“Former Christian” Atheists & Theological Ignorance

“Former Christian” Atheists & Theological Ignorance April 25, 2019

The knowledge that any given atheist has of Christianity (and many claim to be former Christians) always has to be demonstrated. I don’t simply accept one’s word for it. I know far better than that. I’ve rarely met an atheist who truly understands Christianity to the extent that is often made out. Knowledge about theology and being a Christian are two entirely different things.

Instead I see lots of basic category and factual mistakes in atheist polemics against Christians. Occasionally a few truly understand what they rejected before they did so. Mind you, that is only my own experience as a Christian apologist and debater, but I highly suspect that it reflects the overall reality of the situation.

Most Christians are even more ignorant of atheism than vice versa. And many many Christians have a dim understanding of their own theological traditions, within Christianity (which is why they do such a lousy job of defending them or persuading others). Theological ignorance and “biblical illiteracy” is as common as dust.

I think that is largely because we aren’t usually taught religion in school (certainly not public schools), so people have to learn on their own and they choose not to do so, for the most part (unless they go to seminary or Bible school, etc.).

Just for the record, I have never been a Calvinist at any time, and have always believed that one can be a true Christian and later fall away from it (whereas their system requires them to assert that you have never been one because you aren’t now). So I take reports of deconversion at face value. But whether an atheist had adequate reasons for rejecting Christianity and what in fact they thought they were rejecting is a whole ‘nother ballgame.

Lots of folks make lots of claims. I used to be a Protestant and was an apologist as a Protestant. I believe I had a very good grasp of that belief-system before I moved on to Catholicism. But of course, some of my Protestant friends deny that I did (some even saying that I was never a true Protestant or a Christian at all). It’s only natural to suspect that.

One must exercise a healthy skepticism, while avoiding cynicism. I am going by my experience of looking over many atheist deconversion stories and noticing that very often what was rejected was not truly what Christians believe, but rather, a straw man or at best a misconception.

I can’t say that is true in any given case unless I examine the rationale and what was believed when the atheist was a Christian, and how much they truly understood. But I suspect that there will be straw men, because that has been my universal experience in analyzing deconversion stories (which I have done many many times).

On the other hand, it is always possible that one does truly understand Christianity and rejects it with that full knowledge. Those are the ones that we would say are in distinct, serious danger of quite possibly being damned, because their culpability is greatly magnified. But God makes that determination in the end, not any human being.

If we read a bunch of atheist books and don’t read Christian counterparts, where would we expect to end up? We are what we eat. Loss of faith is a complex process.

How many former Christian atheists read defenses of traditional beliefs, as opposed to only atheist and liberal Christian stuff? If the latter is all someone reads, then it is no surprise if they turn out to be a “product” of those ideas.

I can understand many atheist objections and rationales for loss of faith on an emotional plane, but I don’t think that is a legitimate reason to abandon Christianity.

Most Christians don’t know why they believe what they believe. Oftentimes, they don’t even know what they believe. It’s easy to then become dissuaded, if things happen, or various arguments come up, and influences send us in another direction.

It all comes down to “what is truth?” and how we can determine that. Pontius Pilate asked the right question, but unfortunately he didn’t do the right thing.

I would think that atheists would want to read the best treatments on both sides before deciding the question against Christianity.

Atheists in discussion often ignore questions asked of them, such, for example, what books they read during their deconversion process from Christianity, or how much of the Bible they were familiar with. Yet they will expect us to relentlessly answer everything in the finest detail.

I get impatient with ring-around-the-rosey after a while. Serious discussion involves both parties answering questions, and not utterly ignoring them because they may reveal too much about what one knows or knew about something. It’s a two-way thing.

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(originally 7-21-10)

Photo credit: RobinHiggins (5-24-17) [PixabayPixabay License]

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