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EPISODE 62: Rational Belief - Malia Sienkiewiez's Story

Former atheist Malia grew up in a religious home but she never personally believed in God.  When she followed atheism’s rational end towards nihilism, it led to her to question what was true.


Hello, and thanks for joining in. I'm Jana Harmon, and you're listening to Side B Stories, where we see how skeptics flip the record of their lives. Each podcast, we listen to someone who has once been an atheist or skeptic but who became a Christian against all odds. You can hear more of these stories at our Side B Stories website at We welcome your comments on these stories on our Side B Stories Facebook page as well. You can also email us directly with your comments and feedback at [email protected]. We'd love to hear from you.

It's sometimes thought that religious people believe in God not for any rational or evidential reason, but on blind faith alone. Some skeptics have said that religious people believe in God in the face of no evidence or oppositional evidence, evidence that actually leads away from God. Most atheists say there is no evidence for God, nor could there ever be, since He does not exist.

But there are many who believe in God for what they deem to be good, solid evidence. There are many Christians who contend that Christianity is a falsifiable belief, that it is true based upon good evidence, arguments, and reasons, and that they would not believe it if they did not truly think it was the truth. Their intellectual integrity would not allow them to buy into a belief system to satisfy anyone or anything else unless they were genuinely convinced it was worth believing, and for good reason.

In today's story, former atheist Malia once thought belief in God was not compatible with reason, with evidence or science. But she changed her mind. Now she studies the rational grounding for the Christian worldview, something she once thought an irrational and impossible pursuit. How did her paradigm shift occur? I hope you'll join in to find out.

Welcome to the Side B Stories podcast, Malia. It’s so great to have you with me today.

Thank you so much for having me. I'm very grateful to be here.

Wonderful. As we're getting started, Malia, why don't you tell the listeners a little bit about yourself?

My name is Malia. I am 20 years old, I live in Colorado, and I am an apologetics student.

An apologetics student, okay. Where are you studying apologetics?

I first started studying at the University of the Nations, and now I study at the Lee Strobel Center for Apologetics at Colorado Christian University.

Okay, terrific. Wow, a 20-year-old who's studying apologetics. That's an interesting pathway for someone really young. You must be very passionate about what apologetics can bring. Just for the listeners who may not be familiar with what apologetics is, can you describe for a moment what you're studying?

Yeah. So apologetics at a base, it’s defending your faith with reason is the simple way to explain what apologetics is. And I'm focusing on practical apologetics, so that means I'm focusing on using tangible evidence like science, archaeology, history, really modern things to defend the Christian faith in a way that people may not think that they should complement each other.

Wow. That sounds fascinating, and maybe we'll get into that as we pursue your story. I'm sure it's intriguing, too, for those who don't think that any kind of Christian belief is based on evidence.


Yes. I know there are some who think that way, but obviously you're studying a whole curriculum that is moving in the direction of a profound intellectual grounding for the Christian faith. All right, so let's move back into your story, Malia. Why don't we start where you grew up. Tell me a little bit about your home, your family. Did you pray? Did you go to church? Did you have any semblance of belief in God at all in your home? 

I grew up in Denver, Colorado, specifically this little town called Littleton. I'm actually adopted, so I was adopted into a very big family of four older siblings. My parents were originally Catholic when I was growing up, and I was going to a very small private Catholic school. When you grow up, you don't really have an understanding of God or anything of that sort. And so for me, it's kind of just where I was. It wasn't my belief. It was my parents’ belief. We’d go to Catholic church, and I’d have to sit through church on Fridays at my school. We'd pray in class, but God wasn't a common topic in my household. We never prayed together or talked much. It was kind of just, “Let’s go on Sundays, or if we can't go on Sundays, let's do Christmas and Easter.” And so, yeah, I kind of grow up in that sort of setting where there was God, but He wasn't really there, I guess.

As you were growing up, were you praying to God? Did you have a belief that there was a God out there? Or was it just something that you did, more of an activity?

It was more of an activity. I think the influence came from my grandparents to my parents, and it wasn't a belief. It was more of just an activity for us, to get dressed up all nice and go to church. But I can't say I ever really prayed when I was younger, nor did I ever see my parents pray.

But you said you went to a Catholic school?

Yeah. And I would say that was kind of…. When you're in a setting like that, you kind of are forced to do that thing, but I think there's a difference in choosing it and just going along with it.

Okay. And I get the sense that you were just going along with it. So how long were you just going through the motions of this Catholic faith?

I would say till about maybe fifth grade. I think I started to understand as I got slightly older, that it just personally wasn't something I believed, especially when you have…. A lot of young kids have questions such as why do bad things happen to good people? And what about natural disasters? What about these things? And growing up, there were a lot of really bad events for me, especially leading up to fifth grade. And so at that point, I had kind of decided that God just didn't really seem real to me because I hadn't seen Him do anything.

And I don't want to get intrusive, but were the bad things that happened in your life, or were they just kind of around you, in the world at large? Was it more of a conceptual pain and suffering, or were you feeling that very personally?

I would say both. I think, conceptually, outside, looking at the world. Around that time when I was younger, that was when the Arapahoe shooting happened. And so kind of seeing that. And in myself, too, I was picked on a lot as a kid, essentially, for being slightly different from everybody else. I grew up in a town that was marginally all Caucasian, and being the only Asian, very small, very petite, I would say that there was a lot of judgment and a lot of insults thrown my way growing up.

So this good God Who was supposed to be there, Who was supposed to care, didn't seem to, I guess, show up in the ways that you thought He probably should have if He existed. Is that the kind of thing that you were thinking?

Yeah. You hear all about how good God is and all the things that He did in the Bible, but when you kind of take a step back, sometimes you see, “Oh, well, why hasn't God done anything good in my life? And I think that's the question I had that kind of led me to be like, if He hasn't done anything good in my life, He hasn't done anything, therefore He’s not good, and He’s not there.

And you said that was when you were about fifth grade, around ten years old or so?

Yeah, ten or eleven. Just around.

So then you started doubting God at all, but you were still going through the motions, I guess, of church attendance. How did that work out? When you began doubting, were you still required to do all these kind of religious things?

Well, actually, after fifth grade, I had moved to a STEM school, a science, technology, engineering, and math school. So I was no longer required to go to church, and I no longer went with my family to church. We actually stopped going because my parents kind of dropped off from the faith after I left that school. And so I was in a new setting, and we had kind of stopped going to church. And if it was just an activity, you can just stop an activity, because it wasn't really a belief.

Right, right. Yeah. Activities can come and go without much change in living, right? Or in life. And that was just something that dropped off your radar, it sounds like. So then you were moving into middle school, high school, and a STEM program, which is obviously science and technology oriented, why don't you tell us what the view of God was perhaps among your fellow students, your peers, or in your education? What was the sense of whether or not God existed with regard to any of those things? Or did it even come up?

When I was going to middle school and high school in a setting that was primarily dominated by scientific and intellectual minds, God wasn't a topic, but you kind of just knew that it was irrational. Because we go to science, and they talk about evolution and the Big Bang and all of these scientific theories that state how exactly the Earth and the universe were created, and there were no outside questions. It made sense to you at that time, and so when I was going to school, there were a couple of people of different beliefs that…. We never talked about what we believed. If somebody was Mormon, they never really said they were Mormon. If somebody was a Christian, they never really said they were a Christian.

So it basically became a nonissue for you.

Yeah. It was something where I didn't have to think about it, because nobody was bringing it up, and I was already pretty set in what I thought, and everybody else was pretty set in what they thought, and so it just wasn't brought up.

And what did you think around that time? Were you in coherence with the things that were taught at STEM, that we live in a world without anything supernatural, that science explains everything? That kind of thinking. Is that what you basically adopted through that process?

I would say yes. I would say I was pretty firm in the… if God isn't good, He’s not real. And so I kind of said, “Well, there's not a God, so there has to be something, another explanation.”

And at that time, science was really appealing. And so that was kind of where it was, like, “Oh, there's a scientific reason. There is something tangible. There's tangible evidence to why we exist like this, and there is no need for supernatural intervention by God or whatever,” and whatever else there was. Like angels weren’t real, things like that.

Yeah. And it just sounds like that was the world that you lived in. It was a presumption that was made, and it was comfortable for you, and it allowed you to pursue science or technology in the way that you wanted without any complication. During that time, did you ever identify or label yourself as an atheist or an agnostic, or was it not something that you gave a lot of thought to?

I think I didn't really put a name on it until I got to high school. And that's when I started calling myself an atheist, because I wanted to make sure I had all the information to be informed of what I was calling myself. And so when I was going through this technology school in middle school, I wouldn't say that I was an atheist or agnostic. Technically, you could say I was probably an atheist, but I just didn't put that label on until I was able to understand what that label meant. But yes, I would say at that time, I probably was.

Yeah. And atheism is described or defined by a lot of different people in a lot of different ways. How did you conceive of atheism at that time? How would you have described what that is?

I think my understanding of atheism has changed a little bit, but at that time, I would say it was just the nonbelief in anything spiritual or supernatural.

I didn't think God was really a tangible explanation or reason for everything that exists or was going on in our world. And so I just assumed and kind of moved on to the path that there was an intellectual reason, like reason being an intellectual term, like there's evidence, and there's something tangible, and things like that. And so I didn't think God was there, in the realm of intellectualism. And so the way I thought, atheism was essentially intellectualism.

Okay. Okay, good. Yeah. It really buys in a bit into the way of thinking that atheism is the rational way to believe, it’s what the intellectual people believe, it’s what the “brights” believe, all those who are scientific. I think there's a very common mantra in that, and there's a comfortability and a confidence in that as well. And I presume that you were confident in this worldview without God. When did you start doubting? Or what happened that allowed you to question your own sense of atheism or naturalism?

So It was right around when COVID hit actually. I was still in high school. I believe I was a junior, and I was just fine not believing in God. I had a whole plan. I wanted to be a scientist. I wanted to study biochemistry in college. That's what I wanted to do. I wanted to graduate, go to university, study that, and then get a great job. But COVID hit, and all of a sudden, I was stuck in my house, and I had a small little screen where I would talk to my professors, and that's all I did for months. And I kind of was like, “Huh. I wonder what happened. What do I do now?” And my grades kind of started to tank because of being alone in your house and not being able to go out and see people. My biggest thing was being able to ask questions and interact with teachers and stuff like that. And I wasn't able to do that. And so I didn't know a next step. And I actually decided to finish high school early. So I finished high school early, and I didn't know what to do.

And my sister had sent me a text that kind of just said, “Hey, I know you don't have anything to do right now, but I think you should go somewhere, take a gap year before going to college. There's this really great program that you should look into, and they have a location in Hawaii. They have locations all over the world, and it's called YWAM.” And I looked up YWAM. It's called Youth with a Mission. It's a Christian organization. And I thought she was insane.

I bet! Was she a Christian at that time, your sister? Is that why she sent you this information?

Yeah. When I was in high school, my family, so being my two older sisters and my parents, started transitioning into Christianity. So after a couple of years of nonbelief, they started transitioning to believing in God again, but in a different way. And I thought that was weird. And I distanced myself. I didn't go to church. I didn't do youth group. I was like, “I don't believe in God. I don't need to do this.” And so she sent me that text, and I thought she was crazy. I was like, “You know I don't believe in God. Why are you telling me to go somewhere to essentially be with other people who believe in God?”

Yeah, that's really unusual. So did you look into it at all?

Yeah, so I looked into it a little bit, and I assumed, because in every place like that, there's a little group of atheists that are just there because their parents wanted them to be there. And so I was like, “To start, there's probably a group like that, but I don't really want to do this.” And then I got a contact from one of my sister's friends, being two twins, who I was familiar with. And they said, “Hey, we want to talk to you about why YWAM,” and it was completely unprompted. From my memory, it was unprompted. And I was like, “That’s kind of a coincidence, and it's kind of weird, because I don't really believe in coincidences.” And so I agreed to talk to them, and I did my research, and strangely, I felt like I should go, because when I looked at it… yeah.

Yeah, that is strange, and for those, again, who are not familiar with, YWAM, Youth with a Mission, what does that typically entail? Isn't that some form of global travel and commitment?

Yeah. So YWAM, it's a missions organization, Christian missions. And when you go there initially, you do something called a DTS, which is a Discipleship Training School, and you spend three months at the base. There are hundreds of bases around the world. And then you spend three months going to an unknown location doing missions work. And so that's kind of what people were trying to buy me into. They were like, “Oh, you could go stay in Hawaii for three months and then travel. That'd be a really cool experience for you!”

Right. Yeah. So do you think that this was your family's way of trying to get you to become open again to some sort of belief?

Yeah, I believe so, because around that time I was going really deep into philosophy and epistemology and kind of tangling myself in a couple of webs.

Tell me about those.

So my parents ended up sending me to a Christian school for my junior year in high school. For whatever reason, I was there. And I had a teacher, my Bible teacher, who I was really familiar with. He understood kind of where I stood intellectually, and I learned what the term nihilism meant.

And again, for those who aren't familiar with the term, can you describe what nihilism is? 

So nihilism is… Everything is true. Everything is right. I can have my own view on what is right and what is wrong,” you start to go down this path that eventually leads to nihilism, which is if everything, if every opinion of every person is right and wrong, nothing's right and wrong. There's no intrinsic value or intrinsic right or wrong. Therefore, there's no point to your existence, if there's not one sticking point.

Right, right. So there's no objective truth. If everything is relative to a person or a group, there's nothing to call anything absolutely right or wrong, like you say. So what discussion did you have with your teacher about nihilism?

Well, that's actually where I put myself for a year. Because I had gone so deep into science and philosophy and all of these intellectual things, I really couldn't find a tangible explanation to one question, and that question is… it still is at the forefront of my mind. And that question is: What is truth? My teacher asked me that question because we were discussing it in class, and I did not want to answer it in class, and so he asked me in a private conversation, “What is truth?” and I genuinely couldn't answer that question. There was nothing that I could go through that would give me that answer. And so, when you go down the truth route, then you realize, “Well, if truth is all subjective, there is no point to truth, and therefore there is no point to you if there's nothing to hold onto, no core value.” And so I went down that. I was like, “Oh, that's actually where I am.”

How did that feel, coming to that place of realization and even admission?

It's a worse feeling than you think, because, when you start to go down that route of values and the lack of, it's depressing, and I'll be blunt. It's like, “What is the point of being, of living, if you have no value, if there's nothing for you to gain nor give?” So that's kind of where it was, and it kind of sucked because that kind of put me in a hole where I no longer… I didn't want to be at the school where they talked about God because I didn't believe in God. But I also wanted to avoid all of the intellectual conversations and the books that I had kind of spent a lot of time reading into, because both of them kind of drove me down this hole of truth, like, what is it? Does it exist? If it doesn't, there's no point.

So these philosophy books that you were reading, were they from atheist authors or were they from another worldview?

Most of them were from atheists, because they were a lot of the older philosophical texts, which most of them back then were all atheists.

Like Bertrand Russell or some of those.


Or Friedrich Nietzsche or some of the existentialists?

Yeah. A lot of Nietzsche. Nietzsche was a frequent of mine.

Oh, okay. A companion of yours in your reading? Yeah. If you read those books enough, I think that you do realize that, at the end of the naturalistic or atheistic worldview, there is nihilism. It can lead to a point of despair when you realize the underbelly, as it were, of a godless worldview, when you lose all of the things that are important, that make you you, and then all of your values and your dignity and all of those things that substantiated it. So what did you do when you were in this place? You said you were kind of in a hole at that moment when you realized what you had essentially reasoned yourself into believing, into this rational, but almost irrational belief when you look at some of the outcome, or like I say, the underbelly of the belief.

Yeah. At that time, there really wasn't an open door for God. And so for me it was kind of just sitting in that and trying to come up with reasons, so trying to read a bunch of stuff about epistemology and find logical reasons to describe truth. But in reality it's like the realization is truth isn’t… it's not inherently an intellectual logical title. Because where I was, people were just like, “Oh, well, truth is the Bible. Truth is God,” and I thought that was stupid. I thought that that was the most cop-out answer, I guess, to that question. But when I weighed it with mine I was like, “Well, mine doesn't make sense either.” And so I was wondering, “Where do I go from here?”

So you didn't want to believe in God, you didn't think there was any substance to belief in God, but yet you found yourself in between this rock and hard place and allowed you to sit with it and study it about how you know things and how you know truth. And you said that there was a glimmer, there was a breach in the wall as it were, that allowed you to reconsider the possibility of truth, it’s source, it's grounding. What happened? What was this little glimmer of light that came through that allowed you to shift and become open toward the possibility of God?

Well, it was the fact that I just could not answer the question. And then that teacher that I was familiar with had asked me a question and said, “Well, does every question have to be answered intellectually? Does, ‘What is truth?’ does that question have to have an inherently intellectual answer?” Like, “Can’t it just be that the answer to, ‘What is truth?’ be, ‘It's God.’ Can't that just be the answer? And how do you navigate that?” And so I sat and thought, and we had to write reports on this question, and I read a couple of people, and I kind of started to see where maybe I needed to start reasoning less. I needed to kind of take away this worldview that everything had to make perfect sense, everything had to have an intellectual answer. And that's kind of when I started to be like, “Okay, well if truth can't be explained by logic, it has to be something outside. Well, maybe it is God.” I kind of circled back around. I was like, “Well, maybe it is God. If it's not the Christian God, maybe it's something else. Maybe it's Buddhism. Maybe it's Judaism. Maybe it's Hinduism.” Like, “One of them has to be true, because something has to be true. Nothing cannot not be not true.”

So then did you just start looking at and investigating worldviews? Or what path did you go on next?

So I started investigating worldviews, exactly as you said. I had a lot of friends who were Buddhist, so I started with Buddhism, and that didn't really make sense to me. It's kind of a hard concept. So was Hinduism. Hinduism is very complicated and needlessly complicated, and I just didn't see validity in everything else I was looking at, Mormonism.

I even looked at some pseudo-Christian beliefs that were just not… they didn't look good on paper, nor did they look good when I was kind of looking at them, and circling back around, I landed on God and Christianity. And at that time, leading up to when I had decided to finish high school and move on, it was perfect timing because I had said, “Well, God has to be an answer. I might as well spend some time looking at it,” and then that invitation to go to YWAM came up and I said, “Well, it's a perfect opportunity to do some investigating.”

So you said yes to YWAM then? And then you went into that three-month period of training. Is that where you started looking at the question of God a little bit more seriously?

Yeah. It was possibly the worst three months of my life. Not to be over dramatic, but it was such a different setting, and with everybody who—I was wrong, actually. Everybody there believed in God. I could not find one person that had one stray disbelieving thought about God.

Yeah. So that little group of atheists you thought you might find on the road there did not come to fruition. It sounds like you were alone in this.

Yeah. And it was hard because nobody thought like me. I was kind of like, “Oh, well, what about this and this?” and, “Why does this happen?” And, “Why isn't God there in that?” And people just completely pushed away my questions. And they were like, “Oh, well, you don't need to even worry.”

Oh! So they didn't really take your intellectual questions seriously?

No. The people that I was with, I was with a group of people that were very strongly evangelicals, and kind of the impression I got from this specific group of people was that they thought intellectualism was invalid when it came to God.

Wow! So that, I'm sure, was not attractive to you in terms of… I know you were looking a bit beyond reason, but not anti-reason, right? You were looking for something a little bit more solid than, “Just believe,” or, “Don’t worry about that.” That's not satisfying to someone who is intellectually curious.

No, it's not. And really, if you think about it, it doesn't make sense to put blind faith in something. You don't put blind faith in something. You have a reason for it. Nothing is ever blind in that way. There's always a reason that you believe. You have to have a reason or else that faith can begin to feel unreasonable. And that was the case for me. And so I had to go. Now, I kind of say God sent me down this path by myself because I had been so dependent on other people and other people's theories and opinions that I had to go down this six months by myself, where I had to find this middle ground that nobody else was really believing in. But I had to find a middle ground that could say that God and reason do go together.

So what did that six months look like for you in that journey? Obviously, you're not finding affinity with the Christians there in terms of finding answers. So what did you do? How did you solve this seeming conundrum or the tension that was produced by the cognitive dissonance you were feeling? How did you navigate this?

So going through that program was tough because they have a lot of belief in miracles, a lot of belief in spiritual gifts, like prophecy and healing. And that was hard for me to get a grasp on, because Catholics don't believe in that kind of thing. Most Catholics don't. We don't really believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And so it was even harder for me because I could look back and say, “Oh, well, belief in God. I know what that is because my parents used to have it when I was younger.” But the spiritual gifts thing was really hard for me to grasp, so I went through the six months being surrounded by constant talk, like speaking in tongues, healings, seeing a lot of different things that were really hard for me to get a handle on. And then kind of towards the end, I ended up going to the Dominican Republic. And firsthand, whether you believe in miracles or not, I believe that I witnessed them when I was in the Dominican. And I think that was the moment, where I was like, “Oh, wait! God actually most likely probably is real,” when I tangibly saw evidence. I needed tangible evidence, and I hadn't seen it yet. And I saw it. I saw a miracle performed in front of my face. And that's for somebody who prides themself on basing all of their thoughts on tangible evidence, I had to take that into consideration.

So I'm just curious, what kind of miracle did you see that caused, again, for you to consider that possibly God is real?

Again, whether you believe or not, this is like a personal experience of mine. I saw a woman in a church. She had a really horribly bad gash on her foot, and it was infected, and it was deep, and it was ugly, and she couldn't walk, and she was going to have to get it amputated because it was climbing up her leg. It was very bad. And a good friend of mine, he was kind of like the glue for me, I think. When I had the most doubts, he sat with me. Even if he didn't understand my thinking, he just let me talk. And he prayed with me even when I really didn't want to or when I didn't know how to pray. He really kind of guided me through the six months, even though it was really hard. And he had said, “Hey, I want you to see something. Let's go pray for this woman.” And I was like, “Oh, well, I don't really know what we can do for her. She should go see a doctor, but let's go pray for her.” And I think it took maybe 5, 10 minutes. And I watched her stand up and walk, and I watched the gash close.

Oh, my! That would be very unsettling in a good, surprising way. Unsettling, though.

It was unsettling, because she went from having to hop her way in and sit down and not be able to even stand on her leg to jumping around, dancing, walking, and it was completely fine. And again, whether you believe in miracles or not, to me that's evidence. That's evidence right in front of my face.

And it happened immediately, after the prayer?

Yeah. It took a couple times, and this miracle healing, I saw a couple more of them when I was in the Dominican, and that was the evidence I needed and that I was asking for from numerous other types of faith, but especially from God. When I had first circled back to God, I was like, “I need tangible evidence, because if not, I don't think this is something I could believe in.”

Wow. So you weren't convinced of the truth of God so much as the reality of God. It wasn't through a rational argument. It was through an experience of watching the miraculous.


So, in some ways, I guess, what the YWAM people were telling you is, “Just believe. Look at the miracles. Look at what's happening. Don’t look at the intellectual arguments and evidences.” But like you say, that is a kind of evidence, what you witnessed with your own eyes. So take us from there. You were trying to make sense of what you were seeing. You were admitting the possibility of God. Where did you go with that?

Well, now that I had tangible evidence, I was like, “Okay, now I have the belief, but now I need a reason piece.” Like I need some sort of logical reason to believe in God other than He performs miracles. That was hard for me, and I think that was the first step. I walked away from that experience with that initial belief, being like, “Okay. Nobody else can do this. This is obviously God.”

So I ended up going back home and then going back to Kona to be involved in a program that was more intellectually based. And so it was studying the Bible for three months, studying classic worldview for three, and then studying apologetics for three. So I guess you could say that's kind of where I got my attention kind of piqued, because, reading the Bible, I'd never read the Bible all the way through. I read it all the way through at least twice, maybe almost three times, in that first three months. And I started to understand the character of God, and I started to ask questions. And there was a teacher at this school who was… he had a degree in biblical studies, and so I asked him questions, and he was able to answer them. Not only did he answer them, the questions that I had since I first came to YWAM, he also told me to keep asking questions. And that was the first time that I heard that encouragement, that curiosity is really important.

Wow! I bet that was refreshing for you, because you hadn't found, I guess, a community of Christians who were willing to ask the questions or answer the hard questions or to value reason as you did. So I'm sure it was encouraging to you to actually run into someone who's saying, “Yes, ask the questions,” that there are actually answers for these.

Yeah, and he also said, “Keep asking questions, because if I can't answer them, eventually there will be answers, because God will answer those questions for you.” And that kind of changed my whole opinion on Christianity, because originally the thought was, “Oh, it's just belief. There's no intellectualism because they don't like people who think intellectually.” But this teacher, he changed that whole thought and got me kind of back to where I was, but in a different way. So now I was asking questions and doing research, but now I was doing it in the direction of Christianity. So I was writing down questions and looking them up and reading the Bible and trying to find these answers because they were so important to me, because I needed these questions and answers to explain why I believed. And I really think I owe my current belief to this teacher and his wife, who actually is an apologist. And she started pushing me towards apologetics.

So now I was answering the hard questions, and I was asking them, and I was understanding where God stands in all of that. And so I went from this, “Oh, well, I guess God exists because He can do tangible things. That’s really cool.” And then coming back to be like, “Oh, well, there's now a reason to believe in God. God is actually intellectually true,” when I thought about it. And I think that was kind of… yeah.

Yeah. So just for clarification, subjectively there is truth that we decide in ourselves, but objective truth is that there's truth outside of us, whether we believe it or not, something is true or not true. So when you're saying, you were believing in God and you were choosing to believe in God, there is, in a sense, a subjective component to it, that there is a willingness there to see what you perhaps weren't able to see or didn't want to see before.

But yet you're telling me that there is an objective reason to believe that God is true and real and the things that you were learning with regard to truth and reality and Christian belief are, in a sense, objective, that they are objectively true and rational and reasonable, and that there is a worldview there that seems to match with your intuitions and with reality. It's not just faith that you want to be true.

Yeah. I think it's your choice. Your belief is your choice, but with that belief, you need to have a personal reason. The question is, “Why are you a Christian? Why are you a blank? Why do you believe?” And if you were to ask me that question, I would say because I believe there's tangible scientific evidence for God when compared to the classically naturalistic theories that we have that explain the Earth. If I were to weigh them against each other, I would say that the creation story makes way more sense when you look at the specifics. It makes more sense when you look at science.

I don't like the separation between science and God because I think they go together. I think science, logic, and God actually do cohere. And I think it took first a choice to say, “Okay, well, if truth is subjective maybe I do choose to try to find a different truth.” And then you come to what is actually true, which there is one objective truth. Whether you believe that or not, there is one. You just have to choose to find it first.

Because you had become open, you had chosen to really see the evidence for what it was, it came to a place where it actually was rational and reasonable, and like you say, all the pieces came together. It made more sense, even scientifically, which is a far path from where you were in your high school days, when you thought that science and God were incompatible, or at least belief in them were incompatible. But you were able to see actually the reality of God helps us make more sense, even rationally, of the world around us and how we make sense of ourselves. So it sounds like that, through your study, you were able to make sense of things intellectually, rationally, that the worldview seemed to come together in a way that made sense for you and what you had observed, even in the miraculous events in the Dominican Republic. Did the pieces start falling together for you as you were willing to pursue the evidence and the logic and the rationality of Christianity?

Yeah. It’s hard to describe in words the exact process that happened for me, but I started to realize there's not a separation in what I believe and what I think intellectually. And so I was able to start taking the things that I thought and putting it towards my belief. And I think when I got rid of that separation, that's when I begin to really believe in this cohesion together, that it's not just feelings and thoughts separate, but they're together. And when you put them together, you can make sense of it so much more. And I think I had this separation and so, again, it's kind of hard to put into words, but I began to take what I knew and apply it towards a Christian worldview and a belief in God and kind of merge them together, and they made more sense together than they did apart for me personally. And so that's when, as you say, the pieces fell together, and that's kind of when I really called myself a Christian, when I could actually believe, know why I believe, and had a reason to believe in God.

So you had confidence that what you were believing in was true and for good reason. That’s what you had been looking for all along, I suppose.

It wasn't worth believing in something that wasn't true, so I wanted to make sure something was true before I believed it, essentially.

Right, right. Wow! It sounds like you have a very confident belief now and you're pursuing more in terms of your study of the Christian worldview because you obviously have not only believed it intellectually, but I presume personally as well. Truth is also a person, right? And Christianity is intellectual belief and assent to certain things that are true about reality and history and about the person of Christ, but it's also knowing the person of Christ, right? And the Christian story really of putting our trust in Him. So I imagine that was part of your conversion as well?

Yeah. That was. Yes.

Yeah. That's beautiful. Malia, you know what? I really appreciate your honesty and your struggle. It seems like you were alone for a lot of your life in terms of not only just believing as an atheist and coming to that conclusion, but also in your path towards God. It wasn't as if you were surrounded by a lot of people who were able to answer questions, who were able to come alongside and deal with not only your intellectual angst and your cognitive dissonance, but eventually, eventually you found your way. I think there's something to say about perseverance, intellectual longing, and curiosity to make sense of your life and the world around you. And you weren't willing to give up on that.

I commend you for following that, even though it was a very difficult path for you at times, and even though you put yourself in very uncomfortable situations, even with a group of Christians who didn't believe the way that you did, that you were willing to go to an unknown location in the world and to really figure out this question. And there's no bigger question than the question of God.

Yeah. I would say that, for me, it was important for me to do it alone. And I did have people. Whenever I needed it, somebody came into my life to kind of prompt me to go a way. But I really think, for me, it was a personal understanding I had to come to without falling into what other people believed, without falling into the norm. I think that's why I was put in such uncomfortable situations, to essentially be isolated even in a huge group of people, because I think that's what I needed, and I think it was worth it. And I think I did find what I needed because of it, because I was kind of forced to be by myself with my thoughts.

If there is someone who's curious, he’s skeptical or she is skeptical, and they're thinking, “Well, I don't know. I wish I knew what was true,” that they may be in that place where you were, in kind of a conundrum of trying to figure out what life is about, where to find truth. How do I know it? How would you commend the skeptic? What next step would you encourage them to take? I know Bible reading was part of it for you, but that was a little bit later in your journey. You were willing to read the atheists, but you were willing to sit down and read the Bible. You were trying to engage questions with Christians. How would you encourage someone?

First of all, I want to say it's not about age. I think people think there's a certain understanding that comes later in life or earlier in life. I'm really young, but I came to that understanding, and I've seen older people come to that understanding. I've seen teenagers come to an understanding of God and belief. And I think the first thing I would say for a skeptic is just be willing to ask questions. I think questions are always the first knock on the door. I think when you ask a question, you're begging curiosity and allowing yourself to follow those questions, So to find answers, to consider all the possibilities. I'm not going to say you have to read the

Bible first to do all this, but if you have a question, ask the question and see where it leads you, because it might lead you down a route that you never thought you'd be down, but a route that gives you more satisfaction than the one you were down before.

I think asking questions is critical, really. And I appreciate that for you. And I do also appreciate the fact that, you're right, anyone of any age, as long as they're willing to ask questions and pursue truth, it can be brought to them, or they can find it, basically. They can discover what's real and true. And if you could think back in your young life, perhaps of the Christians who impacted you on your journey along the way, like you say, God sent someone in your life here and there when you kind of needed it, what would you say to the Christian who wants to engage with those who don't believe?

Something that I'm very firm in my belief about is that every Christian should be asking questions and not in a way that leads to…. Questions are healthy. Not every question leads to doubt, but it just leads you to strengthen your belief. And I would say for Christians trying to engage with nonbelievers is encouraging questions from people who don't believe, willing to have conversations where they sit, and all you do is ask questions. I mean, that's the biggest part of apologetics, what I'm studying, is just asking questions and prompting somebody to ask a question that leads them down a path that is going to lead them to an answer that they essentially need. And so I think just learning to kind of defend with questions, but not offensively. I think there's something to trying to understand a nonbeliever. Rather than telling a nonbeliever they're wrong and that they need to read the Bible, that they need to go to church, ask the nonbeliever questions like, “Oh, well, why don't you believe?” “Oh, well, if truth isn't a God, what is truth then?” Like, “What do you think?” Asking very prompting questions, really I think ultimately that is a better approach to helping people believe than trying to really hammer in the idea that Jesus died for you and that you have to read the Bible. Because that comes next, but you have to let somebody go down the curiosity and the belief first before they can start nailing down the details, if that made any sense.

Yeah. That absolutely made sense, and again, I come back to thinking about your journey and that you were, I guess, there for a while, perhaps in high school, you were presuming that the atheistic worldview was true and you really weren't interested in the question of God. But you eventually became interested. For those who aren't even willing to engage in questions, I mean, how would you have… thinking back again to the time period in your life where you really weren't interested. How would it have affected you if a Christian would have tried to engage you in conversation at that point? In question asking?

The thing is, I was always asking questions. Whether I believed it or not, “What is truth?” was a question in the back of my head for a very long time. It just wasn't candidly an issue until later. And I think at that time, if I would have been asked those questions, yes, I might have gotten a little defensive, but I think it still would have prompted me, because I had a couple of conversations like that that always prompted me to kind of look more into, “Oh, I wonder why they thought that way. I wonder why my thoughts contradict theirs or why theirs contradicts mine.” And I think, if somebody gets offended, it just means that they're probably

going to think about it, and they're going to think more about what you said. And so I would say asking a non-offensive question that might offend somebody, I think, does more than it does to try and shove the gospel down somebody's face and be up front about it. I think I would rather give a question that's prompting and deep that might offend them, but it means they'll go look at it later, and they'll come back to it.

I think that's really great advice, Malia. As we're wrapping up here, is there anything that you think that we've missed in your story or in what you're advising us? Is there anything else you want to say?

I just think the last thing I'll say is curiosity is important, and I think that's the whole point, that I would say my journey is curiosity is important, and guided by the right things, it leads to a place where I'm very firm in my belief in God, and I have a reason for it. If it wasn't for curiosity and somebody asking me questions or letting me ask questions, I don't think I'd be where I am. And so, if anything, I think everybody should learn how to ask good questions. I mean, whether you're a Christian or not, everybody should learn how to ask good questions, and maybe you'll be led to an answer that is more true than what you originally thought.

Yeah, that's true. Curiosity. Like you say, questions for ourselves or questions for others. That's how we grow, right? Even if we're challenged in our own beliefs by what we read and what we seek, we're always wanting to be led towards truth. So that's a good encouragement for us all, Malia. Thank you so much for coming on and telling your story today. I so appreciate it!

Of course. Again, thank you so much for letting me come on and tell my story.


Thanks for tuning in to Side B Stories to hear Malia’s story. You can find out more about some of the books she read that led her towards a solid belief in God and Christianity, as well as where she is studying apologetics, in our episode notes. For questions and feedback about this episode, you can contact me through our website at or again directly through our email address at [email protected]. Again, if you are a skeptic or atheist and you would like to connect with a former atheist with your questions, please contact us at our Side B Stories website or email address, and we will get you connected. I hope you enjoyed this episode with Malia and that you will follow, rate, review, and share this podcast with your friends and social network. In the meantime, I'll be looking forward to seeing you next time, where we'll see how another skeptic flips the record of their life.

Listen to more stories from skeptics and atheists who investigated Christianity.

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