Discovering meaning after de-conversion

January 16, 2008 at 8:31 pm 49 comments

ThoughtfulI’ve enjoyed reading through the comments on Karen’s recent post “Are de-converts doomed to live in the pit of existentialist despair?” I do appreciate everyone’s thoughts on this topic.

Discovering the meaning of life was my biggest, baddest bugaboo upon de-conversion. Life seemed drained of color without God. It was more than just no longer having a sweeping trans-historical drama in which to play a part. It was, for me, that the universe no longer seemed like a home. It was no longer warm and friendly. Instead, it was harsh, alien, bare, and empty. Working through meaning was my biggest challenge.

Here’s how it went for me. Christianity teaches, in essence, that all the sorrows of life are destined to end. All the “existential givens” such as loneliness and isolation, the responsibility to create one’s own life, the thirst for larger meaning and purpose, even death itself — all these problems are solved, for the Christian. C.S. Lewis quite explicitly teaches that all you have ever desired is destined for ultimate satisfaction in heaven. You will not die. You will not be alone. Your responsibility is only to obey. Your meaning is given to you.

Losing God for me was like that moment in all of our lives when we realize, really realize, that our parents are not really larger than life. They are not necessarily smarter or wiser or more able than us. They are just human. In fact, there is *no one* out there “bigger than me”, so to speak, that I can look to for unfailing guidance. It was that realization that overwhelmed me at first. It was terrifying and so very sad.

Yet in that very moment of “groundlessness”, as existentialists say, was the answer, the same answer alluded to in the Karen’s post. It was in a rock-bottom awareness of the finite-ness of life that I suddenly saw its preciousness. It was just that awareness that life *does not* last forever, that there *is* no one who will ever swoop in an make it all right, that in the end (in a way) we *are* alone, no one will die with us — that awareness, brought out for me by the loss of the illusion of the God-parent — that opened me up the possibility of such a sublime joy.

I can honestly say I never knew joy as a Christian. Christianity wants to narcotize us to the pain of life by teaching everything will eventually be perfect for you. However, the reality is, it will not be.

So, grieving that loss and opening myself up to the pain that exists in life because it is finite was exactly what made enabled me to appreciate its joys. You cannot expunge the pain in life without expunging the possibility of joy in the process. The wish to do so, in a nutshell, is the Christian illusion.

I have never felt more alive than I have since I left fundamentalism. Life is gorgeous, despite all its pain.

- Richard

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8 Reasons why I no longer believe Is “bright” a more negative term than “atheist”?

49 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rachel  |  January 16, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    Richard,

    Glad you feel more alive. But do be careful not to paint all of Christianity with the same brushstroke. When you say that Christianity “narcotizes” its followers you forget about the Christians who fast in solidarity with the poor, the Russian Orthodox Christians killed under communism, and not to mention the early martyrs who were tortured and killed for the faith. Christians worship a God who saved us THROUGH suffering and death; not one who simply sweeps in with a magic wand.
    Your assertion that Christianity somehow seeks to deny the existence of pain could not be furthur from the truth.

  • 2. carriedthecross  |  January 16, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    My faith was always reluctant. I wasn’t raised by Christians and didn’t begin a conversion process until middle school. I wasn’t a “born again” until high school. But there were things that never sat right with me. I was told that discovering faith would make me joyful even in hard times, and that simply wasn’t the case. To the contrary, as a Christian I was often depressed. Attending a so-called ‘holiness’ church also brought along a lot of baggage, never feeling good enough, wondering why God wouldn’t cleanse me of “sin.”

    I can honestly say that as an atheist, I am much happier. My environment (an evangelical college) causes a lot of circumstantial anger and frustration. But aside from that, I am happy. I am content. I am hopeful. I look out upon the world and see beauty.

    Bertrand Russell was a smart man, “I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive. I am not young, and I love life. But I should scorn to shiver with terror at the thought of annihilation. Happiness is none the less true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting.”

  • 3. the chaplain  |  January 16, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    Richard said,“I can honestly say I never knew joy as a Christian. Christianity wants to narcotize us to the pain of life by teaching everything will eventually be perfect for you… You cannot expunge the pain in life without expunging the possibility of joy in the process.”

    Very well said. I am excited by the realization that I can shape my life’s meaning instead of bending it to fit some imaginary “will of God.” This is an awesome responsibility, and it is the kind of liberty that brings true joy.

  • 4. The Vicar  |  January 16, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    Yes, actually, that’s a question I’ve had for a long time: why would the existence of a God (or Gods) make your life meaningful? If a divine plan exists, then either we have no free will, so we’re just puppets, or we have free will but can’t alter the essential working of the plan, so we’re irrelevant. Or there’s no plan — so there might as well be no God. I gave up on Christianity entirely during High School (longer ago than I like to think) but I don’t ever remember thinking that atheism would rob my life of meaning.

  • 5. Jon F  |  January 16, 2008 at 11:08 pm

    Call me weird, but since I deconverted from christian fundieism I’ve actually felt more meaning to my life. What I mean is that over the years I was encouraged to “seek God’s will for my life” rather than just go off and do what I thought was best. Trouble was, actually finding out what God wanted for me proved quite hard to do in practice. I can remember seeing christian friends getting themselves twisted into all sorts of knots because they didn’t know what to do next and weren’t “hearing from the Lord.” Oh thanks to all the gods I no longer have to live this ridiculous way. But the oddest thing is that now that I am accountable only to myself (and those immediately around me) I feel a lot more responsible for my decisions, and this makes my life decisions and actions far more meaningful to me.
    Just my experience.
    Jon

  • 6. carriedthecross  |  January 17, 2008 at 1:15 am

    This is an awesome responsibility, and it is the kind of liberty that brings true joy.

    Amen. I think responsibility is they key word here. As a Christian, there was always the option of “giving it over to God.” As an atheist, there is -responsibility- for each individual to do something or not with their life. I look forward to an exciting journey of finding, creating and sustaining purpose in my life.

  • 7. Hilary K.  |  January 17, 2008 at 1:39 am

    Test

  • 8. John  |  January 17, 2008 at 7:19 am

    Great Post Richard!

  • 9. artisticmisfit  |  January 17, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Christianity and fundamentalism are not the same thing.

  • 10. karen  |  January 17, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    It was just that awareness that life *does not* last forever, that there *is* no one who will ever swoop in an make it all right, that in the end (in a way) we *are* alone, no one will die with us — that awareness, brought out for me by the loss of the illusion of the God-parent — that opened me up the possibility of such a sublime joy.

    Interesting, Richard, thanks for the great thoughts. I’m glad Bryan’s essay spurred this excellent line of thinking!

    I did feel joy as a Christian from time to time, however it was always tainted just under the surface by a great deal of guilt and worry. I was haunted by the idea that I was constantly “falling short” of being the follower of Christ that god wanted me to be. I was always worried that I hadn’t done enough for the lord, though I was continuously involved in prayer, bible study, ministry, etc. I felt that I wasn’t relying enough on god and letting go of my own “agenda” enough.

    It was exhausting! And quite a joy-killer during those rare times that I experienced a religious “high” during a worship service or prayer meeting.

    I find it interesting that the NT uses the child metaphor so often. It seems to me, looking back on Christian belief from the outside, that believing in a divine “father” who will one day swoop in to set things right and who will make it all better for us in heaven is very childlike. Perhaps this is why Jesus talked about how the only people who could follow him had become “like little children.”

    Part of growing up, for me, was taking the adult view that we’re all responsible for our own lives and that (as much as we can know) this is all we get, this one precious shot at life. It’s exciting to realize this and find ways to make my life count for something positive, rather than sit back and wait for the good stuff to start after I die.

  • 11. Pete W  |  January 17, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Kind of like what I said the other day on my blog. It’s not necessarily God that changes people’s lives when they become a Christian. People can do that themselves too.

  • 12. LeoPardus  |  January 17, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    artisticmisfit:

    Christianity and fundamentalism are not the same thing.
    :D So true.

    The overwhelming majority of de-cons here are ex-fundy’s. That does give one a horribly skewed vision of Christianity. I think fundamentalism’s “our way or the highway (to hell)” attitude also fosters a lot of resentment in people once they leave it.

    I know that at the EOC parish I go to (mostly converts), many of the ex-fundy’s there tend to bash their former confession.

  • 13. Samantha  |  January 17, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Richard,
    Thanks for your post and thank you for letting us all comment. Since we seem to be speaking from experience here, my experience as a follower of Jesus Christ and I will first clarify-not a follower of “religion,” fundamentalism, a list of rules, jargon, emotionalism, or anything of the like, but in the person of Jesus, I have found joy like never before because I realize how much God loves me.

    In my sin against him and all the rebellion, I know that He is not up in heaven casting down lightning bolts or saying “what are you doing? Gosh!” He is forgiving and wants me to love Him. I have so many friends that grew up in a fundamental baptist church and their stories make my heart absolutely sick because fundamentalism skews, distorts, and twists the true essence of Christianity. It skews what a true relationship Jesus looks like.

    Christianity says there is nothing we could possibly do to earn salvation. It is by grace alone through faith. Works-based religion gets people nowhere. But it is when people realize that Christ died for them and the debt has been paid, there is so much freedom. All over the Bible (ie. Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John), it talks about the joy that exists in knowing Christ and not having to follow a list of rules or be in bondage to them.

    Christ came to set us free and be in a relationship with Him. To go against that and seek it elsewhere I believe will eventually lead to self-destruction in some form. If it were up to me to save myself or look within myself, I’d be in big trouble. I am a sinner in need of so much grace everyday. I blow it a lot too. If we truly believe that Christ came, lived on this earth, died on the cross, and rose again and we accept that gift- we are changed forever and there is no turning back.

    When you TRULY know Jesus in all His glory and sovereignty your life will be changed. To say you never had joy is to say that you never really knew him prior to your deconversion.
    I’d encourage you to read the Gospels because even Jesus thought fundamentalism was a bunch of crap that kept people from knowing Him! He dealt harshly with Pharisees and people who thought they knew it all. Anyhow,
    Thanks for letting us all share.

  • 14. Rachel  |  January 17, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Richard,

    Glad you feel more alive. But do be careful not to paint all of Christianity with the same brushstroke. When you say that Christianity “narcotizes” its followers you forget about the Christians who fast in solidarity with the poor, the Russian Orthodox Christians killed under communism, and not to mention the early martyrs who were tortured and killed for the faith. Christians worship a God who saved us THROUGH suffering and death; not one who simply sweeps in with a magic wand.
    Your assertion that Christianity somehow seeks to deny the existence of pain could not be furthur from the truth. But I can see how you would say this, having briefly run into Fundamentalism myself.

  • 15. Ray  |  January 17, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Ad Nietzsche (I absolutely adore his thoughts)
    ..I got two quotes for you..
    “Wer gewohnt ist, sich im Spiegel zu schauen, vergißt immer seine Häßlichkeit.”
    (~ Those used to look at themselves in the mirror, forget their own ugliness.)
    “Wer sich selber nicht glaubt, lügt immer.”
    (~ He who does not belief himself lies everytime.)
    “Der Phantast verleugnet die Wahrheit vor sich, der Lügner nur vor andern.”
    (~ The visionary denies truth in front of himself, the liar only in front of the others.)

    Kindest regards,

  • 16. Ray  |  January 17, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    Mea culpa. Actually those were three quotes.

  • 17. orDover  |  January 17, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    My de-conversion process was very gradual, in the words of Charles Darwin, “…disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct.” Since I felt no distress, I didn’t feel like my life was suddenly meaningless. Maybe it was that I wasn’t thinking about it enough, or that I was just content to find meaning in the everyday. Either way, I was happy.

    In my Sophomore year of college I ended up reading John Paul Sartre and much of what he said I found to be true regarding de-conversion process, and many of you already have echoed his points. He said that once a person realized that there is no god, they are first overwhelmed by a great feeling of responsibility. They realize that they alone are accountable for their actions, and this realization triggers three emotions: anguish over personal decisions (“Am I really the kind of man who has the right to act in such a way that humanity might guide itself by my actions?”), forlornness which comes from the realization that there is no god, thus no human nature, thus no excuses for personal decisions (you can’t blame Adam, Eve, Cain, sin nature, etc), and despair which comes from the realization that you can only depend on yourself (“I can not count on men who I do not know by relying on human goodness or man’s concern for the good of society”). But what eventually emerges out of these emotions is a wonderful sense of freedom and choice, and the knowledge that reality alone is what counts. You aren’t moving along some track that god laid down for you before your birth. You aren’t born a hero or a coward, but you have the ability to make yourself into either one. Sartre’s ideas were criticized for being nihilistic or otherwise negative, and he defended them saying “…there is no doctrine more optimistic, since man’s destiny is within himself…”

    Reading of this pattern of responsibility and freedom was so refreshing to me, to know that others had been where I was, had felt the same emotions and came the same realization. I didn’t have to be held accountable to god, but I am still accountable to mankind. My choices and my actions still carry weight, and I realize that fully. I might even realize it more fully than a Christian, because I don’t have the pleasant dream of an afterlife in which I can be with my loved ones. I have the knowledge that this one life is all that I have, and in that knowledge I find more meaning than in all of the holy books put together.

  • 18. LeoPardus  |  January 17, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Samantha:

    Take a look around the site first. Then post.

    The people on this site are mostly long-term Christians. On the order of decades in the faith. We have pastors, apologists, religious studies students, bible study leaders, and all those sorts. So a statement like “I’d encourage you to read the Gospels” is just silly.

  • 19. karen  |  January 17, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    Interesting, orDover. I read Sartre’s “Nausea” and found it very difficult. Is there another book of his that deals with the points you made?

  • 20. orDover  |  January 17, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    The points that I made came from a lecture that he gave defending his philosophy which was later published under the title Existentialism Is a Humanism. It’s a bit easier to digest than something in novel form.

  • 21. artisticmisfit  |  January 17, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    Leo,
    Well the kind of Orthodoxy I came into was American Protestant Fundamentalist Cult Orthodoxy, my term. But I don’t think bashing anything is the solution. As I stated, I am friends with a Southern Baptist pastor in my city and his flock and he has always extended an open invitation to me, when at times I have felt excluded from my own congregation. He is much more understanding of minorities such as polyamorists and does not judge them, and he was a professional Christian counselor for 20 years. So I am a bit disappointed in the Orthodox church, that’s for sure. I find it narrow minded and bigoted and prejudiced at times and neo-con as well. It is dominated by the Religious Right which I am 100% opposed to. But I won’t de-convert from Christianity, just from the nonsense I am finding in the Orthodox church these days.

  • 22. LeoPardus  |  January 17, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    artisticmisfit:

    Interesting. Sounds like the O church you found is more monolithic than what I found. And finding a Southern Baptist church that is open and understanding???? Are you sure they aren’t aliens? :)

  • 23. artisticmisfit  |  January 17, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    Leo,
    I meant my current parish and deanery. The Southern Baptist church held a divorce recovery workshop which is how I came to know the pastor and his congregation, and as I said he and they welcomed me with open arms. I, on the other hand, feel judged by a certain ministry within my church, the one I am a part of. And furthermore, I get along great with the chancellor of another jurisdiction in my area. Like I said, if it were not for my ruling bishop, I might be forced to find a church home elsewhere.

  • 24. karen  |  January 17, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    And finding a Southern Baptist church that is open and understanding???? Are you sure they aren’t aliens?

    And they’re open and understanding about things like polyamory? Now I’ve heard everything! Seriously!

  • 25. LeoPardus  |  January 18, 2008 at 12:30 am

    artisticmisfit:

    Well good on your bishop. Maybe you would do well with that other jurisdiction. What jurisdiction it? ……… Oooooo, tell me it’s Antiochian. You do know they are the coolest O’s on the planet? …… You knew that, right? :D

  • 26. artisticmisfit  |  January 18, 2008 at 1:09 am

    Leo,
    I almost sent a letter to my bishop tonight thanking him for loving me and caring about me. He always asks me how I am whenever I see him. No the other jurisdiction is Russian. I think an Antiochian priest may have just removed me and blocked me from his Facebook friends because of what malicious stalkers have said to him. We shall see if this is the truth or not. ROCOR priests have been the most loving and caring towards me. OCA and Antiochian priests have been equally nasty, but they have also been nice.

  • 27. Samanthamj  |  January 18, 2008 at 1:21 am

    Richard wrote:
    “You cannot expunge the pain in life without expunging the possibility of joy in the process. The wish to do so, in a nutshell, is the Christian illusion.”

    What a great way to put it!

    I always have trouble with a couple of my Christian friends who can’t believe I am “happy” believing that this life is all we get. To me, knowing this is what makes everything that much more special… and I do see them as mostly feeling like “life sucks”, so thank goodness we get an afterlife. Looking at it from the perspective you laid out makes perfect sense…. they’ve “expunged” the pain AND the joy…

    hmmmmmmm…. interesting….
    Nice post.
    Thanks,
    ~smj

  • 28. Richard  |  January 18, 2008 at 1:41 am

    Thanks for everyones thoughtful remarks!

    For those who chastised my lumping all Christianities into one, well, lump — you are quite right. This post was fired off rather quickly by me (my two year old was… what was it this time? pouring apple juice on the dog? I forget….) Anyway, I did not take as much care as I should have to specify that I was referring to fundamentalist and evangelical forms of Christianity. I have not problem #1 with liberal Christianity, with which I feel a great affinity, though I am not that myself. I think the dynamics I discussed operate in the more conservative versions of faith, where literalism reigns, a more servile model of the human relationship with God is the norm, and the whole theology serves narcissistic ends.

    I do think that theology is a reflection of psychology, and thus the analogy that seems most apt to me for the experience of the loss of God really is like the loss of one’s parents – I mean psychologically, in the sense that we gradually (or suddenly) cease to see them (usually in our teens or early twenties) as larger-than-life figures who have all the answers. Teenagers are famous for their black-and-white-ness –- they either put someone up on a pedestal or else they think they’re an idiot. But when your parents don’t have to be superhuman, nor complete morons, then they can just be human… ordinary people, “like just another guy on the bus”, as one of my psychotherapy supervisors said to me. That, of course, is when you can relate to your parent as a friend, for the first time. But it is also accompanied by sadness and loss. We like having a guide, someone to blame, someone to save us. Its so much harder to guide and blame and save ourselves, but acceptance of that responsibility the basis for all healthy adult relationships. When we no longer need a god, we no longer need a devil either.

    Wow! That sounded deep. I hope it was. If not, sorry for the psychobabble. I tend to get carried away with this topic.

  • 29. Richard  |  January 18, 2008 at 1:43 am

    to samantha, I am glad you find joy in Christianity and I have no objection to that. My objection is this:

    “When you TRULY know Jesus in all His glory and sovereignty your life will be changed. “

    That statement essentially functions as a definition, not a prediction. There is no outcome of actual events in the world wherein you would falsify it, I suspect. I.e., no matter what my or anyone else’s experience, you can always claim I didn’t “truly” know Jesus, if in the end I dont find joy in Christianity. But unless you can give me an independent way of knowing, **ahead of the outcome**, whether or not someone “truly” knows Jesus, then you’re just protecting your hypothesis.

    Otherwise, thanks for your thoughts.

  • 30. artisticmisfit  |  January 18, 2008 at 1:52 am

    Richard,
    I am a very liberal Christian within a very conservative division of the Church. I feel out of place save for the fact my bishop listens to NPR, which I grew up listening to. My parish is said to be the most liberal in the area by those outside the parish, and yet it is not liberal enough for me. I thought my teachers were idiots by the time I was 6 years old, and my parents could not manage me before that, so I definitely don’t fit any mold.
    Like I said, I almost sent a letter to my bishop tonight telling him how tempted I felt to de-convert, save for him.

  • 31. Samantha  |  January 18, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Leo,
    Thanks so much for that. You are right. I came on here pretty fast and foolishly, and did not know my audience :) Ouch.

    I do have one question. Truthfully (& perhaps ignorantly), I had never heard of “de-conversion”. (Ive heard of backsliding and turning away, etc.) so I am thankful I am learning more about it and hearing you guys’ thoughts.

    Do you think de-conversion is a process, does it just instantly occur, both or neither? Was there some kind of turning point?
    Thank you.

  • 32. Richard  |  January 18, 2008 at 10:17 am

    Samantha- Everyones experience is different. For me, “de-conversion” took about ten years. It occurred in stages. There was no particular turning point, though there were moments and realizations that were more important than others.

    Richard

  • 33. HeIsSailing  |  January 18, 2008 at 10:20 am

    Samantha, thanks for asking. It took about a year for me. That year was filled with questioning, doubts, anguish, tears and pain – but also one of self-discovery and learning. There was never a single de-conversion moment. But at some point I just realized I had gradually put my belief in Jesus to bed like a childish afterthought. And in the sense that I am still learining and unlearning and re-evaluating things in my life, the process continues.

  • 34. confusedchristian  |  January 18, 2008 at 10:57 am

    Hi Samantha, I consider myself in the process of de-conversion. My mother kinda knows but not so much, my ex girlfriend doesn’t know and I’d like to keep it that way as I’m trying to break ties with her completely. My friends and brother know about it as well.

    I suppose the reason why de-covnersion is a process for me is while I have lost all faith I am learning what it is that I really believe in. I think that this state is going to be a long one because part of me wants to be a Christian for all the wrong reasons.

    I want to be a Christian because I am scared that I’ll get back into drinking or drugs again. Last night I prayed to God that he would make sure I didnt do that again, and I wasn’t sure why I did it. I know that religion is nonsensical, and Christianity doesn’t make sense to me. So in my head I was praying to a different God but the same one that always heard my prayers.

    I then thought I was silly for praying, but really I am so used to praying (for over 20 years) so it was probably just out of habit.

    I guess my biggest fear of being a complete atheist is becoming bitter and hateful at Christians and acting like I’m better than them. Next thing you know I’ll join the church of Satan just to “stick it to those damn Christians real good” and then I’ll be doing drugs and partying in God please no.

    I want to live a good life like my Christian Parents have taught me and be a moral person. I think morality is subjective but at the same tmie I want to live to a high moral standard like many Christians do because I have screwed up a lot in my past.

    I just can’t stand the superstitions and the doubts and things not making sense. I would much rather be honest and just admit that I’m an agnostic. But even so, I have superstitious tendenceis like “what if I’m letting all these demons in and I’m gonna turn into an evil person oh knowes” and I’m very afraid of that. I wish I had atheists and agnostics to look up to that were upstanding citizens, responsible, etc. Most of the atheists and agnostics I know are into breaking the law.

  • 35. confusedchristian  |  January 18, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Just want to conclude that I am never going to believe in something that doesn’t make sense again. The outcome of me becoming a Christian is about 0 in that regard. I was jsut stating my irrational tendency to want to be Christian again anyway because of FEAR. I believe this FEAR is what is causing my deconversion process to go very slowly, but it’s ok, I am inching one day at a time.

  • 36. LeoPardus  |  January 18, 2008 at 11:40 am

    Samantha:

    The term “de-conversion” is a coined term. Don’t know who all may use it. Figure that if the process of becoming a member of a religion is called ‘converting’, then the opposite process must be ‘de-converting’.

    As to the process itself; it’s different for different folks. Some hereabouts took years to de-convert, some were quicker about it, some are currently in the process, some are just thinking about it.

    For me the process was rather quick. In August of 2006, I was as committed a believer as ever. By November, I was ‘de-converted’. Of course there was some lead up for some months before August, and there was some struggle to hang on after November, but that 4 month period was basically “it” for me.

    As to any “turning point”, I suppose that 4 months out of 25 years (I was a Christian for that long) is pretty much “a point”. And there were incidences that contributed to the end. Sort of a rapid succession of “straws that broke the camel’s back”, or perhaps more properly I could say that they made me abandon the camel, good back or no.

    Most of us have our story written out. Click the “Contributors” link above and you’ll get short versions. For longer versions, you can ask anyone and they’ll tell you where to look.

    My story is at: http://de-conversion.org/news.php?readmore=19

  • 37. Samantha  |  January 18, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Thanks everyone for your comments. I really appreciate them. I don’t have a lot of time right now to respond to all, but I want to comment to confusedchristian.

    You said, “I suppose the reason why de-conversion is a process for me is while I have lost all faith I am learning what it is that I really believe in.” I was curious what you are believing in now because that belief requires some element of faith as well, so have you really lost all faith?

    “part of me wants to be a Christian for the wrong reason.” Do you think it is God who works in someone’s heart to change them or that it is our choice? I’m not a full blown calvinist or trying to start that or anything, but many times I believe God pursues us and that on my own terms, if it were up to me to choose Him, I wouldn’t.

    Say for instance God is the one who changes us, and He gives you the desire to say for instance not to do drugs, do you think life would be different? (rather than it being your own desire, but Him helping you not to) Especially if it were something that happened not because you were supposed to or because your parents are moral but solely on what God was doing in your life? I guess what I am also saying is what would you do if God sought you out and totally changed your world?

    I totally understand about the pride thing and not wanting to get caught up in being better than someone. I think we all struggle with that at times. And the deal with not understanding things. Atheism often makes my eyes grow wide because they’re making a knowledge claim that there is no God. How can they make that claim? If they did, that would mean they were God. But really I think many atheists are like you said, Agnostic.

    Thanks!

  • 38. confusedchristian  |  January 18, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Samantha, I have lost all “faith” in religion, that is, I have lost all faith in people claiming they have the metaphyisical realm figured out and it’s in the scriptures. My reason is I have always had trouble beliving the BIble was infallible, I always had to force myself to agree to that claim even though on the inside I couldn’t fathom an idea.

    My current belief system is that we cannot know if God exists either way, so one must choose. Because my standards for the evidence for proof of Yahweh / Jehovah / Jesus / Holy Ghost I personally conclude that he does not exist. As far as a God existing though, I think it is possible, or even multiple Gods for that matter. I honestly do not know. My current focus is that I should live my life as constructive as possible and find meaning in the Here and now.

    I can’t comprehend God working in someone’s heart because so many people claim it and if they are all correct then there has to be millions of different Gods out there. So I’m going to say that it’s either in peoples’ heads, or theres just a whole lot of Gods out there.

    My clear desire to not do drugs is because I want to live a positive life for my family and have a long living future. I am afraid though because I have a tendency for being self-destructive in the past. My fears come from years of conditioning and “christian” thinking. I have been deconverting for 2 months now and I have continued to stay away from drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. I also go to the gym 4x a week and am on a healthy diet. Everything seems to be working well. The fear of the unknown scares me. that’s where my natural tendency to want to pray and ask God for help comes in. The truth is as I see it, is that it’s probably all up to me, and if I can get anything to keep me motivated and confident that I can continue on my own righteous path as I’ve defined it then I should be ok.

  • 39. LeoPardus  |  January 18, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    confused:

    For me, the secret to avoiding any slippage into bad behaviors was realizing that they weren’t bad “cause the Bible says so”. They are bad because they hurt me and/or others. So drugs, alcohol, etc. hurt me, mess up my ability to do my job, and so on. Messing with other women would hurt my wife and kids, risk disease for me, and possibly get an angry husband after me.

    OTOH, just living the “straight and narrow” turns out to give me a healthy, happy, low risk, comfortable life. I like that. Call it ‘enlightened self interest’ if you like. I just don’t have to be a Christian to live a good life.

  • 40. karen  |  January 18, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    Confused, the key to staying away from destructive behaviors is that you know they are destructive and your experience shows you that you are an unhappy, miserable person when you get involved with them. You’re a reasonable person! So why would you go back to something that makes you unhappy? You won’t, that’s the answer.

    I have never had a true, chemical addiction – thankfully – so I can’t even imagine how difficult that must be to break, but the terrific news is that you HAVE broken your addictions, your brain chemistry is on its way to healing, and you know how to keep it healing by doing what you’re already doing: Exercise, healthy lifestyle, self-discipline.

    You, within yourself, have achieved this incredible milestone, not some magical prayers or holy spirits or whimsical deity – YOU. Give yourself credit not only for doing what you have done, but also for knowing that you have it in you to keep on doing what you’re doing right now. Isn’t it less scary to realize that you already have the key to success and the formula to carry it out, rather than keeping your fingers crossed and your prayers going out hoping that some god is listening and will pay attention to you this time? You don’t need that – you’ve got YOU and you can never lose that!

    I don’t know how old you are, but in a lot of people the self-destructive tendency goes along with immaturity and can be overcome as we get older and our personalities become more stable. So if you’ve been self-destructive in the past and you were youngish at the time (say 30 or under), you may well be outgrowing that tendency by now.

    We are pulling for you, remember that, and the fear will go away little by little, until someday you’ll shake your head and chuckle about how scared you were.

  • 41. karen  |  January 18, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    Atheism often makes my eyes grow wide because they’re making a knowledge claim that there is no God. How can they make that claim? If they did, that would mean they were God. But really I think many atheists are like you said, Agnostic.

    That’s it exactly, Samantha. I don’t think anybody here claims to know for absolutely certain that there is no god.

    But most of us here will say we don’t see evidence for a god, and so we don’t see a reason for worshiping something that may not exist. After all, I don’t worship the greek gods or the hindu gods, although I can’t say for sure that they don’t exist. I just add the Christian god to that group, making my worldview more consistent. ;-)

    My deconversion took about five or six years’ total, although the crucial part was closer to 18 months or so. Although it started with an emotional upheaval in my life, which caused me to revisit long-held assumptions, most of the time was spent in research, reading and discussion of topics that I had long since closed off: God said it, I believed it, that settled it! Going back and changing my mind on that was a difficult, unsettling and painful process – not anything I did (or anyone here) did lightly or frivolously.

  • 42. Samanthamj(SMJ)  |  January 18, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    For a minute, I thought there was two of me… I’ll try to tack on the SMJ to any of my posts… so, people don’t confuse me adn the other Samantha… although, our outlooks can’t be more different.

    Leo – re: your post #38 – that’s exactly how I feel too. When you really think about it… what will make you happy in the LONG run.. in the BIG picture, (not the fleeting gratifying moment).. it’s usually the same kinds of moral code that Christian’s do because they say the “bible tells them to”. Some people will say, “you only have ONE life to live – so LIVE it up and enjoy it”… but, when you really think about what will make you enjoy this ONE life to the fullest, it’s usually doing the “right” things…

    And, really… even Christians who say the “right things: because it’s in the Bible, or God’s will.. or whatever…. Really, even they do it in their own best interest. They are doing what they think will make THEM happiest here in earth, AND in their next life-time…

    ~smj

  • 43. Gordon  |  January 19, 2008 at 11:01 am

    I actually found more meaning to my own life after my deconversion.

    This is how I explained it in an article I wrote in my own blog:

    “I can see a point to living. I now know what I am here for. As well as passing on my genes to my children the world is being built on the actions that I and all the other people living today are taking every day. Human progress is actually an accumulation of what everyone from every previous generation has done. We all build on what has gone before, so I really believe that I am actually worth something rather than being a soul who may or may not end up in a lake of fire.”

  • 44. Atheist Revolution  |  January 22, 2008 at 7:59 am

    Atheist Spirituality

    Can an atheist be a spiritual person, and if so, in what sense? Is it meaningful to talk of atheist spirituality, or should the term be reserved for religious believers?

  • 45. Samantha  |  January 22, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    One of my motives for asking if de-conversion was a process or a one-time deal was because I was interested to know if any of you were hurt by anyone in the Christian church. (I am not asking this so that anyone will go into extreme detail). But I really desire to know if any outer circumstances caused any ripples. Or, if nothing bad really happened but these were conclusions that came to you in your own mind.

  • 46. LeoPardus  |  January 22, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Samantha:

    For my part no one hurt me. Of course there were individuals who disappointed, but no hurt.

    I left when it finally hit me between the eyes that there was no response of any kind coming from the direction of the supposed deity.

  • 47. karen  |  January 22, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Samantha, it’s common for Christians to imagine that a personal hurt caused by an individual is responsible for deconversion. I have never, ever found that to be true, and I’ve been interacting quite closely with deconverts for the past five years.

    What I like about you is that you asked the question, rather than making the assumption. Honestly, you are the first Christian I’ve seen in five years who have asked us what happened, rather than presumptuously TOLD us what happened to us.

    That kind of respect is terrific and I admire you. Now, if only you could influence some of your fellow Christians to be as respectful and thoughtful as you are!

  • 48. karen  |  January 22, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Can an atheist be a spiritual person, and if so, in what sense? Is it meaningful to talk of atheist spirituality, or should the term be reserved for religious believers?

    It differs from atheist to atheist and has actually become a big topic in atheist circles. I heard Salman Rushdie speak about the problem not long ago, in fact. Some atheists seem perfectly comfortable with the idea of “spirituality,” while others feel that the word itself is too closely tied to supernatural belief.

    I think it’s a confusing term, for both parties, frankly. But I think there are other words and other ways we can talk about an atheist’s inner life, inspiration and even transcendent moments without invoking the supernatural.

  • 49. HeIsSailing  |  January 23, 2008 at 12:35 am

    Samantha asks:

    I was interested to know if any of you were hurt by anyone in the Christian church.

    Samantha, thanks for asking. I want to second Karen’s appreciation, not just for your courtesy in asking, but for your genuine curiosity. I think all us Christian apostates have been told by countless Christians why we left the faith. I honestly think that you are the first Christian that I have seen to ask this simple question.

    No Samantha, no Christian ever hurt or harmed me into leaving Christianity. Some of my old Christian freinds are still my friends, although not all. The bottom line is that I was a happy and content Christian for most of my whole life (I left Christianity when I was 43 years old). I am now a happy and perfectly content apostate. That is really the truth. The main reason that I left Christianity was that I could no longer keep any intellectual integrity with all that I learned and observed about the world around me, and continue to have literal belief in religious mythology. It is really no more profound than that. The transition out of Christianity was certainly not easy, and it had its painful moments, but I am not angry or bitter towards anyone nor do I have a reason to be. Heck, I still attend mass with my wife, and I am perfectly fine with it!! But literal belief in God is, for me at least, untenable.

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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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