Rachael Slick, the daughter of moderately well-known Christian apologist Matt Slick, has become an atheist. Her story is the kind evangelical Christians don’t like to hear: she was definitely a True Christian™, brought up deeply imbedded in Christian culture, with a father who coached her intensely in the minutia of Christian theology. In her story there is no hint that she was unloved, or worse, a victim of abuse (please keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of devout Christians love their children and do not abuse them physically at all). So what happened? She was raised to think rigorously about theological issues, and eventually, she thought her way out of the confusing Christian muddle.
That happens a lot. Most of the former Christians I know did not get to that point by trauma or emotion — it was an intellectual decision. via Russell Glasser shares his experiences with deconversion, and it’s the same story everywhere.
All I can say is, I know quite a few deconverted fundamentalists myself, and almost none of them that I know personally, changed their minds due to these petty personal issues. It is such a common cliche among apologists that it has its own section of the Atheist Community of Austin’s FAQ. “Q: What kind of horrible experience did you have that caused you to become an atheist?”
The stories I’ve heard are most frequently very similar to Rachael Slick’s — that is to say, what Rachael Slick actually wrote, and not the creative spin that Glenn Peoples decided to put on her words. People don’t abandon a religious belief they’ve held their whole lives over something as trivial as “boyfriend issues” in my experience. Over and over again, what I’ve heard is “I set out to defend my faith as well as I could, I looked for opposing points of view, and I found that the responses to the opposition weren’t satisfying. Over a period of time, I gave up on defending the faith.”
Christians aren’t stupid people — they’re people dwelling in a certain habit of thought and in environment that makes it comfortable to accept a lot of nonsense. The trick to getting people to leave their faith is to simply get their brains to turn towards an evaluation of their beliefs — to wake them up! — and then they do the work of hauling themselves out of the morass. There are a thousand different ways to do that: atheists can shock them by being nice, normal people; atheists can point out the absurdities of their religion (I get lots of people telling me they lost their faith in their efforts to prove me wrong); they can witness the bad behavior of fellow Christians; they can feel a sense of injustice when they see atheists treated poorly.
The one thing we can’t do is do their thinking for them. You don’t see much in the way of abrupt revelations in the atheist world — it’s a matter of hard thinking to abandon familiar beliefs that saturate our environment.