At Religion Dispatches, Lisa Webster has a fascinating interview with philosopher Jacob Needleman, an avowed atheist who converted to theism. Money quotes:
It meant I had to read theologians, Christian writers like St. Augustine—whom I had hated. You see in my book where I talk about burning the pages of the book, that’s exactly what happened. I'm not exaggerating. I was so happy to see it go up in flames; I had suffered so much from that book. And later I read it and I loved it—a great, great man.
So it forced me to read and prepare myself, and I couldn’t believe how superficial my understanding of religion had been, even with a liberal education from the best universities. I discovered things about religion; I couldn’t believe how good, how interesting, how profound—and how distorted it had become, how shallow it had become. So more and more I got deeply interested in religion because I had to teach it. And then I got personally interested in my own personal, spiritual search which I started to undertake…There’s more:
My mind believed it. But somewhere down deep I didn’t really. It was only when I actually touched a certain level of inner experience, and I said, Ah, that’s it. Now I am absolutely certain that there is such a thing. I always believed, as I was studying these things, that there was something higher in the universe. I never thought it was a dead, mechanical universe, like scientism. It was only when I experienced it as part of me that I saw that it was true.
Scripture is not just recording what Jesus said; scripture is men and women coming together, working inwardly to be true to something and together trying to produce something that has at least a bit of truth of the heart. Real scripture, though it might on the surface seem contradictory or violent, these things are often symbolic and can only be understood with the heart and the head together. Not just with the head.