My de-conversion: A discovery of deliberate lies

August 12, 2008 at 5:28 pm 95 comments

I was born into a very religious Christian family. My maternal grandfather was a former Baptist pastor and leading elder of his church, which he also founded. He and my grandmother had been heavily involved in Campus Crusade, especially during the 1960s. My aunt worked for Campus Crusade the majority of her life, and after that taught Bible studies. When my grandfather would meet a new person, the first question he would ask them is, “Have you accepted Jesus into your heart as your personal savior?” My first memory of anything religious is of him asking me that very question.

I don’t know how old I was when it started, but I can remember being no older than 5 and being dogged by that question every time I was in his presence. I remember being perplexed by the question. I didn’t really know who Jesus was, or what it meant to ask him into my heart, but I knew it was something I had to do. I was told that prayer would make it happen, but I had no concept of what prayer was either. I remember laying in bed, again no older than 5, and in a quiet whisper asking Jesus to come into my heart. I was plagued by the fear that I hadn’t asked loud enough, that Jesus hadn’t heard my request. I ask him several times over to come into my heart, with increasing loudness. To finally make sure Jesus could hear, I went into my parent’s large walk-in closet, crawled underneath some hanging clothes, and shouted, “JESUS! Come into my heart!” Surely that did it, I thought.

From the age of seven on I was sent to a large nondenominational Christian school. We went to Chapel once a week where several grades met together to sing praise and worship songs and have a mini-sermon. We memorized Bible verses along with our list of spelling words. A portion of every part of the day was set aside for the subject Bible, just like the subject Math. We even had a Bible workbook and regular homework assignments. All of our textbooks had Christian themes and were from Christian publishers: Science, History, even English. In 6th grade for literature we were assigned Joni, the autobiography of Joni Eareckson-Tada, a quadriplegic who turned her tragedy into a way to tell others about the love of God. That same year I was punished for bringing a book about the history of philosophy, which my paternal grandmother had given me, because it contained chapters on unchristian thought, like Nietzsche. I pointed out to the teacher who confiscated my book that it also had a chapter about Jesus, but that didn’t matter. They did everything they could to keep us locked up in a very tight Christian bubble, with every aspect of our lives completely saturated with Christianity.

During my elementary years I proudly identified myself as a Christian, but I hadn’t given much thought as to what that actually meant. By the time I reached junior high I had rededicated my life to God with teary-eyed passion. I started taking my faith much more seriously. I began doing daily “devotionals”—reading a passage from the Bible or a page from a devotional book that contained a verse and words of instruction or inspiration. I prayed for at least 15 minutes before going to sleep every night, and attempted to “pray without ceasing” during the day, which resulted in my inner dialog switching from a conversation with myself to a conversation with God, a habit that became so engrained in my psyche that it still rears it’s head from time to time.

As I entered high school, still at the same Christian school, I was a Christian novel reading, W.W.J.D. bracelet wearing, mega-church attending teen; my life was still consumed and defined by my faith. At school they kicked our Bible instruction up a few notches in order to prepare us for the mission field, the ministry, and the dreaded “real world” outside of that bubble they had so meticulously built. Bible was often my favorite subject, and one I always earned high marks in. I was excited to learn apologetics and how to interpret scripture on my own. Along with being taught how to defend our faith, we were also taught morality, or rather, how we should think. We were taught about the evils of abortion and shown a video of hacked up fetuses, piles of baby hands and feet, and crushed skulls that made every single one of us cry—even the football players. We were shown a skit about how God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, and read the passages in Romans about the evils of homosexuality. And that is where they started to loose me. Because of my Christian bubble I had never met an atheist, a girl who had gotten an abortion, a Muslim, or a democrat, so I could comfortably consider those people immoral and hell-bound, but accidentally a homosexual had slipped through the cracks. His name is Rufus Wainwright and he’s an openly gay musician and songwriter who I had fallen in love with. It was all well and good to say that the abortion girl was evil, but Rufus? My Rufus? Evil? No. He couldn’t be. He was too nice, too kind, too caring, and too talented to be condemned for a lifestyle choice that he felt he had no control over. The Rufus Problem caused me great psychological stress. I remember pouring it over night and day. Finally I came to my mom and ask, “With gay people, wouldn’t it be best to ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’?” She agreed that would be best, but admitted that a lot of Christians had problems with that policy, and that it would be harmful for society if the gay lifestyle was accepted. “Just look at Rome,” she said. “Homosexuality was accepted there, and they fell into ruin.” So even my mother, the most loving, caring, wonderful Christian—no, the most loving, caring, wonderful person I knew—thought that homosexuality was a pox on civilization, an unnatural abomination.

Around the time that The Rufus Problem cropped up, I had a very strange change of heart. I slowly lost interested in my devotionals and cut back on my long daily prayers, opting many nights to just go to sleep instead. While I felt immensely guilty about it, I couldn’t help but notice that my life was unchanged. I didn’t suddenly start failing tests, or being mean to my friends, or having evil thoughts. I decided to try to stop my constant dialoging with God as an experiment. I was sure my life would fall apart, that even simple tasks would be emotionally difficult if I wasn’t constantly chatting with my best friend Jesus, but much to my surprise I found that I was able to get through day just as easily. Despite this, I remained a proud and vocal Christian. I wasn’t about to let go of the most important thing in my life just because I had stopped praying as much as I used to. I had so many other reasons to believe. Or so I thought.

I continued on for another year, still a Christian, but not quite as passionate as I had once been. I began to find religious conversations tedious and annoying, which was shocking and another source of guilt. I remember distinctly a road trip with my mother where she was talking about religion nonstop. She always talked about religion, so this was nothing new, but I found it absolutely insufferable. I can’t say what it was exactly—maybe it was the hypocrisy of her words that I was starting to discover, maybe it was the fact that it was all beginning to sound too much like a ridiculous glorified fairy tale, but I couldn’t take it any longer. I asked her suddenly, “Mom, can we please talk about something other than religion. Anything other than religion.” My outburst resulted in a mini-inquisition, where I admitted that I was feeling like I didn’t have very much faith anymore. She told me that it was normal, that all Christians went through times of high faith and low, and that I should just continue to pray and rely on God and it would all resolve itself. I was satisfied enough with her answer that I didn’t delve any further into my true feelings. I prayed that God would help me find my great faith again and trusted that within a few weeks I would be back to my old happy Christian self, but I never did reclaim that teary-eyed passion. Despite all of this, I never once even considered leaving the faith. I was still a Christian, just a bad one.

The next year was my senior year of high school, where we got to finally learn under the most revered Bible teacher at our entire school. I had heard stories of changed lives from other students, and I had high hopes that Mr. L’s class would help me through my little faith problem. He was supposed to be extraordinarily smart, the greatest mentor, and the most learned Christian. His entire class was devoted to high-level apologetics. We were presented with arguments against our faith that we were likely to encounter in the “real world,” and then walked through step-by-step instructions to debunk the claims. A large chunk of the class was devoted to debunking evolution. We were told that they would teach us all about evolution so that we could understand it as well as our moral opponents, but in reality all they told us was lies. They asserted that no transitional fossils had been found and that none exited, that there was no way to reliably date the earth and the universe, that the theory was full of more gaps than answers, and that it should be disregarded because Darwin himself recanted the theory on his deathbed shortly after his Christian conversion. We mocked the silly idea of life coming from “primordial soup” and were even given that old line, “If we evolved from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys around today?”

We were taught that the Bible is a scientific authority, not Darwin, and given a handful of verses that illustrated that point. The one that sticks out most in my mind is Hebrews 11:3. We were given the following passage, “what is seen was not made out of things which are visible,” as proof that the Bible predicted atoms. I found this very interesting and decided to look into it further. We had already been taught how important context is to Biblical interpretation, so my first step was to dig deeper into the surrounding verses to build up the context. That phrase from Hebrews 11 comes that the beginning of a chapter about faith, and by reading the entire third verse and those that come before it, it was clear that the author was not talking about atoms at all when he wrote, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” Looking at that entire passage, the first three verses and not that one little phrase, it became clear to me that the author was saying that “what is seen” is made from the words of God, which are invisible, as God is invisible according to the first sentence. To say that he was talking about atoms was such a stretch that I found it to be deliberately dishonest. Mr. L hadn’t presented us with the context of the verse in order to dupe us into thinking that this was a scientifically accurate passage. He was supposed to be teaching us, but this was underhanded and despicable. From that point on I decided I would no longer participate in Mr. L’s class. Before I had been one of his star pupils. I was always willing to answer his questions, and always knew exactly what to say even when others were stumped, but I wasn’t going to parrot his shallow answers back anymore. I was going to sit there and think. I was actually going to consider the atheistic arguments Mr. L presented, and weight them seriously against the answers he taught us to give in response. Much to my surprise, I found that the atheistic arguments made more sense and were more logically consistent and honest than Mr. L’s counters. Yet, I was still a Christian, and I still couldn’t even consider being anything else.

One man’s poor defense of the faith and the constantly emerging hypocrisy I found amongst my teachers and schoolmates wasn’t enough to convince me that the Bible wasn’t the word of God and that God didn’t love me, but earlier that year I had met someone, another person outside of the Christian bubble, who was enough. He was an atheist, and I was in love with him. Not “in love” like I was with the celebrity Rufus, but wholeheartedly and genuinely in love. We had met that summer and formed a very deep and serious relationship, but I attempted to keep him always at arm’s length because of his lack of faith. I had always believed that the most important quality of candidates for my future husband was adherence to the Christian faith and I had been warned over and over again of the dangers of being “yoked together” with an unbeliever. I didn’t want to love this guy. I wanted to love a good Christian boy from school or church. Despite my ever-increasing feelings for him I considered breaking things off several times, but my love for him was completely undeniable. In many ways he was the straw that broke my Christian camel’s back. I just couldn’t believe that the God of the Bible, the loving God I had prayed to for so many years would bring the perfect guy into my life and then require me to break up with him because he wasn’t religious. It was too cruel, and beyond a test of faith. It made no sense. What could I possibly gain by severing ties with someone I deeply loved? Even now as I think about it I know what a Christian reading this would say: “What about Hosea and how he was tested?” “We can never know the mind of God or what he has planned for our lives.” Maybe if this was the first thing that had caused me to question my faith I would have accepted those answers, but it was just one more piece of a mountain of evidence forming against God in my mind. One evening as I lay in his arm I said very quietly, “I don’t think I’m a Christian anymore.” The first time I said it was the first time I had even allowed myself to think it. I realized at that point that it was true, I was no longer a Christian, and I hadn’t been for several years, but that denial had hidden that fact from me.

Even with my quiet confession, and the mental shock of finding it to be actually true, I still couldn’t let go. I held out hope that I would find some reason to believe again, that I would find some proof or have a change of heart. That never happened. In fact, the opposite happened. I found more and more proof against my religion. The first line of evidence came surprisingly from a college course on British Literature, and from that thing I had been told about Darwin back in high school, that he refuted his theory on his deathbed. For the Lit class we read an excerpt from Darwin’s autobiography. I came to a passage about his faith, “During these two years I was led to think much about religion…By further reflecting that the clearest evidence would be requisite to make any sane man believe in the miracles by which Christianity is supported,–that the more we know of the fixed laws of nature the more incredible do miracles become,–that the men at that time were ignorant and credulous to a degree almost incomprehensible by us,–that the Gospels cannot be proved to have been written simultaneously with the events,–that they differ in many important details, far too important as it seemed to me to be admitted as the usual inaccuracies of eyewitnesses;–by such reflections as these, which I give not as having the least novelty or value, but as they influenced me, I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation…But I was very unwilling to give up my belief;–I feel sure of this for I can well remember often and often inventing day-dreams of…manuscripts being discovered at Pompeii or elsewhere which confirmed in the most striking manner all that was written in the Gospels. But I found it more and more difficult, with free scope given to my imagination, to invent evidence which would suffice to convince me. Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at least 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.” His account was so similar to my own journey that I could hardly believe it. In Darwin I found a kindred soul, and I couldn’t believe that he, even on his deathbed, would have taken back those words, so I decided to research it on the internet. Sure enough, I found out that the Darwin deathbed refutation was a lie made up by an evangelist and was debunked by Darwin’s own daughter who was actually present at his death. I felt hurt and angry that I had uncovered yet another lie, and shocked that Christians were obviously so threatened by Darwin that they felt the need to create lies instead of defending against his theory with reason. I decided that if they had lied to me about Darwin’s deathbed words, that they had probably lied to me about his theories as well. Boy was I right! I took a course the next semester on biology taught from a non-Christian textbook, looked things up on the internet, listened to podcasts, and read a few books. I soaked up all of information on evolution that I could find and concluded that it was 100% truth.

As I began to search for the truth, I discovered more and more deliberate lies that I had been told in order to convince me of everything from the divinity of the Bible to the young age of the earth. I researched negative claims about the Bible and learned that those “little discrepancies” we had been taught were no big deal were in fact very damning evidence against the Bible being the inspired word of God. The structure of self-reinforcing belief that my parents and teachers had built up around me crumbled completely. I learned more and more about how the universe works, about scientific discoveries, theories, and the proof behind them. I realized that the universe was capable of operating without a divine force and sealed my fate as an atheist.

Not long after my de-conversion completed I married that atheist guy I was so in love with—I consider not breaking up with him over Christianity to be the best decision I ever made. He is the only one who knows of my loss of faith, and is a constant source of love and support. I haven’t told my family about my de-conversion, and I don’t know if I ever will be able to. Sometimes I have nightmares where my mom and I are fighting and I suddenly yell out, “Mom, I’m an atheist!” causing her to break into tears and disown me. That might seem dramatic, but I’m confident that it isn’t far from the truth. I don’t think I’d be disowned, but I think I would be treated so differently that I would be forced to end contact with them. I’ve seen how they act around people they know aren’t saved. They would never stop trying to convert me. They will never accept me for who I truly am, so in order to not hurt them and maintain at least the semblance of a relationship, I’m going to keep lying to them.

Christians reading my story will say that I didn’t really “know Jesus or have a relationship with him.” I know I won’t be able to convince them that I did, but I can say with all confidence that I “knew Jesus” just as well as they, and that I considered my relationship with him not only the most important thing in my life, but an unshakeable reality. It’s easy to think that way when you have all of your beliefs reinforced by everyone and everything around you. Jesus was real to me, but his reality was grounded in the Bible and the teachings of Christianity. As evidence mounted against those things and my faith in them faded, so did my faith in Jesus.

- orDover

[Cross-posted on The Art of Skepticism]

Entry filed under: orDover. Tags: , , , .

Blue Like Jazz: A book for disillusioned Christian fundamentalists From Theistic Evolution to Apostasy

95 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Joan Ball  |  August 12, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    What an amazing story. I am a Christian and see nothing there to indicate that you did not believe. It’s funny. I didn’t tell my family that I had become a Christian for almost five years for similar reasons. Straddling this fence of belief and unbelief and concerning ourselves with how other people view our faith (or lack of it is such a prison. I decided about a year ago to come clean. Some of them think I am crazy. Some of them think I am going through a phaze. But I am free of the burden of secrecy. I hope the same will be true for you one day.

  • 2. Reynvaan  |  August 12, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    “We… were even given that old line, ‘If we evolved from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys around today?’”

    Every time I hear this from a person who grew up with a Christian education, I’m stunned. I was raised a Christian but I went to public school, so I never heard that line from anyone in a position of authority: I was the one who said it. When I was about eight years old, my dad was talking to us kids about the “stupidity” of evolution, and I just said, “If we evolved from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys around today?”

    I find it both amazing and mind-boggling that the terribly flawed reasoning of an eight-year-old boy is actually used by authority figures with influence over the minds of others. Especially children.

  • 3. silentj  |  August 12, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    Joan, I think it’s interesting that we both picked up on the same thing: keeping relationships after a change of faith. It’s sad that people can’t understand each other more.

    orDover, very interesting story. While I don’t know how many people lived in quite the bubble you lived in, I know there are many who would echo your sentiments. I know I can relate.

    Man, that Darwin guy and his dangerous ideas.

  • 4. Obi  |  August 12, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    Nice read, orDover.

  • 5. jill  |  August 12, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    I was raised Jewish and have wondered what it means to have a “personal relationship with Jesus”. I don’t at all believe in Jesus and just wanted to try to understand cognitively what this meant to believers. Although I know I could never really believe in Jesus, I have always wondered if maybe I was missing something by not having a relationship with him. Your story was the first thing I was led by my web search and I am so so glad. It fit my needs perfectly. I was able to better understand what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus but it also confirmed my own belief that it is essentially an exercise in futility and a complete waste of time. Thanks so much for your post.

  • 6. Michael Brewer  |  August 12, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    orDover,

    Thank you for your honesty. I appreciate your willingness to open your heart and share your journey with us. I read with tears in my eyes as I thought of my own sister who has likewise rejected her belief in the Christian God because of the hypocrisy and the lies that surrounded her.

    I won’t invalidate anything you’ve written because to do so is unfair, cowardly, and the wrong thing to do. I want to personally apologize for the hurt we’ve caused you. I want to apologize for the lies you’ve been told. I want to apologize for the expectations we’ve built up.

    …For these are the same things that nearly helped to drive me to end my life. I understand what it is like to be hurt by those you trusted in the most.

    Thank you.

    Blessings,

    Michael

  • 7. Pay Very Close Attention « Diary of a Broken Vessel  |  August 12, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    [...] that hit very close to home. The writer goes by the handle orDover, and she wrote a post titled My de-conversion: A discovery of deliberate lies. Her essay is the story of her loss of Faith. She tells us of the broken influential and key [...]

  • 8. Obi  |  August 12, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    Haha, the above post is so creepy…
    :(

  • 9. The Nerd  |  August 13, 2008 at 12:00 am

    I feel your hurt – I too have worked to release myself from the resentment of growing up in a Christian school. It isn’t easy, but my husband has always been there for me since the moment I met him, through faith and atheism. It’s good to know I’m not alone.

  • 10. thewordofme  |  August 13, 2008 at 1:03 am

    “When my grandfather would meet a new person, the first question he would ask them is, “Have you accepted Jesus into your heart as your personal savior?” My first memory of anything religious is of him asking me that very question.”

    This line rings so true…I have known this type of person many times over, and the scary part is they are the type of person that goes to war over their faith. Kill or mistreat in the name of God.

    Really great story. Thank you.
    Have a great life.

  • 11. Prodigal Daughter  |  August 13, 2008 at 2:04 am

    oDover, your story resonated with me in so many ways. I do understand why you choose not to tell your family of your de-conversion. Its too much for some people to handle. Joan mentioned telling her family that she BECAME a Christian and feels free. I understand that as well, but going the other direction could be a life-long nightmare. Her non-believing family/friends may think she’s nuts or going through a phaze, but yours would think you were going to hell. Why put them through that? I can’t tell my friends how I really feel because it will become a project for them to “save” me and get me “back in the fold”. I am glad you followed your heart and are married to the man you love.

  • 12. orDover  |  August 13, 2008 at 3:35 am

    Re: “I read with tears in my eyes as I thought of my own sister who has likewise rejected her belief in the Christian God because of the hypocrisy and the lies that surrounded her.”

    I just want to make it very very clear, the hypocrisy and lies weren’t the things that really caused me to lose my faith. They had a part in it, but it was the fact that the lies were covering up reality, the real world around me as reviled through empirical information. It was not just the pain of being lied to in the first place, but the process of realizing what the truth actually is.

    I could have been lied to by bad teachers and bad evangelizers, but if when I started to search for the truth I found that there was an actual basis of evidence for my religion, I would have kept believing despite the lies. It wasn’t the act of being lied to, it was what those lies were covering up.

    Re: “creepy” comment #7

    I wonder what that person thinks a Christian could learn about presenting the faith and proclaiming the Gospel from my story. I’m pretty sure that my Christian life was completely by the book, and unless this guy is onto some new brand of Christianity that actually meshes with reality, then I have no idea what he’s on about.

    Re: everyone else

    Thanks for the empathy, it really means a lot. I feel just in having this posted, in having other people know what happened, that it has lifted a bit of my burden.

  • 13. silentj  |  August 13, 2008 at 7:00 am

    orDover,

    RE: Creepy

    I think he/she probably wants others to read the story so that they understand they can’t contain fellow Christians in bubble and lie to them. I know you said that wasn’t the final straw, but in terms of what Christians can do, that’s basically the point.

    Now, whether they are prepared to handle what will happen when those kids in the bubbles start emerging is a whole other story.

  • 14. finallyhappy  |  August 13, 2008 at 7:01 am

    Great, great post, orDover. I’ve spent the past 4 years discovering some of those same lies and half truths covered by reality. They’ve been the greatest 4 years of my life so far. It’s an amazing feeling to step out of the bubble and begin to see everything around you without the lenses of fear and judgement. Thanks for taking the time to tell you story. Like a lot of people, it seems, I haven’t shared my deconversion with my family, so it really does help to hear other people’s stories that are in a similar boat.

  • 15. markharrell  |  August 13, 2008 at 7:32 am

    I feel for you. I understand the Christianity (not all of it, though) has applied alot of untruths to thier arsenal; that’s why I left the pastorate in 2001. I grew tired of the same ole, same ole regurgitated Christiantiy… the ferris wheel of spiritual stagnation!

    But… that doesn’t make the truth of God’s Word invalid. You did not show one example that the Bible is not to be trusted — in any facet (gay or not). Read Romans 1… it is very revealing as far as your article is concerned.

    God loves you, but he hates any sin that goes contrary to His Word (anything). God does not classify wrong. There are good people doing bad things all the time; they alll need to be dealt with Biblically.

    Because God is love, He allows us to make the decisions we make…. right or wrong. He hopes we will choose His way, but… that is our choice.

    I hope you choose Biblically.

    For His Honor,
    Mark Harrell
    http://www.godtube.com/markharrell
    markharrell.wordpress.com

  • 16. Michael Brewer  |  August 13, 2008 at 8:59 am

    RE: Creepy

    “I think he/she probably wants others to read the story so that they understand they can’t contain fellow Christians in bubble and lie to them. I know you said that wasn’t the final straw, but in terms of what Christians can do, that’s basically the point.”

    That is exactly what I intended. I apologize if it came across as creepy, but I hope to encourage some of the Christians who visit my site to read your story and to pay attention to what you are saying.

    I understand that it is not the lies and the hypocrisy alone that drove you to reject your faith, but also what you discovered as truth for yourself that lead you to your conclusion.

    I’m not anything new when it comes to being Christian, but I am also very far from typical; not at all by the book, but rather by the Book. I don’t believe the Bible to be a scientific text book, or that it tells us how old the earth is, or that we need to be fearful of the real world. I’m not threatened by science or philosophy. I deeply enjoy Nietzsche, Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, etc.

    My outlook is -I believe- a little different, and I am highly critical of modern Christianity which is sometimes less Christianity and more Churchianity. I am critical in how we sometimes invite indoctrinate others into our Faith; especially the youth. I am critical in how we in a large sense have bought into materialism and fear, and have forgotten how to think for ourselves (rather than thinking many of us beg like dogs for the next bone some man in the pulpit will throw our way without questioning or confirming the food before us).

    I hope that this allieviates any creepiness about my post. I meant it only as an invitation to others of my Faith to come and quietly listen to “the other” perspective and learn.

    Blessings,

    Michael

  • 17. lifesstory  |  August 13, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    I read your post with a very keen interest. I’m 57 years old and spent my first 27 years wandering in and out of the Christian life and then plunged head first into schooling at age 28 for ministry and eventually became leadership in a church as a deacon, musician and care pastor. My passion was to help people. The thirty years spent pursuing a Christian lifestyle right up to my passing was my goal. But finally after rebuffing the hypocritical views and practices I saw, not only in my own circle, but emanating all the way out to those in the public eye, I for all intents and purposes have walked away from it all. Not that I don’t believe in God. I lost faith in man who purports to uphold the tenants of the faith. I strongly believe in God and the way of salvation is still my foundation, but I cannot live within the bounds of hypocracy. There is more to the spiritual realm than the typical ministers expound from pulpits weekly. If you want to email me for conversation, feel free to. I’m not judgemental. I’m open minded enough to not reject the expanse of what can be revealed. We certainly don’t have all the answers, but we can strive for them.

  • 18. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 13, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    The bit about not telling you family, your mom in particular, really rings true for me. In fact, you could apply the same statements, almost verbatim, to my own life.

  • 19. Joan Ball  |  August 13, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    Many of the posts I read here and elsewhere about discontentment with church/religion/faith (written by both dissatisfied believers and deconverted former Christians) have to do with the belief/perception that hypocritical people taught half truths that led to the abandonment of faith or skepticism about the Christian lifestyle/worldview. Do you worry that by keeping your decision to deconvert a secret you might be replicating the same dishonest behavior in the other direction?

  • 20. Quester  |  August 13, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Other direction? You mean finding out we’re lying might cause people to choose to be less skeptical and more credulous? I can’t imagine that being the case.

    Please clarify.

  • 21. orDover  |  August 13, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    “Do you worry that by keeping your decision to deconvert a secret you might be replicating the same dishonest behavior in the other direction?”

    No. The reason why is the “other direction” is something I can observe with my own eyes. For example, regarding the age of the universe, that can be see through the observed redshift. I could see that cosmic redshift with my own eyes if I had access to a space telescope, but even if I never look thorough a telescope, I can observe the redshift by just looking through a spectrometer in a chemistry lab, and I can observe the Doppler Shift, the effect that causes redshift, every time a car drives past me on the sidewalk.

    What I’ve learned from uncovering previous lies is not to take anyone on their words alone. I’m acutely aware that everyone could have an agenda, that everyone could be lying. I’m very, very very careful these days.

    Interestingly, my mother is convinced that “secular” biology books lie to their students. I made the mistake once of showing her the page in mine with a diagram of a fish, reptile, bird, and human embryo to show how they are practically identical in early development. Her immediate reaction was “They’re lying to you!” So what is the difference? The difference is, I can cut open a snake egg and see the reptile embryo with my own eyes. Any of us have the capability to test this information, and many of us have. That is why they say science is a self-regulating body. If a scientist would have cut open a snake egg and found that the embryo didn’t look like what they had thought, he would write that up in a paper and scientific knowledge would shift. Some kind of atheist driven conspiracy to keep science proving evolution despite new evidence, or something of that sort, would require a conspiracy theory as large as the “we’re nothing but brains in a vat receiving electrical impulses from aliens–the matrix is real” theory.

  • 22. ubi dubium  |  August 13, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Joan

    Do you worry that by keeping your decision to deconvert a secret you might be replicating the same dishonest behavior in the other direction?

    No, not at all. I have not discussed my lack of faith with certain older members of my family, who would find it distressing, nor have I shared it with my chorus, which has many church musicians in it. If the subject of faith comes up, I give a vague answer and try to steer the conversation in another direction. I’m evasive, not dishonest. I’m not trying to push my beliefs on them, and I see nothing hypocritical in keeping my personal beliefs personal.

  • 23. Daniel K. Eng  |  August 13, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    Thanks for your honesty. I really do appreciate reading this, and I am sure it was meaningful for you to write. Your courage in all of this has not been unnoticed.

    You have done so much more than me or virtually every Christian or atheist I know to investigate the faith. I truly commend you for that.

  • 24. orDover  |  August 13, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Ha! I think I kind of misunderstood Joan’s question! Sorry Joan!

    My answer is nearly identical to ubi dubium’s. I consider my beliefs a personal matter. Does it hurt me to lie, even if I don’t lie outrightly, to my family? Yes. (Much like ubi, I try to avoid religious subjects altogether so that I don’t have to flagrantly lie.) But it is their own passionate faith that prevents me from being honest with them. Would it hurt them to find out I was lying? Probably. But it would hurt them much much more if they found out I was no longer a Christian. I lie to them to spare them that pain. If my mom found out she would blame herself, she would think she had been a bad mother, that she had not “raised me up the way I should go.” She was and is a great mom, so I really don’t want her thinking that. She would consider my salvation in her hands, and work ceaselessly to convert me again. I would bring shame upon my elderly grandparents who’s greatest pride comes from the “legacy for Christ” they have created in their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren (yes, they use that phrase).

    All of the potential hurt aside, how could you expect me to reason and be upfront with people who would insist that my honest seeking of the truth is actually just deceptions of Satan placed in my mind by his demons? Remember, my mom thinks modern biology is a lie, and she used to tell me all the time that demons were warring for my soul. It would be one thing if she would understand that I have sincerely searched and after much reflection and study came to a careful conclusion, and respect my decision, if nothing more, because of the honesty of my pursuit. But that’s not what would happen. She would never concede that I had reached any honest truth, she would KNOW that I’ve been taken in by Satan’s lies.

  • 25. Joan Ball  |  August 13, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    orDover and Quester: Just to clarify. My question was focused less on the “truth” embodied in science over faith or vice versa and more on the plusses of coming to the place where I can share an honest representation of who I am to the people around me (with love, not arrogance) even when they may not understand or like it. This is a personal preference for me regarding faith and many other things in my life as I get a little older and find that anything I have to keep secret I generally carry around as a burden. That being said, it is just that–a personal preference. If privacy is yours, that’s cool too.

  • 26. orDover  |  August 13, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    Don’t get me wrong Joan, it is a burden, and it’s really hard to carry, but I carry it so I don’t have to burden my family with something they can never really understand about me.

    I figure that there will come a time in my life, likely when I have kids, that I won’t be able to hide my beliefs anymore. At that time I will have to honest, and yes, they won’t understand, and they won’t like it, and it will cause them a lot of pain. But until I absolutely have to, I’m not going to tell them, because I love them and I need to have a relationship with them. I need them to continue thinking I am a smart, good, moral, loving person, not a lost soul, a guiltless sinner, or a demon-tricked girl with a weak mind who was led astray by her liberal “education.”

    It’s the dogma of their faith that prevents me from being honest. This is one of the biggest pitfalls of believing you posses all of the answers within your religion with completely certainty, your going to completely ostracize anyone with different views, whether you mean to or not.

  • 27. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 13, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    orDover, I think my immediate family would really get along great with yours (my parents are actually the anomaly in my extended family). I still remember my mom saying we shouldn’t pursue science and just let God reveal things to us.

    I’m curious, how does your family feel about you being married to an atheist? Does that factor into your grandparents’ “legacy for Christ?” And if you ever plan to have kids, how do you plan to deal with their non-belief within a very Christian extended family?

  • 28. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 13, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Heh, I post, and at the same time you more or less answer my last question.

  • 29. BigHouse  |  August 13, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    I, too, have not and likely will not tell my parents about my de-conversion, for the same reasons you have discussed above. I do not look forward to the day it comes to a head, particularly if it centers around my kids. I can already see them trying to “save” them from ME. Yikes!

  • 30. orDover  |  August 13, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    “I’m curious, how does your family feel about you being married to an atheist?”

    They don’t know about it. He was raised Lutheran and had a similar de-conversion experience, except it was less dramatic and at a younger age. But since he was raised Lutheran and even went to a Lutheran school until high school, he knows how to “talk the talk.” He agrees with me that, given my family’s dogmatism, it’s better at this point to lie.

    Luckily for us, his family, despite being Christians as well, are much much more understanding. They know of our disbelief and it isn’t a problem at all.

    “And if you ever plan to have kids, how do you plan to deal with their non-belief within a very Christian extended family?”

    Honestly, I haven’t even come close to figuring this out. A part of me hopes that we can some how ride it out without a toddler mindlessly blurting out “Mommy and daddy don’t believe in Jesus!” at Christmas dinner and continue our farce, but that’s pretty unlikely. Another course that might would work is to explain to my family not that we don’t believe, but that we disliked the fact that we were raised essentially without a choice in what to believe, and that we don’t want to indoctrinate our children, but rather educate them about all religions equally. But they’d have big problems with that because it goes against the Biblical teachings on childrearing. I have a feeling though, that the process of having a child would make me want to come out clean, and that I’ll end up sending them a copy of this story, explaining that I’m the same person I always was, and begging them to respect my decision.

    Have you figured any good solutions out for this problem?

  • 31. orDover  |  August 13, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    “I do not look forward to the day it comes to a head, particularly if it centers around my kids. I can already see them trying to “save” them from ME. Yikes!”

    Ugh! Don’t even make me think about that! I would completely lose it if someone tried to indoctrinate my kids.

  • 32. Oleander  |  August 13, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    From orDover article above:

    A portion of every part of the day was set aside for the subject Bible, just like the subject Math.

    If a talking donkey in Seattle leaves on a train travelling 60 miles and hour, and a prophet swallowing whale in Miami leaves in a car travelling 55 miles an hour against a headwind of 2 miles an hour, who will reach Omaha first?

  • 33. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 13, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Have you figured any good solutions out for this problem?

    Hah, I wish. It’s not much of an immediate problem for me, as I haven’t even had a relationship with a girl in years, much less a marriage and potential kids to worry about. My biggest concern is that, should I end up in a relationship with an atheist or some other sort of non-believer, it would probably be best for me to come clean then rather than try to maintain the farce of belief while in a relationship with a non-believer. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot, though. At least I only have to concern myself with my immediate family, as my extended family really won’t care about my beliefs.

    As for hoping to keep your unbelief hidden after you have kids, that seems pretty much impossible to me, given your family. Obviously, your grandparents are going to ask your kids if they’ve accepted Jesus into their hearts, and then what are you gonna do (though it sounds like this question is going to come up whether they know about your unbelief or not)? You either have to co-opt your kids into the lie, or end the facade.

    Frankly, I don’t think there is a “good” solution to this. You’re probably going to have to find a bad solution that’s better than the rest.

    I will say that your family may surprise you (and mine surprise me, for that matter); when I finally told all my friends about my de-conversion, the one person I expected to be most judgmental of my decision has so far been very understanding and even praised my bravery in making a decision that she completely disagrees with. Of course, she doesn’t have the same investment in my salvation as my family, and I definitely didn’t know her as well as I do my mom, so who knows. I know such an anecdote doesn’t really make things easier, but perhaps it can be a tiny ray of bitter hope in all this, for all of us in this situation.

  • 34. berryjo  |  August 13, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. Oddly, I related a lot, except that I was raised by atheist parents with a healthy dose of skepticism instead of Bible verses. But, growing up where I did, nearly all my friends were devout Christians. I spent a lot of time at church and church events with them, wondering what was wrong with me. I struggled for a long time, trying to make myself into a Christian, but that little voice in my head (my father’s!) always came back saying, “This doesn’t make sense with the evidence you have.” But it was difficult for a long time. Like you, I didn’t want to tell my parents about my pursuit for Jesus; I knew the would think I’d been brainwashed. They would wonder where they’d gone wrong with me. I could talk the talk with them and then switch to the Christian talk with my friends, but that’s hard and it confuses your personal identity when you’re not really sure which talk is really your own. I did “find Jesus” for a time, and it was exhilarating: far better than I’d ever imagined. But that voice came back and I realized that if I was sitting in church mentally rolling my eyes and refuting the pastor, then I didn’t really believe anymore. I walked away and never looked back. I do miss it sometimes. I miss the community and the assurance. I miss my relationship with Jesus the way you miss an old friend that you’ve grown apart from. But I can’t – and no longer wish to – go back. It has become quite difficult for me to sit through a sermon now. I’ve stopped attending church with my grandparents when I visit them. I know it hurts them, but it’s actually physically difficult for me to sit through all the sermonizing and scripted responses. It just all seems so superstitious and, frankly, a little cultish.

    I also worry what will happen when my husband and I start a family (not because of my parents, but because of his). There is suspicion in my family that my grandmother secretly had my brother baptized when he was a baby because she knew my parents would never allow it. If my in-laws tried to pull something like that it would be very difficult to remain calm and rational with them. They will undoubtedly read Bible stories and teach all the Christianity they can to the kids when we aren’t around. I think the only thing to do will be to talk to the kids and make sure they understand that Grandma and Grandpa believe some things, Mom and Dad believe other things, and they are going to meet a lot of people who believe a whole lot of other things, and they don’t have to base their own beliefs either on what Grandma says or on what Mom says.

    What a crazy, mixed up world we live in!

    Thanks, again, for sharing.

  • 35. Bobbi Jo  |  August 13, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    orDover, my kids are 7 and 2 and my grandparents and my husband’s mom are still upset that we haven’t baptized them as babies. The funny thing is my husband’s mom only wants it done because that is just what you do. She, herself, hasn’t gone to church in years. But besides this, they love us the same, even though they don’t always understand our version of child rearing. I hope that you will be honest with them. I suspect that if they want to see their grandchildren, they will learn to cope with your descision or at least pretend to be okay just to see the kids. In any case, it’s working for us.

  • 36. orDover  |  August 13, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    berryjo, thanks for sharing your story too!

    “I think the only thing to do will be to talk to the kids and make sure they understand that Grandma and Grandpa believe some things, Mom and Dad believe other things, and they are going to meet a lot of people who believe a whole lot of other things, and they don’t have to base their own beliefs either on what Grandma says or on what Mom says.”

    I agree completely.

    Bobbi Jo,
    “I suspect that if they want to see their grandchildren, they will learn to cope with your descision or at least pretend to be okay just to see the kids. In any case, it’s working for us.”

    I’ve had some other people say the same thing to me, that having kids will bridge the difference between my parent’s belief systems at my own. I really hope that can be the case. All I want is to have the kind of relationship where we can respect each other’s beliefs, even if we disagree. I’m glad that you’re having success in that endeavor. (Thankfully, infant baptism is frowned upon in my family!)

  • 37. Aussie Ali  |  August 13, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    Ordover said:
    “Honestly, I haven’t even come close to figuring this out. A part of me hopes that we can some how ride it out without a toddler mindlessly blurting out “Mommy and daddy don’t believe in Jesus!” ”

    In January we moved to another city and have not attended church since. Some old friends recently visited and asked had we found a new church. My 10 yr old replied “No, we’re antichrisitian” This caused some hasty clarification and we had to talk to him later about how this was not exactly what we thought- so you never know what kids will come out with!!!

    Because we had moved and were going to be asked the “church” question I found it really stressful keeping it from family and friends. Also we have stopped saying grace and this was going to be awkward when people came to visit. So I have told my family and closest friends that I am no longer able to attend church and believe. I tried to frame it from the perspective that it came from dissatisfaction and questioning within me and not trying to blame or fault god or the church. After I spoke to them I sent many of them a letter outlining the questions I had about Christianity and how I found it confusing to reconcile. Again I did this in a way to show that I was questioning rather than angry or blaming. Funnily enough, although it has surprised a few people, I have had very little feedback on the points I raised. It’s kind of like they had one attempt to say don’t give up and then haven’t really mentioned it again.
    I don’t know if this is a typical reponse but I thought there would have been more of an attempt to win me back.

  • 38. finallyhappy  |  August 13, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    The odd thing with my family is that deconversion is such a foreign concept to them–I don’t know if the topic will ever really come up. They really can’t imagine anyone actually “leaving the faith”, so they may very well assume I’m a christian until the day they die. And I may very well let them.

  • 39. Jon  |  August 14, 2008 at 12:35 am

    First let me say that this is a really well-written piece; I very much enjoyed reading it.

    Being both gay and atheist I’ve had a double whammy when it came to coming out to my parents, former missionaries in Bangladesh and fervent born-again Christians. I waited until I was in college, and basically financially independent, to come out as gay, and though I don’t remember ever specifically telling them I was atheist it was clear from what I said in reference to being gay that I no longer believed in the Bible.

    They of course reacted with all of the usual stuff, long talks, mailing me anti-gay books and papers, requests that I go to “counseling” to become straight, I finally had to tell them that if they couldn’t learn to respect me that our relationship would be at an end. For the next ten years we only spoke a handful of times a year, and when I visited them it was for only a few days at a time, and NEVER during religious holidays like Christmas.

    It was a long and hard 10 years but somewhere along the way my parents changed. I don’t know exactly what prompted it, maybe they wanted to try to repair our relationship and knew they had to change, maybe they did some serious reading and rethinking of their views, or maybe they just mellowed some with age, but now they are just fine with my being gay. And as for the atheist thing, well, I think they’d still like me to be a Christian but they don’t push it other then a brief conversation every three years or so. Over the last 6 years our relationship has REALLY improved; I visit them much more often and for longer periods of time and we speak about every week now. And they don’t even ask me to go to church with them when I visit!

    I guess I have several points. First, people can mature and change, even parents! Granted, sometimes it can take a long time. I don’t think my parents would have ever reached the level of open-mindedness that that have reached had I not come out to them. So, by telling them you are an atheist then you are giving them a chance to grow and mature as people. Second, the sooner you to tell them then the sooner they can start to deal with the issue and, hopefully, the sooner you can repair your relationship with them. Also, its probably easier to deal with these issues now then they will be later, especially once you have kids.

    Good Luck!

  • 40. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 14, 2008 at 1:34 am

    Sage advice, Jon…

  • 41. HeIsSailing  |  August 14, 2008 at 6:52 am

    orDover, thanks for your story. You said, concerning your family:

    I lie to them to spare them that pain. If my mom found out she would blame herself, she would think she had been a bad mother, that she had not “raised me up the way I should go.”

    My own mom de-converted many years before I did – and it was agonizing to me. I remember carrying a photo of her to our church prayer groups – and asking them to pray for her salvation. We treated that photo almost like a voodoo effigy during an incantation as we sat around the photo in a circle while holding hands. We prayed and prayed for my mother’s salvation. I distinctly remember the pain welling up in my chest from the hurt, and that photo getting wet from my tears. I often invited her to church, and I got excited when she responded to an alter call!! Alas, she did go up to the front, only to tell me on the way home that she had thought it through, and just could not believe the things that she used to. GADS – I feared my mom would never become a Christian again. Just the thought of my mom, my own mother burning forever in a Lake of Fire was the most pain I think I ever bore.

    I agree with you. Spare your family that pain.

  • 42. Obi  |  August 14, 2008 at 8:07 am

    Jon –

    Nice story mate, welcome and thanks for sharing.
    ;)

  • 43. john t.  |  August 14, 2008 at 10:14 am

    #41

    “I agree with you. Spare your family that pain”

    This belief is why we have Generational Dysfunction. People believe that by not being honest with those you love you will spare them some pain. That may work in the beginning, but in the end it creates even more suffering.

    Maybe thats what was meant by the idea “Sins of the Father”

  • 44. Slapdash  |  August 14, 2008 at 11:09 am

    orDover, my mom and your mom could be Siamese twins. :)

    I understand the pain and difficult choices involved in deciding whether or not to “come clean” with one’s parents following de-conversion. I’ve very much had similar fears of upsetting my mother, causing her to blame herself, get really depressed, kvetch over my hell-bound soul, and basically ruin her life.

    In my case, however, it’s been a very important developmental milestone for me to claim my own voice and get honest in a family where it was just expected that you went along and believed the black and white teachings of our evangelical faith.

    Unfortunately I wound up internalizing the idea that I can’t be authentic or speak up for myself or be true to myself, so for a number of years I didn’t tell my mom I was having doubts. I knew exactly what the reaction would be, and I didn’t want to deal with it and I would have felt guilty as all hell for ruining her life.

    In the last year, though, I have finally learned that I’m not responsible for my mom’s attitudes, beliefs, feelings, or reactions to who I am and what I believe. It’s important for me, now, to be honest and genuine with those around me even when it’s hard and I lose some friendships because of it.

    This kind of honesty is really hard to do – I’ve written about a couple of ‘confrontations’ with my mom – but I do feel a certain sense of relief that, in fact, the world didn’t collapse, Mom still loves me even if she’s upset at my non-belief, and I now don’t have to fake/evade/lie my way through dating non-evangelicals and having children.

    None of that is intended to challenge you on your decision to let your family believe you still believe. It’s an incredibly personal decision and we each have to determine what we’re willing to live with and what we’re not willing to live with.

    With my mom, I decided it was more important to be honest than to continue a lie that would only make her feel better. My world is no longer about her and making her happy: it’s about me and making me happy.

  • 45. DagoodS  |  August 14, 2008 at 11:40 am

    orDover, SnugglyBuggalo,

    Each family is different. How they handle your deconversion will also vary. Unfortunately, as good as advice from internet posters may be, it will never be as fully informed about your situation and the personalities involved as you are.

    One possible solution is to “test the waters.” Inform the family you heard about a ”friend” or read on-line about deconversion and see what their reaction is. Of course, all wannabe-pseudo-psychiatrists know “friend” is euphemism for “me.” Further, if you tell them later, they will know you were testing the waters.

    I have always been an extremely honest person. Some would say too honest (especially when coupled with my lack of tact.) I did not want to go through, with my family, the inevitable, “How long have you been an atheist, and why didn’t you tell me and why did you tell another family member instead of me, and why weren’t you honest?”

    Too many family functions in which I would have to “pretend” to pray, and have “pretend” conversations about what Jesus was doing in my life, and “pretend” to talk Christianese. I figured if I revealed later I was an atheist the whole time—this would be one more reason for them to cite against me for lying to them the whole time.

    So I wrote a 7-page letter to my father & his wife (re-marriage after my mom died), my brothers, sister, step-sisters and step brother. Wow. (To give you an idea of the initial reaction, I accidentally inverted the zip code on my father’s letter, which delayed it. Since the other family members received theirs first, one contacted my father’s wife, and she took an emergency flight from Florida in order to intercept my letter! It was felt my father would have a heart attack upon reading it.)

    I got a sobbing phone call from my sister, and extremely short e-mail from my father. And a few, longer, e-mails from my brother-in-law. (My wife got an e-mail from my father’s wife saying I had spit upon my mother’s grave and what I did was a greater betrayal than committing adultery. Nice.)

    The step-siblings cut me off entirely. (No surprise.). One brother refuses to talk to me. Another brother only talks to me on extremely rare occasions and disengages as fast as possible. My nieces and nephews consider me persona non grata. My sister does continue to talk to me, but never about THAT! My father & his wife would prefer I disappear and equally talk only on rare occasions.

    We held the large family Christmas at our house for years. We have not been allowed to since.

    Needless to say—my family relationships completely destructed.

    Not very encouraging, true? Yet if I had to do it again, I would in an instant. It strengthened my marriage, believe it or not, because my wife saw how she (a Christian, trying to raise Christian kids with an atheist husband) was equally abandoned by friends, family and church.

    This cemented my suspicions many of the family relationships were more out of a sense of duty rather than actual like. If we weren’t family, we wouldn’t have been friends.

    While I miss the little relationship we had, my sense of honesty eclipses the desire to be sociable simply to be sociable.

    Probably not very helpful…but there it is.

  • 46. ubi dubium  |  August 14, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    I think another good method might be to take it slowly, and give them time to catch up. For most of us, de-conversion was a slow process, and for some of us quite painful. I think is can be unfair to drop the “unbeliever” bomb on our families, and expect them to accept in a moment something that might have taken us years.

    For me, after I graduated college, got married, and moved to another town, I simply let my mother (a Presbyterian, who took her children to church because “that’s what you are supposed to do”) know that I was not planning on looking for a new church to join. Over time, she got used to that. It has been a slow process of letting her know the full extent of my disbelief, never one sudden announcement. And, time has also brought a mellowing in her, and she is now Unitarian! So we’re fine on the issue now. (My Fundie brother-in-law is another matter. He’s still trying to convert us. But we don’t see him very often, so the slow process is even slower with him.)

  • 47. john t.  |  August 14, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    I just wanted to thank everyone for writing a little bit more about your experiences. As someone who has never gone through the experiences you guys talk about, it has made me more educated on what the religious life is really like, and how difficult it must be to De convert. I think I need to go thank my Mom for never introducing us to God, lol. Mind you with that said, I consider my Mom to be one of the more naturally spiritual people I have ever met. Thanks again everyone.

  • 48. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 14, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Hah, I can’t even imagine my mom as a Unitarian. The most mellowing I can really hope for is that she give up the certainty that Jesus is coming back in her lifetime.

    I’ve said it before, but I think my biggest concern right now is my little brother. He and I are a lot alike, and I don’t doubt that he will eventually de-convert on his own. I’m worried that if I tell my family about my de-conversion now it might speed up his own de-coversion, and he’s only starting his junior year of high school. The last thing I’d wish on him is living with my parents while finishing high school after de-converting.

    On top of that, I know I’d get blamed for “causing my brother to fall away.” My mom already gets irritated when I argue with her over some of the sillier things she buys into about the faith (mostly the wild speculations of random pastors presented as fact), because my brother tends to take my side in such issues. She gets upset that I argue these things in front of him, and only barely stops short of claiming that I’m “putting ideas in his head.”

    I’m thinking I might put off telling them the truth at least until he gets done with high school. If I have to tell them earlier, I’ll probably talk with him first and make sure he knows that if he decides to take a similar path he might want to hide it from my parents (and sister, for that matter) until he’s not living with them anymore.

  • 49. ubi dubium  |  August 14, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Snuggly:

    I’m thinking I might put off telling them the truth at least until he gets done with high school. If I have to tell them earlier, I’ll probably talk with him first and make sure he knows that if he decides to take a similar path he might want to hide it from my parents (and sister, for that matter) until he’s not living with them anymore.

    I think that’s very wise. Telling your parents while you are still a dependent and living at home can be a very bad idea. You might want to open some private conversation with your brother now, anyway. Not the “I’m an Atheist!” kind of discussion, but making sure that he knows that, if he ever has concerns about his faith that would upset your parents, that you can be an understanding and confidential shoulder for him to lean on. If he does happen to deconvert before leaving home, he’ll need all the support he can get.

  • 50. Dr. T  |  August 14, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Hi There.

    I have similar experiences with the lies of christianity. However, my faith in Jesus has grown. When my children challenge me on my faith, I confess that I do not know the answers. I confess that I do know God and he’s never been afraid of our challenges. I have reverted to calling myself a follower of “the way”, rather than as a christian because of my experiences.

    I hold churches and their leaders responsible for the lies perpetrated on this country and I do know they will fall from favor as judgment is given to them.

    I observe that your parents equipped your mind with the Bible, but neglected your soul. The soul – the heart of a person – is where the relationship with God takes root.

    I pray your journey in this life is a peaceful one, and wish you well.

    From a former christian and follower of The Way.

  • 51. BigHouse  |  August 14, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Dr. T, if Christianity ‘lies’ where does your faith in Jesus come from?

  • 52. Slapdash  |  August 14, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    In light of ubi’s comment #46, I should probably add to my own story that my mom finding out about my un-belief *was* a process: I didn’t go from uber-believer to atheist in one conversation. She knew I wasn’t going to church regularly. Then she knew that I was dating non-believers. Then I admitted I wasn’t so sure I believed the faith anymore. Then she learned I was sleeping with my boyfriend.

    Good times.

  • 53. orDover  |  August 14, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    DagoodS:
    “One possible solution is to “test the waters.” Inform the family you heard about a ”friend” or read on-line about deconversion and see what their reaction is. Of course, all wannabe-pseudo-psychiatrists know “friend” is euphemism for “me.” Further, if you tell them later, they will know you were testing the waters.”

    Just this last summer I have tested the waters a little bit, although not with religious topics. I told my mom, who of course is a die hard Republican, that I would be voting for Obama. I made the mistake of doing that right before a long car ride, during which I was grilled, question about why on earth I would vote for someone like him. I had good answered prepared, but she also started to ask me some “morality” questions which I wasn’t ready for, specifically my stance on gay marriage and abortion. I had to be honest, and as soon as I gave my position for abortion, she grew silent. I could see the disappointment on her face. Over the next few weeks she sent me tons of anti-Obama emails, even those silly ones accusing him of being a Muslim terrorist. I spent hours and hours refuting the emails, until finally I said, “Mom, this has to stop. I’m an adult and I’ve made an informed decision, which you need to respect.” That ended the political talk. But my mom doesn’t even particularly care about politics! I can only imagine this attack multiplied by hundreds if it was regarding the post important topic in her life.

    Another testing of the waters came when one of my old school friends came out of the closed as a lesbian. My mom couldn’t stop talking about it. She said several times over that my friend’s parents must be so upset, and that if one of her children came out as gay she would not only blame herself, but never forgive herself. She then went on to blame my friend’s sexuality choice on the liberal media who glamorize lesbianism. I tried to tell her that it wasn’t the influence of the media, but that my friend had made a personal choice based on her own emotions, but she’d have nothing of it. She was convinced that everyone who is gay is actually living in some sort of denial (ie suffering from childhood sexual abuse or a lack of success with dating) and has been conned into thinking they are gay by, you guessed it, the media. She let me know by her attitude how she would react if I came out of my atheist closet.

    ubi dubium:

    “I think another good method might be to take it slowly, and give them time to catch up. For most of us, de-conversion was a slow process, and for some of us quite painful. I think is can be unfair to drop the “unbeliever” bomb on our families, and expect them to accept in a moment something that might have taken us years.”

    I agree taking baby steps would be a really good ideal. I too moved away from my home town, and my mom knows that I don’t go to church. She actually doesn’t have much of a problem with that, she’s one of those Christians who believes the crux of faith happens on a personal level, not a church, and that churches themselves are very flawed (much like comment #50, Dr. T). She thinks that a church could provide a good support for me as I tackle the dangers of my extremely liberal university, but other than that, she’s okay with my decision.

    I figure the next step is to tell her I accept evolution as fact, and this is something I’ve been building up the courage to do. I’ve always loved science, and a few times I’ve let some things slip in casual conversation that would reveal I accept evolution, but I haven’t come right out and said it. I actually don’t think she’d have much of a problem with me believing in evolution, because she knows there are Christians who believe in Theistic Evolution.

    Where the next step would come in is much harder to decide. I figure agnosticism….who knows.

    Deciding the timeline is the tricky thing. I’ve hesitated to bring it up, but like SugglyBuffalo, I too have younger sibling at home. Many of them. And they are much younger than me. One of them hasn’t even reached double-digit age yet. I’m very aware of how much they admire me as their oldest sibling, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that the youngest ones practically idolize me. For example, about a year ago I got a drastic new haircut, and a few month later two of them had requested the same cut. Excluding one who is a freshman in college, they are all enrolled at the same Christian school I went to, and just like me, very vocal and proud. I’m afraid that if they heard of my atheism they would cease to look up to me as an example. I’m afraid that if they heard of my atheism they might still look up to me as an example and decide to deconvert, possible for the wrong reasons. I love them so much, and I want to be able to be the best big sister I can be, to influence their lives for the better, and to not cause them any worry. I’d like to wait until they are more grown up before I drop the bomb. It would hurt too much to lose their respect and risk losing their love.

    Thanks to everyone who has posted their stories of coming out as nonbelievers to their families. It really really helps to hear that it can turn out alright in the end, even if it takes 10 years. Your stories are very encouraging and make me feel a bit more brave.

    (Sorry this is such a long post!)

  • 54. Joan Ball  |  August 14, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    orDover: Good for you. Believer or not, honesty is a virtue and secrecy is a burden. I wish you and your family all the best as you unwrap this part of your life for them.

  • 55. Grace  |  August 14, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    Well, speaking from the perspective of a Christian parent, I personally think that at some point we all need to let go, and trust God in the lives of our kids. If my children decided to reject the Christian faith, I would feel concerned for them in one sense, yet proud that they as young adults were thinking independently, and searching out things for themselves. I wouldn’t blame myself, either way.

    In my thinking, only God’s spirit can bring someone to faith. Beating anyone over the head with the Scripture is a definite waste of time, and generally brings the opposite result of what Christian people would hope for.

    IA relationship with God in Christ goes alot deeper than parental training, and upbringing. I would definitely want my kids to be real, and honest with me, though, not deceptive. Although, I think I would probably know anyway, and sense that something was going on with them spiritually.

    Also, for all the gay people sharing, and out there reading, please don’t think that all Christians are homophobic. Just check out the websites, “Evangelicals Concerned,” and “Inclusive Orthodoxy,” for example.

  • 56. bipolar2  |  August 15, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    ** Becoming-who-you-are requires skepticism and self-assertion **

    The word ‘islam’ means submission. Obviously submission to the will of Allah, as prescribed in the five pillars of faith. The big-3 monotheisms are alike in dismissing an individual’s will, “not my will but thy will done” as we’re shown in the poignant scene at Gethsemane in the NT. (But, this god-man is no hero.)

    For empire building religions, self-assertion takes on the character not of honest questioning and personal growth, but of insubordination and rebellion. (Can’t be godly cannon fodder unless you obey orders, mister.)

    >> One sick danish strudel to go, please

    With characteristic, combative verve, Kierkegaard condemns the doubter as insubordinate, a rebel against fideism:

    “They would have us believe that objections against Christianity come from doubt. This is always a misunderstanding. Objections against Christianity come from insubordination, unwillingness to obey, rebellion against all authority. Therefore, they have been beating the air against the objectors, because they have fought intellectually [against] doubt, instead of fighting ethically [against] rebellion. . . .So it is not properly doubt but insubordination.” (Lowrie 122)

    Thus, SK. Almost needless to say, but his rhetoric works equally “well” in the mouth of any doctrinaire muslim or jew.

    >> Got guilt? Well, why not, sinner?

    Even attempting to leave a religious culture which demands ’subordination’ or ’submission’ to someone else’s interpretation of an alleged “will of god” adversely affects the psychological well-being of the “apostate.” Guilt feelings get induced. Needless guilt is the elder brother of nonexistent “sin.”

    Becoming-who-you-are or “individuation” (to use Jung’s terminology) is the goal of personal growth. It cannot occur without self-doubt or without doubting authority and authority figures. When you’ve made a “leap of faith” into hyper-religious space there is no return except by self-assertion, and doubt is just a form of it. You want to emulate Odysseus and not Jesus. The hero labors, struggles, succeeds, or dies trying; but throughout remains human.

    >> Religious “commitment” is not a choice; it’s a moral cop-out

    Irrational self-assertion characterizes a popular culture, the “secular” culture. Irrational fideism characterizes fundamentalism. One “commitment” to Christ and you drop into the womb of unknowing. “Rebirth” is a pale metaphor for individuation.

    Tolerance, that wide band of humane behavior including rational self-assertion, lies between inhuman anarchy and inhuman puritanism. Trying to navigate in that band requires years of training and making a lot of mistakes. And, there is no end to learning which is a human, very human joy.

    bipolar2
    © 2008

  • [...] (Cross-posted on de-conversion.com) [...]

  • 58. ex-christian  |  August 18, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your story orDover. My own de-conversion was very close to yours. I just turned 20, and I’ve been an atheist for 4-5 months now.

    I grew up in a christian home, christian school, and went to church every Sunday. God was never questioned. Evolution was dismissed with an argument for irreducible complexity.

    Much like your experience with Mr. L, I had a senior Bible teacher that I will call Mr. M. He taught us all the things you talked about. How to defend our faith, why evolution was bunk, where morals came from etc.

    Looking into his arguments is what ended up causing me to de-convert. None of them held up.

    One of my sisters knows I am an atheist, and most of my friends. The rest of my family does not. I just don’t know if it is worth the anguish, for them or me. They will think I am going to hell and treat me differently, and I will hate the way that they treat me.

    Anyways, just wanted to thank you one more time for sharing.

  • 59. John Ordover (really)  |  August 19, 2008 at 10:01 am

    How did you arrive at the sig “orDover?” That’s my last name (really) and Google alerts keeps sending your posts my way….

  • 60. ordover  |  August 19, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    It’s a reference to the British city which is the traditional point of passage across the English channel into France.

  • 61. Keith  |  August 21, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    What a touching story! In many ways I can relate. I am Jewish by birth and was adopted and raised by Christian parents. They had to allow me to learn about my Jewish background. I ended up learning about both faiths. I realized from the hard facts of science that God is imaginary. My sister is the only one who knows that I am an atheist. If my parents and friends knew, they would probably disown me.

  • 62. EKM  |  August 24, 2008 at 2:28 am

    On August 14, 2008 at 3:36 pm, orDover said:
    -She then went on to blame my friend’s sexuality choice on the liberal media who glamorize lesbianism. I tried to tell her that it wasn’t the influence of the media, but that my friend had made a personal choice based on her own emotions, but she’d have nothing of it. She was convinced that everyone who is gay is actually living in some sort of denial (ie suffering from childhood sexual abuse or a lack of success with dating) and has been conned into thinking they are gay by, you guessed it, the media.
    Maybe you should suggest your mom boycott the Christian media so she can see how strong her faith really is.

    She thinks that a church could provide a good support for me as I tackle the dangers of my extremely liberal university, but other than that, she’s okay with my decision.
    Is “extremely liberal” your mother’s description? What is it with Christians who think EVERYTHING is too liberal? If you think everything is just too liberal, maybe the problem is you.

  • 63. Oleander  |  August 27, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    From Post #61
    I realized from the hard facts of science that God is imaginary.
    :)

    CHICAGO TRIBUNE 8-27-08

    SCIENTISTS DISCOVER GOD IS AN IMAGINARY BEING

    This is an imaginary headline–funny though how the poster in #61 calls his own study “fact” when science has never proved anything of the sort! If so, show me a real headline stating that fact. :)

  • 64. LeoPardus  |  August 27, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    science has never proved anything of the sort! If so, show me a real headline stating that fact.

    Right. If we can get something into a news headline, then that will establish it as a scientific fact. !!!!!!!!!!

    Sheesh!

  • 65. Oleander  |  August 27, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Right. If we can get something into a news headline, then that will establish it as a scientific fact. !!!!!!!!!!

    My point is that there is nothing that states as a “fact” that God is an imaginary being as #61 seems to state. When the cure for polio was found newspapers could announce “CURE FOR POLIO!!” because it was a FACT. No newspaper in the world is going to run a headline that says SCIENTISTS DISCOVER GOD IS IMAGINARY because that would be bull. Yet many people state it as though it is “fact” when nothing could be further from the truth.

  • 66. BigHouse  |  August 27, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Oleander, while #61 may have overeached in their word choice, how different is that stance than that of of Christian saying “I KNOW God is real cuz I hear him when I pray?”

  • 67. LeoPardus  |  August 27, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    There is nothing that state “as a fact” that God is real either. That doesn’t stop folks from saying that it is. And there are headlines that say “God is real”. There’s even a book entitled, “Scientists Discover the Creator” [Dang! I guess it must be true then!]

    And there is a paper that has run a headline something like, “SCIENTISTS DISCOVER GOD IS IMAGINARY” …. The Onion.

    At any rate, what the hell are you bothering with this newspaper headline biz for? Does a newspaper headline convey some sort of legitimacy to you?

  • 68. Cooper  |  August 27, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    Oleander, while #61 may have overeached in their word choice, how different is that stance than that of of Christian saying “I KNOW God is real cuz I hear him when I pray?”

    Bighouse—-

    No newspaper is going to put a headline stating “GOD PROVED TO BE REAL ENTITY” either. It is not a proven fact. My point was that #61 said that “from the hard facts of science” he learned God was imaginary. What FACTS? There are no “facts” that prove God does not exist–just as there are no “facts” that prove he exists either. That was my point.

  • 69. Cooper  |  August 27, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    At any rate, what the hell are you bothering with this newspaper headline biz for? Does a newspaper headline convey some sort of legitimacy to you?

    Leo—

    I used newspaper headlines as an “example” of where facts are usually stated (legitimate papers like the New York Times, L.A. Times etc)—as they do not want to face libel charges. It doesn’t have to be a newspaper though—-I mean any real scientific journal—none of them are going to state that God is an imaginary being—-because God hasn’t been disproved—and scientists KNOW that. No real journal is going to state either the existence or non-existence of God as “fact”. #51 says that these “facts” led him to believe God is imaginary.

    Geez—incredible how many times you have to repeat a simple statement here. Why can’t anyone just say “Yes—#61 made a statement that has no scientific proof”.

  • 70. Cooper  |  August 27, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    By the way—don’t mean to be confusing—I forgot to change
    the name Oleander to Cooper on a couple of my posts earlier. I’ll post solely as Cooper from now on—need to check the name before posting. That’s how I’ve wound up with “anonymous” a few times too. :)

  • 71. BigHouse  |  August 27, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    The reason is, Cooper, that you are attributing too much literality to #61′s word choice. I’ll let that person speak for themselves on what they meant because you are are right, there is no PROOF that God doesn’t exist. Same as there’s no proof of the Flying Spaghetti Monster not existing.

    There are, however, scientific facts that would LEAD ONE TO BELIEVE that God doesn’t exist.

  • 72. HeIsSailing  |  August 28, 2008 at 6:42 am

    Cooper, I will put my brain onto Keith and try to clarity his statement for you.

    There is no scientific fact that will directly disprove the existence of God. However since scientific studies have systematically excluded God as being the explanation for what turned out to be natural phenomena. In other words, The God of the Gaps is running out of gaps to fill.

  • 73. Cooper  |  August 28, 2008 at 11:57 am

    hels/BigHouse—

    Thanks!—perhaps you are right. I am putting too much credence
    into his one sentence. He may have meant he was “led to believe there was no God” by scientific study.

  • 74. bipolar2  |  September 1, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    ** Who are you? The anti-supernaturalist wants you to know.

    What you’re against shows what you’re open to accepting.

    Before you engage as all american skeptico-agnostico-atheist warrior, either openly or anonymously, four levels of discourse need to be untwined. (A dictionary alone is not good enough to distinguish or define them.) A lot of confusion goes away when you can pinpoint what you are rejecting.

    1. Supernaturalism: any doctrine putting forward a supernatural realm or post-mortem existence: whether of Platonic ideas, Aristotelian entelechies, the Absolute, Being, ground of being, gods, demons, spirits, minds, mystical union, karma, reincarnation, nirvana, Buddha realms, yogic chakras.

    2. Theism: claim that at least one divine being (god) exists. Gods as persons: polytheisms and monotheisms. Gods as impersonal entities: deism and philosophical Hinduism. God as nature: pantheism.

    3. Xianity: one recent religion (in the last 3,300 years) belonging to the big-4 monotheisms, from eldest to youngest: zoroastrianism, judaism, xianity, and islam. Xianity accepts a basic equality: Jesus=Messiah=Christ=God.

    4. Fundamentalist xianity: highly puritanical sects broadly identified within american protestantism as Baptist. Characteristics: adult baptism by full immersion, psychological indoctrination leading to “conversion” to sect membership, epistemological reliance on biblical inerrancy, enthusiastic and “inspired” preaching dismissive of rationality and science.

    5. Dominionism: a christo-fascist political ideology masquerading as a legitimate aspect of fundamentalist xianity. It seeks to overthrow the US Constitution and secular government, and to replace them with a xian theocratic state.

    Like Russian dolls these ideas fit one inside the other. If, like me, you are an anti-supernaturalist (and reject 1) then you also reject 2 through 5. You can be an atheist (2) and still be a supernaturalist. You can be a xian (3) without being a fundamentalist (4). You can be a fundie without accepting dominionism (5).

    • “those not against us are with us”

    The anti-supernaturalist or atheist has a lot of company in being against dominionism. If you can support the Freedom from religion foundation or the ACLU for example, than you will advance the welfare of the US as a secular state.

    • “laugh and the world laughs with you”

    The anti-supernaturalist or atheist will have a goodly company with him against fundies. FfR and the ACLU also oppose contaminating secular science education with garbage like Intelligent Design. But, a plurality of americans think that some god directs evolution — how could a brainy good looking person like me come about otherwise? Here poor science education and egoism comfortably reinforce each other.

    Often enough, fundie “churches” are fronts for tax avoidance, sleazy money making frauds, and thoroughly irresponsible K-16 and professional education.

    Also, “liberal” protestants, RCs, and jews “sin” by omission in not opposing vigorously the machinations of sub-cultures 4 and 5. Their silence gives consent. A crowd of support goes away.

    • “cry and you cry alone”

    The anti-supernaturalist or atheist might receive tepid assistance from minority monotheistic competitors. After all, US jews, muslims and sikhs have a stake in preserving religious pluralism within a secular state.

    But, anti-supernaturalists have all of recorded history and global religiosity against them. Want to bring down even the wrath of pantheists, deists, new agers, mystics, unitarians, gnostics, and theosophists? These are generally pacific live-and-let-live folks. Leave them lost in the fog?

    • But we know.

    We know that mythological explanations explain nothing. Does science then explain everything. It does not. Not even within its own boundaries.

    At this point, I can ask Nietzsche’s question: how much truth are you able to bear?

    bipolar2 © 2008

  • 75. Mike aka MonolithTMA  |  September 9, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    Great post! Thanks for sharing!

  • 76. Christina  |  September 16, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Thank you so much for this post!!! As I was reading it, I couldn’t stop nodding to myself.. this is almost exactly what I’ve gone through in the last few years.

    The reason I have no told my mom, though, is because I know she would feel like she had “failed” me, and could not bear the thought of going to Heaven without me being there. Stupid Catholic guilt. I can’t do that to her.

    This post has helped me feel so much less guilty and scared than I have been lately. Thank you.

    Christina

  • 77. SnugglyBuffalo  |  September 16, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Welcome, Christina!

    It really is nice to learn you’re not the only apostate out there, that others have gone or are going through the same things. A lot of us here are in the same boat about telling our parents about our de-conversions, though I recently had to reveal my change in beliefs thanks to some rather direct questions (it was either that or tell outright lies).

    I hope things go well with your mom, especially if you ever do decide to tell her.

  • 78. Obstacles to Critical Thinking « de-conversion  |  September 17, 2008 at 12:12 am

    [...] of my life granting my elders full confidence, I woke up to the shocking reality that I had been lied to over and over again. They weren’t necessarily deliberate lies, but it was a great demonstration of the way that those [...]

  • 79. Shalom  |  October 8, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    bipolar2:

    I am not sure what you mean by the “big 3″ monotheistic religions insisting on adherent’s submission to the will of god.

    If one of those “big 3″ that you are refering to is judaism, you are very, very wrong. People of the Jewish faith are expected to constant question and debate their faith, and interpret and reinterpret religious sources, including the 5 books.

    Also, there cannot be any proof of what god wills with respect to the New Testament (such as the story of Gethsamne) and judaism. The NT is not a Jewish text and therefore has no bearing on beliefs and practices in the Jewish faith.

  • 80. Charlene  |  October 13, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    I read a great deal of your writing on this website…..but I didn’t find any “confession”……any acceptance of Jesus as your saviour from sin common to us all. Charlene

  • 81. orDover  |  October 13, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    I don’t feel the need to prove the fact that I was “saved” to you. I haven’t written about accepting the idea of original sin or that all people are sinners unworthy of salvation on this blog (although I have written about it on my person blog), but that is beside the point. I was a Christian for my entire life and believed all of the regular things that your average Christian believes, including the idea that humans have sinful natures, that we all “fall short of the glory of God,” that Jesus was the final sacrifice to atone for all sin, that I had to submit my life and my will to God, that once I had confessed my sinful nature and accepted God I was to “lay my burdens upon the cross” etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc.

  • 82. Ash  |  March 6, 2009 at 12:54 am

    I don ‘t know if this article is real or not but I went through a somewhat similar route. As an African American, it is a big thing, especially in the South. After reading this, I think I’m ready to tell my family. I don’t think we can hold our feelings on religion back. It should be our duty to stop the lies that keep spreading right in front of us as best we can.

    Ash

  • 83. orDover  |  March 6, 2009 at 1:02 am

    It’s real alright!

  • 84. Mike  |  March 7, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Thank you for your story. It’s inspiring and fantastic. I’m glad you threw off the yoke of religious oppression, and hope someday you can “come out” to your family and they will still accept you for who you are, not whether or not you believe in fairy tales.

  • 85. Joe  |  April 8, 2009 at 2:14 am

    I really enjoyed reading this. It mirrors my life in so many ways. I was raised in the “missionfield” with my very christian family. We lived all over Central America. We breathed protestant Christianity. I always had doubts, even at 8, but it wasn’t until my first semester in college, a Baptist College at that, that I broke away. I vividly remember walking out of my required Old Testament class after doing some of my own research into the beginnings of Judaism. I realized it was all made up. Unlike many people, my de-conversion was pretty quick. I walked into class an Xian and walked out an Atheist. All in one afternoon. All it took was a few select articles from the Oxford Companion to the Bible and some pushing from my professor to ask questions.

  • 86. Joe2  |  April 8, 2009 at 2:29 am

    I’ve been an atheist for six years now. I have yet to tell my parents, or any family for that matter. It would destroy them. I think it better that I not bring it up. I also live in the deep south. Everyone I know is a Christian, except my girlfriend. One of my brothers wants to go to seminary, the other has some sort of communal “house church” that he shares with a bunch of other kids, and another is going to Liberty U. My parents keep asking me where I am going to church. I keep responding with “nowhere”. Maybe they will get the picture.

  • 87. LeoPardus  |  April 8, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Wow, six years and still “in the closet”! Gives me hope. I’m about 2 years “in the closet”. I keep looking for the right opportunity.

  • 88. orDover  |  April 8, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    I’m not looking for the right opportunity. I’m waiting until it becomes completely unavoidable.

  • 89. Tit for Tat  |  April 8, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Leo and orDover

    Are you still trying to hide your “Sins”. ;)

  • 90. SnugglyBuffalo  |  April 9, 2009 at 11:41 am

    I’m waiting until it becomes completely unavoidable.

    At first I was going to recommend against this, as this is the approach I wound up taking and it was anything but pleasant. But then, I’m really not sure it would have gone down any better had I chosen the “right opportunity” to tell them.

  • 91. Quester  |  April 9, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    Only way for me to have stayed in the closet was to keep working as a pastor, and that would not have been fair to anyone. Once I explained why I could not continue as a pastor, I was pretty much out as an atheist. I’m still rather quiet about it, though.

  • 92. Murphie  |  September 30, 2009 at 1:09 am

    I have been at a Christian private school my entire life, I am a senior in high school this year, secretly denounced my faith two years ago and finally told my bible teacher i didn’t believe in God a few weeks back. I have turned in all the work for his class and aced his tests, and I am mysteriously failing the class haha… I feel like I am going through almost exactly what you went through and I cannot wait to leave this place and go to a secular college. I am glad i read this, good know there are others I can relate to, even if i don’t know them personally haha.

  • 93. orDover  |  September 30, 2009 at 3:33 am

    I’m glad my story makes you feel better, Murphie.

    If you would feel comfortable doing this, I think you should confront your teacher about your failing grade. Maybe even just mention that by punishing you unjustly when you opened up to him and confessed your doubts and disbelief, which can be a difficult and painful thing, he isn’t acting very much like Jesus, and isn’t giving you a lot of faith in the supposed good behavior of Christians.

  • 94. John  |  November 27, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Wow, I cannot believe how close that story is to mine. I didn’t go to a private school, but in the bible belt we laughed off evolution in science class. I would tell all of the similarities but that would be a waste of time. Encouraging to read, of course being a believer of evidence and reason I don’t need it.

  • 95. Dan  |  June 20, 2011 at 3:30 am

    Terrific story! I wish I could read a thousand others like it

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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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