Lighting the Fuse: What Caused Your (De)Conversion? And What, If Anything, Do You Do To Spread Skepticism?

Conversion is a dirty word in atheist circles. We don’t attempt to convert, we tell ourselves and each other. We merely aim to — well, something else.

Plant a seed of reason. Promote logic. Support science.

Anti-theists may go a step further: Call out religious hypocrisy. Tear down clergy who steal and rape. Make mincemeat of superstitions.

All those things are worthwhile to do for their own sake, or I suppose we wouldn’t do them. But I suspect that few of us could honestly argue that we didn’t want to change minds — away from theism. Which we would legitimately and correctly call conversion if the word wasn’t weighed down with a ton of religious baggage.

I have a fairly close relative, on my wife’s side of the family, who, over the past few years, has abandoned his Christian faith. He came out to me as an atheist six months ago. I don’t know for sure if something I said or wrote might have set off or accelerated his drift, but if so, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pleased. I’d be even happier if it was something I did or didn’t do — in other words, if his change of heart was precipitated by how I live… which I hope, despite the bite in my writing, is with love and without malice.

This hopeful blog post by J.M. Green over at Debunking Christianity, titled “Lighting the Fuse,” made me think about (de)conversion. (Funny thing, metaphors: Green talks about lighting a fuse, while the cover of ex-Christian William Lobdell‘s book shows almost the opposite image — a just-extinguished candle – to express the same idea.)

Green writes:

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President Obama, at Prayer Breakfast, Defends Rights of Those with ‘No Faith At All’

Let us take it as a given that the President of the United States’ participation in the National Prayer Breakfast his highly problematic to say the least. When we make a tradition of the elected chief executive publicly kissing the ring of sectarian religion, it turns it into a quasi-official event, flying in the face of basic secularism and the Constitution. It’s a bad thing.

All that said (and said with fervency), via RNS’s Brian Pellot, we learn that at said breakfast, President Obama had a positive message that we secularists wholeheartedly embrace: the need for people of all religions and of no religion to believe and express themselves as they will, without threat of retaliation, discrimination, or criminalization.

And, importantly, it was said before a conservative religious audience. The president said:

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Catholic Hospital Receptionist Allegedly Tells Couple That Atheists Should Not Be Allowed to Reproduce

Reddit0r chuckyourface says he was in for a surprise when he took his wife to the hospital for some tests the other day.

At the check-in desk,

The lady asked [her] all the usual questions including “Do you have a religious preference?” She answered no, because she really has no preference. She doesn’t identify as atheist or anything else, because it’s all too stupid basically. So I asked the receptionist, “If she says ‘no preference,’ does that mean the hospital gets to pick?,” and she said she just clicked ‘no preference.’

That should have been the end of the conversation, but she went on to say in all her time doing this, she’s had two people claim [to be an] atheist. One was a typical punk teenager with black eye-liner, and just didn’t know any better. The other really surprised her though because she was a sweet lady and had two cute kids with her. “How can she say atheist in front of these kids?! You shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce if that’s how you feel. That’s just my opinion.

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Australian Journalist Asks About Ken Ham: ‘How Did He Get Out?’

A few days ago, we saw the Secular Coalition of Australia (SECOA) issue a tongue-in-cheek press release apologizing for Ken Ham in advance of his debate against Bill Nye the Science Guy.

But I don’t think John Birmingham, writing on his Brisbane Times blog, is joking in his apology to the state of Kentucky titled “For God’s sake, how did he get out?“:

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An Open Letter To Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — a Young Stranger, Six Thousand Miles and a Dozen Years Away

First he fires a semi-automatic weapon, then he tells us who the bullets are for. For infidels. Insha’Allah.

Imagine this beautiful four-year-old kid, unsoiled by adult hatred and indoctrination, on a playground in Beirut or Amsterdam or New York. Imagine him drenched in late-afternoon sunlight, and in the easy, near-inexhaustible love of parents and siblings whose thoughts are free of revenge, rancor, and rage. Think of what he could accomplish, down the line, with his friendly demeanor, his engaging smile, and his bright mind.

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