Dave Glander’s broken childhood was one of the many factors that led to his staunch atheism. However, his worldview was dramatically shaken in a moment of desperation. Jana Harmon shares his story

Life can be very difficult. When you experience unthinkable things, especially as a child, it can dramatically shape your view of the world around you and of yourself. The road can lead to self-destructive patterns and behaviours that can lead to hopelessness, and when hope is gone, life can become very dark. Yet even in the darkness, we can push further into the abyss because it seems that there’s nowhere else to go, that if God exists, he doesn’t seem anywhere to be found. 

Former atheist Dave Glander pushed hard to find some sort of life and fame as an adult that would mask the pain of his childhood. He wasn’t looking for God, but he was found by a loving God who gave him life and hope that had long eluded him. Here’s his story.

A godless childhood

Dave grew up in a home that never talked about God or Christianity. Religion was never a part of a conversation with any of his friends or family. It was a non-issue. “Nothing was brought up,” he recalled, “so I just grew up not really thinking about it at all.” 

At school, Dave heard: “Darwin had solved the issue as to whether a god, if any, was needed. The public school system was telling you, as a matter of fact, that there’s no need for God.” On top of that, he observed the rudeness of Christians who also seemed to live in hypocritical ways. These bad experiences with religious people pushed him to believe “they didn’t have anything I wanted”. 

At 18, he called himself a militant atheist following those bad encounters. As a “very logical, philosophical person trying to discover the meaning of life without God”, he began to pose questions to religious people to find some answers but found “they couldn’t answer anything that I was asking”. 

For Dave, it was easy to “stump the Christian”. It was not only easy but satisfying as well. It confirmed his atheistic position.


Read more:

Doubting towards God

From radical atheist to Christian

Death has lost its sting

Fighting against God


Making the most of a broken life

In the background of his life, Dave was riddled by drug addiction and abuse. He began drug use as a child at age 6. By the age of 7, he was buying his own cigarettes. His uncle molested him for the first 13 years of his life. 

Dave had a difficult and distant relationship with his father because he was constantly “running around making trouble” unlike his brother who was always doing the right thing. By the time he was 16, his drug-addicted lifestyle had taken over. He was using and selling, trying to make the most of his broken life. He remembers:

“I was making money hand over fist. But we were also eating as much as we were buying at some point. When you don’t have God or even the thought of God, there is no right or wrong. There is no line in the sand to be crossed or not crossed. There are some things morally and ethically that I never did. I tried to do right unto people as best as I could. I would give you the coat off my back. I was a nice person. But as far as limitations on drugs or sexuality or language or any of that stuff, I just didn’t have a filter because my filter was broken at a very early age. But I also didn’t have any reason to have a line in the sand, because there was no grand authority out there.”

Chasing happiness

Dave also tried his best to become a famous musician. He desired the travel, fame, sex, drugs and fortune of his favourite bands. He thought this life would satisfy, but it ultimately brought him emptiness and depression.

“I was going to party like it was 1999 every night. Like, ‘Give me that, and I will prove to you that I can buy happiness,’ but ultimately, I was living a life of depression and I didn’t necessarily know it. That’s why I was saying if you asked me 20 something years ago, I’d probably say, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m good.’ But I wasn’t. I didn’t really know that I wasn’t.” 

Eventually, Dave’s three-year use of the drug methamphetamine caused his body to wither away to a shell of his former self. He became homeless, abandoning his wife and young son, and suicidal. He couldn’t shake the chains of meth or fill the hole in his soul.  He recalled:

“I was empty inside and kept thinking, if I had the fame, the fortune, and all that stuff, that was going to be the thing that filled that spot, yet everybody going before me had that, and they ended up where I was at – I was borderline dead. By the time I met Christ, I was very suicidal. I couldn’t release the meth. That one is unlike any other drug that I had ever done, and it grabbed hold of me and did not let go. I lost everything.” 

A turn towards home

On an occasional visit home, Dave noticed a book his wife had begun reading, Knowing Jesus Personally by Billy Graham. After mocking the book, he began ridiculing God, blaming him for all the horrible things in his life, that he was a victim of all that had gone wrong. 

He yelled: “What kind of a God would you be to create me and then lead me to this mess?” Dave saw his life as “complete turmoil, and there’s no hope. Literally”. Yet during his rant against God, he uttered a final desperate plea: “If you’re God, do something about it!” Little did he know that his wife had been praying for him, too, for several months, a humble prayer of a broken wife who didn’t know what else to do.

That night, Dave cried himself to sleep. His wife put him in bed, tucked him in, put a cold compress on his face because he “was a picture of the end”. He had finally reached the end of himself. The next morning, he found an unexpected, sudden freedom from drugs along with a surprising joy and peace he couldn’t explain:

“I woke up the next morning, and I had this weird joy that I couldn’t figure out. I had no desire at all for meth, which I could not fathom. For the last three plus years, every day of my life, I was high as a kite until I would finally just fall asleep because your body can only take so much. And now, all of a sudden, I had this weird peace. I could like sit and drink a cup of coffee, and life was OK. I knew that something supernatural had happened. It had to. There was no other explanation. So, I had a major problem on my hands, because I thought, ‘There must be a God out there.’ And I didn’t know his name. I didn’t know who did it.”


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Finding Christ

Searching for God, Dave began to study Buddhism and Islam. At this point, Christianity was the last thing on his mind. But his attitude changed when his mother-in-law gave him a copy of the book, The Case for Christ, which presented the historical case for Christ, the Jesus of Nazareth. It caught him off guard. 

Dave had always thought of Jesus as “some mythological, legendary figure”, not a literal man who existed in the 1st Century. He was surprised to find out that there were 48 clear historical references about Jesus outside of the Bible. Dave then searched for and found the Bible that was given to him at age 12 when he visited a church with a friend and began reading the New Testament biographies of Jesus. 

Putting the pieces together, it began to make sense. The Jesus who was written about in history was the same Jesus who was written about in the Bible, the same one who offered joy and peace. Dave recalls his ‘aha’ moment:

“I went back to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and when I started reading the Gospels, I had this weird peace and joy that I just couldn’t put a box around it. I didn’t know where to file it. Once I started reading the Gospels, I thought, that makes total sense. Jesus said: ‘I’m going to leave you peace. I’m going to give you joy unending…because you need a change in your life.’” 

Dave continued to challenge Christianity and yet found it be true, not only regarding Christ, but in the rest of the Christian worldview as well. Through his ongoing research, he has become one of its strongest proponents, remarking: “Here I am, 20-something years later, a full-time apologist traveling the country, teaching on the defence of Christianity.” 

Dave has not only found Christianity to be historically and intellectually true, but he has found Jesus Christ as the one who satisfies the empty spot in his soul. 


If you’d like to listen to Dave Glander tell his full story, tune into the Side B Stories Episode #78, 27 October, 2023. You can find it on the Side B Stories website www.sidebstories.com.


Jana Harmon hosts the Side B Stories podcast where former atheists and sceptics talk about their turn from disbelief to belief in God and Christianity. She is a teaching fellow for the CS Lewis Institute of Atlanta and former adjunct professor in cultural apologetics at Biola University where she received an MA in Christian apologetics. Jana also holds a PhD in religion and theology from the University of Birmingham in England. Her research focused on religious conversion of atheists to Christianity and related book is entitled Atheists Finding God: Unlikely Stories of Conversions to Christianity in the Contemporary West.