Would You Please Reschedule Your Crisis?

March 13, 2008 at 4:14 pm 52 comments

choirFour months ago, just a few weeks before I came out to my husband about my atheism, I decided to quit the church choir. I did not mind the weekly rehearsals. In fact, I like the choir members and enjoyed getting together with them every week. I also didn’t mind playing the piano for them on Sunday mornings. I quit for two other reasons.

First, while I was willing to commit to attending weekly rehearsals and Sunday services, I was not willing to add any extra religious gigs to my agenda. For example, several church leaders spent several weeks in the fall playing with the idea of getting the church musicians involved in some sort of evangelistic outreach in the church’s neighborhood. Sorry guys, count me out of that one. I was not disappointed when it didn’t happen. Another one was an invitation to travel to a church in Maryland – on a Saturday night – to sing two songs at a “Concert of Prayer.” Right. You want me to take an hour to drive there, hang around in a prayer meeting (those really get the juices flowing) for one or two hours, then spend another hour driving home – because you need me to play the piano for about eight minutes. Needless to say, I didn’t make it to that one.

Second, for a whole lot of reasons I won’t go into here, I’ve been badly burned out on the church pianist thing for several years. Even before I lost my faith, fell from grace, found my mind – whatever it was that happened to me last summer – I needed a break from the ceaseless demands on my weekends. Since I was still completely in the atheist closet at the time, I felt like the only way I could get any relief would be to quit the choir. I figured that would at least open up my Wednesday nights and relieve me of the extra invitations and obligations that choirs seem to collect.

My pastors’ responses to my resignation was disappointing, albeit it not surprising. I’ll admit that my timing was not great. I sent my resignation letter just a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving (late November, for you non-American readers). Needless to say, preparations were already underway for Christmas events, which always require lots of music. My pastors, either missing or ignoring the fact that I was undergoing some sort of crisis that prompted this abrupt resignation, offered these responses:

Pastor #1: I hope you will think and pray about this before making this decision. We really need you.

Pastor #2: Can you at least carry on through the Christmas season? Then we can make some adjustments in January.

My reaction to Pastor’s #1’s response was: I’m not going to pray about it at all, but I’m deeply offended that you think that I didn’t consider this decision carefully before writing my letter. Furthermore, I’ve already made the decision and I’m not going to change my mind. It’s not like I woke up one morning and said to myself, “Self, today would be a great day to quit the choir.” Of course I thought about it – long and hard – before writing the letter!

My reaction to Pastor #2’s response was: Excuse me; it should be obvious that I’m going through a crisis. I’m sorry it’s inconvenient for you that I go through it right now, but, no, I cannot reschedule it for a time that suits you better.

By now, you may be wondering if there’s any point to this story. The point is this: churches have a very bad habit of using people and giving little in return. Last fall was one of maybe two or three times in my life that I really needed some understanding, and, perhaps, a bit of pastoral care. I got neither. Instead, I got the same old attitude, the one that says: no matter what you’re going through, the needs of others, especially your church, should always be your top priority. I don’t buy that anymore, although I did for a long time. Sadly, I found repeatedly that church officials (pastors, bishops, whoever) rarely gave a damn about my needs. I was supposed to give and give and give without ever needing anything in return. I’ve finally figured out that I have to take care of my own needs because, sure as hell, no one else is going to take care of them for me.

You’ve probably guessed that I didn’t reschedule my crisis because it was inconvenient. As if such a thing would have been possible. Nobody plans a crisis! Crises, by definition, are always unplanned and inconvenient; and they’re usually messy too. I did what I had to do: I fought through it on my own when I needed to do so. Now, I’m a stronger person for having done so.

- the chaplain

Entry filed under: thechaplain. Tags: , , , .

Lost Gospel of Herschel Goldman What if I behaved toward Christians like they behave towards me?

52 Comments Add your own

  • 1. karen  |  March 13, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    Wow, can I relate to this, chaplain! When they say that 20% of the people in church do 80% of the work and sacrifice, they sure are right. Except it’s probably closer to a 90-10 ratio.

    And it’s always the people who are already over-committed that get asked to do more and given a guilt-trip if they draw the line. It’s like standing up for your own physical and mental health is a selfish sin! I have been right where you were, and the time suck is especially bad when it comes to choir. Funny how they’re always thinking up ONE MORE THING that you could be doing, too, like the evangelistic outreach. For our choir, we were supposed to organize into small groups and host monthly dinner so we could spend EVEN MORE time together! Sheesh.

    I hate to bitch and moan about this stuff, because the minute I do some theist assumes the reason for deconversion is because people get burned out on church. When that’s really not the case at all – it’s a much deeper, primarily intellectual process for 99% of us. But your post struck a chord. I’m so glad I don’t have to face all that anymore.

    By the way, what was your husband’s reaction to your “outing” yourself? I don’t recall hearing about that from you – forgive me if you’ve already written about it.

  • 2. The de-Convert  |  March 13, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    I read a post by evanescent a few weeks ago that I’ve been mulling ever since. I was one who prided myself in living my life for others and not myself. I’m learning that this is a pretty foolish way to live.

    Here’s the link:

    http://ellis14.wordpress.com/2008/02/15/why-selflessness-is-immoral/

    Paul

  • 3. the chaplain  |  March 13, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    Karen:
    Thanks for your comment. You’re absolutely right that the burnout had little to do with my de-conversion. Like you and many others who post here, I did a lot of reading, thinking and praying before realizing and accepting that Christianity was bereft.

    My husband, whose handle is “the deacon,” handled my coming out very well. I wrote an account of the occasion here, on my blog. To put it briefly, he also had many questions and was glad to finally have a chance to speak openly about them. It turned out that we’d both been struggling for a long time, dropping hints and speaking obliquely, but afraid to be too open for fear of how the other would take it. Remember, we both came from evangelical backgrounds. Shedding one’s faith is not the accepted thing to do, as you well know. Now, we’re going through the de-conversion and re-awakening processes together. Being able to share our growth is so much better than going it alone.

    The de-Convert:
    Thanks for the link to evanescent’s fine post. I read it a couple of weeks ago and was very impressed with it. I’ve concluded that the typical conservative Christian emphasis on sacrifice is abusive. It’s insidious because it reaches far beyond its grounding in significant obvious truths about developing and maintaining healthy relationships. Christians generally do very poorly at teaching believers to balance caring for the needs of others, insofar as is reasonably possible, with caring for their own personal needs. The end result is that many believers are walking wounded and many de-converts are scarred, angry and sometimes bitter.

  • 4. karen  |  March 13, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    Chaplain, thanks for the link. I’m honestly jealous that you and the deacon found yourselves at similar circumstances – that’s terrific. Just to be able to talk about your thoughts and doubts and concerns honestly must have been a huge load off your shoulders.

    My husband is still a fundy and we basically can’t discuss religion anymore.

  • 5. Frreal  |  March 14, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Karen I am in the same boat as you though still mostly in the closet. My husband hasn’t responded positively to my subtle hints so as of yet I choose not to rock the boat. Isn’t that sad. I am jealous also; constantly searching for that one irrefutable truth that would at the very least lead him to initiate a search of his own.

    It sounds like you are out of the closet with your husband. Not to hijack this thread but how did you come out?

  • 6. evanescent  |  March 14, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Thanks for the link de-Convert, and thanks for the comments Chaplain, I’m glad you found the article helpful. :)

  • 7. Yurka  |  March 14, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Chaplain, pastors are not mind readers. Did you even try asking them for counseling? You seem to indicate that one look at you should have disclosed all your doubts to them.

  • 8. karen  |  March 14, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Karen I am in the same boat as you though still mostly in the closet. My husband hasn’t responded positively to my subtle hints so as of yet I choose not to rock the boat. Isn’t that sad.

    It is unbelievably sad when this happens in a marriage. To have to hide something so profound from your life partner is a bad thing.

    I am jealous also; constantly searching for that one irrefutable truth that would at the very least lead him to initiate a search of his own.

    My husband has his criticisms of the church, and has reduced his involvement since my leaving – partly due to my action and partly because he picked up a second job so his time is very limited. (Of course, we were the at-church-four-times-a-week sort for years.) But he’s still basically committed and goes to Sunday services at least twice a month.

    I don’t really WANT to influence him to go away from his religion. If he’s going to deconvert, I think it has to start with him. I would hate to have him go through a process as painful as deconversion at my urging. It’s too painful and too personal to be sparked by someone else, IMO.

    It sounds like you are out of the closet with your husband. Not to hijack this thread but how did you come out?

    It was during a major midlife crisis, when I was re-evaluating everything in my life, including my marriage and my religious beliefs. We had a number of “intense conversations,” went to therapy together and went to a marriage retreat. I made it clear during that period that I was no longer sure I was a Christian and then in one conversation I blurted out, “I’m not even sure I believe in god anymore!’

    Now, this was long before I really came to grips with being an atheist, and that statement really even shocked ME! I’m sure it was a Freudian slip – I was expressing something in a heated moment that I hadn’t even formulated coherently in my mind.

    Suffice it to say, that wasn’t the best way to break the news! We’ve talked about it occasionally since then, but for the last few years we’ve sort of mutually agreed not to discuss it after we had a big argument over evolution. I still do not feel like he really knows my reasoning or how much thought I put into deconverting.

  • 9. the chaplain  |  March 14, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    Yurka said, “Chaplain, pastors are not mind readers. Did you even try asking them for counseling? You seem to indicate that one look at you should have disclosed all your doubts to them.”

    This is a fair question. Since you don’t know the contents of the letter that I wrote to them, you have no way of knowing that, in that letter, I explained some of the difficulties I was having at the time. To be fair to the pastors, #1 took me out to lunch later that week. We had a pleasant visit, but he didn’t ask me anything about what I’d said in the letter. Since he was the one who issued the invitation, I figured it was his right to set the agenda for the discussion.

    Let me make it clear that I have no ill will toward either of these pastors. They’re good people who responded in human, not superhuman or supernatural, ways. I still go to church occasionally and I still have very cordial relationships with both pastors.

  • 10. Frreal  |  March 14, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Karen thanks so much for responding.

    I don’t really WANT to influence him to go away from his religion. If he’s going to deconvert, I think it has to start with him.

    Though I would like him to come to the same conclusions as me at this point in time I would just like him to explore and consider there might be an alternative. For me, for all my life prior to deconversion last year, I never even considered there was another side worth exploring. I wasn’t an avid bible reader. But I would defend the existence of God and scoff at those who questioned. It wasn’t until I decided if I was to worship and be a good Christian I ought to know. Thank God? for the internet? Maybe. Sometimes I wish I was still in the dark .

  • 11. Yurka  |  March 14, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Chaplain, thank you for clarifying.

    “I explained some of the difficulties I was having at the time. To be fair to the pastors, #1 took me out to lunch later that week. We had a pleasant visit, but he didn’t ask me anything about what I’d said in the letter.”

    There is pressure on pastors nowadays to be entertainers rather than shepherds, but he should not have treated you this way – sorry for jumping to conclusions. This was not a pastoral way to act.

  • 12. the chaplain  |  March 14, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    Frreal and Karen:
    I’m truly sorry that you are still having difficulties with your husbands over this matter. My husband and I were terrified of speaking our doubts for many years because one can never tell how another will respond to such a revelation. We both feared rejection.

    Karen – you may have blurted out your non-belief at an inopportune moment, but at least your husband knows where you stand. I applaud you for recognizing that he will have to find his own answers and for not wanting to force him to line up with you. That takes lots of courage and patience.

    Frreal – I wish I had something profound to say. You are in a tough situation. I hope you two will find a way to work things out together. Some other contributors to this blog have written about how they’ve come out to their spouses and how they handle being in a “mixed” marriage. Perhaps some of those posts and authors can offer some suggestions to you.

  • 13. the chaplain  |  March 14, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    This was not a pastoral way to act.

    Yeah, they missed the boat on that one. But, they’re only human. Since I don’t believe in God, I can’t blame them for not being super-pastors. I probably have some more empathy for them than I would have had if I were still a believer. Weird, eh?

  • 14. Frreal  |  March 14, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    I apparently need to learn the codes. Sorry for the bold

  • 15. Frreal  |  March 14, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    Chaplain, Thank you. I understand that fear before coming out. A fear of rejection and then future marriage strife/uncomfort yes. I also fear what I have coined for myself the “Eve complex” Perhaps it is silly misconception on my part but the “what ifs” plague me. What if he thinks my deconversion is some form of Satan in Eden influence. I honestly doubt he would (he truly is an amazing husband) but then the mind plays tricks on ya… at least mine does as I try to sort through ALL possible outcomes.

    I tend to be a person that has all i’s dotted and t’s crossed before I will commit to argue a point of view. (Could take years) Hence my looking for that irrefutable proof. (could take decades) :) Though I know/ believe Bible God is improbable… I contend with those preconceptions and what ifs. If it weren’t for having small children and not wanting to cause family disfunction… perhaps…. but sometimes we have to think beyond ourselves I guess. Maybe when they are in college.

    Chaplain I am so sorry to hijack your thread with my issues. What a drama queen. This site has been a godsend heh.

  • 16. the chaplain  |  March 14, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    Frreal:
    You’re not a drama queen. You’re living with some really powerful tensions. This blog is the place to vent, inquire, seek advice and generally do what you have to do.

  • 17. carlton figg  |  March 15, 2008 at 3:57 am

    Priests and pastors are human, I know. But so am I — and yet I know my job and perform it without leaning on excuses (“they’re only human, after all”). My job is to help produce a newspaper. The job of my parish priest, or pastor, is to help save my soul. The priest is supposed to look for “lost sheep” — and if somebody is falling away from the church, he is supposed to offer the falling one a good deal of emotional as well as spiritual support so as to prevent a soul from denying God. But all too often, when a priest/pastor falls down on the job, sympathisers in the church take the line that “he is only human, after all”. Even if it’s a sex scandal –“he is only human, after all !”

    I have a lot of issues with the Church and with the contradictions that are apparent in the Bible. Maybe I’ll go into that some day — but for the moment, I need to point out that no priest, pastor of bishop has taken time out to discuss these issues with me. Instead, they become almost hostile. One of them insinuated that “thinkers” such as myself were better off away from the church !!

    Is that the route to de-conversion ?

  • 18. Quester  |  March 15, 2008 at 4:40 am

    I’m finding this thread painful to read, because I know there are a great many people I’ve let down.

    Sadly, I found repeatedly that church officials (pastors, bishops, whoever) rarely gave a damn about my needs. I was supposed to give and give and give without ever needing anything in return. I’ve finally figured out that I have to take care of my own needs because, sure as hell, no one else is going to take care of them for me.

    As a pastor, I found the same thing with congregations’ expectations. Work fifty hours a day, visit the sick and the elderly, run a youth program, find out why people aren’t coming to church, take a pay cut, lead the choir, work with the other churches, always be in your office of people drop by, take over for anyone who has to leave for whatever reasons, etc. etc.

    I’m not saying I managed to do all this, but I was expected to. It seemed that people wanted a pastor to do all the bits about being a Christian anyone thought should be done, but no one wanted to do.

    We don’t have job descriptions or set hours. We’re lucky if we get set pay. And seminary doesn’t do a thing to teach what a pastor should do. When I asked my professors, I got laughed at. “No two Christians agree,” they claimed. And I found, largely, that was true.

    There may be people on this blog who live in my parish and I did not help as a pastor. I am sorry, and I know that doesn’t make anything better. It doesn’t help that I spent most of the time I was ordained going through the process of de-conversion and soon felt I had no hope to offer anyone at all, in regards to a God who loves us and wants the best for us. When I realized I’d hit that point, I asked to have my licence to minister revoked. People needed what I didn’t have and couldn’t give.

    I hope I’m not coming across as defensive. I’m trying not to be. I hope I’m just relating my own experiences, talking about my own problems with the same issues, from a different perspective.

    I was asked if I could wait until after Easter to leave, and had to say no. I can no longer see the Easter story as a hopeful and joyful one and can’t imagine anyone wanting me to get up and preach negatively about the crucifixion and doubtfully about the resurrection. I’ve also had one member of the congregation come visit me since I quit. His bright idea was that since they were paying a pastor to come in once a month to replace me (they can’t afford a full-time pastor right now- I did mention a pay-cut up there in the expectations, yes?), surely I could preach just once a month for the same amount of pay as the visiting pastors (and since I’m right there, they would not have to pay mileage). Sure, I’m struggling with doubt, depression and stress, but it’s just once a month and it will give me some spending money until I find a new job.

    I tried to be as polite as I could when I said no.

    It is amazing what people expect. They have their list and think it’s quite reasonable, ignoring how many others have expectations of you. This is just as true for members of the congregations as it is for the pastors, and I tried to always remember that.

    I think most people could benefit from learning that it’s okay to take care of yourself, stand up for yourself, and ask for help. Many people find none of those three things easy.

  • 19. charlie  |  March 15, 2008 at 8:18 am

    my loss of faith in christanity came when i was told i was not welcome in the church by the pastor because i was starting to ask
    questions about the bible and the faith that the only answer they could give me was god said so and i would not accept it. i know this is not the attitude of alot of christians but it just disilusioned me that it came from the pastor just because i was trying to find a truth that i could live with

  • 20. Hugo  |  March 15, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Frreal, does your husband like reading? Here in South Africa, many of my post-theistic friends agree the slippery slope is Brian McLaren -> Marcus Borg -> John Shelby Spong…

    My own path followed a gradual way out, via liberal Christianity. I was trying to sketch out a path that my family could also follow (cousins, aunts, uncles), so I took it slow. It took way too much time, my studies took longer as a result, I kinda derailed my life looking for a solution to the “religion problem”.

    McLaren’s “Secret Message of Jesus” is a good start for fundies. It shows what I’d call the “humanistic” side of Jesus. It basically brings heaven and hell to here on earth, helping break (or chip away) afterlife obsession. (At least, that’s my theory, or the path I followed, but I was already losing my faith.) I’ve lent it to a fundamentalist pentecostal, and it went down well. This does provide some common ground for humanists and Christians.

    The big nail in the “bad religion” coffin was Marcus Borg’s “Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time”. This isn’t so digestible for fundies, they’d chuck the book when they see him state “the Gospel of John is not a factual account”. Once they can digest that though, it opens up an understanding and an appreciation of Jesus that doesn’t require holding on to supernatural beliefs. In fact, in a twist of irony, it describes a Jesus that fought against religious oppression (the purity code of the day), a message that is the exact opposite of the teachings of our local fundie cult. Talk about liberating…

    The reason I like this path as an easy let-down, is it allows the seeker to hold onto the core of their “lifestance” while allowing the rubbish to burn away. I believe that core or stability is useful to stabilise a rough ride that is otherwise too scary to undertake. Out on the other side, you get to a point where “Jesus” becomes more of a way of compassionate life than an “imaginary person that you have to believe can walk on water”.

    Anyway, I’ve lead my stepfather down the same path. He used to avoid even reading the daily verse from the Qu’ran in the newspaper (published next to a Bible verse and a secular quote) thinking that could adversely affect him, I’d say he came a long way. I feel a little bad for my role in undermining his faith, but we do have a good “emerging church” church in the neighbourhood where he can still find his nourishment and “soul food”.

    I didn’t mean to “forcibly” de-convert him from fundamentalism, but I hoped that he’d develop a better understanding of “marriage” after breaking free from fundamentalism. (I care about my mother.) I won’t go into details, it’s not my place.

  • 21. Hugo  |  March 15, 2008 at 9:35 am

    (BTW, I’ve not looked at Spong. I don’t think it is necessary. Borg is good enough.)

  • 22. the chaplain  |  March 15, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Carlton Figg said: “I need to point out that no priest, pastor of bishop has taken time out to discuss these issues with me. Instead, they become almost hostile. One of them insinuated that “thinkers” such as myself were better off away from the church !!”

    I think many pastors, etc., who truly believe are terrified of discussing these issues. IMO, serious consideration of the evidence is the road to de-conversion, a road that is particularly difficult to take if one’s livelihood depends on perpetuating the myth.

    As you no doubt know, many evangelical, fundamentalist and pentecostal preachers are very suspicious of high-falutin’ higher education. They distrust book-learnin’. And frankly, they are right to do so, if they want to sustain religious traditions. Reason really is the antidote to religion.

    Quester: I identify so much with your pain. Being asked to stay on until after Easter, of all Christian holidays, would be particularly difficult. And being asked to preach “just once a month” even though you didn’t believe what you would have been saying would be highly offensive. I respect your integrity in refusing to do both of those things. Your refusals demonstrate the seriousness with which you took the pastoral role and your conviction that pastoral duties should be performed by those who believe sincerely in what they do, rather than just anyone with the “right credentials” to do the job.

    Hugo: My loss of faith also proceeded from conservative through liberal belief to no god-belief. I think it may be a common path to de-conversion.

  • 23. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker  |  March 15, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    I work for the Department of Defense, also known as Acronym Central, and the joke is that Navy stands for Never Again Volunteer Yourself.

    In normal society if you announce you’re suffering burnout the NORMAL response is usually “OMG go get some rest and we’ll talk about MY problems/issues/demands later when you’re feeling better.”

    If you’re in a social situation where this is NOT the response, GET OUT!

    I left the Church aeons ago (age 16). Stopped calling myself a Christian once I left my parent’s house. Dabbled in other religions until I realized that regardless the names and trappings religion is nothing more than a form of social cohesion (which necessitates control because the choir needs to sing from the same sheet, yes?).

    Never once did I progress to losing my faith in God (frankly I don’t think it’s progress, either). God may not have a “heaven” or a grey beard or a penis (sorry) or a “personality” but so what. The Divine doesn’t need any of these things to exist.

    It also doesn’t distress me that my concept of the Divine doesn’t fit in my brain and consequently I can’t explain it. Rather, I consider my incomprehension as a sign that I’m finally on to something.

  • 24. karen  |  March 15, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Frreal If it weren’t for having small children and not wanting to cause family disfunction… perhaps…. but sometimes we have to think beyond ourselves I guess. Maybe when they are in college.

    Take it at your own pace, Frreal, and don’t rush anything.

    I stopped going to church when my kids were in late elementary school and my husband continued to take him with them for several more years. Finally when they were in the high school group, they decided they no longer wanted to attend and my husband grudgingly let the issue drop. It helped that our church fired the pastor that we had all greatly admired about this time and there was a major split. Even my husband has stopped going there.

    You might be surprised that things turn out better than you suppose. After my initial declaration to my husband, I gradually found my deconversion progressing seriously toward agnosticism/atheism. One day I sat my kids down and explained that I no longer believed in god but it was there decision as to what they believed themselves.

    This change in me really hasn’t been as difficult or family-shattering as I worried it might be. For all the nonsense you tell yourself about how your faith is the center of your marriage or at the heart of your own identity, you’re still the same person without religious belief as you were before – except maybe more forgiving and more honest.

    Good luck, and please don’t worry about asking questions here. Supporting and encouraging recent deconverts is what we aim to do!

  • 25. karen  |  March 15, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    Hugo: My loss of faith also proceeded from conservative through liberal belief to no god-belief. I think it may be a common path to de-conversion.

    I agree. Dan Barker describes a similar progression. His famous quote, “When I got to the end of the bathwater, I found out there was no baby!”

    Even if people get “stuck” at the McLaren stage of liberal belief, or follow the non-theistic Christianity (!) of Spong, they are much better off – and so are we all – than those who are mired in fundamentalism.

  • 26. karen  |  March 15, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    Quester, thanks so much for sharing your perspective. I have always felt a lot of empathy for pastors and the unrealistic expectations that are placed on them.

  • 27. the chaplain  |  March 15, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    Hedonistic said: In normal society if you announce you’re suffering burnout the NORMAL response is usually “OMG go get some rest and we’ll talk about MY problems/issues/demands later when you’re feeling better.”

    That response is unheard of in the churches with which I’m familiar. Burnout is not an option. Period. “Christian” responses tend to run more like this:

    My God, woman, Jesus didn’t burnout! The apostle Paul never burned out! You’re just weak. You need to put it all in God’s hands and trust Him to give you strength. That’s the ticket! Now stop whining and get back to work.

  • 28. LeoPardus  |  March 15, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    My loss of faith also proceeded from conservative through liberal belief to no god-belief. I think it may be a common path to de-conversion.

    It seems to be far and away the most common. In fact I don’t yet recall finding someone else who went my route. Conservative (evy/fundy) to even more conservative (EOC) to out (atheist/agnostic).

  • 29. Quester  |  March 17, 2008 at 1:08 am

    Frreal,

    I’d forgotten to mention in my previous comment how well I can relate to your “Eve complex”. I felt the same way when I first started being able to accept the idea that maybe salvation is universal. It was a shocking concept for me. What if we didn’t have to live in fear for ourselves or our loved ones and could actually trust God and just love each other? It was a difficult change of perspective for me, and I was plagued by the fear that I was leading people to hell by not drumming the fear of hell into them.

    By the time I reached the point that I can’t truly say what I believe anymore, that fear had finally faded some for me. But if I ever have kids, I wouldn’t be surprised to have that fear flare up again.

  • 30. Quester  |  March 17, 2008 at 1:41 am

    As for pastors fearing questions, I can’t speak for all pastors, but I can speak from my experience. I was the pastor of four churches, each in a different small community. The church in the smallest of these four communities often had more parishioners under the age of ten than over the age of thirty. This is very unusual in this area, and changed the dynamic of the service a fair amount. For one thing, most of the kids had no problem asking questions about my sermon, while I was still preaching it. This really kept me on my toes and encouraged me to do more research before the service as I tried to guess what I might be asked. When the parents realized that I actually tried to answer the kids, they began to ask questions of their own. This was great fun, most of the time.

    It can be so hard to get responses from people in certain churches at the best of times. I’d sprinkle my sermons with jokes, and people would tell me how hard they’d had to try to keep from laughing in church. Getting actual questions told me people were actually listening and thinking about what I said. It was great.

    But there was one time when a five year old girl asked me why Jesus had to die on the cross. I’m sure I stopped breathing for a moment. Like I said in #29, I was beginning to look at the possibility of universal salvation. I was also beginning to question the role of Jesus’ crucifixion in the process of salvation. I opened my mouth and said something, and the girl (and her mother) both seemed satisfied with what I said, but I haven’t the foggiest what it was. My mind was whirring as fast as it could, and yes, I was afraid.

    But I’d also been offended by people who said I was too analytical or intellectual and argued that religion was beyond reason and shouldn’t be questioned. So I tried to answer, as best as I could.

    Of course, in hindsight, perhaps those who had offended me had the right of it. Reason does seem to have led me out of religion, after all.

    Anyway, fear can definitely be raised by questions. Fear of sowing doubt (and thus possibly damnation), fear of losing one’s job for misrepresenting the church by saying the wrong thing, fear of scarring a little girl with graphic considerations of a crucifixion (or inspiring her to think that such sacrifice was something she should emulate or participate in- I could just see her taking a hammer and her little sister to “play Jesus”), fear of causing a split in the congregation, fear that my educated guesses were being received as gospel truth, fear of going on too long and turning the service into a philosophical discussion more fit for another time, and other such fears.

    And of course other pastors could have other fears, determined by their pasts, priorities and personalities. But even with those fears, it saddens me when questions (serious questions, seriously meant) are suppressed as inappropriate for a theist to have.

  • 31. Frreal  |  March 17, 2008 at 9:41 am

    Thanks all for the comments.

    I tend to think a good portion of believers are like I was. I never questioned God and the bible because it never occurred to me there were questions to be asked. I believed because I believed I believed. Does that make sense? It wasn’t until last year that I decided I ought to know WHY I believed what I believed.

    Deconversion began with a search on the formation of the canon and from there the world of Apologetics. I never even KNEW there were things to apologize for. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that something INSPIRED by God should/would have no need for apologetics nor defenders.

    Hugo as far as the books. In order for me to suggest those books I would first have to demonstrate a need to read those books. Thus my dilemma. I am not “out”. I have as of yet only posed a few skeptical questions and moral diffulties that were unfortunately not well received.

    In any case, I believe it is essential for him to initiate his own explorations because he has questions of his own. At this point I don’t think it has occurred to him there is a need to question and I fear any attempt on my part to give pause to beliefs has the off chance of being viewed akin to Eve handing Adam the apple. Sigh.

  • 32. Anonymous  |  April 16, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    You’re right. If God really inspired something, He wouldn’t need anyone to defend his works. Why do you think that the Bible is undergoing much scrutiny? If you don’t know, I’ll tell you. It’s because the Bible is severly flawed. Its message has been tampered with since the beginning.

  • 33. Lunch With A Liberal Christian « de-conversion  |  April 19, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    [...] clear that both of us have been thinking about similar issues. The first, which I discussed in a recent post, was burnout. Church musicians, many of whom are volunteers, typically sacrifice a lot of time and [...]

  • 34. Benjamin  |  April 25, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    As I was reading it appeared that many chose to de-convert becuase of an inability to understand scripture, religious doctrines, or because they were let down by their pastor. I believe it is important to note that Christianity is not about religious doctrines, how well some one can interpret scripture for you, or how the pastor treats you. It is about you, as an individual, developing an intimate relationship with God. And of course as a Christian you believe that Jesus is the Son of God and died as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. That He rose again and is coming back.

    Frustrated with “church stuff” I left the church and decided I would go on my own quest for God. I decided to study the Bible for myself and prayed for understanding and insight. This was the best thing I have ever done in my life. Studying the Word of God has helped be develop my own faith in God not based on my pastor nor my church. The scripture tells us we must work out our own salvation. I guarantee if you search for God with a committed heart He will reveal Himself to you. It will not happen overnight. It is a process. It took me a year and I still have so much more to learn and so many more areas of my life that need growth.

    Do not allow ANY person to steal your faith from you. It is yours. Nurture it because God is real.

  • 35. LeoPardus  |  April 25, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Bloody bleep! Benjamin hit one that’s not in the list!

    -You didn’t really understand the scriptures (Bible)

    I just went and update it!

    For those who don’t know, it’s an article from about a month ago, called, “Convenient categories: The “real reasons” de-cons leave the faith” Go and check it out.

  • 36. LeoPardus  |  April 25, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    Benjamin:

    Thanks for being yet another drive-by shooter with “all the answers”. Don’t let the fact that you don’t know anything at all about us keep you from telling us “all the answers”. Now that you’ve got us conveniently categorized, you can drive on to your next ‘hit’.

    Your post is so full of fallacies, presuppositions, and arrogance, it’s hard to even know where to start. Maybe someone else will take a crack at it.

  • 37. Benjamin  |  April 26, 2008 at 1:38 am

    I apologize if my post was offensive. That was not the intent. Nor was I suggesting that I have “all the answers.” Just relaying my own experience and opinion. If you believe I have misinterpreted something that was posted here, point it out and give me your truth. This is not meant to be a debate.

  • 38. LeoPardus  |  April 26, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Benjamin:

    Actually debate is fine hereabouts. Popping as a newb and stranger and coming off as “the Bible answer man” isn’t cool though.

    But you’ve come back with an apology and a clear effort to be open and listen. A lot of Christians that drive by here are entirely lacking in such humility. So welcome.

    In the spirit of debate then, I’ll address your opening post.

    As I was reading it appeared that many chose to de-convert becuase of an inability to understand scripture, religious doctrines,

    We have apologists, seminarians, pastors, and independent scholars here. You’ll find that we understand them quite well.

    you, as an individual, developing an intimate relationship with God

    Look in the archives for the post “A Personal Relationship with Jesus?”

    Frustrated with “church stuff” I left the church and decided I would go on my own quest for God. I decided to study the Bible for myself and prayed for understanding and insight. This was the best thing I have ever done in my life. Studying the Word of God has helped be develop my own faith in God not based on my pastor nor my church.

    This is a very Protestant idea that lots of people come up with. It’s the root source of all the divisions in the church. Everyone “finding his own way” or more accurately “making it up as they go along”. What do you do when you go off and do your own thing, then meet up with someone else who did the same thing, but came to some diametrically opposed conclusions?
    This all also puts you at odds with that very Bible you worship. 1 Timothy 3:15, “you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” Gee the church, not the Bible is the pillar and foundation of truth? Not so surprising though if you remember that the church came before the Bible, and you only have the Bible via the church (which decided which books would be in the Bible).

    The scripture tells us we must work out our own salvation.

    Unless you look at other verses that directly contradict that one verse you just used.

    I guarantee if you search for God with a committed heart He will reveal Himself to you. It will not happen overnight.

    How about 25 years? How about literally screaming and crying desperately? Is that committed enough? I guarantee you God did NOT show up.

    Do not allow ANY person to steal your faith from you.

    No one did. God simply never showed up.

    God is real.

    Is that so? Prove it. Thomas the apostle said, “Unless I see the nail prints in his hands, and place my fingers in the wound in his side, I will not believe.” The story goes on to say that Jesus showed up and granted just that wish to Thomas. If an apostle, who lived with Jesus for years, needs that level of proof, is it unreasonable for a guy 2000 years later to ask for some similar level? I think so. And I did. No appearances have occurred. Nothing but apologists, apologizing for their “no show” deity.

    Nope he’s not real. You’ve made him in your own image and your own imagination.

  • 39. Anonymous  |  May 14, 2008 at 5:29 am

    When Tertullian wrote in his Apologeticus, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,” one has to wonder how he so comprehensively channeled the plight of piano-playing pseudoapostates who wish to glorify God with their talents so far as it’s convenient and socially engaging.

  • 40. the chaplain  |  May 14, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    Anonymous:
    Thanks for using a unique handle so we can track your thoughts throughout your comments. Thanks for the snarky attitude too – that looks suspiciously like the sort of Christian love I wrote about in this post. How convenient that you reinforced my point.

  • 41. Anonymous  |  May 15, 2008 at 12:56 am

    I’ve reinforced your points only as far as your projections onto my character allow. As a lifelong atheist raised by atheists, I find your accusations of hypocritical Christian love misplaced. My comment was addressing the tone of your piece–which utterly turned me off. How, for instance, should the fellow choir members known you were only there socially? From their point of view, they were asking you to participate in activities that they assumed you, as a member of their church, would find spiritually rewarding. It’s not like they were asking you to the prayer meeting just to play piano for a few minutes and then go sit in the car. The mere mention of an outreach program–which never even took off–managed to ruffle your feathers. I’m not sure how you can commiserate on that point with readers that talk about certain members contributing disproportionately to their churches.

    Asides like “Sorry guys, count me out of that one” and “those really get the juices flowing” may make make small-town atheists pump their fists, but they’re muttered through the clenched sneer of a teenager being dragged to church by her parents, not written by a mature adult talking about a milestone event in her life (especially one dragging along a teenager of her own).

    Maybe had you been more honest about your withered faith, your final memories of church could have been of (somewhat) enjoyable fellowship instead of as a warehouse for body and grounding for your passive-aggressive ennui.

    As for the handle, the last comment on the article is from weeks ago, an epoch in internet time; I was uncertain there’d be any response. Besides, registering for this message board would really devour my time–and since you didn’t lambast the other unregistered user for posting anonymously, it would appear you’re asking me to contribute disproportionately to the board. Sorry guys, count me out of that one.

  • 42. bobbi jo  |  May 15, 2008 at 11:31 am

    Chaplain, I’m siding on you with this one. Even though we are called to be missional, (being in community with one another-Not evangelizing) even Jesus rested. He was always going off to pray/meditate, sometimes all night. he was even sleeping (in Mark) when they were in the boat and a storm came. The disciples had to wake him up. He took time out so he could refresh himself to take on the challenges of the next day. I think any sane human has to do that. My pastor is taking six weeks off this summer. He’s going out of town, turning off his phone and already let us know ahead of time that this is a time of rest so don’t bother him. Not one person in our community is sweating it. we have other pastors that are perfectly able to carry on while he gets some much needed rest. whatever he’s dealing with, I want him to rest and deal with it, not “well, what about the stuff in my life?” That is the point of community. I’ve got other people I can turn to as well. I’ve also got their back when they are dealing with stuff and am understanding of the need to rest. I’m sorry that your experience in the church didn’t go better and am appalled at those pastor’s comments.

    anonomous, you wrote, “From their point of view, they were asking you to participate in activities that they assumed you, as a member of their church, would find spiritually rewarding.”

    Yeah, but also, she probably did start out enjoying these activities. If these people knew her at all, they would probably have seen that something wasn’t right. I can tell with people I truely know, just by looking at them, if they are having a bad day. So why weren’t these people asking her what is up?

  • 43. Anonymous  |  May 15, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    What do you mean, “probably did start out enjoying these activities?” The opening paragraph of the article establishes that, when she left the choir, she still enjoyed meeting up with the people for weekly rehearsals. Since she avoided the outreach program and the prayer group, and presumably any other activity she was averse to, all the choir saw was somebody enjoying playing piano at rehearsals and church. Where were they supposed to see something wrong? Had she actually participated in an activity which she didn’t enjoy, somebody might have picked up on it and asked her about it. Was her belief in an omniscient god replaced with belief in omniscient choir members?

  • 44. Milligan  |  February 4, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    This sentence pretty much sums up churches:
    “The point is this: churches have a very bad habit of using people and giving little in return.”

  • 45. Widgetas  |  April 14, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    “giving little in return” – whaaaaaaat?! I thought you got salvation and eternal life?
    Surely that’s better than nothing…?

  • 46. BigHouse  |  April 14, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    45. Widgetas | April 14, 2009 at 1:07 pm
    “giving little in return” – whaaaaaaat?! I thought you got salvation and eternal life?
    Surely that’s better than nothing…?

    Is that the chruch’s to give?

  • 47. LeoPardus  |  April 14, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Surely BigHouse, you know that the church grants absolution, baptism, communion, membership. Doesn’t that cover it?

    But is it really more than nothing?…. or just the same? :(

  • 48. Not a Church Goer anymore  |  April 14, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    LeoPardus, don’t forget, churches also provides cash flow and front row pews if you’re a distinguished member…

  • 49. GaryC  |  April 14, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    “giving little in return” – whaaaaaaat?! I thought you got salvation and eternal life?

    The churches I am familiar with don’t actually offer eternal life as a service. The services they do offer typically include funerals and burials, and those are obviously not of much use to the eternally living.

  • 50. Eve's Apple  |  April 14, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    This discussion reminds me of something Ayn Rand wrote in “The Fountainhead” about knowing the difference between true and false prophets – if they use the word “sacrifice”, run like hell. Because someone who talks about sacrifice wants to be the master and you the slave. It is a dirty little secret that there are a lot of control games going on in the church. Do you crave power? Then become a Christian and start evangelizing! If you are good at it soon you will have new converts under you that you can start molding according to your interpretation of the Bible. And there is a lot of material to work with, because ultimately we are dealing with the mind. A little nudge here, a little correction there, gentle hints–it is amazing what you can get others to give up. And if they balk, then bring out the fear card. Threaten them, plant doubts about their true commitment–I think Hans Christian Andersen had it down pat in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Terribly subversive tale, that. Come to think of it, it ought to be banned . . . don’t want people drawing comparisons . . .

  • 51. LeoPardus  |  April 15, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Funny. I’ve used the Emperor’s New Clothes comparison many times to talk about the absence of God/reality in faith.

  • 52. Country Crock  |  July 14, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    As a “Christian” musician, I can relate. in the mid-’70s, I was traveling the country with a famous gospel singer, heavy-set guy. After six months of thinking things are going fine, we arrived in town early one morning after driving all night from a tour. Everyone emptied from the bus and left except his son-in-law/driver and I. When I was putting away my suitcase in the car, the son-in-law calmly said, “We don’t need you anymore.” Seems he had made this decision long before the tour, discussed it with family and everyone except me. I thought they acted “distant” for some reason the past week.

    Singers will do that to musicians. But it is sad when they do it in the name of Jesus. The guy went home and straight to bed. Never said goodby, kiss-my-a** or anything. I was dropped like a rock. Something similar happened to me around 8 years ago that made me step back and finally look at things the way they are, not the way i want them to be.

    Currently, I am being paid by a church, but the pastor is as unconcerned as your pastor was. But I go perform a service and they pay me to do the job. Status quo is the phrase for the contemporary church. Glad you discovered it when you did. Thanks for the story. It was so very real to me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


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.

Twitter

Archives

Blog Stats

  • 1,998,119 hits since March 2007

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 199 other followers