on the corner “The battle between belief and nonbelief”
By Robert Docter, Editor-In-Chief
Reviewing “Reflections of a Former Atheist “
This is a time to celebrate re-birth, to recognize the Babe of Bethlehem and his growth as God’s son, the Christ, the Messiah, who gave such a second chance to all who would believe in his name.
The story of one such second chance is captured in a new Frontier Press title, “Reflections of a Former Atheist,” by Major Glen Doss.
In it, Glen tells a story of the war between belief and nonbelief. How does one move from a childhood belief system, fully accepting Christian principles taught by loving parents and others in the church, into a posture of atheistic nonbelief and total rejection of the prior belief system? And, how does one find a way back?
The book is organized in short chapters that tell this story. Each one concludes with “reflections” that help the reader understand the means by which individual spiritual change can take place.
Growing up, Glen read major works by major authors in his deep, hidden sanctuary within a “patch of woods” near the family’s southern Arkansas farm. He wrestled with deep thoughts, trying to make sense of life and of God.
“Few things are as intoxicating as a teenager’s first taste of arrogance,” he writes, realizing that his “new god was none other than—myself.” He made what he describes as an exhilarating leap both into maturity and to atheism.
Much of the book deals with Glen’s life in the military. Stationed with the Air Force from 1967-1968 at Bien Hoa, Vietnam, he experienced an airbase heavily shelled by the enemy. He writes that he had no patience for those who “held on to that (God) myth.”
In major battles, wherein he saw “hoochmates” killed, his responsibility was often to carry the dead or dying to an aid station. “Taking in the scene, I freeze. I feel I am about to lose my composure—to scream and cry out in protest, to sob like a baby—when my new friend, stoicism steps into my mind, shuts the door upon my emotions and securely locks it,” Glen writes.
As the battles raged, some soldiers sobbed, screamed and cried. “And then there was Joe”; as Glen describes: “When the world around us seemed to be falling apart, Joe went about his day unperturbed.”
Glen said to him once, “Nothing seems to rile you. While the rest of us are shaking in our boots, wondering if our number is going to be up next, or getting drunk at the club—doing just about anything to keep our sanity, you sit calmly reading your Bible, maintaining that steady, unworried demeanor. Why is that? Where does your peace of mind come from—this courage that you show?”
“I place my trust in God, and I believe he will do what’s best, and he knows what that is far better than I do. So, why should I worry?” Joe said.
Glen replied, “Okay, that may work for you; me, I don’t believe in God.”
“So I’ve heard,” Joe said. “I know—and how is that going?”
Immediately, Glen writes that he felt angry: “He challenged my assumptions, my fundamental worldview—and suddenly I grew insecure.”
After the war, his absence of faith made him feel powerless as his travels as an editor/reporter for Stars and Stripes brought him into proximity with desperate and hurting people. Glen did not like himself, and seemed disgusted with his bigotry and arrogance.
Time moved on. Now married with two children, Glen brought his self-contempt home, unable to show much affection, lost in his own loathing.
Battling the idea of suicide, Glen checked himself into the Naval Hospital in San Diego. He describes the conflict of his choices between life and death with a quote by E. Stanley Jones: “We who decided we would not live with God, find we cannot live with ourselves.”
A year later, with his family gone, his anxiety and discontent elevating, he called his brother, Dale, a Baptist minister. “There is real peace to be found in Jesus Christ,” Dale said. But Glen laughed.
By summer 1986, Glen’s resources were exhausted and he recognized that the “death wish was winning.” Then Scripture came to him—Be still, and know that I am God (Ps. 46:10a NIV).
Repeating the verse, he writes that the experience was “a warm, warm feeling of familiarity.” A bolt of “sheer energizing power” shot though him, and “I was overcome by waves of refreshing grace.” He writes: “O Lord, thank you for your patience.”
The new convert needed a church, and it had to be one that existed for “helping hurting, suffering, broken people—not simply to preach and pastor.” Through an article in People Magazine that described the election of Eva Burrows as General, Glen found The Salvation Army.
He researched the organization and began attending the San Diego Citadel Corps where Recruiting Sergeant John Nute introduced him to all things Army. Within a few years, Glen felt a call to full-time ministry and entered training. Ordained and commissioned two years later, Glen began putting his own “practical Christianity” into action.
Athiest” by Glen Doss is
published by Frontier Press and is available online at