There’s a fascinating discussion going on at Reddit started by the son of creationist-biochemist Michael Behe who is revealing his recent “deconversion” from Catholicism in particular, theism in general. I’ve included a few snippets here, but follow the link above and below for the full discussion which is probably still unfolding.
At seventeen, I was something of a little thinker, and I liked questioning everything and looking at issues from different sides. I had never applied that to religion, so I eventually decided to dive right in and listen to the opposing side. I had the utmost confidence in my faith, and I was a very devout Catholic. The first book I read against religion was Dawkins’ “The God Delusion“. While I didn’t (and still don’t) agree with everything he said, I tried to empty my mind of assumptions and reformed opinions as much as possible. I read through the whole book in two days, and the result was quite shocking to me. It was like taking off rose-colored glasses for the first time. I realized how questionable religion might sound to some who had not grown up around it. And that was the foundation of my change- it took quite a while to accept, I’d say about six months, but the more I read, the more I realized that religion’s claims were simply unfounded.
When asked about the quality of his relationship with his family and the backlash he received, salty914 (the atheist-Behe’s nom de Reddit) had this to say:
Bad. And I do confidently blame religion for this. I certainly don’t think it always turns out this way, but my stubbornness in maintaining and voicing my beliefs conflicted with my parents’ policy of keeping the rest of my family shielded from alternate viewpoints. “Indoctrination”, unfortunately, is really the word that describes it best, and I do believe that my younger brothers (the members of my family I am closest to) are truly being hurt by this. So my parents and I are in perpetual disagreement. I have, for the most part, stopped talking to my parents, and I am not allowed to speak to my little brothers at all.
The vast majority of families that I know are devout Christians, often Catholic. I have been cut off from several of my friends, I have been rather demonized by parents of my friends, and in the case of one family, my friend’s father threatened her that she would not have a normal life unless she severed contact with me completely. I am either spoken to with curtness and disdain or am not spoken to at all by many families I know.
This, I think, is one of the built in safe-guards the spell of religion has that prevents so many people from questioning their religious doctrines to begin with or, if they do, from voicing their disagreement or acting on it by leaving their churches. One is left to wonder how many people feel too trapped to escape or even question religious indoctrinations. My hat is off to the salty-Behe. I was lucky not to be saddled with a deeply religious family so my atheism isn’t even a blip on their collective radar. His courage and integrity to think for himself and be his own person is commendable.
When asked for, “insights into how the mental compartmentalization which allows someone with a decent education to be a creationist works?” Behe had this to say:
After not questioning an issue for twenty years, hearing everyone and everything around you affirm it repeatedly, the brain becomes so used to looking at it in a certain way- as truth, in this example- that it can be very difficult or even nearly impossible for you to look at the issue without that desensitization in the back of your head assuring you that it’s true and can’t be disproved. I know someone has reached that point when literally nothing I can say will change their minds. [...] the idea will not require any detectable amount of proof after lying stagnant in the creationists’ head for so many years. They will look at it and it will appear absolutely normal and completely plausible. This is the damage that indoctrination causes.
It’s definitely an on-going “tribulation” for him, as he still resides in the Behe home and has to adhere to their rules:
…there is a LOT of tension in the house. I was probably a full-blown atheist for about a year before I told my parents… around here, you get used to keeping secrets. I couldn’t take it longer than that. When I did them, it was essentially an appeal to let me live my life and not drag me along for every Mass, every Confession, Rosary, etc. That didn’t work, to put it lightly. If anything, they are now more strict about forcing me to go to church because they believe I am in need of “graces” that I can attain from church. And of course, this has only increased my dislike of religion.
There’s a lot more discussion at Reddit and hopefully more to come. I doubt we’ve seen the last of salty914, the atheist son of Behe! He remarks his intent to write and try his hand at journalism. Perhaps he’ll start a blog and join us in the Atheosphere, if he hasn’t already.