I've run across ex-atheists at various online site; 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?
I know that Anthony Flew abandoned atheism but don't recall if he re-embraced a religion. Guess I'll look it up. :-)
Okay, found this on Wikipedia:
Flew was a strong advocate of atheism, arguing that one should presuppose atheism until empirical evidence of a God surfaces. He also criticised the idea of life after death, the free will defence to the problem of evil, and the meaningfulness of the concept of God. However, in 2004 he stated an allegiance to deism, more specifically a belief in the Aristotelian God, stating that in keeping his lifelong commitment to go where the evidence leads, he now believes in the existence of God. He later wrote the book There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, with contributions from Roy Abraham Varghese. This book (and Flew's conversion itself) has been the subject of controversy, following an article in the New York Times magazine alleging that Flew had mentally declined, and that Varghese was the primary author. The matter remains contentious, with some commentators including PZ Myers and Richard Carrier supporting the allegations, and others, including Flew himself, opposing them.
Societal pressures and family ties can often cause a lapse of judgement, sometimes it just seems easier to give up the grandeur of reality for the acceptable safety net of religious acceptance.
Or, putting aside my $10 words: My family once stressed me out so much that I was willing to try and believe in a god again. It lasted about a year.
Couple things seem to be the case. And of course we have to be careful not to commit a No true Scotsman fallacy here.
First, when we had sociologist Phil Zuckerman on the TA Radio Show, he talked about the sociological research into just why people leave religion and why people who had left religion previously go back (when they do). He described an interesting difference between the reasons people leave religion– often because they examined the beliefs themselves and found them wanting for justification– and why people who had previously left returned– because they found a community of people they could connect with that was built around religion. So when many of the people who leave leave they often do so because they examined their beliefs and found they couldn't justify them. And when people who had left return to religion it's not because of some new evidence or argument that convinces them of the truth of faith whereas before this evidence or argument didn't exist or was unknown to them, they return for emotional reasons.
But then there's the many people who leave religion who do so themselves for emotional reasons. Not because they embraced reason but because they couldn't reconcile a belief in God with evil and suffering or because they experienced some difficult times in their life and found that their prayers went unanswered. Such a person seems to simply turn away from a God they do in fact believe in more than they discover that God has never existed. All this person needs is to discover some lame apologetic that claims to reconcile God and evil/suffering or feel as if God has showed them a sign, and they fall off the wagon and back into nonsense. There also seems to be way too many Dawkins-Hitchens-Harris atheists in my opinion. People who have read their books and not many others and think that that's the end of the discussion, as if they've covered everything. Such a person is in for a rude awakening when they read serious philosophically-minded apologetics by Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig and Richard Swinburne. While their apologetics certainly fail, it is way more philosophically astute than Dawkins, Hitchens, or Harris and utterly unanswered by most of the New Atheist authors. When a D-H-H atheist reads one of the books by Plantinga, WLC, or Swinburne, they're in danger of being duped into buying into that stuff because it is so utterly higher in quality philosophically than Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris. And, as I always say when I express my opinion on this, don't get my wrong, I'm not saying that people shouldn't read those books at all. I just lament the fact that so many people seem to read those books and not much else besides and walk away thinking that they've read definitive treatments of the arguments for and against theism. Because this so completely not the case. (I hasten to say that Hitchens [if he were still with us] and Harris would probably say that their books weren't meant to argue for the truth of atheism, but rather for the dangers to society of religion. And that's fair enough. But people don't treat them that way. For, it could be the case that God exists and religion is true, it's just dangerous to society. You'd still need to understand the arguments. And so many people don't.)
So I'm just not sure that people are un-embracing reason when they leave atheism for theism. I'm not sure these people had embraced reason in the first place when they left theism for atheism. But that's not to say that they weren't atheists when they said they were. I take them at their word that they did not believe in God when they say that they did not. In that case they certainly were atheists. It's just that, unfortunately, as we see all too frequently, atheism isn't necessarily an embrace of reason.
Theist surgeons performed a number of invasive brain surgeries on the subjects in question. This was followed by the use of several horribly addicting narcotics, which thoroughly broke the subjects' wills. Once they were weak and needy, the ideas of a particular dogma were beaten into them as they were purged of their addictions, and they were tumbled back into society as "Reformed" Atheists.
Or, you know...they lost their balls/spine and flipflopped back.
@Scott...The lack of labeling is where I think people like Kirk Cameron come from.
I think most of those people are basically "plants" as you suggest. But I have also met people that simply came from a family where there were not a part of a faith community, then they discovered religion, and they self identified as a "former atheist". I tried to set them straight that they were not using the term correctly. But I got the sense that they did not care if they were misusing the term, since it seemed to give them extra status among their religious peers.
My brother was once a former atheist, but he gave up the Xianity he picked up in high school. So he was once a former atheist and is now a former Xian.
I think you are correct in saying that some of them are probably fundamentalists who never said the words “I am an Atheist” to themselves. I am sure like most people they had doubts about their faith at some point but “found” it again. They recall that period as the time when they were Atheists. Of course as most of us know the average Theist misunderstands what Atheism is. They consider it a lack of faith rather than a lack of belief. They have Evidence for god where we only see Argument for god.
I recently met a born again who claimed he was an Atheist for years. I asked him what evidence he found to make him change his mind. Yes, you guessed it already – he prayed “sincerely” to Jesus and the gift of the spirit then entered his heart – yada yada yada. It turns out the bible was right all along – he just had not been reading it properly. Imagine that!! He could then no longer deny the FACT that god existed.
I attempted to challenge him on a few points but he was too far gone to hold a rational conversation. I said Atheists do not deny the existence of god, they just don’t believe one exists. I was then accused of playing with words in order to confuse him. I later discovered this was the plan all Atheists have because we refuse to walk in the light. So to me he was never an Atheist. He is just another Theist lost in his subjective delusion.
I don’t think it is possible for an Atheist to become a theist. If that was the case someone could claim to have been an Atheist say six times in their life and not just once. It would make the same sense to me – none. I don’t believe in the existence of any god because there is no evidence to suggest there are any. That is what makes me an Atheist. It is impossible for me to start believing in something I don’t believe in without evidence. As you say I can’t let go of my reason for something that is without reason. It does not add up.
Ok, I think we should start petitioning for a like button on posts. lol
That aside, Reg, I think you hit the nail on the head.
My original question was a bit ambiguous since I didn't specify just what "atheist" means to me. To me, a "true" atheist is one who renounces God and all things supernatural and has reasoned-out why these things are false.
I realize this is more than is required by a dictionary definition. Perhaps I should have specified "solid" atheist . . .