Forging faith: Mount lecture to chronicles author’s journey into religion

April 05, 2017

Holly Ordway, English professor and author of “Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms.” 


Holly Ordway, an English professor and author, discussed becoming a Christian in “Not God’s Type: From Atheism to Catholicism” on Tuesday, April 4 at Mount Saint Mary College.

Ordway, once an atheist, thought she was “not God's type.” However, she discovered that developing her faith was the key to finding the answers to some of life’s greatest questions.

“I never imagined that I would become Christian,” said Ordway, “and definitely not a Catholic.”

As a child, Ordway was more interested in journeys of fantasy than those of faith. Often, she was absorbed in J.R.R Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” books or C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia” series. Ironically, she noted, the Christian themes in both authors’ works escaped her at the time.

“Like light coming from an invisible lamp, God’s grace was beginning to shine out from Tolkien’s works, illuminating my godless imagination with a Christian vision,” she said. “I didn’t know at that time that my imagination had been, as it were, baptized on Middle Earth, but something took root there that would flower many years later.”

As an adult, she realized that “the worldview of atheism was very bleak,” she said. Her desire for “truth and meaning” in life lead her to examine the Christian faith, thanks in part to her love of Tolkien and Lewis.

“In the span of a very few months of intense reading, discussion, and questioning, I came to the conclusion that God does exist,” she said. “I was baptized a few months later,” at the age of 31.

Ordway began her Christian life as a Protestant. But as Tolkien wrote in “The Hobbit,” “The road goes ever on and on.”

Slowly, Ordway discovered that she agreed more and more with the core values of Catholicism.

“I found, time and again, that the Catholic position made more sense to me,” she revealed. And so, she joined the Catholic Church, where she remains to this day.

Ordway holds a PhD in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is the author of “Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms.” Her work focuses on imaginative apologetics, and she is the Charles Williams Subject Editor for the Journal of Inklings Studies. Her current book project is Tolkien’s Modern Sources: Middle-earth Beyond the Middle Ages.

The talk was sponsored by the Mount’s Catholic and Dominican Institute (CDI). CDI promotes the Mount’s heritage of St. Dominic, advances the Dominican charism of study and service, provides a forum for discussion of contemporary ethical issues, and enhances Catholic and Jewish dialogue. The Institute welcomes persons of varied faiths and acknowledges different religious traditions as essential to the college’s intellectual and spiritual life.