Coming to Grips with Christian De-Conversion
I have recently been reading a couple books on addiction, grief and loss. I am doing this because of what I see as the lack of books, support groups, or programs which deal specifically with De-Conversion or Apostasy from Christianity. I have found several books which help one recognize when you are in a dysfunctional or manipulative religious cult of some kind or another, and they have been somewhat helpful. But how does one deal specifically with the loss that accompanies Christian apostasy?
And there is loss. I have been a Christian for my entire life, as far as I can tell. And while I truly am at peace without the threat of eternal damnation looming over humanity, I cannot go that that many years as a devout Christian and not feel a some kind of vacuum left over in my soul.
I don’t think that vacuum is the absence of God. Rather it is the loss of my weekly Bible study, the camaraderie, always knowing when your Christian brothers and sisters will be there.
But maybe I am wrong about that, or at least maybe there is more to consider. Maybe I do sense that absence of God. After all, I have recently come to the conclusion that my Savior, my Redeemer and Lord, Jesus Christ is in fact dead – if he ever existed at all. I worshiped that divine mirage for most all of my life. When a good friend has died, I feel loss. This is not quite as bad as that – but it is a similar sense of grief.
I ran into a couple from my old church just yesterday out in the grocery store parking lot. It was great to see them. I can only hope they are sincere when they say they want to try and see us again – to come visit at our new house. But what do I do when they see my bookshelf with my latest reading material? What do I do when they eventually ask me why I have not yet repented and returned to Jesus? I have no desire to recruit them into the ranks of apostasy! But I fear that after they see that I have really rejected the Jesus of Faith as a mythical god, I will lose them again, they will again prohibit their teenage kids to visit our house, and that cycle will continue.
I am lucky in that I do not have children going through this with me. De-Conversion really is like a divorce – a divorce from a large part of myself and a former way of thinking, and much like a divorce, I have to slog close family and friends right along with me. My wife, who was raised catholic and still practices that religion, has been tremendous, very loving, patient and a goldmine of wisdom. We listen to each other, and in the meantime we have challenged each other with our different beliefs. We have reached an understanding with each other that we both accept. But I also know that many leave Christianity only to drag a confused spouse along with them, and there is never a truce in the differing beliefs, much less a mutual understanding. It sometimes even ends in marital divorce.
In that regard I am lucky. But many apostate Christians are not. They have husbands, wives and children who are left confused. There is a loss. And there is grief. This is why I advice caution to those who are leaving the Christian faith. It is easy to get wrapped up and excited with any change in philosophy that has shaped your life. You may feel like you have discovered some hidden knowledge or something new and fresh! And while the discarding of former beliefs may be inevitable for you, remember that something has to fill that void that used to be filled with a Christian faith. Choose wisely, slowly and cautiously. There is no rush. Go slow, and evaluate along the way. You do not even have to discard your faith completely. Some become atheists. Some hold onto a vague conception of God. Others change into other esoteric forms of belief. Whatever you do, you are moving through a period that will change, not only your life, but your family’s lives as well.
This is the point where I am at now. I am no longer a Christian, but in a way I miss the childlike beliefs and worldview I once had. Maybe there is some kind of god, but right now I am of the opinion that I will never know for sure. So I am stuck in a godless, morally neutral universe, and I am on my own with coming to grips with that reality. In one sense, that is exciting, empowering, liberating, and even, dare I say, spiritually awakening! At has been a grand new world of discovery for me and seeing my life with a whole new perspective! On the other hand, I have to deal with the fact that God is not there to guide me, he is not there to direct me, or to love me, to gently chastise me when I need correction. There is nobody there to answer my prayers when I need help, or advice, or comfort, or wisdom. All my life, what I took as that presence of the Divine was really emotion and hope and wishfulness welled up deep inside me, and I am just now realizing that. I am on my own – it is time for me to ‘put away childish things’ and grow up.
I know this article maybe depicts me as gloomy and maybe overly sensitive. I admit that I do dream, I do wonder and get lost in my thoughts, – but I am far from gloomy. I love life, I love what I have been given, and I love to laugh. It is just that my life has changed recently because something was taken away from me that likely never existed in the first place. It is sometimes hard to come to grips with that.
I wish there was a better way for me to deal with this. For now, I talk to my wife, a couple of friends, and write dopey articles on this website. But there is no easy place to meet with others like I did at my Baptist church. There is no ‘First Church of the Apostate’ here in my town. Maybe I could be the founding pastor, eh?
Enough about me. I need your thoughts and experiences.