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The Lies Evangelicals Tell About Being Former Atheists or Evangelizing the Godless

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It seems these days that every Evangelical preacher, evangelist, and apologist has a story about an atheist who saw the truth of Fundamentalist Christianity and got saved. Some of these zealots have personal testimonies of their atheism before they became Christians. After listening to or reading dozens of such stories, I have concluded that many of these storytellers are liars for Jesus; that careful examination of their stories reveal ignorance of what atheism is and isn’t.

Many Evangelicals believe that all non-believers are atheists. Of course, when I argue that all babies are born into this world atheists, Evangelicals object, saying that all humans are born with a God-given conscience. So which is it? Non-believers are atheists or non-believers have a God-given conscience? Are humans naturally blank slates upon which tribal religion must be written or are they born with God-shaped holes in their hearts? If no one is born Christian, then what is the nature of a newborn baby?

Atheism is not the human default. Atheism requires an act of volition. An atheist, then, lacks belief in the existence of Gods. Claiming the atheism moniker requires a person to actually think about the existence of God(s). Sadly, far too many people use the atheist label to cover up intellectual laziness or indifference towards religion. I prefer such people use the NONE label. Atheists, on the other hand, have weighed religion in the balance and found it wanting. Many atheists are actually quite conversant on matters of religion, having spent some or much of their lives believing in God. It should come as no surprise that many atheists know the Bible better than practicing Christians. It was the Bible that ultimately led them into unbelief and atheism.

So when I hear Evangelical talking heads speak of being atheists before they became Christians, I want them to explain how they are using the word “atheist.” More often than not, they are using the word incorrectly. The word “atheist” is not a placeholder for unbelief. When an Evangelical tells me he was an atheist before becoming a Christian, I want to know exactly how he became an atheist. If he says, oh, I always was an atheist, I then know that he was a NONE and not an atheist. The same goes for people who say they were Evangelicals, became atheists, and then later returned to Evangelicalism. While it is certainly within the realm of possibility for someone to follow such a path, I have a hard time believing someone who says he was a studious atheist, realized the error of his way, and became an Evangelical. Knowing first-hand what goes into someone leaving Evangelicalism and embracing atheism, I can’t imagine someone rejecting all he knows to be true for a belief system that he has already deemed incoherent, irrational, and false. It leaves me wondering, what is the real reason for returning to the Evangelical cult?

Evangelicals-turned-atheists go through great intellectual and psychological struggles before divorcing themselves from Jesus. Rarely do such people have an atheist version of the Evangelical born-again experience; where a person instantaneously goes from unbeliever to believer. Most atheists I know spent months or years deciding whether Christianity was true. And even then, they often didn’t embrace atheism right away. Desperately wanting to hang onto some version of God and life after death, many atheists dabble with liberal/progressive Christianity, Unitarian-Universalism, or other religions before concluding that all extant deities are myths. In my own personal experience, I stopped numerous times along the slippery slope towards unbelief, hoping that I could find a religion and a God I could live with. Ultimately, I hit bottom, realizing all the deities in the extant panoply of Gods are powerless mythical beings.

The next time a Christian tells you that he was an atheist before Jesus gloriously saved him from his sins, ask him to explain the word atheist to you. Ask him, when, how, and why did you become an atheist? If he can’t give a clear-cut testimony of how he came to a lack of belief in the existence of Gods, then it is likely that he was never an atheist or he was, at best, a cultural atheist (as is the case in some European countries where most people are born into atheist homes or who have never had any form of religious experience).

Some atheists want the attach certain philosophical, political, or social beliefs to the word atheist. I see this happening with social justice issues. Godless social justice warriors demand atheists embrace their causes if they plan on claiming the atheist label. While I agree with them on many of the issues, I refuse to make adherence to certain political or social issues a litmus test for being a True Atheist®.

I see atheism as a big tent. Yes, most atheists I know are politically liberal/progressive. But I do know a few atheists who are libertarians, and I even know — I shudder to think how it is possible — several atheists who voted for Donald Trump. I must live with the fact that some of my fellow atheists have different political beliefs from mine. We agree when it comes to religion, holy books, and gods, but when it comes to economics, abortion, and the designated hitter rule, our beliefs diverge.

Christians rightly object when ill-informed atheists define Christianity/Evangelicalism differently from the way that the cult members do. The followers of Jesus have every right to define what it means to be a Christian; they have every right to define what their beliefs are. The same respect should be granted atheists. It irritates the Heaven out of me when a Christian zealot refuses to allow me to define who and what I am. Among atheists, there’s a common definition of atheism: the lack of belief in the existence of Gods. Any beliefs beyond that do not require atheism. For example, I am a humanist. While many (most?) atheists are humanists, humanism does not require a lack of belief in the existence of gods. More than a few believers consider themselves Christian humanists or religious humanists. Atheism, then, is simply my belief about the existence of gods. Humanism is the moral and ethical framework by which I govern my life. It is, in effect, my Ten Commandments, my law of God.

I wish Evangelical pastors would invite atheists to their churches to educate congregants about atheism. Far too many Christians are ill-informed about atheism, having only heard what their preachers say on the matter or read what Dr. Blow Hard says in his polemical rant against atheists (and the same could be said about atheists who are ignorant of Christian doctrine and practice). Atheists, contrary to what Evangelicals have been told, don’t worship Satan, nor do they deny God’s existence just so they can behave immorally. Atheists are not evil God-haters who want to imprison Christians and burn down houses of worship. The caricature most Evangelicals have of atheists is every bit as mythical as their God.

Have you met Christians who claim that they were atheists before getting saved, or who once were Christians but who deconverted and later returned to the faith?  If you are an Evangelical-turned-atheist, how did your pastor define atheism? If you are currently a Christian, how does what you hear from the pulpit about atheists/atheism compare with what I have written here?  Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section.


Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar

    Over on ‘Roll to Disbelieve’, I just read a comment which said most atheists in the USA are ex-xtians. Then someone added that Neil Carter of ‘Godless in Dixie’ said that many of us deconverted not because we were lukewarm x-tians but because we took our beliefs too seriously and with extreme reluctance realised none of it was true.**
    I don’t know of many atheist-turned-x-tians, though there are not a few ‘urban myth’ type stories so beloved by preachers – along the lines of getting-saved-or-you-might-get-run-over-by-a-bus-tonight-and-go-to-hell.
    (** I imagine that’s exactly how you feel, Bruce, along with Neil – and me too!)

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    I agree with most of what you say here Bruce, but I think there’s a difference between passive atheism and positive atheism. I suppose ‘none’ is something short of the passive version, whereby somebody really never has considered the issue, but I think there comes a time where you know the facts, know about the bible, have probably been dragged to church from time to time, but think that realistically it’s all a sham, and that there’s no god. That’s pretty passive. Then you start really getting into the detail, you see how desperately poor the bible is in terms of evidence, you listen to apologists, none of whom, even the best, present a convincing case, and you realise that your lack of belief has turned into something much stronger, a feeling even that the evidence stacks up against belief in god. That for me is positive atheism.

    I would argue that genuine atheism is a one way street, in that once you’ve experienced the reason that goes with it you can never turn away from it, back to religion (I know there’s a danger here of ‘no true Scotsman’, but it’s different). I watch films such as God’s not Dead, or the one where Lee Strobel pretends he was an atheist, and see the horrific strawmen arguments and situations being played out, so much so that they are literally embarrassing. No genuine former atheist could possibly present arguments in this way. Or I watch Matt Dillahunty make total fools of people ringing into the Atheist Experience, and never once has one ever made an argument that made me think ‘that’s a good point’.

    Reason and religion don’t mix.

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    Honestly, I don’t recall how my pastors defined atheism. Somehow I had the notion of atheists as,people who hated god, who wanted to deny him so they coukd misbehave, and maybe some worshiped Satan. And atheists were mean, cold people. Somehow there was still the implication that atheists believed in god and Satan but didn’t worship god. When I was older I researched what atheists believed and found that it was merely a lack of belief in deities, often after study of various religious texts, science, etc.

    My husband and I, both raised with some degree of religious education, are atheists through examination and choice. My kids are atheists through lack of religious upbringing, though now that they are older they have learned some things about religion and think religious stories and rules are silly and want no part in them. They understand that some religious folks of all stripes use religion to oppress and harm otbers, while some religious people follow the religion because their families do so.

    I don’t know a lot of atheists personally, but the ones I know were raised in a religion or 2 (one friend was raised Muslim and Hindu) and through careful thought, study, etc, came to the conclusion that they don’t believe in deities anymore. I don’t know anyone who was a studied atheist who converted go a religion. Heck, I don’t know anyone who was raised without a religion who embraced a religion later in life. I know a couple of people who switched from one religion to another (Muslim to Christian, Jewish to Christian) and both cases were because they married someone of the other faith.

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    I do believe it is possible for a true atheist to turn to Christianity (or Islam, or Buddhism, or Wicca, etc.). Likewise I believe it is possible for a true Christian to turn to atheism – like our friend Bruce here. I am an atheist who currently embraces Christianity.

    I did not grow up in a Christian household. My parents did not go to church. They sent me to Vacation Bible School a couple of times probably just to get a break from all of my rowdiness as a kid. I remember my grandmother taking me to church once. But that was about it. We never talked about spiritual things at all. Pretty much the only time I heard “Jesus” was in some kind of exclamation or curse.

    I can distinctly remember when I made the decision the major religions of today were nothing but mythology. I’d read two books in 11th grade that really impacted my thoughts: “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding and especially “Mythology” by Edith Hamilton. When I read “Mythology” I personally could see nothing that separated modern religions from ancient religions. What made Zeus and Perseus any different from God and Jesus? It was just the evolution of religious thought.

    All of my friends at the time were either agnostic or atheist. My agnostic friends were into New Age sorts of things like hypnotism and meditation. I rejected even that level of religious / spiritual thought. My political beliefs were probably best defined as Libertarian. I was pro-life but even back in the late 80s I was accepting of LGBT people. I’ve always been a non-interventionist, free-wheeling capitalism supporter.

    As for ideas of creation, I could not accept the concept of some supreme being creating everything. I did not totally accept the Big Bang or Evolution either. I mostly believed in the theory of a static universe and was always puzzling my way through the origins of life.

    In college I ended up editor of the campus newspaper and wrote many times about atheism and against Christianity. The funny thing is the administration never minded my editorials until I wrote one about them and how they managed certain aspects of the campus. In the 90s I enjoyed hopping into chat rooms and debating with Christians. They always ended up relying on verses and faith and never logic and reason. I accepted a secular humanism point of view to accompany my atheism.

    That was my life from the age of 16-32. I present that evidence that I was truly an atheist. I’m not here to share my conversion story. I will say faith does not come easy for me and the greatest irony I’ve found since becoming a Christian is this: as an atheist my biggest enemies were Christians; as a Christian my biggest enemies remain Christians. Because I didn’t grow up in church culture I have a knack for rubbing lifetime Christians, especially pastors, the wrong way. I am a staff pastor at my current church and I’ve been lectured several times for how I teach or examples I use or things I say or personal activities I pursue. I cannot tell you how many times since I became a Christian in 2002 and took up ministry in 2006 that I’ve almost walked away.

    I’m not a “yes man” to any leadership, I question many traditional ways of doing things in the church and really struggle in general with how church functions today. I am pro-gay marriage and pro-marijuana legalization and just those two things alone get me in I a lot of hot water. I have expressed my problem with “tithing” in the church and stirred up some trouble with that. I refuse to be “indoctrinated”.

    I don’t know what my beliefs will be in the future. I am constantly searching for truth. I do not believe the church in general understands atheism. They look at fictional accounts like “God’s Not Dead” as how most atheists are. Honestly, my atheist and agnostic friends are generally much nicer than my Christian friends…and better informed. So that’s it. I’m not sure where I’m headed, I just know where I was and where I am today.

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      Tony K

      Howdy, Randy. Just a short note on your contention that it’s possible for an atheist to turn to Buddhism (among the various other religions mentioned). I turned to Buddhism *because* I’m an atheist. Back half a century ago, in my high school years, my best friend (an avowed atheist) told me about a religion that didn’t worship a God or gods. Already having soured on theistic religion (family is traditionally Methodist and I was confirmed in the Methodist church), it was game on for me once I heard that. Five decades later, I don’t regret the decision to go down the path of Buddhism.

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    Hi Randy, thanks for sharing. I am sure other Christians-turned-atheists like myself sre curious about your conversion to Christianity if you are interested in sharing. If not, no worries. Personally, I don’t know anyone who converted from no religion to a religion and am curious about it. I was told so many untruths about conversion as an evangelical fundamentalist Christian

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      The main thing is I don’t want to appear to be evangelizing anybody with my story. I respect Bruce, and really people in general, enough not to do that, especially here. The brief version is simply this – I was at the lowest point in my life. My mother was dying from cancer. My career was a wreck. And my wife left me and was talking divorce. I had a personal experience I would describe as “supernatural.” I had Christian friends and they were always on me to pray and things would get better. One day I did just to prove them wrong, not because I believed a single thing would happen. But it did. I felt something, heard something that I do not believe originated in my mind. This is all a subjective experience. Some might say the tremendous stress I was under drove me to experience something hallucinatory. The greatest thing to come out of that experience was that after 3 months separation my marriage came back together, and a mutual faith was integral to that. Again, some might say we could have repaired the marriage on our own. That all happened in the summer and fall of 2001. On Easter of 2002 I made a public profession of faith in a church service. A few years later I stepped into the ministry. I was, and still am, an extreme introvert. Speaking in public put the fear of death in me. However I was able to do it and still do it. My wife thinks its the power of the Holy Spirit. Some might say I’ve simply found a way to overcome my fear of public speaking.

      To summarize – it was a series of subjective “supernatural” experiences that led me to conversion. Maybe I’m crazy. I struggle with mental health issues, primarily depression and anxiety. Maybe this is some other manifestation of that. However, personally for me, I find comfort in my faith. I try to live a life of love, grace, mercy and goodness. But I do not believe you have to be a Christian to do this. I believe non-Christians can exemplify all of those things. It’s just where I am on my journey right now. 10 years from now I may be somewhere else totally.

      And to go along with Bruce’s post, I do believe that most “atheist turned Christian” stories are bogus to a degree. Mainly due to a misunderstanding of what atheism truly is. I see spiritualism and theology as a more personal journey. I don’t try to arm twist people to conversions any more. I’m trying to live and let live. Debates and arguments get us nowhere, and as an atheist it only pushed me farther from any acceptance of religion.

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    Bruce Gerencser

    The question I want to ask such people is WHY? Much like Evangelicals-turned-atheists, atheists who become Christians often frame their conversion/deconversion as rooted in intellectual inquiry (as it should be). What I want to know is what OTHER factors played a part: psychological, emotional, social, cultural, economic, etc. It took me a long to admit that my deconversion had an emotional component. The reason for my hesitancy was that admitting emotions played a part gave Christian apologists an opening to attack my story (i.e. you became an atheist because you were angry at God, bitter, jaded, etc).Eventually, I reached a place where I didn’t give a shit about what Evangelicals thought. I still say I mainly deconverted for intellectual reasons, but I now also say there were other factors that played a part (as is the case in all divorces).

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      I think deeply about things. Maybe too much, and that gets me in trouble at times. I am a big fan of Bart Ehrman like you. He has helped me have a better understanding of the Bible and I believe he is one of the foremost New Testament scholars of our day despite the fact that evangelicals reject him out of hand for his agnosticism.

      So intellectual inquiry did play a part in my conversion. To be honest, I have evolved from a complete biblical literalist to a much more liberal view of scripture. I started out as a Southern Baptist and I was an overzealous one at that. I went through a period of being a super stalwart Christian, legalistic and judgmental. I spent 10 years in jail ministry. That really helped shape where I am today. Jail is a much more visceral experience than the pretentious practice of regular church. As far as that intellectual inquiry goes, I am not satisfied with, “sit down, shut up and believe” answers. I have volumes of questions, and my inquiries have the potential to lead me down a different path completely. I’m not sure what might happen going forward.

      I do wholeheartedly agree with you Bruce on this statement, “I reached a place where I didn’t give a shit about what Evangelicals though.” I am there too, but we are on different sides of the fence. Today the church has become too much about control, money and politics. I keep thinking I’ll get fired from my church (I have a strong streak of hating to quit) but they keep me around despite my aberrant views. I am a volunteer so I have no financial worries. My main income has always been from my regular 40 hour per week job.

      Not trying to be clichéd, but I just worry about what Jesus would think about how I handle things. I’m not sure he’d even be allowed in the door of most churches today.

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    Karen the rock whisperer

    Thinking about Randy’s story, I submit that most people have some spiritual need, a desire to be connected with something greater than themselves that helps bring out the best in them. Something that they can hand over worries and cares to, and be relieved of crushing distress. It sounds like Randy has found that connection in a Christian framework. Now, by making that statement, I don’t mean to belittle Randy’s conversion. I can’t believe in the tenets of that faith, but I’m certainly not going to say to any believer that they shouldn’t believe.

    I don’t think of myself as a spiritual person, but I have learned that sometimes I simply have to calm my brain (meditation helps) and let Providence and Serendipity work in my life. I have to trust in the future to not be worst-case, beyond my ability to make it so. I have to remember that I am not simply an individual, but a member of a group of people who support one another, a mom to two cats, a part of an ecosystem, a construction of stardust, a privileged rider on a large, living planet. That is my spirituality, and it works for me, but it did not come to me naturally and I had to work at finding it after I lost my religious faith. I can’t suggest that it would work for anyone else; it might, it might not.

    But the human brain simply doesn’t function on reason alone. Reason is too slow a process to guide us through life all by itself. So we have needs that reason can’t fulfill. We are a social species. We have emotions. We have mental shortcuts and biases that help us through the minor crises of everyday life. I can’t believe in something that reason says is false, but at the same time I can’t deny the non-reasoning parts of my brain. What’s up there between my ears came as a package deal, and I must live with it the best I can.

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      Bruce Gerencser

      Excellent response and explanation, Karen. I like to think of myself as a rational intellectual — and I am, for the most part. But, I’m also quite temperamental, prone to depression, and tend to make snap judgements/decisions. Sometimes, this side of Bruce Gerencser can be a wee-bit irrational. Other times, my emotions serve me well. Life sometimes requires us to make decisions without all the necessary evidence at hand. You go with what you know (or think you know).

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    Randy, thank you for sharing your conversion experience. I don’t think anyone woukd consider it to be proselytizing at all. Everyone’s experience belongs to them and to them alone. My thought is that anything that helps you get thru life, that teaches love and kindnesd, ad long as it is never detrimental to others, is a positive thing. Many of us here at Bruce’s site share experiences in which religion was used to harm and control others, where it was used as a manipulative tool, where it was used to debase and shame others. It became twisted into something perverse. That is what I am against.

    Randy, it seems you have a good handle on where you are right now. It sounds like you are on the same page with those of us who hate to see religion used to control others. Personally, I think there are lots of great lessons we can learn from the Gospel depictions of Jesus.

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    James Rosso

    Becoming an atheist can be a bit like learning that there’s no Santa Claus. And it’s about as likely that you’ll start believing again.

    The type of “atheism” in these preacher’s ‘before’ stories looks about as much like atheism as their ‘before’ stories about satanism did in the 1980s. In each case, they’re projecting their propaganda-fueled ignorance on a demonizable out-group for their own purposes. Religion in america is big business, and you have to keep coming up with new products with which to fleece the sheep.

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      Bruce Gerencser

      You are so right about how Evangelicals value dramatic conversion stories. I, too, remember the “From Satanism to Christianity” testimonies of the 1980s. Mike Warnke comes to mind, a con-artist if there ever was one. Bob Larson is another one. Both of these men are still fleecing gullible sheep, albeit their draw isn’t as great as it was in the 80s. Evangelicals have moved on to TV preachers and evangelists — the new Elmer Gantry’s. The goal remains the same: tell whatever lies necessary to get people to send money.

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        Unfortunately I tend to agree with you. It’s like Ergun Caners story about being a devout Muslim who converted to Christianity. Then his story ended up being bogus. There’s a couple guys out there, forget their names, that claim they were PLO terrorists who converted to Christianity – and their stories are highly suspect too. Then you have J. Warner Wallace and Lee Strobel who claim to be former atheists and they’ve made millions on book sales and conferences. Same way with Ravi Zacharias and Hinduism. It’s a story that sells. Profitably. I retain a good amount of skepticism and have developed an equally keen cynicism.
        I do what I do in the church for free. I will never take money for ministry again. I’ve been in plumbing wholesale for 28 years and have a lucrative career. I feel bad for guys like Bruce that made ministry their entire career.
        Sadly I see modern American evangelicalism as a numbers game. Attendance. Tithes and offerings. Book sales. Record sales. And on and on. 80%+ of a church’s budget is salaries and facilities. That’s not a viable charity or 501c3. I’m for churches that operate like that paying taxes and also doing away with Minister’s housing allowance. Maybe that would help straighten things up. I’m just wondering if the American Evangelical church has finally started it’s meltdown.

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    I hear Randy’s story, and I have no problem with it. He’s not going out trying to convert people, which is fine.

    The only thing I’d say is that, as with all such anecdotes/experiences, the story is entirely subjective, so trying to reason into Randy’s belief is impossible. That’s what proselytisers miss; they may be as convinced as can be in their own mind that what they say is true, but it’s purely based on personal experience. By definition, there is no way that their belief can be conveyed by way of reason, and this is why I stick with my view that a considered atheist can never convert, because in amongst the reason he has utilised is the appreciation that personal experience and revelation is almost certainly not to be trusted.

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      I’d submit to you Geoff that Evangelicals say the same thing about Christians who become atheists. They say no “true” or “considered” Christian would ever leave the faith after experiencing the power of the Ressurected Christ and the Holy Spirit. Therefore they were never Christians to begin with. They’d quote Psalm 14:1 that posits only fools say there is no God. The same way I feel you hint that only a fool would leave atheism for Christianity. We’re moving into the realm of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. I believe Bruce was a sold out Christian heart and mind. And he abandoned that very real faith to embrace Atheism and Humanism. The exact opposite is true with me. Sure it’s implausible but not impossible. Some of the smartest people I know are Christians. Some of the smartest people I know are atheists.

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        Bruce Gerencser

        While I generally agree with what you have written here, I can say, from experience, that most of the atheists-turned-Christians I have met were actually NONES and not atheists. The No True Scotsman fallacy doesn’t apply here if people carefully consider what I have written in this post. All I am doing is considering the facts at hand. If the No True Scotsman fallacy is in play here, that means anyone can say, I am or was an atheist, and no one can object. This is akin to me saying, I am 6 foot 10 inches tall and weigh 200 hundred pounds. The facts suggest that this is not true. Listen carefully to what I am saying: I am not saying that there aren’t people who were atheists and then became Christians. It’s happens. What interests me is all the factors (stressors/motivations) that led to their conversion.

        When it comes to Christians turned atheists, again what should matter are the facts of their stories. The evidence I provide about myself is clear: I once was a Christian and now I am not. I have met countless pastors, church leaders, professors and church congregants who were devoted, zealous followers of Jesus. Their stories ring true, and such be accepted as such.

        What I am saying here is that raising the No True Scotsman fallacy cuts off discussion on both sides of the debate. What’s important are the stories that are told by believers and unbelievers alike. Only then, can I understand whether someone was an atheist before they converted. As far as Christians becoming atheists, the bigger problem is that Evangelicals, and not atheists, have a handbook — the Bible — by which they judge the life stories of others. I have found that if a person is determined to label me “never saved” he will find justification for doing so in the Bible. Someone such as myself can’t win with such people, and I have stopped trying to justify my life before people who really don’t give a shit about what I have to say.

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          You know that would make an interesting book. A study of Christians who deconverted and why. A study of atheists who converted and why. Look at their background, personal history and that sort of thing. I love the psychology of all of this. And I do think it’s dumb to say you were never a Christian, Bruce. It is a typical Evangelical tactic and just like you said there are plenty of proof texts they can pull up to do it. I just think that is an egregious way to deal with people like you.

          Honestly it’s impossible for me to totally abandon who I used to be. I still retain a healthy amount of skepticism and look at the Bible critically. Are their any parts of your Christianity you still retain?

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            I’d buy that book! Reading your comments, Randy, has been well worth the time and several times left me thinking – “yeah, what he said”. Thank you for sharing your story.

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    Great post and comments. Glad I read it. Like you said, if someone claims they are (or were) “X,” it seems fair to ask them to define “X.”
    I prefer to keep my conclusion about the exitance of any god separate from discussion of religion. While closely related things, they are not exactly the same. Often, as in some comments here, people cannot have a discussion of one without the other.

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    I’ve re-read my comments from 2018 and my position hasn’t changed. Randy is very typical of a Christian who likes to think that once he was an atheist, but I doubt he’d qualify as atheist in my world. His conversion to Christianity was so sudden, and came from a time when he was experiencing personal difficulties. He was clearly looking for some kind of handle in life and, to be honest, if the belief gave him comfort then I’m genuinely pleased for him. Just don’t come here and try to convince me (probably others too) that you came from the same position as me.

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    My deconversion was a long and painful process. I pleaded with god not to let me slip away as the reasons to believe slowly melted away. Although this was a long process the revelation that there was no god was almost instantaneous. Having worked through all of the reasons to keep my faith I can think of nothing that would lead me back into religion. I can’t imagine any other formerly committed Christian being able to do so either after traveling a similar journey.

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      “My deconversion was a long and painful process.”

      Agreed!!! And it is still painful for me. I was in the faith for decades. I fought losing it tooth and nail. I didn’t choose to be an agnostic trending to full atheism. I still really want there to be a god, but I neither see nor experience any evidence of it. Looking back, I don’t think I ever saw any, but I sure did a lot of mental gymnastics to make it all make sense for me (indoctrination from a young age helped). I am now where investigation and experience has brought me, but it has been an emotionally expensive journey.

      If I could un-agnostify (I’m sure there’s a better word) I would. I miss the comfort and community (though I now see that some of the community was pretty toxic). Like Dave, I don’t know how that’s possible. I’ve seen through the illusion and I can’t un-see it. It would literally take an act of God (and he doesn’t seem to be in the acting business anymore).

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    MJ Lisbeth

    I’m a bit late to this “party.” But I respect Randy for sharing his experience openly and honestly. I don’t want to “convert” anyone to atheism, nor do I want to judge whether someone is “really” an atheist or a Christian or whatever. I just want people to honestly question whatever they believe, or don’t believe.

    As for the dramatic pre-conversion stories: I heard more than a few when I was an Evangelical Christian. I’ll admit that while “witnessing,” or simply talking with other Evangelicals, I played up some of the “bad” things I did which, in some cases, were nothing more than the excesses of youth. I didn’t talk about the truly difficult experiences I had–such as being sexually abused by a priest–because, well, I hadn’t talked about them with anybody because I didn’t have the language or other contexts for doing so. Of course, talking about something like that might’ve been worse, in terms of making belief more appealing–and, because many people, Christians and others alike, believe that such an experience turns a person into a homosexual (something I was trying to be “saved” from), it would have been confirmation that either I was beyond redemption or needed to pray and study more.

    I think that a phrase in “Amazing Grace” sums up the mentality behind such pre-conversion stories: “I once was lost, but now I’m found.” It makes being saved/not being saved into a black-and-white binary, which makes for a more dramatic testimony than, say, “I questioned, but now I accept.”

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    I ran into a high school classmate at one of my reunions who said he was an atheist in HS, but was now an evangelical missionary. I seriously doubt he was an atheist when we were in high school, but who knows? At the time, I was drinking 50 gallon drums of the Kool Aid, working for a ministry, so of course I thought that was really cool at the time.
    Side note based on the Calvin and Hobbes comic. We are supposed to get some “severe” weather tonight where I live. Christians I know in the area have come against the bad weather in Jesus’ name, and “bound the devil”. Many of them think that severe weather is something the devil does. I can’t be sure, but I don’t think I ever believed that part of it?… Of course, if we don’t get the severe weather, then prayers work, God wins, etc. And if we do, there will be many people being thankful to God that it wasn’t worse. Ugh.

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      Pathetic nonsense as usual, with his insistence on using ‘we’ instead of ‘I’. To my mind I sense that he feels using the plural gives him a sort of defence, as though he can blame his imaginary other half for the rubbish he spews forth. I’m also suspicious of his motives in defending the indefensible, especially sex abusers and paedophiles.

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        Bruce Gerencser

        I plan to write a post titled “Who is Dr. David Tee?” I have evidence (court depositions) that clearly show that there’s a reason he fled the US for South Korea and then the Philippines. Through his posts, he’s trying to justify his own past behavior.

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    I have had years of online debate experience. Yes, I often meet people who claim they were former atheists that are now Christians. However, when subjected to questions, they cannot mention any arguments they found convincing as atheists. Many simply confuse teenage apathy about religion with atheism. A recent example is the thread , which I began with a discussion of my change from creationist to mainstream evolution. Saucy jumped in saying “me too” in the opposite direction( but he had no idea what it means to be an atheist.

    Also, Steve Locks discusses the asymmetry of conversion at

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    My brother, who was raised in an evangelical household with people who, when he was a kid, attended an IFB church, claims that he was an atheist for awhile. Now he is a charismatic Christian zealot (my husband and I joke about how my brother claims to have witnessed a “deliverance” or what Catholics would call an “exorcism”, what I call BS). My brother and I have very different ideas on what atheism means – for him, being mad at God is atheism, and for me believing that deities do not exist is atheism.

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    Martin K. Sloan

    “I can’t imagine someone rejecting all he knows to be true for a belief system that he has already deemed incoherent, irrational, and false.”

    Isn’t this just the atheist version of “once saved always saved”? Once an atheist, always an atheist. “You didn’t have true disbelief, you were merely a none!”

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Bruce Gerencser