How then did I become undeceived? Not because anyone called my bluff. When I told the faculty of the University of Texas that there is no rationally knowable difference between good and evil and that we aren’t responsible for our deeds anyway, they gave me a job teaching the young.
Nor was it through recognition of my own incoherence. I saw the holes in my arguments even at the time but covered them over with elaborate nonsense such as the need to take an ironic view of reality.
Nor through love. I loved my wife and children, but it is difficult to keep up a commitment to the true good of another person when one denies the reality of good, denies the reality of persons, and denies that his commitments are in his control.
Nor through learning. When I taught my students the theology of law of Thomas Aquinas, I wanted to weep for the beauty of the appearance of the truth. But I told myself that the very poignancy of that beauty came only from the fact that it was an illusion.
Nor even through the agony I had brought upon myself. “Truly . . . affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it,” says John Donne, but such treasure was wasted on me. The greater the pain, the more it fed my pride. To be sure, there was a grain of justification in my stubbornness, because pain as such is not a logical argument; its usefulness lies not in proving things true or false but in moving us to reconsider. But supposing pain a refutation was not my temptation. Mine was supposing it a proof.
I did pray to God one night. I told him that I thought I was talking to the wall. I said that if he existed, he could have me, but he would have to show me because I couldn’t tell. As the minutes ticked past, the wall looked more and more like a wall, and I felt a fool.
Yet he did hear my prayer. I came, months later, to feel a greater and greater horror about myself, not exactly a feeling of guilt, nor of shame, nor of inadequacy—just horror: an overpowering true intuition that my condition was objectively evil. I could not have told why my condition was horrible; I only perceived that it was. It was as though a man noticed one afternoon that the sky is blue, when for years he had considered it red.
Nothing like this had ever happened to me before, and I could not explain it. The intuition of the objective evil of my condition appeared as though from nowhere and contradicted everything I had been telling myself. I experienced it not as an inference but as direct knowledge. It had authority, commanding assent—and I assented.
“Why I Am Not an Atheist”
Why I Am a Christian: Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe