David Wood, a former atheist, has an incredible story to share concerning his conversion to Christianity (1). I am not fully aware of what he thinks of himself as of today but Wood does admit to once being a sociopath and explains that “sociopaths don’t form normal attachments to other people. They lack empathy. When they see a person suffering they don’t feel bad over it.”
In fact, he thought that his detachment from any concern for other people was evidence of the next step in human evolution, “I was in high school biology when evolutionary theory was really laid out for us. Species develop new characteristics, new traits, and then those can actually eventually take over. And so I concluded that maybe I had reached a higher stage of humanity where I wasn’t held back by emotions the way other people were.” This became the foundation for Wood’s justification for engaging in acts that transgressed the law, “And so I came to regard all these little rules that people tell you to follow as kind of brainwashing me. Breaking into places, and breaking into the school, or stealing things. I felt like I was stripping away these layers of rules that people had been imposing on me my entire life and it was an amazing feeling.”
However, when he was just 18 his intentions spiraled towards the extreme and he plotted to murder his own dad, “And if I really wanted to be free of everything I had been brainwashed into thinking about right and wrong then I decided to kill my dad. And I decided to do it in a brutal fashion, not a gunshot, I was going to do it with a hammer. When I walked up to my dad with the hammer in my hand and I hit him in the head seven or eight times until I thought he was dead, and I just left.” Lucky for his dad one of his friends, Jim, found him “covered in blood and took him to a hospital…” Wood then knew it was a matter of time before he was discovered as the culprit and thus decided to confess to his mom, “and so I went and told my mom, “Hey, I may have done this” because I thought I was being told on at that moment. [But] instead of taking me to the police she took me to a psychiatric hospital. They made a report based on the time I was there and it said anti-social personality disorder.” Subsequent to him spending time in the psychiatric hospital and undergoing psychiatric tests he would be sentenced by a judiciary, “Since my dad survived I was convicted of malicious wounding. I was sentenced to 10 years in prison.”
Wood recounts that he met a Christian in prison who proved to be unlike the other Christians he had met previously. They built a relationship and argued back and forth, “There was a Christian named Randy and he was a bit different from everyone else, and one day he was reading his Bible and I walked up to him, and I said, “hey! You know why you’re reading your Bible? You’re reading your Bible because you were born in the United States. If you were born in China you would be a Buddhist, if you were born in India you would be a Hindu, if you were born in Saudi Arabia you would be a Muslim because people like you believe whatever you’re taught to believe. He started arguing with me and he started tearing me to pieces, and that was very different from other Christians that I’d argued with in the past. And this happened for a couple of months of [having] a series of arguments with Randy of Christianity versus my worldview. Randy was winning the arguments that we were getting into. I’m not going to beat him this way I am going to have to really learn the Bible so that I can respond to him. I regarded that as my weakness.”
As a result of Randy, Wood started to seriously consider the Bible and was taken aback by the person of Jesus presented within it, “I have to say that I was impressed with Jesus.” This, he now notes, challenged his atheism at the time, “I went from thinking that I was the best person in the world to thinking that I’m the worst person in the world. The question came up: either I’m stuck like this or there is someone out there that can deal with this. Who out of anyone had the ability to change, radically change, severely messed up people. It’s Jesus or it’s nothing. It’s Jesus or there is just no hope. I bowed down and I prayed and I said, “God, I don’t know if I am going to believe in you tomorrow but I believe in you right now. If you can do anything with me you’re welcome to it.”
So, he prayed and recounts that something inexplicable occurred at that very moment, “And I ran through the sinners prayer that I had heard there in the jail [and] when I sat up the whole world looked different. It looked like I was in a different place, it looked like it was a different colour, and I didn’t know if this was just something weird going on but I didn’t want to hurt anyone at that point. Soon an amazing calm… it felt like I had been physically non-stop brawling all my life and then I finally could just sit down and rest.”
But despite this massive shift Wood was still left with a father who he had previously bludgeoned with a hammer, “While I was in prison I thought it would be bad to actually confess because my dad, again, had no recollection. I’m a Christian now and I can’t spend my entire life saying I haven’t done something that I’ve done.” So, he penned a letter in which he laid everything out to his dad and “He came to see me at the first chance… he said it was okay, and he forgives me. He told me, “I really didn’t think you did it.” And so for him to hear all of that at once and to still forgive me it’s amazing stuff.”
Wood has moved on with his life. He had not only attended college but also got married, had a family, and lived in honour and awe of Jesus, “Between jail and prison I was locked up for a little over five years. I got out of prison in 2000 and started college immediately. I started arguing with a young woman who was an agnostic and she eventually became a Christian, and we were married the following year. We have kids and being able to watch them grow up [but] given the things I had done I should not be able to have this sort of normal life. It kind of blows me away.”
Today Wood is an active Christian apologist at an organisation called Acts 17. He has since debated a number of opponents representing both Islam and atheism. Acts 17 explains that David Wood “is a Teaching Fellow in Philosophy. A former atheist, David converted to Christianity after examining the evidence for God’s existence and the historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. He has degrees in biology and philosophy and is a member of the Society of Christian Philosophers and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. David lives in the Bronx, NY, with his wife Marie and his three sons—Lucian, Blaise, and Reid” (2).
Wood, however, leaves us with the following thoughts, “I want people out there to know that there is a creator to this world, that there is a point to this world, that other people are important and that it’s not all just about you. Jesus rose from the dead and that shows that there is a point to everything, that there is a creator and that he does care about us, and that he entered this world to die for us. And that is a message that matters because it changes everything.”
1. YouTube (Theology, Philosophy, and Science). 2015. Psychopathic Atheist Turns to Jesus | Short Testimony of David Wood. Available.
2. Light, J. 2010. Amazing Grace Amid Profound Controversy. Available.