Perusing my Twitter timeline, I often come across Christians either belittling atheism or a particular atheist that I happen to follow. As a curious person, I usually look at their profile to see if I can determine anything about them aside from their tweet.
On several occasions, I’ve discovered people claiming to be ex-atheists. That intrigues me. How does one give up non-belief for belief? I’ve written before that Atheism is Not a Light Switch, at least in my opinion. It’s not something a person turns on one day and then, for whatever circumstance, suddenly flips to the off position.
Yet there seem to be people that claim to have done just that. In my opinion, they were never atheists and what they seem to enjoy is the attention they receive from their fellow theists as being someone that realized, finally, that yes, there was a God and in most cases gave their lives to Jesus.
I’ve never met anyone that left their belief and became an atheist and said it was easy for them. As I wrote here, it’s a process. For some, years before they were able to throw off superstition. So to declare oneself an ex-atheist to me says quite a bit about the individual.
I’ve known people that were atheists because, in their group, it was popular. No, I’m not kidding. For a few, it was in college and they didn’t want to be on the outside of some social group. For others, it was rebellion against their parents. None of that ever made sense to me, even when I was a believer. I don’t have many contacts from college today, but those that I have? None of those that were atheists at the time are atheists today.
I look at those claiming to be ex-atheists as pretenders. They never really gave up their former belief (if they had one), and were never people that considered atheism seriously. If they had, they would still be atheists.
I don’t believe any of those claiming to be ex-atheists were really ever atheists. I don’t use the word lightly. Believe has two main definitions: trust and opinion. and I do not trust that those claiming to be ex-atheists ever really were. Those that make that claim should first show their bonafides.
I know that people can choose what they want, when they want. Please though, don’t claim to be something you never were to begin with. You embarrass yourself, along with those that think you are credible.
18 thoughts on “Ex-Atheists Are Not Credible”
One of my friends became entangled in a born-again little church that ran a contest for the member who could bring the most newcomers to a church meeting. A couple of my friends and I went to church with her to help her win the contest.
They had a guest speaker who told a tale that I recognized as an absolute stereotype, but which the congregation seemed to swallow whole:
“In the past, I was a drinking, whoring, gambling atheist and ran that game out until I was almost dead. Then as a last resort I accepted Jesus as my savior and got all better!”
(This is Proof #10 That God Exists)
10. MORAL ARGUMENT (II)
(1) In my younger days I was a cursing, drinking, smoking, gambling, child-molesting, thieving, murdering, bed-wetting bastard.
(2) That all changed once I became religious.
(3) Therefore, God exists.
One striking part of his tale was that as he collapsed on the minister’s desk, he felt a gentle touch on his outstretched hand — a touch that gave him the strength to raise his head and begin life anew. Yet when he looked up, the minister was in another part of the room!
It had to have been the hand of Jesus!
As we were escaping, I overheard one of the regular members say that she had heard this speaker tell his story before, but at that telling, he hadn’t mentioned feeling the touch of the very hand of God.
I was knocked out by her placid acceptance of the stories as true, even though he had earlier forgotten the most striking detail.
Jim, NONE of these “I used to be an atheist” anecdotes are true.
And just so you don’t miss out on that link to the Godless Geeks, here it is again:
That’s actually been my experience as well. It’s the “I used to be a terrible person, an atheist” story. In fact, none of these people I’d ever heard were actually atheists, they had just fallen away from the church, as many do. When they’re in some sort of personal crisis is when they come out with these stories of how “Jesus” saved them from their horrible life.
You’re more charitable than I am.
The only cases I have ever personally encountered were the obvious false-flag fictions posted in atheist chat rooms, and that single church speaker.
He was obviously a charlatan bottom-feeding off these dirt-poor desperate people, making the circuit with his fake story in exchange for chump change.
They passed around a cup to raise money, and I was shocked to see that there was almost nothing in it. Even if the congregation had given the speaker every penny they collected, he would not have earned enough to to pay for his gas.
My friends and I each put a few dollars in the cup, and that amplified the collection many times over.
Afterwards I wondered if the so-called “contest” was not just a ploy to raise money by bringing in outsiders, then shocking them with their pathetic poverty — stressing that point by colluding with the regular members to donate only pocket change.
Oh well, I suppose it was just a hustle, but I did get my money’s worth in entertainment and food for thought.
There were a number of other interesting observations:
> My friend (the member who invited us) was reeling from a staggeringly difficult divorce and ended up in these people’s clutches. I believe she was so distressed that she was willing to try even magic. The church people eventually started speaking in tongues and falling on the floor with holy seizures, so she quit them.
> One of my friends said that “all the children were unusually beautiful — angelic-looking.”
I realized that it was because they were not ethnic. All those blond, blue-eyed angels were all from my own ethnic group — “Poor White Trash” (Hahaha) — genetic Yankees.
> I got into an argument with a lanky, rangy tall blond man about my age (early 20’s) who became frustrated with my atheistic belittling comments and addressed me angrily as “Listen, little girl … “
I don’t know about be charitable, its just that I don’t believe those claiming to be “ex-atheists”. My opinion comes from my own experience long ago and how I struggled with giving up belief in God, even though I knew nothing that I believed was actually true. It was a long process for me, but at the end, I could come to no other conclusion that what I had.
Many atheists I know had similar experiences. Some of those considerations have to do with family and friends that would be alienated. Others had to do with how being an atheist may affect a career and having to hide being an atheist from everyone. I personally never hid my atheism from anyone, and I have no idea if I lost a promotion or some sort of recognition in my field due to it. I didn’t care. I prefer being who I am, not hiding from others because of a lack in belief.
I’ve known a few people well enough to believe that they were genuine atheists for several years before returning to Christianity. It was either a crisis with which they didn’t know how to cope, a relationship with a Christian who wanted them to participate in the raising of Christian children, or both. I share your skepticism when it comes to those we see online proudly describing themselves as ex-atheists; however, the people I know who went that route don’t tell others about it and have no interest in trying to convert anyone. So I am inclined to think that it can happen.
Okay. I see.
That doesn’t seem to be the type of people I am likely to bump into, so I didn’t consider that.
I don’t know any actual de-converted ex-atheists.
At the most, I know some people (who never were really atheists in the first place) who backslid into religion.
One of my friends is a Trotsky-ite, and he is an atheist only because the Communist Workers’ World party he belongs to told him to be an atheist.
He has no philosophical basis for his atheism, and he didn’t come to it through his own thoughts.
The now-empty psychological spaces he would have filled with religion, he now fills up with a fascination with myths and pre-Christian supernatural figures. He has a shrine to Ishtar, for example. If he ever stops being a Communist, he will stop being an atheist, I suppose.
It’s annoying to no end to see some of these people on Twitter describe themselves as an “ex-atheist” as if that is some sort of badge of honor. As to life crises, we all go through them at one point or another in our lives. It has never occurred to me to turn to “God” to resolve anything since I’ve been an atheist. That’s why I think these people were not truly atheists to begin with.
I’m responding to your post above here in this slot because the actual post I want to respond to doesn’t have a reply button — and neither do many other posts.
And now I am so indignant that I forget my response.
But I bet it was a humdinger!
I learned about the dilemmas of lapsed religious people from reading Atheist Revolution.
You don’t get to hear things like that so much on chat rooms, where the goal (MY goal anyway) is to eat Christians for lunch.
I’m a born atheist in a metropolitan area where atheism is unremarkable, so I have no personal experience with the kind of thing you mentioned.
IRL I don’t think about atheism much unless someone brings it up first. It’s just “background” — like knowing my own race or gender or age. It’s just there with no particular significance.
But I don’t have the slightest hesitation in announcing it whenever it crops up.
But something that Vjack wrote made me wonder if I would change my tune if I were exiled to a small town in the Bible Belt — a place where strangers lean on the counter of the hardware store and say, “Hi, brother! Where do you church?”
YEOW! WHAT!?!? (cue the spooky, foreboding, alarming music)
I think I would react with EXTREME COWARDICE and instantly become a child of God if being an atheist meant that no teenager would mow my lawn, no college girl would help me with the housework, no plumber would repair my pipes, no clerk in the drugstore would be able to see me …
I may have fixed the “reply” issue. I just increased the nested number to 10. I have lived in a small town and really? No one cared that I was an atheist.
Oh! That’s a relief.
I have never even set foot in a small town, so I was picturing a slasher flick scenario, or maybe an Easy Rider kind of thing.
Do strangers really say, “Hi, brother. Where do you church?”
And thanks for the “Reply” fix!
No one ever asked me where I went to church. Ever. I live in a small town now, 50K population. Lots of churches, no recriminations.
The default in WordPress seems to be 3. I never bothered with it because, until recently, I haven’t received many comments.
Is your town in like Maine or something?
I hate to give up my stereotyped prejudices against small towns.
I LOVE to comment in general, and I really like talking to you — you’re one of the smart funny ones.
I admire that quick-witted sense of humor.
I know I’m not funny. : (
Arizona. An hour SE of Tucson. I actually don’t miss the “Big City”. Plus, it’s available (Tucson is around 900K, I think) if I feel the need for crowds. 🤠
In Mississippi, it is extremely common for complete strangers to begin a conversation by asking where you go to church. I believe this is more of a Southern thing than a small town thing. I grew up in a small town outside the South and never heard it there.
What on earth is the answer?
And not just atheists … what do Mormons or Raëlins or Shinto priests say?
By saying, “They were never atheists” sounds a bit like the Christian argument, “They were never Christians.” My dad was an unbeliever for years, but then something convinced him that there is a God and Christianity is true. Conversely, I was a Christian for years, and then something convinced me (mostly in-depth Bible study) that Christianity was not true… we switched.
Thanks, John. Your experience is definitive.
It’s amusing that you and your father swapped sides.
The second round of arguments must have been more entertaining than the first.
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