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bigjim36

atheist to believer

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Has an atheist ever converted to being a believer? I'm an atheist, I was born and raised roman catholic however in my teens I began to question organised religion. Later in my early 30's I finally came to the conclusion that there is no god, that it was a purely man made concept. You often hear of people turning to atheism after examining the history of religions and/or god/s so that got me thinking "has anyone gone the other way and what made them do so?"

 

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Perhaps, but that leaves me questioning as to just how "atheist" they were prior to their conversion.

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People have indeed 'gone the other way' and some have been quite certain of their previous stance that there's nothing beyond the physical observable universe. A good example is the case of Dr. Eben Alexander: http://skeptiko.com/154-neurosurgeon-dr-eben-alexander-near-death-experience/

 

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I have exactly as much evidence for the existence of God as I do for your existence; from my point of view, you're as much a purely physical process as the rest of the machine universe is. So the fact that God is not evident in the world is no evidence that It doesn't exist, unless of course you don't exist.

I have no great use for religion, which I regard as snake oil; but the argument for the possibility of God is a physical one; simply that if we exist, parsimony suggests that It does, too. Religion is a separate issue.

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1 hour ago, bigjim36 said:

Has an atheist ever converted to being a believer? I'm an atheist, I was born and raised roman catholic however in my teens I began to question organised religion. Later in my early 30's I finally came to the conclusion that there is no god, that it was a purely man made concept. You often hear of people turning to atheism after examining the history of religions and/or god/s so that got me thinking "has anyone gone the other way and what made them do so?"

 

You hear about this conversion all the time, but it is some experience(s)  not study that is likely to cause the change.

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C. S. Lewis may be the most famous of "athiests turned believer".

From a review of "The Most Reluctant Convert: C. S. Lewis's Journey to Faith" by David Downing:

"Similar to atheist Bertrand Russell, Lewis came to believe in the meaninglessness of life and that we need to build our lives on the basis of "unyielding despair." Lewis's way of stating it was, "Nearly all I loved I believed to be imaginary; nearly all that I believed to be real, I thought grim and meaningless". 

"I believe in no religion. There is absolutely no proof for any of them, and from a philosophical standpoint Christianity is not even the best."  C. S. Lewis

And:

"His faith changed his direction from "self-scrutiny" to "self-forgetfulness." He rejected the "unsmiling concentration on the self" and was "taken out of my self" to love God and others. Downing says: "The real story of Lewis's conversion, then, is not about dramatic changes in a man's career but about dramatic changes in the man."

http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/node/48

 I was fortunate to discover Mr. Lewis's explanation of "Mere Christianity" after my conversion from agnosticism to belief. Not being a religious person myself, it was like water to a thirsty soul. 

 

Edited by simplybill
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Nuke

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Perhaps, but that leaves me questioning as to just how "atheist" they were prior to their conversion.

Gee, that's interesting. When I say that I'm an agnostic, I am often told that I am actually an atheist. Nobody has ever mentioned anything about atheism being a matter of degree. The only issue, I am told, is whether or not you believe in God, and if not, then you're atheist, all in and all done.

I wonder which it is, this "atheism" thing? Something you can be more or less of, or something that's yes or else no.

Maybe it depends on what's rhetorically expedient in a particular context?

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Why wouldn't there be atheists who have become theists? The world contains examples of everything becoming everything else, why wouldn't it be possible for someone to go from no belief --> belief? Seems like an odd question.

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29 minutes ago, eight bits said:

Nuke

Gee, that's interesting. When I say that I'm an agnostic, I am often told that I am actually an atheist. Nobody has ever mentioned anything about atheism being a matter of degree. The only issue, I am told, is whether or not you believe in God, and if not, then you're atheist, all in and all done.

I wonder which it is, this "atheism" thing? Something you can be more or less of, or something that's yes or else no.

Maybe it depends on what's rhetorically expedient in a particular context?

I think it just depends on who you're talking to. I agree with the bolded statement, for what it's worth: if someone lacks belief in a higher power, they're an atheist. That seems to me to be the only relevant factor. That's my reckoning of it, anyway; atheism isn't an entity like a religion is, so anyone trying to make hard qualifiers for it...well, kinda is missing the point, I think.

Edited by Podo
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58 minutes ago, eight bits said:

Nuke

Gee, that's interesting. When I say that I'm an agnostic, I am often told that I am actually an atheist. Nobody has ever mentioned anything about atheism being a matter of degree. The only issue, I am told, is whether or not you believe in God, and if not, then you're atheist, all in and all done.

I wonder which it is, this "atheism" thing? Something you can be more or less of, or something that's yes or else no.

Maybe it depends on what's rhetorically expedient in a particular context?

 

I do think that we are all 'agnostic' to some degree.  Faith is not a 100 percent guarantee of truth, that is why it is called faith and we do choose. I also think the same is true of atheist.  We live in a world where some doubt is simply a part of life.  There are those who say they have doubt, but they are far and few between and perhaps the doubt simply stays in the unconscious.  Experience is the clincher for many, but many also have faith without any powerful or profound experiences, they simply have it. 

Peace
Mark

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6 hours ago, bigjim36 said:

Has an atheist ever converted to being a believer? I'm an atheist, I was born and raised roman catholic however in my teens I began to question organised religion. Later in my early 30's I finally came to the conclusion that there is no god, that it was a purely man made concept. You often hear of people turning to atheism after examining the history of religions and/or god/s so that got me thinking "has anyone gone the other way and what made them do so?"

 

nxkegx.jpg

A great philosopher. Strong advocate of atheism notable for his work on the philosophy of religion.

He changed his mind towards the end of his life and declared himself a Deist. What convinced him ultimately is the argument from design. He saw there a solid indication that there is a Intelligent Mind behind nature. However, Flew wasn't a believer in the concept of an afterlife.

Edited by TruthSeeker_
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To comment on the OP's original question... 

has anyone gone the other way and what made them do so?"

Change is the only constant the saying goes, so keeping that in mind one has to reason  many 'ways' will be taken.  We are curious, as human beings, and this leads to exploration (not only applicable to faith). Due to exploration we change our minds.  Hence it stands to reason...they can go ' the other way'- just for me,  the other way doesn't have to be from atheist to believer...there are many 'ways' to go....

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11 hours ago, PersonFromPorlock said:

I have exactly as much evidence for the existence of God as I do for your existence; from my point of view, you're as much a purely physical process as the rest of the machine universe is. So the fact that God is not evident in the world is no evidence that It doesn't exist, unless of course you don't exist.

I have no great use for religion, which I regard as snake oil; but the argument for the possibility of God is a physical one; simply that if we exist, parsimony suggests that It does, too. Religion is a separate issue.

So who are you responding to?

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Thanks for all the responses, I do find it fascinating how someone can convert to believing in God. As i said in my op I was brought up Roman Catholic so I literally knew no other alternative. I knew other religions existed but was taught that we all worshipped the same god just in different ways. I honestly didn't know that people didn't believe in god until i was 15 or so. The more i looked at the facts of life the less god seemed likely until I admitted to myself that there is no god and it was like a great relief. A giant weight taken from me. I'm a good person but not because i fear for my soul but because it's the right thing to do.

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mark

Personally, I think belief in general (not anything peculiar to religious beliefs) is a matter of more-or-less. That, and the accident that I've never been a Protestant (for many of whom belief as such is of ultimate supernatural importance), is why I think the useful basis of classification is how one answers the Question of God.

That is, and the reason for the emphasis on the word answers, any classification of a person ought to be based on observable behavior, what the person professes (= how they answer a question posed to them) and not an unobservable "belief in," a phrase that means different things to different people, and is not necessarily well-defined even for the only person who might see what's going on in their own head.

(And so, babies aren't atheists, nor are they agnostics. Infants don't answer the Question of God, because they cannot answer questions. Nothing else can usefully be said about "How does a baby answer the Question of God?")

That said,

TS_

No, Anthony Flew wasn't much of an atheist. Flew, prior to his retirement, was an agnostic as most people use the word. He coined the term "negative atheism" for his view, specifically reserving his use of "agnostic" for what he felt was Huxley's original detailed position. Flew didn't seem to correct people when they called him simply "atheist."

His "conversion" was complicated by his plainly visible descent into dementia, and shameless ideological and commercial exploitation by Christian "friends." Flew's basic "religious crisis," however, was well thought out, consistent with modern norms of evidential reasoning, and happened long enough before he died that dementia probably wasn't a factor.

https://uncertaintist.wordpress.com/2011/05/23/antony-flew’s-spiritual-journey-part-i/

Deism was a resonable conclusion for him. I am unaware of any occasion where Flew had ever argued strongly against deism, and his final embrace of it apparently coincided with his first clear appreciation that it was a tenable position, based on the bulk of what else he had believed about the world all along.

Bottom line: it was an odd example of a conversion, and depending on what the OP meant by both "end point" terms, atheist and believer, may not be an example at all.

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15 hours ago, PersonFromPorlock said:

I have exactly as much evidence for the existence of God as I do for your existence; from my point of view, you're as much a purely physical process as the rest of the machine universe is. So the fact that God is not evident in the world is no evidence that It doesn't exist, unless of course you don't exist.

Your God has posted on an Internet forum?

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1 hour ago, eight bits said:

mark

Personally, I think belief in general (not anything peculiar to religious beliefs) is a matter of more-or-less. That, and the accident that I've never been a Protestant (for many of whom belief as such is of ultimate supernatural importance), is why I think the useful basis of classification is how one answers the Question of God.

That is, and the reason for the emphasis on the word answers, any classification of a person ought to be based on observable behavior, what the person professes (= how they answer a question posed to them) and not an unobservable "belief in," a phrase that means different things to different people, and is not necessarily well-defined even for the only person who might see what's going on in their own head.

(And so, babies aren't atheists, nor are they agnostics. Infants don't answer the Question of God, because they cannot answer questions. Nothing else can usefully be said about "How does a baby answer the Question of God?")

That said,

TS_

No, Anthony Flew wasn't much of an atheist. Flew, prior to his retirement, was an agnostic as most people use the word. He coined the term "negative atheism" for his view, specifically reserving his use of "agnostic" for what he felt was Huxley's original detailed position. Flew didn't seem to correct people when they called him simply "atheist."

His "conversion" was complicated by his plainly visible descent into dementia, and shameless ideological and commercial exploitation by Christian "friends." Flew's basic "religious crisis," however, was well thought out, consistent with modern norms of evidential reasoning, and happened long enough before he died that dementia probably wasn't a factor.

https://uncertaintist.wordpress.com/2011/05/23/antony-flew’s-spiritual-journey-part-i/

Deism was a resonable conclusion for him. I am unaware of any occasion where Flew had ever argued strongly against deism, and his final embrace of it apparently coincided with his first clear appreciation that it was a tenable position, based on the bulk of what else he had believed about the world all along.

Bottom line: it was an odd example of a conversion, and depending on what the OP meant by both "end point" terms, atheist and believer, may not be an example at all.

3

Anthony Flew was the premier atheist philosopher in his day.  In any case he became a deist and had no belief in an afterlife and according to him he was happy about that.  It was DNA that seemed to point to an intelligence behind creation, though not one interested in people etc....the clock maker I guess.

Agnosticism for me is the only truly scientific stance towards God since God is not an object to we observed etc.  For me the absurdity of life, its shortness, it mundaneness is what propelled me towards belief in God on some level, though not sure it is the main one.  I could easily be an atheist and it would not bother me, though I cannot be an atheist there is too much intelligent in the universe itself that needs explanation.  The thought of eternal nonexistence does not bother me, in fact on some days I would like nothing better than to get out of my way 'like forever'.  

I do believe that the bottom reason we are atheist or agnostic or believer is not rational at all.  We use proofs and arguments to back up what we believed in all along.  Even those who 'change over', probably changed over on a level deeper than thought or rational thinking.   People can write some really good reasons for whatever they believe in.....so in the end, there will always be some doubt. 

Peace
mark

 

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I don't think I could ever go back to any spiritual beliefs.

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mark

Quote

Anthony Flew was the premier atheist philosopher in his day.

Bertrand Russell might have had a few words to say about that :) . As to classification, I just know what I read. Flew (after adolescence and before retirement) acknowledged that he was what others call agnostic, and he did coin that shrewdly qualified term "negative atheist." Of course, nowadays, there are all sorts of "hyphenated" atheists.

I liked your essay about your personal views. On a point arising,

Quote

I do believe that the bottom reason we are atheist or agnostic or believer is not rational at all.

I think that that's inevitable in the absence of evidence, that we fall back on what is generally consistent with what we believe about how the world works. That is neither rational nor irrational in my view; it is just what we're stuck with.

Peace. Merry Christmas.

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People can become addicted to just about anything including God beliefs.

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19 hours ago, davros of skaro said:

People can become addicted to just about anything including God beliefs.

Yes, or cynical beliefs as well ;-).  

Peace
Mark

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On 12/22/2016 at 9:33 AM, eight bits said:

mark

Bertrand Russell might have had a few words to say about that :) . As to classification, I just know what I read. Flew (after adolescence and before retirement) acknowledged that he was what others call agnostic, and he did coin that shrewdly qualified term "negative atheist." Of course, nowadays, there are all sorts of "hyphenated" atheists.

I liked your essay about your personal views. On a point arising,

I think that that's inevitable in the absence of evidence, that we fall back on what is generally consistent with what we believe about how the world works. That is neither rational nor irrational in my view; it is just what we're stuck with.

Peace. Merry Christmas.

 

I did read Flew when a young man and from my perspective, he was more convincing that dear old Berty B).

Peace
Mark

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On 12/22/2016 at 4:03 AM, Rlyeh said:

So who are you responding to?

To the OP; the point is simply that a belief in God and a belief in a religion are two separate things, and that it's entirely possible to reject religion without declaring yourself to be an atheist.

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54 minutes ago, PersonFromPorlock said:

To the OP; the point is simply that a belief in God and a belief in a religion are two separate things, and that it's entirely possible to reject religion without declaring yourself to be an atheist.

I think you are right. There is no reason to sign up to any religion because you think there is a God. In fact, you could reject all religions as pointless, and still be convinced God is real. The world is full of middle-men, and the idea that someone else is needed to mediate your interactions with a God, on an ongoing basis, has always seemed fraught to me. It smacks too much of business !

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1 hour ago, PersonFromPorlock said:

To the OP; the point is simply that a belief in God and a belief in a religion are two separate things, and that it's entirely possible to reject religion without declaring yourself to be an atheist.

 

Of course, I would be  surprised, if someone thought otherwise.

Peace
mark

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