Did You Ever “Convert” Someone?
Posted: 26 September 2009 11:28 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Did you ever actually succeed in “converting” a religious person to atheism, or at least, to skepticism about religion? If so, was that person firmly entrenched in their beliefs, or were they on the fence? What arguments that you made seemed to turn on their critical thinking circuits? 


Ron

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Posted: 26 September 2009 01:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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MrRon - 26 September 2009 03:28 PM

Did you ever actually succeed in “converting” a religious person to atheism, or at least, to skepticism about religion? If so, was that person firmly entrenched in their beliefs, or were they on the fence? What arguments that you made seemed to turn on their critical thinking circuits? 


Ron

Hi Ron, interesting that you use the word “convert.” I have seen people lose faith after conversing with an atheist. But faith can come back at any time, I think anyway.

I once knew a staunch atheist whose car radio dial broke and was stuck on a Christian radio station. He started listening to the station as entertainment. Eventually though, he did become a believer. That is the only ahteist that I have known to convert. Maybe if you took the time to listen to Christian radio, heck, maybe the same thing would happen.

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Posted: 26 September 2009 05:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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TheChampion - 26 September 2009 05:30 PM


Hi Ron, interesting that you use the word “convert.” I have seen people lose faith after conversing with an atheist. But faith can come back at any time, I think anyway.

I once knew a staunch atheist whose car radio dial broke and was stuck on a Christian radio station. He started listening to the station as entertainment. Eventually though, he did become a believer. That is the only ahteist that I have known to convert. Maybe if you took the time to listen to Christian radio, heck, maybe the same thing would happen.

Yeah, I wasn’t sure if that’s the word I wanted to use, but I guess it sums up what I was trying to convey.

Interesting story about the broken car radio. Naturally, a “conversion” can go both ways. And no, I seriously doubt that I would be converted to a believer (short of actual, empirical, unambiguous, hard evidence). Thanks for the post.  grin

Anybody else?

Ron

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Posted: 27 September 2009 11:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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MrRon - 26 September 2009 09:30 PM

Yeah, I wasn’t sure if that’s the word I wanted to use, but I guess it sums up what I was trying to convey.

I’ve seen it expressed by some others as ‘de-convert’. But, no, can’t say that I have. It’s the nature of the beast.

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Posted: 23 November 2009 09:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Only thing I’ve ever done was have some intelligent discussions with Agnostics who after we were done decided they are better classified as Atheist. 

Not that ‘conversion’ was really a goal, we were just discussing the universe in general, and the problems of a religious species in general.

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Posted: 24 November 2009 05:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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I have a young friend with whom I attended grad school. I admit to being passionate about reason vs woo-woo, and sometimes I get myself started on rants with no prompting at all. With him I did this more than a few times. He would listen thoughtfully, but not say too much. He admitted that he was “working things out” at the time. One day he asked me if I would cool it on the religion stuff. This was after a visit from his mom. I made a correlation, though I’m still not sure she was the cause.

I appreciated his friendship, so I absolutely cooled it down, and we continued enjoying each other’s company. After a while, he confessed to me how turned off he was with a number of Christian students in his program who were in recruitment mode, and who attempted to bring religion into class discussions. We slowly began a relaxed, ongoing dialogue (as opposed to my earlier monologues), and while I’m still not sure whether he labels himself an atheist now, he is definitely more of a skeptic.

And hey, I learned to cool it down a bit.

I recently met another guy - a S. Korean Christian doctoral student, and we hit it off. When he heard I was an atheist, he got wide-eyed, and commented, “No, that’s impossible! Nobody is an atheist.” I told him that I’m pretty hard-core if he wanted to get into it, but he immediately requested that we skip it. I gladly obliged, a we were really having a nice conversation, and our conversation continued happily in other directions until we parted quite some time later.

I’m learning every day.

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Posted: 24 November 2009 07:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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I find most of the religious folk don’t like debating with an atheist.  It generally makes them look at their own faith with a critical mind, and that makes them squirmish.

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Posted: 27 November 2009 03:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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I work with a lovely girl. A very religious girl. She “found” God at some point in her adult life and has never looked back. She’s a regular churchgoer (maybe even a couple times a week) and she really does practice the tenets of her faith.  She’s a sweet and quiet person, a great mother to her son, and her and I are great friends. It’s actually hard NOT to like her. She’s thoughtful, considerate, and selfless. And not in a “holier than thou” way either, but in a genuine and sincere manner. She is not at all “preachy” and is not judgemental or condescending. 

Anyway, we have engaged in several “God debates” over the past couple years, and I always felt that I had a chance at activating some critical thinking circuits in her brain, as she always looked up to me and sought my opinions on various (non-religious) matters. With gusto, I would compile somewhat lengthy emails with well-thought out rebuttals, send video clips (Sam Harris, Matt Dillahunty), forward the latest news from the world of science, and I would pose questions that I would hope would make her sit back and rethink her position. Our “debates” weren’t so much back-and-forth, tit-for-tat exchanges, since her debating skills (and apparently her biblical knowledge) are somewhat lacking, as they were me reasoning and her regurgitating a few phrases. Examples of her arguments are:

1) The bible is the oldest book in the world.
2) How else would you explain the trees, the air we breathe, and the beauty we see in nature.
3) It’s in the bible, so I believe it.
4) When I need comforting, God is always there for me. He has made a difference in my life.
5) Scientists are always trying to be smarter than God. They can make mistakes, so we should put our trust in God rather than in men who try to “outdo” God’s work.

She does not believe in evolution, and she did not know that slavery is endorsed in the bible (although I brought it to her attention and she is now silent on that issue - but nonetheless maintains the “God is good” mindset). She did not know that belief in the bible requires a belief that the Earth is 6,000 years old (although that would not alter her beliefs anyway).

Despite my best efforts, she will not let go of her “faith” and of her conviction that God is real. She has actually told me that “nothing will ever change her mind about God.” It’s really disheartening to me to put so much effort and good intentions into a potential “revelation” for her, only to have it disregarded as some sort of closed-minded rantings by someone (me) who just will not “see.”

It’s a strange beast we’re up against. The God virus is an extremely persistent and malicious consumer of reason. Once entrenched, it will rewire the brain circuitry of it’s “host” to ensure it’s survival - at all cost to sound thinking.

I maintain a very good relationship with my coworker. She just sees me as “one of them”, and I see her as “one of them.” But I hope that like a dripping faucet which turns into a steadier stream, my probing questions will surface every now and then and cause her to question the dogma.

Ron

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Posted: 04 December 2009 04:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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MrRon - 27 November 2009 08:19 PM

It’s a strange beast we’re up against.

The viral nature demands that you jettison your critical htinking skills and adopt “faith” instead.  It’s nearly impossible to work around the idea of faith if people are convinced faith is a pathway to knowledge.

And therein lies theism’s deceptively simple engine of success.  Supplant reason with a feedback loop of self-sustaining belief, and reason cannot get a toehold.  this is why so many theists are completely comfortable with technology and science in a million ways, but compartmentalize their religious views away from it.  They believe there are two distinct pathway top knowledge, and it’s nearly impossible to convince them otherwise.

I deconverted a couple of people who were essentially fence-sitters anyway.  That’s where the “hope” lies.

I think though that eventually theism will become less and less important.  Atheism seems to be much more in the public discourse, and in confrontations, the theists are looking more and more absurd (Ray Comfort and his banana boy Kirk Cameron is a good examples of this).

We need to adopt a tactic of promoting critical thinking skills; that too can be a virus-like implanting; children brought up to quesiton authority and not believe in gods by “default” tend to be less susceptible to this theistic infection.

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Posted: 14 December 2009 02:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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MrRon - 27 November 2009 08:19 PM

But I hope that like a dripping faucet which turns into a steadier stream, my probing questions will surface every now and then and cause her to question the dogma.Ron

I suggested a different tactic on the other thread before I read this post, but after reading your whole post here, I would reiterate that many women do not understand how women are denigrated and marginalized by religion. Some women will never get it or care (and by the way, I know these kind of women and they are usually lovely people—), they accept their lower place in society almost without batting an eye, but if a man were to start speaking up about how outraged he is that women are portrayed as lesser beings, ask questions about how she sees herself in light of the many male stories in the bible, etc. she might listen a little more readily, even when you are “one of them” (men still have authority with these women, even if their praying for your redemption). Whereas I would just be an angry feminist to the same young woman.

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Posted: 15 December 2009 04:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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DanetteB - 14 December 2009 07:57 PM
MrRon - 27 November 2009 08:19 PM

But I hope that like a dripping faucet which turns into a steadier stream, my probing questions will surface every now and then and cause her to question the dogma.Ron

I suggested a different tactic on the other thread before I read this post, but after reading your whole post here, I would reiterate that many women do not understand how women are denigrated and marginalized by religion. Some women will never get it or care (and by the way, I know these kind of women and they are usually lovely people—), they accept their lower place in society almost without batting an eye, but if a man were to start speaking up about how outraged he is that women are portrayed as lesser beings, ask questions about how she sees herself in light of the many male stories in the bible, etc. she might listen a little more readily, even when you are “one of them” (men still have authority with these women, even if their praying for your redemption). Whereas I would just be an angry feminist to the same young woman.

Good point. Thanks Danette. However, she’s not the type of person that would be affected all that much by biblical innacuracies\contradictions. Even if you got her to believe that the entire bible is in error, she would (as would many Christians) just shrug it off and point out that men can make mistakes (yes, I see the irony here). All the while she would exclaim that we just need to trust in God - not in man. And the fact the we are here and that HE has made a difference in her life is all the proof she needs.

This brings me to another thought… us atheists are “analytical” (and this is how humans should be). We see that as a postive trait, and we (perhaps falsely) believe that everybody sees that as a positive trait. I have come to find out that this is not the case. A lot of believers don’t think highly of the “analytical-minded.” They see it as sort of an OCD. They value “feelings” and subjective experience more than objective analysis. They think that the “focus” of the analytical person narrows his\her view and thwarts his\her ability to see the “big picture.” Or, they just see it as a deliberate attempt at fault-finding on our part in order to advance our “agenda.” So the tactic of picking apart the bible, although great fun for us atheists, does not corrode the second layer of belief of the theist - the level of subjective experience.


Ron

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