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Thread: Do knowledgeable ex-atheists exist?

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    Default Do knowledgeable ex-atheists exist?

    We all know that there are former ministers, theologians, missionaries, preachers, etc, that have abandoned religion and became atheists. These people are/were knowledgeable about religion and the various arguments for against it, and in the end they abandoned religion. Such people are easy to find.

    BY contrast, are there any examples of atheists who became religious? And by this I don't mean vaguely irreligious persons who were apathetic about religion who then became religious, and then use their professed former atheism as a selling point (Lee Strobel springs to mind). Rather, I mean philosophically committed atheists who have at least a basic grasp of various arguments for and against theism, and a basic knowledge of the relevant science, philosophy and history, becoming theists? Are there any such examples?

    If there are no (or very few) such examples of knowledgeable ex-atheists, yet plenty of examples of former believers who were ministers, theologians, etc, then I think this does suggest something about in which direction the evidence and logic point.

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    Default Re: Do knowledgeable ex-atheists exist?

    It's pretty obvious to most people that it's a one way road out. No one is going to go from a rational and logical frame of mind to one relying entirely on circular reasoning and faith. There's a reason religion is dying as people become more educated.

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    Default Re: Do knowledgeable ex-atheists exist?

    Yes, some of the most knowledgeable theists are former atheists/agnostics. In fact, former atheists/agnostics are heavily over-represented among the most notable theists, especially in the modern era. One example is Antony Flew, one of the most influential atheist philosophers, known for inventing the 'No True Scotsman' fallacy and for his attempt to redefine atheism from disbelief to nonbelief.

    Antony Garrard Newton Flew (/fluː/; 11 February 1923 – 8 April 2010)[1][2] was an English[3] philosopher. Belonging to the analytic and evidentialist schools of thought, Flew was most notable for his work related to the philosophy of religion. During the course of his career he taught at the universities of Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele and Reading, and at York University in Toronto.

    For much of his career Flew was known as a strong advocate of atheism, arguing that one should presuppose atheism until empirical evidence of a God surfaces.[4] He also criticised the idea of life after death,[4][5] the free will defence to the problem of evil,[4][5] and the meaningfulness of the concept of God.[6][4] In 2003 he was one of the signatories of the Humanist Manifesto III.[7]

    However, in 2004 he changed his position, and stated that he now believed in the existence of an Intelligent Creator of the universe,[8] shocking colleagues and fellow atheists.[8] In order to further clarify his personal concept of God, Flew openly made an allegiance to Deism,[8][9] more specifically a belief in the Aristotelian God,[8][9] and dismissed on many occasions a hypothetical conversion to Christianity, Islam or any other religion.[8][9] He stated that in keeping his lifelong commitment to go where the evidence leads, he now believed in the existence of a God.[9][10]
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    Default Re: Do knowledgeable ex-atheists exist?

    In order to further clarify his personal concept of God, Flew openly made an allegiance to Deism,[8][9] more specifically a belief in the Aristotelian God,[8][9] and dismissed on many occasions a hypothetical conversion to Christianity, Islam or any other religion
    Not quite.

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    Default Re: Do knowledgeable ex-atheists exist?

    Quite what?
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    Default Re: Do knowledgeable ex-atheists exist?

    Deism refers to the presence of god without a divine revelation. i.e, god made the universe but he hasn't had any input since then. There has been no divine revelation.

    Theism refers to the presence of a god or gods with divine revelation. i.e, god made the universe and revealed himself to his disciples or whatever. There has been a divine revelation.

    Those are the differences, roughly, between Deism and Theism. The OP calls for the following,

    and a basic knowledge of the relevant science, philosophy and history, becoming theists
    So whatever the guys name it is becoming a deist is not at all what was asked for.

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    Default Re: Do knowledgeable ex-atheists exist?

    Is Calypze asking only about converts to a specific religion? Because I don't see any mention of disciples or special revelation in the OP. The OP seems to be asking about 'knowledgeable' atheists who stopped being atheist; i.e., they became believers in God. A Deist is someone who believes in a non-interventionist God. What difference does it make whether a former atheist believes God intervenes in the world or not? They're still former atheists.
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    Default Re: Do knowledgeable ex-atheists exist?

    Well seeing as he specifically said "theists" one would assume that he meant "theists" and not "deists". If Calypze clarifies that he meant deists too then fair enough. Deism and Theism are not very similar at all rationally speaking and are only tangentially tied together via the belief in the possibility of a creator.

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    Default Re: Do knowledgeable ex-atheists exist?

    Atheism is the belief that there is no God; theism is the belief that there is a God; and deism is the belief that there is a God, albeit a non-interventionist one. Deism, then, is a subset of theism. If you're not convinced, hear it from the man himself. He seems to have no qualms about describing himself as a theist.

    My Pilgrimage from Atheism to Theism: A Discussion between Antony Flew and Gary Habermas

    The title of the thread is, "Do knowledgeable ex-atheists exist?" Flew is considered one of the most influential atheist philosophers, so we can safely assume that he was knowledgeable about atheism. And he abandoned atheism when the evidence led him to God. So I think he's a knowledgeable ex-atheist and therefore relevant to this thread.
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    Default Re: Do knowledgeable ex-atheists exist?

    Quote Originally Posted by Akar View Post
    Well seeing as he specifically said "theists" one would assume that he meant "theists" and not "deists". If Calypze clarifies that he meant deists too then fair enough. Deism and Theism are not very similar at all rationally speaking and are only tangentially tied together via the belief in the possibility of a creator.
    In principle, I would include deists.

    However, in practice, I think deists are quite rare these days. Pre-Darwin, lots of non-believers in religion were deists (like Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and Benjamin Franklin). They saw through the religious nonsense, but I think assumed a creator because they couldn't imagine how life and the universe had come into being otherwise (which is rather fallacious, a non-evidenced explanation doesn't win by default due to lack of other alternatives). Darwin gave a major blow to that.

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    Default Re: Do knowledgeable ex-atheists exist?

    Quote Originally Posted by Prodromos View Post
    Atheism is the belief that there is no God; theism is the belief that there is a God; and deism is the belief that there is a God, albeit a non-interventionist one. Deism, then, is a subset of theism. If you're not convinced, hear it from the man himself. He seems to have no qualms about describing himself as a theist.

    My Pilgrimage from Atheism to Theism: A Discussion between Antony Flew and Gary Habermas

    The title of the thread is, "Do knowledgeable ex-atheists exist?" Flew is considered one of the most influential atheist philosophers, so we can safely assume that he was knowledgeable about atheism. And he abandoned atheism when the evidence led him to God. So I think he's a knowledgeable ex-atheist and therefore relevant to this thread.
    Right, except he specifically says it didn't lead him to the christian god, so why are you trying to make it sound like it did?

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    Default Re: Do knowledgeable ex-atheists exist?

    Quote Originally Posted by Akar View Post
    Right, except he specifically says it didn't lead him to the christian god, so why are you trying to make it sound like it did?
    I'm not. I said he became a theist, which is what this thread is about (atheists-turned-theists). I didn't even mention Christianity.
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    Default Re: Do knowledgeable ex-atheists exist?

    And he abandoned atheism when the evidence led him to God.
    Per your angry rant about capitalizing god when talking about the christian one, it would be logical to assume that that is to whom you were referring. If you meant the concept of a god, or no god in particular, then it would be more appropriate to use "god" than "God".

    He didn't abandon reason, logic, evolution or science he just said "maybe god started the whole thing".

    Merriam-Webster defines "Theism" as the following:

    : belief in the existence of a god or gods specifically : belief in the existence of one God viewed as the creative source of the human race and the world who transcends yet is immanent in the world
    Becoming a Deist is not becoming religious. You are not praying to or worshiping any sort of deity, you are simply stating your belief that there was an intelligent non-active creator of the universe. The concept of intelligent design does not inherently reply a religious connotation, in fact it implies the opposite. If every Deist makes a point to say that they are not religious, then what is the point of trying to argue that they are somehow Theists? Just to try to make it look like someone is "on your side"?

    He rejected the idea of an afterlife, of God as the source of good (he explicitly states that God has created "a lot of" evil), and of the resurrection of Jesus as a historical fact
    he has renounced his long-standing espousal of atheism by endorsing a deism of the sort that Thomas Jefferson advocated ("While reason, mainly in the form of arguments to design, assures us that there is a God, there is no room either for any supernatural revelation of that God or for any transactions between that God and individual human beings").
    Dictionary.com defines "Deism" as the following:

    Noun: belief in the existence of a God on the evidence of reason and nature only, with rejection of supernatural revelation (distinguished from theism).
    Deism is not Theism in the same way that Atheism is not religion. An "Atheist turned Theist" implies a change of logic and rationality or the flip side of the traditional paradigm of abandoning creationism for evolution. An Atheist converting to Deism is no more relevant to Theism than a Democrat becoming an Independent is to Republicanism.

    If every single aspect of Theism has been denied except the tangential relation to the concept of a "creator" it is unfair to call someone who has gone out of their way to state his lack of religion a Theist.

    In a December 2004 interview he said: "I'm thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins"
    Cosmic Saddam Husseins is absolutely one of the best things I've ever heard.

    When asked by Crary whether or not he has kept up with the most recent science and theology, he responded with "Certainly not,"
    He sounds like a really smart guy.

    In 2007, in an interview with Benjamin Wiker, Flew said ... that he was not a Christian theist
    And finally, here's him personally saying he is not a Theist.

    Deism is not Theism. If you want to talk about Atheists who became Deists that's an entire other topic and I would gladly engage you on that too, but it's disingenuous at best and outright false at worst to claim he is a Theist.
    Last edited by Akar; February 29, 2020 at 10:17 PM.

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    Default Re: Do knowledgeable ex-atheists exist?

    Well, we can continue this discussion if you want (hopefully in the general chat thread, because I don't want us to derail this one), but the OP has already said that deists count as theists for the purposes of this thread, so I don't think continuing this back-and-forth is necessary anymore.
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    Default Re: Do knowledgeable ex-atheists exist?

    You're welcome to respond to my numerous points in the general chat thread.

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    Default Re: Do knowledgeable ex-atheists exist?

    Surely an answer to the question asked is that yes, atheists have come to know God in a personal way whether they have been knowledgable or not. The word kowledgable is a rather silly throw away as most men and women have knowledge just not enough for the poster to gain an advantage in his argument. For example I was knowledgable enough to run a sheet metal business, a paper converstion plant, a costume jewellery manufacturing plant, a toy wholesalers and two different laundry outfits with no qualifications other than a certificate on electrical installation. From the age of 12 to 19 I served as an army cadet rising to segeant and marksman which added a great deal to my knowledge although thankfully I never had to kill anyone. What I am getting across here is that knowledge is not garnered to academia for most of these have never done a day's work in their lives. No, knowledge comes from experience just as knowledge of God does and in this instance directly from God. Paul, a brilliant academic of his day met God on the Damascus road and it changed his life forever debunking on the way all the wisdom and knowledge he thought he had. Of course he wasn't an outright atheist but he might as well have been for all his knowledge up till then he considered worthless. If you don't believe in Jesus Christ it's because your eyes and mind have been blinded and all the knowledge in the world will not change that.

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    Default Re: Do knowledgeable ex-atheists exist?

    Quote Originally Posted by basics View Post
    Surely an answer to the question asked is that yes,...
    ... but I can't give a single name.
    So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:16).

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    Default Re: Do knowledgeable ex-atheists exist?

    Quote Originally Posted by Prodromos View Post
    Yes, some of the most knowledgeable theists are former atheists/agnostics. In fact, former atheists/agnostics are heavily over-represented among the most notable theists, especially in the modern era. One example is Antony Flew, one of the most influential atheist philosophers, known for inventing the 'No True Scotsman' fallacy and for his attempt to redefine atheism from disbelief to nonbelief.
    Sure, that is one person. And his conversion to deism appears to have been triggered by perceived improbability of abiogenesis, that is, a God-of-the-gaps argument.

    Still, there still seem to be many more (knowledgeable) theists who become atheists rather than vice versa.

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    Default Re: Do knowledgeable ex-atheists exist?

    I don't think there's a single example of a prominent Atheist actually converting to a religion. You can try to argue the semantics of whether or not Deism is Theism, but at that point you've already lost.

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    Default Re: Do knowledgeable ex-atheists exist?

    Surely we don't have to find a former atheist who is now a Christian, just one who became a theist or deist of any sort?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o..._and_agnostics

    Sorry for posting a wiki-link but its a handy round up.

    A lot of writers and politicians of course. People can change their religious beliefs for all kinds of reasons ("good" and "bad"), its not just a smart<-->stupid axis.

    For example when I read Sinead O'Connor declared she had converted to Islam I didn't think that said anything about the logic of all other people who convert to Islam.

    In other threads we have compared orthopraxy vs orthodoxy (and orthogeny, a word I thought I coined but in fact existed already as orthogenesis) and a person's conversion could consist in adopting the practices of a religion.

    Good people (and bad people) find faith all the time, its not really a function of intellect but their relation to the divine which is an intensely personal experience. Finding God and joining a faith community doesn't mean a person switched off their brain or their hearts, there are a bunch of Catholics in Australia who tolerate homosexuality, use contraception, believe the world is a rough spheroid etc. Believers are not defined completely by their putative leadership.

    So I think OP is a bit mean and maybe seeks to mock belief "hurr durr only dummies believe in God" which is not right and not polite either.
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