William Alston is a religious philosopher who worked with Alvin Plantinga to develop Reformed Epistemology, which is a way for religionists to justify their God belief on the grounds that such beliefs are foundational, in the same way that empiricists would claim that belief in the existence physical objects based on the evidence of the senses constitutes foundational belief. Alston also taught at the University of Illinois in Urbana, which happens to be where Victor Reppert got his PhD. I don't know if they knew each other, but Reppert has posted an excerpt from one of Alston's essays that describes his return to the fold of religious faith after a period of youthful denial of that belief. It struck me that this conversion story was in some ways similar to that of CS Lewis, whose writing figures prominently in the thinking and works of Reppert. Both had grown up with religious belief and turned away from it in their youth, in the academic environment where rejection of religion was the trend. And both lacked the scientific framework of understanding that would have given them a solid rational basis for non-belief. So they ended up returning to belief, and making it sound as if their justification is logical and rational, when it really wasn't.
It seems that Alston based his non-belief on Sigmund Freud, whose psychological challenge to religious belief was popular at the time. Freud postulated that religion was wishful thinking - the creation of a father figure to provide order and ease the stresses and psychological turmoil of the world. Alston saw this as a good reason to reject religious faith.
The main bar to faith was rather the Freudian idea that religious faith is a wish fulfillment–more specifically, an attempt to cling to childish modes of relating to the world, with the omnipotent daddy there presiding over everything. - AlstonBut this conviction was only temporary. He eventually came to recognize the limited value of Freud's views of religion, and to feel that this "scientific" view was just a way to manipulate him and his fellows in acadenia into denying the real truth (which he had never really left completely behind):
I had been psyched into feeling that I was chickening out, was betraying my adult status, if I sought God in Christ, or sought to relate myself to an ultimate source and disposer of things in any way whatever. .... I suddenly said to myself, "Why should I allow myself to be cribbed, cabined, and confined by these Freudian ghosts? Why should I be so afraid of not being adult? What am I trying to prove? ... What is more important: to struggle to conform my life to the tenets of some highly speculative system of psychology or to recognize and come to terms with my own real needs? - AlstonAlston was right about Freud. As insightful as Freud might have been about psychological motivations, his theory of religion was speculative. There was never any convincing proof of it. And it did turn out to be substantially wrong, by the reckoning of current scientifically-based hypotheses of religious belief, which holds that the hyperactive agency detection device (HADD) is the biological basis of religion. HADD is an evolutionary outcome of survival-oriented behavior going back much earlier than the existence of humans. It is the root of God belief, which is then embellished in various ways by fulfilling the wish for eternal life, anthropomorphizing God and seeing him as a father figure, adding a moral dimension, etc.
But Alston's reason for going back to religion is poorly considered. If he felt that he was being bullied or chided into non-belief, it wasn't because of any conspiracy by scientists (or anyone else) to manipulate him toward atheism. Even Freud's wrong-headed hypothesis was not conceived with the intention of influencing belief. Alston's reaction to this feeling was to return to what he really wanted to believe all along, rather than taking a more scientific approach to understanding why we believe. A scientific mindset builds a framework of understanding that encompasses all kinds of knowledge, which fit coherently together. This coherency makes the framework robust. It is not dependent on any one theory which could turn out to be wrong.
Alston is typical of the ex-atheist who returns to belief after dabbling with scientific views, but never having a robust scientific mindset that would develop the real rational basis for non-belief. It's understandable that Freud's theory didn't work for him, and that may have colored his view of science as a whole. But a real scientific-based rejection of religious belief isn't due to any single theory. It's part of a coherent scientific understanding of nature and the world. For Alston to return to the fold of God-belief because of one theory that doesn't work is really just an excuse to go back to the comfort of a deeply embedded belief system that he grew up with. It is to abandon any pretense of a scientific view that he might have claimed to have.
I had, by the grace of God, finally found the courage to look the specter in the face and tell him to go away. I had been given the courage to face the human situation, with its radical need for a proper relation to the source of all being.Alston rationalizes his embrace of religion as the discovery of "courage". Religious belief provides comfort, and science was never designed to provide comfort. But neither was it designed to coerce people into atheism. As discomforting as it may be to many people, atheism just happens to be the inescapable result of scientific understanding. That's something that Alston never had the courage to accept.