The stages of grief over my loss of faith

November 9, 2007 at 1:59 pm 65 comments

GriefI had, over a period of many years, thought about a number of questions regarding faith, life, etc., but I usually stopped short of taking my thoughts to their logical conclusions. At some point last year, however, I realized that I had drifted from standard Christian theism to pretty much of a deist position.

Last summer, I was asked to write a book review of Parenting Beyond Belief, which endorses explicitly atheistic points of view with regard to child-rearing. When I initially got the request, I jokingly said to myself, “I’d better be careful or I’ll be a full-fledged atheist by the time I finish the book.” In fact, I almost declined the review because I didn’t want to risk endangering my faith. Then I realized that, if my faith was that flimsy, then it wasn’t worth keeping. Sure enough, as I read the book, I kept pausing and thinking, “that idea makes an awful lot more sense than Christian idea X.” After I wrote the review, I realized that the book had pushed me into systematically thinking through many of the questions I had shelved over the years. This was the catalyst that prompted my de-conversion process.

Denial

At that point, I went through an intense period of searching for answers. This was the denial phase of grief over my impending loss of faith. I did not want to lose or give up my faith and I fought to keep it. Consequently I devoured Christian and atheist web sites and blogs. I read portions of the Bible. I read 20 books within 3 weeks: McLaren, Geisler, Campolo, Borg, Wright, Templeton, Mills, Eller, etc. During the first week, my reading was heavily skewed toward Christian literature – 6 books in 8 days. I said to myself, “I’ve always been taught that God will honor the prayers of sincere seekers. . . his Word will not return void. . . .”

Shock

By the end of that first week, I realized that I no longer believed. The Christian literature was contradictory. The Bible was inconsistent. The Christian concept of God was incoherent. The apologetics were logically flawed. I was in emotional, spiritual and psychological shock for several days. I could think of nothing else but my loss of faith and the fact that I would never be able to recover it. I now realize that this period of shock was the second stage of my grieving process.

Anger

Then, I went through the anger stage. The most intense moments of this phase came when I learned that the “virgin birth” verse in Matthew is mistranslated. Translating the Hebrew text as “young woman” rather than “virgin” makes a huge difference doctrinally (regardless of NT Wright’s assertion to the contrary). The standard Christian apologists’ assurances that all of the Bible’s translation errors are minor (simple numerical discrepancies, etc.) and have no bearing on doctrine is flat-out wrong! And when I read, in several sources (Including his own writings), that St. Jerome knew that the translation was wrong, but offered some twisted logic for preserving the error, I was furious. I read about how an early Church father (perhaps it was Eusebius?) doctored the writings of Josephus so that they would appear to confirm more explicitly the life and ministry of Jesus. And I read much more that confirmed by non-belief. Even though I was furious with Christian preachers and teachers, much of my anger was directed at myself. How could I have been so stupid? Why didn’t I see through this stuff before? I’m a well-educated woman living in the 21st century. How could I have gone decades without recognizing that religious doctrine is all speculation? That none is any more correct than any other? None of the biblical writers really knew what they were writing about. None of the Church fathers or reformers through the ages knew what they were teaching to be factual. And contemporary Christian scholars don’t actually know what they’re talking and writing about either. It’s all guesswork, wishful thinking and ready acceptance of the traditions of our forebears. Every bit of it.

Acceptance

Finally, I settled into acceptance. I became comfortable with the thought that, if there is a creator, none of the human conceptions of that entity are anywhere close to accurate. Therefore, for all practical purposes, there is no God. Certainly the judgmental, jealous, loving, omniscient, omnipotent, immutable, capricious entity posited by the Abramic religions is not real. And other conceptions are not any more likely to be real either. If God exists, he/she/it is not a personal entity involved in or concerned with the affairs of humankind. That being has not revealed itself through miracles or sacred texts or incarnations. Once I accepted these ideas, I realized that I am free to live my life according to my values. Moreover, I am free to define and shape those values. And most importantly, I am free to make the most of this life, now, and I’d better do so, because this is the only life I’ll ever have.

I will close by saying that I don’t define myself simply as an atheist, by an affirmation of what I don’t believe. Rather, I consider myself a rational humanist, an affirmation of values that I hold dear, values that I’m free to refine as new knowledge and experiences come my way. In short, I’m free to grow in my beautiful, imperfect, precious humanity. It’s a wonderful life.

- the chaplain

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Reasons why I can no longer believe: 2 – God as a ‘no show’ Unless you are sinless, lay your stone down and walk away

65 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lorena  |  November 9, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    Thank you so much for writing that, the chaplain. In many ways, you’ve nicely summarized my journey. I don’t know how long your process lasted, but it seems like it is going forever with me.

    I feel that I am approaching acceptance, but it still painful. Yesterday I spent a few hours listening to secular music that people heard during my 20 years of hardcore Christianity. I was morning the fact that for all practical purposes, I was dead during those 20 years. The problem is that I am having a hard time gaining back my life. I suppose I am still morning the loss of my faith, even though I find it impossible to go back to it.

    Anyway, thank you for your article. It made me think and it made me face some of my “demons.”

  • 2. Rebecca  |  November 9, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    Thanks the chaplain. I really enjoyed reading that.

  • 3. JP Manzi  |  November 9, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    Wow, this is me to a T. These exact emotions are what have already transpired within me. I am now in the anger stage. I find myself getting quite disturbed to the point where I may get a little “agressive” with my christian friends.

    Thank you for this.

  • 4. HeIsSailing  |  November 9, 2007 at 6:29 pm

    the chaplain, thanks for writing this article. I wanted to write a similar article some time ago, but the problem was I never went through these 4 stages of loss, that are very similar stages when facing death or divorce .

    My stages were/are more like this:
    Shock
    Grief
    Acceptance
    Curiosity

  • 5. JP Manzi  |  November 9, 2007 at 6:40 pm

    Curiosity is a good one. I am at the point now where I say to myself “now what”?

  • 6. hughstan  |  November 9, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    An excellent blog. Thank you.

    The challenge is that most if not all of your discoveries of what doesn’t make sense about Christianity come from the machinations of those who took the fact of Jesus Christ and turned it into a man made religion. Not only that, they created the myth that the systems and procedures of what has become known as ‘the church’ is the revelation of God.

    Well, I make no judgement about that, were I to do so it would deny what I believe, but it makes no sense to me, as it does not to you.

    Let me simply say, for what little it is worth, that I have been through all the agonies and pain that you have, as my early beliefs foundered into dust, and came out of that storm believing in a much deeper way than ever I did before, because all the hypocrisy and lies that disguise the truth had disappeared.

    I will not allow ‘the church’ as it has become, to hide the truth as it is.

    I lovingly wish you all the best as you seek truth for yourself.

    You have made a great start by discovering and rejecting the lies.

  • 7. karen  |  November 9, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    I can very much relate, the chaplain – I’m sure we all can. The self-anger is/was the toughest for me to get over, though that is starting to happen for me, finally.

    What’s interesting about your story is that it sounds like you deconverted from a deistic belief, rather than from theism or specifically from Christianity?

    A lot of times people tell me that deconverts are all former fundamentalists, and I’ve always found that suspect. I think there are plenty of deconverts from liberal religious faith, too, but it’s generally not as tough a process for them. But your process sounds identical to what I went through, minus the fear.

    For fundies, there’s a lot of fear around taking those initial steps and the fear factor doesn’t go away for quite a long time.

    Thanks for writing this!

  • 8. Anonymous  |  November 9, 2007 at 10:28 pm

    I love coming upon writes up like yours because I am happy to see that people are starting to question religions.

    I had been seeking something for many years that I could completely feel was truth. All of the belief systems/religions I was introduced to seem to have a dark side and I couldn’t buy into them totally.

    It wasn’t until 1994 that I found something that resonated with me so much that I eventually created the following website to relay some messages that are cosmically aligned and what I call profound knowledge. To many it may seem a bit out there. I can only say that what has been written makes total sense to me and I trust it to be true and good. If you wish to explore this further, visit http://www.cosmicmessengers .com

    These cosmic beings are loving and have a great deal of compassion for the deprivation that we on this planet are coping with. Especially about religion, faiths, belief systems or what ever you want to call it.

    Blessings

  • 9. the chaplain  |  November 9, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    Karen:
    Thanks for raising your questions. Since this post was originally a comment to someone else’s post, my background is not revealed in any detail.

    I grew up in an evangelical Christian family and “accepted Jesus as my Savior” when I was 16. I went to a conservative Christian college, where I met my husband. After some additional education, we both served as evangelical ministers for 11 years. We left the ministry when I entered graduate school to get a Ph.D. That was 11 years ago.

    My de-conversion began approximately 9 years ago. By the time I finished graduate school, my beliefs had shifted from evangelicalism to liberal Christianity. Over the past 6 years, my beliefs gradually shifted more, until I realized, perhaps a year or so ago, that the beliefs I actually held probably were more deist than Christian.

    By this time, I had rejected the exclusionary claims of Christianity as the one and only way to God, the one true religion. I also had pretty much rejected belief in the efficacy of prayer and found it increasingly difficult to believe that God actually took any interest at all in human affairs. After all, thousands of people starve to death every night, are raped, brutalized, terrorized and murdered every day, etc. I realized it was pretty egocentric to believe that God really, really cared whether I took a job at Company X or Company Y, or whether I drank a glass of wine with dinner on any given night when there were lots of more critical life-and-death issues that clearly needed His attention. I mean, I would understand if, on any given morning He had to let me find my own car keys so that he could stop the molestation of a child down the street. For these and other reasons, I was pretty sure that most Christian doctrines were in error and that God, if he/she/it exists, was pretty much a watchmaker/creator type of entity.

    This, in a nutshell, is the point in my spiritual/intellectual journey where the post opens. By the time I finished de-converting, I realized that my “deism” was simply an attempt to hold on to some sort of faith. And this was motivated, I think, by a fair amount of fear. I mean, if I was wrong and Christians were right, hell is a nasty place to spend eternity! I figured at least hanging on to some belief in God, even if it was full of errors, was better than letting it all go. At this point, I hold the fairly strong atheist position that it is unlikely that any type of divine or supernatural creator exists. I hope the back story fills in some gaps and answers some of your questions.

  • 10. athinkingman  |  November 10, 2007 at 5:21 am

    the chaplain, your posting prompted me reflect on my own stages of grief. I realized that I had got stuck in the ‘bargaining stage’ for a long time – you know, if only, if only … If only Christians and myself could have demonstrated more consistent, deep lasting change then I might not have chosen to reject my faith. If only evangelical scholars had provided the convincing counter-blasts to the revelations of biblical criticism then I might still be able to cling on to the good book that I grew up with. If only my church was less fundamentalist then I might have not been so embarassed by it and stayed longer. If only being an atheist was more stressful than being a Christian and leading me into all kinds of ruin then I might be compelled to go back.

    I am moving towards emotional acceptance that my canoe has gone over the waterfall, that the loss is final, and that there is no way that I could ever paddle it back up, even if I wanted to.

  • 11. Dale McGowan  |  November 10, 2007 at 11:33 am

    My goodness — that was tremendously moving to me. I’m glad the book was a helpful catalyst. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Dale McGowan
    Editor/co-author, Parenting Beyond Belief

  • 12. karen  |  November 10, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    Thanks the chaplain, that back story does answer my question, and I also found it very interesting. I’m always amazed at the number of deconverts who were either leading ministry or very involved in lay ministry (like myself). A further rebuttal to the kneejerk claim that deconverts were “not truly Christians” to start with!

    You sound like Dan Barker, who kept minimizing his notion of god until finally he “got to the end of the bathwater, and there was no baby!”

    You wrote:
    After all, thousands of people starve to death every night, are raped, brutalized, terrorized and murdered every day, etc. I realized it was pretty egocentric to believe that God really, really cared whether I took a job at Company X or Company Y, or whether I drank a glass of wine with dinner on any given night when there were lots of more critical life-and-death issues that clearly needed His attention.

    You know, the more I think about it, the more value I see in this point in terms of introducing cognitive dissonance to the religious mindset. For those interested in pointing out the problems with fundamentalism, this egocentric notion of a personal god is one of the best ways to do it, I think.

    Trying to argue evolution vs creationism goes straight down a rabbit hole. Trying to explain the basic disconnect of an omnipotent god who “creates” original sin is too convoluted for many to follow.

    But explaining how selfish it is to believe god helped you find your car keys while he let an innocent kid get raped by a priest – everyone can “get” that notion, I think, and start to realize how wrong it is.

  • 13. jim  |  November 10, 2007 at 10:33 pm

    This has been an extremely timely and helpful read for me and my wife. I’m in the anger stage bordering acceptance. Last night I vented some of that to my wife (*** to her, not at her – she’s a wonderful listener) but I don’t think I’ve understood what is going on with me until I read this article.

    Thanks!

  • 14. LeoPardus  |  November 11, 2007 at 11:28 am

    the chaplain:

    Good article. I think the anger phase was very brief for me, but I felt the others intensely.
    BTW I noticed that you left out ‘Bargaining’. I think I tried that one a lot. “God, I’ll drop it all and come back right now, if you’ll just do something/anything.”

  • 15. loopyloo350  |  November 11, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    Interesting positions you are all taking here and I feel your loss, anger, pain, grief. I must point out, however, that you sound very arrogant and almost disdainful. If you are so sure of you beliefs, do you dismiss all others? Do you honestly feel that you are right and everyone else is wrong? Or is there still a small light shining, that has some hope that God will give you a sign and prove you are wrong? Peace and light to you and all around you!!

  • 16. the chaplain  |  November 11, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Leo:
    I think bargaining was wrapped up in the denial stage. As I read Christian books and scriptures, I kept praying, “Show me something that will convince me You are real.” Even after I turned away from Christian writings to atheist/humanist books, I’d see a Christian book, pick it up and think, “Maybe there’s something in here that I haven’t considered.” I’d read it and, as I closed the back cover, think, “Nope. More of the same old, same old.There are no new arguments for God’s existence or the validity of Christianity over all other religions that exist now and ever have existed.” Some of that may have overlapped into the shock stage too. The grief stages are useful constructs, but few processes in life actually fit neatly into linear models. I just found it useful to recognize, early on, that I was losing something that had been the center of my life for decades and to recognize that it was appropriate to mourn that loss.

    Loopyloo350:
    I’m sorry you find my tone arrogant and disdainful. I’ve read my post and additional comment and honestly fail to see how you derive those conclusions. I’ve been honest and clear, and I’ve only described my own journey. I fail to see how admitting that I was in error all of my life is arrogant. No, I don’t feel that I am right and everyone else is wrong. I empathetically understand why most of the people I know, love and respect, many of whom are admittedly far more intelligent than I am, continue to be caught up in Christianity and I am not on a mission to de-convert them. I still love and respect them, but I disagree with them on matters of faith. I also willingly admit that I know little or nothing about most of the things that go on in this world. To my shame, I am woefully ignorant about many things, but there simply isn’t enough time in one lifetime to learn and experience all of the good things this world offers. And frankly, I am far more interested in learning about this world than in speculating about the next.

    I have to wonder though, why Christians are allowed to proclaim their beliefs loudly and, often, belligerently without being tagged as arrogant. You don’t find their certainty that they’re saved and I’m going to hell just a tad arrogant? Why is that, when Christians proclaim their faith boldly and confidently, they’re strong in their faith, but when atheists proclaim their lack of faith equally clearly and boldly, we are arrogant? This double-standard is really annoying and, frankly unbecoming. We’re not the ones singing, “Onward atheist soldiers, marching as to war, with the fish of Darwin going on before. . . .”

  • 17. loopyloo350  |  November 11, 2007 at 4:57 pm

    the chaplain, Oh, yes. I find Christians that proclaim they know everything and that they are right and everyone else is wrong and going to hell extremely arrogant and disdainful. Have you ever searched for something and given up because you couldn’t find it? I’ve been there and the funny thing is, I found it when I gave up. I don’t think anybody knows everything, I just find arrogance extremely annoying. If you are happy and God exists, as I believe, He will know you by your heart and works. I think words are probably almost meaningless in the equation.To quit searching for knowledge and assume anything, is to me, much more hypocritical for a thinking people. We are too much more than just reactionary animals. Peace and lightness follow you and may knowledge always be within your reach.

  • 18. the chaplain  |  November 11, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    loopyloo35:
    I’m glad that you find peace and satisfaction in your faith even though I don’t share any experience like it at this time. I think we both agree that arrogance of any kind is irritating.

    It may appear to Christians who visit this site that the posts of the de-converted are overly confident. Speaking only for myself, that new-found confidence came after an intensely unsettling period of disequilibrium. I apologize if I come across as cocky sometimes. That is merely the stumbling of one who is struggling to find my footing and learn to express myself appropriately in an intellectual world that is stunningly new.

    There is an old gospel song (not Amazing Grace, which has a similar line) that says, “Once I was blind, but now I see, this one thing I know,” which is intended to express the confidence of the Christian convert. That line fits my experience as a de-convert perfectly. I feel as if I spent my entire life prior to my de-conversion wearing a blindfold. When I finally found the courage to rip off the blindfold and look at the world with unimpeded intellectual vision, it looked startlingly different: fascinating, absorbing, beautiful without the need to superimpose some other reality upon it.

    Newly converted Christians are expected to be, and often are, exuberant about their faith. Please have the grace to allow de-converts to enjoy our corresponding exuberance at our newfound freedom, which comes at the tremendous, painful cost of losing faith.

  • 19. loopyloo350  |  November 12, 2007 at 9:32 am

    I do not want to take anything from anyone, happiness is hard to find for almost all of us. My faith doesn’t always leave me happy. sometimes it leaves me extremely conflicted. I did not come back to faith easily, I was dragged, kicking, screaming, fighting all the way. If you are happy where you are, you are very lucky. The many years I spent denying my faith were not unhappy and in a way I envy you. But the thirst for knowledge pulls on me like the desire for drugs in an addict. I can neither quit searching nor accept quietly. May your happiness stay with you forever. May peace follow you, and may the light always illuminate your path wherever you go.

  • 20. bipolar2  |  November 12, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    ** fostering ignorance. . . it’s the logic of moneyed despotism **

    There are nations like Sweden and Japan where the dominant culture is secular.

    Among developed nations, the U.S. is strongly anomalous in having a high percentage of persons willing to self-identify as religious. Most of these are xians.

    Otherwise intelligent people, including those who have risen to powerful positions in government, military, media, public education and business are apt themselves to be xian or support xian viewpoints. The main exception is scientists who are overwhelmingly non-religious.

    Most persons in the U.S. simply end up being born into households which are at least nominally xian. Upbringing, with its combination of indoctrination and punishment, induces beliefs without any reasoning being applied. (Islam in Pakistan, Hinduism in India, Buddhism in Thailand are no different in kind.)

    The typical American enters life disadvantaged, hobbled by irrational beliefs. Removing harmful ideas implanted early in life, reinforced by the dominant culture, demands luck as well as pluck.

    Xianity, as a “voluntary” association, extends brainwashed childhood and adolescence into adulthood, even to the grave. Strident sub-culture xians spew hate-based fundie ideology through mega-churches, radio call-in, televangelists supported by fundie military officers, right-wing politicos, and executive branch thugs. Military-industrial-xian-fascists.

    American ignorance of science is a mere corollary of cultural poison injected into the body politic by christo-terrorists, such as the Kansas state school board. The same ignorance manifests itself in basic civics and history. The ignorant are easier to control.

    Irrationality reigns because it has money and power behind it. Power has its own logic. The possession of ever more power.

    bipolar2
    copyright asserted 2007

  • 21. Grace  |  November 12, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    While I haven’t become an atheist, I am an Ex-Christian. 6 years I walked away from the church and experienced a year long Dark Night of the Soul. Since coming out of that period, I have allowed myself to investigate and even practice certain things that were against fundamentalist doctrine. And on a previous blog, I wrote extensively about losing my religion.

    I haven’t lost my faith, however. I still maintain a degree of relationship with an Entity that – after 20 years of interaction with while in ministry, etc. – that I consider to be Jesus. NOT the Jesus of the New Testament. NOT necessarily the Jesus that is espoused in the church. But the ‘real’ Jesus…metaphysician, Lightworker, Healer…perhaps even more.

    I remember very clearly the day I realized that the Jesus of Christianity appeared to be very much a conglomerate of mythologicals ‘gods’ that came before Him. I felt like someone had died.

    6 years later, I still haven’t recovered. Just this past weekend, I posted on it…

    Thanks for sharing. Over the years I’ve found that there are alot of ‘us’ out here…wandering in the Wilderness…looking for a new spiritual Home.

  • 22. HeIsSailing  |  November 12, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    Grace says:

    Over the years I’ve found that there are alot of ‘us’ out here…wandering in the Wilderness…looking for a new spiritual Home.

    I have come to discover this as well, Grace. I have to wonder how many folks there are, sitting passively in the pews week after week, who are just too afraid to admit to everyone around them, that they no longer believe.

  • 23. Ken  |  November 13, 2007 at 1:34 am

    The scales have fallen from her eyes.

    Welcome home.

  • 24. Isabel Joely Black  |  November 13, 2007 at 7:35 am

    I think this is an excellent post, and having read the diplomatic manner in which you’ve responded to others, I’m even more impressed! I feel a bit odd reading this because I was raised as an atheist, and although I investigated Christianity couldn’t bear it for more than about a week, if that. I think it takes immense courage to do this kind of thing – not specifically de-converting from Christianity but to explore and ask questions of any paradigm or belief system into which one was raised – and to keep on asking questions to find out what you truly believe. This is an honest and thoughtful post and actually clarified for me, at the end, what I might label myself as right now (although anybody reading my blog would probably call me a Buddhist). I really enjoyed reading it.

  • 25. Isabel Joely Black  |  November 13, 2007 at 7:36 am

    Sorry, I’ve just realised I am logged in on my writing blog – you can find me at http://isabeljoelyblack.wordpress.com if you’re interested in reading.

  • 26. The Chode  |  November 14, 2007 at 12:26 am

    Heh I guess I only recently got my “blessed assurance” that the christian faith is truly wrong. seeing that a woman of 84 years old who proclaims herself to be the worlds foremost expert on the bible, even though I have proven her incorrect on several passages, and scientific laws that are defied by said passages, can tell me that I’m going to hell, and that I’m not right in the head, and that I’d better get myself right with god, when all I had known my whole life, is christianity till about highschool. when you grow up christian, you never were “lost” so how can you associate with the part about I once was lost, but now am found. from the time I could form cognitive lasting thought patterns, I was telling myself that I was >The Only< true believer in god/jesus. However I remembered a time, when I actually threatened god at one point. and that blasphemy is considered by most sects to be unforgivable (an obvious point of control that the catholics used to keep the peasants in line during the dark ages). so I figured I was screwed either way. and if I’m wrong, I’m sure the christian god/jesus will allow me “back in” when I find the truth. however I cannot see any possible way until perhaps after I die, that anything could get me “right with god” again. no amount of bargaining, or word play, or scriptures that I’ve already read, dissected, and blasphemed against (by the scientific picking apart) can reaffirm my faith in “Jesus Christ” as the saviour of the world, or the “only begotten son of god” the lamb that was sacrificed to pay for my sin, that god himself created. in fact, if there is a god, I’ve pretty much perceived my life during the faith bearing years as a sick twisted, and rigged game of cards. so if the bible is the truth, I’d probably rather spend eternity burning and hanging out with a big red dude with horns, hell I can get used to pain as it is. at least I wouldn’t have to live amongst a bunch of other people “just like me” that were put into a world of suffering, (as that is what most christians face everyday when confronted with so much “SIN”, the christians in my family believe practically everything is a sin including asking questions when forced to believe something you know isn’t true, which by its own definition, according to the bible, is sin) and seeing his smiling face, and wondering if he got off on my suffering, while still being “forced” to worship him.

  • 27. The Chode  |  November 14, 2007 at 12:28 am

    and yeah I’m probably going to be in the anger stages until all of the christians that I consider family die, once they can’t “suffer for my sins” any more, I’ll hang up my angry-hat, angry-coat, and just be content with my life. but as far as your live and let live attitude, I just cant do it, because that isn’t the attitude that my family has toward me.

  • 28. The Chode  |  November 14, 2007 at 12:30 am

    and still my grandmother gripes at me for not coming over, and every time I do, she tells me that I’m raising her blood pressure every time I mention anything that is remotely non scriptural :P

  • 29. lizardsmells  |  November 14, 2007 at 1:19 am

    I would’ve benefited so much from this post 7 years ago when I was going through this. I remember the fury at having been essentially lied to through generations of ignorance. It took me a long time to get over the anger, longer than I think it took me to get over that initial stage of fear/denial. It was definitely a tumultuous time.

  • 30. Anonymous  |  November 14, 2007 at 1:34 am

    This is wonderful. I’ve been an atheist all of my life, and I never realized how hard it is for someone to ,,see the light” and question their faith.

    Faith in a god seems to be the only thing people will not question. They’ll wonder if they deserve that raise, if the fighting is worth a relationship, if they really should react that strongly to this and that. It just makes sense to me that belief if a god would be in there somewhere.

    So thank you for opening my eyes!

  • 31. HeIsSailing  |  November 14, 2007 at 7:31 am

    lizaredsmells says:

    I would’ve benefited so much from this post 7 years ago when I was going through this. I remember the fury at having been essentially lied to through generations of ignorance.

    The internet is bringing a lot of like-minded folks together, so that we can learn from and be a relief of sorts for each other. People in the church, even the most doubting, are really scared to express those doubts to others. I still maintain that the church pews are loaded with christians who are inwardly screaming to be released from the stranglehold of things like Biblical inerrantism. It would have been very difficult for me without meeting others on the internet – especially in the beginning.

  • 32. HeIsSailing  |  November 14, 2007 at 7:32 am

    Anonymous says:

    Faith in a god seems to be the only thing people will not question.

    Anonymous, that is because deep down, really deep down, most religious people are terrified of their own God.

  • 33. autumn  |  November 14, 2007 at 9:07 am

    i enjoyed reading this as well. i see where i am at on my personal journey, and i think i’m right in the middle of the first and second stage. it almost seem silly for me to hold on to something that is my parent’s beliefs. they don’t seem rational anymore, but how can i gently let people know? it’s so hard since a lot of my friends are christians. ah, i just don’t know.

  • 34. spriggig  |  November 14, 2007 at 10:11 pm

    Welcome into the light.

  • […] the blog and kept reading, finding lots of interesting articles like one describing the stages of grief in losing your faith, and one discussing whether sin is real or […]

  • 36. Dr. Duprey  |  November 16, 2007 at 12:08 am

    As I read through all of your entries I was saddened to see how children of faith were somehow each in their own ways uprooted from their spiritual roots. Although it is a time of sadness and mourning for you please allow me to give you some insight.

    I was glad to see that Grace was able to realize the “spiritual wilderness” that you are all in when she wrote :

    “Over the years I’ve found that there are alot of ‘us’ out here…wandering in the Wilderness…looking for a new spiritual Home.”

    This is very important because John 1:33 in conjucntion with Isaiah 40:3 tells us that it was in the wilderness that God gave John the Baptist the clue to recognizing the promise He had for his people. The promise is found in Isaiah 45:17 – to save his people of the spiritual situation they were in, which was condemned to hell because of sin. God told John the Baptist in the wilderness that when he saw the Spirit descending and remain on him that would be the Son of God. This recognition occurred in John 1:32. It wasn’t until after John the Baptist received this message and was ready (meaning willing to do what God sent him to do, which was in his case was spread the news that what God promised was coming) to begin his ministry as God had outlined for him , he didn’t come out of the wilderness. So I recommend, while in your wilderness be watchfull of what God has to say for your life. It is in this critical moment that he will speak to you in your isolation because your are special to him. Believe that. By the way, Isaiah 43:19 promises you out of your wilderness. God Bless!

  • 37. EH  |  November 16, 2007 at 9:58 am

    Wonderfully written, yet with such clarity and cohesive reasoning it’s a wonder you didn’t renounce Christianity sooner.

    Welcome to the real world!

  • 38. Raffaele  |  November 16, 2007 at 10:08 am

    the chaplain, I agree 100%
    I think almost exaclty what you said very well in the original post.
    But I must add something, as I live in Italy and Vatican city is in rome or better Rome is around Vatican City.
    I am also a teacher and I can assure you that here, in Italian school student do religion as a subject in any order of school, even kindergartens. And Catholic ill way of thinking about almopst ereverything is everywhere around us: In schools, in workplaces, in courts.in TV on newspaper.
    And no doubt the other are wrong.
    The other are the 5,6 billion of people that are not Catholic, included Islam Protestants and Jeova Witnesses…

    To say nothin of Atheists!
    Atheis is Satan, almost verbatim.
    Atheis has no moral, the only moral is catholic

    Yesterday during a meeting with other teacher a colleaugue teacher of Catholic Religion talked about Islam Problem

    Not Islam religion: Islam problem, just like atheist problem, Protestant and Buddist problem, I guess…

    I hate them because they are everywhere and laws are written only if catholics agree and this is often too much

  • 39. Thinking About Boxes « de-conversion  |  November 20, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    […] in there, with little room for new materials. When I hit the crisis period of my de-conversion (see The Stages of Grief Over My Loss of Faith), I climbed outside my box and, instead of merely thinking outside of it, began examining the box […]

  • […] to that line of thought, I am posting this account of the latter stages of my deconversion. An earlier version of this post appeared last month at […]

  • 41. Bargaining « kayparis.wordpress.com  |  January 1, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    […] at deConversion said in the comments to a recent post: BTW I noticed that you left out ‘Bargaining’. I think I tried that one a lot. “God, I’ll […]

  • 42. Bargaining : Aletheia  |  January 2, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    […] at deConversion said in the comments to a recent post: BTW I noticed that you left out ‘Bargaining’. I think I tried that one a lot. “God, I’ll […]

  • 43. Bargaining « Babble de Paris  |  February 24, 2008 at 11:52 am

    […] at deConversion said in the comments to a recent post: BTW I noticed that you left out ‘Bargaining’. I think I tried that one a lot. “God, I’ll […]

  • […] faith is an extraordinarily messy business. The intellectual break from faith, which many (including me) experience as disorienting and traumatic, is only a small part of a larger process. It is, in many […]

  • 45. Shifting gears « Blue Lyon  |  August 11, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    […] start with this post which is a close parallel to my journey. Yep, I no longer believe. I no longer desperately cling to […]

  • […] It turns out that many atheists go through a similar experience. At the top of my search, I found a wonderfully written post over at de-conversion.com that comes very close to mirroring my experience with the stages of […]

  • 47. ErRoNeUs  |  May 17, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    “Curiosity Stage”? Not sure that is aptly named. The “now what?” expressiveness seems to lead people to a “door” which no one knows what lies beyond.

    I’m not sure if it is helpful, but I find that the world and existence is full of truths and facts and I have grown increasingly comfortable with the fact that I will never collect them all, let alone successfully organize them in a completely meaningful way. I do the best I can, as is my human tendency, but I accept I will never know everything.

    I used to say to myself “all truth will come to me eventually” but that’s not necessarily true either… many truths do come eventually and some truths can be discovered with some effort. but I am comfortable not knowing all the answers and a lot more comfortable being able to refuse that which is broken, illogical, nonsensical or simply unverifiable is an achievement of de-conversion of the highest order.

  • 48. high eq  |  September 22, 2010 at 6:31 am

    There are absolutely quite a lot of details like that to take into account. That´s a great point to bring up. I offer you the thoughts above as general inspiration but clearly you will find questions just like the one you bring up exactly where the most essential factor will be working in honest great faith. I don´t know if finest practices have emerged around things like that, but I am certain that your task is clearly identified as a fair game.

  • 49. dc  |  September 28, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    thanks chaplain,
    i am definitely stuck in between the shock and anger stage. after 18 yrs as a hardcore christian, and living in the bible belt, and literally every person in my extended family, on both sides, for GENERATIONS, has been a christian…..my awakening this year to agnosticism/atheism has been a relief and a “curse”. because of my decades of “training”, i still have fear of what happens to me after i die. sometimes at night i have trouble sleeping from pondering on it. i can’t go back to that lifestyle or belief…as that old saying goes, “you can’t un-ring a bell” and that’s how i feel about christianity/god/religion. i can’t go back there. i just wish i would FEEL BETTER! i feel on the verge of tears everyday. i am so sad about the reality of everything i ever believed in is not valid and there is no “great being” watching over us. that really really sucks. where is my comfort when i’m in a jam? there are no prayers in my mouth anymore…the rituals are all dead. and there is a void. i know i can overcome this….i just wish that stage would hurry up.

  • 50. Daniel  |  September 29, 2010 at 7:45 am

    Where is my comfort now? People keep asking that question. I asked it. Logic and reasoning kicked in when I did. Objectively, the same forces at work before your reality set in are the same forces at work after. The difference between then and now are that you believed it was a magical being that made it all happen where now you realize it must be something else. You will find comfort and even adventure in exploring how the world really works. Learning about sociology is a big help. All around the world, the mechanisms are the same. It is only the beliefs that vary. Learn the truth of the mechanisms and you will have your comfort back.

  • 51. Haley  |  October 22, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Have you read “Mere Christianity” by CS Lewis? He was in your exact same position, so the book is more “scientifically” approached than just the typical “just believe it and it will be true” approach. I would suggest that book to anyone before they make a “final” decision — that guy is a genuis.

  • 52. the chaplain  |  October 22, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    Haley:
    Yes, I’ve read Mere Christianity and several other C.S. Lewis books. I would say that his apologetic approach is more sophisticated than the “just believe and it will be true” approach, but I wouldn’t characterize his approach as “scientific” in any way. Lewis wrote eloquently, a characteristic that sometimes masks his logical flaws.

    For example, consider Lewis’ oft-referenced “trilemma” – his argument that Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or lord. Anyone who thinks that those three categories exhaust all the possibilities regarding Jesus’ identity has not thought the matter through. I can think of at least two more possibilities: legend #1 and legend #2.

    Legend #1: An itinerant preacher named Jesus really existed and stories of his miraculous deeds were either greatly exaggerated or completely fabricated. This preacher may have said some, or even many, of the things attributed to him, but he didn’t actually change water into wine, raise people from the dead, walk on water, cast demons from people, etc. The teachings may be accurate (I’ll grant that for the sake of argument), but the miracle stories are not.

    Legend #2: The Jesus character is completely fabricated. The character may have been loosely based on an actual person, or he may have been as fictional as Mithras, Zeus or Superman.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if other commenters here can add other possibilities besides these five – Lewis’ three and my two.

  • 53. Tania  |  November 13, 2010 at 10:06 am

    the chaplain: This is so wonderfully written. It’s as though you climbed into my head and expressed MY thoughts in a way I never could.

    I’ve questioned all my life, but never really studied. This summer, I determined that I would put my questions to rest and actually READ the entire bible. I got to the middle of Daniel and just could go no further. When I started, I fully expected the bible to grow my faith. Imagine my surprise, and sadness, when the exact opposite reaction began. I think I am experiencing every stage all at once. I wake with sadness, devour articles and blogs (like this one), get angry at myself for ever believing, even if just a tiny bit, in these ridiculous fairy tales. I have tried meditation and found fault with myself for the lack of enlightenment. I just can’t “do” it right. Then I go to bed at night trying to reconcile myself to the fact that I will never see my loved ones again. And so I wake with sadness and start all over again. This is a very sad and lonely journey. It helps to know that people come out on the other side of this with feelings of happiness and peace. Thank you for sharing.

  • 54. Joe Baron  |  November 19, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Wow. I would have to radically disagree with your understanding of the Bible. I am not an expert, but we do have over 5000 manuscripts from antiquity with a 99% accuracy of them all. No offense, but you can’t get that kind of accuracy from Shakespeare, Homer, or any poet from antiquity. The reason the Bible is the source of truth is not simply because certain manuscripts have error (we know that to be true), but because those errors between manuscripts can be easily seen. After all, you just mentioned a couple of clearly seen errors in your blog. But you are wrong to categorize the entire canon in that way. Name any ancient documents that have been as preserved as the Old and New Testament. Unfortunately you won’t be able to. Also, I respectfully challenge your idea to simply enjoy this life because it’s the only you have. What about guilt? Don’t you ever sense guilt about something that you have done is wrong? What happens to that guilt? If you say that you never feel that way, you are just lying to yourself. The guilt, the sense of remorse, the desire for restitution for wrongs done and a longing for justice is a mark of a Creator. Animals do not feel those things. Therfore, if a Creator has created us, we are accountable to Him. There is something more after this life.

  • 55. the chaplain  |  November 19, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Joe Baron:

    I am not an expert, but we do have over 5000 manuscripts from antiquity with a 99% accuracy of them all. No offense, but you can’t get that kind of accuracy from Shakespeare, Homer, or any poet from antiquity.

    You’re right – you’re not an expert. And neither is Josh McDowell.

    If you’re arrogant and judgmental enough to think that this one post encompasses the entirety of my understanding of the Bible, it’s almost certainly a waste of my time to say anything more to you. Consider this: one reason it’s difficult, if not impossible, to name other ancient writings that have been preserved as the OT and NT have been is because Christians went to a lot of trouble to destroy literature that didn’t support their worldview, and they went to even more trouble to propagate their scriptures to the exclusion of competing ideas. Those are the marks of cultural hegemony, not divine inspiration and preservation.

    Your argument from “gulit” is laughable. Guilt is a consequence of the fact that humans are social beings, not “a mark of a Creator” who, being perfect and all, cannot possibly experience such an emotion himself.

    Finally, your assertion that “there is something more after this life” is a mark of your fear of death and wishful thinking, unless you can support it with evidence derived from somewhere other than your feelings and your book of fables. Can you do that?

    I didn’t think so.

  • 56. phyllis  |  November 19, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    @ Tania
    there is no right way to meditate. Even Buddha had start from somewhere. I think you are being to hard on yourself for believing, did they ever bring you happiness? Did it teach you anything? Life is transitory for everything that exists- this includes beliefs and non- beliefs. It wasn’t bad for you to belief, as it is not bad for you to disbelieve. It is what it is.
    I felt the church because it was lacking, it was self absorbed. I looked else. I found something else. Something that was right for me. You will find a belief that is right for you.

  • 57. Tania  |  November 19, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    @Phyllis,

    Thank you for your kind words. I know that I am often harder on myself than anyone else would ever be. I do continue to study and read and even try to meditate. I don’t know that I will ever believe that there is anything more than this life, but if I can come to an acceptance of that without too much lingering sadness, well that will be good enough. Thank you again for taking the time to write to me.

  • 58. Ubi Dubium  |  November 19, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    My view on meditation is that calming your mind and focusing on something soothing and repetitive for awhile is probably good for your brain. It doesn’t bring enlightenment or wisdom, and it doesn’t really matter what you’re focusing on, as long as it is not anything upsetting. It’s kind of like rebooting your brain; it can help you focus and function better. Which would explain why so many religions include some form of repetitve prayer or meditation in their rituals.

    So don’t worry about doing it “right” or finding “enlightenment”. If it makes you feel better, then meditate. Otherwise forget it and find what does work for you.

  • 59. phyllis  |  November 20, 2010 at 1:31 am

    if negative feelings do come up in meditations, let them exam them don’t fight them. Don’t give them power. If you experience anger say oh yeah there’s anger, hi anger and let it go. Acknowledge it, don’t try to fight it, deny it or anything like that. After all we are human.
    I know most of the people on here are atheists, I’m not really. I practice Buddhism. (As well as a more pantheistic and animistic belief)

  • 60. phyllis  |  November 21, 2010 at 12:39 am

    I just read a great Joseph Campbell quote, “I don’t need faith, I have experience.”

  • 61. Anonymous  |  October 22, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    What I keep about is, “What is your emotional state now?”

    How are you feeling? How does one ever get over the grief that never goes away?

    As Paul said, “Because He lives, I live.”

    What if your identity is so entwined with your faith that, to remove that part of you is like trying to extract something that has entwined with your very organs? What if your Christianity doesn’t just ooze out and be gone?

    So what does one do then? How does one deal with a grief that entails the loss of his or her own identity, a self concept of some fifty or sixty years?

  • 62. cag  |  October 23, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Anonymous #61, identifying with a lie is is nothing to be proud of, so why should there be any grief in leaving it behind?

  • 63. Anonymous  |  January 27, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Thanks for the article! I had a very similar experience, but am now very thankful that I found the truth and am free from delusion. I originally wanted to become a better Christian by learning more about atheists and other religions…. There was no tragic event, just a series of simple realizations after asking difficult questions on google. Thank god I don’t believe in god anymore. My life is exponentially more meaningful as a result and I am a lot more stable emotionally and financially.

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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