Easy but Painful: Converting to Atheism

What would it mean for religious people to abandon their faith?

Yesterday we saw an example of this process from Jerry Coyne’s blog Why Evolution Is True.

As “Matthew” describes, leaving his conservative Christian faith was not very difficult.  But it was painful.  And it can teach us some important lessons about conservatism and education.

First, Matthew’s story confirms the fears of many young-earth creationist activists.  Folks at organizations such as Answers In Genesis and the Insitute for Creation Research have long argued that learning about evolution can (or will) lead to atheism.  According to Matthew, that was exactly his experience.  For Matthew, evolution was a “gateway” idea for rejecting Chrisitianity in toto.  For young-earth creationists, this must come as proof of long-held fears.  For evolution educators, this must demonstrate that young-earth creationists have a point when they lament the atheistic implications of evolutionary theory.

Also, Matthew’s story shows how difficult it will be to improve evolution education in the United States.  For many resistant students, as sensitive science-ed types such as Lee Meadows and David Long have pointed out, evolution is not just one idea among many.  Evolution is word that provokes profound cultural, psychological, theological, and even existential anxiety among some students.  As Matthew’s story demonstrates, only when a student from this background actively seeks an alternative way of understanding the world can such evolutionary theory take hold.

Finally, though, Matthew’s story shows how important evolution outreach efforts are.  Matthew started his odyssey away from conservative religion by browsing internet sites and podcasts.  The educational work of organizations such as the National Center for Science Education has been a leading source for such evolution content online.  Matthew’s story shows how important that work can be, even if it must seem frustrating at times.


Leave a comment


  1. Hi, this is Matthew, I just wanted to say thanks for this post.

    I completely agree with your last paragraph. That sort of outreach and resource is very important.

  2. Donna

     /  August 30, 2013

    Thank you for sharing your story Matthew.


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