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

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    Veteran Member Wiploc's Avatar
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    Since nobody is born theist, all theists used to be atheists.

    Nonetheless, when theists use the I-used-to-be-an-atheist argument, they are usually lying. They say things like, "I used to be an atheist because I hated having to be good. I wanted to sin without consequence, so I denied my Lord."

    You never hear atheists talking like that. It wouldn't make sense.

    Suppose we reverse the argument. Suppose an atheist argued like this: "I used to be a Christian because I wanted to be a depraved sinner all week long and then have my slate wiped clean when took communion on Sunday. But then one day I woke up and realized that I should be good every day of the week, so I quit believing in gods."

    Would anybody believe that bunk? No? Then nobody should believe theists making the equivalent I-used-to-be-an-atheist argument.

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    I don't know. If someone tells you that they used to be an atheist, the default position should be to believe them. We can't go around complaining that theists misrepresent our positions and don't listen to what we're saying when we correct them about it if we then turn around and don't accept what they're telling us when they're talking about their own positions.

    If it turns out later on, after hearing what they have to say, that we can respond "Ya, being angry at God is very different than being an atheist, so you were mislabelling yourself" or something like that, then fine. However, we should start from a stance of assuming honest communication.

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    Veteran Member skepticalbip's Avatar
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    I was a bit surprised when I heard that Joseph Campbell joined the Catholic Church before he died. It was so out of character with his life's work of exploring myths and mythology and recognizing them as such. I guess some people decide that "cramming for finals" can't hurt.

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    Veteran Member Wiploc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skepticalbip View Post
    I was a bit surprised when I heard that Joseph Campbell joined the Catholic Church before he died. It was so out of character with his life's work of exploring myths and mythology and recognizing them as such. I guess some people decide that "cramming for finals" can't hurt.
    He said at one point that truth isn't the point of mythology. He may have liked the church without caring whether it was true.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Sawyer View Post
    If it turns out later on, after hearing what they have to say, that we can respond "Ya, being angry at God is very different than being an atheist, so you were mislabelling yourself" or something like that, then fine. However, we should start from a stance of assuming honest communication.
    Sure. That works for me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by skepticalbip View Post
    I was a bit surprised when I heard that Joseph Campbell joined the Catholic Church before he died. It was so out of character with his life's work of exploring myths and mythology and recognizing them as such. I guess some people decide that "cramming for finals" can't hurt.
    Citation? I googled and didn't find a mention, just the unanswered question "Did he?" asked many times.

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    Veteran Member skepticalbip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by skepticalbip View Post
    I was a bit surprised when I heard that Joseph Campbell joined the Catholic Church before he died. It was so out of character with his life's work of exploring myths and mythology and recognizing them as such. I guess some people decide that "cramming for finals" can't hurt.
    Citation? I googled and didn't find a mention, just the unanswered question "Did he?" asked many times.
    I don't have a citation, but I have been a big fan of Campbell for decades. I have a shelf of his books that have become dog eared. That is why I was a bit surprised when I watched an interview with him sometime in the 1980s when he was asked about his rejoining the church. I obviously don't recall the full conversation but he described how the richness of the ceremonies and rites had started him on his path and he was just returning home.

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    Die dulci fruere Max Rockatansky's Avatar
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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 used to be a Christian, then I became an atheist....then I grew up.

    Why does it bother you what others believe?
    “An organism at war with itself is doomed.” -- Carl Sagan

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    Shrunken Member WAB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skepticalbip View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by skepticalbip View Post
    I was a bit surprised when I heard that Joseph Campbell joined the Catholic Church before he died. It was so out of character with his life's work of exploring myths and mythology and recognizing them as such. I guess some people decide that "cramming for finals" can't hurt.
    Citation? I googled and didn't find a mention, just the unanswered question "Did he?" asked many times.
    I don't have a citation, but I have been a big fan of Campbell for decades. I have a shelf of his books that have become dog eared. That is why I was a bit surprised when I watched an interview with him sometime in the 1980s when he was asked about his rejoining the church. I obviously don't recall the full conversation but he described how the richness of the ceremonies and rites had started him on his path and he was just returning home.
    George Santayana, a well known philosopher and poet, called himself a Catholic atheist.

    Santayana died in a convent, surrounded by his beloved sisters.

    The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley was a fierce atheist (He wrote a pamphlet called "The Necessity of Atheism"), but loved reading the KJV Bible.

    I'm an agnostic but love old churches, cathedrals, religious art and iconography.
    If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to a library. - Frank Zappa

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    Die dulci fruere Max Rockatansky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WAB View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by skepticalbip View Post
    I don't have a citation, but I have been a big fan of Campbell for decades. I have a shelf of his books that have become dog eared. That is why I was a bit surprised when I watched an interview with him sometime in the 1980s when he was asked about his rejoining the church. I obviously don't recall the full conversation but he described how the richness of the ceremonies and rites had started him on his path and he was just returning home.
    George Santayana, a well known philosopher and poet, called himself a Catholic atheist. I believe he was famous for saying "There is no God and Mary is his mother."

    Santayana died in a convent, surrounded by his beloved sisters.

    I'm an agnostic but love old churches, cathedrals, religious art and iconography.
    Interesting backstory. Santayana is most famous for his comment that those who don't remember the past are condemned to repeat it. In the case of this thread, that includes both atheists and theists.
    “An organism at war with itself is doomed.” -- Carl Sagan

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    Veteran Member James Brown's Avatar
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    Occasionally I've told people "I used to be a Christian." Unlike some others, I don't say it to bump up my credentials. It just happens to come up.

    Inevitably, someone doesn't believe me. They accuse me of lying. Apparently, based on a Bible verse or two, a "Used-to-be Christian" can't exist. It's a contradiction like claiming to be a married bachelor.

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