Monday, July 02, 2007

Olympic gold medalist abandons God, has never been happier

British Olympic gold medalist Jonathan Edwards, whose faith in Christianity led him to excel in sports, has abandoned his Christianity in his retirement. The Times Online has a very interesting interview with him, in which he says that he didn't take time to consider the philosophical foundations or evidence for Christianity when he was so focused on his sports career, but once he retired from athletics, he found the time to question, which led him to nonbelief:
“But when I retired, something happened that took me by complete surprise. I quickly realised that athletics was more important to my identity than I believed possible. I was the best in the world at what I did and suddenly that was not true any more. With one facet of my identity stripped away, I began to question the others and, from there, there was no stopping. The foundations of my world were slowly crumbling.”
“Once you start asking yourself questions like, ‘How do I really know there is a God?’ you are already on the path to unbelief,” Edwards says. “During my documentary on St Paul, some experts raised the possibility that his spectacular conversion on the road to Damascus might have been caused by an epileptic fit. It made me realise that I had taken things for granted that were taught to me as a child without subjecting them to any kind of analysis. When you think about it rationally, it does seem incredibly improbable that there is a God.”
Now that he has abandoned his faith, he is not unhappy about it:
The upheaval of recent months has not left Edwards emotionally scarred, at least not visibly. “I am not unhappy about the fact that there might not be a God,” he says. “I don’t feel that my life has a big, gaping hole in it. In some ways I feel more human than I ever have. There is more reality in my existence than when I was full-on as a believer. It is a completely different world to the one I inhabited for 37 years, so there are feelings of unfamiliarity.
I've posted some different quotes from the interview at the Secular Outpost.

It's my impression that Edwards was a typical Christian in that his faith was not a position he held on the basis of evidence, but one he found himself in because of his upbringing, but never challenged. Once in a position where he began to question, he found he didn't have good reasons for what he believed, and had the integrity to stop believing.

(Hat tip to Ed Babinski.)


Leo said...

I would caution, though, that you do not get too excited – God does not forsake His people; wasn’t that, after all, the meaning of the Prodigal Son Parable? Major life change affects people differently; it may be that Mr. Edwards needs time to reassess his belief system. He may like the prodigal yet return home.

Jim Lippard said...


If Jonathan Edwards returns to Christianity after study of the evidence persuades him that's correct, then at least he will be a Christian who knows why he believes what he does.

If only everyone would put their worldviews to the test, rather than believing without reason, we'd all be better off.

David said...

I agree entirely that if all people would put their faith to the test the world would be better off. We must all test the reasons for our belief in any thing.

Now, I would like to question how much Mr. Edwards has really thought about this issue when he makes a statement like
"When you think about it rationally, it does seem incredibly improbable that there is a God."

Since when could one rationally say the existence of anything was improbable. And how does one calculate the probability of existence?