Thursday, May 15, 2008

Common Causes of Deconversion

Kieran Bennett analyzed 117 Deconversion Stories at Positive Atheism and classified the reasons people claim they left Christianity. Note that these are not disproofs of religion or even necessarily good reasons, just individuals' reasons for leaving. The following words are mine but the numbers are his:
14.89% Stupid or incoherent answers by religious leaders to simple questions.
14.89% Science contradicted their religious dogma.
12.76% Contradictory dogma.
?% Exposure to atheism. [Kieran seems to have omitted the number here.]
10.63% Reading the Bible.
8.51% Hypocrisy of the Church.
8.51% Prayers went unanswered or person came to believe he was talking to self.
8.5% The existence of other religions.

My deconversion was a process and not an event, but I would probably point to stupid answers by religious leaders and to the conflict between science and the Torah as the primary causes of my leaving Orthodoxy.

The first major pang of doubt that I remember is when I asked the smartest rabbi I knew -- and one with substantial secular education at that -- what the firmament is. His answer? The stratosphere. But well before that, I had learned that rabbis could say things far stupider than that, and sometimes things that were racist or just plain offensive.

Then I started to notice a pattern. The "more Orthodox" the Rabbi, the less likely he was to, for example, believe in evolution or an ancient universe and the more likely he was to say things that are clueless and/or downright offensive. Clearly, "less Orthodox" was the right direction. But for all their efforts, the "less Orthodox" rabbis I knew and knew of coudn't come up with a coherent world view, just an uncomfortable compromise between Orthodoxy and reality, with a little fudging here and a little looking-the-other-way there. Every time I could tell they wanted to be factually correct or morally progressive but couldn't quite do it, it was because they were trying to stay within the bounds of Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy itself was the barrier.

(Via Friendly Atheist.)


AIGBusted said...

Very Interesting. I wonder if it might be a good idea for us atheists to try and raise the consciousness of the public to these issues, inorder to produce more atheists...

Just a thought.

Baal Habos said...

>Every time I could tell they wanted to be factually correct or morally progressive but couldn't quite do it, it was because they were trying to stay within the bounds of Orthodoxy

Very true! That's when all the "kvetching" comes out.

asher said...

People will leave a religion simply because it's easier not to be religious. Hey....not going to church, eating trief, sex with whomever, no respect for clergy,
and that nagging morality that you don't need THEM to teach you.
It's just easier to convince yourself that it's all alot of hooey.

Of course, if you've ever read Crime and Punishment, you know that the main character thinks he is above the law and can do whatever he wants because he is
"special" Later he realizes that if everyone thought that way the world would become chaos.

Religion poisons everything goes the book. Please suggest an alternative.

BEAJ said...

Asher, I think it is easier to believe there is a God, than to not believe there is a God, at least at first, once exposed as a child to the concept of God.
But once you realize there is no need for a God, the world makes a lot more sense.

Jewish Atheist said...


I posted about Dostoevsky.

Holy Hyrax said...

>But once you realize there is no need for a God, the world makes a lot more sense.

Thats probably true. You no longer struggle with "If God is good, why did he make a little girl born crippled." But I still believe in God :)

Holy Hyrax said...

Sorry, let me retract a bit. Its not that it makes more sense, its probably just easier to accept in relation to the angst.

Tigerboy said...


The alternative is to study our circumstance, our place in the universe, our ability to treat others morally, that is, to treat others in ways similar to the ways in which we ourselves would wish to be treated, to be fair to our fellow beings, to grow in our knowledge of who we are and what we might become, but to do so without pretending to know things which we do not.

Creation-myths may comfort those who need metaphor in order to get a handle on something they cannot possibly understand, but they don't help one to truly understand reality. We have, now, far greater understanding of the reality of our circumstances. In order that we might pass on a safe, healthy, environmentally stable, peaceful world to our children, we have much yet to learn.

The alternative is to be truthful. The alternative is to admit to, and pursue, that which we do not understand, but never to claim to know things merely because it helps us feel like we understand everything, because it helps us to sleep at night.

The alternative is to study our circumstance without the bias and superstition of our ancestors. We do not need Creation-myths in order to study Science and/or Ethics.

The beauty of the Scientific Method is that it does not allow bias to persist. Bias, eventually, gets rooted out.

Religious identification stands squarely in the way of the ethical treatment of those perceived as being outside the group. It is totally in the best interests of society, of the world, to be rid of these tribal identifications.

We are all in this together.

Holy Hyrax said...


If you get rid of these tribal identifications, there will be something else to take over. As GH says all the time, the problem with Harris, Dawkins etc, is their assertion that the world WILL be better off without religion. So far, apart from their own agenda (and yes, we all have one) they have no evidence of this.

>The beauty of the Scientific Method is that it does not allow bias to persist. Bias, eventually, gets rooted out.

Of course, but how are you going to avoid bias when dealing with ethics?

Anonymous said...

Do a Yahoo search engine search on causes of atheism and there is an article which is ranked #1 for Causes of atheism. Google ranks the same article #3 for causes of atheism.

Here are the Yahoo results:

Here are the Google results:

Here is the article itself and comments are welcome:

CyberKitten said...

holy h said: Of course, but how are you going to avoid bias when dealing with ethics?

What do you mean by 'bias'?

Holy Hyrax said...

>What do you mean by 'bias'?

We all have bias and different values. Same thing with societies. Man does not operate like a science formula. How would we all keep the same morals?

Tigerboy said...

"How would we all keep the same morals?"

Generally: We do as I, and so many much more learned humans before me, have said:

Rule #1: Treat others as you yourself would wish to be treated in similar circumstances.

More specifically: Right, wrong, and guidelines for punishment are established by society. These concepts might be more familiar to you as "democratically elected legislators" and "juries of our peers."

When in doubt, refer to Rule #1.

This stuff is not difficult. It is basic human nature. Children can be observed showing empathy before they can walk.

asher said...

Tigerboy...your sentiments are so wonderful...let's all join hands and sing Kubaya around a fire on the beach ...maybe Obama can join us.

Atheists can pool together and put down religious people calling them naive and backward. Religious folk can pool together and help out those folks devastated by Katrina (Mormons)travel around the world building hospitals and schools (chistians) and actually work for civil rights (the Rev Martin Luther King) Relgion poisons everything.

Tigerboy said...


It's so funny that you mention Civil Rights, because the Bible has so frequently been used to justify all kinds of crimes against humanity, not to mention the evil actually perpetrated directly by the Church.

Slavery, hatred and abuse of homosexuals, and the shameless subjugation of women are just a trifling few of the poisonous ideas that Religion has nurtured in our society.

Religion's record on Civil Rights is absolutely appalling. I have to wonder why you think it beneficial to your argument to bring the subject up.

Tigerboy said...


Religion's record on Human Rights, or what Jefferson referred to as "inalienable" and others have termed "God-given" rights, is also appalling. Actually comparable to the records of genocidal maniacs.

Again, thanks for bringing the subject up.

Still want to sing Kumbya? Actually, I don't care for that song. I sang it in church, as a child. It left a really bad taste in my mouth.

asher said...


I couldn't agree with you more.
Look what we've gotten from such athiest leaders as Hitler, Stalin and Mao...and that was just last century! Give you guys a couple more years and you should be able to wipe out the rest of the world as you justify everything in the name in the progress.

Tigerboy said...


First, you ridiculed me because I said I like the "Golden Rule", and I said "We are all in this together." You said:

"your sentiments are so wonderful...let's all join hands and sing Kubaya around a fire on the beach ...maybe Obama can join us." (clearly derisive and mocking.)

Now, you drag out the inevitable "Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were bad guys!" argument. You said:

"Give you guys a couple more years and you should be able to wipe out the rest of the world as you justify everything in the name in the progress."

I'm afraid you are going to have to make up your mind. Either, I'm a hopelessly trite, naive, hippy, peacenik.

Or else, I'm a war-mongering, racist, totalitarian.

Which is it?

Hitler, Stalin, Mao (and I'll even throw in Pol Pot, 'cuz he's the "Shemp" of atheist dictators). They all had brown hair, too. That doesn't mean that brown hair causes despotism.

The evils I named are directly related to what is written in the Bible. The Spanish Inquisition was a direct result of holier-than-thou people reading their Good Books, discovering that God loves violence, and then deciding to pass judgment on the "sinners" around them. It could NEVER have happened without the sickening violence that is common in those hallowed pages. Cause and effect.

Slave-holders have been TOTALLY justified in their actions. Justified by that hideous book. Want to burn an old woman at the stake? Stone somebody? The reasons to do it are plainly spelled out for you. God will be so pleased.

Just because you can name some famously evil men who were atheists doesn't create a cause-and-effect relationship between atheism and horribly corrupt power.

And, as far anyone knows, neither Stalin, nor Mao, was EVER known to have joined hands around a fire, on a beach, or EVER to have sung Kumbya.

Hitler was a Catholic, so he might have.

CyberKitten said...

Holy H said: How would we all keep the same morals?

Why would we need to?

Morality changes over time and varies between cultures.

Today's morality will be tomorrow's shocking incredulity and schoolyard laugh-fest.

Why do we all have to sing from the same song sheet? It's not like we ever had or ever will....

asher said...

Make up your mind; either progressive athieism is helping mankind or engineering wholesale can't have it both ways. I'm sorry if that's just too difficult a point to make.

The abolitionists were all Ministers and the the writer of "Uncle Tom's Cabin"'s brother was a well known preacher. I wonder where the atheists were during this Bible thumping time...probably imitating Simon Lagree.

However, you really don't have to worry. Europe is now so secular no one is getting married and they aren't having children. The churches in Europe have been turned into tourist attractions and the clergy are almost non-existant.
Most films today only use clergy as child molesters (I think it's about 1/2 of 1% of all the priests in America) and permitting same sex marriage, and homosexual and lesbian priests and rabbis should soon be the norm. I'm sure there will be a female Iman eventually.

Of all the Utopian societies that got rid of religion, can you name one that's still around? And I'm not talking about Manson's followers.

Just fill in this blank...when athiests get together they....
and give me one positive example...then we can call it a night.

Tigerboy said...


I never confused atheism with helping mankind, or slaughtering anyone. That was you.

Atheism is not a philosophy. Due to the COMPLETE lack of evidence for there being any gods or goddesses, atheism is merely a single rational conclusion that many thinking people draw. Hardly a philosophy.

Europe IS a more secular society than the United States. Far fewer people go to church. And I guess the sky isn't falling just yet. In fact, by almost any measure, the standard of living in most European countries is extremely high. There is FAR less abject poverty, gun violence, or capital murder, and some of the MOST charitable nations on Earth, per capita, are European.

If you have seen a lot of movies that have portrayed clergy as child molesters (I have no idea which movies you are talking about), then maybe it is because a shocking number of Catholic priests famously and tragically raped the children entrusted to them, while other priests did everything they could to sweep it under the rug. It was a global scandal that brought to light the most pernicious betrayal of trust that went back generations. Maybe you heard about it. Are you ACTUALLY trying to minimize what happened to these children? To their families? Very nice.

If gay people choose to be preachers, or rabbis, or get married, or whatever, who are you to tell them they can't? Who's acting like Simon Legree in this situation? I know that you want to see gays as evil, second-class citizens, but do you know what? They are people, and CITIZENS, just like you. Why do you think it is okay to deny gay people from doing anything that straights are free to do? That is clear discrimination. The United States of America does not grant rights to some of her citizens, Mr. Legree, and deny them to others. Check your Constitution.

Your search for a lasting Utopia of ANY description is, of course, doomed to fail.

asher said...


Forget it.

Athiests of the world have nothing to give to humanity

Anonymous said...

damnit I hate it when people can't spell "atheist" - you would think it would be logically simple for a theist to see the word "theist"and put an "a" in front of it, but it appears that even that simple act of logic escapes them...