Throughout the month of February, this column will be featuring stories of noted atheists who experienced dramatic shifts in their views, eventually becoming Christians. The stories will highlight the reasons why they held their atheistic views to begin with, and the reasons they became convinced of the truth of Christianity.
As an Aerospace Engineer for the U.S. Navy, Jason Pratt is not inaccurate when he describes himself as a rocket scientist for the government. He has flown F-14 Tomcats and the F/A-18F Super Hornet. He was a test pilot of the FA-18B and D Hornet, the FA-18F Super Hornet, and the T-45 Goshawk. His pedigree with all things aeronautical is well established. As was his atheism.
Pratt grew up in a single parent home. He and his sister were raised by their mother, who felt it was her duty to introduce them to church in their teenage years. The church Pratt attended was a religious shell: a ritualistic facade with little reference to actual scriptural teachings. He went through the ceremonial steps as a matter of form, and the moment he was confirmed by the church, he confirmed himself an atheist, and left the church in his dust. His family took this with barely a nod, and as soon as she was confirmed, his sister followed his example.
After High School, Pratt entered college to study engineering. Academically, he proved himself quite brilliant, and flaunted that brilliance at every opportunity. He describes himself as very much a “self-righteous atheist” in college.
He found his atheism very freeing, morally, living by the code of “do whatever you want as long as nobody gets hurt.”
“I started to meet other students, and some of them were claiming to be Christians. I even had some of them as roommates. Having had some church background, I knew the type. They were hypocrites, deluded by the silly book that they claimed they believed in. And so I frequently took pleasure in ridiculing them. I would mock them. I would look for any reason to bring out things that they would claim they believe and I would just make fun of them, and mock their God and the Bible that supposedly guided them.
“I generally enjoyed playing the intellectual superior, and I enjoyed challenging what they believed.”
Not much surprise to Pratt, most of the Christians he met had no ability to defend their faith against his ridicule.
Pratt notes that he had roommate from other religious backgrounds as well – Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus – but for some reason, it was only the Christians who really bothered him and brought his ridicule bubbling to the surface. The others, he simply left alone.
One day, however, Pratt met a fellow engineering student named John Thatcher. Thatcher had a perfect GPA, which was somewhat intimidating to someone like Pratt, who took such pride in his own intellect. Thatcher was a very likable guy. He was also a Christian. This made things difficult for Pratt.
At the same time, Pratt discovered that his Academic Adviser – a leading authority in the field of Thermodynamics – was a Christian. This discovery was made when Pratt went to his adviser’s office one day in order to request some help from the brilliant man. As Pratt approached his office, he was shocked to find a scientific article, arguing Thermodynamics from a Christian perspective, hanging from his office door. Pratt was so infuriated, he stormed away and never spoke to his adviser again.
Confused and upset that these two very intelligent men would believe in superstitious nonsense, Pratt made it his goal to truly examine the claims of Christianity for the first time.
Pratt’s approach was to get his hands on a Bible and begin to read it. He intended to give it the benefit of the doubt, and then crush it under his superior intellect.
The Biblical claim upon which Pratt focused was the resurrection of Christ. He knew that all of Christian belief rested on that claim, and if he could show this to be false, he could knock down Christendom once and for all, present this to his friends, and be done with it.
Pratt turned his skeptical eye not just upon the Christian arguments, but also upon the critical responses. He was surprised to find that a great many of the critic’s arguments against Christianity failed to pass muster when he looked at them with the same skepticism he had used against Christianity itself.
During this time, Pratt’s academic studies brought him to a startling observation. He realized that no matter what field of science he was studying, there were elements of design that were all interconnected. One could look at fluid dynamics and see the same principles operating within the blood stream, in a water treatment plant, flowing over the wing of a jet plane, or in the fuel lines of that same aircraft. The simplicity and complexity of elements of design that he saw around him were startling and amazing. The principles of physics and the universe at large began to seem less and less like the product of chance to him. As an engineer himself, it all began to look suspiciously like the product of engineering.
The fact that the Bible was not so easy to invalidate as he originally thought it might be, and the fact that he could see so much design in the world around him, caused Pratt to begin to pursue Christian thought more seriously than before. He began to attend a church along with a Christian girl in whom he was interested. He continued to keep up the front of being a disinterested atheist, however.
After college, Pratt attended Graduate School and continued to attend Churches. It was some time after he graduated that he heard his pastor talk about a passage on forgiveness. It was then that he realized what a great gift God’s forgiveness really was. He had lived however he liked, with regard only for himself, yet God was willing to forgive all of that. It was then that Pratt accepted that forgiveness and put his trust in Jesus, becoming a true Christian.
Jason Pratt still works in his capacity for the U.S. Navy and was a Navy selectee for astronaut candidacy. Pratt also travels as a Christian Apologetics speaker, sharing his testimony and using his scientific knowledge to enlighten the Christian Church as to how Christianity facilitates rather than hinders scientific advancement.