Every once in a while, we read or hear about an atheist who has converted to Christianity or Islam or Judaism. I just can’t wrap my mind around what that process must entail. How do you move from atheism to religion: rationality to superstition? It just doesn’t make sense. However, it’s a bit easier to understand if the ex-atheist became a Buddhist, deist or pantheist: these belief systems aren’t really full-blown religions – they don’t have a personal God who meddles in human affairs or performs miracles or answers prayers.
Atheists have, ostensibly, reasoned their way free of superstition, religion and God(s). This implies an aptitude for the application of logic. Yet we sometimes run across atheists who see conspiracy theories everywhere they turn . . . or who soak up Islamic, vegan, or other extremist propaganda without critical analysis . . . or who get suckered into New Age bullshit, like Satanism, Wicca, or pyramid power . . . or who are prone to anthropomorphizing . . . or who reason viscerally, by feelings, rather than logic. These kinds of things make me question if their atheism is well grounded in reason. If they reason so poorly with other issues, how well did they reason with God and religion?
Then it struck me . . . this is where those inexplicable ex-atheists come from. They never really grounded themselves in freethought. They may have wanted to . . . but simply failed. Fortunately, ex-atheists are a rare breed. I guess that’s testimony to the staying power of enlightenment. So now I have a plausible theory for what might actually be happening: some people identify with freethought but have never really freed their thoughts. Their atheism was never really solid in the first place. It’s not so much that they’re ex-atheists; rather, they’re failed atheists.
I know that nobody has actually ‘freed their thoughts’ entirely. We’re human, not Vulcan. So I suppose it must be a matter of degrees. Nonetheless, I think most atheists are reasonably grounded in logic and that there’s no chance in hell they’ll ever renounce logic in favor of superstition — not even for an 11th-hour, or death-bed, conversion.
Most ex-atheists who adopt a formal religion probably never really shook themselves loose from God’s grip. To them, God is a meme they can’t ignore.
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