How I went from lifelong atheism to orthodox Catholicism (Audio)

My story + 7 lessons I learned about conversion

Thursday night I was honored to be asked to share my conversion story with the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) group at St. Elizabeth’s parish here in central Texas. I wanted listeners to be able to take something away that they could apply to their own lives, so I wove in seven lessons I learned about the conversion process. Click here to view the handout I gave to attendees (PDF). It includes a list of my seven lessons, as well as a page of recommended reading.

You can listen to the 45-minute talk through the player here:


© 2010 Jennifer Fulwiler – All Rights Reserved

If you’d like to download the MP3 it to listen to it later or play on your iPod, here’s the original file. Right-click on that link and choose Save Link As.

Hope you enjoy it!

(Also, I’ll be busy getting ready for the taping this week, so I probably won’t write again until Friday. See you then!)

New here? Come say hi on Twitter at @jenfulwiler!



Enter the Conversation...

68 Responses to “How I went from lifelong atheism to orthodox Catholicism (Audio)”
  1. Lindsey says:

    Thank you for sharing your story! I look forward to listening. My husband and I converted from other Christian faiths in 2002.

  2. DM says:

    Your engineer-scientist father (and even you) may be interested by the book “God’s Mechanics” by the Jesuit brother Guy Consolmagno, a research astronomer and planetary scientist:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=God's+Mechanics
    http://www.google.com/search?q=Brother+Guy

    It’s sub-titled “How Scientists and Engineers Make Sense of Religion”.

  3. Kate says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I’ve loved your blog for a long time, (though I’m mostly a lurker) and it was neat to hear your voice. You have a great story! Funny, I just read another conversion story yesterday (No Turning Back by Father David Calloway). It’s a weekend for great conversion stories!!

  4. Ginny says:

    Hi Jen,
    I just listened to your talk and enjoyed it. The way you describe the joy that paves your soul is exactly the way I describe it. I am continually amazed, even as we have had a couple of very difficult years, that even when I have been depressed, I haven’t lost that joy. It is always there carrying me along. Our Catholic faith is so precious.

  5. Kat says:

    Wow, it was so nice to hear you talk about your children and husband! Family is such a huge blessing.

    You’re very well-spoken and you gave a great speech! It allowed me to dwell on how much I love the Catholic faith. I love the truth, peace, joy, trust, hope, and love it brings to my life- on a level that nothing else can.

  6. kenny keegan says:

    Hello Jennifer,

    I just had to write how beautiful and uplifting I found your talk. I’m going to see the Holy Father celebrate Mass in Glasgow this Thursday, I’ll remember you and your family in my prayers.

    Kenny

    • Nan says:

      You are so lucky! I saw the Holy Father in Rome 2 yrs ago when he arrived for a celebration at the church next to our hotel. Sadly, I hadn’t returned to my Catholic faith at that time so I didn’t appreciate it nearly as much as I would now.

  7. Aurora says:

    I just love everything about this so much. :) Thank you so, so much for sharing! Your blog was of immeasurable help to me during my conversion (from that “intellectual” materialist brand of atheism you describe so well) over the past year and hearing your story again tonight brought me so much joy. God bless you!!!! :D

  8. Kelley says:

    Jen,

    That was great! Not only do you have a gift for writing… you have a gift for speaking too! I don’t normally leave comments on your blog, but I couldn’t resist this time. Your story is very different than mine, but I could still relate so much. It was very compelling! I love how you question everything! I feel like people miss out on so much when they don’t question… they miss out on the depth, reason, and beauty behind the ‘rules’. I’m still in the process of coming to terms with some of those ‘rules’, but He hooked me with the Eucharist and so I’ll be hanging in there while I continue to question and learn more. These Catholics are stuck with me. ;)

    Once again… great job!

    Peace,
    Kelley

  9. Pat J says:

    Thank you so much for the story of your conversion. It was the nudge this cradle Catholic needed to delve deeper into my faith.

  10. Laura says:

    You’re a great speaker—I almost never listen to an audio clip that long. And what an amazing story! I can really relate to this; I often wonder “just when and why did I sign myself up for this, again? I had none of these worries as an atheist”. I keep finding myself threatening to go back to agnosticism, like you said: “Am I getting into this for nothing?” Where’s the payoff? That’s why I love your seven lessons—I keep forgetting them, thinking I know the answer just because things are going right, and getting knocked down again because I got too presumptuous. But I think while you’re still in the conversion process, you not only have a lot to gain, but a lot to lose. You know you can’t turn around, but you don’t quite know what’s ahead, either.

    I really liked your ending when you speak of realizing the “seamless moral code”: “God was still silent…I still felt like I was in the desert…but I said to this silent God, ‘my life is yours'”. What a great way of putting it. Oh, can I relate to that—I wonder how other people ultimately decide to convert, but my experience has been dotted with bits of wisdom just like this—it’s not really an emotional experience, as you say. I’m so glad it’s working out for you; I’m still in that murky, hesitant part of conversion that I’m sure you know all about :)
    Laura recently posted..Koren Publishing really turns my world upside down

  11. Marie says:

    What a wonderful talk! Very inspiring and uplifting.

  12. Jason says:

    I am a convert from Evangelicalism. Even though we converted from different backgrounds, I find it interesting how many of your conclusions were strikingly similar to my own.

  13. Elizabeth says:

    I would like to download the MP3 onto my Ipod, but I use a Mac and right clicking is not an option. I can listen to it on the computer, but I would like to listen during my drive time. Do you have advice for me on how to download this? Will you make your audios available through ITunes as a podcast, perhaps?
    God bless,
    Elizabeth

    • Hey Elizabeth! That’s a good idea about doing a podcast. I’m not familiar with how that works, but I’ll look into it. Also, I think that holding down Control while you click on the link should work on a Mac.

      Thanks!

      • Amy says:

        Jennifer,

        Yes, that works, i just tried it on my laptop trackpad. I hadn’t considered she wasn’t using a mouse. Duh!

    • Amy says:

      Elizabeth,

      See my comment below–it was meant for you, I guess I just didn’t click on the “reply” tab.

      • Elizabeth says:

        Thank you both. It worked once I clicked on the original link. Now it is saved to ITunes and heading to my Ipod.
        What a helpful group!

  14. Amy says:

    I was able to right click and save it to my Mac. Among the choices when I right-clicked were “Open with iTunes” or “Download linked file as” I chose “Download linked file as” and saved it in my Music folder. I just now listened to it–it worked fine, and my Mac opened the file with iTunes. For some reason in the iTunes app, the mp3 is “10091001” even though in my Music folder it is “athiest-to-catholic.mp3.” But it works fine, and I would guess you could upload it to your iPod from your Mac.

    Hope that helps!

  15. Amy says:

    Jennifer,

    So glad you shared this. Good to put a voice with your face. I’m still amazed at the similarities between our paths, and wonder what event occurring or failing to occur, or what event having gone differently might have led me to the same place where you are now. At times I felt so sure I would end up Catholic even with all my disbelief.

    I was thinking as I listened to this, man it would be nice to have that handout she mentioned, so I was happy to see when I checked the post that you have a link to it.

    Wonderful. Hearing it like this as a continuous narrative really brought your conversion story to life, I think, in a way that can’t be captured by reading posts on a blog (as engaging as I find your blog to be). Perhaps this gives us a taste of things to come in your book?
    Amy recently posted..Monday Me- Week 6

  16. Dave says:

    “I knew more than I knew anything else, I knew that love exists as a reality external to the material world.”

    That is so familiar to me. I went through a very similar conversion experience years ago, and love as a REALITY rather than an emotion was the first chink in my atheist armor.

    Very interesting talk. Thanks!

  17. Karen says:

    Wow! Wow! Wow! I have been lurking for a long time and love your blog. Your speech was terrific! My 5 sons (one married to an agnostic/atheist?) are all fallen away and I pray and beg God and Mary and the saints to help bring them into communion with God’s love. I wish they would listen to your story and it would make a difference, but I also have accepted the fact that conversion happens on God’s schedule. My husband who was “raised Catholic” in the very loosest sense of the words, since his parents are not practicing and haven’t been for a very long time, used to groan and roll his eyes at the mention of anything religious has been attending Mass with me regularly (although whenever he gets depressed or angry about things in life, he refuses to go) has just told me he wants to go to confession with me. Now, this is HUGE!!! I have had to drag him there once a year forever and even if he missed Mass he would rather just give up Communion than go to confession, so even though he has been very down lately about reaching his 60th birthday and being nowhere near his retirement goals, I am encouraged that God is working on him. I just have to be patient and trust. But God, how about those 5 boys…….? ;-)

  18. Frances says:

    Thank you for sharing the recording of your talk – it was great to listen to while I emptied the dishwasher, swept the kitchen, and folded a load of laundry. :D The miracles of God’s providence in your life touched me the most. Wow!

  19. Christina says:

    I came across your site via Patrick Madrid and so glad I did! Listening to your conversion story gives me hope for so many of my friends. I am a cradle Catholic/lawyer/musician/soon-to-be-postulant with the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception, and find myself very disheartened by the horrible things I hear my old friends saying about God and especially about Catholicism….dark, DARK stuff….downright MEAN. I do my best to defend the Church with love, but fear my words fall on many a deaf ear. It does not worry me at all that I have lost the respect of the ‘cultural elite’ for giving my life for God’s work, but I sure do wish I could see even one tiny little glimmer of openness to Christ in the hearts of my old pals. Your story reminds me that God is in charge, as I can only imagine the joy in heaven when His will was fulfilled in your heart. So beautiful!

  20. Paul Ambro says:

    Whoop! I love your story. And I didn’t know you were an Aggie too! Class of ’92 here. :-)

  21. Helen says:

    Thanks for posting this. It was really very good. Very honest. This from a cradle catholic who struggled with her own pregnancy issues and all that comes with having 7 children. God Bless.
    Helen recently posted..Home Office Ideas

  22. Thank you for sharing this. I have many fallen away Catholics and converts who visit by blog.

  23. Magnificat says:

    Thank you for sharing your story! It’s wonderful! And it will be of much help, ’cause I know many who have almost the same problems. Engineer minds :-)))

  24. Emily (a.k.a. Smoochagator) says:

    Jen, I REALLY enjoyed this talk! Thanks so much for sharing it with us. I already knew most of your conversion story, but hearing it in your voice made it so much more personal.

    Also, I’m not sure if I’ve said so yet, but I really like the site redesign.

  25. A terrific talk. Thanks!

  26. Meghan says:

    LOVED this talk, Jennifer. Thanks for sharing so we could all hear too.
    Blessings!

  27. wendy says:

    I loved your description of how you felt when you first read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I felt that way too! I thought here are all the things I have always believed as a Protestant and now I have the underpinnings of these believes and a defense besides “because the Bible says so”.

  28. Lori says:

    I recently found your blog… I converted from Wiccan and have become very traditional Roman Catholic. I’m looking forward to listening!

  29. Mark says:

    Jennifer, this was fantastic! Would you consider allowing me to use your material with my RCIA class? I would not use it without attribution. I think that they would find your words inspiring. I am in the Philadelphia area.

  30. Theresa in Alberta says:

    wonderful talk!!

  31. Andrés says:

    You are a true light in this world of darkness.

  32. Jocelyne says:

    Just … thank you. I really needed to hear this today.
    Jocelyne recently posted..Nesting- Nesting

  33. Jen– LOVE it! I heard about half, and can’t wait to finish the rest while I fold laundry… it will definitely liven up that chore!
    Lisa @ Cheerfully Chaotic recently posted..Homeschooling Discernment Series- Academics and Catholic curricula- Part One

  34. Brother Paul Mary O.P says:

    Keep up the good work, I do not get that much time to use the web, so I just do a check on NEWADVENT, and every time I come across a link to your blog I know that there will be something to make me want to shout a Gloria Patri….

    God Bless

    Brother Paul Mary O.P

  35. Kerri says:

    I am doubting your claim that you are an introvert! Very engaging and inspiring.

  36. Martin says:

    Long time reader, way back before you officially converted. I just finished listening to your talk. Great job! BTW, you mentioned him … just wanted to add my kudos about SteveG. I’ve always been impressed by his replies and answers to you.

  37. Jay says:

    I really enjoy your blog and enjoyed hearing your conversion story!! I was thinking maybe I am pregnant b/c it made me cry but tears of joy how God worked in your life and brought you to the faith. I also have 4 little ones 5 and under:) Live in Florida but really liked TX when brother was there for a year. I visited 4 times in a year (mostly b/c my little nephews were there:)) I was wondering if you still are in contact with the Catholic bloggers that helped you in your conversion. Also if your parents are athiest.

  38. Giò says:

    Thanks for your witness. Really important for us all.. Good work and may peace with you and with all your family, Jennifer.

    Giò
    Giò recently posted..Bregantini alla Fiera della sostenibilità

  39. Rae says:

    Great talk! You should either have a podcast or just vlog (with or without banana suit) more often. While I was listening to this my husband walked through the room and said “who is that? She sounds really smart!”

    You are a great writer, but you also have a fabulous voice, and should use it!

  40. Victor says:

    Keep UP The Good Words and Work.

    Please thank The Curt Jester for having made “IT” posible for me to hear your video.

    Go Get Them Girl and please keep me in your prayers.

    God Bless,

    Peace

  41. The Holy Spirit filled your words and they soared…
    Thank you, Jen — I am sitting here smiling, so grateful for the Jesus-hope in you that draws us closer to Him.

    I send so much love…
    All’s grace,
    Ann

  42. Ajda says:

    This was great, thank you! Regards from a soon-to-be-Catholic from Slovenia.

  43. Lana says:

    This is a great talk! I have been a Christian “all my life” (whatever that means), but you said so many things I have not thought of before.

    I mis-heard you when you said that you married Joe “who is now my husband.” At least I think that’s what you must have said. I heard, “who is not my husband.” I was pretty confused there for awhile… :)

    Great talk, you seemed very much at ease.

  44. A Philosopher says:

    Just for the record, John C. Wright’s clever quip was originally David Hume’s.

  45. Anthony says:

    Greetings from Singapore!

    I listened to your talk very much and was moved and inspired. Thank you for your witness! Continue to be a blessing to others!

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  48. Helen M. Dodge says:

    I sincerely appreciate your post. While I have had times of doubt, I am lucky enough to be a “cradle catholic” and have always had the gift of faith. My struggles now consist of dating someone who is atheist. I pray every night that both I will see the path I am supposed to take and that he becomes catholic soon, very soon. I don’t feel like my prayers are heard, or maybe it’s that I don’t quite know how to listen. I encourage him every day to think about it, pray about it, etc but do so with little success. Maybe I can get him to listen to your story, and just maybe, it will be mark the start of his conversion. Any advice (i.e. how Joe handled everything) from anyone would be much appreciated!

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