From: Brian Holtz []
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2005 7:56 AM
To: ''
Subject: RE: About your Atheist Deconversion page - ASA Jones
Without addressing you line by line,
I'll take your apology below as a retraction of your baseless charges that I am "arrogant", "vain", and "conceited", that I "bully" people, and that I have "widened the scope" of our discussion.
I would like to give you my final response on this matter. If I recall correctly, you wanted to know which atheist philosophers I had read in order to make the case that while perhaps I was an atheist, in no way could I have been an informed and knowledgeable atheist, for had I been, I wouldn't have converted.
You don't recall correctly. What I said was: "I don't doubt you were well-versed in the arguments about God. My question is whether your exposure to nontheist ethics was limited to lame Continental thinkers like Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Sartre, or whether you had encountered modern humanist thinking on ethics."  You didn't respond. I didn't say you wouldn't have converted, I just said that "The best arguments of atheism would then tend to inoculate their atheist hearers against Christianity".

You've already said you didn't convert because of comparing the arguments, so there would be little point in showing that you were unfamiliar with the arguments.  My (updated) conclusion is that your conversion involved "factors 7 (emotional dissatisfaction with the logical implications of atheism) and 12 (desire to reform one's morality or behavior), probably 13 (desire for hope in divine reward), and possibly 9 (though nowhere on her site does she elaborate on the 'adversity' that 'broke' her)."  Meaninglessness and amorality seem to figure prominently in your dissatisfaction with atheism, so I'm just trying to see how familiar you were with the best humanist thinking on meaning and morality.  If you ever post some of your atheist writings, I hope they include your best material on this topic.

I have no desire to take any more time than I've already spent responding to you on this issue 1) because you irritate me and I don't want to spend any amount of time conversing with you. While you may see a conversation with me as being productive and beneficial to your cause, my interests are found elsewhere.

Actually, the more you tell me of the things you knew as an atheist, the more it hurts my proximate "cause" of showing that well-informed atheists tend not to deconvert.  But my ultimate "cause" here is truth, and I don't mind letting the chips fall where they may -- even if it means discovering reasons why a well-informed atheist like me (or the former you) should deconvert.

I apologize for my negative reaction to you. I'm not sure why I have it. Frankly, I find you creepy. I honestly can't say that I've had this adverse reaction to any other net skeptic.

Creepy n. producing a sensation of uneasiness or fear.  If I were as "vain and conceited" as you claim, I'd assert that your uneasiness and fear are the natural reaction of a self-proclaimed undefeated debater encountering a clear non-victory. (After all, we can't all justifiably feel undefeated, can we?)  But I already told you why I think it's natural for our discussion to make you uncomfortable: because I try to focus on an intense and traumatic part of your personal history.  You seem convinced that I'm doing this out of malice, perhaps because malice is why the atheist Amy would have done it. I hope you grow to someday be open-minded and charitable enough to consider that one needn't share the personality of atheist Amy to criticize theism as well as she used to.

Another possible explanation for your reaction is your stated motivation for Christian apologetics. You say your motive is to "encourage Christians" (presumably including yourself), and headline the question "have the internet infidels got you down?".  Your front page talks about "fortifying your Christian faith in a world that seeks to destroy it", and it only mentions truth in the context of the odd notion that your omnigod deliberately hid the most important truths in apparent contradictions.  Thus you seem less concerned about truth and more concerned about feeling secure from criticism of your current worldview, just as when you rejected "indefensible" Christianity because "atheism was safer, but not necessarily more truthful".

2) because no matter how much I know or how many atheist philosophers I have read, it would never be enough to satisfy your definition of 'knowledgeable'.

That's simply not true.  To be a well-informed atheist one just needs to know
Your conversion story 1) talks about science where it should talk about philosophy, 2) mentions only ancient and Continental philosophers, and 3) exhibits no acquaintance with modern humanism while stressing the axiological problems that humanism addresses. So it seems that you probably were just missing a little bit of humanist axiology. If from your contemporaneous writing we could see that you had considered the relevant principles of humanism, that would make your deconversion even more significant than it already is.

Probably one of the best documented cases of a 'knowledgeable' atheist converting to theism is the case of Anthony Flew. If he doesn't fit your description of a knowledgeable atheist, woe be it for me to attempt to attain that status.

Flew converted to a lukewarm deism, and still rejects Christianity, so he doesn't count as an "atheist having long-term experience with both sides' arguments who later converted to Christianity primarily because of comparing those arguments".  Nevertheless, I've queued him up for my survey; thanks for the pointer.

3) I doubt that you are collecting data on atheist deconversions only for the sake of pure scientific knowledge. I believe that you will attempt to use it in a display of propaganda that promotes atheism, explaining away any and all 'deconverts' as having been less informed about atheism than those who remain loyal to atheism.

The reason for my survey remains as stated in its first two paragraphs. I intend for my survey to promote the truth, on the premise that a true worldview is more likely to inoculate its better students from deconversion than a false one is. You calling my survey "propaganda" suggests that you're uncomfortable with what such a survey would tend to show.

Of course, this does nothing to explain why intelligent Christians who are knowledgeable in the subject of atheism remain Christian.

The same13 non-rational factors that can explain a conversion to Christianity can also explain someone continuing to be a Christian (just as the analogous non-rational factors can explain conversion to or remaining an atheist).  If you know of any Christians who are relatively free from all these factors, I'd like to hear about them. I continue to believe that my atheism is not maintained by any of the analogous factors, though some might be skeptical of my claim that my atheism has not been influenced by either the death of my son or some sort of pride.

Many Christian apologists seem to deny that a well-informed person can remain (or become) an atheist on the basis of rationality as distinct from non-rational influences like those on my list. I don't deny that a well-informed person can remain (or become) a Christian on the same basis, but I've not heard of one who I can be confident is free of influences like desire for fellowship or hope in divine reward.

Goodbye, Brian.

I used to send you an email in ten years, making a prediction about your life (and no, it's not that you'll revert to atheism). In the meantime, if you feel the Rapture starting, try to foil it with some quick sinful thoughts, because you won't want to miss the party we're going to have.... :-)