In discussions with theists I have heard it many times: ” I used to be just like you.” or ” I was an atheist just like you.”
Prominent examples of people who are former atheists who came to faith of course include Kirk Camoron, Lee Strobel (the case for Christ) and J. Warner Wallace (Cold Case Christianity).
Oftentimes I’m encouraged to read their books or watch a certain movie. Many find themselves convinced by Wlliam Lane Craig’s Kalam argument or the fine tuning argument. I do of course understand the appeal of these arguments as they attack us at our weakest point: Our need for cognitive closure.
My instant reaction when I hear that my interlocutor is a former atheist is always the same: I ask them what convinced them to adopt the belief they’re holding currently. I am very willing to accept sound arguments and I’m always curious about these cases where I talk to people who used to disbelieve. The reaction of Christians who hear of a deconverted atheist is very often a different one:
Very often they’ll deny the possibility, that someone held a genuine belief in Jesus which they dropped. The instant reaction is always a “No true Scotsman” fallacy when they try to argue that “you didn’t really feel Jesus” or “You weren’t really saved” . The reason for this is obvious: If they were to admit that somebody had the same experience as them and doesn’t believe in it now, then it logically follows, that that experience that relationship isn’t as meaningful as they think it is.
This to me is one of the key differences between theists and atheists:
I as an atheist can fully accept that the other side has compelling (though fallacious) arguments that can genuinely convert somebody. I know why they don’t hold up but they do have strength as they offer an easy to a difficult question and we as humans are terribly uncomfortable with uncertainty. The theist on the other side won’t even acknowledge that my side has former members of theirs, won’t consider any of my arguments and can’t and won’t admit when he/she is wrong.
These 2 contrary reactions illustrate perfectly to me, who holds the honest position,who is open to hear other arguments that may change his mind and the other one who already has his answers and needs not look further as a change of his position is outright impossible.
Goodbye from yours truly,
Rene von Boenninghausen@Renevelation