermon in which he says things that aren’t true about Catholic teaching, that is a big deal and a bad thing — but it all pales in comparison to the miracle that happens at the consecration.

    Honestly, when I first heard that Catholics today still think that what they receive at Communion is truly the body and blood of Christ, my reaction was something like, “Are you kidding?” I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to be able to believe that.

    But, now that I am officially Catholic and can receive Holy Communion, there is no doubt it my mind. I wrote about it here and here if you’re interested.

    Again, I hope I’m explaining all this correctly. :) Feel free to ask any other questions as well.

    Hope you have a great weekend!

  23. Javier from Argentina says:

    On the philosophical foundations of Catholicism, I would recommend Jacques Maritain, and Etienne Gilson.

  24. Ginny says:

    Everytime I read your blog I feel like I am adding more books to my Amazon wishlist! I have read some of those on this list of yours but not all. Thanks for posting this!

  25. Robert says:

    hi jennifer- awesome book list there you write in such an engaging manner very much drawn in to to know more of your story and your journey. I am interested in how you have come to such a definitive view on consubstantioation. Curious to hear how you come to taking this so literally. Have you read any of peter kreefts books??? He is interviewed by lee strobel in his *case for faith* book, I found him to be a very intriguing author. Very glad I saw you on tracys blog!

  26. Pronounce says:

    Praise Father that he raises up children from outside the religious establishment, such as yourself, to inject His love, peace, joy, faithfulness, perseverance, and holiness into these congregations.

    My problem with religion has nothing to do with the validity of the message, but with the aspect of human nature radiating out of the religious institutions and seeing those religious organizations squeeze the fruits of the Spirit out of its members’ lives.

    Faith in the love of the Father to reconcile all man to Himself through the atonement of His son will never fail a person, but as soon as one trusts a religion for salvation they will soon find themselves longing for the days of their “first love”, or risk becoming as irrelevant as the average American church member is to an intelligent atheist.

    I’m sadden by the thought that the people of our nation are being lost to sin, because of those called to be a light to them have become as steeped in idolatry as any non-Christian.

  27. Joanna says:

    Hi Jennifer,
    I am one of those priviledged ones so to speak, born and raised Catholic. My mother is a saintly woman, a chemist and a thomist (in the tradition of St. Thomas Aquinas). But that did not keep me from being swept away by the cultural revolution of the 60s. By the time I turned 14 I became in effect my own God, without being aware of course. I picked and chose from the teachings of the church whatever I saw fit, always making sure to accomodate my own desires. I did follow my conscience, but in retrospect, at the time it translated to “my will be done”. My mirror was dirty for a very long time and I was not even aware. I also have a mind naturally bent on analysis. And, just like your grandfather, the existence of God was always obvious to me. Yet, in spite of that, I failed to really understand and follow the most basic of the commandments (the first of course) between the age of 14 and 32. The result: I managed to bring myself to the bottom of the barrel. Of course, my mother and a host of her friends were praying for me. The miracle did happen, nothing short of a direct divine intervention. It cannot even be expressed in words, let alone proven.But the effects are always the same. You want to climb the mountain top and scream out loud so that the whole world can hear. Eventually we learn to temper ourselves for fear that we appear crazy lunatics talking nonsense. What I am trying to say to you is that the process of conversion never ends.The depths of God are unfathomable. It is a fantastic journey. Since 1993 I have plunged single minded in the study of Scriptures, the teachings of the Church and how they came to be what they are, the history of the Church and heavy duty theology. It’s been a fruitfully humbling experience so badly needed to chop away the pride…And so, the Sacred Tradition is nothing other than the mind of the Church, the sensus fidelium. There is a meeting of minds and hearts in the one Lord and what a glorious celebration: the communion of saints. Apart of apologetics, here is what I think would disclose in an accesible form the mind and heart of the communion (if you did not read them already): St. Augustine’s Confessions, The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila in a new translation by Mirabai Starr (excellent translation) and The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton. And of course, if you really fall in love with all three, which I think you will judging by what you wrote, then go ahead and read everything else penned by these titans.
    Welcome home!
    With all my love in Xst.
    Joanna
    P.S. You would also love My Life with the Saints by James Martin, S.J.

  28. Tom says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    I introduced myself on your new visitors post a few days ago, and have been checking back regularly. What is it about conversion, or in my case, reversion, that turns us on to reading again. I’m sure you, and many of your posters were already avid readers, so good for them. I’d be interested to find out how of your responders were “fallen-away-readers” like me, who hadn’t read anything longer than a magazine in years (and even then just mostly the captions and summaries), but as soon as we got that pull back towards the faith, however it happened, we couldn’t read books fast enough. What happens? No doubt it’s the Holy Spirit at work, but would love to hear if others had the same experience. I could have counted on one hand the number of complete books (aside from work related reading) I read in ’06. Now since ’07, I’ve had to go buy a new bookshelf to make room and still have more I haven’t gotten to sitting on the floor next to my bed. And I can’t wait to read them! Sorry, got off on a tangent about reading in general, but you get the point.

    As for your list, it’s fantastic, and I think I either already have them all or they were already on my to-get list, other than your very first one by Mr. Strobel. So consider that one added now, too. I’m a sucker for a good conversion story, so of course I love the “Surprised by Truth” series, as well as Steve Rays “Crossing the Tiber”. Sometimes the “immigrants” have a gift for helping the “natives” see things in a new way, at least they did for me.

  29. Anonymous says:

    check out Finding Faith, by Brian McLaren.

  30. Kim says:

    Anything by Brennan Manning is outstanding – especially Abba’s Child – The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging and The Ragamuffin Gospel.

  31. Carrien says:

    FOr Bible study you might enjoy “How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth.”

    Gordon Fee and Douglas Stewart

    It’s great introduction to understanding genre, style, context etc.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Hi Jen: on the subject of God’s love, but better still, on how much He is “needy” of our love I dare to recommend the book “He and I”, the dialogues of the Lord with a French woman -Gabrielle Bossis- that died in 1950. In the Spanish translation He says to Gabrielle on October 30, 1936: “Lock me in your heart with a sign of the Cross, like a prisoner between bars”. And on October 25, 1936. “Take care of My Love. There isn’t an orphan more forsaken than I”. Hope you enjoy it and use it as much as I do.
    Maria Elena from Mendoza, Argentina

  33. traumerin says:

    Ironically, Strobel’s The Case for Faith was one of the books which convinced me that I was not and could not be a Christian… It’s been too long for me to remember all the arguments of the book clearly, but I remember being deeply satisfied by them–and I *wanted* to find a good reason to be a Christian. Unfortunately, Mere Christianity and the “liar lunatic or lord” argument left me almost equally unmoved.

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    here is the story and remember if you are realy looking for the truth, it is a true story not fake:
    http://www.yusufestes.com

    With all respect,
    Have a nice day
    SAM

  35. Jesse says:

    “Javier from Argentina said… On the philosophical foundations of Catholicism, I would recommend Jacques Maritain, and Etienne Gilson.”

    Yes, and add to that, especially if you prefer the less technical, Chesterton’s book called St. Thomas Aquinas. The entire book is a thrill, but the chapter titled The Permanent Philosophy, followed by the “Sequel” chapter, are simply golden.

    Jen, great blog. Maybe see you on Marcus Grodi’s show sometime?

    Peace,

    Jesse

  36. Joy says:

    Just discovered the blog and reading list. It is wonderful, thank you, there are several I have not read and will.

    In return may I suggest Kathleen Norris, especially “Amazing Grace” though I also love “Cloister Walk”

  37. Tres Angelas says:

    Just finished By What Authority (Shea). A useful but tedious book. It would benefit from a more fugal use of words — especially the word “paradosis.” (Yes I know, that’s the subject of the book, but still.)

    Glad I read it, though. I needed (need) the reminder to trust the authority of the Church.

    And I suppose when it comes to theological and philosophical works, prose I might consider “wordy” would be better described as “thorough.”

  38. Anonymous says:

    Wow! That is an amazing story! I was just browsing the internet for some conversion stories for my research paper on Christianity. Came across your blog and it was amazing! Thanks for posting it!

  39. Johnnie says:

    I was wondering on the computer tonight. I’m not a covert, I’m an ordinary Catholic, practising, from Boston. About Communion, the real significance is the quote of Saint Ambrose “Receive what you are … Be what you receive.” In other words, dont view the mass as a passive play — a changed heart or “conversion” — so easy to say, so hard to put into practice! That was the homily today at the Franciscan Church, Arch St (St. Anthony’s Srhine). I dont mean to sound preachy – just thoughts … .

  40. Johnnie says:

    I was wondering on the computer tonight. I’m not a covert, I’m an ordinary Catholic, practising, from Boston. About Communion, the real significance is the quote of Saint Ambrose “Receive what you are … Be what you receive.” In other words, dont view the mass as a passive play — a changed heart or “conversion” — so easy to say, so hard to put into practice!
    That was the homily today at the Franciscan Church, Arch St (St. Anthony’s Srhine). I dont mean to sound preachy – just thoughts … .
    I love Franciscans. A new book was just published, “Francis and his Brothers” (D. Monti, ofm). GK Chesterton wrote a great book on St. Francis as well.
    I like the Benedictine practice of lectio divina. Good Benedictine writers include De Waal, an Anglican Benedictine Oblate (Anglican oblates can become associated with RCC Benedictine Oblates due to the fact that the Order was founded c. 550. And of course, Thomas Merton. THE conversion of the 20th century! Readers here would do well to read “the Seven Story Mountain” – a hard slug, but worth it. Lastly, everyone might read because it’s very good, James Martin’s “My Life with the Saints”, a terrific book on the author’s favorite saints 9e.g., Aloysius Gonzaga, Francis, Mary (of course), Joan of Arc, Ignatius, Joseph, etc. Read this one. You’ll love it.

  41. Johnnie says:

    I was wondering on the computer tonight. I’m not a covert, I’m an ordinary Catholic, practising, from Boston. About Communion, the real significance is the quote of Saint Ambrose “Receive what you are … Be what you receive.” In other words, dont view the mass as a passive play — a changed heart or “conversion” — so easy to say, so hard to put into practice! That was the homily today at the Franciscan Church, Arch St (St. Anthony’s Srhine). I dont mean to sound preachy – just thoughts … .

    I recommend James Martin’s “My life with the Saints.” Basil Pennigton and Thomas Keating, and the convert of the 20th century, Thomas Merton (Seven Story Mountain).

    Esther deWaal is a great writer on Benedictine spirituality. Rohr is a good Franciscan writer. Henri Nouwen is great – Return of the Prodigal Son is one of his finest.

  42. Thomas says:

    I found The Case for Christ the day after I – out of despair – gave in and told God,"I will do your will, but I just want to know the Truth about you." I didn't feel that the Truth would be found in the religion of my birth Christianity (especcially not Catholicism) but the next day I came across the same first book you did, The Case for Christ, and was most impressed by its arguments for the Resurrection. Your right that the book wasn't perfect, but like you it was a great starting place for me leading me to believe in Christ, but it took a little while longer for God to fight with me to pull me back to the Catholic Church and one of the books which God used to lead me to orthodox Catholicism (because I had quite liberal tendancies at the time) was Everlasting Man, as well as Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. (I was also very much inspired to trust the Church by the example of St. Francis). It's great to hear your story as it reminds me so much of my own. God bless you. Keep witnessing Christ's transformative love.

    P.S. God didn't stopped and pulled me into the seminary despite all my kicking and screaming. God doesn't disappoint though. I love it.

  43. Jane White says:

    The Catholic Church believes in purgatory, which contraditcs Jesus' death-the basis of their faith. I suggest you ask God to explain things to you very cearly because the Catholic Church is full of holes. It's a religion. god is far more interested in a relationship than a religion. Religion is man's idea of what God wants. A relationship is keep on loving God and confessing your mistakes and keep on loving God. I'm not completely sur that I got that right, but that's the idea.

  44. The Rainbow Jen says:

    I've been told by a lot of my married friends that one of the most influential books, aside from the bible, to have changed their thinking is Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. To the point where I've recommended it out to all my engaged friends as reading before they marry. Just passing along the hot rec!

  45. Miłość says:

    I was at my library's used book sale and I saw a student copy of "The Case for Christ", and I decided to get it. I don't know how good it will be, but I figure I'll read it first, and read the actual book sometime later :)

  46. Miłość says:

    Weird! I got a student edition of "The Case for Christ" at a book sale last Friday, and today at another book sale I found the actual book! I must be meant to read it! :)

  47. G. Rose says:

    Hello Jennifer and everyone,
    I am a cradle Catholic. Wearing Our Lady’s Brown Scapular (which she gave to St. Simon Stock and to the world to wear to merit her special protection) and praying the Rosary every day (called the best prayer after the Mass and lauded by countless saints, especially the Mother of Jesus) led my family to stop going to the modernized, Protestantized, watered-down Novus Ordo Mass (begun in the 1960’s) and to go instead to the traditional Latin Mass, the “Mass of Ages” and the “Mass of all Time,” untainted by progressivists.

    This Mass is beautiful!! The priest faces towards God, along with the people. There are beautiful vestments, candles, music (especially in the High Masses) and all directs our minds and hearts towards God. You follow along with a Latin-English missal. The ancient prayers are timeless and beautiful. Communion is given ONLY by the priest directly onto your tongue, out of respect for our God.

    I go to one of many chapels serviced by the Society of Saint Pius X, which is an organization of priests vocally loyal to the Pope and the Church, but resistive to the unnecessary and damaging modernizations that are being introduced by “diabolically disoriented” hierarchical members of the Church. The Society is ruthlessly attacked by libel claims of its being rebellious and factious, but we are merely holding onto Everlasting Truth–God–and His Tradition. Visit http://www.sspx.org and decide for yourself.

    There are other chapels that offer the Traditional Mass, but try to get one that is only used by traditional priests. The churches that hold New Masses and Traditional Masses are likely to have particles of Hosts on the floor (terrible!) from Communion in the Hand, and New-Age-like sermons.

    Sorry for the long post, and I pray that you are led ever deeper into the Love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, through his beloved Mother. Amen.

  48. If you want to buy real estate, you would have to receive the loans. Furthermore, my mother commonly takes a financial loan, which is really firm.

  49. Mark says:

    I just ordered The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel on your recommendation.
    Mark recently posted..7 Quick Takes Friday Monday

  50. juicy outlet says:

    Not too many people would actually think about this the way you just did.

  51. Barry says:

    It’s great to read about Gods touch on you to convert to Christianity but I do have a question. Why catholocism? Or conversely if you went protestant, why protestant? Isn’t it enough to simply say you are now a Christian, a follower of Christ? Catholic or protestant isn’t in the bible but this is.
    Christ’s disciples told Him of a man that was casting out devils in His name but he wasn’t in their “click” and wanted to know if they could stop him. What did Christ say? Leave him alone, if he is for Me he cannot be against Me.
    Simply be aChristian and thank God for it.

    • Korage says:

      your making stuff up. Suppose I entertain your theories of this “christ”. He wouldn’t had spoken modern American English. You’re just imagining that he said that inorder to make yourself feel better and to make yourself seem like you know something, but knowing a religion is like knowing nothing.

  52. Mary says:

    I am a cradle Catholic, but for a brief time in my 22 years of life I sort of fell away from the Church. I still went to Mass, but I was starting to lean more towards a pentecostal religion. Anyways, I took a look at my life and decided to give Catholicism the ultimate test to decide whether I would remain Catholic or leave the Church. To make a long story short I found Scott Hahn’s “The Lamb’s Supper,” Marcus Grodi’s “Journeys Home” and all of Patrick Madrid’s “Surprised by Truth” books, and they revolutionized my view on Catholicism. In an odd twist of events I now go to college at Franciscan University of Steubenville where both Hahn and Madrid are professors and it is not unusual to see Marcus Grodi running around campus. Anyways, I would definately suggest those books to anyone looking at Catholicism or at leaving Cathlicism. They just might change your life.

  53. Net D. says:

    Wow, your list is amazing and I saw that Lee Strobel wrote a comment a few years back. Anyway, perhaps I might interest you with BooksForEvangelism.org . They lists quite a heaps of books for reaching out nonbelievers. It might give you some recommendations for your next reading list.

    BTW, I also like Mere Christianity. And oh, I’m an agnostic to Christian convert. ;) Thanks for sharing!
    Net D. recently posted..Jesus with Dirty Feet by Don Everts

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  1. […] is a popular book in the Christian apologetic world. It’s recommended reading for example here, here, here, here and here. Alternatively, there are those that disagree (for example here […]

  2. […] My conversion story through books […]

  3. Quora says:

    Why is it easier for a believer to convert into an atheist than for the atheist to convert into a believer?…

    No problem; I realize, of course, that my post might have sounded a bit paranoid, but I just wanted to keep things more on Ideas than on anything else… There are quite a few Resources out there discussing interesting conversions from atheism to Chris…