Once Upon a Time, I Was an Atheist

Once Upon a Time, I Was an Atheist

My name is Karyn Tang. I live in Westford with my husband Aaron and six children. Once upon a time, I was an atheist. I grew up in southern China. Like most people in that region, my parents practice Fengshui, and the worship of ancestors and idols. Under the influence of the communism, Christianity was unheard of and I grew up rejecting all religions, including my parents’. My family was poor. I learned early that a good education was our only hope to escape poverty. Before I reached 10, my father gave up his hopes in communism and began the application process to leave the country for better opportunities.

Shortly before 9th grade, my family moved to America and settled in NYC. It was difficult to adjust to the new language and the new culture. Yet being in America gave us a new sense of hope. We understood that if we worked hard, life would not disappoint us.

After one year in the US, I entered 10th grade and had my first encounter with Christianity. I was befriended by a group of Christians in school who were the nicest people. Besides the popular teen topics, they also talked about God, prayers and the Bible. To me, this was new and yet another type of superstition. I often debated with them, hoping to get them to stop believing the unpractical fairy tales.

A few months later, one friend invited me to church. Because of her persistence, I went to church for the first time. Meeting the church people was rather fun, but the first sermon was hard to swallow. The preacher pounded on the podium calling non-Christians “sinners” to repent! This was a shockingly new and offensive concept. Nonetheless I began to ponder what that meant, while my resolve to enlighten my Christian friends continued. Since science and religion didn’t seem to mix, I decided that the best way to refute the Christian beliefs was to study science and engineering in college.

I felt at home in the midst of like-minded atheists in my freshman year of college. However, after a year of studying science, I could not find answers on the origin and meanings of life. Instead I started to wonder if there was a designer for the orderly creation. Meanwhile, things changed at my parents’ home. By the end of my freshman year, my parents wanted to discontinue my education because supporting my education interfered with their American dream. My relationships with them deteriorated quickly. Other relationships didn’t work out either. I was badly depressed near the end of that summer. In one of those lonely late nights I remembered the God of my Christian friends. So I asked God to show me if He really existed. I wanted to know if He was real. After that prayer I felt much peace and wanted to read the Bible.

I returned to school that Fall. Upon returning to campus, I sought out Christians and joined a Bible study group at a local church. My views toward Christianity and God started to change. During that Thanksgiving holiday, some friends brought me to a Pentecostal retreat. It was there I understood what sin was, and that I was indeed a sinner. Quietly I repented of my sins.

I went back to campus but very soon I backslide. It was difficult to live up to the standards of the Bible. In a few months, God became distant, and I avoided Bible studies and church altogether. Yet, God didn’t let go of me. In the following year, I went to Raleigh, North Carolina as an engineering co-op student. For 9 months, God surrounded me with a loving and encouraging Christian community. In my free time, I spent much time studying the Bible and Christian writers. When I came upon the book of Romans, my spiritual eyes were opened. I realized that I had not fully accepted the sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifices. Instead, I had actually tried to help God look good with my own efforts. I began to grasp that God’s grace and Jesus’ blood was all that I needed and hoped in. When I came upon Rom 12:1-2, I had to surrender myself completely to God and my life was drastically changed. Rom 12:1-2 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

There have been ups and downs in my walk with God through the years, but God has never left me nor forsaken me. By the grace of God, I am here to testify that your eternal hope and assurance can be found in Jesus Christ alone as well. I’d be happy to share more with you if you have questions. Thank you.