I've run across ex-atheists at various online sites; not many but a few. I just can't believe they ever were really atheists to begin with. How does somebody go about unembracing reason? It just doesn't add up. I get the feeling that a certain percentage of ex-atheists are actually Christian frauds using pseudonyms to give testimonies of fake reconversions.
What do you think? Can a real atheist really reconvert to Christianity? How?
To me, a "true" atheist is one who renounces God and all things supernatural and has reasoned-out why these things are false.
@ Atheist Exile - In that case, I can't imagine why such a person would go back to being religious. If I had to guess I would say brain tumor.
See, I reject this definition of atheism. I much prefer the more generalized "lack of belief in a higher power or powers".
Here's what I mean:
Atheism and theism are basically the same thing, in that they are answers to the question "do you believe in a higher power or powers?". The atheist says "no" while the theist says "yes". The question and answers have absolutely nothing to do withknowledge, however.
The question "does God exist?" is an entirely different question, asking not about belief, but about knowledge.
I always complain when I have to explain to people that I'm an agnostic atheist because I feel like it should be assumed. We simply do not know enough about the origins of our visible universe to rule out it being caused by some intelligent "first cause" (perhaps in the Pandeistic sense). I'm not suggesting that there aren't major issues with the God Hypothesis that make it nearly worthless (like the unfalsifiability of it, for example... this is precisely why I'm an atheist), but "nearly" is the key word, there.
IMO, we are all agnostic, and anyone who claims otherwise is not being honest. They may think they're being honest (that is, lying to themselves), but they aren't. This does not mean we can't come a position on whether or not we believe, so just because everyone who has ever lived and currently lives is agnostic does not mean they can't be atheists or theists. Knowledge and belief are not the same thing, and as such they are not mutually exclusive. What's more, I reject the idea that the question of God's existence is outside the realm of science. We will answer the question definitively, as far as I'm concerned. It may take another few hundred generations or so, but eventually we'll have an answer.
The extension of that, to make it relate to your topic, is that I absolutely do accept that there are religious or spiritual people who were once atheists. But there is a limit to that, as well. I can accept it from someone who has become, say, a Christian, but still accepts evolution and the Big Bang, is still as tolerant towards others, including atheists and homosexuals, as they were when they were atheists, and so on.
The ones who I think are lying are the Young-Earth Creationists who make that claim (VenomFangX made that claim all the time). (Re-)Accepting that there is a higher power is one thing, but going from accepting evolution by natural to believing that the Genesis account is 100% historically accurate and that the earth and universe are roughly 6000 years old?
No way in hell.
What's worse is, if you question them, they then go on to describe the kind of life they led: drug-taking, bullying, womanizing... this is the hallmark of Peter Hitchen's book "The Rage Against God". And he blames his atheism quite explicitly for his behavior (which really never changed, to be honest... Peter's like the Christopher Hitchens of Christianity, except he's stupid and very bad at debating, whereas Christopher was brilliant). This is the main reason (even above and beyond the YECism thing) that I don't believe them; I have never in my life met an atheist that nasty, yet I know many YECs who are that nasty.
I think there is a good chance they used to be Christians trying to pull something off. I guess anything is possible though. I'm sure there are plenty of people who consider themselves atheists but that does not mean they have necessarily thought a lot of things through or are very committed to the idea of not believing in god.
I would accept that Plantinga is an excellent philosopher and Craig up to a point. It would be a mistake to debate them without being fully prepared and that would require a good few years of study and a sharp mind. The study of philosophy, in the words of Hegel, is only the introduction to philosophy. However anytime I read their works I get the impression that they are being untrue to the giants whose shoulders they claim to stand on for they take it as a given that GOD exists from the start of their musings. They claim because the Atheist can subjectively conceive of god that god must therefore exist and whether or not we get any objective evidence is beside the point. Their main aim is to revamp or modernize the Ontological Argument and prove that their god exists. I do not consider Hitchens or Dawkins to be philosophers in the same sense but I would suggest that their skills at debating and the sharpness of their logic and reasoning would leave both Plantinga and Craig with their philosophical tails between their legs. Even if it is the greatest debate I can conceive of it will unfortunately not happen.
I would also take people at their word when they say they don’t believe in god or that at some point they considered themselves to be Atheists because they did not at some earlier time believe in god. I think though that may people have claimed not to believe in god without going one step further and not believing that there is a god. Maybe what these “ex-atheists” are saying is that at some point they did not believe IN god so they had temporarily lost faith in their god. From there they can go one of two directions. They can rediscover their faith in their god and therefore believe in him again or they can continue with the self analysis of why they don’t believe in god and come to the conclusion that it is because there probably is no god so they no longer believe the premise that “god exists”. Then they can claim to be Atheists but not until then. A lapse in faith is not enough to join the club and a lapse of reason is unlikely once you are a member.
Nelson, I can’t really disagree with you there. Neither Hitchens nor Dawkins every really grabbled with the philosophical arguments. I suppose I should consider both Plantinga and Craig as Christian apologetics rather than philosophers in the classical sense. I think they would even agree with that.
I shall watch this again tonight. Thanks for the reminder.
You've nailed the reason I still feel shame in telling people that I was convinced of the nonexistence of God (or at least the radical non-necessity, which in classical terms amounts to the same thing) through TGD.
When I was compiling a list of works that had helped me navigate the first year after leaving Christianity (2006-7), I found that, while books like William James' Varieties of Religious Experience, Pascal Boyer's Naturalness of Religious Ideas (neither of which are properly philosophical, but at the time Feuerbach's observation that theology is anthropology had hit hard), and even Dawkins' own Ancestor's Tale made the cut, I couldn't in good conscience recommend TGD on virtue of its (and my) lack of philosophical grounding. If he hadn't discussed the anthropic principle and the scales of chance in the universe (thankfully more in line with his own training), it's probable my already-teetering faith would have held on for a while longer yet.
I don't know, Nelson . . . I think much of philosophy is overrated. Logic should be taught earlier than it is now in U.S. schools but philosophical discourse itself rarely solves anything. Other than Bertrand Russell's contributions to set theory (Russell's Paradox), I really can't think of anything, in the last few centuries, that philosophy has contributed to our understanding of the world. Over the last century, science has left philosophy in its dust.
The fact is, every philosophical school of thought has its detractors; philosophers disagree and philosophical discourse proves nothing. Epistemologists can't agree on the nature of knowledge . . . Ethicists can't agree on the nature of morality. Philosophers have been arguing in circles for centuries over God . . . the mind-body problem and the hard problem of consciousness . . . free will . . . rational governance . . . yada, yada, yada.
Stephen Hawking caught some flak for dissing philosophy but I think I understand where he's coming from. Much of philosophy is merely cerebral masturbation.
One doesn't need to wax philosophic to debunk a philosophical assertion. In fact, the more philosophical you get, the more obfuscated the discussion becomes.
And I seriously doubt that ANY argument in support of a lie can't be easily countered. You speak of sophisticated arguments for God from Plantinga. Cite one (a link would be nice or, perhaps, a cut-and-paste).
"Sneering"? Really? I could go with disagreeing . . . but sneering? Let's not start taking things personally, okay? I simply, honestly, disagree with your lofty appreciation of philosophic dissertations. I do have that right here, don't I?
As for the first link you provided, here's its own formal analysis:
A more formal analysis of this argument goes like this:
(1) If God exists then he has necessary existence.
(2) Either God has necessary existence, or he doesn‘t.
(3) If God doesn‘t have necessary existence, then he necessarily doesn‘t.
(4) Either God has necessary existence, or he necessarily doesn‘t.
(5) If God necessarily doesn‘t have necessary existence, then God necessarily doesn‘t exist.
(6) Either God has necessary existence, or he necessarily doesn‘t exist.
(7) It is not the case that God necessarily doesn‘t exist.
(8) God has necessary existence.
(9) If God has necessary existence, then God exists.
(10) God exists.
How is this NOT mental masturbation? The first premise presumes God is perfect. There is no basis for that presumption. It's tautological. The initial premise should be: "If God exists and is perfect then he has necessary existence." But such phrasing would imply we don't really know anything about God and immediately call his perfection and necessity into question. So, in order to work, we must agree that the definition of God includes his perfection . . . when, in actuality, we don't really know.
Let's see. We already know that we can't prove or disprove God. So let's arrange semantics to take advantage of his ambiguous status. The analysis centers on step 7 (it is not the case that God necessarily doesn‘t exist). God has ambiguous status, therefore God exists.
We could say the laws of physics are necessary characteristics of the universe. We could back this up with empirical evidence by pointing out the regularities in nature that the laws describe. But where are the regularities -- the evidence -- to back up God's "necessary-ness"? We have reasons for the laws of physics but none for the necessity of God. What, exactly, would change if God suddenly died?
Come on now. Modal logic isn't that complicated. As I've already said, it's about semantics. Qualifiers. What is possible and what is necessary. Like I said, the more philosophical you get, the more obfuscated you get. It's not about what is necessary or what is possible. It's about what is.
I can't, for the life of me, see why you place so much value on arguments that have gone nowhere for centuries. Modal logic is not the Holy Grail of logic.It represents a school of thought. That's it. It's been rejected by many philosophers, including Bertrand Russell.
Philosophy is valuable for its logic but it makes any argument you need it to. That's mental masturbation.
"As I've pointed out before, Darwin was only able to analogize from his theorized natural selection to the artificial selection of animal husbandry. He couldn't point to one bit of empirical evidence for natural selection. The Origin is largely one big rhetorical flourish. People were convinced by it though. Moreover, people were right to be convinced by it."
That would be a bit unfair to point out a lack of empirical evidence on a process that in incredibly minute in actual change and must occur over vast periods of time.
I misunderstood your implication then. Also I gather you're use of the "rhetorical flourish" is not meant to be negative. Whenever I hear the word rhetoric in today's society it seems to hold negative connotations.
I am reading The Origin right now in fact. Funny you should mention it.