The Problem of Christians Becoming Atheists

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So why is that a problem?

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Yes, Jesus described and prophesied the falling away of those who had previously claimed to follow him. We find this theme in the Parable of the Sower. For those who are unfamiliar with it, here’s Matthew 13:1-23.

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake.2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boatand sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’[a]

16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (NIV)

Jesus made clear that relatively few would ever truly become “fruitful followers.” The others would eventually fall away. Jesus also said of his kingdom: “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which. leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:14 KJV)

Thanks for posting the interview, @Patrick. Very interesting.

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Readers will notice that the end of the article mentions a Part 2 of the interview to be posted sometime in the future. I’ve created a reminder for myself to keep checking for it but perhaps Patrick will help keep us posted on Part 2.

Patrick, that is probably one of your most educational and insightful article postings on Peaceful Science.

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So I guess Carmen Miranda is in? :wink:

Perhaps I should expand on that, or you could read the comment by Tomato Addict, who echos my thoughts on the matter.

So, I’ve read some of the comments and found this:

“Western rejection of Augustine and Calvin.”

Probably written by a western Calvinist. Now, I come from east and eastern church and I can tell you this: we’re not nearly as influenced by Augustine as western church is and we practically detest Calvin and his ideas while west has an abundance of Calvin’s followers. So, I simply can’t wrap my head around that “western rejection” thing.

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The number of people who are citing Calvinistic extremism (for lack of a better term) as one of the drivers of their deconversions is interesting to me, and fairly consistent with my own personal experience. When I was a student at an evangelical university, one of the biggest shocks I experienced was the seeming dominance of Calvinism among both many of the theology professors and students at the university.

I had come from a somewhat different (or perhaps just less coherent) theological background, and I found TULIP and its implications to be rather abhorrent. That experience wasn’t a primary factor in my journey away from Christianity, but it stuck with me none-the-less.

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As Eastern Orthodox monks say:

‘Penal Substitution (Calvinism) leads to atheism’ (Translating)

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You remember Carmen Miranda? I’m impressed!

(And that name also brings Chiquita Banana to mind. And the advertising jingle she sang was one of the most effective in history. The banana was an exotic, unfamiliar fruit when the jingle began to educate Americans on how to select, store, and enjoy this “new” fruit. I assume that the Chiquita Banana character was inspired by Carmen Miranda’s film rendition of a fruit-themed song.)

Very interesting. And your experience is not unusual. I’ve certainly heard similar descriptions from others.

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I’m a Chiquita banana and I’m here to say
Bananas have to ripen in a - certain way …

Dang, I used to know the whole song by heart.

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Dan, as you know, the lyrics kept changing over the years. A lot of people no longer recall that the original lyrics provided now considered mundane instructions on how to chose not-quite-ripe bananas and then let them ripen under particular conditions according to one’s taste preferences. I don’t know of any other jingle in the decades since which provided “consumer instructions” in such detail.

What has always amazed me was that this musical introduction to consumers of an exotic “new” fruit happened in 1944, right when WWII was in full fury. The USA was so economically powerful that, even amidst rationing of so many other consumer goods and the rationing of fuel needed for cargo ships full of bananas, America could still expand the importation of this fruit from Central America.

It reminds me of how a German general [or was it a Field Marshall? It might have been Rommel. I don’t remember] knew that Germany was sure to lose the war when his troops confiscated a chocolate cake which had been shipped to an American soldier. He knew that the Americans must have had massively excess fuel and troop support networks if they could afford to ship across the Atlantic something as “superfluous” as a chocolate cake to an average soldier of no great rank or influence. I still find that absolutely amazing even as I look back. That Field Marshall must have been in shock at that reality.

Introducing Central American bananas to the mass market of average Americans during WWII strikes me similarly. Even with strict rationing of many foods and other goods, the calorie intake and general nutrition levels of the average American throughout the war were quite excellent. Average Germans, on the other hand, suffered serious food deprivations long after the war was over—and the average Japanese citizen was often slowly starving even before Pearl Harbor (because the Japanese military had been diverting and stockpiling food supplies for years in preparation for war.) Health effects from those deprivations still have an impact on the children and grandchildren of those people today. [I don’t have any links at hand, but I’ve read some fascinating papers on the multi-generational results of years of those war and post-war conditions in Europe and Asia.]

This interesting tangent may seem like it has nothing to do with “The Problem of Christians Becoming Atheists” but I’ve had a number of fascinating conversations with ex-Christians who had left the faith due to what they saw and experienced during WWII. Among them have been those veterans who helped liberate various concentration camps or toured them shortly thereafter.

Of course, I also talked with many more veterans whose war experiences brought them to faith in Jesus Christ. Among them was my late uncle, a hardened atheist before WWII. What he experienced while working with top-secret radar technology as well as his seeing the horrors of stacked bodies and “the walking corpses” in the camps led him to become a Christ-follower. He had also been continually struck by the fact that the magnetron technology was a German invention, yet it helped win the war for the Allies.

It all just goes to show that for any set of experiences, you may find some theists who turn atheist or agnostic—while some atheists and agnostics become theists under the very same circumstances.

I wonder if any atheists have written articles entitled, "The Problem of Atheists Becoming Christians."

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I don’t remember the lyrics, but I do remember the gist of some instructions at the end - never put bananas in the refrigerator. These instructions produced some internal turmoil because that’s exactly what Mom did! It may have been the first time I had to contend with expert testimony versus what my parents taught, which brings me back on point :slight_smile:

It seems to me that fewer children from Christian homes are having their faith significantly challenged during their formative years. Only after leaving home and being on their own do they find that maybe Mom and Dad weren’t absolutely right about everything they taught. This challenge during young adulthood can really be a “make or break” experience moving forward. I believe that to some extent, Mom and Dad being overly protective of their children can have unintended, but disastrous, consequences down the road for the faith of their children.

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Anyone else see this one by the same author, and his atheist friend?

Two points: this seems less overprotective than indoctrinating. And why would you say the consequences are disastrous?

Possibly - this is definitely a point worth considering. But in my opinion, parents that completely indoctrinate their children also neglect any sort of challenge to faith that will eventually occur in a less-secure environment.

I realize that many of us here have different views of what would constitute “disastrous”, but I carefully included “for the faith of their children”. When couched in terms of the faith, a complete loss of it would consistently be considered disastrous.

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@Randal_Rauser, your interview is generating a lot of discussion. Would you be up for enganging some conversation about it?

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Ah, but would you say that education was disastrous for your ignorance?

First off, I feel no need to “convert people to atheism”, as if that is really a thing to begin with. I have always encouraged people to believe what is in their heart. What interests me is the sociology of religion and culture, not so much on running a score on who believes what. With that said . . .

One of the main points is that the US is experiencing what Europe has already experienced, so it isn’t as if this is specific to the US. As the cultural importance of specific religious beliefs fade it becomes easier for people to deconvert which creates a feedback response. The other main point seems to be that rigid theologies set people up for failure.

I have seen echoes of this in discussions within my own family. A branch of my family tree lives in the Portland, OR area which would be classified as a pretty liberal metro area. One of the big debates within that local christian community is how to approach the subject of homosexuality, and that debate has resulted in a lot of tension between cousins in my family. A congregation actually split apart because some people wanted to openly welcome and recruit homosexual couples while others just couldn’t stand for it. What they did agree on is that government sponsored gay marriage was completely appropriate.

I think this one topic is emblematic of the larger picture, especially given the increased secularization and exposure young people have to what was once considered taboo. Young people will find that gay couples love each other just as any other couple does (this is my opinion and experience), and this can create a real contradiction if these young people are taught on Sunday’s how evil homosexuals are. I am certainly not going to tell christian churches what they should believe or not believe, but these are real issues that seem to be unavoidable at this point. Ignoring them seems like the worst strategy of all.

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In a short answer, yes. Well, it certainly did away with some of my ignorance, but I have plenty to spare! I do get your point, though.

I understand that not everyone will consider a loss of faith to be a negative thing. But my point was regarding parents that would likely want their children to maintain their childhood faith.

Of course. But we don’t have to share their attitude. Interestingly, it does appear that creationism is a major factor, as well as the talking snake, Jonah’s whale, and such, plus the doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus.