Three Crucial Things You Must Know Before Challenging An Atheist’s Unbelief

I propose that there are three categories of atheists:

1. Natural Atheists: Those brought up by atheist parents who never experienced the conflict between religion and rationality.
2. Apathetic Atheists: Those whose faith was not particularly strong and who, without a compelling drive to believe or not believe, defaulted to atheism - becoming an atheist involved very little internal debate and conflict.
3. Dissonant Atheists: Those who grew up with belief but who were overwhelmingly torn up over the incompatibility between faith and rationality. These people sought one thing - to rid themselves of the terrible cognitive dissonance cat #1 and #2 atheists are spared from.

I’m here to talk about category #3 atheists because, well, I fall in that grouping.

Three Things You Must Know About Category #3 Atheists

1. We Sometimes Wish Were Wrong (Even Though We Know We Are Not): I think one of the biggest mistakes theists make is to assume an atheist’s decision to ditch god was arrived at without deeply studying the issue. They honestly believe that all they have to do is raise a little awareness and, viola, they will have an easy conversion. This is not the case for cat #3 atheists. For us, becoming an atheist was the biggest decision of our lives. After all, becoming an atheist, not only means (for 99.9999% of us) getting rid of god, it also means abandoning the idea of immortality (ourselves and our loved ones) and that makes it a very, very big decision. Many of us go through a very real grieving process over all of this. With all this on the line, do you really think we’d only put a half-assed effort into our decision?
2. We’ve Heard It All Before: I’m amazed how often - in my short, six months as an atheist - I’ve been challenged by someone who thinks they have the ultimate argument for religion. Trust me, you have nothing new to offer us on this discussion. Why am I so cocky (clue: see #1 above)? We’ve heard all your objections and questions before - probably many times before. Where have we heard them? We heard them inside our own heads during our de-conversion process. We’ve run the scenarios and questions many, many times - over and over - in our minds and, eventually, logic won out over these objections and we accepted reality. Most cat #3 atheists will have read multiple books on both sides of the argument, spend hundreds of hours on the web, and viewed countless Youtube debates (frankly, once you’ve seen Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris demolish the likes of Dinesh D’Souza a few times, our own debates seem …rather lame). What you need to know is that by the time you come into the picture, your objections are not at all new to us.
3. You are Projecting: What we’ve come to realize about your questions and objections (e.g. “What’s the purpose of life without God?” and “Why be moral?”) is that you’re projecting your thoughts, insecurities and fears onto us. Sure, we can answer your questions but, we know in doing so that our worldview troubles you, and that you ask those questions to help you imagine what it might be like to be an atheist. My advice is to keep on asking these good questions, but to also make sure you ask them of yourself. I think you’ll find that you can imagine there’s no heaven. You may even find that it’s easy if you try.

To be blunt, what all this means is that you have very little hope of converting a cat #3 atheist to your religion (you probably won’t have much luck with a cat #1 either). Seriously, your best chance probably lies in converting cat #2 atheists so you might want to start by asking a few questions before wasting time on the wrong category.

Now you have a better understanding of us. You also have a more specific target conversion market.

You’re welcome.

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Sorry, I can't really answer to this, it's not mine. You can click on the link and become a member of his blog though if you like. I just thought it would be interesting content for this site.
I would be a category #2 Atheist. I have been Agnostic most of my life and Atheist for the past 10 years.

I will have to disagree with you about converting a #2 Atheists or even an Agnostic for that matter.

I have been to church only few times in my life. I have attened services of the Methodists, Catholics, & Southern Baptists. I attended mainly to make friends happy and see what all of the hub-bub was about. I was never a devote follower of any of them. Needless to say, I wasn't convinced then and absolutely won't be convinced now.

I am curious however, if there are any Atheists that have converted to Christianity. If so, is it the same ratio of Christians to Atheism & what changed their minds?

I need evidence. No proof, no deal.
Haha, I remember reading this on awhile back. Good post.

For the record, I'm halfway between a category 2 and a category 3.
fucking amazing man. Im in the process right now of trying to help my dad see the light. the problem is hes lived his entire life preaching and "living" a pro christian life. Christianity has now become his identity and abandoning these ideas would make him feel guilty about his entire 47 years of believing in jesus. i recently got the two Zeitgeist movies and my plan is to watch them with him. my fear is that he really is that far gone, incapable of accepting my "satanic ideas."
Does he actually call them "satanic?"

Well, you haven't included me in this. I've been an atheist for almost 60 years and, upon falling in love with a practicing Catholic, have now associated her religious ways with a need for me to have a deeper love for her by feeling as she does regarding Catholic beliefs. I'm doing everything I can to will myself that way and it's working, sort of like a powerful form of hypnotically induced need that finds itself buttressed by a complete willingness to think only positive thoughts regarding the faith and practices. I'm studying the Cathachism, going to Mass and enjoying it with her, feeling a loss at not being able to accept Communion, and really, a LOT more. 

I know that it doesn't make sense (the Resurrection, Transubstantiation) but don't care anymore and I'm willing to completely suspend my disbelief because the idea of submitting to it is, now (for me), an immersion experience in love. She is absolutely overjoyed and I've been totally honest with her, and despite all that, she feels that the Holy Spirit is guiding me through my love for her. Be it as it may, I'm totally enjoying the whole process and intend to go through RCIA to convert. In fact, the whole idea of being less critical in my thought process is part of the enjoyment I derive from this. 

Where's THAT category!? :)

don't care anymore

Sounds like Category 2 to me...

Also, this discussion is 7 years old... it even pre-dates my arrival on TA... How on earth did you find it? And why did you comment on it?

Yea, went through the Cat 2 thingie's, and so the "don't care" missive. Still, it's major focus is odd enough to lie outside that range enough to form it's own place. 

One of the aspects of searching for a phrase is that, often, the search may ignore the age of the comments, etc. Commenting, though, often brings an old subject back into a new listing and restart further comments. Hey, what's time anyway?  :)

I commented because I didn't see my category and thought it may add a different spin on what was already here. 


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