There was one little thing that she said though, that has spurred a follow up post on her own blog, about Free Will and Faith. She said,
Most atheists who have “deconverted” from a religious background have studied it and other religions thoroughly before choosing not to believe.
Mikespeir, in the comments, called attention to this:
If I have any reservations at all about this, it’s that “choosing not to believe” hung off the end there. I never chose not to believe. Once I realized I didn’t believe anymore I chose not to keep practicing the Christian religion. That was the choice involved.
I agree with Mike. I never chose not to believe.
Of course, I agree with Alise that we seem to have some say in our actions. We choose to read certain books/information (the bible1 and/or Dawkins), attend different events (either church or TAM2), and we choose the people we associate with.
I have to throw in here, that this assumes that we have free will. I have learned in the past year that we most likely don't. We are determined by a myriad of previous factors. But I won't get into that here.
So, as a child, you're indoctrinated by your parents/role models3. You started out with no beliefs and they give you theirs. You don't (normally) question those values and beliefs.
As an adult, as I said, you sort of (in a deterministic sense) choose what information/people you expose yourself to. But these decisions are based on your values that you formed in your younger years, which are already in place.
So even if you choose to read the bible, some people will find it compelling and it will strengthen their faith. But others will read it and find themselves disbelieving in God. They don't necessarily read the bible to make that decision. In fact I know several atheists now who were in bible college when their studies led them to atheism. Not by choice, but just because the information compelled them to make that honest conclusion. It was traumatic for some of them, certainly not fun for any of them to go through such an experience.
So you just can't make yourself believe or disbelieve at will.
Here is a simple two part experiment. 1. Stop believing in gravity. 2. Start believing that dragons live on top of your building.
If you can make yourself believe and disbelieve at will, I would venture to guess you are quite unusual and easily deluded. No offense, but I believe that would be considered a mental illness.
1 There are many people who read the bible and that has led them to realize that it's mostly contradictory and full of horrible fairy tales, and has led them to become atheists. And many atheists will read the bible just to be better informed. But we also read other books that are atheist, skeptical and scientific.
2 TAM is The Amazing Meeting, a James Randi Educational Foundation sponsored convention for secular/skeptical people. They sound really awesome and now take place around the world.
3 There are a very few parents that teach their children to think for themselves, and share multiple worldviews with them and let the children eventually form their own belief system, but this is very rare.