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Thread: Common theist argument: "You know, I used to be an atheist myself..."

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    Elder Contributor Underseer's Avatar
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    Common theist argument: "You know, I used to be an atheist myself..."

    It seems like every other Christian that I talk to claims to be a former atheist.

    Here's the first problem with that: there can't possibly be that many ex-atheist Christians out there. Anyone who has seen the statistics knows this. Throughout the Western industrialized world, the number of Christians is shrinking and the number of non-theists is growing. The number of Christians who become atheist per year in a given Western society is actually kinda small, and the number of atheists becoming Christian is even smaller. We know this must be true because the number of Christians keeps shrinking while the number of nontheists keeps growing.

    I run into so many Christians who claim to be ex-Christians, and I know from the statistics that they must either be confused about what an atheist is or lying.

    So why do they do it?

    I suspect it is because they don't understand what an appeal to authority fallacy is. I think they believe that if they claim to be former atheists, this will cause their arguments to be more convincing. I think they believe this because everything they believe to be true comes from an appeal to authority fallacy (e.g. the Bible says X is true and the Bible is an authority, therefore X is true; the preacher says Y is true and the preacher is an authority, therefore Y is true). If everything they believe to be true comes from an appeal to authority fallacy, then it is natural that they would expect everyone else to also be convinced by appeal to authority fallacies.

    Of course, if they were actually former atheists, they would know that using logical fallacies makes their position less credible, not more, which is especially ironic. An ex-atheist would know that there are no good arguments to use and would certainly not rely on a logical fallacy which would instantly make the person they're talking to more suspicious of their position. An ex-atheist would know that it's best to make purely emotional arguments and hope they caught the atheist at a moment in their lives when everything is going wrong. Most atheists are ex-Christians and most became ex-Christians precisely because they went through a period of intense study and found that all of the apologetics arguments are bad.

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    Elder Contributor Keith&Co.'s Avatar
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    "Most atheists are ex-Christians and most became ex-Christians precisely because they went through a period of intense study and found that all of the apologetics arguments are bad. "

    That might be a big driver, too. Every so often, I see apologists try to say, "Well, if you were a believer, you'd know..." but they can't speak as the only authority in the room if the atheist used to be a believer. So they try to keep the atheists from being the only authority on atheism in the room, by claiming to have once been a nihilist, too. And describe their atheist time as they think atheists believe and feel...

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    Super Moderator Bronzeage's Avatar
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    After thinking about this for a few minutes, I can't recall a single Christian who claimed to have once been an Atheist. There are plenty who became Christians after a fairly short life of not giving it a lot of thought, one way or the other.

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    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    This claim will be found in any apologetics debate between any two religions, with vayring degrees of veracity.

    I think you have a shaky grasp of mathematics, though. A net loss tells you nothing about how many people have been wandering from one tradition to another, only what the overall ratio has been at the end of it.


    Let me help you:

    Suppose I have ten apples, and you and a friend both have three oranges. I trade you five apples for two of your oranges. Your friend trades me two oranges for one apple. Then you and your friend trade, with you offering two additional apples for one of his oranges, and one of his apples. Finally, I trade with your friend all of the oranges that I have accumulated, in exchange for three of my apples back.

    On average, which of those apples or oranges is an exclusive and dichotomous religious identity that you are thinking about in a very fuzzy fashion?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bronzeage View Post
    After thinking about this for a few minutes, I can't recall a single Christian who claimed to have once been an Atheist. There are plenty who became Christians after a fairly short life of not giving it a lot of thought, one way or the other.
    Well, I'm sure that there's more than a few. If people are questioning and thinking about theological positions, you're going to have a wide range of things that they go through.

    Just so long as they're being honest with themselves about where they are at each stage of their journey, it's all good. Unless they become Mennonites, of course, because those assholes can just wander off and fuck themselves.

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    Veteran Member skepticalbip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Sawyer View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Bronzeage View Post
    After thinking about this for a few minutes, I can't recall a single Christian who claimed to have once been an Atheist. There are plenty who became Christians after a fairly short life of not giving it a lot of thought, one way or the other.
    Well, I'm sure that there's more than a few. If people are questioning and thinking about theological positions, you're going to have a wide range of things that they go through.

    Just so long as they're being honest with themselves about where they are at each stage of their journey, it's all good. Unless they become Mennonites, of course, because those assholes can just wander off and fuck themselves.
    There has gotta be a good story behind this. Why specifically the Mennonites? Did one of those Mennonite rape gangs drag your granny off and read scripture to her?

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    Yes, but she was dressed like a slut and deserved it, so I don’t hold that against them.

    My main problem with them is that I’m just an anti-Mennonite bigot.

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    Veteran Member James Brown's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bronzeage View Post
    After thinking about this for a few minutes, I can't recall a single Christian who claimed to have once been an Atheist.
    It's a standard line among outspoken apologists: C. S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, etc.

    Notice, by the way, the distinction from another favourite genre:“I used to be an atheist, but . . .” That is one of the oldest tricks in the book, practised by, among many others, C S Lewis, Alister McGrath and Francis Collins. It is designed to gain street cred before the writer starts on about Jesus, and it is amazing how often it works. Look out for it, and be forewarned.
    --Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

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    Shrunken Member WAB's Avatar
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    Too many attempts at mind-reading going on, and too much over-simplification and convenient classification.

    I was an atheist from my late teens until 2011, when I underwent a conversion, which I now consider to be caused by a mental event or a mental disorder. My conversion is documented on these boards. I was a Christian and talked about Christ being my Lord and King, the whole shebang.

    Years of concentrated effort - of introspection and research into religious mania, brain disorders producing religious experience, etc, caused me to come back to myself.

    Consequently, I also came back into deep depression. The faith I had or thought I had was exciting and new. It gave me a purpose and rejuvenated me. I may have been crazy, but I was happy.

    In a way I miss those feelings.

    I am sure, Underseer, that some of those Christians who claim to have been atheists are telling the truth.

    No doubt there are also those who say it for the reasons you and Dawkins mention (though there's no reason to think Dawkins was right that the three theists he mentions were/are lying about formerly being atheists. He ought to stick to science and put the crystal ball away).
    Last edited by WAB; 11-05-2018 at 06:20 PM.
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    Formerly Joedad
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    In my experience it's some stressful life event that causes a person to convert one way or another. Speaking personally it was simply the stresses of life, raising a family, nothing in particular except the ultimate realization that if there was a god my life would not be so challenging, painful, and stressful. And stupid idiocy such as ostensibly witnessing children die because they have original sin.

    So I became convinced that gods were not real.

    "Atheist" is certainly a religious word. By definition I am certainly atheist but certainly do not consider myself religious.

    I have met many people who stated they were once atheists, usually it's an early/late teen thing, kinda like saying they were once virgins.

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