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?
Yes, Dave, I agree. We've already established that we're not discussing non-rational, pre-rational or quasi-rational "atheists".
One cannot truly be an atheist and go back to theism. And if they truly were and found some empirical evidence that showed them they were wrong, I should suspect they would have no problem, as a former atheist, showing it to the rest of us. Normally when people claim that they "left atheism" to become a Christian/Muslim/Buddhist/Other, they are lying because they think that real atheists will empathize better to someone that "understood" our point of view at some point. It's a weapon that we have against them, but they do not have against us. For example, many atheists used to be Christians and many Christians today are slowly but surely and steadily becoming atheists. We understand their theism, but they do not understand atheism, because to fully and truly understand atheism, one must become an atheist him/herself. It's not optional. However, understanding Christianity does not make you a Christian, in fact, it usually makes you an atheist if you see what it really is like most of us "real" atheists do. I can't think of a better way to explain it.
That was as well-put as any response yet. It's one thing to call yourself an atheist . . . the minimum requirements are singular: lack of belief in God(s) . . . but a true atheist -- one who understands why reason is primary -- could never embrace theism unless his/her reason is compromised. Perhaps one could embrace deism . . . but theism?
Give me a break.
I was going to start a new thread about this, but I think it fits in nicely with this discussion.
What do y'all think of this?
I believe it, but I can't deny that I'm slightly disappointed in him. I looked up his reasoning for disbelieving, and I feel like he never really was an atheist. He was just angry at God and wanted to lash out at him. But maybe he had considered it and really was an atheist... but then how is it that he's converted by "an outpouring of Christian kindness"?
I would be eternally grateful and hold up those particular Christians as standards of greatness and love in humanity, but I'd remain an atheist and an outspoken hater of fanaticism. He was convinced by his emotions, not by logic or science. This disturbs me. Maybe that's wrong. Maybe it's my mindset. Although I am a naturally gullible person (if you tell me that the word "gullible" is written on the ceiling, I'll look), I've become an empiricist and a skeptic, and it is so entrenched in me that emotional arguments are almost insulting now.
But what do y'all think?
@ Nathan - A christian can show all the love in the world to me and I will be very grateful and most likely think that person is awesome (I have known a Christian or two like that ). However, it would never effect my certainty that their God does not exist. It may effect my opinion of whether the world is better off with or without religion but not my stance that God does not exist.
As far as whether the world is better off without religion or not, I remain undecided, tending to fall on the it would be better off side. It is kind of like asking "would we as the human species, be better off being born without appendices?". We needed them at one time but for now, we are just stuck with this vestige of times past. Not that I am certain we needed religion in times past but it seems to be an aggressive trait that usually gets your grass greener than the Jones'es (in an evolutionary sense).
There's a fundamental disconnect between atheists and the word "atheist". Part of this is because there isn't complete agreement on what the word means.
Lack of belief in God could simply mean a choice not to believe in God because he is cruel or undesirable for some reason -- but does not specifically address the question of God's existence.
Lack of belief in God's existence is more specific but still leaves the door open for interpretation because the phrase "lack of belief" is ambiguous. It might be a matter of degree or preponderance of evidence and not an absolute statement of disbelief. A more definitive position would leave no doubts:
Denial of God's existence leaves no wiggle-room for interpretation. It's a flat-out position that God does not exist.
It's been my experience that most long-time atheists do not deny God's existence and adopt a more scientific stance which is willing to consider any argument or evidence that might change their minds. They don't want to make claims they can't back up. They understand the need for rational integrity. Just as the unqualified claim of God's existence is a matter of faith, so is the unqualified claim of God's nonexistence. There's no evidence either way. An atheist can claim that there is no evidence for God or the supernatural (and never has been) and that there's no compelling reason to believe there ever will be. But there is a possibility -- however vanishingly small -- that there could be. A creator God is not an impossible proposition given what we know thus far. Existence . . . whether it's God's, the universe's or ours -- is an ineffable mystery; the greatest mystery of all. Certainty is an illusion and a claim that science is careful to avoid. Our understanding of the universe has undergone multiple paradigm shifts and will experience more in the future.
Whether you're absolutely certain that God exists or does not exist, you're pretending to know facts you have no access to.
I think the 'denial' aspect plays into the Christians view that Atheists are angry with God, so therefore deny his existence as a result. It then allows them to quote chapter and verse why you shouldn't deny God.
I can't speak for anyone else, but for me Atheism is a disbelief in the existence of God or god's of any sort across the board. It covers the God of the three major religions along with any gods which predate or follow them all in one shot. I don't believe in Bast or Ra anymore then I believe in Odin or Thor or the Christian God.
I've been a Atheist for many years, just haven't begun to to embrace it until recently. For me, all gods regardless of the religion involved are nothing more then manifestations of man's own imagination. Tools he uses to explain his existence and in some cases control other men. Nothing more.
That said, I'm sure you've already picked up the fact I think your supposition about being absolutely certain about the non-existence of a God or gods is way off. In my case, I'm not pretending to know anything I'm not privy to. I'm basing it on the record as it now stands-- no prior god or gods were real, so therefore why should I even presume there is an exception to that? ... If the sun has risen every day over the Eastern Horizon for the last 2 billion years, what's to make me think it won't do the same tomorrow or the day after or the day after that? Nothing is there which tells me it won't.. There is no evidence which tells me that it won't continue, just like there isn't any evidence which tells me that any gods of any sort ever existed in any manner.
I hope I don't get flamed or anything for posting this (I just got here, so I don't really know how receptive this forum is to theists), but I just wanted to answer the question posed in the title of the OP regarding how an ex-atheist can leave atheism. That won't be considered too presumptuous or anything, I hope. I mean, you did ask.
I was brought up in a more or less secular home. Although we went to church once in a while, my father is an atheist and my mother is a deist, so religion was never a big part of the family life. The middle school that I went to was a fundamentalist Christian school, with chapel every Wednesday, and it was mostly there that I was convinced that Christianity was true (more by the atmosphere than by arguments).
In high school, when I was fifteen or sixteen, I found the internet forum attached to the CARM (Christian Apologetics Research Ministry) website. I was curious about the arguments for and against the existence of God at the time, so I started lurking on the Atheism forum and observing the debates there. I thought that the Christians routinely got their hats handed to them by the atheists, and I eventually became convinced that Christianity was indefensible.
I deconverted, and became an atheist. I lacked belief in God, and at times, I even felt convinced that there was certainly no God. I posted on the CARM Atheism forum, as an atheist, for maybe five years or so, under the screen name "Occam." I chose that screen name because I felt that Occam's Razor disposed of theism (I continue to use the same screen name).
I became a theist again due to a series of religious experiences that I had while reading the Bible. The series of experiences by itself would not have been enough, but I had been exposed to Swinburne's Principle of Credulity and Plantinga's religious epistemology. This philosophical background provided a lens through which the religious experiences seemed to be sufficient grounds for holding a belief in God. Later, I studied Swinburne's arguments for the existence of God and found that, while they didn't make theism obligatory, they did provide reasonable grounds for a belief in God.
That was a couple of years ago (I'm now twenty-two). I've continued to discuss things with atheists on various forums. I respect atheism as a philosophical position. I consider it a reasonable position for some people to hold. I simply think that, in addition, theism can be a reasonable belief to hold, and I try to persuade atheists that, while they might not find theism acceptable, it can be reasonable for others like myself to accept it. I've found that a number of atheists end up agreeing with me on this point.
I continue to read about the arguments for and against the existence of God. I routinely read atheist philosophers, just as I routinely read theist philosophers. (I'm a philosophy undergraduate at the moment, actually.) I consider myself pretty open to any new arguments that might come in in favor of atheism or theism - I just think God exists.
I think I've done what I set out to do here. I can't think of any major factors in my deconversion from theism or reconversion to theism that I might have left out. I might or might not stick around to answer reasonable questions about my present reasons for being a theist. (At any rate, I'm definitely not interested in replying to any amateur psychologists' attempts to diagnose my mental health and reveal my "real" reasons for returning to theism based on this 500-word anonymous internet post, LOL.)
I'm in between "devout Christian" and "just a theist," although perhaps a little closer to the latter, since I don't attend church very often. I refer to myself as a liberal Christian, because I think that the Resurrection, and a few of the other miracles reported in the New Testament, occurred.
So far as the credulity is concerned I certainly hope that the tree sprites that seem to exist in my back yard threatening me, saying I must burn the neighbors house down or they'll kill my family doesn't give me reason to believe they exist... Otherwise I'm stuck in a catch 22 between the law and what is possibly but not definitely my imagination.
*For illustration purposes... I'm not really experiencing them, just making a point.
Thanks, IEatDinosaurMeat. This is always an interesting point.
If I had experienced murderous tree sprites, then, obviously, I wouldn't conclude that there were indeed murderous tree sprites. I would ask someone to lock me up, because tree sprites obviously do not exist, and experiencing tree sprites would make me an insane person. So, what makes God any different than the murderous tree sprites?
The answer is that I don't know. God just doesn't seem as obviously non-existent to me as a murderous tree sprite. I just don't think that someone who experiences God needs to be locked up, like someone who experiences a murderous tree sprite does. To me, experiencing God seems more acceptable and rational than experiencing a murderous tree sprite.
Now, maybe I think this because I was brought up in a Christian society, or maybe there's something wrong with my brain that makes me unable to see the similarities between God and a murderous tree sprite that you see. Unfortunately, I am the person I am, I have the cognitive constitution that I have, and I can't step outside of myself to make epistemic decisions.