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.
In the 1980’s, actor Kirk Cameron was best known for his role as Mike Seaver on the popular sitcom Growing Pains. While Cameron still takes the spotlight from time-to-time, reminding viewers of his rise to fame during his teenage years, he has remained relatively vocal in the media regarding his Christian faith.
What may be largely unknown was that Cameron considered himself an atheist up until is conversion at age 17. Growing up in the greater Los Angelis area of a largely post-Christian California, Cameron holds that he was a “staunch” atheist. In fact, the thought of being religious was an insult to his intelligence. For him, religion was a fairytale, and anyone who thought differently was severely lacking intellectually. This was an attitude he adopted from his family, friends and community where religion was scarcely to be found.
As Cameron’s star rose at about the age of 14, he became rapidly successful with fame, money and world travel at his fingertips. Religion became less appealing than ever since it had always seemed like a system of rules intended to confine and prohibit the enjoyment of life.
It was a frustration to Cameron when he became interested in a girl, and he couldn’t get at her because she was a Christian. This was an immediate obstacle in his attempts to date her. Her father hindered Kirk’s advances, telling Kirk that he needed the Lord.
This frustrated and annoyed Cameron. Said Kirk,
“I don’t believe in God and that’s not something I’m interested in.”
The man invited him to attend church, and Cameron attended with absolutely no pious interests in mind,
“I only went because the girl was really cute and I wanted to get to know her.”
However, as Cameron listened to the sermon, he began to pay attention. The pastor held God up as a being of absolute greatness, perfection and purity. This was not something Kirk had considered before. The minister then explained that the distance between humans – finite, imperfect creatures – and God, only lengthened when humans acted out of self-interest and denounced any connection to their creator.
Despite his disbelief in God, this seemed to make a great deal of sense to young Cameron. But the gaping distance between himself and a perfect God was intimidating, even frightening. However, the minister explained, that despite God’s perfection, purity and infinite separation from finite and imperfect humans, God was loving, compassionate and forgiving, and desired to close that gap and have a relationship with his creatures. This, the minister, explained, was done through the person of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who came to earth, lived a perfect life, and then took the imperfections of humanity upon himself and exchanged them for his perfection so that humans could be united with their God.
All of this hit home emotionally for Cameron, but religion had always seemed so nonsensical to him. So as he rode home with the family, he asked the father questions about science and the Bible, and other world religions and several other things which had contributed to his atheism. He was surprised to find that the father had intelligent answers to these questions.
Cameron began to investigate these things on his own. He began to read the Bible and look into his questions. But what really plagued Kirk was the thought of his own death. As he sat in his sports car one evening, he thought to himself, “If I get in a car accident and die tonight, will I go to heaven?” The answer was clearly “no.”
As his final test for the reality of God, Cameron prayed. He prayed that, if God were real, he would show the young actor his reality, and that he would forgive him.
Cameron’s immediate sense of peace and forgiveness were palpable, as was the change of life he experienced. He began to regularly read the Bible and study up on his newfound beliefs. He discovered that Christianity wasn’t a system of rules and regulations meant to destroy the joy in life, but rather a loving and nurturing relationship with one’s Creator.
Cameron’s activities post-conversion are fairly well-known. He wasn’t timid about revealing his new Christian beliefs to the cast of Growing Pains. He has been involved in several independent Christian film projects in the past several decades, and remains active in several ministry programs. Cameron has never once been shy about his beliefs, and remains a very outspoken Christian in the media.