Unanswered Questions for a Former Catholic Atheist

Unanswered Questions for a Former Catholic Atheist April 28, 2019

“cowalker” wrote on my blog:

I was raised Catholic, and went through what I think is the standard, messy de-conversion process. It started with intellectual rejection of what sophisticated theologians would say was not “real” Christianity. For example, Christians aren’t obliged to believe a man actually lived inside a fish for three days. That’s just metaphorical writing. But … it’s not clear where metaphor leaves off and literal description begins. For example some Christians accept the doctrine of the Transubstantiation, while it’s just another metaphor for others. Then came the emotional rebellion against authority. Why should I believe just because a bunch of old guys in weird clothes say so? And especially since there are lots of other old guys in weird clothes who say different things?

This led to comparison shopping, during which it became clear that no religion could provide evidence of anything existing outside of our material universe. Each one had a hypothesis explaining the observable universe in terms of something beyond, or both outside of and encompassing our universe, but none of it was subject to proof. So it could be Zeus and Hera duking it out, or all the separated spirits trying to re-unite into one blissful godhead, or a very judgy Great Big Father handing out judgy judgments, or a weepy Jesus who just wants everybody to get along, or it might be turtles all the way down.

None of this was helpful in providing moral guidance or a purpose in life. I realized that that was on me and my fellow humans. Therefore I raised my children (now grown up) as atheists. No doubt that is why they are profoundly uninterested in hearing arguments either for or against Christianity or Hinduism or Islam, or any other set of religious beliefs. For them, it’s just not an issue that needs to be reswolved. I’m not saying that all people raised this way would react the same. Perhaps teenage rebellion would lead to a de-conversion from atheism for some, or one of many other possible experiences..

If my kids ever bothered to comment in a com box on a site discussing religion, they might say: “I can understand many Christian objections and rationales for belief on an emotional plane, but I don’t think that is a legitimate reason to abandon atheism.” But maybe they wouldn’t even get it on an emotional plane. I think maybe if you’re not raised to expect the supernatural, you don’t miss it.

Thanks for your comment. Just curious:

1. How old were you at deconversion?

2. How long did the process take?

3. How many books of Christian apologetics or philosophy of religion did you read, to get the best arguments in favor of Christianity, before deciding to reject it? If you did read some, can you remember the names, and/or the authors?

4. Would you say that you had been properly catechized as a Catholic, and thoroughly understood the faith before rejecting it?

5. Could you have passed a quiz on the basic doctrines of Christianity (say, those agreed-upon by virtually all Christians: Nicene Creed-type beliefs): let alone the more specifically, distinctively Catholic doctrines?

I was very ignorant of theology, myself, as a young man, and at age 17 I didn’t even know that Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh (the incarnation). And I was raised Methodist. Six years later I embarked on a study of apologetics, that formed my career to this day (professional apologist and author).

But at 17 I was theologically dumber than a doornail; and I suspect (just guessing) that you may have been, too, at the time you left the faith. Nothing in your short account above suggests otherwise. If not, then by all means prove me wrong with counter-facts. It would be nice to find an atheist who actually substantially understood that which he rejected (some system of Christian theology) when he or she became an atheist. I haven’t run across one yet. But I hope to one day!

[asked almost exactly 48 hours later] Are you unwilling and/or uninterested in answering my five questions?

[I also received no answer to my follow-up question after another 16 hours, as of writing; if an answer is ever received, it’ll be added to this article. Folks get busy, too, of course. I’m happy to wait . . . ]

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Photo credit: Robert Nunnally, “unanswered questions” (2-8-09) [Flickr / CC BY 2.0 license]

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