Atheist deconversion stories

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Theodore Beale declared: "...the age at which most people become atheists indicates that it is almost never an intellectual decision, but an emotional one."[1] See: Atheism and immaturity

Atheist deconversion stories are stories of atheists claiming why/how they left their religion and became atheists (see also: Atheism vs. religion).

In the United States, the ages 14–17 are very influential in terms of an individual adopting atheism.[2] Of those who do embrace unbelief in the United States, many do so in their high school years.[3]

Theodore Beale declared: "...the age at which most people become atheists indicates that it is almost never an intellectual decision, but an emotional one."[4] See: Atheism and immaturity

The Christian apologist Ken Ammi concurs in his essay The Argument for Atheism from Immaturity and writes: "It is widely known that some atheists rejected God in their childhood, based on child like reasons, have not matured beyond these childish notions and thus, maintain childish-emotional reactions toward the idea of God."[5]

The majority of philosophers of religion, or those who have extensively studied the issue of the existence of God, are theists (72 percent).[6]

There is a considerable body of evidence and argumentation for the existence of God and for the validy of Christianity (see: Arguments for the existence of God and Evidence for Christianity and Rebuttals to atheist arguments).

There are a number of causes of atheism.

The Christian Post reports about the Christian philosopher James S. Spiegel's book The Making of an Atheist:

Spiegel, who converted to Christianity in 1980, has witnessed the pattern among several of his friends. Their path from Christianity to atheism involved: moral slippage (such as infidelity, resentment or unforgiveness); followed by withdrawal from contact with fellow believers; followed by growing doubts about their faith, accompanied by continued indulgence in the respective sin; and culminating in a conscious rejection of God.[7]

See also: Atheism and morality and Atheism and forgiveness

In addition, there is the historical matter of deceit being used in a major way to propagate atheism (see: Atheism and deception and Atheism and historical revisionism).

Atheist deconversion stories generally don't report an atheist conducting an analysis of Christian apologetics before an atheist deconverts from his/her religion and becomes an atheist (Christian apologetics is the defense of the Christian faith through logic/evidence based arguments. See also: Christian apologetics websites).

Dr. Greg Bahnsen became known as "the man atheists fear most" due to Michael Martin's cancellation of their scheduled debate.[8]

In 1990, the atheist philosopher Michael Martin indicated there was a general absence of an atheistic response to contemporary work in the philosophy of religion and in jest he indicated that it was his "cross to bear" to respond to theistic arguments.[9] Yet, in 1994, Michael Martin was criticized for his eleventh hour cancellation of his debate with Greg Bahnsen (see: Greg Bahnsen and debate and Bahnson-Martin debate press release).[10] See also: Atheism debates

The Christian apologist Dave Armstrong wrote about atheist deconversion stories:

But as an apologist, generally speaking (in the public arena), I have to defend Christianity, and that includes critiquing reasons given to reject Christianity. If those reasons are inadequate, then it is my task to show how and why they are, in order to prevent existing Christians from using them as reasons to leave (which is, of course, a large part of the reason for these deconversion stories: to persuade others to forsake Christianity as well).

In effect, these deconversion stories are the atheist equivalent of Christian preaching or evangelism. They are intended to persuade; to make the movement grow; to embolden others to “come out” and do the previously unthinkable thing: reject Christianity: very much in internal purpose like our own testimonies.

Therefore, we are equally entitled to critique them; since they are presented in public in the first place, not in private, man-to-man, eye-to-eye, sitting by the fire or in some restaurant talking about the problems of life, kids, work frustrations, etc. Public material (that attacks Christianity) is fair game. Surely you can’t object to that![11]

Armstrong also wrote about atheist deconversion stories:

But also (invariably in my experience), the reasons given are insufficient, in my opinion, to compel anyone to reject Christianity. Oftentimes, it is a matter of basic facts of error or in logic. I just finished a critique of one such deconversion story today. But my point in the post above is quite simple: atheists mostly preach to their own choirs...

I think conversions (or adherences) either way should ultimately be based on (or at least be in harmony with) rational considerations[12]

Concerning the atheist John W. Loftus, Armstrong wrote: "He wants to have a public website with that name, and run down Christianity and Christians day and night, but don’t let us dare to utter a critique of his story of apostasy!"[13]

Atheist deconversion stories and the internet

See also: Internet atheism and Atheism website resources

Michael J. Kruger, President and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, wrote about atheist deconversion stories:

Of course, there have always been de-conversion stories available throughout the history of the church—if one would only take the time to dig them up and listen to them. Christianity has never had a shortage of people who were once in the fold and then left.

But in recent years these de-conversion stories seem to have taken on a higher profile. Part of this is due, no doubt, to the technology that makes these de-conversion stories more available whether through podcasts, blogs, or other forms of media.[14]

Atheist conversion stories, apathy and fear of social ostracism

Most atheist are not atheist activists (see: Atheism and apathy).

Atheist Francois Tremblay wrote: "One last problem that undermines any propagation of atheism is inspiration. Let's be honest here, 'there is no god!' is not a very motivating call for most people."[15] See also: Atheism and inspiration

The new atheist Sam Harris said concerning the label of atheist, "It's right next to child molester as a designation."(see also: Distrust of atheists)[16][17]

According Pew Research:

In the 2014 Religious Landscape Study, self-identified atheists were asked how often they share their views on God and religion with religious people. Only about one-in-ten atheists (9%) say they do at least weekly, while roughly two-thirds (65%) say they seldom or never discuss their views on religion with religious people. By comparison, 26% of those who have a religious affiliation share their views at least once a week with those who have other beliefs; 43% say they seldom or never do.[18]

In addition, given the low opinion that many members of the public have concerning atheism/atheists (see: Views on atheists and Distrust of atheists), many atheists are closet atheists due to fear of social ostracism (see: Atheism and social outcasts).

The atheist PZ Myers wrote:

Some of you might recall I had this series on the blog, “Why I am an atheist”, in which I invited the audience to send me their personal story of why they were atheists. It was very popular, and there were quite a few thoughtful, interesting submissions, to the point where I was actually thinking of putting them into a book. I had drafted some release forms and was getting ready to send them out, when there was a peculiar shift. I was still getting submissions, but I was also getting all these frantic emails asking me to delete entries or edit out names — people were noticing that when they googled their names, the first thing that popped up was…their declaration of atheism. This was not good if you were, for instance, applying for jobs (and that also tells you how messed up American attitudes towards atheism are). The day the number of retraction requests exceeded the number of submissions was the day I knew that little project wasn’t going to happen.

I’m still getting retraction requests, by the way. Every few months someone writes to me and pleads to have their name redacted, or the whole dang post deleted. I oblige every time, of course.

Also by the way — the number of women making those deletion requests exceeds the number of men. I can’t imagine why.[19]

Women are less likely to be atheists according to surveys performed around the world and other data (see: Atheism and women).[20] [21]

Inadequacy of atheist deconversion stories, naturalism and spirituality

See also: Atheism and the problem of evil and Argument from religious experience and Naturalism and Atheism and the supernatural and Studies on prayer and Atheism and miracles and Atheism and love and Atheism and forgiveness and Atheism and gratitude and Atheism and spirituality

The article Why Atheist De-Conversion Stories Fail declares:

To persuade people, one should use the tools Aristotle suggested of ethos (establish credibility), pathos (appeal to people’s emotions) and logos (apply logic). I have encountered many atheists who have applied Aristotle’s formulations to construct their “de-conversion” from Christianity stories. This intention of this blog is to deconstruct their stories based on a higher level understanding of the same three formulations.

Just as we have witnessed in some sitcoms and news broadcasts, most of the atheist de-conversion stories I have heard are rather predictable: they begin with the atheist claiming to have been a devout, sometimes fundamentalist Christian in an attempt to establish credibility with Christians (ethos). They follow with a tale of the pain they’ve unfairly endured based on a horrific event in their lives. This event is often tragic and worthy of much empathy, especially when it involves a death in the family. Through this event, they call on our emotions (pathos). Then they state that God did not answer their prayers, calling on the logic of those who believe God has not answered their prayers either (logos). A second approach using logos is to say they studied the Bible and (1) the stories of Yahweh in the Old Testament turned them off; (2) the claims about the Messiah cannot be true since they violate our natural laws; and (3) the claims from atheists / agnostics like Richard Carrier, Bart Ehrman, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Matt Dillahunty seem reasonable.

Atheists use Aristotle’s approach to justify themselves, not only to us, but to our Lord... Yet the Lord sees through them for who they are. He knows the hearts of all in humanity and can easily distinguish the unintentional from the intentional deceivers... Romans 1 further explicates that we are all hard wired with the knowledge of our Supreme Creator.

How should Christians respond to these de-conversion stories? We should offer our own conversion testimonies. The most powerful way that we have to share the Good News of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is through our testimony of how we determined the Good News to be the truth...

Atheists who call on ethos, pathos, and logos to present their cases only see the naturalistic explanations for the events surrounding them. They fail to see the other half of the world – that which goes beyond this world. They fail to see that which inspires and calls on us to love, forgive and give thanks. Accordingly, their stories only appeal to our natural experience and fail to appeal to our spiritual sense. They therefore are not credible (ethos), logical (logos) or explanatory of our emotional connection to the Lord (pathos). In this way, they fail miserably.[22]

Few, if any, atheist deathbed deconversion stories

See also: Atheism and death and Atheism and life after death and Atheism and Hell

Although the Christian religious community and other religious communities have stories of deathbed conversions[23], the atheist population has few, if any, stories of atheist deathbed deconversions.

A 2012 study by the General Social Survey of the social science research organization NORC at the University of Chicago found that belief in God rises with age, even in atheistic nations.[24]

Conversion from atheism to Christianity

See also: Conversion from atheism to Christianity and Resources for leaving atheism and becoming a Christian and Ex-atheists

The ex-atheist Lee Strobel converted to Christianity.

The abstract of a 2018 academic study performed at the University of South Carolina entitled Toward Faith: A Qualitative Study of How Atheists Convert to Christianity published by Joseph Langston indicates:

The study of religious conversion has historically neglected how nonbelievers (i.e. atheists) come to adopt a belief in a god or gods, and thus cannot address whether findings and theories from previous research apply to atheists. In order to assess how atheists converted to Christianity, we performed a thematic analysis of 111 biographical narratives obtained from the open Internet. Our analysis yielded 10 recurring thematic elements, which we termed as hardship; authentic example; unfamiliarity/pseudo-familiarity (with Christianity or Christians); “contra atheism”; religious study; intellectualism; numinous experiences; openness to experience; ritual behaviors; and social ties. We draw logical connections between these themes and connect them to previous research. Our results impress the need for a more flexible, and therefore less sequential or stage-based, theoretical approach to conversion[25]

See also

External links

Notes

  1. Answering an atheist's question
  2. Answering an atheist's question
  3. [1]
  4. Does it matter that many scientists are atheists?
  5. Christian Philosopher Explores Causes of Atheism
  6. Bahsen at the Stein debate by John Frame
  7. Open Questions: Diverse Thinkers Discuss God, Religion, and Faith by Luís F. Rodrigues, page 201
  8. Bahsen at the Stein debate by John Frame
  9. On My Reason for Critiquing Atheist “Deconversion” Stories by Dave Armstrong
  10. Atheist-Christian Dialogue on Conversion & Deconversion by Dave Armstrong
  11. On My Reason for Critiquing Atheist “Deconversion” Stories by Dave Armstrong
  12. The Power of De-Conversion Stories: How Jen Hatmaker is Trying to Change Minds About the Bible by Michael J. Kruger
  13. Herding Cats: Why atheism will lose by Francois Tremblay
  14. NEWSWEEK Poll: 90% Believe in God, Newsweek 2007
  15. Roberts, Jessica, et al. (June 19, 2007). "Interview with an atheist". News21. Retrieved on July 30, 2014.
  16. 7 facts about atheists, Pew Forum
  17. So, it’s “Atheist Day” by PZ Myers
  18. Khan, Razib (November 18, 2010). "Gene expression; Sex differences in global atheism, part N". Discover magazine website.
  19. Myers, P.Z. (June 29, 2010). "The woman problem". Pharyngula [blog].
  20. Why Atheist De-Conversion Stories Fail
  21. Are deathbed conversions real? by Matt Slick at the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry
  22. Belief in God rises with age, even in atheist nations
  23. Toward Faith: A Qualitative Study of How Atheists Convert to Christianity by Joseph Langston, Researchgate, 2018