FAQ for The Asymmetry of Conversion
These are examples of the questions I have been asked by private email and my responses. Questions raised are in italics.
- "Real Atheists"
- Is the Asymmetry of Conversion a proof?
- The Asymmetry of Conversion to Islam (am I arguing *for* atheism?)
While you may decry me saying some who claim Christ are not Christians, for of conversion to work, you have to question and belittle the conversion stories of Atheists who become Christians. (i.e. C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, etc.) Because they were not actively writing articles against Christianity, they are not considered "real atheists"
I don't know why you have projected that opinion on me. An atheist is simply someone who is not a theist, there is no need to add the extraneous term "real" as all non-theists are atheists - i.e. without theism. Atheism is just a lack of belief, whether for good reasons or not. However, what I am looking for, as I have explained enough times now, is someone who is well educated in arguments against Christianity before converting to it. The mirror of a missionary and Christian apologist who deconverts. The reason why such people interest me is because I think they are likely to have something interesting to say. I want to know why they con/decon-verted. You don't need to be educated to not believe something, but I consider it less likely a person poorly of half-educated in matters of religion and religious criticism will give interesting reasons for their disbelief.
As for C.S. Lewis, I have read all his religious writings and consider myself well placed to evaluate if he was educated in the arguments against Christianity before he converted to it. I found that Lewis had very little grasp of arguments against Christianity (or even for atheism). He alarmingly left me somewhat unsatisfied as a Christian, even though I enjoyed his lively writing and many of his Christian thoughts. In "Fern Seed and Elephants" Lewis even admits how little he knows about historical Jesus research during a talk he gave at a liberal theological college. At the beginning of his talk he writes that he is "extremely ignorant" of modern theology and modern research into the historical Jesus. So much for Lewis knowing all the arguments. Instead Lewis basically argues that he knows from his literary work what myths are like and the Christian story reads like a myth, but for him a myth that came true.
I have found a poorly examined hope amongst some Christians that there exists a top apologist who has satisfactorily answered the questions people ask of Christianity. It is precisely the lack of substantial answers and the magnitude of the problems with Christianity which frequently leads people out of faith. Indeed, in "Surprised by Joy" after a complex argument which convinced Lewis of theism he continues on to Christian belief with this non-apologetic: "When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did. Yet I had not exactly spent the journey in thought." Quite so. Throughout his writings virtually nothing of the arguments or evidences I found in philosophy, psychology, history, biblical criticism and comparative religion that convinced me that Christianity is false were mentioned, let alone addressed.
Josh McDowell has been destroyed on the secular web and is not even considered reliable by Jordan, whose opinions you admire. You would have known this if you'd read the debate Jordan and I are having. On the other hand, Jordan also thinks Strobel is a good case. I have still yet to hear what exactly he knew about arguments against Christianity before he became a Christian, if you know then please tell me. However I was surprised by the weak and lightly examined arguments against Christianity he used in "the case for Christ" if that is all he could come up with against Christianity.
You assume because they've written no articles, they don't know the arguments.
I've assumed no such thing. However if there are ex-atheists well read in the arguments against Christianity who subsequently became Christians and then hid their background under a bushel then such data is un-measurable. Indeed if such hidden people exist, how do *you* know about them?
I do not claim that one *has* to have been a writer, I just want some way of assessing their previous knowledge before conversion. Barker was a missionary and apologist and, as you just admitted, an *educated* minister. His friends and colleagues were shocked by his deconversion, which is unlikely if they had assessed him as only having weak grasp of Christianity anyway. That is what I am looking for- education in arguments for Christianity before leaving it.
I was also quite amused when I read some of your linked information as well as some of the correspondence on some former skeptics you unearthed who did change viewpoints. Farrell Till writes,
"The closest that I can come to the name of someone who changed from atheism to Christianity is Austin Miles, the author of Don't Call Me Brother Anymore, and I don't actually know if Miles ever considered himself an atheist. He made the transition from Christian to at least skepticism (at which time he wrote the above book) and back to Christianity, but in all sincerity I have to wonder how much he was committed to freethought. I personally find it hard to understand how that any skeptic who takes the time to research biblical errancy and really become informed on the subject could possibly return to believing that it is the "inspired word of God."
-Indeed, the same statement from a Baptist or other Fundamentalist minister with several words changed saying of an atheist that converted, "In all sincerity I have to wonder how much he was committed to Christianity..." would be cited as an example of poor Christian thinking and lack of ability to consider new ideas, etc.
I agree with you. The information on what Miles knew needs to be presented before an assessment can be made. I'll try to find out what I can about him. If you know any information about Miles, please let me know. (I subsequently found out this information).
-Again the lack of disrespect for converts to Christianity and the ability to easily wipe away disqualify people who were probably very knowledgable in matters of Atheism is practiced relentlessly by Mr. Till.
Yes, quiet so. That is why my asymmetry of conversion research is *research* (and ongoing research at that) and why I describe it as an investigation. If it is indeed true that all Till knows are the bits you quoted from him then I agree his conclusions would be unfounded. However if you, or any Christian knows details of what an educated critic in Christianity knew before their conversion then let me know. It is one thing to speculate about possibilities but another to come up with the goods.
A couple further thoughts on Asymmetry.
If I have understood your logic correctly.
1) A large number of educated Christians have become Atheists or members of other religions.
2) Because of the quality of these deconverts, this is an argument and a proof against Christianity.
Not quite. I don't hold this as a *proof*, merely an indication, or evidence for consideration, that Christianity is not on a secure footing. Since people deconvert from every branch of Christianity and from scholarly circles too, Christianity is not secure on historical grounds, apologetic grounds or even the veridical feeling of religious experience. This fits the idea that Christianity is false and people come to realise this. Not a proof, but a working hypothesis.
The asymmetry of conversion, if it truly exists, does not *necessarily* mean that Christianity is false, but it would be a strong indicator that something is up and the actual discoveries of ex-Christians should be looked into.
So, can these be applied to other areas of life? Such as, for example, the abortion debate.
Yes, I think so, if one is interested in the debate. Changes of mind from those well versed in the opposite camp are very intriguing and I would think should be listened to on both sides by those who are interested in the abortion debate. If there is indeed an asymmetry then I think it would be worth investigating why.
So, should everyone become pro-life atheists on the basis of asymmetry?
No, but neither should everyone become ex-Christians on the basis of the asymmetry of conversion. I guess this confusion is because you have misunderstood the asymmetry of conversion as a proof, whereas as I view the asymmetry of conversion not as proof but, as I said at http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/conversion_asymmetry.html "compelling evidence that something is wrong with Christianity, even without understanding the arguments against Christianity."
Just how compelling it is though, will depend on the extent of the asymmetry of course. A bit of asymmetry could be a statistical fluke, a lot would be intriguing, massive amounts would make one wonder what was going on!
If the president and other organisers of the secular web converted to Christianity, I would want to know why, as that is the kind of thing that would make me wonder if I really had missed something after all. What exactly could I know or have experienced that they had not? So I would want to see if I had been wrong after all and examine their arguments and journeys. Do you feel likewise compelled to read Gerd Ludermann's books, Don Cupitt's or Michael Goulder's?
The Asymmetry of Conversion to Islam (am I arguing *for* atheism?)
Islam has been converting more Christians to Islam in the Western World than Christians have been converting Islam (indeed this includes several ministers). Should people convert to Islam because of this?
Yes, maybe *Christians* should, as at least one theological step. If the asymmetry is very marked then Christians should question what it is about Christianity and Islam that makes it easier for people to leave Christianity for Islam than the other way round. If it is Christians educated in the arguments for Christianity and against Islam who are converting to Islam then it should be compelling evidence against Christianity. It also could be rather enticing to investigate why they are abandoning Christianity in favour of Islam.
This is an intriguing research project for the superiority of Islam over Christianity. What it does not show though is that Islam is true, anymore than my asymmetry of conversion shows that atheism is true. Islam, Christianity and Atheism could all be false (maybe Voodoo is the correct religion). But if there is an asymmetry between learned Christians leaving Christianity versus learned critics of Christianity (even if not atheists) who subsequently become Christians, then that is evidence against the security of Christian beliefs and claims.
I want to make sure this point is understood, that the asymmetry of conversion is an evidence (not a proof) against Christianity and is not an argument for any other particular view.
Remember too that my site is about and for ex-Christians, not about and for only atheists. I link to http://www.thetruereligion.org/priests.htm which contained some interesting stories.
If learned atheists were converting to Islam despite their previous knowledge of arguments against Islam (which would likely differ in part from Christians' arguments against Islam) then this would be an intriguing and (if the proportions were large) compelling argument for Islam against secularism. Is this what you have found? If so can you give me any names or references?