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It's Always Interesting When Former Atheists Change Their Minds

I have to admit to having bigotry toward some atheists – not all of them – just the bigoted ones.

People often use the word, bigoted, in terms of racial prejudice, but the definition I'm going by is, “Intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.”

I care not of your skin color or ancestry. I just don't like you if you're bigoted toward me for believing that consciousness survives the death of the body. I'm sure that are many atheists who are not obnoxious, but due to something referred to as the reticular activating system (RAS), I tend not to notice them.

Let me give you a simplified definition of the RAS – not so much because I think you wouldn't understand a more complete explanation, but mostly because I don't have that knowledge to share. (Don't feel short-changed here. Chances are, the detailed definition gets quite boring.)

Basically, your RAS is involved with your brain's ability to perceive, catalog and remember things.

Your brain takes in ridiculously copious amounts of information constantly. Most of it is put in the background of your awareness, because you don't have the time to fully appreciate and enumerate everything you are perceiving. For instance, you don't generally make a conscious notation of the make and model of every car that you see as you are driving down the road.

However, if you buy a car, chances are you are suddenly going to start seeing more of the same model car that you just bought as you go about your daily life. Since that car has a certain importance in your life, at least when you first get it, your RAS alerts your conscious awareness when you see it.

You might think, “What a coincidence. I buy a Kia Sportage, and all of a sudden, I start seeing more of them than ever. I guess more people bought Sportages than usual, recently.” You would, in all likelihood, be wrong. You're just noticing them more than ever, but not because there are more on the road than ever before.

This is not, by the way, to say that coincidences do not happen, and that everything that seems coincidental in your life is merely a product of your reticular activating system in action. Clearly, coincidences do happen, but truthfully, a lot of things we normally might classify as coincidence, are actually a product of our RAS.

So, while I might be inclined to believe that every atheist I come across is more obnoxious that the previous one, a lot of that perception is based on my own filters. When I stop and think about it, I know there have to be millions of really polite and respectful atheists. It's just that the millions of obnoxious ones are giving the polite ones a bad name.

A lot of it has to do with the Internet. It's dumbfounding how many people take the semi-anonymity that the Web offers as an excuse to be rude, beyond the pale. You can make a rather innocent statement on the comment section of a blog, and be met with a lightning strike of contempt.

I recently saw a person voice concern about the rate of people getting cancer, being downright frightening. The next person to comment said, “You're probably too stupid to understand what I'm about to tell you, but here goes…”

What is it about communicating behind a keyboard that makes civility go out the window? I'm just guessing the person that wrote that is an atheist. Whoops. My bigotry rears its ugly head.

If you ever venture to a forum where people debate such things as the possibility of existence after the death of the body, you will probably understand where I'm coming from. By and large, true believers of various stripes are civil, as are agnostics. The group that tends to have the most jerks, in my experience, far and away, are the hard core atheists.

Their condescension is palpable. They have such an air of utter superiority it almost sickens the stomach. Sometimes they talk about feeling sorry for those of us who believe that the wonders of the macro and micro universes have to be something other than chemicals and coincidence, but most of the time they show nothing close to sympathy. It's abject disdain.

I've been called stupid, delusional, retarded, weak minded, embarrassing, childish, dumb as a box of rocks, feeble, mentally challenged – and those were the compliments. The irony is, I will find common ground with them and agree with quite a few of their basic opinions, for instance, in regards to the down side of religion.

I find it humorous that 95% (or more) of everyone in a religion grew up in that religion. Not only were they born into it, but they are in the same sect of that religion, even though there may be hundreds, or even thousands of sects in the same religion.

They are all convinced that their religion is the one true religion and their sect has the only correct interpretation of the holy book of their religion. Everyone is being fooled by the devil into believing they have the true religion, but that's the breaks. Everyone who doesn't believe as they do is going to perish in some form of hell. Luckily though, everyone knows they were born into the one true religion, so they're not going to go to hell, but everyone else is.

There are some converts. A tiny percentage go from one religion, or sect, to another. Hell, Prince might be knocking on your door next Saturday, asking you to take a copy of The Watch Tower magazine. Yeah, he converted to the Jehovah's Witnesses.

For the most part though, converts are few and far between. People are so vulnerable to family peer pressure that even if they totally don't believe anything taught by the religion of their family, they will take their children to that church and teach them how to conform to the way their family deals with the great questions and mysteries of life.

I also get that a large percentage of wars, if not most wars throughout history, have a religious component to them. Damn, I have a ton of common real estate with those obnoxious atheists, but do that give me any credit?

The answer is no. Those cats are all or nothing. No such thing as common ground as far as they are concerned. Since I look at the evidence that indicates consciousness is not localized to the body of the individual, they have nothing but derision and condescension for me.

Near death experiences1) and other out of body experiences2) constitute a preponderance of evidence that we have bodies, but we aren't bodies. There is also outrageously strong evidence of reincarnation.

And for the record, I don't believe what I believe because it's childish wish fulfillment thinking and I can't deal with reality. I wish that this one life was it and that death is like sleep without dreams. Ever since I was a young child, that is what I wanted.

If I was going by childish wish fulfillment, I'd be an atheist, but hopefully I'd be polite and respectful to people who believed differently. I hate to rain on the hard core atheist parade, but life goes on, and there is accountability.

What you do here and now will have an affect on what happens later in the journey of your soul's expression. As you sew, so shall you reap. What comes around goes around, so try a little tenderness – because young girls, they do get weary, wearing that same old funky dress. – Oh sorry, I digress.

I have to admit, I do love it when someone who is so sure herself, and so smug and superior, goes through some experiences that allow her to see things in a different light. It definitely makes me smile when she has the intestinal fortitude to publicly admit she was wrong all along, and that the people she had so mercilessly put down and laughed at, were right, from the beginning.

Of course, not everyone who changes their mind on the topic of an Intelligent Designer (or intelligent designers), or survival of consciousness and life after death, used to be obnoxious in their former beliefs. Many agnostics and even atheists never put anyone down for having a different belief, but the ones that did, who are somehow able to come out and admit their reversal in belief, provide a certain satisfaction.

I see the same thing when people wake up to 911 and the web of conspiracies that comprise our reality in this time space continuum that we incarnated into. It's bittersweet at best, because you often have to deal with the shock wave they are going through.

I'm going to conclude with a cursory look at two well known atheists who did a complete 180 degree turnaround, much to the chagrin and dismay of their (former) fellow non believers. I don't even know if they were in the obnoxious category.

It may be that the more obnoxious you are, the less chance that you will be open minded enough to ever admit (even to yourself) that you feel like you have been wrong for all those years. Still, I'm sure it happens from time to time.

Sir AJ “Freddy” Ayer (1910-1989) was an interesting man, to say the least. Among other accomplishments, he was a philosopher and noted professor of logic at University College London as well as the University of Oxford.3)

He was also the founder of the philosophy of positivism, which stipulated that anything not verifiable by the senses is indeed nonsense. He was known for debating on the topic of God and the afterlife. He was resolute: “No God, no afterlife, ” was a catch phrase he was fond of.

In 1988, about a year before he died, he had a near death experience that shifted his thinking in a big way. He publicly admitted, “My recent experiences, have slightly weakened my conviction that my genuine death… will be the end of me, though I continue to hope that it will be.”

In 2001 Dr. Jeremy George, the attending physician, claimed that Ayer had confided to him: “I saw a Divine Being. I'm afraid I'm going to have to revise all my books and opinions.” He never did actually revise his books, but a contemporary of his, a man who could be called his fellow bookend, actually did write a book telling of his conversion from atheist to deist.

Fellow professor of philosophy at Oxford, Anthony Flew (1923-2010), described himself as the world's most notorious atheist. He was also famous for debating and defending atheism in the United Kingdom.4)

In 2007, he published a book titled, There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. Near death experiences played somewhat of a role, but they were not his experiences. He was friends with NDE researcher, Dr. Gary Habermas5).

He said he also went where the evidence led him and that the evidence was showing him that he had been wrong. He didn't ascribe to any religion.

It is always interesting when people who carried the torch for a certain belief or belief system, who were looked up to by others who shared that belief, change their viewpoints, and publicly admit it. They deserve a lot of credit for being big enough to say they were wrong, even though they know there are going to be a lot of people who will lash out against them.

Philosophy | Religion | Paranormal


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