Outspoken Atheist Ayaan Hirsi Ali Says She is Now a Christian

In an essay published Monday, Hirsi Ali said that although she identified as an atheist for over two decades, she now considers herself a member of the Christian religion.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali. (photo: Steve Jurvetson / CC BY 2.0)

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a longtime critic of Islam and for years an outspoken atheist, said this week that she is “now a Christian,” stating she came to the religion both as part of a spiritual journey and as a response to the “nihilistic vacuum” of the modern world. 

Hirsi Ali has long been a prominent critic of Islam. As a young girl growing up in Somalia, she suffered female genital mutilation in Somalia as a young girl and in 2002 renounced her Muslim faith and declared herself an atheist. In the years since she has been a vocal critic of what she sees as extremist violence and intolerance from many Muslims. 

In an essay published Monday on the British website UnHerd, she said that although she identified as an atheist for over two decades, she now considers herself a member of the Christian religion. 

She wrote that she turned to Christianity in part “because I ultimately found life without any spiritual solace unendurable — indeed very nearly self-destructive.” 

“Atheism failed to answer a simple question: What is the meaning and purpose of life?” she said, arguing that “the void left by the retreat of the church” in the modern world “has merely been filled by a jumble of irrational quasi-religious dogma.”

Hirsi Ali said in the essay that there is “no need to look for some new-age concoction of medication and mindfulness” to address these present crises: “Christianity has it all.”

Another reason she made that switch, she said, is “global”: The writer said in the essay that “Western civilization is under threat” from multiple fronts including Russia and China, “global Islamism,” and “woke ideology.”

“We endeavor to fend off these threats with modern, secular tools: military, economic, diplomatic, and technological efforts to defeat, bribe, persuade, appease, or surveil,” she wrote. “And yet, with every round of conflict, we find ourselves losing ground.”

Hirsi Ali said the only way to successfully “fight off” these threats is to answer the question “What is it that unites us?” 

The “only credible answer, I believe, lies in our desire to uphold the legacy of the Judeo-Christian tradition,” she said; that legacy includes an “elaborate set of ideas and institutions designed to safeguard human life, freedom, and dignity.”

The writer said that she considers herself a “lapsed atheist,” writing: “I still have a great deal to learn about Christianity.”

“I discover a little more at church each Sunday,” she wrote, arguing that she has found “a better way to manage the challenges of existence than either Islam or unbelief had to offer.”

Hirsi Ali did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday regarding her essay.

The recipient of numerous awards for her global activism, Hirsi Ali previously served in the House of Representatives in the Netherlands and has worked at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University as well as the American Enterprise Institute.