Why Atheist De-Conversion Stories Fail

To persuade people, one should use the tools Aristotle suggested of ethos (establish credibility), pathos (appeal to people’s emotions) and logos (apply logic). I have encountered many atheists who have applied Aristotle’s formulations to construct their “de-conversion” from Christianity stories. This intention of this blog is to deconstruct their stories based on a higher level understanding of the same three formulations.

Just as we have witnessed in some sitcoms and news broadcasts, most of the atheist de-conversion stories I have heard are rather predictable: they begin with the atheist claiming to have been a devout, sometimes fundamentalist Christian in an attempt to establish credibility with Christians (ethos). They follow with a tale of the pain they’ve unfairly endured based on a horrific event in their lives. This event is often tragic and worthy of much empathy, especially when it involves a death in the family. Through this event, they call on our emotions (pathos). Then they state that God did not answer their prayers, calling on the logic of those who believe God has not answered their prayers either (logos). A second approach using logos is to say they studied the Bible and (1) the stories of Yahweh in the Old Testament turned them off; (2) the claims about the Messiah cannot be true since they violate our natural laws; and (3) the claims from atheists / agnostics like Richard Carrier, Bart Ehrman, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Matt Dillahunty seem reasonable.

Atheists use Aristotle’s approach to justify themselves, not only to us, but to our Lord. Like the emperor with no clothes, some of them march among their peers in a cloud of pride and ignorance. Yet the Lord sees through them for who they are. He knows the hearts of all in humanity and can easily distinguish the unintentional from the intentional deceivers – just as a farmer could distinguish the wheat from the weeds. The Parables of the Lost Sheep, Prodigal Son, and Tares well explain these distinctions. Romans 1 further explicates that we are all hard wired with the knowledge of our Supreme Creator.

How should Christians respond to these de-conversion stories? We should offer our own conversion testimonies. The most powerful way that we have to share the Good News of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is through our testimony of how we determined the Good News to be the truth.

I was born and raised in a Catholic family, but by my twenties, most in my family decided to leave the church. I floundered about for two decades, bouncing from denomination to denomination – and occasionally studying up on the eastern faiths. Then I had a very dark spiritual experience that sent chills up my spine and made me realize that God is active, loving, merciful and powerful. He is both within this universe (immanent) and external to it (transcendent).

My son asked to go to church and we entered a Baptist church just outside of my neighborhood, where I felt overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit. My life transformed and I was baptized for a second time. I started ambitiously seeking knowledge of the Lord.

Around that time, I found myself sitting next to a pastor on a plane who convinced me to read C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity and Great Divorce. The books greatly inspired me, setting me on an upward trajectory towards the way, the truth, and the life. After many years of only having a tiny New Testament (and Psalms and Proverbs) in my home, I purchased several versions of the Bible for my family. We are all closer to God now – and life has become worth living. As C.S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else.”

Atheists who call on ethos, pathos, and logos to present their cases only see the naturalistic explanations for the events surrounding them. They fail to see the other half of the world – that which goes beyond this world. They fail to see that which inspires and calls on us to love, forgive and give thanks. Accordingly, their stories only appeal to our natural experience and fail to appeal to our spiritual sense. They therefore are not credible (ethos), logical (logos) or explanatory of our emotional connection to the Lord (pathos). In this way, they fail miserably.

Within each one of us lies a moral compass that is not explained by our evolution or natural world. The Kingdom of Heaven is within us.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:8.

Thank you for your time.

16 Replies to “Why Atheist De-Conversion Stories Fail”

  1. Well, if you start from the notion that everyone knows our Heavenly Father is real, of course deconversion stories won’t hold up.

    Like

  2. Well said! And thanks for your testimony. In my encounters with atheists — it is not so much that they don’t believe in God… as they are angry with Him. Then, through human pride and arrogance they “get rid” of God by declaring He is not really there. It is ALWAYS a heart issue (and has little to do with reason or logic or rational thought). Thanks for all you do.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Same! They are mad at somebody they claim doesn’t exist (?)
      And I like this one: “I’ve read the Bible cover to cover….”
      1) Very few people have read the whole Bible, and
      2) Those that have, are usually devout believers, not atheists!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Personally my story is rather different as I make no secret about the fact that I grew up with a belief in a personal God but never once considered Christianity to be a viable option. I essentially made up my own God out of various Christian elements and when I recognized that and found evidence for what I believed to be lacking I became an Atheist.

    Like

  4. I see you used the atheism tags again so I figured you wanted to get the feedback from someone who rejects your god claim.

    Yes, I spent many years growing up in a religious household. I went to religious instructions most of my adolescent life and attended church services. I was very much involved in the church. From an very early age, I had doubt. For me, church was common place. There was a great deal I enjoyed of it but the bottom line, this god concept did not seem credible.

    I left the church in my 20’s and went about with my life. While I left the church, it did not stop me from educating myself on the topic of world religions and the history behind them. Later in life, sure, I missed some of what the church offered but I did not miss the worship of a god I did not believe in. I attended a Unitarian Universalist church for a while, it was actually interesting as it was less about worshiping a god and more about social justice. In the last few years I have also attended various churches, temples, synagogues and various other services to learn about other religions and services. Not that I want to become part of said religion or philosophy but to learn about others and be accepting of everyone.

    I’m sure everyone has their story but I’m here to tell you that it’s true! People do leave Christianity because they reject it’s teachings or they reject the god claim. Some people leave for other religions! It’s all true! And there is nothing wrong with it.

    In fact, like you, there are many people who start off as Christians, something changes in life and it takes them away from it… but then they return to the fold later in life. That doesn’t mean that those people were atheists during that time. Ha! I guess we tire of hearing the same thing. Atheists often hear from Christians “I use to be an atheist”, lol.

    Enjoy your day!

    Like

  5. Thank you for this post. I loved it. As a matter fact, sitting here in Panera Bread I started to tear up as I read your personal testimony. Good thing I can control my emotions – to a degree 😉

    I’m not as philosophically astute, but I, too, have noticed the common stories within the atheist de-conversion template. But the very simple point that you make most clear is that their arguments are truly only supported by the natural and give no explanation for the spiritual, except to deny it.

    Thank you for reminding your audience that one’s testimony is more effective than we usually give credit. Christians should share their conversion stories much more often. As much as we love apologetics, personal testimony carries a lot of weight.

    God bless!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ll leave aside my current ideas and try to focus on my mindset from 30 years ago when, at age 11, I started telling people that I didn’t believe and stopped participating in communion, prayer recitation, and the singing of hymns. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite but I still had to go to church.

    Ethos and Pathos: as early as I can remember I considered the Christian God to be cruel, but not because of anything in my life. I grew up attending a white-bread Methodist church, in which I don’t believe I heard anything but kindness coming from the minister. He was, and is, someone I’m glad to call a friend. However, once I was old enough to realize that it wasn’t just stories, and the Bible was being provided as an actual source of truth, I began to be very suspicious of it. I asked questions in Sunday School about what I considered to be awful behavior by the “chosen” in the OT that were never answered with any cogent justifications. I don’t have time to list it all here, but my emotional investment in being kind and loving told me that the God of the Bible was anything but. He always seemed like a jerk to me, despite my unremarkably privileged middle class American upbringing. The Bible was full of people behaving in ways that contradicted what I was being taught about morality and ethics, and swallowing the righteousness of that “felt” wrong.

    Logos: Back when I was a kid, I mean a little kid, Christian stories seemed to be coming from the same place as Greek mythology. When I realized that I was supposed to think this stuff was the truth, I began to compare the plausibility of supernatural claims vs scientific ones. If I didn’t understand something, I just said “OK. Maybe later.” I didn’t, at age 11 or so, think that a Christian explanation for anything was plausible, so if something was a mystery I was cool with that. It truly never crossed my mind that the “God of The Gaps” made any sense. I clearly remember thinking I was in a room full of crazy people when I was in church.

    So, that was my thinking back when I made my mind up. In what way did it fail? Since then I haven’t heard anything that changed my mind.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s