Is it possible for a Religious person to go full circle and become atheist

We’ve all heard or read about an atheist finding God and how inspirational that can be.

But is there any examples of folk going the other way ?

Of course it’s possible, but far less likely.

Some conversion types are just typically more “one way” than others: It is common to see Jews become Christians; but very rare to see a Christian become a Jew, for example.

Deacon Christopher


Thank you Fr.

For example , a person who has dedicated themselves to the Clergy . Then to move completely away from Religion. Something very sad must have taken place I can only assume?

But wouldn’t perhaps a small part of them still believe somewhere. Dunno.

Unfortunately yes. I know of a priest that left priesthood, got married and from what I heard now is not even practicing anymore. It happens, God gave us freedom. It is sad but part of the freedom is also freedom to reject His Love.


I don’t think so. In Jewish communities there is a lot of stigma about conversion to Christianity or Islam; becoming atheist or Buddhist Is much more tolerated. Judaism is not a religion proselytizing but nowadays conversion is not as hard as in the past, especially in Reform Judaism or for people connected by blood or marriage to the Jewish community.


Of course. I think the largest single religious group in the United States is Catholics, followed by ex-Catholics. People leave the faith all the time. It’s sad, but it happens. Of course it’s not clear how many of those who left were actual practicing Catholics in the first place as opposed to nominal ones.

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I know Jews are more likely to become Buddhist or atheist, that’s not my point.

My point is that it is far more likely for a Jew to become a Christian than a Christian to become a Jew.

I know twenty-some Christians who were Jews formerly, but I only know one Christian who became a Jew.

This is just my anecdotal experience. But, as someone who works full time for the Church, and has done so for 15 years; and is involved in local Jewish-Catholic relations, and community ecumenism, I am probably more aware of these things than others.

Your mileage may vary,
Deacon Christopher

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Yes. Especially if they were taught the faith, poorly.


Something must have happened for him to walk away. I couldn’t imagine myself becoming a non-believer.

I agree, and yes it is possible.

Its also possible for a Christian to become part of another religion, Judaism, Islamic, Buddhists… or any of the other religions in the world. It is possible.

but to return to becoming a full atheist would be hard, not impossible but hard… because

Once God has you, He has you, He is never letting you go.

Also, its hard to know something and then say you don’t know it… once you’ve seen something you’ve seen it… its hard to unsee (is that a word) something.

So, for an atheist to become a Christian means something major happen for them to find God. I can’t imagine what could possible have happened for them to deny Him again, it had to be something very traumatic. :frowning:

We’ve all heard the old saying , better to have loved and lost.

But regarding religion could that still be the case ?

I wonder how God feels about someone who loved him then rejected him.

Or would it have been better to not have known him in the 1st instance.

I think that all Christians get to be sifted by the devil. I think all of us at some point are going to have something really hard to go through and we have the choice to grab onto God harder or to run from him. Be sure the devil wants to find that something that will make you want to leave God. Maybe they won’t be an atheist but when asked about God, they might reply that they aren’t on speaking terms. That suits the devil just fine.

Jesus to Peter…

31 Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”…

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I don’t have anything other than my own anecdotal observation, but it seems as if…

A kid starts out a religious.
Then they learn a bit of history and science and become skeptics or non believers.
But then they keep delving even further and at some point become believers again…


I am very surprised that you say that. Just among people I know, I can think of more than 30 who have gone from being religious to non-religious. That is without even having to think very hard. People I know who have renounced religion include a former Catholic priest, a former Anglican deacon, a former Baptist minister, four former Catholic seminarians, several theology graduates, including one who was actively pursuing ordination, as well as numerous former Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, and Salvationists, several of whom were active as altar servers, in the choir, children’s/youth ministry, etc. I also know several Jewish atheists and one Muslim who is openly gay, so probably not exactly religious.

In my experience, I cannot think of anything like the same number of people who have converted from unbelief to belief. And the numbers bear this out: religious people are giving up religion more than non-religious people are embracing religion.

I honestly have not seen many people where the last part happens. If any. Among people I know, it’s pretty much that they started out religious and then gave up religion due to learning more about science, psychology, philosophy, history, anthropology, and even religion itself, or because of some personal tragedy (a bereavement or being sexually abused with the Church being the most common), and who then never came back.


Once, I used to embrace Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity - yes, all of them seriously. I devoted my prayers to each distinct faith. My parents used to be amazed. And then, enter my early 20s – I became such an atheist I hated people who talked about God. No, nothing traumatic (or eventful) happened that evolved me into an atheist.

Now, in my late 20s , the story is different.


I know a former Protestant minister who is now atheist.

Yes. But often, when you listen to these stories, the people who go from religious to atheist are usually * very scandalized by human behavior and can’t understand why God allows free will

  • very scandalized by natural disasters and don’t understand why God allows horrible accidents and/or diseases to affect children
  • they don’t understand why God (as a Father) punishes His children from time to time.

In other words, they typically can’t reconcile the “Problem of Evil”


Yes, because we are sinful beings free to reject God’s love and mercy. Our will is disordered and desires things that will not satisfy it, deceiving itself with the lie that it can find meaning without God. Sometimes, someone may be struggling with a particular sin and give up on God and apostatise.
Other times, someone might have a “brain dead” fideist faith which cannot stand up to even the weakest criticism and this may be the catalyst for apostasy - here it is important to give good catechises and not dumb down the faith but to expose the faithful to the rich philosophical and theological tradition of the Church and really delve into the Holy Bible.
Sometimes, people are faced with an immense tragedy and lose all faith in God - perhaps because they had a weak faith to begin with however anyone can fall into despair and it is not something to be taken lightly, a good pastor and spiritual director is necessary to help bring people through their difficulty.
It is possible for the faithful to become atheist but I think it would be highly unusual for a well formed believer to apostatise.

Wow thank you for sharing your experience.
Admittedly I know a couple of people who have turned away from the church sadly, but never met anyone who lost their faith.

No I tell a lie, there is one guy in his late 50s who was brought up Catholic. But now believes there is no God.

I’ve known him for over 15 yrs and I dare not ask him why. As I don’t want our good friendship to go in a different direction so to speak.

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