It takes a lot to turn away from religion, so it must take even more to turn back.
Atheism generally comes about from people who have completely and totally lost their faith, either via a traumatic life event or from some other disillusionment. But some people do eventually go back.
Some go for the community. Some go for the lessons. But what is it that made them turn back?
Here were some of those answers.
The Spark WithinGiphy
I was raised church of christ in the heart of the bible belt, and they were genuinely wonderful people, but i was an angsty goth as a teen. A lot of horrible things happened to me that drove me to rebel against everything. I was working hard to get far away from home. A few years after HS i quit my job, and moved to SLC for school, and wanted to learn as much as possible with my time abroad. One day my mormon roommate asked me to go to his sunday service, and out of curiosity i decided to go. No, i didnt convert to LDS, but it did ignite a spark in me. The next saturday, i went to my other roommates church that was seventh day adventist and it was really eye opening.
It was like an open discussion instead of being preached to. After that, i made it a point to try a different church every week to better understand how people worship in their own ways. Ive been to an almost entirely black Baptist church, islamic temples, easter mass at a large cathedral, korean first methodist, and many more. I made lifelong friends, ate all kinds of amazing food, got help during the low times of my life, and most importantly i gained understanding.
In the end, I found home with a small Universalist Unitarian congregation back in my hometown because everything just clicked. I wish I could share all the stories and amazing experiences i had, but it would be 100 pages long, and I honestly think that the path to finding spirituality is up to you and how much you search for your own soul in the melting pot of the cosmos.
It's not exciting, and kind of weird to me still, but I found comfort in prayer when I was feeling bad about stuff from my younger years, and I guess I just never stopped. I'm not about to spread the gospel or try to convert anyone, but getting back in touch with my spirituality helped me deal with life a little bit more. For the record, I was one of those edgelord atheists that would often try to argue with my religious friends, unprompted, when they just wanted to simply hang out.
North South East West
When I was at the lowest point in my life, I had nothing left to live for and needed a reason to keep going and to improve as a person. My SO, my friends, I lost them all to my increasingly disgusting behavior. The core values of religion provided a good moral compass for me and helped me be more patient and in control of my actions. I became a better person because of it, and I found a reason to live. Not to say that atheists are bad people, I just mean that it helped me personally become a better and more patient person.
I was born and raised in an atheist household. Starting in high school, I was really depressed and didn't know how to seek help. I loved and continue to love my parents but they didn't allow me to seek medical help. This continued on into my freshman year at college, even though I was living on campus and away from my home. However, I was still stubborn and wasn't comfortable with seeking help. Instead, through an acquaintance I met in a class and, after briefly mentioning about some life issues I was going through, he guided me to Christianity. We would occasionally have Bible study with other students, and I felt belonged. It also warmed my heart to know that God was protecting us all, including me, from evil. In a way, this moment also helped me become a better person by learning to love and not judge people so quickly, help others, and most importantly, love and accept myself for who I am. A few months later, I finally had the courage to get medical help for my depression. I honestly would not have done so had I not become a stronger person in part due to my curiosity and time with Christianity.
As an avowed teenage atheist (having grown up in a non-church-going family), I met a super smart nerdy guy and starting hanging around him. Turns out he talked about his faith in Christ... a lot.
So one day I blurted out something -- I don't remember verbatim but along the lines of, "Gee, I thought you were smart and understood science."
He said, "It's because I understand and love science that I believe the Scriptures. Every new archaeological or scientific discovery just keeps confirming what I know."
He went to great lengths to show me what he meant, and 38 years of marriage later we're still sharing what we learn -- from Scripture or from the latest physics discovery.
Spirituality Vs. Religion
Not necessarily religious but spiritual. I was raised Christian, and my mom was very forceful with it. When I was 12, and starting to develop my own beliefs, she refused to accept that I might not be Christian/didn't want to attend church. That just made me rebel and I became a very edgy, angry atheist that hated anything spiritual, period.
As I got older though I utilized a thing called DBT therapy which is based on Buddhist practices. It made me realize that spirituality could be useful and wasn't all bull. I picked up different theories and bits of religions, whatever resonates, and built my own belief of a "god." I personally call it "source" or "universe." I've been happier, since. It makes the world make a bit more sense, gives me a sense of purpose and comforts me in terms of what potentially comes after death. I'm a kinder, more tolerable person now. As an atheist I believed there was no purpose to life. Everything was random. Now I believe everything has a reason and there's no coincidences, adds a sense of wonder and mystery to even day-to-day life :).
Science For Religion
Not really religious, but eventually hard problem of consciousness convinced me that the current scientific models of reality are fundamentally incapable of explaining my consciousness.
At that time I was kind of early 20th century science optimist so this was quite crushing realization. Around that time I also found out about Gödel's incompleteness theorems which made me think about many other things which seem obviously true but are not rigorously provable and science suddenly has not seemed as powerful as before.
I didn't turn religious in the sense that I follow a religion, but after some pretty intense experiences with acid I came to understand that there most definitely is something beyond the physical plane and that our senses aren't really equipped to understand it.
The argument for atheism is always that the onus is on religion to prove God exists, which is fine and all but is "God created the universe" really any worse an explanation than "a big bang happened but we don't know why and an enormously complex sequence of unlikely events just happened by coincidence and here we are"?
I grew up in a Protestant household but around seventh grade went through some really hard times and developed depression. It became difficult to believe in a God. This year, however, I went through confirmation at my amazing church (highly recommend United Church of Christ churches -- super accepting) and really built my faith. I realized that faith is about just that -- believing that no matter what this mortal world throws at you, He has a plan, and that it's okay when I have doubts and question that there's a God who watches over all 7.5 billion people because I know in my heart that He's more amazing than my human mind can understand and that when I meet him again, I will understand the glory of His kingdom.
Leap Of FaithGiphy
Don't follow an established religion, but i now believe there is more than our life on earth. Maybe it's that our "soul" is just a higher dimension we can not tap into in our human form. Maybe there's a heaven and hell, or maybe they're just a representation of the reflection we will endure after leaving life on earth. My lack of religious beliefs changed after a very large dose of mushrooms and hearing experiences from those who have tried dmt, which i really would like to experience.
Athiesm itself is a religion imo, because you have a belief of something you can not prove, thus requiring a leap of faith. Was atheist from around 12-16, then agnostic, now i guess I'm spiritual? The word makes me cringe but I don't know what else to call it.
My family is atheest. I was too. Then, I started hearing people talk about religion and how special it was to them, and I was like "Wow, that's incredible that you have something that you believe In so much." Then, I began reading the bible and thinking about it and realised, I can't believe that there isn't something bigger in our giant universe. It didn't all just poof into existence without some sort of interference, I don't think. What really cemented it, though, was hearing my dad bash it. I didn't tell them I believed in God. They always said they'd be fine no matter what I believed in, but I felt like at the age I was, I didn't know for sure. Then, my dad started bashing people of faith for being "foolish enough to believe in a man in the sky." And for some reason that just made me more convinced.
Shades Of Grey
I've turned from Atheist to mostly agnostic. When I was 4 or so, I decided that there were some lies in the Bible so all of it must be lies. I saw only black and white, not the many different shades in between. I've let religion back into my life. I'm learning about acceptance of myself, taking time to rest and self-love. I'm learning about being a member of a community, kind of a family.
I don't go to church every Sunday, I actually rarely do. I don't believe in God or miracles or anything like that. I believe in myself and everyone else. I believe evil people do not exist, that everyone is good, but perhaps confused. I believe in helping others, accepting help when I need it and not overworking myself anymore. I'm happier as an agnostic Catholic than I ever was as an Atheist.
This is something that gets done to death in religious circles, people use these made up stories as "proof" of god. Plus a solid conversion story sells well, there are plenty of religious authors who made a nice chunk of cash recounting how they found faith.
This thread is going to be filled with
- sock puppet accounts featuring people pretending to have been atheists who found god (but were really always religious to begin with)
- bullshit strawman accounts of people saying they lost faith because they were "mad at God" or decided at a young age to be atheist just for the edgy shock value
- special pleading fallacies.
I found myself surrounded by people who were openminded, kind, and understanding. They saw things others I encountered couldn't, and reassured me I wasn't crazy. They believed me when I told them of the things I'd done in secret, and they shared their stories too. Legitimately, Fae Worship (not genuine worship, but the acknowledgement of fae and acceptance,) has positively changed my life and allowed me a healthy mental, physical, and magical outlet for stuff Ive carried with me for way too long.
I wasn't atheist really I was more agnostic. But everything in my life fell apart. My mom was going through it all with me. She was telling me about the sermon she heard at church that week that brought her comfort. She never tried to push me to go back to church. But she was dealing better with the tragedy our family was going through than I was.
I decided that I would try to go to a church near me. I went and everything the pastor said felt like it was talor written for my ears. I went back weekly I said prayers some were answered. Some were not. I felt better. I felt lighter. I am glad i went.
I wish every one could find something that makes them feel as content, happy and at peace as religion makes me feel. I don't care if that is a religion an activity or what. As long as they are not hurting them selves or others. I also have no will to push others in to my religion, or hate and judge others because of religion, race, sexual orientation or any other reason. I know some religious people do that. I don't like that so many so called Christians do that.
Didn't turn religious, but I did change the way I look at religion.
At some point in time, as an atheist, I decided to look into other religions besides Christianity to see if anything appealed to me. Surprisingly, many things I read changed the way I would see the world. I still think that God isn't real, but I treat religions as ways one can become better: I keep the good parts only. I would also interpret things in my own way just for the sake of simplicity, such as meditation being time spent with my eyes closed thinking.
Atheists and religious folks often clash, but do they have more in common than meets the eye? There are many ways in which both communities respect one another - from the music, to communities, to asking questions that provoke deep thought.
Anathoth1994 asked atheists of Reddit, what is one thing you admire about religion? Religious people of Reddit, what is one thing you admire about atheism?
Submissions have been edited for clarity, context, and profanity.
Mahad Olad is a resident of Minnesota, an ex-Muslim, and a columnist for The Ithacan, Ithaca University's student newspaper. He has just been named the most recent winner of the Colin Higgins Foundation's Youth Courage Prize for his bravery when escaping gay conversion therapy in Kenya, an experience he has written about at length.
The prize includes a $10,000 grant, which Olad plans to put toward his education as well as "a visual media project dedicated to capturing the lives and experiences of LGBT+ Africans."
In the summer of 2017, junior Mahad Olad successfully escaped life-endangering gay conversion therapy in Kenya.… https://t.co/EVvbRB9P24— The Ithacan (@The Ithacan)1535983248.0
Olad's bravery is remarkable. After his freshman year of college, his family took him to Kenya, telling him it was a vacation to see their family. Once he arrived, however, his mother informed him there would be no family vacation. Instead, there were several sheikhs at their hotel who planned to escort him to gay conversion therapy — the next day:
I knew that it wasn't really a choice. A few sheiks were at our hotel that night. They briefly spoke to me about how being gay and atheist is unequivocally against my Islamic upbringing and African heritage. I knew that when they came back to get me the following morning, I would be forced to go with them.
@ReasonOnFaith What a story!— (((Ken))) (@(((Ken))))1518107894.0
Kenyan gay conversion therapy camps are dangerous and secretive, not unlike those in the United States:
The leaders operate the camps around grim parts of Somalia and Kenya. They submit their captives to severe beatings, shackling, food deprivation and other cruel practices.
It usually involves a rigorous Islamic curriculum. Those who fail to cooperate, make adequate progress or try to escape could possibly be killed.
Conversion therapy, still legal in much of the U.S., is also practiced in other countries. Mahad Olad narrowly esca… https://t.co/WrQpf8Yc92— ESM (@ESM)1518123391.0
Pretending to go along with his mother's plan, Olad went for a walk. He knew he needed help to escape back to the U.S.:
I knew I had to get out immediately. I was without access to money or even my passport, so I needed assistance. To buy myself some time, I told my mother that I was willing to go along with her plans. I told her I was going for a walk, and then I made a call to Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA), an organization that supports people who have chosen to leave Islam. They quickly put me in touch with Executive Director Muhammad Syed, based in Washington, D.C. Mr. Syed reached out to the United States Embassy in Kenya to see if they could help me escape. I was told that if I could take a cab to the embassy they could shelter me and help me figure out how I could get back to the U.S.
@ama_media @ThePaulHobbs I find it hard to believe that this is still a thing.— morgandyke 🇨🇦 🏳️🌈 (@morgandyke 🇨🇦 🏳️🌈)1535993472.0
Once his family was asleep, Olad escaped to the U.S. embassy, where many organizations collaborated to bring him to safety:
In the middle of the night, when everyone was asleep, I escaped from the hotel and made it to the embassy. Thankfully, the consul general welcomed me into his home until we could formulate a plan. The next problem was that I had no place to go and no money to get back to the U.S. I couldn't go back home to Minnesota and Ithaca College was basically closed for the summer. The consul general reached out to the college to see if they could help. Luckily, they were able to find a place for me on campus and EXMNA was generous enough to pay for my airfare back to the U.S.
Gay 'conversion' therapy has been described by the UN as torture and condemned by leading medical groups as child a… https://t.co/VEOLttOhgr— Jason Ball (@Jason Ball)1535955221.0
Olad is now trying to raise awareness of the dangerous practice of conversion therapy and its continued presence in Africa:
We don't have exact numbers of how many young people are forced to go to these camps but we know the numbers are growing.
Olad earned this recognition for his courage and dedication. The United Nations has condemned conversion therapy as an example of "torture and ill-treatment," though many countries, including the U.S., continue its practice.