Why d-C? – Answer the damn question Mr. Priest!
Why do Christians de-convert? To answer these questions I’ve sat down and considered 94 of the 117 de-conversion stories I read on one of the largest archives of de-conversion stories on the internet.
There appeared to be several broad and recurring factors among these de-conversion stories. In this series, I will consider these broad reasons for de-conversion, how common they appeared to be amongst my sample, and what it might mean in terms of tactics for those wanting to support or even promote de-conversion.
Dissatisfaction with the answers to simple questions proffered by the religion was the most common reason cited for de-conversion amongst the sample (14.89%). Priests, prosletyers, Sunday school teachers, and religious parents are one of the most common triggers for de-conversion. When a figure representing the religion (in the mind of the person asking a question), offers an absurd answer to that question, the asker starts to doubt.
Children ask questions, and many de-convertees spoke of their first doubt’s arising when they were children asking simple questions, and getting stupid answers. They can be mind numbingly simple questions about everyday issues, as we see in this story:
“At 6 I was in church playgroup and I asked why they never shut the church door. The answer was a burglar would never steal for God because God will make him pay. I said but some one will steal I know this. They ignored me, so I asked and asked again. I realised they were telling lies and I simply thought this is all rubbish and never went back.”
Or they can be the sorts of questions that Dawkin’s himself would be proud of:
“Where the universe came from?”
The teacher responded: God.
I then stated: Where did God come from?
She responded. “We just have to accept that he was always here, and not question it.”
I am now 37 years old, but I can remember clearly my feelings about this comment. Utter disappointment. It seemed to me, even at only 9, to be a statement that violated logic. Why couldn’t she answer such a simple question?
Unsatisfactory answers in defence of a religious belief can be offered by practically anyone in order to raise doubts in the mind of people likely to reject religion in this way:
I was arguing with about eight to nine Christians in the library and I asked, “If God created the world in seven days, why are there dinosaur fossils?” They all had different answers; the worst was when one guy said that people made up fossils to discredit religion.
So what could this mean for supporting de-conversion? In every de-conversion story I encountered that cited the inability of a religion to answer a question satisfactorily, the question arose from that individuals involvement with the religion. They asked an innocent question of a preacher, or a parent, or a sunday school teacher, and recieved an incoherant or illogical answer.
The questions were not put to them by atheists. Access to resources from a skeptical, scientific or atheistic standpoint that addressed these sorts of questions aided in de-conversion. There does seem to be a role for supporting de-conversion in this instance, but the doubt that leads a person to seek out information that was not authorised by the religion arose from these young individuals own natural encounters with the religion. Only one of the de-conversion stories of this nature spoke of encountering an atheist who put questions about religion into their mind.
It’s not surprising really. Religions would cease to exist if they did not develop defence mechanisms when encountering people attempting to engender disbelief in the religion.
- Originally published by Kieran Bennett, reprinted with permission.