Anyone else ever have this thrown at them? I had this thrown at me a while ago and at the time, I did not have a good response to it. My response now would be something to the effect of, "Unbelief of youth in religion is not a reasoned logical disbelief later in life." I think that this is a pretty good response to this argument.
This is one you have to be careful with, that you don't want to step in the no true Scotsman pile.
I really like your quote there. I've tended to stick with somewhat similar lines of thought. I try to point out that while unbelief is technically atheist, there are intellectual degrees. Someone claiming unbelief to rebel or because they have never been presented with religion is significantly different than someone who has seen religion and its evidence, examined and logic'ed through things and come to unbelief via skepticism.
This is a common claim. Sometimes it is true, sometimes it's added to try to give the person 'street cred'.
You're off to a good start, discerning that there are different reasons why one might not believe in a deity. Unbelief arrived at via ignorance (never told about gods) or emotional reactions to events is going to be less stable than that arrived at via reasoned thought and consideration.
I'd say "Lots of different atheists have different reasons to be atheists. What were yours and why did you change your mind." I'd be pretty confident that I would simply not agree with their reasons for changing their mind, and would tell them so.
After all, I think why you believe something is more important that what you believe.
Yeah this is pretty much what I tell people who try and pull the whole "I used to be an atheist" thing on me. I really don't care what you believe now. I only care about why you believe it. Richard Dawkins himself could become a Christian tomorrow and I would not care. The only that would matter is his reason changing his mind and whether his reason stands up to scrutiny.
I would just turn it around on them, and start asking them why they did not believe in a god. And if they can't give u a good reason than, chances are they are just saying that to try to find a "middle ground".
I'd ask them if they suffered a massive head injury sometime around the conversion, mainly because I think pretty much anyone who asks that sort of question isn't being honest, either with you or with him or herself. But that's me, and that approach won't work for everyone.
Atheist - denies existence of God.
(on Dawkins scale of 1-10, where 1=mild disbelief,..., 10=dogmatic disbelief)
Agnostic - god is unprovable, unknowable or wrong question (frame) altogether.
Irreligious - Hostile or indifferent to religion.
Apostate - turning your back on your religion for another religion.
Atheist grade 10 and Agnostic regarding Zeus, Odin,..., Flying Spaghetti Monster
Some people are:
Atheist grade 1 and Agnostic regarding Yahweh.
Your peer may have been apostate:
Atheist grade 10 with a dogmatic (unreasoned) belief in no-god and then switched to Theist grade 10 with a dogmantic (unreasoned) belief in god. That is only a slight change in initial conditions. In a complex system, slight variations in initial conditions leads to vastly different results.
Even more people are irreligious and think that they are atheist when they are not, or rather are atheist grade 1 or 2 "in anger" without sufficient grounds to articulate how they got that way. You often find the people in a queue for lottery tickets and scratch-off games of chance.
I disagree with your definitions, Kirk. An atheist does not have to deny the existence of God (or gods), simply lack belief in him/them. One does not have to deny that Apollo exists to not believe in him. Just like one does not have to deny that green-furred aliens are living on a planet orbiting Sirius in order to lack a belief in those aliens. There is a difference between denying something's existence and not believing in its existence.
Also, agnostic can either be the philosophical position that god is unknowable, as you pointed out, or a simple admission of a lack of knowledge on the matter. Kind of a "I do not know, as there is insufficient data to make a decision"
I also disagree with Dawkins' scale (which was from 1 to 7, not 1 to 10), by the way. I prefer the 2-dimensional model with agnostic-gnostic making up one axis and atheist-theist making up the other. It seems a more accurate method of portrayal since atheism/theism and agnosticism/gnosticism reference two separate concepts, belief and knowledge. I count myself as an agnostic atheist. I do not believe in any gods, as the evidence for their existence is absent. However, I do not claim to *know* that there are no gods, and new evidence could conceivably convince me that a god or gods do exist.
Nor is everyone a 'Atheist grade 10' with regard to Zeus and Odin. In fact, worship of these gods has been on the rise lately.
I do, however, agree that it is certain;y possible for someone to go from being an atheist who arrived at that position via non-reasoned methods (anger, rebellion, incredulity, etc) to a theist via the same non-reasoned basis.
Just so I understand "There is a difference between denying something's existence and not believing in its existence."
If deny means:
1. To declare untrue; contradict.
2. To refuse to believe; reject.
3. To refuse to recognize or acknowledge; disavow.
It seems that only in deny(1) I have intention or motive for declaring but not necessarily meaning (feeling, owning, truthfully in my heart) that something is untrue. So I don't think you mean deny(1).
If I use deny(2), by substitution, "a difference between refusing to believe in something's existence and not believing in it's existence." seems to eliminate a chance to have a perverse intention to deceive (even self-deception seems unlikely). But it doesn't seem to mean much of anything.
That leaves deny(3) which leads to my favorite subject; self-deception. In this case I refuse to tell you the truth about my belief. In which case I plead the 5th and don't even really and truly deny anything.
My point is, I'm sorry about getting Dawkins wrong even if I didn't get everything you said.