Why so many ministers become atheists?

During my research, I've found a surprising number of "serious" christian ministers or leaders who have become outspoken atheists. And I wonder why this is so prevalent?

And why do I see no examples in the reverse direction? For example, someone of the stature of Richard Dawkins converting to Islam or Mormonism. I only see one: Antony Flew, atheist who has only become "deist", seduced by Intelligent Design at age 81.

Here are examples:

Dan Barker: Evangelical minister, then became atheist (book: "Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists")

John Loftus: Minister in several churches, then became atheist (book: "Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity")

Charles Templeton: Minister and close friend of Billy Graham, then became atheist over time (author, "Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith")

G. Vincent Runyon: Twelve years as Methodist minister (author "Why I left the ministry and became an atheist")

Joe E. Holman: Minister for nine years, now atheist ministerturnsatheist.blogspot.com

Jim Schoch: 20 Years as minister, now atheist. housechurchresource.org/expastors/detox-schoch.html

Bart Ehrman, evangelical christian who got a PhD in religious studies (which he continues to teach), now attacking the historicity of the Bible and claiming to be agnostic, leaning towards atheist. (author, "God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question--Why We Suffer")

James McAllister: Lutheran minister, became atheist at age 56.


To Pstod: No, those people were not outspoken atheists in the way that these ministers were outspoken believers.

Update 2:

To Michael: You also missed the point. How many *outspoken* atheists converted to religiosity of any kind? Name one.

18 Answers

  • pstod
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    i can think of a couple just off the top of head that went the other way...lee strobel, and c.s. lewis, and that is without doing any research.

    and i have found even more in just 3 minutes of research:

    Steve Beren - Former member of the Socialist Workers Party (United States) who became a Christian conservative politician.[1]

    Anders Borg - Sweden's Minister for Finance.[2]

    Kirk Cameron - Actor, star of Growing Pains (former atheist)[3]

    Sir Aaron - English preacher.

    Bruce Cockburn - Canadian folk/rock guitarist and singer/songwriter. (former agnostic)[4]

    Francis Collins - physician-geneticist, noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes, and the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (former atheist)[5]

    Larry Flynt - American publisher and pornographer; briefly converted under the auspice of Ruth Carter Stapleton.[6]

    Joy Gresham - American writer and wife of C.S. Lewis (former atheist)[7]

    Anna Haycraft - Raised in Auguste Comte's atheistic "church of humanity", but became a conservative Catholic in adulthood.[8]

    Ignace Lepp - French psychiatrist whose parents were freethinkers and who joined the Communist party at age fifteen. He broke with the party in 1937 and eventually became a Catholic priest.[9]

    Félix Leseur - Doctor turned priest. His conversion, in part, came by efforts of his wife who was declared a Servant of God by the Catholic Church.[10]

    Khang Khek Leu (also known as Comrade Duch) - Cambodian director of Phnom Penh's infamous Tuol Sleng detention center[11]

    C.S. Lewis - Oxford professor and writer; well known for the The Chronicles of Narnia series, and for his apologetic Mere Christianity.[12]

    Gabriel Marcel - French philosopher and playwright (former agnostic).[13]

    Norma McCorvey - "Jane Roe" in Roe v. Wade[14]

    Alister McGrath - Biochemist and Christian theologian. Founder of 'Scientific theology' and critic of Richard Dawkins in his book Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life [15]

    Lacey Mosley - Vocalist and lyricist for Alternative metal band Flyleaf.[16]

    William J. Murray - author and son of atheist activist Madalyn Murray O'Hair[17]

    Bernard Nathanson Medical doctor who was a founding member of NARAL, later becoming a Pro-Life proponent.[18]

    Marvin Olasky - Former Marxist turned Christian conservative, he edits the Christian World (magazine).[19][20]

    Enoch Powell - Conservative Party (UK) member who converted to Anglicanism.[21]

    George R. Price - Geneticist who became an Evangelical Christian and wrote about the New Testament. Later he moderated his evangelistic tendencies and switched from religious writing to working with the homeless.[22][23]

    Anne Rice - author of Interview with the Vampire[24]

    Dame Cicely Saunders - Templeton Prize and Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize winning nurse known for palliative care. She converted to Christianity as a young woman.[25]

    Edith Stein - Phenomenologist philosopher who converted to Catholicism and became a Discalced Carmelite nun; declared a saint by John Paul II.[26]

    Peter Steele - Lead singer of Type O Negative.[27]

    Lee Strobel - Author of The Case for Christ (former atheist)[28]

    Evelyn Waugh - British writer (former agnostic). [29]

    Fay Weldon - British novelist and feminist.[30]

    Monty White - British Young Earth Creationist (former atheist)[31]

    John C. Wright - Science fiction author.[32]

    CS Lewis wasn't a prominant atheist? He tought at Oxford for one, you can see in his writtings that he was a well spoken and out spoken atheist.

    And honestly, as a believer, I've never heard of these guys, except for Charles Templeton.

  • 4 years ago


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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I think it´s because atheism is not particularly demanding in and of itself. But Christianity is.

    Also, atheism is not a positive statement. It´s blanco. It´s "In the absence of evidence to the contrary".

    Christianity is a positive statement - and an outrageous one at that - which is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. It´s getting harder and harder to be an honest Christian.

    Also, if you used to be an atheist, and you become a believer, traditionally you are very happy. You´re gonna live forever with God in Heaven! Splee! However, if you used to be a believer, and become an atheist, usually you will be pretty damned angry for being fooled all that time and having nothing to show for it (like I said, atheism is not particularly demanding - but Christianity is). So the books of former Christians will be a mite less saccharine and a little more angry than the books of former atheists.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    We tend to forget that there's a spiritual battle constantly waging and these people you listed could well be an example of how we easily buy into the lies from the Father of Lies.

    From observing all the titles of the books the authors wrote about becoming an atheist and leaving Christianity, I can conclude that pride is also a big factor as to why they turned against God. All of the titles include.. "why 'I' left the ministry", "why 'I' became an atheist, 'MY' reasons..".. .Their main objective is to soak in all the glory for themselves, claiming that the bible is errant and God is the one with the problem, not themselves. That self-centered perspective is what can turn us against Christianity and God himself, since one main concept of this faith is denying oneself, or surrendering oneself and bearing the cross of Christ.

    I think the answer to your question is quite simple, either sin is the reason or lack of truly knowing the Lord to begin with.

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  • Macey
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    Well, I'm pretty sure the Narnia guy went from Atheist to Christian.

    But to answer your first question, Atheism makes more logical sense than Christianity. Also, ministers have a deeper understanding of the Bible.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    "I've found a surprising number of "serious" christian ministers or leaders who have become outspoken atheists. And I wonder why this is so prevalent?"

    I've seen your examples, I am missing the number crunching where I can see how large the group of potential apostate ministers is, what the default rate is among ministers vs. "regular" believers, and so on.

    What I am saying is that just because it is more remarkable when a minister leaves the faith doesn't make it more prevalent. It is just more noticeable.

  • 1 decade ago

    As general grant already pointed out, you're experiencing selection bias. There are about 2 billion christians in the world. Assuming each minister has a congregation of 1000 (which is way high), that still makes 2 million pastors. You list eight. Hardly a statistically significant number.


    Antony Flew (as you already mentioned), Augustine of Hippo, CS Lewis, and on a lesser note: Lee Stroebel. (also me, but I was never famous)

  • 5 years ago

    Having to talk to tossers like you. Drives a lot to drink too I shouldn't be surprised.

  • 1 decade ago

    1) They know what the Bible actually says.

    2) They know that there are different versions of the same books of the Bible.

    3) They know the historical context it was written in, and the other belief systems that influenced it.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Because religion is self refuting. The more you study it, the more bogus you think it is.

    Except for the King of Retarded Religulous Backwardism: W.L. Craig Charlatan™.

  • Anonymous
    4 years ago

    It's a good question

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