Ardent atheist Mark Meckler began to consider whether there might be something more after 51 years of scepticism
A highly successful attorney and political activist, Mark had no need for God. Raised as a non-religious Jew in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, Jewish culture was very important in his family, school and community. Ritual and tradition were strong, but there was no personal belief in a God, no prayer, no worship and no active attendance at temple. When it was time for Mark to have a bar mitzvah, he refused, maintaining the integrity of his non-belief.
Mark’s parents allowed him to decide for himself what to believe, religious or otherwise. After all, his father was an atheist and his mother held a vague belief in God. By high school, Mark viewed religion as a crutch for people who needed it, to deal with trauma or for those who were struggling to understand things that were unexplainable or questions that were seemingly unanswerable. It was not for him.
Mark embraced a strong atheism at university, but became fascinated by religion in order to understand the world writ large along with history, politics and sociology. Because religion plays a role in the formation of countries, in geopolitical realities and in humanity, he took courses to learn about world religions. He was taught that “the greatest force for evil in the history of humanity was Christianity and that the Earth would be a much better place without it”.
Through the New Atheists rhetoric, he became a “strident, militant, mean” atheist, contemptuous of Christianity, an evil ideology with its “stupid, crazy, ignorant and evil” adherents. The hypocrisy of so many Christians angered him as he had met many ‘Sunday Christians’ who went to church, yet lacked integrity in their work and business lives.
Mark’s disdain for religion persisted into his adulthood as his atheism became a settled assumption. Reflecting on that period of time, he felt completely satisfied. God was simply irrelevant to his life:
For me, it was so simple. I didn’t need it, so it didn’t matter. I didn’t feel the need. I wasn’t in a dark place. I wasn’t seeking salvation. I didn’t feel like I needed to be saved, and so I would say, if I had been able to talk to myself back then, my response would be: “Why would I spend any time with that stuff? I know there’s no God. Nothing happens after I die. I live a pretty good life. I’m a good person. And I’m happy. So what does the rest of it matter?”
Two big turning points in Mark’s life made him become open towards the possibility of God. A failed marriage was personally devastating, but in this “dark place”, he didn’t seek God. That was not what he was looking for.
His second wife was a person of faith who grappled with big questions and studied what she believed to be true. She was a wise and patient woman who saw his solid personal ethos and loved him despite his lack of belief. She quietly, steadily, patiently practised her own faith, never imposing it upon him, yet always praying for him. That was the first turning point.
The second was the birth of his first child, the little life that began to open Mark’s heart. He began to realise there were some things he didn’t understand that were not explainable by science, that perhaps there was something more to human reality than mere biology, that there was something more to life itself.
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Everything and everywhere
Willing to seek anything but Christianity, Mark began to consider the oneness of all reality through Eastern religion. Through his time in India, he began to see the dedicated integration of faith in all of life. Impressed, Mark thought: “That’s how I would want faith to be in my life! If I believed in God, I would want it to be like that. Not like the Sunday Christians. It’s everything! If there’s a God, then he’s everything, and it should be part of every fibre of my being.”
Mark began to deeply invest in the study of Buddhism. He was fascinated by its teachings, its cultural and geopolitical impact, but at the end of the day, it didn’t resonate with him. In his words: “It didn’t make my heart sing.” It left him on a path of searching but not being fulfilled.
A curious intellectual, Mark began studying quantum physics and realised it was a search for ‘the god particle’, the origin of all that exists. Just as a particle of light can be in two places at one time, God can be everywhere all at once through all of time. Ironically, he found that scientists and theologians were seeking the same thing, that there was integration between science and religion. It began to open his mind to something, or rather Someone beyond the physical universe.
Another turn in Mark’s story came through a happenstance meeting of hundreds and thousands of righteous Christians as he became involved in a large conservative political organisation. These people were different from the hypocritical ‘Sunday Christians’ whom he had previously encountered. He recollected:
When I started travelling around, I would sit with somebody and I would think: “There’s something about this person.” I would always ask. And I would say: “You know, you seem well settled. Things are crazy right now. You don’t seem angry. You seem happy. What is that?” And I started to hear over and over: “Well, I wasn’t always like this. I wasn’t like this before I was saved,” or “It’s my relationship with Jesus Christ” or “It’s not me. It’s my Lord and Saviour.” And I started to hear this over and over and over from people.
His negative perspective on Christianity was changing because of the positive encounters he experienced with Christians. They cared for him, prayed for him and diffused the disparaging views he once held. More than that, their humility and love profoundly impacted him.
Mark describes “the biggest break point of his life” as when he met a man who was his intellectual and financial equal, who could discuss quantum physics, sociology, geology, history, theology and religion. Tim was a friend whom he respected and enjoyed. One evening, Tim asked him what he knew about his own Jewish heritage and Mark admitted he knew very little. This conversation spurred him to begin to study the book of Hebrews in the Bible as a fascinating endeavour, to delve into Jewish history and discover when, how and why Christianity and Judaism separated. He wanted to know more, to figure it out.
Mark discovered that Jesus was the predicted and promised Jewish Messiah, that to become a Christian would not be a betrayal of his own heritage but rather a fulfilment of it. This led to his study of Paul, “the Hebrew among Hebrews” who spent his life proclaiming Jesus as Messiah. When Mark realised what this meant for his own life, that is the moment he says: “That’s when it sang in my heart. That’s when I heard the song.”
It all began to make sense. The pieces started to fall into place. One day he decided:
I can’t not believe. It doesn’t make any sense not to. And now what I’m believing is so obviously untrue. Why do I believe that anymore?’ And I just said: “I’m a believer.” And then I said: “OK, Lord. I’m a sinner. I don’t know if you’ll have me. I hope you’ll have me. I’ve sinned gravely against you for a very long time, but I give my life and my soul over to you, and I ask you to cleanse me of my sins. I’m yours. I’m all yours if you’ll have me.” But it was not dramatic. I was not on a beach. I was not on a mountaintop. It was just kind of this logical: “This is what I believe now.”
Eight years have passed since Mark became a Christian. His life was completely transformed when he gave it to God. The stress, anguish, anxiety and performance pressure of his former way of living has been relieved, knowing that God is in control and he no longer carries the burden he once bore. He no longer uses his verbal strength to eviscerate people but rather to love others and to promote what is good. He is effusive about his faith in and love for God, saying:
I wear my faith on my sleeve boldly. I’m proud and not only am I not ashamed, the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life is completely surrender to my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. There’s nothing bigger that I’ve ever accomplished in my life. There can’t be anything bigger. There never will be anything bigger. And I’m happy to tell people about that. I am boldly and brashly in love with God.
I describe my love for God as like what you feel like when you fall in love the first time. It’s just so overwhelming, and everybody needs to know how awesome this person is! And I have to tell you. It’s not that I want to, it’s that I can’t contain myself. That’s how I feel about my relationship with the Lord. I can’t contain myself. There’s no greater gift that I could give you as somebody that I love than the gift of knowing Jesus Christ, the salvation, the peace that comes from that, the strength that comes from that. There’s no worldly gift that even measures that can compare. There’s nothing on the same shelf.
Mark describes his relationship with God as “the most incredible gift I’ve ever received in my life”. He wants everyone to know and experience the same. And with a love like that, who can blame him?
If you’d like to listen to Mark Meckler tell his story on the Side B Stories podcast with Jana Harmon, click here.
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.
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