What It Takes To Convert An Atheist

jesus

Caucasian Jesus

How Jesus probably looked like, sans Kefiyeh

A picture of a Palestinian middle-aged man. How Jesus probably looked like, sans Kefiyeh. Acknowledging this would make wingnuts turn into pagans, since only pagans at the time of Jesus were Anglo-Saxon.

Over at the atheist mecca of Pharyngula, yet another broiling comment section ensues due to the latest conversion of former atheist blogger, The Raving Atheist (who apparently will be “The Raving Theist” from now on).

Many considered the possibility that it’s a hoax (still possible in my book, but I really can’t say one way or another), or that TRA was somehow goaded or wooed into his conversion. A few thought that a spade is actually just a spade and that TRA reached a decision in his life to follow his heart, and that no “violence” of any kind was inflicted, nor trickery used, on TRA.

I for one am not going to predict or ruminate on the matter of TRA’s particular conversion story. I would, however, say that I know what kind of events lead people to completely change their worldview, and Jeremiaically call the atheists’ bluff of certainty in their lack of faith (says I, a die-hard atheist).

See, I believe based on the books I’ve read about human nature, biology, and the cognitive dissonance we so often employ, and my personal experience, as well, that humans think and feel very differently. Many  times during my life, I feel certain things which I know for a fact  are patently false. I admonish myself, banging my head on the wall with accurate rationalizations to try and alleviate the damage my intuition and emotions cause. Sometimes it works.

The point I wish to make is that atheists make the decision to become heathens based on what they think (at least, atheists like me, who simply spent a few weeks with Dawkins and talkorigins and did the math). When I “became an atheist”, it wasn’t as though I needed any special encouragement from Dawkins or from any other atheist spokesman. Atheism was merely a result of a long string of computations I conducted faced with the evidence and non-evidence available.

What I feel, though, sometimes has nothing to do with evidence, but merely with the way my brain functions.

I say all of this because TRA didn’t say jack zilch about what made him think that Christ is his savior and why he knows that God exists and that he watches over him. Nope. TRA believes, and “knows God” in the “other ways” necessary to know him that Dawkins alluded to when he wrote :”There are many ways of knowing besides the scientific, and it is one of those ways that are needed for us to know God”.

There’s a point to this besides telling my “fellow atheists”  that they shouldn’t be so snarky at the bible-thumper formerly known as TRA. I wish to give an explanation as to why TRA converted in the first place, while trying to base it on the modicum of evidence available.

When mom died, I still remained an atheist. I was lonely, crazed, inflicted with mental illness and growingly paranoid. I didn’t find God, even though in these parts, God is almost everywhere (metaphorically speaking). I did, however, drastically departed from the person I was. I became, in many respects, my former exact opposite. This is the result of emotional trauma, not of rational thought, and everyone, atheist or not, can and often will turn against his beliefs and convictions when pressed hard against the wall with the hot-poker of reality.

I say then to anyone comfortable in his intellectually-based atheism: your atheism is a result of your personal worldview, and like all humans, your worldview is malleable, and mostly so when reality throws a hot cauldron full of shit into your life.

Addendum

I wouldn’t write this post the way I did if TRA’s post about his conversion contained anything besides appeals to emotion, evidence-wise. With all due respect to what I wrote vis. the way emotional turmoil can change a person, when I use my head to think and not my heart, I take every input cum grano salis, and in the case of amazing conversion stories like this, cum multis granis salis.

2 Comments »

  1. jeffsdeepthoughts Said:

    Good morning (good whatever time it is as you read this)
    I thought I’d throw this thought into the mix.
    Post Moderns (Not necesarily Post Modern Christians, just post moderns, many of whom are agnostic or atheistic) critiqiue the modern era because of it’s shallow definition of what it is “to know”
    They point out that in the modern era, “to know” became synonomous with “to know via scientifically abstratced principles, divorced from experiences.”
    Part of the reason for the tyranny of this narrow form of knowing is that it is wildly succesful within a very limited context. Scientific knowledge has lead to all kinds of cool stuff. But these improvements have not been across the board. We haven’t experienced moral improvements, increased happiness, etc. In fact. Given how much easier our lives have gotten, given how much potential the world now has for getting everyones’ most fundamental needs met, it’s actually quite remarkable that we continue to grow lonlier and more depressed, and that the distrubution of resources mantains quite skewed.
    A pre-modern or a post modern would say “You know lots of stuff in some ways… and you know next to nothing in others. You have lots of cool stuff but you don’t have much wisdom: you aren’t any happier, you aren’t any more moral. You’ve divorced knowledge from the rest of your life.”
    A modern would retort “That’s what knowledge is: abstract rules divorced from experience. That’s what knowledge does: it gives us cool stuff. We’ll have to figure out morality and happiness through some other method.”
    It’s been my experience that moderns rarely get around to figuring out just what this method would be.
    I don’t have this wooly-eyed view of the premodern era. I know that the people who held power were nasty and brutish. But I also know that the lack of resources was as much an issue of production as it was distrubution. The evils comitted were as much a result of genuine ignorance as malicious evil.
    My point more relevant to this post is that when biblical writers spoke about knowing God and believing in God, they weren’t speaking of an abstract kind of knowing. It wasn’t about tautologies and arguments. It was a knowing in the context of the world view and experience.

    And so one of the reasons I’m writing is to offer my emphatic agreement: a deeper, ancient kind-of knowing, is very much rooted in world view.
    One of the reasons that theists end up in a disconnect with those who don’t believe (or aren’t sure or won’t believe) is because there is a fundamental disagreement about what really counts as evidence. atheists and theists tend to take a modern view; theists tend to take an ancient/post-modern view. (Many theists, particularly Christians, aren’t very comfortable with the post-modern label because so many early post-modernists where radical relativists, so they may not recognize this)

    • freidenker85 Said:

      You know, you seem to be looking at what Dawkins said about knowing from a different light than I expected. When Dawkins wrote that it takes a different kind of knowing to know God other than the scientific, well, when I look at it, it seems like a horrible concession to theists who profess “scientific knowledge” of God. I always assumed you’re not that kind of person. Religious people who assume that ‘God is clearly observable’ are simply insane. You know your God, and it’s your own personal experience, and I can’t, won’t and shouldn’t argue with that – but as you’ve said: the knowing of God is really not something that’s ever done in the lab.
      See, some people might be perfectly happy with accepting knowledge only through the lab, myself included. Science offers us ways of knowing that do not come more rigorously in any other method. But it really is not the only metaphysical setting out there, and I can imagine people disdaining it if it’s not their cup of tea.

      Personally, I’ve always been happy strictly with what gets results the best and in the most demonstrable track of success. Science wins this contest with flying colors. This is why I make an “easy atheist”, but that’s just me. Some people prefer a more personalized experience of the world, a worldview consisting of human interaction with what men feel and say about the world. Of course, this is usually applied to the questions that are hardest to answer (“why are we here”, etc.) – so religion comes in easily.

      It’s long gone since the days where I didn’t have religious faith because there were just too many questions unanswered or better answered by science – now I’ve come to the realization that I was simply “meant to be an atheist” because my personality is that of someone who prefers cold hard evidence or nothing at all. People like you would feel deprived in a world like that, I think. And if my belief is true that this is our only difference, it absolutely guarantees that you, me, and other atheists and theists with open hearts and minds can co-exist peacefully and productively.


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