A small compilation of answers to discussion about difference between "born-atheists" and "atheists-by-"conversion" "

To start with: as you may have noticed I used the word "conversion" within quote marks. That means I use the word in the exact mode. To convert means to change to a different system, from centimetres to inches, Celsius to Fahrenheit, no more, no less. No values attached,,,

I compiled some replies and noticed 2 strains of answers.

1. About life-experience: the people that "converted" to atheism have "more" of something...

- "Those who convert or lose faith are much more firm, generally speaking, in their belief."

- "For one thing, some, perhaps most, of those who "converted" to atheism after once believing in god(s) have experienced some emotional pain, trauma, or other difficulties associated with that transition. For some, it was smooth and easy, but for many it was hard and difficult. So-called natural atheists typically have not had that sort of experience."

- Being a "convert" I can't really give you the whole perspective, but I find that I'm stronger and more active in my beliefs (or lack there-of) than some people I know who were just raised without religion. Its almost as if they're indifferent and we who lost our faith have a sort of hitch in our step, almost as if we resent the church for lying to us all those years.

- "Converted" atheists can be much more bitter. :P

Is this true? The "converted" atheists are much more active and/or determinated compared to the lazy "born-atheists"?


2. About "genetics" (maybe Dennett's "meme"..)
"What if the ability of the human mind to accept religious beliefs has been hardwired into "successful" human models, those that continue to live a life long enough to reproduce? Religion in history tends to protect the herd, so they survive more often than loners, and reproduce more. Can we really be 100% atheist? Are we overcoming the successful gene of religious belief?"

Does this mean that some people have more or less of the religious "meme" by birth? And if so, why would atheists survive at all if the "reli-meme" was succesfull? The question "Are we overcoming the successful gene of religious belief?" is worth investigating.

I like it when answers produce more questions. Do you?

Last but not least: one quote as a suggestion for a new thread:

"I don't know if anyone else here shares my view, but I find it quite unnatural and unnecessary to say "I am an atheist". Its not that there is a God and I don't beleive in him, but that the concept of God is itself made-up. So what is there to either beleive or disbeleive in?
In other words, if someone asks me "do you beleive in God?", my honest answer would be "what are you talking about" (meaning, what is it that you called God) rather than just "No".
I think that this isn't just semantics, but is an indication of one's approach to this whole question. However, its perhaps possible that others use the same words with quite a different meaning."

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Comment by Hugo on July 29, 2008 at 10:39am
I admire your talent of co-existing with a believing partner, I wonder how you both will agree about the education of your daughter.

I made a lengthy comment about this on this thread.
Comment by Frits on July 14, 2008 at 1:15pm
To start with, thanks for the correction about the inventor of "meme". Of course it was Richard Dawkins (1976: The Selfish Gene). I was a bit confused I think by the fact that Dennett uses the term in relation to religion.
For me "meme" is still nothing more than a metaphore, I cannot see a true scientific link between real genetics and "memetics". A usefull metaphore nevertheless, that might help to support my hypothesis that in both in Belgium as in the Netherlands religion without "real belief" still has such a big influence on social life.
I admire your talent of co-existing with a believing partner, I wonder how you both will agree about the education of your daughter.
As for "religion without belief" I would like to see the questions of Sam Harris' survey to be answered by a representative group in both NL and BE.
This might provide us with some really useful answers for acting out in the Lowlands. We are quite free to live our lives with or without religion, but all those "moderate" believers we have to live with are a tremendous support for the fundamentalist Church and the influence it has on politics and legislation.
Comment by Hugo on July 14, 2008 at 2:44am
A little history to give my answers some perspective. I've never been anything but an atheist, I did have periods where I pondered life questions and thought about the possibilities of god or godlike things but the answer always came out negative. In Belgium we have the possibility to not follow religion (ie. catholisism) and that is what I did from day 1 (thanks mom), instead I got moral lessons and those were the best classes of my whole primary school experience, the only ones I still remember. On the other hand I never had any "bad" experiences with church or church members, point in case, my wife's a believing church going catholic.
Now, I do believe that in the current world it is needed to really be an atheist and to say no to questions about (any) god belief. Sure once that "no" has been said it can be possible to ask what god concept the questioner was talking about but as an atheist I know my answer will be "no" to whatever that person can come up with unless that person (or his god) can provide actual evidence and I am also willing to say "maybe" to some deist notions but for me personally I would still be leaning towards "no" so my first response is always NO.
So I might come across as more bitter or determinate but that is only because I care for the truth and do not like to see people waste time with foolishness. As far as I can remember I was alway like this but lately this has perhaps been reinforced a little with religion taking the foreground more personally (my daughter) and in the world in general (moslims, christians, new age stuff ...)
So for your answer to question 1 yes, there are more active/determined "born-atheists" but I think they need a reason, religion has to pop up in some way so that they respond.

Question 2, I think genetics is finding a lot of things, some genetic traits make people more inclined to be addicted I think it is not far fetched for religion to have at least some genetic drive but I do not think that genetics is the only thing, it is more of a nudge and could be overridden if the person really wants it and has support to do it like addictions and that is also why I am open about my atheism, people should know it is an option.

PS. meme was started by Richard Dawkins (wiki)

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