The Miracle of Deconversion
In a recent post at Debunking Christianity ("I've Changed My Mind Many Times, Especially About Religion") John Loftus argued that his deconversion from Christianity to atheism was the result of his own laudable open-mindedness:
I am now a strong atheist who has come to the conclusion there is no need to take the obfuscations of Christian philosophers seriously because all philosophical apologetics is special pleading, all of it. Philosophy itself is used to obfuscate the Bible and the theology based on it not to clarify them, because if they were truly clarified believers would see clearly the Christian emperor has no clothes on. Clarifying the Bible and the theology based on it rather than obfuscating them would strip away the blinders from the eyes of believers. Then believers could see the evidence-based truth. They would see their faith is a delusion on a par with Mormonism, Hinduism, Orthodox Judaism and even Scientology, as well as seeing they’ve been indoctrinated and/or brainwashed to believe.
You should take the fact that I've changed my mind as evidence I'm open-minded enough to consider different views. I have a lot to teach my atheist critics precisely because I have changed my views. For at one time I rejected the views of Dawkins and the subsequent Courtier's Reply as philosophically naive, but I now value them. My atheist critics are playing a pretend game when they take the obfuscations of Christian pseudo-philosophers seriously. They do so because they enjoy an intellectually challenging game, much like chess. While it may be fun and interesting to play the game called "Christian" and want to win at it, by playing the game they grant intellectual respectability to that which is bizarre and absurd.
As a one-time philosophical apologist himself and now a professing "strong atheist," Loftus here suggests that philosophical apologetics is just so much preposterous special pleading proceeding from the washed but underdeveloped brains of believers. Of course this claim sounds somewhat doctrinaire and unreasonable in its own right. So he calls attention to his own track record of openness to alternative viewpoints – that is, with the implicit proviso that he is clearly no longer open to one particular viewpoint, Christianity, being true. But how exactly is a brainwashed Christian given over completely to absurdity and obfuscation supposed to ever bathe in the pure light of atheism? Given the premise that Christian apologists are intellectually so far gone that they cannot recognize truth even when it slaps them square in the face, it makes no sense for atheists like Loftus to turn around and claim that they once fit that selfsame description perfectly.
Atheists may forswear belief in miracles generally, but if Christians truly cannot change their minds any more than a leopard can change his spots, deconversion events would have to qualify as bona fide miracles. Moreover, unlike most miracles, deconversion miracles occur routinely. Indeed, atheists have been known to boast that the Christian-to-atheist deconversion rate is much higher these days than the atheist-to-Christian conversion rate. Naturally the fact that atheists scarcely, if ever, actually change their minds doesn't comport well with the whole "freethinker" narrative.
Now in principle it's certainly possible that atheists remain atheists because of what Loftus calls the "evidence-based truth" – although it's not clear just what that truth is, if atheism is no more a "belief" than bald is a hair color. But let's assume that he's right, and atheists remain atheists on purely evidential grounds. In that case refusing to budge from a certain view of the world presumably may be perfectly defensible and respectable, given that such a view is rationally and evidentially grounded. But then the argument that Christians are closed-minded and brainwashed loses its force. It may be that Christians remain Christians on the basis of reason and evidence. Absent from John's discourse meanwhile is any indication of what this "evidence" is and exactly why it favors atheism rather than Christianity.
Perhaps Loftus would suggest that like himself, many former Christians became atheists gradually; they picked up a book like The Outsider Test for Faith, and as a result of reading it, truth ever so slowly began to dawn upon their darkened psyches. The problem here is that the deconversion to atheism cannot be gradual. Unbelief can't simply evolve, like the first trilobite from some mysterious, misty prehistoric precursor, because we know the precursor to deconversion – it's the same dull-witted, closed-minded, blind faith in nonexistent beings that supposedly prevents intellectual evolution in the first place. No one fitting the Christian stereotype suggested by its author would, or could, ever pick up The Outsider Test for Faith, let alone understand or consider its contents for long enough to feel the first warming effects of deconversion. It seems that either Loftus is deliberately exaggerating the closed-mindedness of Christians for rhetorical effect, or he's compensating for something. Probably a little of both.