It would appear that anytime an educated adult becomes a Christian, New Atheists experience massive amounts of cognitive dissonance. I think this is because they truly believe their own narrative about religion existing only as a function of ignorance and indoctrination. Evidence to the contrary must be “explained away.”
And that takes us to a recent posting on Jerry Coyne’s blog. Coyne writes:
If you’ve followed the saga of Ana Marie Cox, famous for her political blogging as “Wonkette,” and now a writer for the Guardian, you’ll know that she was once a nonbeliever but then embraced Christianity. (See my post about it here). After her conversion, though, Cox was afraid of pushback from both atheists and (especially) Christians; but she was much gratified to find instead an outpouring of support from both sides (see her video on the topic here).
This puts me in a bit of a dilemma. I mean, if Cox has found happiness in believing in a fictional story of Jesus, and was unhappy before, then fine. Cox doesn’t seem to be the kind of person who will try to impose her faith on others, or push for anti-abortion or anti-gay-marriage laws. But it still bothers me that someone as savvy and smart as she suddenly throws herself into the arms of God, and for no good reason.
But reason, it seems, had little to do with it.
I’m not sure why Coyne is “bothered” by this since his own conversion had little to do with reason:
It happened in 1967 when Coyne, then 17, was listening for the first time to the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album while lying on his parents’ couch in Alexandria, Va.
Suddenly Coyne began to shake and sweat. For reasons he still doesn’t understand, it dawned on him at that moment that there was no God, and he wasn’t going anywhere when he died. His casual Judaism seemed to wash away as the album played on. The crisis lasted about 30 minutes, he says, and when it was over, he had left religion behind for good.
People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
Coyne then focuses on Dr. Holly Ordway, an English professor who converted from atheism to Christianity.
What’s funny about the whole thing is that Coyne’s devoted acolytes cannot believe Ordway was once a Christian and begin to gnash their teeth. Check out a sampling of responses from the herd:
- Sorry…not buying it. I know I’m playing bagpipes here, but I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that she’s never seriously questioned the existence of the gods in her life.
- All the crap about “carefully built up defenses against Christianity” makes it seem a very low order of probability to me that she was ever an atheist.
- I am embarrassed for Ordway. Judging soley by this example of her reasoning abilities I am dismayed that she is a credentialed academic. Damn, that sounds mean, but it is the truth.
- Was she actually an atheist?
- Given what’s in the article I have doubts she was ever an atheist.
- I find it disingenous that she claims prior atheism.
- Agree completely, totally bogus in claiming ever to be an atheist. Just look at her picture (I know I shouldn’t judge thus but she so smacks of insincere righteousness).
- I don’t think she ever held any serious atheist convictions to start with
Clearly, the Gnu narrative has been so seriously threatened that you can sense the desperation in the denials. In fact, so desperate are the denials that the Gnus go “off message” when it comes to a couple of other narratives that they peddle:
1. Many Gnus claim they were once Christians who converted to atheism. They then often encounter Christians who deny the Gnu was ever a Christian. The Gnus mock this claim. Yet here they are, in full force, insisting Ordway was never a True Atheist!
2. According to the Gnus, atheism is nothing more that a lack of God belief. Yet notice some of the complaints – “she’s never seriously questioned the existence of the gods” and “I don’t think she ever held any serious atheist convictions.” Apparently, to be a True Atheist, you have to be a Serious Atheist.
Yet how is one supposed to be a Serious Atheist? Considering these folks are all foot soldiers in their New Atheist Movement, I suppose you can’t just withold belief in God, but you also have to launch into anti-God and anti-religious rants, insisting that religion is the Greatest Evil on the World as part of your evangelism for atheism. In other words, there is no evidence Ordway was ever hateful enough to be a True Atheist.
Look, all it took was one English professor to become an atheist for Coyne’s fans to become unhinged. People who valued critical thinking and evidence wouldn’t flail about like this; they’d begin to question the validity of their narrative.