Atheism/Revert From Atheism

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Question
I am inquiring information about atheism within the 21st century. Are you aware of a case in which a person reverts from atheism only to become a theists? Thank you so much for your time.

Answer
Thank you Sharah. This question is "right up my alley" so to speak. Having studied the spiritual development stages - as they apply to the issue of religious belief versus nonbelief - in great detail, I feel uniquely qualified to respond.

Certainly there are many cases of people reverting from atheism to theism. When you use the word revert, you are implying that the atheist in question was once a believer, then became a nonbeliever/atheist, then reverted toward theism. I will return to that particular step in a minute, but let me back up first and describe another atheist-to-theist step that is even more common.

Only by greatly simplifying the spiritual development stages can we come to understand the trajectory that explains so much of what goes on in our world. Near the bottom of the spiritual development trajectory is the Lawless individual - someone for whom the goodness values that religion teaches (and almost all good families teach their children with or without religion) never took hold. This person is described on my website here: http://www.exploring-spiritual-development.com/The-Lawless.html. This person usually lives a chaotic life guided only by the principle of meeting his own needs and desires, with little or no care for anyone else. In the sense that the Lawless person has no values that allow him to see himself as part of anything greater than himself, we can call him an atheist. Once in a while, a Lawless person will suddenly "get religion." When this happens we usually will have this former "atheist" con vert to theism. This would be a Lawless to Faithful transition, commonly known as a "born-again" situation. The type of theism a former Lawless person is likely to embrace would be a Faithful level religion, described in more detail here: http://www.exploring-spiritual-development.com/The-Faithful.html. The Faithful level is a bit superficial, and by far not the most mature form of faith. Of course it is "better" than Lawless.

But my contention is that in our postmodern era, Faithful level (belief-based) religion can hardly stand up to the numerous threats put upon it by global communications, cultural intermixing, and the findings of science. So many people will grow out of Faithful level religion and move on to the Rational level. http://www.exploring-spiritual-development.com/The-Rational.html. Having reasoned himself out of some or all of the literal religious beliefs, the Rational is often atheist. The Rational usually thinks of himself as more mature than the silly gullible religious people. He can hardly imagine re verting toward theism. This is because the only thing he understands about religion is the literal line most religions put forth.

But....sometimes (and I claim increasingly so in our postmodern society) a person may begin to notice connections that bring him to a broader worldview - something beyond the Rational - something almost never articulated in our society - the Mystic mindset. This faith stance is very nuanced, multifaceted, and not easily explained. But I have tried to explain it here: http://www.exploring-spiritual-development.com/The-Mystic.html.

To the extent that the Rational person tends toward atheism and the Mystic is taking on a broader, more connected worldview, we may loosely say the Mystic is returning (or reverting) toward theism. They are recognizing connections that were not visible before, and some of them will begin interpreting those connections in theistic terms. the general trend at the Mystic level would be to use "God" terminology without exactly meaning that scary, bearded old guy in the sky, but something much greater than that. However, as both the Faithful level and the Mystic level will tend to use "God" terminology, the distinction between these two levels is often missed. The Mystic has often, as you say, re verted to theism but a theism of a very different type than the theism of the Faithful level.

My mission is to help society understand the distinctions among these "stages" because without them all sorts of misinterpretations are possible. I hope this has helped you with your question.  

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Margaret Placentra Johnston

Expertise

I am especially interested in helping people who may be in the throes of doubting their present belief stance - whether they are currently religious or atheist. I believe I can also lend perspective to those seeking to understand their own movement away from faith or that of someone close to them.

Experience

Despite a Catholic upbringing, I consciously discarded that religion over thirty years ago. However, in the last eighteen years I have been extensively researching the topic of belief versus non-belief and have discovered correlations among the experts that, seen together, lend a very intriguing perspective to this topic. My book related to this topic was published in October, 2012 by Quest Books: Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind.

Organizations
Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Washington Area Secular Humanists (and many others unrelated to this topic.)

Publications
www.mpjauthor.com Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind.(Quest Books, October, 2012.) http://www.exploring-spiritual-development.com http://www.huffingtonpost.com/margaret-placentra-johnston/

Education/Credentials
Researched and wrote a book on this topic: Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind.(Quest Books, October, 2012.)

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