He’s written several well-reported articles for us and was already on our radar before then, a true shoe-leather scribe in an age of hot takes, whose reporting has been published in The New York Times.
Today he makes his Wall Street Journal debut with a deeply personal essay about the importance of prayer even when you don’t believe, particularly in response to tragedies like the recent church massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Attending a debate series between an atheist and a pastor several years ago, Ngo shares his discomfort returning to a church but being befriended by a Christian woman and her son:
When I attended the next installment later in the summer, I saw the kind church woman again. As before, she greeted me warmly. I asked about her son, but she awkwardly declined to answer, which I found strange. Perhaps she could tell I was gay, I thought. I felt a bit duped, as if the prior nice act was just a bait-and-switch to get me to come back to the church. I chose not to sit near her this time.
After the debate, she pulled me aside to the kitchen. I thought she was cornering me to proselytize. Instead, she told me her son had killed himself a few weeks earlier: “He used a gun.” She told me that prayers and her faith in God had barely kept her afloat: “It’s all I have.”
A friend of mine, a fellow atheist, walked up. Reflecting on the debate topic, he proceeded to mock faith, the Bible and prayer. “None of it’s true and it doesn’t work,” he said, unaware of the woman’s tragedy. She began to shake, and tears welled in her eyes. My friend walked away, feeling triumphant in her silence.
I vowed never to be that type of atheist again.