If you want anecdotes, here’s one. I’ve been corresponding with a gentleman who was a fundamentalist Christian but has left that faith and, subsequently, started to read about evolution. (I’m advising him on what to read.) We started corresponding after he read Why Evolution is True, which he liked (but also pointed out a few errors, like the discrepant dates for H. erectus‘s disappearance). He gave me permission to share his story, but anonymously since he’s not yet “come out.” It shows, at least in this one case (it’s not unique; I’ve heard from people with similar tales), that the writings of “militant” New Atheists can not only help you give up your faith, but also turn you into a fan of evolution. He writes:
I accepted evolution and took it for granted from about the age of ten. After college I became a born-again Christian, and accepted the Bible as the inerrant, infallible, and only inspired written Word of God. As a result, the only way to read Genesis was literally. In private conversation with a minister, he warned me not to refer to people as animals, which I had done in the sense of not-plants, in front of any other Christians, as they would think me an evolutionist and stop listening to anything else I might say. I regularly received the Institute for Creation Research’s propaganda, and eagerly sought confirmation of my worldview from Behe’s and Johnson’s books. I always maintained doubts in the back of my mind about the Young Earth view and the explanations of flood geology, but I couldn’t see any other way of reading Genesis that preserved a real Adam and Eve, and a real Noah, all of whom Jesus and the apostles were recorded in the New Testament regarding as actual historical figures.
After decades immersed in this, I was persuaded by some ex-Protestants that the evangelical doctrine of sola scriptura (the Bible alone is a Christian’s final authority) was a recent, therefore human, invention. We should be subject to the Church, not a book. Except that a quick look at history readily shows how errant, fallible, uninspired, human, and downright corrupt the Church was! I tried to rebuild my faith in the Bible by reading all the Christian apologetics I could get my hands on, by heavyweight evangelicals like Michael Licona, William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, and popular writers like Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel.
While I was doing this, I was also reading the New Atheists. Some friends and I had been discussing atheism, when one of them said to me, “You’re very intelligent, and you always want evidence for everything. Why aren’t you an atheist?” So I decided for the first time to let the atheists state their case. Dawkins was rather disappointing, but Harris’s End of Faith was devastating. I tried burying myself in apologetics as an antidote, but then I came across critical biblical scholar Bart Ehrman. I started reading about the Bible instead of just reading the Bible. I read scholars’ explanations for the contradictions and discrepancies filling the Bible. Soon my faith was all but destroyed. The New Atheists + modern biblical scholarship = infidel.
Once that happened, the only thing keeping me from believing in evolution again was ID. Even if I couldn’t trust Genesis anymore to be an accurate account of creation, Behe’s arguments about intelligent design in light of irreducible complexity stayed with me. I previewed a few books online, read some customer reviews, checked my book club and saw that they carried your book, then selected it as this month’s choice. So here we are!
He’s now engaged in a program of reading evolution books like Your Inner Fish and Climbing Mount Improbable.
Many thanks to this person for sharing his story.