Reflections of a Former Atheist

By Robert Docter9780976846550

The story of one second chance is captured in a new Frontier Press title, Reflections of a Former Atheist, by Major Glen Doss. In it, Doss tells a story of the war between belief and nonbelief. How does one move from a childhood belief system, fully accepting Christian principles, into a posture of atheistic nonbelief and total rejection of the prior belief system?


Growing up, Doss read major works by major authors in his deep, hidden sanctuary within a “patch of woods” near the family’s southern Arkansas farm. He wrestled with deep thoughts, trying to make sense of life and of God.

“Few things are as intoxicating as a teenager’s first taste of arrogance,” he writes, realizing that his “new god was none other than–myself.” He made what he describes as an exhilarating leap both into maturity and to atheism.

Much of the book deals with Doss’s life in the military, where he was stationed with the Air Force from 1967-1968 at Bien Hoa, Vietnam.

In major battles, wherein he saw “hoochmates” killed, his responsibility was often to carry the dead or dying to an aid station. As the battles raged, some soldiers sobbed, screamed and cried. “And then there was Joe;” as Doss describes: “When the world around us seemed to be falling apart, Joe went about his day unperturbed.”

Doss said to him once, “While the rest of us are shaking in our boots, wondering if our number is going to be up next, or getting drunk at the club–doing just about anything to keep our sanity, you sit calmly reading your Bible, maintaining that steady, unworried demeanor. Why is that?”

“I place my trust in God, and I believe he will do what’s best, and he knows what that is far better than I do. So, why should I worry,” Joe said.

Doss replied, “Okay, that may work for you; me, I don’t believe in God.”

“So I’ve heard,” Joe said. “I know–and how is that going?”

Doss writes that he immediately felt angry: “He challenged my assumptions, my fundamental worldview–and suddenly I grew insecure.”

After the war, Doss’s absence of faith made him feel powerless as his travels as an editor/reporter for Stars and Stripes brought him into proximity with desperate and hurting people. He did not like himself, and seemed disgusted with his arrogance.

Time moved on. Now married with two children, Doss brought his self-contempt home, unable to show much affection, lost in his own loathing.

Battling the idea of suicide, Doss checked himself into the Naval Hospital in San Diego. A Year later, with his family gone, his anxiety and discontent elevated.

By summer 1986, his resources were exhausted and he recognized that the “death wish was winning.”

Then Scripture came to him–Be still, and know that I am God (Ps. 46:10a NIV).

Repeating the verse, Doss writes that the experience was “a warm, warm feeling of familiarity.” A bolt of “sheer energizing power” shot through him, and “I was overcome by waves of refreshing grace.”

The new convert needed a church, and it had to be the one that existed for “helping hurting, suffering, broken people–not simply to preach and pastor.” Through an article in People Magazine that described the election of Eva Burrows as General, Doss found The Salvation Army.

He researched the organization and began attending the San Diego Citadel Corps where he was introduced to all things army. Within a few years, Doss felt a call to full-time ministry and entered training. Ordained and commissioned two years later, he began putting his own “practical Christianity” into action.

Frontier Press regularly releases titles that address both the social and spiritual ministries of The Salvation Army with an aim to develop relationships and build transformation.

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