Let me start by saying that my upbringing was very firmly secular. My family made it clear from a young age that belief in a supreme being was the folly of the idiot or those on the lower echelons of society. We were intellectuals and therefore did not hold to any belief other than those based in ‘science’. My family were however, Jewish by race and so we did partake in the Jewish holidays and festivals and even attended the local reform synagogue on a semi-regular basis, however it was constantly affirmed that these were merely cultural exercises and nothing more.
My grandmother was a Jewish communist and was responsible for my firm Jewish identity, herself being brought up in a kosher home. However this also instilled me with socialist principles from a very young age. In fact at a young age I can remember going on Anti-War marches and even telling teachers that I was communist, laughing at those who subscribed to the Christian faith.
Despite this, since I can remember, I have had a keen interest in politics, philosophy and religion. I can remember being eager to go to synagogue at around age nine, not for religious purposes, but again for a sense of heritage. On my tenth birthday I was given a kippah by my mother and father (along with a Complete Works of Shakespeare).
I decided to start exploring and researching every religious system that I could find (joining debate and philosophical societies at just age 11, even winning an award in philosophy from a local college). I started with my local Rabbi who I knew fairly well, but I found his answers fairly vague and his arguments unconvincing, so I went further to explore every faith system I could from Islam to Church of England and Mormons and from Scientologists to Raelians. Finally after all that research, I came to the conclusion that there was no God.
One of the groups I had discovered along the way was a pseudo-religious organisation started in 1966 in California by self-proclaimed eccentric Anton Szandor LaVey, who had name his organisation The Church of Satan. The Church of Satan are an atheist organisation that use the symbology if Satan to describe the carnal man. I thought of the CoS as being a haven for the intellectual outcast shrouded in mystery and rich in symbology and ritual, and so at the age of 14 I started to follow the teachings of LaVeyan Satanism.
At this point I was seen as a kind of figure head of atheists in the school I went to (The BRIT School) and had regular arguments with Christian students, getting backing from a large group of militant atheists. I used to regularly read my Satanic bible in order to provoke arguments with those who seemed to me to be rationally weak.
One day whilst coming back from school in the afternoon, on a Friday, I saw a group of Christians on my local High Street at a stall. I had on my person the Satanic Bible and decided it would be great to start an argument with these ‘nut jobs’. I approached them and started propagating those beliefs taught in The Satanic Bible and supporting those with arguments that I had learnt from various sources. After quite a long conversation, the main man whom I was speaking with invited me to meet him for a coffee the following week. I agreed and we went our separate ways. I did some research before the next meeting and had a lot of rebuttals and points ready for this conversation. I met the man I had spoken to (I’ll call him B) and another man (I’ll call him E). They presented me with the gospel and answered a few of the questions I had. I discovered that B had brought E along because he had a background in black magic, something at the time I thought was nonsense, however something in his story I found rather intriguing and also hard to escape. I removed any doubt from my mind about my secularism and left the conversation feeling intellectually superior. I agreed to attend B’s church on the Sunday.
On the Sunday I attended the church, sitting at the back looking as cold as possible until the end fellowship time they had. I then spent about three hours at the church debating various members and hearing some, quite frankly, amazing testimonies. Again I left without a thing being changed.
In the coming days I decided to research the historicity of Jesus and the disciples, the science and astronomy in the Bible and other historical claims the Bible made. I was wrestling in my mind for the coming week about all that I believed and the apparent accuracy I perceived in the Bible. I also went back to my Jewish roots and looked at what had been taught about the messiah in the Talmud and saw the amazing accuracy of some of the prophecies found within. One thing from my conversation with B that stuck with me was him saying ‘If you write out a list of your own morals, within a week, you will have broken most of them’. I knew this to be true.
On the Tuesday a group of atheists and I were having an argument with a group of Christians. I was being a lot quieter than usual and somebody asked me why. I can just remember turning to my atheist friends and saying ‘I think they are right…’, followed by a look of shock and silence from all around. I then prayed in my head and accepted Jesus as my Messiah and my personal saviour.
After that day I lost a lot of friends (and family). The atheists thought I had betrayed them and the Christians didn’t trust me, but eventually after quite some time I became the voice of Christians in a largely secular institute. I helped found a Christian Union there (that is still going on today) and preached to students and teachers alike as much as possible, leading a few students there to Christ and, I hope, strengthening others’ faith. I myself am now in my fifth year as an evangelist having just finished my seventh campaign. I thank God for his patience with me and willingness to accept me after all the terrible things I had done beforehand, and I am now convinced that it is every believer’s job to go out into the world and to be fruitful and multiply themselves spiritually to continue making disciples until the LORD’s return.
My Jewish identity means more to me now than it ever did in my formative years. Now instead of it being a shared a history along with a set of shallow traditions, I feel that I have fulfilled my spiritual Jewish identity, that I can now find meaning in tradition with the light of my Jewish Messiah Y’shua.
Many thanks to Daniel for sharing his story with us. If you would like to know more about Jesus/Y’Shua, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org