Former Atheist cover

Reflections of a Former Atheist

The story of one 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, into a posture of atheistic nonbelief and total rejection of the prior belief system?

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 teenagers 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, where he was stationed with the Air Force from 1967-1968 at Bien Hoa, Vietnam.

In major battles, wherein he saw “hoochmates” killed, his responsibility was often to carry the dead or dying to an aid station. 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, “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?”

“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?”

Glen writes that he immediately felt angry: “He challenged my assumptions, my fundamental worldview—and suddenly I grew insecure.”

After the war, Glen’s 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. He did not like himself, and seemed disgusted with his 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. A year later, with his family gone, his anxiety and discontent elevated.

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 through him, and “I was overcome by waves of refreshing grace.”

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 he was introduced 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.

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Bob Docter

Bob Docter is the founding editor of The Salvation Army New Frontier Publications. He received a doctorate degree in psychology from the University of Southern California, and is a professor emeritus at California State University, Northridge, where he has taught for more than 50 years. He served as a member and President of the Los Angeles Board of Education in the 1970s, during the integration of schools. An Order of the Founder recipient, Docter is revered in The Salvation Army.