How This Atheist Biologist Was Radically Converted To Christianity

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He described himself as a “staunch and cantankerous atheist” who sought every opportunity to destroy Christianity where it stood.

How Dr. Wayne Rossiter, former Atheist Biologist Was Radically Converted To Christianity
How Dr. Wayne Rossiter, former Atheist Biologist Was Radically Converted To Christianity

Wayne earned a B.S. in life sciences with a concentration in ecology from Otterbein University, a M.S. in zoology at Ohio State University, and a PhD in ecology and evolution from Rutgers University, which he earned February 2012. Dr. Wayne Rossiter is currently an assistant professor of Biology at Waynesburg University.

From 2001-2009 Wayne was subcontracted by Dr. Michael Hoggarth to assist in survey and relocation projects for freshwater mussels, including projects associated with the US Fish & Wildlife Recovery Plans for two federally endangered species (the purple catspaw pearly mussel and the clubshell mussel). During his M.S. program, he worked with the federally endangered eastern massassauga rattlesnake. More recently, Wayne has assisted Janet Clayton and the WV DNR in similar projects, including several other federally listed species.

Growing up, Rossiter describes himself as a “sciencey kid” who was obsessed by chemistry, meteorology and especially, biology. Rossiter was fascinated with the idea of origins, and this parlayed into an interest in history and philosophy as he continued to mature.

As Rossiter entered college he became a confirmed atheist in his views, and then progressing toward graduate school, became ever more combative in his atheism. He described himself as a “staunch and cantankerous atheist” who sought every opportunity to destroy Christianity where it stood. He was, he says, “of Dawkins’ ilk.”

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According to him, he “had developed into a staunch and cantankerous atheist by the time I got to Rutgers to pursue a Ph.D. This was aided by an equally atheistic advisor who was of Dawkins’s ilk. Advanced education at our best universities is surprisingly insular. Like bobbleheads, we tend to read and agree on the same things, and give little to no countenance to critics of our views”

Rossiter notes in his book, Shadow of Oz, that the academic environment tends to insulate one’s views, so that outside views and criticisms are largely dismissed or ridiculed without being critically considered or even clearly understood.

Because of my desire to live a more active and overtly Christian life, I turned down a post-doc opportunity at a prestigious west coast school, and accepted a job as assistant professor of biology at Waynesburg University (a Christian university), where I remain at this time.

Rossiter’s conversion from atheism to Christianity was sudden and violent. He describes a winter’s night in March of 2008 after he and his wife had finished celebrating an academic milestone. She went to bed, but he stayed up to ponder the dying celebration.

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What caused Dr. Rossiter to doubt his atheism? After achieving an important milestone in every academic’s life (publication in a major journal of his field), he and his wife celebrated. He stayed up after his wife went to bed, and he became plagued by the “big questions” about life:

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“On what rational grounds could I care about the state of the planet (or even my family) after I’m gone? And what did I even mean by ‘good’ or ‘bad’? I couldn’t argue that any objective morality existed apart from our subjective experiences. Any moral laws that might objectively exist – whether or not anyone ascribes to them – would be beyond our grasp, and we would have no objective or rational reason to obey them if they did exist.

“Nothing mattered. This is Dennett’s ‘universal acid’ and Darwin’s ideas applied that acid to the human condition. If molecules led to cells, and cells to organs, and organs to bodies, then the ‘molecules-to-man’ hypothesis was true. We really were just wet computers responding to external stimuli in mechanical and unconscious ways. No soul, no consciousness. Just machines. I was completely and utterly devastated.”

When he had this soul-crushing crisis of realisation that atheism was philosophically bankrupt, and could not supply the foundation for the standards which he assumed, he realised the consequences of his reasoning were grim and that his current worldview wasn’t defensible.

This led to some serious soul-searching, He explored philosophy and psychology which included psychiatric counseling. His counselor was a Christian, and that intrigued him. Previous to this crisis, Rossiter would have dismissed or even attacked the therapist’s beliefs. Under these circumstances, however, it intrigued him that a professional and a person he could respect could hold to such beliefs. So he read some intellectuals who found belief in God to be both rational and compelling. This caused him to doubt his atheistic view of science, and eventually, he became a Christian. The university at which he now teaches is a Christian university in Pennsylvania.

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In response to this, Rossiter wrote his book Shadow of Oz: Theistic Evolution and the Absent God. This book tells some of his personal story, but also attempts to address some of what he sees as increasingly bad science in the Christian camp.

Read few of Wayne Rossiter’s story below as written in his book Shadow of Oz

I have always loved nature. As a boy, I was never much for cars, trucks or guns. Instead, I was obsessed with learning about dinosuars, wading in streams, and turning my parents’ garage into a veterinary clinic. I wasn’t just intellectually drawn to the workings of the natural world, but was emotionally in awe, reverance and appreciation of nature. I entered college as a luke-warm Christian. It took less than a year of college biology courses to disabuse me of those convictions, and by the spring of my freshman year, I announced to my mother that I no longer believed in God.

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I hardened as an atheist for nearly a decade, accumulating an M.S. in zoology at Ohio State University (where I studied the evolution of rattlesnake venoms) and a PhD in ecology and evolution from Rutgers University (where I studied disease transmission in wildlife). During that time (and continuing today), I also was subcontracted as an environmental consultant on numerous freshwater mussel projects, and I’ve had the privilege of working with several federal endanged species.

However, in the winter of 2008–midway through my PhD–I was converted to Christianity in a Saul-to-Paul-like event. And, like Saul, I had the folly of my ways revealed in an instant, but had to wait to receive the gospel. I languished in the emptiness and hopelessness of atheism, desparate for a remedy. That remedy was delivered to me in two ways. First, I sought the help of a psychiatrist who happened to be a deeply and devoutly Christian man. He offered guidance, advice, and emotional healing through Christ. At the same time, the first name I happened upon (in a completely serendipitous way) was Greg Koukl, and his ministry, Stand to Reason. It was there that I discovered intellectually superior arguments in favor of Christian theism, and was introduced to nearly all of the major players in the world of Christian apologetics. From this foundation, I began to put Humpty Dumpty back together.

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My conversion to Christianity didn’t drive me away from science, or from intellectual or academic pursuits. I continued on, finishing my PhD, and continue to do research, publish scientific papers, speak at conferences and work in the area of species conservation. However, I felt that, given my background and personal experiences, I might have something to offer other Christians. That drove me to become more well-versed in the details of various topics related to science and Christianity, and in apologetics more broadly. Those efforts continue, and I remain a re-made work in progress. Because of my desire to live a more active and overtly Christian life, I turned down a post-doc opportunity at a prestigious west coast school, and accepted a job as assistant professor of biology at Waynesburg University (a Christian university), where I remain at this time.

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