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Bloomington-Normal Freethinkers (BNFree) Message Board Monthly Reading & Discussion Group › November Topic: Conversion

November Topic: Conversion

user 190458835
Bloomington, IL
Post #: 21
Discussion date: December 4th

Readings and materials:
Friendly Atheist, "Teresa MacBain, the Pastor Who Became an Atheist, Has Found God Once Again" and the associated links in the article

William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Chapters 9 and 10
John Gray, "Believing in Belief" (podcast)


Why do people become religious? Why do people leave religion? Why do they change religions?

Is it because they heard an undeniable argument for God's existence? Is it because of something they experienced? Something they gained, or lost? Is it an act of sheer will?

Our previous discussion, on Sam Harris and belief, raised important questions about the role of reason in our lives, and how it interacts with the rest of life. That led to questions about what leads people to religion, and so to conversion. For this discussion, we'll continue on that thread.

The main article is about a former pastor who left Christianity and became an atheist, then found God again. I haven't examined it too closely yet, but it should be interesting. The other readings are William James, who is always on hand with some first-personal accounts when we need him, and a previously discussed audio clip from historian John Gray talking about the relationship between religion and belief.

This is also a good place, though, to bring our own experiences in. If you were formerly religions and then left, what changed? Was it a gradual or sudden process? Was it concerns about rationality, about morality, about meaning, about something else? All of these? Here we can try to fit our own experiences with a bigger picture.


I'll show my own hand right away: my view, which I have been developing for a while, is that conversion, and religious life in general, is not about rationality--reasons and arguments come second. But for me, that includes both becoming religious and breaking away from it. I think there's a deeper process at work. On December 4th, though, we'll see what the members of BNFree have to say.
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