Has this message board turned any religious believers, or agnostics, into atheists?


Over the years that I’ve been here I’ve read a lot of eloquently worded posts as to why organized religion, and associated beliefs and customs are considered outdated, false, or even irrelevant.

I wonder if anyone here, over time, has changed his or her beliefs based upon the ramblings of Internet strangers.

I suppose this could be an opinion poll, but upon reflection, their certainly is a factual answer to the question at hand.

No, there will only be speculation, opinions and personal experience. Wrong forum choice.

I haven’t become an atheist, but I have had some of my religious beliefs changed. I pretty much became a liberal Christian. But I refuse to budge any further.

If anything, the “eloquently worded posts” have actually kept me from changing. I have yet to see anyone argue against religion who doesn’t do so in a manner insulting to religious people. It’s usually the more religious people that actually seem to be nice enough to be even remotely convincing.

Seems like he is looking for personal experience.

I believe I recall more than one person indicating they to some degree drifted away from faith at least in part due to debates on this board. But for the life of me I can’t remember who.

There’s a yes or no answer to the question, but the thread’s going to be made up of people sharing their experiences in conversation here and any changes that have been made in their views. I’ve moved this to IMHO from GQ.

I’d have to agree with most of what you said. Most people seem content to let others believe what they want to believe, but those argueing for or against a religion seem to have an agenda to push.

Oh, heh. Sorry, Amblydoper. I saw this after it had been moved to IMHO and didn’t quite get your point. Yeah, probably not a good GQ thread.

I’ve gotten emails from a couple of posters telling me that my posts persuaded them to abandon their religious beliefs. Neither posts here anymore, but they posted in confidence so I won’t say who they were, but they were both actively Christian, pro-faith posters in religious debates, and both surprised me with their emails. They never let on in their board posts that they’d been shaken at all.

Not me. I’ve definitely become more liberal in my theology (and away from “organized” religion). I even recognize the inherent irrationality of my faith based on many people’s posts here. But I haven’t let go of my belief in the divine. Since my faith is by definition irrational, I don’t expect to convince anybody either.

Essentially, I like the narrative of a loving God that has a plan for this world of people loving each other and getting along peacefully. I can’t find that narrative built into the universe in an atheistic worldview. The concepts of love and peace can be created and imposed on others (or spread by memes), but it isn’t a law of nature or physics that can be discovered through scientific rigor.

Yes to people’s post changing my religious viewpoint. No to become an atheist.

I started reading the board about 10 years ago. I’d already moved from Christianity to calling myself “agnostic” by that point, but in the last year or so I’ve decided that “atheist” is a more appropriate label.

A lot of things contributed to that shift, but I have to say that reading many of the threads here has galvanised my feeling that it’s OK to not have to hedge my bets and that the existence of God is not some sort of special case that is immune to Occam’s razor. Diogenes’ posts have also reinforced my interest in studying the Bible as a (very interesting) work of man – no more, no less.

I’d say that most of the arguments and cites regarding religion on this board have supported my atheism. Reading the entire bible REALLY supported atheism, IMHO. :wink: That was also fueled through posts from Dopers.

Reading this board on any religious subject/view opens new religious subject areas. One I recall concerned Sumerian mythology and the story of the rib. It’s started through one of Unca Cece’s columns years back. Another topic concerned the validity of Genesis.

Although some posts may seem to have an agenda, I enjoy reading how most of you work out the religious topic in question. The real bonus is since we all seem to be educated in many areas, and from many areas, the replies to threads will always open new areas of something you or me might never have at least considered.

BTW, what ever happened to Lacunae? :smiley:

I think I was pretty much a creationist/literalist when I arrived here - I would describe myself now as some sort of liberal Anglican.

On BigT’s point about style of arguing - I think appearing offensive is almost unavoidable, when arguing against some viewpoints - if, for example, you’ve got someone who not only arguing something that flies completely in the face of facts, but also wilfully and agressively mischaracterises the opposition argument, it’s difficult not to hit that really hard - especially if it’s not the first time you’ve refuted the argument in question - and so have already distilled a lot of the flowery faff out of the response wording.

And sometimes, incisive debate looks more aggressive and hostile than it really is. Sometimes it really is that hostile though…

I used to be a waffly sort of agnostic, but thanks in part to threads I read here, I’m now perfectly comfortable describing myself as an atheist.

I wouldn’t say ‘‘perfectly comfortable’’ due to the enormous stigma against atheists, but hearing others’ viewpoints has definitely solidified my own position.

I was a waffly agnostic who was hoping for my faith to be restored someday. The atheists here helped me to accept that I don’t believe, and not feel quite so bad about it.

That said, I am not, by a long shot, anti-theist. I think anti-theism is irrational because it holds religious institutions to a higher standard than any other institution, despite the fact that corruption is a widespread part of human nature. And it holds religious people to a higher standard than any other person, because every person on this planet holds irrational beliefs and the thing that unifies us all is that we don’t want to admit it. Most of the very vocal people on this board seem to be anti-theists, and very nasty.

So while the Dope has helped me accept myself, it has also made me less likely to publically identify myself as an atheist, not more likely. Because Jesus, how embarrassing.


I should have said that I feel perfectly comfortable self-describing as an atheist, which did not used to be true. I’m still not “out” to a lot of my more religious family members, though.

This echoes my sentiments exactly.

“I have yet to see anyone argue against religion who doesn’t do so in a manner insulting to religious people”

This is far more damaging to your position than you could know, BigT. What you’re saying, quite clearly, is that of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Dopers arguing against religion here over the years, every single one of them has used insults against believers to score debating points. I would argue that SOME of the anti-religion posts here have been made by temperate atheists arguing reasonably, factually, calmly, politely, if only by accident (I don’t number my own rude harangues among them.) The real problem, as I’ve stated before, is that believers scan posts critical of belief searching for a word, a phrase, a characterization that they can find some insult in, and then use that “insult” for an excuse to discount the entire post, and the poster, and the argument generally, as you have done right here. It speaks to a massive insecurity, and much self-doubt, that you find every atheistic post filled with insulting language–it’s much harder to acknowledge strong points in the positions you don’t happen to take, and weak ones in those that you do, and still to go on believing as you do.

And to help you discount any reason lurking in this post, I’ll make it easy for you: um, “Flying Spaghetti Monster.” “Adam’s Pupik.”

To find some, please do a search for the beautiful prose from now-dormant doper SentientMeat. This is one example, politely explaining and disagreeing with the ontological “proof” for God.

If anything, some of the “anti” religious posts on here have made me examine my own beliefs and solidified my faith through introspection. I don’t participate much in religious debate threads on the SDMB though. I won’t paint everyone with the “insulting” brush but there’s a definite air of hostility to the threads themselves that life is just too short for.

I agree with Prr and jjimm that there is quite a bit of non-insulting argument against faith-based beliefs here, and that many believers are too sensitive to argument. Of course, there is no shortage of deliberately insulting posts on the subject, which somehow fail to insult me. I generally enjoy reading debates about religion here. I rarely participate.

I have learned from some of the most insulting posters. One example I can think of, I think it was badchad, was a now-banned one trick pony who saw it as his mission to bait what I think he called liberal or moderate Christians. As someone who, to quote Marcus Borg, takes the bible “seriously but not literally”, I am the kind of Christian that badchad seemed to want to target. He didn’t alter my beliefs; his vehement arguments against the way I believe led to study and prayer that strengthened my faith.