Who’s Easier to De-convert: Moderates or Fundamentalists?

Last week, I got into an interesting conversation with a fellow atheist about de-converting Christians. My new atheist friend expressed the opinion that he thought moderate Christians were easier to de-convert and I expressed the opinion that I thought fundamentalists were easier to de-convert.

I am not actually sure that either of us could prove our position, but I do think we each had some interesting arguments to draw on. His main argument was that moderates were already more reasonable people and already value reason most of the time. So it is just getting them to think reasonably about religion that is the issue. Logically, this makes perfect sense but in practice, I have to disagree.

My view is that moderates just don’t care. I think both fundamentalists and moderates use reason (although fundamentalists don’t value reason as much) so in both cases it is merely getting the Christian to apply their reasoning to religion. The thing is that fundamentalists take their religion very seriously. They are heavily invested in their particular and literal interpretation of the Bible while moderates are quick to play the “metaphor” card for every unreasonable Biblical verse that is pointed out to them.

The moderate will just brush off criticism and stick with their view that Jesus was a hippy regardless of the evidence to the contrary. Because the fundamentalist is so heavily invested, they will actually put the time and energy into trying to defend their unreasonable position. But doing so, they start the de-conversion journey of self-discovery. Their fundamental passion becomes the tool of their de-conversion… in my opinion.

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t try to de-convert and educate moderates about their own religion. We should, it is just that in my view fundamentalists are easier to de-convert. This argument is actually more of an interesting academic exercise between two atheists since I really don’t think it matters whether or not I am correct or my friend is correct. What are your experiences, stories, or logical arguments on this topic?

This blog was originally posted on DangerousTalk.net, I hope you will check it out.

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Comment by deletedsoul on June 27, 2010 at 1:40pm
Hm, that's a tough question. I was never a moderate, but I wouldn't say my de-conversion was easy. I can say that the de-converted Fundamentalist tends to be more passionate about their lack of belief than the de-converted moderate, because of the reasons you state: they care more. Fundies care deeply about their religion; a de-converted one is going to be more vocal and passionate about their non-belief than the moderate would be.

I think the de-conversion might actually be easier when it comes to moderates. Slipping across that fence is a more natural progression, as opposed to the fundies who cling to belief with all they've got.

If you want someone to champion the cause of secularism in a very proactive way - go for the fundies. :)
Comment by Petra Polovina on June 26, 2010 at 6:23pm
This is really interesting... I was raised in an extreme, fundamentalist (redundant, I know) household and from childhood was deeply invested in my beliefs. It got to the point where I was even reading Christian apologetics so that I would be prepared with "knowledge" for the unbelievers' onslaughts of logic. I didn't have a traumatic or otherwise extraordinary experience that encouraged disbelief. Rather, it was the lack of one. I've been near-sighted for a while, and used to ask for healing from God. I believed in the possibility of this healing so very much because, according to what I had been taught, it was basically only a matter of time before my eyes would be perfect again. After a few years, however, I started to get frustrated, to say the least. I was very discouraged and this "event" or more accurately the "lack of this event" slowly but surely crumbled the rest of my belief. The final nail in the coffin was put in place by The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. The incredible passion that fueled my fundamentalism was still there in form, just replaced with disbelief for its content. I guess what I'm trying to say is that fundamentalists (judging from the perspective of personal experience) are probably more likely to be "intense" atheists or are otherwise more likely to be invested in it. Personally, to have had something as integral to my childhood as Christianity pulled out from under my feet was a BIG deal and I was quick to replace it with a fervent atheism. I can't speak from a moderate perspective, but I would imagine the transition would be less dramatic and maybe even less personally meaningful. To go from one side of the spectrum to the other is, in my opinion, more significant that simply stepping over the dividing line in the middle of the atheist-theist scale.
Comment by Prog Rock Girl on June 23, 2010 at 10:52pm
For some they keep their doubts quiet b/c it would be inconvenient, and risk losing their families and friends. It is true that some turn to religion when they're having a horrible time, but terrible times are also when people lose their faith. The person who came home to find his entire family killed by the BTK killer apparently went atheist in a matter of seconds.
Comment by Staks Rosch on June 23, 2010 at 10:13pm
Actually Prog Rock, I don't think it usually takes a traumatic event for someone to lose their faith. In fact, my experience is that the direct opposite is true. People usually go to religion because of a traumatic event and leave religion after a long period of slowing increasing doubts and inner questioning.
Comment by Prog Rock Girl on June 23, 2010 at 8:53pm
That's an interesting question and I think it applies to any religion, not just Christian.

Fundamentalists are often unable to practice what they preach (sex scandals, etc) and in their hypocrisy either have cognitive dissonance (some way to convince themselves they're still moral), or know that they're living a lie and just keep up a facade. Fundamentalists have also seen the insanity firsthand. I'm thinking of the WBC children, who experienced child abuse, but also were hated by the people around them, and isolated from others. That made leaving more difficult, but also more final.

Moderates haven't been brainwashed in the same way. Brainwashing sometimes happens at a young age when kids are taught to have a docile and non-questioning mindset. Some moderates have more cognitive dissonance, and may be aware of it on some level, but just file it away for later.

Either way, it often takes a large or traumatic event for someone to lose their faith...you can tell them your reasons, but if they still want to believe, they will come up with reasons. They have to do it on their own.

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