The Apostates vs. The Never-Believers

In this post I just want to raise a topic for discussion rather than give any firm opinions of my own. I am curious as to whether you notice any significant differences between atheists who deconverted from once being devout believers in a god or gods, those who only nominally were part of a religion that believed in a god or gods without that belief really ever becoming important to them or accepted by them as true (at least after early childhood), and those who were never theistic at all and were raised either with no religiosity at all or with an atheistic kind of religiosity.

In your experience do these (or other) different kinds of backgrounds lead to any patterns of differences in the kinds of atheists people eventually become? Are there noticeable differences in how they approach non-atheism specific issues? Are there noticeably different value concerns or triggers that they have? Are their attitudes towards religion’s relative value or the nature of its function differently affected? Do they feel towards religion differently? Do they think differently? Do they have different intellectual virtues and vices? Do apostates feel deeper kinship and mutual understanding with fellow apostates and never-believers feel like they understand other never-believers better? Does anyone think about this as at all relevant when interacting with other atheists?

Does it predict in any way whether someone will wind up being a secularist atheist, an identity Atheist, an evangelical atheist, an constructivist Atheist, a pro-theist atheist, an apatheist, a Humanist, a libertarian, a nihilist, an existentialist, a philosophical atheist, a scientific atheist, a scientifically focused atheist, a scientistic atheist, or an avowed atheist who participates in Buddhism, Universalism/Unitarianism, Wicca, Judaism, or some other religion that has a degree of hospitality towards atheists?

I think this is an interesting topic for empirical psychological study. Let’s spitball hypotheses that might be worth testing.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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