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

  1. Top | #11
    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?

  2. Top | #12
    Super Moderator
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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.

  3. Top | #13
    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Underseer View Post
    The net loss doesn't tell you how many, but the statistics do. The rate of change is relatively small in any given year. You have to look at many years together before you see large changes.
    Which in and of itself suggests that either

    a. Conversions of any kind are rare

    or

    b. they go both ways, generally balancing each other out over time, but eventually weighted in favor of a certain direction.

    If nearly everyone in society was changing from atheist to theist or the reverse, don't you think society would look very different right now?
    I'm sort of curious as to how you think it would look different? Our society is deeply plurireligious, and we see wild momentary fluctuations in religious identity from poll to poll, forming clear trends only in the aggregate. New religious movements (and "cults") are common-place but usually short-lived. The vast majority of surveyable religions exist within extremely small communities, while a handful of traditions with a lot of literal and cultural capital flourish, and support an ecosystem of smaller subcultures.

    Personally, that exactly what I would expect from a society with a relatively flexible perspective on religious identity that allowed for occasional changes of identity or affiliation. Many other world systems are less flexible, and identity proves much more rigid and unchanging in those places. A few are more liberalized or just play by different rules, resulting in different kinds of social profiles.

  4. Top | #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Underseer View Post
    It seems like every other Christian that I talk to claims to be a former atheist.
    I know right! It's like they're parroting the ex-Christian atheists,

    Quote Originally Posted by Underseer View Post
    Here's the first problem with that: there can't possibly be that many ex-atheist Christians out there.
    Um...you don't think folks can flip Christian/atheist/Christian?

    Quote Originally Posted by Underseer View Post
    ...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.
    Christians who claim to be ex-Christians. How can they be both?
    I think you are the one who is confused.

    Quote Originally Posted by Underseer View Post
    ...the appeal to authority fallacy,
    I don't think admitting that you're a flip-flop, convert/deconvert is meant as an appeal to authority. How is telling an atheist that you rejected atheism going to make you seem more appealing to an atheist. That would be the debating equivalent of fat shaming.


    Quote Originally Posted by Underseer View Post
    Of course, if they were actually former atheists, they would know that...
    Yeah, yeah. If they had really been True Atheists they would never...

    Quote Originally Posted by Underseer View Post
    ...because they went through a period of intense study and found that all of the apologetics arguments are bad.
    LOL
    You know, the verision of God/religion which anti-theist, atheist proselytisers describe to me is one which I would reject too if I were them.

  5. Top | #15
    Fair dinkum thinkum bilby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Underseer View Post
    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.
    I would dispute this claim. It may be true of most atheists in the USA, but they are far from being the majority amongst the world's atheists.

    Most atheists are Western European, and have been atheists for all of their lives - like their parents, and, increasingly, their grandparents. They think of Christianity rarely; When it is proposed to them, they are no more likely to consider converting to it, than they would consider converting to Ancient Greek Polytheism. It comes across as a slightly weird historical oddity - 'Did you know that in grandad's time, most people truly believed that? How weird'.

    Being asked to become a Christian is, to such multi-generational atheists, like being asked to become a wizard by a Harry Potter fan - the response is "What, you mean you actually take that story seriously??"

    In Western Europe, the Baby-Boomer generation are largely former Christian atheists. Their parents are the last remaining serious Christians, and practically all regular churchgoers (those who attend services other than for Christmas, Easter, or family events) are septuagenarians or older. People born after about 1965 were mostly raised by ex-Christian atheist parents. People born after about 1985 were almost exclusively raised by atheist parents, most of whom were never Christians. People born in Europe this century mostly have no ancestors in the last three generations who have been to a church service other than a wedding or a funeral.

    Demographic lag is the only thing keeping traditional Christianity going in Western Europe. In thirty years time, the established churches will have no congregations at all. They already have to import priests (often from Eastern Europe, Africa and the West indies), as all the Western European born priests are retiring.

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    Veteran Member Opoponax's Avatar
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    It's clearly possible for one to go from being an atheist to being Whatever religion has struck them dumb. I do think that most of these stories come off as grossly disingenuous though.

    But I'm a true non-believer. To my mind, the arguments against any god are so convincing, that I would need equally convincing evidence to believe, and I have never found anything close. So when I think of someone like me going back to religion, it simply doesn't compute. Again though, that's just me, and it's not up to me to define the True Atheist.

  7. Top | #17
    Veteran Member skepticalbip's Avatar
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    Depends on which European country is examined. Italy and Ireland are mostly religious and have fewer than 15% atheists - fewer than even the U.S.

  8. Top | #18
    Fair dinkum thinkum bilby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skepticalbip View Post
    Depends on which European country is examined. Italy and Ireland are mostly religious and have fewer than 15% atheists - fewer than even the U.S.
    Sure. But even in Ireland, religion is now collapsing. It just took a bit longer there.

    And these countries have a very strong tradition of belonging, despite very weak observance. In 2016 a study by the Italian social research institute Eurispes, 71.1% of Italians described themselves as Catholic, 5 points down from 2010, but only 25.4% described themselves as 'practicing' - ie more than two thirds of the self-described 'Catholics' don't actually go to church except for weddings, funerals, and maybe Christmas and Easter.

    Both Ireland and Italy are particularly monocultural, with Roman Catholicism totally dominating, which may explain its slower demise there than in the rest of Western Europe.

  9. Top | #19
    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bilby View Post
    Most atheists are Western European, and have been atheists for all of their lives - like their parents, and, increasingly, their grandparents. They think of Christianity rarely; When it is proposed to them, they are no more likely to consider converting to it, than they would consider converting to Ancient Greek Polytheism. It comes across as a slightly weird historical oddity - 'Did you know that in grandad's time, most people truly believed that? How weird'.
    I gather you've never met a Hellenic Reconstructionist.

    Bit of a dour bunch, for Pagans anyhow.

  10. Top | #20
    Formerly Joedad
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    Quote Originally Posted by Underseer View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by T.G.G. Moogly View Post
    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.
    I've read scores, possibly hundreds of deconversion stories. I'm fascinated by them because I was raised without religion and don't know if I would have had the courage and intellectual honesty to overcome such emotionally-manipulative indoctrination. Thus, I can say with confidence that most deconversions are not caused by some traumatic life event as Christians imagine.

    For most ex-Christian atheists, it is the result of a long and difficult attempt to really find out which side has the better arguments. It often involves study of apologetics, the origins of the Bible, Christian theology, etc. In most cases, it's not caused by some traumatic life event: it's caused by an attempt to genuinely know what's true.
    When one is immersed in the religious culture and there is no one, absolutely no one else with which to talk or get a reaction that is not negative, it can have an effect. You would not understand or appreciate that because you did not live it. I can still remember meeting my first actual human being who said, "I don't believe in all that stuff," and that did not occur until I was 40 years old.

    So for me there was no other community. As a result the change was gradual and didn't really get any speed until a priest made the claim that Jesus rose from the dead and that this was an "historical event." THAT did not compute in my rational brain and led to the final deconversion after much investigation and discussion. It is hardly like Santa where you ask the question and others say, "That's right, Santa is just pretend, we bought the presents." Religion doesn't happen that way when you NEVER experience anyone with that mindset. If it had for me I would have jettisoned religion at age ten.

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