Hemant Mehta on the Fastest Way to Make an Atheist; Why do People Become Atheist/Secular?

Hemant Mehta poses the question…what is the fastest way to make someone an atheist? In the end he says there is not an easy way to make someone an atheist. This video which came out recently led me to ask the question…what makes someone an atheist? This explores the reasons why Christians de-convert. Plus how the loss of faith from a faith crisis may be the beginning of a person eventually embracing Christian faith down the road.

“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”

Thomas Berger

“In terms of asking questions I plead guilty. I ask a hell of a lot of questions. That’s my job.”

Dick Cheney

Note I quote from the late Christopher Hitchens in this post, so if you have a problem with the language…all I can say is that is Hitch as we knew him.

This is the newest video from Hemant Mehta who blogs at The Friendly Atheist. I like Hemant’s blog as I read it regularly. When this popped up in my Youtube subscriptions I watched this eagerly to see what would be said. Hemant tackles the topic of if there is one easy fast way for someone to become an atheist. What is it? He explores briefly some of the things which I will touch on below. But in the end he states that there isn’t one simple way to make someone an atheist. He also says that it should not be that simple. That he wants people to think, reflect and put some thought into it. In the process they need to figure things out for themselves and arrive at their own conclusions. In the video he says that he doesn’t want one person to become an atheist over a simple situation or scenario. He wants people to de-convert for good because atheism needs advocates. It needs former Christians who can advocate for atheism and engage the Christian community.

While I write as a Christian I do respect Hemant Mehta greatly and enjoy reading his work. I want to get into his call for people to think for themselves because in my own unique way I am going to call for people to do that as well. We should all be thinking for ourselves. But if I stop and consider some of the reasons why people leave the Christian faith…what would they be? Down below I want to do a sampling of some of those reasons why people would reject Christianity or religion. Also, note that I have written about the issue of people who leave the Christian faith, never being Christians to begin with, and nope…that dog don’t hunt for me! You can read that in this posts which I titled, “‘If they leave the Christian faith they never were a Christian to begin with…’ A Pushback Against that Line of Thought as Inspired by a Recent Godless in Dixie Post”


Why do People Become Atheist/Secular ?

I want to be clear that there are many, many reasons why Christians de-covert and lose faith. It is a diverse and broad range of reasons and it is not simple. For each person it can be unique, and different. For each person they will have one issue or situation that will become their tipping point. By the way if you are an atheist and you read this please know that this blog would be interested in letting you tell your de-conversion story. I am still pursing those stories to tell on a regular basis here. But below you will have but a mere sampling of the reasons why people push back and throw in the towel in regards to religion and faith.


Outgrow their Faith

Some people I think kind of outgrow religion. What do I mean? There are people who grow up and see religion as something that maybe played an important part in the youth but who don’t see a reason for religion in their adulthood. They find it strange, foolish, and problematic. They see little reason to have a faith in their life as they go through adulthood. I kind of think of this in a way a butterfly exits a cocoon. I draw that analogy to say that I think some people shed religion as they have different situations or experiences in life and they leave it and move forward. I think that accounts for some people, and that is one reason, but let’s look at another.


See The Harm of Religion/Fundamentalism

In this group I think you find the people who see the incredible harm religion can create.  History is full of examples from the Puritans hanging “witches” in Salem in June of 1692 to Pope Urban II  calling for the first Crusade on November 27, 1095 saying God wills it. In this group you find the individuals who see the harm that fundamentalism has caused in life. It can be profound as some of these people are dealing with pain from fundamentalism from their own family, friends or relatives. They see how religion causes great harm, leads to devastated families, and how people are divided. They may have relatives who have cut them off or see children being played against them or others. I spend time on Ex-Christians.net and some of the stories I see there of the strife that goes through some families are heartbreaking.

Another issue that goes along with this is the corruption that plays out in Christianity or religion. I can very much identify with this as it was an issue I had to deal with in my faith crisis. When I was outside Christianity I had a co-worker who was trying to get me involved in a Sovereign Grace called Redeemer Arlington. So here you had this guy listening to Christopher Hitchens and other atheist material. I looked at Christianity as being corrupt and as a cancer and would think of all the problems, child sex abuse, and allegations of criminal activity that play out in the Christian faith. So when I started to research Redeemer and Sovereign Grace I was stunned. The allegations of C.J. Mahaney’s criminal activity alone were quite disturbing. For me it was like pouring gasoline on a fire as being invited to a corrupt denomination helped me to justify atheism. This is part of the reason why I write about the big picture of all these topics together…so much of this is linked together. 


See No Real Need For Faith

This almost could be included in the first category but some see no real need for faith at all. Instead I think some believe in humanity and good nature of mankind. They believe that instead of being theistic its better to pour ones efforts into mankind and science. I think those who are in this group have a more optimistic view of society and have more noble ideas They see religion and faith as problematic that causes problems in so many ways. In this perspective those who go down this path see faith as a means give a false sense of security. Maybe that is part of the human condition…the longing to be wanted, but those in this perspective I think have been able to overcome that perspective and move forward.


Strong Belief in Science

Another reason is that many have a strong belief in science. Perhaps they were taught strict creationist views or taught to be suspicious of science. As a person grows they discover in high school or college that science has an incredible amount of value. Others come to value the belief of evolution and in the strict, legalistic mindset find themselves facing a choice as they have been incorrectly taught. That choice is this…God or science? In that either or frame of mind faith is chucked as a person believes they were mislead and fed lies. If they can’t trust what they were taught…why should they trust any of it? Science after all has many positive attributes…look at the advances of modern medicine. We have medical treatments today that are incredible. Here is an example of one…in the Washington Post last month they had an article about how Stanford researches have used stem cells to reverse damage from a stroke, with patients who couldn’t walk..now can. Then recently there has been the news of NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter. We live in a society that values science and you see it in education, you have the benefits of it when you go to your pharmacy. There is much that we should value when it comes to science, and some people because of how they were raised were put in a position where they had to choose one or the other. Plus another factor is that there are some evangelicals who attack science, and scientific education. Can one be a scientist or a biologist and a Christian? For some people because of what they have been taught the answer is no.


Mistaught the Bible

Another reason why some people go secular is because of some aspects of the Bible and what they were taught. Take the destruction of the Canaanites in the Old Testament. There are parts of scripture that are hard and when some people take such a literal approach to it they end up painting themselves into a corner. I recall one person explaining to me that God showed a lot of grace in annihilating the Canaanites. I was stunned to hear that as in my skeptical mind at the time. As an atheist/agnostic at the time that would be like me saying in response, that Adolf Hitler showed the Jews a lot of grace in running the concentration camps. The need by some Christians to defend absolutely everything in the Bible becomes problematic and it creates issues for many people. I can identify with this as Old Testament genocide became a major issue for me in my faith crisis. There are many difficult topics in scripture, I wrote about a strict creationist viewpoint up above in regards to science but there are many others. The story of Abraham and Isaac is another difficult issue. I recall watching an old Christopher Hitchens video a while back where Hitch said the following. “If I was told to gut my kid and kill him I would tell that God to fuck off.” There is the story of a donkey in Numbers 22:21-31  that speaks and flies into a rage.  An animal that speaks back it you in a language you can understand? Yes that makes no sense in many ways. I could go on with differing examples, but some people are mistaught perspectives and I believe that contributes to some people having deep problems and eventually walking away.


De-Convert Against Their Will

There are many individuals who go through a faith crisis and de-convert against their will. There are many people who don’t want to be an atheist, or skeptic. Its not what they had planned to be, but they found themselves in a faith crisis where they were overwhelmed with doubt. To have faith almost wash out or have it be dragged out of you is painful. Its like experiencing a death. I wrote about this in the following post called, Eagle Writes a Journal Entry Inspired from Neil Carter’s Godless in Dixie on Grieving the Loss of Your Faith.” The pain a person goes through is traumatic, exceptional and unique. To put it clearly this is not something you will understand until it happens to you. One thing that also happens in these situations is that they can become “violent.” Now when I speak of violent I am not talking about physical violence. Nope…not at all. Instead I am talking about emotional in the perspective that it tortures your soul. You find yourself being angry about going through something like this, plus you get enraged, or jealous at those who are not dealing with these issues. For example I can identify with this because I would get enraged in my faith crisis. Why did I have to struggle and deal with the problem of evil? Why not others? Why could other people smile, and go along and all appeared well? This contrasted sharply with the earlier section of people who outgrow their faith or see no real need for faith. There are some atheists out there who do not want to be secular. They never planned to de-convert, and they are frustrated over their situation.


Permanent Faith Crisis

There are other people who have a faith crisis that I believe will be permanent. What do I mean? Some individuals have a faith crisis and they get stuck. That means they will not leave it and instead get fixated on that one particular issue that brought it about. Whatever the issue it becomes a barrier that they can not overcome. I do not have any knowledge or the details of how frequently this happens or the numbers. But I would wager it happens more frequently than people want to admit. In my situation when I had my faith crisis I started to become convinced that I was going to be forever stuck on the problem of evil.  It was my situation that taught me how this could be a very real situation. Can a faith crisis last 10 or 20 years? Absolutely it can…and I think those prolonged situations open the door to permanent situations.


Being Gay

Coming to terms with the fact that you are gay and Christian for some people is another tipping point that results in some people leaving Christianity and de-converting. There are many people who have spent years trying to “become straight” because the church has taught them that they must be. There are others who have friends, families, and loved ones who come out and reveal that they are gay. I recall one experience with an old accountability partner in Wisconsin. His brother came out as gay and he cried in his pillow for hours when he realized and heard all that his brother endured in the evangelical Christian church. All the hate, back-stabbing and more. Because of the way many parts of the Christian faith have approached this issue, plus they coupling of politics to faith this has become a difficult issue, this causes some people to leave Christianity. If you are in the evangelical Christian church I will say this…we need to do better. Our approach to the gay community and those who are gay is awful. In saying that I don’t know what they recourse is, as this is a difficult issue. But I do know that anything that involves hate, doesn’t work and instead backfires.


Losing Faith may not be the End…it may be the Beginning

In the video up top Hemant says that he wants people to think for themselves. He doesn’t want a person to read an article and become an atheist, he wants them to think it through. I agree with Hemant in this manner…we all need to be thinking, and to practice discernment whereever you are at. Here is the deal I am a Christian who writes this blog from a Christian perspective. I am pretty conservative in my doctrine and how I look at the Bible. Yet I very much am concerned with how many parts of the church operate. I commend Hemant for his challenge to get people to think for themselves and arrive at their own conclusion. I share in that and if you read me I want you to do the same thing. I am not here to teach you how to think or what to believe. Instead I would like to challenge you to think in a way that is quite different than what you expect or what you will hear from a pastor on a Sunday morning.

But I also believe this…we are all on a spiritual journey and your story- wherever you stand is not finished. I can tell you this…I never imagined going through some of the religious movements I went through in my life. Likewise I never saw the day coming where I would have a full blown faith crisis. In my case I would have to leave the Christian faith for a number of years to think it through and wrestle with it. I had to reject Christianity in order to find it. In evangelicalism there is too much of an emphasis on and immediate “walking with the Lord.” When a person parts or pushes back people tend to push that person off and not walk with them through their life. I would challenge the Christian church to look at people in the long term perspective of the span of their life. Think of someone in the context of 20 or 30 or 40 years from where they are today. Life is hard and life is both long and short. In the case of time people need to figure things out and we should look at people in that perspective. Sometimes people need to reject faith in order to find it. And others need to wrestle and think things through for themselves. The church should not grow nervous or despondent if someone rejects the faith, instead they should look on that person as being on a spiritual journey, that in reality may just begin.

Here’s what I think will happen…I think some people who leave the Christian faith will eventually come back in the course of time, or maybe later in life. Then I think there are those who are atheist or humanist now that in the years to come may become a Christian. And then on the other perspective I think there are some people who are Christian now who will leave and never come back. I think some people may be done for good. But who is to say how things will turn out? I mean I am 41 and I am amazed at how life has brought surprises and issues that I never could have imagined. As you age you too will be surprised by what happens. But above all else if you read me I want you to do this…please think for yourself. Challenge yourself, and challenge me. Don’t take all I have to say as fact, and realize these are my opinions based on experience. We are all on a journey…Christian, atheist, humanist, and more and our journey is still continuing and moving forward. I want to commend Hemant Mehta for the good video he posted and let him know that I appreciate his work and am grateful for the blog that he has created and runs. As always you are free to leave your comments. Please know that I love you guys wherever you are in your situation in life.


21 thoughts on “Hemant Mehta on the Fastest Way to Make an Atheist; Why do People Become Atheist/Secular?

  1. I enjoyed the post Eagle. Pretty fair treatment of a diversity of reasons people leave. I’m always curious if it’s the same for atheists who come out of non Abrahamic religions, do they leave for similar reasons?I should read up on that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I usually like reading your atheist posts, but they sometimes leave me scratching my head!

    I think you are giving too much credit to atheist interpretations of the bible. Two here include are calling the destruction of the Canaanites genocide. I know the passages you mean, and they are not in the bible to make us feel good about ourselves, but atheists I have read always ignore the provision that such destruction was avoidable by accepting the offer of peace and occupation, and that by implication Canaanites who knew of God’s command could have fled the promised land and saved themselves.

    There is also the populat notion of Abraham offering up an 8 year old Isaac, and how awful this would be. It’s not possible to tell exactly now old Isaac was, but he was almost certainly older than that, a ‘young man’ in modern terms. What also gets forgotten is Abraham’s willingness to do what God commanded him was predicated on his faith God would raise Isaac from the dead to fulfill his promise, and that God stopped the sacrifice anyway! It is painfully obvious sometimes that your atheist has never read the story, and doesn’t know this!

    There are similar problems in atheists butchering the OT on slavery or rape – and shellfish.

    I looked at ex believer, and a current article is about religious control over sexual expression. What was missing was any acknowledgement of the carnage in the form of early death, and debilitating disease that results from ignoring judeo-christian ethics in this area. A deafening silence! If you value human life, which is the most loving – restraint, or licence?

    I wouldn’t for one moment say evangelicals have always got these issues right or never suffered an attitude problem, and in the States there is a rigid (and unthinking?) fundamentalism that doesn’t really exist in Europe that must put people off the faith, that makes it harder to get them to listen. There is a cultural difference here.

    In the end though, surely none of these things will be a defence when each one of us has to face the judgement of God. I need my own sins forgiven, what others did or did not do is not relevant to this, and I think it a mistake in this context to make unbelief seem ‘reasonable’.

    Plenty of food for thought!

    Liked by 1 person

    • What also gets forgotten is Abraham’s willingness to do what God commanded him was predicated on his faith God would raise Isaac from the dead to fulfill his promise, and that God stopped the sacrifice anyway! It is painfully obvious sometimes that your atheist has never read the story, and doesn’t know this!

      Ready for some push-back on this old chestnut?
      God commanded Abraham no such thing. Abraham was drawn away by his own yabba-dabba (per James’s Epistle) in hopes of blending in well with the vile practice of human sacrifice common amongst his neighbors. If Scripture interprets Scripture, which makes better sense? God violating his own character by endorsing human sacrifice, or letting Abraham choose between good and evil with what he’d already placed inside him by way of conscience?

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      • The story of Abraham is a hard topic for many. I glanced it over and didn’t think about it until I imagined doing something similar Muff. Its hard and challenging to reconcile the OT and the NT when you stop and think about it. Its almost like you are dealing with two different God. You are not, but I can see why…because they are so diverse.


      • Oi, I’m not a chestnut!

        Going by what the narrative itself says, God did command both the sacrifice and Abraham not to go ahead with it.

        Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Mori’ah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you

        But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, … “Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; …

        The NT adds to our understanding of this, I agree, but in terms of Abraham’s faith and this being seen in his actions. But there is no mention of pagan practices, although we later find out that the Canaanites – the destruction of whom is later commanded should they remain in the land – did practice the most abominable practices of child sacrifice (Molech worship). The modern equivalent is obvious – and yet under the new covenant, even this can be forgiven.

        God did not violate his character, he vindicated it. The parallels with the crucifixion which happened at the same place are striking, except in the latter case the sacrifice actually had to be made.

        Since God gave life in the first place, does he not have the right to take it back again, after having given due warning, if mankind chooses to go down a path that ends up making them irredeemably wicked? Isn’t that the OT pattern, warning of judgment, a refusal to change, and then the actual judgment where no repentance was forthcoming?

        God loves righteousness more than people. (Pawson)


    • Ken OT issues are exceptionally hard. I still struggle with some of them today. I do not know how to handle the story of the Canaanites. I wish I could. I understand the desire by some to want to respect the Bible by defending it. Yet when I stop and think of the character of God in the NT it creates a lot of problems. Some of these things didn’t hit me until later in life. It took cancer, suffering, or my own experiences to give me pauses and ask about things. That is going to happen to all of us. It will be different for each of us. How and why it happens I still struggle with it.


  3. Hi Eagle, another good post, very thoughtful particularly when many are very thoughtless on why people deconvert & how it affects them. Which of your posts deal with how you came through questioning the problem of evil? I’m back in active & unwanted crisis & this is a real factor. Would appreciate prayer & wisdom – I so envy those who seem to breeze through these kinds of subjects.

    Liked by 1 person

    • BeakerJ thanks for your kind words. The evangelical church can be cruel to those who have faith problems. If someone is certain that alone should raise a red flag. In regards to the posts dealing with the problem of evil I actually have an entire subject dedicated to it. I wrote one post in particular about how the SGM lawsuit helped me resolve the problem of evil. Remember many people do fake things in the evangelical faith. Some have to, which alone can be really sad. I would love to create churches and environments where people can be open about their doubts. Those who breeze through something are in for a world of hurt.


      • Thanks Eagle, I’ve found the subject you were talking about. I’m lucky that I’m in an environment where christians are showing me a lot of love. But it’s still so hard, I want to be like those who find trust easy, or just to be able to walk away with ease. Rock & hard place.


    • Hello Beakerj. I’m sorry to hear about you being a crisis as regards the faith. If someone had “the answer” to the perplexing problem of suffering and evil in this life, they would have found it by now.

      The best we can hope for are clues, and I do believe God has given at least some partial answers.

      I hesitate to ask this for a very obvious reason, but what kind of religious company are you keeping? If it is with those in real life or the internet who may have genuinely been hurt, but who are nursing grievances and resentment, one, two, even maybe four decades after the events, I think this can have a deadening effect on your faith. Faith destroying conversations with faith destroying people.

      Believe me I know what it is like to be disillusioned with churchianity, and no-one will avoid seeing and experiencing suffering at some point in their lives. It doesn’t help to mix with those who don’t want to live the faith out, who don’t even want to try; or those who are eternal victims or in long-term rebellion against NT apostolic teaching. None of us is exempt from this, we all have our areas of imperfection if not disobedience, but it can really, really get you down if you have a diet of this and little else. In my own case it took someone else pointing this out before I saw the damage this kind of thing can do if you are not careful.

      A clue is to watch for people complaining that ‘God never seems to answer my prayers any more’. The reason for this is an area of rebellion – they are not doing something God has said to do or vice versa – and he has explicitly said he will not hear their prayers until the unrighteousness is dealt with. I only ‘saw’ this with any clarity myself very recently, and boy is it challenging.


      • Thanks Ken, I appreciate your concern, but you’re really way off base, I’m not feeding myself on a diet of other people’s doubts & rebellion, rather hanging out with those who have this sorted, or have something positive to add to the discussion. It is possible to question truly & painfully without it being rebellion, or leading to it.

        I hope your own revelations on this have been helpful to you though.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Beakerj I totally concur. If people are doubting God and God is having problems then their faith in God is a really small God. What Ken said actually goes against how some of the prophets doubted God and had their frustrations.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ken, Ken, Ken…if God is truly sovereign and in control he would have no issues with one doubting him. Doubting God can lead t deeper faith, and a healthier faith. If a person has problems with their faith, whatever the situation God can handle it. I also believe this shows how some people do not know scripture very well. If what you wrote was applied to Elijah, Moses, etc… they would not be prophets. Prophets especially struggled with doubt. You are welcome to post here Ken, but please mind your tone to BeakerJ.


  4. Eagle, I really appreciate the gentle spirit with which this was written. The paragraph that contains this sentence, “The church should not grow nervous or despondent if someone rejects the faith, instead they should look on that person as being on a spiritual journey, that in reality may just begin.” has a lot of wisdom in it.

    I’ve seen a number of people “written off” over the years by my former church’s leadership, when they left for a wide variety of reasons, some leaving that particular church, some leaving the faith. In many cases, the church’s leadership’s reaction (write them off) grieved me. In some cases in the past, I was one of those people who, while I didn’t necessarily write people off, never really followed up on the friendship/relationship either, and I lost touch — though in some cases, we eventually reconnected too.

    There are people close to me who are going through a “faith crisis” of sorts. In at least one case, it’s a person whose faith was (is?) strong, but who’s experience is one of being treated & accepted far better by “secular” friends, than by those in the church… which is profoundly sad. This person can’t ever imagine going back to any local church body for that reason. And who can blame him/her?

    Still, this post has a lot of hope & encouragement in it, from a “voice of experience”. Thanks for taking the time to write it & address it head-on.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ejj…I drew from my own experience when I wrote this. In my case I read and enjoy atheist and secular material. I enjoy the provocative thinking. I don’t feel threatened by it at all.


  5. Ken,
    While I can respect your belief system, it is not mine, and I don’t see the Hebrew Bible’s narrative in the same way you do, their genre and literary devices are not nearly the same as ours.
    We’ll just have to agree to disagree and not blow up each other’s Mosques over it.
    === > (smiley face goes here)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beakerj – I’m glad you have not made the same mistake I have, and please do feel free to put my post in the little round filing cabinet if that is where it best belongs!

    The internet really is a mixed blessing, and can be useful and upbuilding or unedifying and depressing, and sometimes these two extremes can be found together. Unfortunately, the unedifying can stick to you like mud without you realising what is going on. Team Pyro would be an example of this off the top of my head. Calvinists who can, ironically, cause you to doubt the grace of God in your own life and experience.


    • Thanks Ken. I hope I’m staying away from anything harmful. If you knew me you’d know that would include any & all sites involved in Calvinism. I’m more likely to be found over at Ancient Faith Radio.


  7. Eagle – can I distinguish two things to make sure we are not talking at cross purposes?

    One is doubt, which I have not referred to at all. This includes difficult ideas or events in the bible, or things in our lives we don’t understand, of which sickness is obvious. Things we are still working on. It is perfectly legitimate to own up to doubt, and to seek to get answers for it.

    My post to Beakerj did not have doubt in mind, it was unbelief. Unbelief is moral wickedness, it works itself out in disobedience and sin, in not loving your neighbour as yourself, of the ultimate contradiction, saying ‘No Lord’!. It is to disagree with what God has said is right, or what is wrong. That is what I was getting at in the post, the unbelief – often heavily disguised – that can get you down or rub off on you.

    If you don’t see the distinction, then it can appear that you think doubt amounts to sin, which it is not. What I’m getting at is mixing with believers who are in revolt against some aspect of the NT.

    So too with atheists – they need to be constructively engaged by Christian apologists regarding genuine problems with the Christian faith, and given answers to the extent possible. Nevertheless, in the end atheism is unbelief (“absence of faith in God or gods”) and this is moral wicknedness. Indeed unbelief is the only sin for which no-one will ever be forgiven, neither in this age nor the age to come. Would you not agree that atheism is not really ultimately intellectual, but rather moral; the atheist wishes to do something that God says no to.


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