Narnia brought a Harvard atheist to faith


Jordan Manji regarded The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe as fun fantasy. But when she tried to answer tough questions — like where does morality come from? — the proud atheist found herself confronted by Aslan.

“I came to John 19, and as I was reading the crucifixion scene, I said, ‘No Aslan, no,’” she said as a student at Harvard University.

In C.S. Lewis’ Narnia classic about another world where animals talk and ally with four children against an evil army of giants and ogres, Aslan is a lion who saves the day by letting himself be sacrificed on the stone table by the evil witch who fails to grasp that her right to kill the supernatural animal is not the end of the story.

Aslan comes back to life and rescues the Narnians when they are on the verge of certain defeat.

Jordan grew up in an atheist home in which members of the family assigned themselves value based on what they do.

“My family is very competitive, she says. “There’s always been a high priority on being the best. So much of my identity was founded on I’m the smartest one in the room right. I’m not the prettiest. I’m not the most athletic, right?”

That worked well throughout high school, where she dominated. She was so brainy that she made it into Harvard University. That’s where her world started to crumble. She was no longer the smartest in the room.

“One of the hardest things as an atheist is all of these values. Why am I important?” she wondered. “Why should people care about me? A lot of those things come from your own performance.”

Jordan decided to be an atheist at 11 years old, at which time she began calling out Christians in the classroom and embarrassing them with “scientific” and “rational” questions that they didn’t know how to answer.

“I would bring the Bible to school with post-it notes through where all the contradictions were,” she remembers. “When I would say tell me why this is a contradiction, people didn’t really know.”

She delighted in making Christians stumble. But she slowly grew aware of her own contradictions, the points of the atheism worldview that don’t have easy explanations. This realization was irritating. What were the answers?

“Where does morality come from if not from God? Why is something right or wrong? Why do I believe in human rights?” she says. “I don’t believe in a God. So where are these things coming from? I had gone and asked all of these other people and nobody had a good answer.”

So she decided to wait for college. Surely in the environment of so much brain power and collective scholarship, she would find answers that satisfied her internal restlessness.

“I got into Harvard and I’m no longer the smartest person in the room, 95 % of the time,” she remembers.

Since her identity was so wrapped up in her being the best student in class, now her self-worth collapsed.

“It destroyed that sense of my identity and worth, and it made me wonder who I am really am and what makes me valuable,” she says.

As she wrestled with these difficult questions, she became friends with a Christian fellow student. He prompted her to think about still more troubling questions.

“I started seeing: Maybe there are these cracks in my own intellectual framework,” Jordan realized.

To quell all doubts, she enrolled into a metaethics, the study of moral thought and language. She really hoped to strengthen her arguments.

Instead, upon reading an essay by C.S. Lewis, she stumbled even more in her line of reasoning. Simple yet profound truth helped her understand the definition and origin of right and wrong.

“Essentially what he said was God is goodness, and our lives are good when we strive to imitate God,” she remembers. “It was mind-blowing.”

The bulwarks of atheism were crumbling. As a last resort, Jordan turned to the Bible.

But instead of finding ammunition to unleash against Christians, she got shot through the heart herself. The Sermon on the Mount exposed your own hypocrisy. She wasn’t sleeping around, but she realized she had sinned in thought.

“I was a good student. It was very easy for me to think of myself as a good person,” she says. “It was only when I went back to the words of Jesus and I saw ‘no, you’re an angry person. You may not be sleeping around, but you experience lust. You are very arrogant. You think too highly of yourself.’

“Seeing those things made me realize that I wasn’t really a good person.”

As she plowed through the Gospels, she got to the section in John about Jesus’ death. She was stunned by the parallels between The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and the Gospel of John.

Just like Edmund was arrogant and resistant to kind Aslan, so too had she been. As Edmund had been redeemed by Aslan, so too she needed redemption. Read the rest: Narnia brought a Harvard atheist to faith.

One response to “Narnia brought a Harvard atheist to faith

  1. This is such an uplifting story! Thank you for the post. It reminds me of how powerful God is at work and it’s when we least expect him to be.

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