Failing the Insider Test – My de-conversion story

November 1, 2008 at 12:35 pm 73 comments

“You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?” – Morpheus

I grew up as an hard-core fundamentalist, and have been slowing drifting secular since the beginning of high school. In sixth grade, my parents got rid of Aladdin due to Jasmine’s inappropriate garb. My church started playing contemporary music in the evening services, and as this form of music is displeasing to God, we changed churches largely for this reason. Together with being home schooled and highly gifted mathematically, I was not what you would call a normal child.

Although this may be barely believable to many of you unless you also have been brainwashed at an old enough age to know better, I followed along willingly. “It will be worth it all, When we see Christ.” In high school, I was not allowed to date. With most people, no dating means that the “courtship” model is the alternative, but in my case, no clear alternative was given. (My adolescence consisted of “enumerated powers.”) As a junior in high school, when cute girls noticed me, it was depressing more than anything, because I could do nothing about it. It’s only a slight hyperbole to say that I thought the F-word was flirt (that’s a sin too for kids that age, in case you didn’t know.) When I was a senior, God told me who I was to marry. *Pathetic story squelched.* A year later, she married another.

I should mention that although I frequently poke fun at home schooling culture, I’m very grateful to my parents for teaching me. It was without a doubt, the best possible environment for me to receive an excellent education. This came at the price of a great deal of my mother’s time for more than a decade.

But socially speaking, as I’m sure you could imagine, my freshman year at a public university was … interesting. Shortly before arriving, I had shaken off some of my crazier beliefs regarding moral standards regarding music and dating, but that didn’t stop me from asking questions like “who’s Jessica Simpson?” or having to go to urbandictionary.com to figure out if making out meant sex. I had been betrayed into living a miserably legalistic life with standards above and beyond the Bible. Much of my social dysfunction was suffering left over from trying to live a godly life in the way that other’s thought I should. At this point, it would have been rational for me to walk away from faith based on what it did to me. But no, that would be the easy way. My path was the hard one – one step at a time. It wasn’t Christianity that was to blame, but rather my legalistic upbringing. My parents were no longer the Disney-movie-banning type, which went a long way toward helping me laugh at my past without disowning my religion.

By my sophomore year, I had settled into a life as a fundamentalist where I was at peace. I outgrew some of my weirdnesses, and found friends (both Christian and not) who accepted the rest. But as I learned about theology and the Bible and discussed it with my friends, I began growing discontent. There was something wrong, but I found whatever it was to be elusive. What I couldn’t admit was that the Bible didn’t make sense to me. Paul kept on making logical arguments that didn’t work. For instance, why couldn’t he just say women aren’t supposed to teach men and leave it at that in I Timothy 2? I could accept that. Why must he give the reason that man was formed first – what did that have to do with anything? At this point, it would have been rational for me to walk away from faith based on the way it was clashing with reason. But no, that would be the easy way. My path was the hard one – one step at a time. It wasn’t the Bible that was to blame, I was trying to impose the reason of man on the Word of God. The Bible wasn’t wrong, I just needed to accept that it was true.

The summer after my sophomore year was spent with 13 other students working on a research project. I was the only Christian [according to my definition], and my roommate was an ex-Christian who knew the Bible better than me. He wasn’t obnoxious about it, but when I tried to convert him, he knew how to push back. There’s just something about explaining theological concepts to a hostile audience that reveals just how convoluted the arguments are. By the end of the summer, when I thought about religion, neither of us had to open our mouths for my faith to get stomped – the internal skeptic in me was stronger than the Christian in me. I spent a day as an agnostic, and that could have been the end. But no, that would be the easy way. My path was the hard one – one step at a time. I was caving in to social pressure and just rejecting the Bible for emotional reasons (if you didn’t follow that, then you are following me.) It was then that I had the most real religious experience of my life. However, I also knew even at the time that these feelings were indistinguishable from the ones that told me the one I was to marry. The human will to hope has great power over the mind, even when the hope is in vain.

When my junior year started, I considered myself to be on agnostic watch, and was depressed most of the time. But then I started coming back. I began taking an online theology class that switched me from presuppositional apologetics to evidential apologetics. You mean I don’t have to assume the Bible is true a priori, but there’s actual evidence for it? Hallelujah! As Sam Harris put it, “at these moments, religious believers appear like men and women in the desert of uncertainty given a cool drink of data.” I knew that my mind had outgrown fundamentalist Christianity, but at least I knew what I was growing into: evangelical Christianity. I had been de-constructed down to Jesus’ Resurrection and the historical accuracy of the Bible. Now it was time to rebuild. I cared not if my reconstructed theology was anything like what I started with – fundamentalism wasn’t working. I determined to follow the evidence wherever it led.

During the spring of my junior year, I was in for an unpleasant surprise. In order to affirm my beliefs in six-day creation, I began researching origins from all sides. What shocked me was not that there was evidence for evolution, or even more for evolution than other theories. What shocked was that it was not even close. By now, I knew my religious foundations lay in my relationship with God, the moral teachings of Jesus, and especially his Resurrection, but evolution was still a very tough pill to swallow. Among the three statements: evolution is true, Christianity is true, evolution and Christianity are incompatible, one of them had to give. At this point, it would have been rational for me to walk away from faith based on the way it was clashing with science. But no, that would be the easy way. My path was the hard one – one step at a time. It wasn’t the Bible or observations of reality that were wrong, I was trying to impose far more precision and clarity into the Bible than was actually present.

During my senior year of college, I stabilized as moderate evangelical/emerging Christian. I began putting together a coherent picture of what I believed about evolution and the Bible. Whether or not they realize it, all Christians have some sort of distinction in their mind about what aspects of the Bible are due to God and what parts are due to man and which are both. In the case of inerrantists, this is writing style and not much else. To reconcile evolution with Christianity, I expanded which aspects I thought were due to man, now allowing for Moses to use myths to communicate spiritual truths.

I also painlessly let go of several other de facto Christian positions regarding politics. After seeing how easy it is to misunderstand the Bible, I wanted separation of church and state lest both be corrupted (or rather, corrupted further). I thought gay marriage was wrong, but should still be legal. But all things considered, I was a solid evangelical Christian in January 2007. I had just dodged a major bullet in accepting evolution and holding onto what I would still consider to be somewhat conservative theology. But then two things happened to me, both of my own doing, which permanently damaged my faith.

While surfing the web, I found the blog of a former Christian. After reading for several hours, I felt the Spirit leading me to e-mail him. Our religious backgrounds were vastly more similar than I thought possible. My first impression was that this made me one of the best possible people to talk to him – maybe he rejected God for a reason that I had successfully dealt with. The primary topics were anecdotal evidence, the origin of Jewish monotheism, and the genocide of the Midianites. I soon realized that this was two-way persuasion, and he was my better. I began to see that the ways of every god are justified in its believers’ eyes. What was worse, I started to see myself in him and that I just might be an agnostic/atheist in the making.

The second event was that I decided that my friends needed to hear that I had rejected creationism (I was kind of in the closet…) and why. I wrote a 20-page paper defending theistic evolution and posted it on facebook. I was a conservative evangelical living in the Bible belt. I knew that posting the paper would sacrifice my reputation, but someone had to stand up for truth. For the most part, my friends stuck by me and my acquaintances didn’t. In church, I sometimes felt like I was walking around with 666 tattooed on my forehead. I began to realize that unity in Christ is often unity through homogeneity of ideas and the squelching of dissent.

My conversations/debates with the agnostic compared favorably with any conversation/debate I had with a creationist in terms of respect, courtesy, making real arguments, and giving rebuttals that expressed an understanding of what I had said. Both most significantly – he had better arguments. At this point, it would have been rational for me to walk away from faith based on the way people of faith are wrong on the issue whose truth is most easily determined and based on the way that I got owned in debate. But no, that would be the easy way. My path was the hard one – one step at a time. Maybe most Christians are wrong about evolution because their relationship with God is so real that they forget about empirical evidence. Maybe I was losing my debate because I was simply over matched, and not because his position’s arguments actually were better.

When I graduated, each of the seniors in my campus ministry had a chance to give a closing word to the group of several hundred before leaving. My closing line was something like, “Half of me is excited for the opportunity to be a missionary into the spiritually dark world of graduate school. But the other half is just scared to death.” I don’t know how many people recognized that I wasn’t being humble, I was for real.

The summer after my graduation in 2007, I began the final stage of losing God. I was living away from home and my college town, so I was looking for a church or some form of spiritual support. Quite a few Saturday nights, I prayed that God would lead me to a church while looking online for somewhere to go the next morning. I kept showing up at different churches and feeling like they or I was faking something. This process repeated a couple times the next fall at graduate school. But Christianity is not based on feeling, so I persisted. (I have since found it interesting that many consider the strongest argument for faith to be their relationship with God, but when this relationship seems distant, they instead say it’s not based on feeling.)

I began to have a great deal of admiration for Mother Teresa’s ability to persist while in my state of feeling abandoned by God. When I say abandoned, I’m not referring to trying circumstances, but to the fact that no matter what I did, I felt like I was praying to the four walls around me.

I read the Bible, I studied the Bible, but this only discouraged me further. Fall 2007, I set up my schedule to read through the New Testament in a semester. I started with Matthew and for the first time, I decided to look up the context each time he quoted the Old Testament. This Bible study laid the foundation for one of my clearest reasons to disbelieve.

I tried to find where InterVarsity or some other campus ministry met. Their website gave their meeting location from 2006 and an out-of-date e-mail that did not respond. When I just showed up anyway, I found the Episcopal group. That was the closest thing I’d seen in a while to God’s leading, so I went with it, despite the fact that at times they were liberal enough that I was a bit uncomfortable. But they were all I had, and I was sick and tired of making theology-influenced friendship decisions. They loved God and they welcomed me – should I want more?

I tried re-reading works that had once spoken to me, from Lewis’ “The Problem of Pain” to Tozer’s “The Pursuit of God.” Nothing. “God, what do you want me to do?” Nothing. This seems like the kind of prayer that God would answer. At this point, it would have been rational for me to walk away from faith based on knowing that I had been seeking God will all my heart, soul, and mind, and yet I didn’t have a relationship with God. But no, that would be the easy way. My path was the hard one – one step at a time. By spring 2008, I began wondering if Christianity was true, but I just wasn’t one.

But this destroyed another set of reasons to believe: I thought what I had was real because people had told me that they saw a difference in my life – skeptic and Christian alike. The Bible says believe and you will be saved, and I believed, or at least I used to. Eventually, I realized that it was far easier to explain my past perceived relationship with God in the context of skepticism than it was to understand the difficulties I was having in the context of Christianity.

The death stroke against the argument for God based on others’ relationship with God was struck when I compared it with the practice of speaking in tongues. Pentecostals argue that the strengthening of their relationship with God through tongues as a private prayer language means tongues are for real, while cessationists like me had no trouble writing them off. To quote Jonathan MacArthur’s view of tongues as well as I can remember, “you don’t interpret the Bible based on experiences, you take your experiences to the Bible.” As a skeptic whose primary arguments are biblical, I am still following his advice.

C. S. Lewis once warned against an unbalanced leaning on apologetics, as one man he knew became so obsessed with studying the reasons to think it was true that he lost track of what it was that was true. With this story, I was content with my struggle for the final time. That must have been what happened to me.

But then my mind screamed back – that’s not how it happened! I studied theology out of “Lord, I want to know you!” I wanted to know what His Word said. I wanted to know why I believed so I could share a reason for the hope that was in me. I now merely wanted that hope. I lost my perceived relationship with God, not through neglect, but through wanting it to be more real than the fuzzy feelings I get while watching Rocky. The pouring of myself into apologetics did not cause this loss, but rather, I studied apologetics and the logical side of faith due to learning how weak and suggestible such a “relationship” can be.

While I had suspected I was losing my faith off and on for over three years, I didn’t think there was a chance I actually would, even up until the moment it happened. I sincerely believed it was true, and thus I believed that sincerely seeking the truth would lead me to God in some way.

On April 19, 2008, I went to see the movie “Expelled.” I was unsurprised to see ID propaganda, but what surprised me was how many arguments for atheism were presented and how good they looked when paired with Christianity’s most foolish tenants. As far as I was concerned, the movie ended when Dawkins was asked what he would say to God were he to meet him after death. Dawkins replied, “Why did you take such pains to conceal yourself?” This retort was crushing as I thought about my lack of a relationship with God.

There was but one piece left of my faith – my belief that there was evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus. Several times, I had thought to myself that if resurrection apologetics were as bad as creationism apologetics, I might not know the difference. I had read plenty about the historical evidence for Jesus, but only from a Christian perspective. Out of fear of the truth, I had protected myself from learning what skeptics have to say. But finally, with only this left, I overturned the final stone. Just like with evolution, my shock was not that skeptics have a case, but that it’s not even close. At the age of 23, I de-converted on Sunday morning, April 20, sometime around 3-5am while reading this exchange.

When I finally de-converted, I could best describe it as the final scene in a mystery movie, where the detective has been following the bad guy for a while, and finds the smallest clue out of place. A montage follows as he remembers the dozens of times something was amiss, and one-by-one, puts the clues in the proper position and sees he has enough evidence to convict the real villain several times over. After I de-converted, my first thought was “Wow … What took me so long?”

But my second thought was that I had just lost something very dear to me. My identity and purpose for living have been ripped violently away. I have to completely reforge what I think about everything. “Why don’t I just kill myself” was a thought that went through my mind – not that I was actually suicidal, but why not? Instead of protecting myself socially from ungodly influences, I have to find a way to re-enter the world without God.

Several weeks later, I began relapsing back into Christianity. I found no answers to my problems with the Bible, and I had found no new reasons to believe. The problem was that I believed in hell as eternal conscience torment all the way until my last moment as a Christian, and I was thinking there was maybe a 25% chance Christianity was true, and hence a 25% chance I would burn for eternity. I grasped the full meaning of this and just couldn’t take it.

After a heart-wrenching 2-3 hour conversation with my brother, I was ready to be saved again. Like the victim of a brutal interrogation, I wanted to believe to stop the pain. I was already seeking God and trying to live my life for him, I just needed to believe. The next day, I even picked up the phone to call my brother back to say I believed again. But when I thought about what I would say, I couldn’t think of anything. I had given numerous reasons to not believe, and as much as I wanted them to go away, when I remembered what I said, they were really good reasons. They were not mere rationalizations – the only rationalization going on was my attempt to ignore them. I put the phone down. That night, I prayed, “God, if you’re there, and if you won’t show me the evidence or help me believe without it, please just kill me in my sleep. I think I believe in you now, but I’m not sure I ever will again.” The next morning, I woke up as normal. I never again wasted a breath on the great cosmic indifference.

“I didn’t say it would be easy, Neo. I just said it would be the truth.” – Morpheus

But the more I know about a secular view of the world, the better it gets. I no longer need a belief in a second life to make this first one precious. Far from being nihilistic, I care about humanity with a passion that I seldom had as a Christian. God isn’t helping us – the only peace and justice to be found in this world are the peace and justice we fight for. I’m finding in free thought more morality and purpose than I ever found in Christianity.

- Jeffrey

Entry filed under: Jeffrey. Tags: , , , , .

The Psychology of Apologetics: Ethics and Morality Moving Beyond De-Conversion?

73 Comments Add your own

  • 1. LeoPardus  |  November 1, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Jeffrey:

    Thanks for your story. I think you’ll find a lot of folks here identify with it very well. Hope you enjoy hanging around here. The folks on this blog can provide plenty of input as you continue to rebuild your world without a deity. In the end it’s all worth it though. Your mind is now free.

  • 2. Josh  |  November 1, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Jeffrey, you stole my testimony :)

    I too am 23 and deconverted this last spring as well (probably in May, when a woman at a Bible study asked me with a small knowing grin “Why do you believe in God?” I was stumped and realized that even though I had been studying apologetics for over a year I did not have any good reasons.) I too continued to relapse into Christianity. I also posted a long three part treatise on Facebook about why I believed in theistic evolution. I also struggled with the prophecies, and I also “overturned the last stone” when I realized just how weak the arguments for the resurrection actually were.

    I also was taught the courtship model – and it basically destroyed my love life many times over. I also thought flirting was sinful – but was damn good at it :) I also was homeschooled, and we were sheltered from movies like Alladin as well because Jasmine was improperly clothed (this was just so weird to me because we had not even reached puberty. I never saw Rocketeer because of this excuse. I always wondered what made boobs so sinful). I also soaked up C.S.Lewis. I also was taught by John MacArthur’s teaching (I still have his signature in the front of my Bible from attending a Shepherd’s Conference).

    I too likened my discoveries to a mystery (Sherlock Holmes is my favorite detective by far and I have read every story). Speaking in tongues was also a turning point for me when the ridiculous spiritual assertions of pentacostals began to make me think that my own spiritual experiences could just as well be fake. I too cried out to God for him to show himself (although I never asked him to kill me that I can remember).

    Your not alone.

    This is one heck of a de-conversion testimony. I applaud you :)

    Josh

    “Whenever you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains – no matter how improbable – must be the truth.” – Sherlock Holmes

  • 3. orDover  |  November 1, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    In sixth grade, my parents got rid of Aladdin due to Jasmine’s inappropriate garb.

    We couldn’t watch Aladdin because it had evil sorcery in it. :)

  • 4. humanistdad  |  November 1, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    One of my biggest questions about religious people is how can intelligent people really be religious? I think your story gives me some good insight.

    I grew up in an ‘agnostic’ household. My parents never told me their beliefs nor did we go to church. I always thought there was a god and I just had to figure out which religion was ‘right’. I never really knew what an atheist was until about 14 years ago when I just happened to see a documentary on Humanism. I remember being stunned to learn that people who seemed to think exactly like I did actually existed!

    Good luck continuing on your de-conversion! If you want to strengthen your skeptical tools, try James Randi’s website and the free movie on http://www.herebedragonsmovie.com. Carl Sagan’s book ‘The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark’ is also highly recommended.

  • 5. Jeffrey  |  November 1, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    Josh,

    Wow … that’s quite the string of similarities. MacArthur was not one of my major influences – I just remember his sermon series “The Truth about Tongues.” But still, that’s quite a lot. Science works in mysterious ways! Were you in ATI as well or at least connected indirectly with the Institute of Basic Life Principles?

    To my parents’ credit, I was old enough to have *noticed* Jasmine by the time they got rid of Alladin…

  • 6. peridot  |  November 1, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    Thank you for sharing your, Jeffrey. I identified with it a great deal, especially all of the rationalizations that you used while you were finding the faith lacking but had not yet given up on it. People who have not experienced a deeply held faith bolstered by a lot of complex supporting intellectual arguments have no idea how much is involved in giving it up.

    Although this may be barely believable to many of you unless you also have been brainwashed at an old enough age to know better, I followed along willingly. “It will be worth it all, When we see Christ.”

    People who have not been systematically taught an emotionally and intellectually compelling religion from a young age just have no idea what that is like.

    My path was the hard one – one step at a time.

    It took me 1000 baby steps over about ten years. For me, it started at 18 when I started college and concluded around 27.

    In sixth grade, my parents got rid of Aladdin due to Jasmine’s inappropriate garb.

    We were taught that “The Lion King” was dangerous because the spirit of Mufasa speaking from the sky was idolotry. We were taught that “Beauty and the Beast” was dangerous because Belle disobeys her father when she offers to take his place as the Beast’s captive.

  • 7. Blake Stacey  |  November 2, 2008 at 1:53 am

    Very nicely said, sir. (I found my way here via a commenter at Pharyngula who noticed your reaction to Expelled, so you may be getting an influx of visitors soon.)

  • 8. Richard  |  November 2, 2008 at 1:58 am

    Jeffrey- Welcome, and congratulations on your story (very well-written!) and on your deconversion. I, too, found the whole process wrenching, and was drug kicking and screaming away from belief. Its amazing how motivated many of us were to give up this little piece or that little piece (literalism, inerrancy) rather that just let go of it all. We so *want* to find a way to make it work again.

    I mean, think about: fundamentalism teaches that we are wicked, lost, depraved, and perverted sinners. But how do we react when we *give up* this belief system? Freed? Joyful, that we no longer must believe in our own badness? Ecstatic, like a man who learns he does not in fact have a deadly horrible disease he thought he had?

    No! We feel lost, desparate, worthless, and horribly alone. We must grieve, often for months, and try to find a reason to live again. Sometimes, careless atheist writers causally toss out an admission that, oh sure, people believe in religion because it provides comfort. But the power and lure of that “comfort” is something almost impossible to overstate.

  • 9. Jeanette  |  November 2, 2008 at 3:54 am

    Another Pharingulite dropping by.

    It really is hard for those of us who were never “infected” with religion to know what it must be like to lose a faith that you’ve been brought up in and always relied on.

    But know that there’s a whole atheist/agnostic culture emerging, and waiting to take you in if you’re feeling alone.

    Many communities have atheist/humanist/skeptical social groups (such as on Meetup.com), and sometimes local chapters of political groups that bring non-theists together, as well.

    And if your community is short on groups that meet in the flesh, there’s still the online community.

    Anyway, big congratulations to all of you for joining the reality-based community. :-D

  • 10. Tony P  |  November 2, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    I’m so sorry it took so long for you to shuck off the cloak of Christianity.

    But I’m glad you made the journey into the secular world.

    I’m fortunate, twelve years of Catholic schools made me a stronger atheist. And I’m proud of my buddy’s son, at the age of 8 he got bounced from a Catholic school for pronouncing that religion was bullshit.

    It’s getting better out there, it really is. I hope I see the death of Christianity in my lifetime.

  • 11. felix  |  November 2, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    dear de-converts,
    as a life-long unbeliever, let me say to you simply:
    thank you.
    you are the people who can make a difference for the future, by publicizing your stories to those who not yet dare to take the step into sanity.
    you are full of win. ;)

  • 12. Josh  |  November 2, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    “dear de-converts,
    as a life-long unbeliever, let me say to you simply:
    thank you.
    you are the people who can make a difference for the future, by publicizing your stories to those who not yet dare to take the step into sanity.
    you are full of win.”

    *tear*

    I’m sure I speak for most of us when I say: aww shucks…

  • 13. The Apostate  |  November 2, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Thank you Jeffrey for your (de-) testimony. As you even see from the comments above that your story resonates with many of us who grew up in fundamentalist/evangelical households.

    What seems to be very similar among many of us is the lack of so-called “atheistic proselytizing” or “militant atheism” in our stories. No one convinced us except ourselves and our obsession for seeking out the truth. In many regards, it is ironic that it was our search for the truth about the nature of God, the person of Jesus, and the reality of the Holy Spirit that led to our de-conversions. The most frustrating self-realization, I found, was that all of my theology and the theology of others is ad hoc.

    Re: Aladdin. My parents were not concerned with Aladdin, but after seeing The Lion King my mom and I had to have a long talk about the philosophies of “hakuna matata” and the over-arching theme of “the circle of life.” Even later when I was in college and post-deconversion (in the closet – but my liberalism was definitely not hidden), she even gave me a book on the wickedness of Harry Potter. Just like how she erroneously understood The Lion King’s “promotion” of “hakuna matata”, the author of this book persistently argued that Voldemort’s actions were what is being taught in the Harry Potter series. This is sort of like saying Darth Vader sets the morality standard for Star Wars.

  • 14. gracesong815  |  November 2, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    When I read your story, it really does break my heart because I remember all too well, just last month, how I’d cry out to God for Him to show Himself and no one would respond. Heck, even now as a New Ager I get more response than I did when i cried out to the God of the Bible. In reading the Bible again, I really think that Christ’s teachings were really corrupted and people who wished to have major control of their populace created a vengeful God who would obliterate their enemies.
    Many Evangelicals like to think of the fluffy, fuzzy frufroos when talking about God, countering that without Hell there can be no Heaven. It’s also nice too just how many people will encourage you to get back into the Bible, not knowing that you’ve already torn your heart out trying that.

  • 15. truthwalker  |  November 2, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    Also home schooled, also book smart and relationship dumb, also went through the methodical losses.

    From one to another, I’m sorry.

    I’m not claiming responsibility, just expressing sorrow. I had a lot of those experiences myself. Most of them hurt a lot. I’m glad I’m OK now. For your sake, I’m glad your OK now. But I’m sorry all of us had to spend so many years broken inside because we couldn’t somehow believe right.

  • 16. Susannah  |  November 2, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    Every rationalization that you used was one that kept me going. As you said, we had to do it the hard way.

    I moved from strict fundamentalist (no TV, no movies, no secular literature, except, with reservations, Shakespeare, no dating. I dared to flirt, once, in High School, in a rebellious frame of mind, which I later repented of.) to evangelical to “liberal” to deist to atheist. Unfortunately, it took me almost a lifetime; I was in my 50s before I was free.

    And, as in your case, it was the Bible itself that drove me away, in spite of my wishes; the more intensely I studied it, the more I saw that it was badly flawed.

    Thank you for writing your story. And congratulations on your escape!

  • 17. Blake Stacey  |  November 3, 2008 at 12:21 am

    “This is sort of like saying Darth Vader sets the morality standard for Star Wars.”

    He doesn’t set its standard of morality, just its fashion sense. ;-)

  • 18. matt  |  November 3, 2008 at 1:15 am

    Thanks for sharing your story. My parents were Quaker but never pushed any religion on me or my brother. They were socially active and encouraged us to think critically about authority. I was also a very logical child. These led to both my broher and I being lifelong atheists, although I guess I flirted with agnosticism. Earlier this year my 7 year-old niece lost a friend when her friend told her the story of Jesus and she said “that can’t be true, because once you are dead you are dead. You can’t come back.” A friend of the family had recently died before that and my brother had had a long talk with his daughter about what death was. It made me sad that she lost a friend over it, but glad to see a well grounded worldview

  • [...] 3, 2008 by zeynel Jeffrey becomes skeptical of creationism and decides to go public and posts a 20-page paper on facebook: I [...]

  • 20. andrevienne  |  November 3, 2008 at 9:55 am

    Your story moved me, as I have a roommate currently that I believe is sliding on that path. I’m not moving to force him along, as much as I would like to, because I don’t want to hold the conversion attempts his friends made at me against him. He’s been nothing but a gentleman in this, and he is currently studying his Bible fairly regularly.

    I’m glad to hear you broke free, and that you’re coming into your own. I never really had to deal with something that bad, as I came from a Catholic family that rarely, if ever, went to church.

    Live well, friend. Hopefully it’ll be easier for you now.

  • 21. Nicole  |  November 3, 2008 at 10:06 am

    That was a very moving story. You are a strong and intelligent individual, and I applaud your persistence. I hope that you are properly welcomed by your secular neighbors, and that you find joy in the humanistic approach to life! Thank you for sharing with us.

  • 22. Sarah TX  |  November 3, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Thank you for your testimony (as we’d have called it at church!) My story is actually incredibly different than yours – it seems I took the “easy path”, in that I went to a tech college, started dating an agnostic, and just sort of forgot how to believe. I still feel so thrilled by “The Holy Spirit” when I hear christmas music or an old hymn, but at the same time it feels like I’ve “put away childish things” and can never return to a world where everything was so simply black-and-white.

  • 23. freestyleroadtrip  |  November 3, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Still considering myself new to the sight, I don’t want to overstep my bounds. You all have amazing stories that are honest and deeply felt. I applaud your honesty with yourselves and they way you put it out there on the line. I too came from a background of fundamental Christianity with a belief that I had to jump through all of these hoops to get God to like me, that I was basically evil, and in my particular Nazarene theology, that I had to rely on God to become perfect so that I could wisked to away to heaven. What I say about that now is this: what a load of crap. I have had many of the experiences that I read here on de-con but have not abandoned my faith. I believe that if there is a God that created all this, a God that big is not threatened by my questions and there ought to be a way to find a common ground where theology and science complement each other. I am reading Alister McGrath’s, The Open Secret, to further my study on this. The bible itself is not enough for me to believe in God’s existence or God’s creative work or morality. I retain a very different Christianity than I once knew. Reading your stories are helping me sort out my beliefs much more sharply. I’m sure many of you probably think that I will end up with a de-conversion story to share down the road. I don’t sense that about myself. I openly admit that I am going through a re-conversion story though. Please do not think, by my comments, that I am trying to change the mind of any of you. I think you all are fine, and I love what you have to say, and I love being challenged by what you have to say. Thanks for allowing me to participate.

  • 24. Imrryr  |  November 3, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    That was a very fascinating and moving story. Thank you for taking the time to share it.

  • 25. Ubi Dubium  |  November 3, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    freestyleroadtrip –
    Thanks for your comments. Even though you have not lost your faith, I see you have a lot in common with us. You dared to ask questions, to insist that it all make sense to you. You had the wisdom to discard a worldview that wasn’t working for you, even under the huge pressures to conform we all face. You have the courage to declare fundamentalism a “load of crap” (I concur). Glad you are here.

  • 26. Paul H.  |  November 3, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    The Bible made little sense to me either, but after studying Bhagavad gita As It Is for less than one week God revealed Himself and everything made perfect sense. http://vedabase.net

  • 27. kemibe  |  November 3, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    That is some powerful stuff and eloquently stated. I have always been very adept at math as well, and feel as though your life’s path represents exactly what I might have experienced had I been raised in a strict Christian household rather than in a godless one.

    It is instructive, and necessary, for atheists to understand the enormous difficulty people have in letting go of faith. As you bring to life in such poignant fashion, it’s not about the simple abandonment of a stubborn set of beliefs but about letting go of a huge part of one’s person–a sort of metaphysical amputation.

    Anyway, good on you.

  • 28. drdave  |  November 3, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    To all the new de-converts, Ebon Musing is one of the most thoughtful and useful sites on the web.

  • 29. writerdd  |  November 3, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    Great post, thanks for sharing. I also deconverted the slow, hard way!

  • 30. SwitchTech  |  November 3, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story, Jeffery. You write well and clearly. You share an important, compelling tale, and make it worth the read with every paragraph. I especially appreciate your final line:

    I’m finding in free thought more morality and purpose than I ever found in Christianity.

    jbs

  • 31. News From Around The Blogosphere 11.3.08 « Skepacabra  |  November 4, 2008 at 2:50 am

    [...] Another great de-conversion story [...]

  • 32. Modern Girl  |  November 4, 2008 at 10:46 am

    That was a great story. I can’t help but think that your offical deconversion wasn’t that long ago. Have you thought about the risk factor that you might have future relapses?

  • 33. RebekahD  |  November 4, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Jeffrey,
    Your story is very touching and well-written. As a long-time unbeliever, I welcome you out and wish you the ability to see the beauty and fascination that is here in the real world! Each step of the hard way was a step toward the wonder and the joy of this life, the only one we get! Enjoy!

  • 34. Jeffrey  |  November 4, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    Modern Girl,

    My risk level of relapse depends on how far you mean. I’ve only been an atheist for a couple weeks – the chances I will relapse into deism are relatively high. I could even see myself returning to my on and off general theism of this summer; I thought that maybe a few peoples’ relationship with God is real, but that God led me out of Christianity.

    But the chance I will ever again think Jesus rose from the death is essentially zero. I reentered the world of online religion debating this summer partially in the hope someone could explain to me why I’m wrong. By now, I’m just trying to help set captives free from the prison of their minds.

  • 35. Josh  |  November 4, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    I share so much in common with this blog. I grew up in a fundamental christian home. I was a part of ATIA, home schooled, Bible quizzer, the works. I enjoyed reading your story as it helped me understand my own story better. I have not de-converted, but struggle with many of the issues mentioned. Looking back, I can’t believe how stupid I was. I don’t believe the same as I use to, but I still believe.

    Thanks for sharing your story. It really moved me. I desire to be real in sharing my own struggles, and your blog was an inspiration.

  • 36. peridot  |  November 4, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    Josh uses a phrase I haven’t heard in years:

    Bible quizzer

    Odd practice, but If you did it like we did, it was a serious commitment of time. One of the regrets I have about the years I spent in the church is how much time I spent studying things that don’t seem worthwhile now. If only I had spent that amount of time when I was young studying science or history or something real . . .

    FWIW, I have a talent for that kind of memorizing so I was quite the little darling of the bible quizzing world. That was so long ago for me (20 yrs) that I had almost forgotten about it!

  • 37. Jason  |  November 5, 2008 at 1:34 am

    I’m too tired to read the first 36 comments. Your testimony is different then mine except for one repeating line, “At this point, it would have been rational for me to walk away from faith based on what it did to me. But no, that would be the easy way. My path was the hard one – one step at a time.”

    Except I have yet to deconvert. Keep relapsing. I know evolution is true. And yet, even though God seems to be hiding completly, I have yet to get away. To afraid of hell for myself, and even worse, for my children.

    I think most of the Old testament is fictional, and worse, even fradulant, made up history. And yet I still hold to the reality of Jesus, and his ressurection. But just like you it is because I have yet to really explore it, because I am scared to do so. Let’s see if I click on your link tonight, to give it my first attempt. I agree that if it is no better then creattion science my faith will die. I’m not sure I want it to die. Even if it is pretend. It made for a fairly happy childhood for me. Maybe I want it for my children. I’ll be loose on evolution and democrats, but maybe the religious framework makes people happy, maybe that is why it is so succesfulal (whatever religion you prescribe to), so maybe I will just not seek much further and just pretend.

    I don’t know. I have had a bit to drink. Don’t type to rationally at these moments.

  • 38. Jeffrey  |  November 5, 2008 at 2:13 am

    Jason,

    I hope however you turn out it allows you to end what sounds like a conflict between your faith and reason.

    You may have discovered more problems with Christianity than I had at the point of deconversion. I didn’t learn about the fictionality of Moses and most of the rest of the OT until afterward.

    The article I linked to excels at provided reasons to disbelieve the resurrection. Another outstanding resource is the book Beyond Born Again by Robert Price. It’s available for free online: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/robert_price/beyond_born_again/index.shtml Chapters 5-7 refute the positive arguments used to support the Resurrection, and it’s written in an extremely accessible style. (Chapters 1-4 are good too, but I recommend reading 5-7 first.)

    Hell is an amazingly manipulative and emotionally abusive doctrine. Even when you know that’s what it is. Sometime this week I plan to finishing writing a post about the emotional strain of letting go of a faith that involves hell.

  • 39. Susan  |  November 19, 2008 at 1:45 am

    I am on the edge of my seat waiting for the last part. I mean, I am pretty sure how it ends…but I really want to read it. Maybe you have a future as a soap opera writer?!?!
    Seriously, it is amazing how you survived all of that.

  • 40. Susan  |  November 19, 2008 at 1:51 am

    Whoops, I put my comment in the wrong place…It is for the guy who is writing his story in 3 parts.

  • 41. Josh  |  November 19, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Its alright Susan, I’ve done it myself!

  • 42. Louis Irving  |  November 21, 2008 at 12:13 am

    This is a great story, both for other ex-convertees, or for lifelong atheists like me. It REALLY highlights the deep level of indoctrination that Christianity inflicts upon people. Many here seem to have been nearly torn apart psychologically as a result of the deconversion struggle (which shouldn’t really be a struggle, after all – what we believe should be based on the balance of evidence). Christianity, and all other religions, quite simply uses brainwashing techniques. It is so important to free the mind.

    “Let the human mind loose. It must be loose. It will be loose. Superstition and dogmatism cannot confine it.”
    — John Adams, letter to his son, John Quincy Adams, November 13, 1816

    Jason at 37

    I appreciate you want to impose a philosophy in your household that will keep your children happy and help them lead a fulfilled life. However, are you really sure those things are related to Christianity? Christianity is brainwashing built on a framework of lies. While your children may be happier in the short term (although I doubt that – many children are mortally afraid of going to hell – children will have happy or sad childhoods mainly as a result of the way their parents behave, and the way they are nurtured and supported, not as a result of the approval or otherwise of a magical sky-fairy), what greater damage are you doing to them in the longer term? The ability to think rationally and independently is really, really important. Why raise good little sheep to be herded and hoodwinked by the church, when you can raise strong, confident, independent children?

  • 43. wob  |  November 26, 2008 at 12:31 am

    “I want the moon so all I get is cheese” Frank Alpine in “The Assistant” (Malamud)

    I haven’t told my story before because every time I tried to place my thoughts on paper it seemed so outrageously funny that it just made great comedy. Of course, I would laugh the loudest. I empathise with all the above stories. The way “in” or the way “out” of our religious experiences is fraught with potholes and pain. The push for “dreams of new, regenerated life, fully realised and significant…such a renewal is the result of every genuine religious conversion” and it would appear this movement also applies to “de-conversion”.

    Every Greek is born and baptised as an infant in the Greek Orthodox church. I distinctly remember at the age of 6 my mother holding me up to kiss the icons in the church. I raised the roof by crying and kicking and never got to kiss the icons nor would I kiss the priest’s hand. After all, he was this figure in black robes who would scare the bejesus out of any child. I didn’t mind the smell of incence, nor did I mind the really nice fresh bread. (The real stuff…not that wafer stuff)

    Obviously I did not end up being a church goer in later life. I was Greek so “everyone” was Greek Orthodox. It was a given.

    At 22 I married a lovely young man, who had been brought up in a fundamentalist household and although he was “lapsed”. No drinking, smoking, dancing, no coffee, no meat eating…. you get the picture.

    Of course he told me all about it…but I didn’t “get it”. My father was as free spirited as you get an incarnation of Zorba who, like most Greeks, did all of those things drank, smoked, laughed a lot, danced and ate meat.

    At our wedding. One section was reserved for the meat eaters …and the other for the Christian Vegetarians. I am sure that one side of the room thought the other side were going to Hell. I was a Jazz Singer, so I even entertained my guests.

    To gain a better understanding of my new husband’s background I decided to go to a Christian University where many of my husbands relatives had studied. No harm I thought, they were lovely people but just a bit odd. I wasn’t a Christian but unbeknowst to me I was touted as a bit of a prize. In short, they had plucked me from the jaws of “the world” and obviously God was leading me (but I did not know it)

    I freaked out the first night I was at the College. All these kids in pastel colours and florals all reading their bibles, talkin about the holy spirit and such and me totally a fish out water..floundering around looking for some place to smoke.

    It was announced by the College mistress that I had tobacco on my breath, so I would not be suitable to stay at the College. No problemo. I hightailed it out of there as quick as you could say “its all Greek to me”. My husband’s uncle was the big kahuna in the church, so he drove to Sydney to pick me up personally and bring me back.

    I was housed “off campus” and that suited me fine. I was studying for my teaching degree and that suited me fine. I had to go “Chapel” and “Worship” and other strange things where everyone got on their knees and prayed out loud. People were praying for me and so on. One particular worship someone in their infinite wisdom felt they should make me feel at “home” and welcomed me and then proceeded to tell everyone I was “a nightclub singer” who had obviously seen the light. There was much applause and nods of approval and clearly the gnashing of teeth was all mine.

    For the first time in my life I felt this overwhelming guilt. It appeared “they” had Jesus and “knew” Jesus and even Jesus spoke to some because they had a relationship with Jesus.
    The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end.

    Philip Yancey describes this kind of experience in “The Jesus I Never Knew”. Where a prostitute in dire straits, sick, homeless and addicted to drugs searches for some real help. The church worker asked her if she thought about going to church…

    “I never forget the look of pure, naive shock that crossed her face. Church! she cried. “Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They’d just make me feel worse.”

    Suffice it to say I repressed my anger for two years and my quirky sense of humour always saved the day. I did my Bible Studies and enjoyed them as intellectual exercises. I read the Bible as literature, and met some fantastic people. Good, honest and true to themselves. It was the only place I knew that you could leave your front door unlocked and no one would pilfer your goods and chattels.

    I argued strenously about everything. Was very pissed off to realise I could not study some poets, DH Lawrence was an absolute no no, and so on and so forth. The devil, I found was on centre stage most of the time. Spooky!

    They left me alone. But what I witnessed was the private face and the public face. Tortured souls feeling the weight of the repression of their “real ” identities, deeply stuffed down inside. The guilt of being found out if they transgressed… there were closet drinkers of alcohol, coffee, there was a bit of horizontal folk dancing going on in the dorms. Come Sunday morning, all these young folk would be taking worship, or do the readings in Church scrubbed clean!!!

    The final straw. I was a professional singer so I was asked by the pastor to sing for the opening of the new church..a million dollar complex. I sang a beautiful hymn. (I still sing Gospel music to this day) Of course, little did I know that I sang “too black” and there was an uproar the next day. The concerned bretheren- the right right right wing labelled me the “whore of babylon” everyone else said it was fantastic and scores of mail from young students read “You make me feel good about my religion” I was subversive ..I was a WOB. My own Scarlet letters!!!!
    Of course it was time to go.. I exited stage left to a secular university and graduated with honours.

    Now I don’t know about raising “rationality” to fill the hole left by Christianity either. All these “rational” educated human beings are doin an awful lot bombing the crap out of people.

    There were times that I certainly wore the hair shirt, tortured by all sorts of questions. Enough of concordances, enough arguing…too exhausted.
    Funnily enough, I took much away from that College that was excellent. The College, my experience of Christianity, was not ideal it was just like the world I knew. Sometimes sublime, sometimes stupid, sometimes rational, sometimes irrational, I saw the machinations of politics, (they had their own elites)

    I can’t put any labels on myself as agnostic, or atheist or Calathumpian. All I know that there’s far too much beauty and design that I couldn’t attribute it to any mere mortal. Lets call him Bruce The Almighty. Call me a work in progress. Ask me when I’m 85!!!

    Besides, I learnt the most beautiful word in the English language. Grace.

    Yep… I may not have the heavenly insurance policy, and certainly the only church I can bring myself to go to these days and only now and again is the Salvation Army. They seem to be picking up the pieces of broken lives without the intellectual clap trap.
    Ask a homeless man or woman on the street whether the bread should come from an atheist or a Christian or Buddhist makes no never mind as long as we are ALL there. My middle class tortures just kind of pale into insignificance.

    WOB Sydney, Australia

  • 44. Josh  |  November 26, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but we should consider turning wob’s story into a featured post.

  • 45. SRK  |  November 26, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    I think I’m two steps behind you Jeffrey. And it’s not getting easier.

  • 46. TitforTat  |  November 26, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    WOB Sydney, Australia

    After reading that I think you should change to WOW………….Excellent piece of writing.

  • 47. anoymous  |  December 14, 2008 at 3:47 am

    Without God, Life is Everything

  • 48. Lucian  |  December 14, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Well, … after reading the first paragraphs all I could think was that it was good that You weren’t an Orthodox. :-)

  • 49. labczar  |  December 14, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    Wob, That was sooo damn good!

    “Suffice it to say I repressed my anger for two years and my quirky sense of humour always saved the day. met some fantastic people. Good, honest and true to themselves.”

    Reminds me of what it feels like to be a part of my evangelical Christian family, which I shared a faith with until a couple of years ago. We have family “church” every Sunday evening and a meal together. They are fantastic people, good, honest, and true to themselves, and most have a tremendous “servant spirit” about them. I love them all, but I believe they would be the same lovable souls without all the Christian rhetoric and other crap that goes with the territory.

  • 50. LeoPardus  |  December 14, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Lucien:

    I followed your link. You’re Orthodox?! Or ex-Orthodox maybe?

  • 51. Aaron  |  December 25, 2008 at 11:46 pm

    Wow–the pain in your story was palpable. I understand every step you took because I’m taking them now. Let me just say…the pain, it actually hurts. You put so much into your faith, you cry and sometimes scream, you talk to Christ as though hes right next to you. In one sense its like losing a great friend, and yet in another way, as you shed each layer of embellishment and each shadow of fable, you feel as though you’re even closer to him because your seeing him as he really was. In a crazy way, I’ve think I’ve come to understand Jesus in a deeper way now that I’ve rejected “revealed Christianity”. And just to let you know, I have a signature in a bible of mine too, like Josh, not from McArthur, but from R.C. Sproul, whom I once revered. Ironically, my first doubts were planted when I bought a series of his on tape, “The Consequences of Ideas”. An overview of philosophy. What a strange world we live in. Take care and keep your eyes open.

  • 52. chris  |  January 29, 2009 at 4:15 am

    I was raised in ATI also.

    The restrictions on watching movies, clothing, etc. is one thing . . . Restrictions on _thought_ (the world of philosophical thought) is another! – I can live with clothing restrictions; it’s the latter (thought police) that I can’t stand! God gave us a brain to _think with_! He intended us to ask questions, not to just blindly follow what we were told (to think)!

    In rejecting Christianity, particularly after a fundamentalist upbringing, do we thus throw the baby out w/ the bathwater?

    Evolution is _not_ incompatible with Christianity. . . . But surely you knew that, and have read about that? No?

    Personally, I believe God created the world in six literal days. But I’ve done some reading, and there _are_ other ways of looking at this topic. . . .

    There _are_ also Christians who don’t believe in hell, or at least, not in the same interpretation and understanding of hell that is orthodox. . . . But surely you’ve read up on this topic as well? No?

    I had to come to a different understanding of theology, and replace my mental outlook. This was because I wanted to find God so badly. So now I could be considered a heretic by some.

    Lest you think I’m an “extreme” heretic, I should tell you that my viewpoint is still compatible with the Bible. But that doesn’t mean I’m a fundamentalist, either.

    It sounds like you wanted to, but – despite the deep pain I hear in your story – you threw in the towel . . . You said, “That’s it, God, I’m through with You!” . . . God is not exactly a magic button — It’s like you were getting more and more angry & frustrated, and you just gave Him an ultimatum – “If you don’t reveal Yourself to me by tomorrow morning, then I’m through with You.” God is not an automatic machine. . . . If you read the Bible, you see that there are several stories of people who weren’t getting answers, but they kept on, and kept on seeking. Some of them even fasted because they were so desperate about it.

    My own seeking, when I changed my theology, was over a period of time. . . . You’ve got to want it desperately, and you can’t get too impatient either — “You will seek Me, and find Me, when you seek with all your heart.” . . . . And even then, it’s not time to stop.

    By saying “You better reveal Yourself to me,” you were treating Him like a person, in a sense. But the next morning, you decided to treat Him like a non-entity. Yet He’s the One Who helped you to sleep through the night and woke you up in the morning; He’s the One Who gave you a body that can breathe, wake up, get out of bed, walk, eat breakfast, drive the car to work . . . Instead of saying, “Thank you,” you said, ” I’m mad at You because You didn’t speak to me in the night or this morning — So — That’s it! I’m through with You!! I’ll never try to find You again! So there!” — Yet He gave you the very breath in your mouth!

    I picture someone trying to get a computer to work. Maybe a caveman who’s never seen one before. He doesn’t know that he has to plug it in and hit the power button. Even if he did that, he wouldn’t know the password — What to do?! . . . He needs to simply _ask_ the person who knows. The attitude of the way you ask may also have something to do with it.

    That’s not a good analogy – Because I just got through saying that God is not a machine! . . . But even in my little analogy / story, the caveman had to ask a _person_ something . . .

    Oh well, I’m probably not doing a good job of this. :)

  • 53. chris  |  January 29, 2009 at 4:17 am

    Hi Josh! :)

  • 54. chris  |  January 29, 2009 at 4:22 am

    Please, don’t make the assumption that, in order to be “Christian,” one must agree with all the fundamentalist points of doctrine exactly.

    In other words, “Think it through.”

  • 55. chris  |  January 29, 2009 at 5:01 am

    The core beliefs of “Christianity” has to do with Jesus Christ, His central “core” teachings, the words He said. There’s no way around that – Although one may tend to become distracted by church traditions and verbiage (otherwise known as “baloney”!). What Jesus Himself taught –

    1) altruism
    2) purity and self-control
    3) love God
    4) love others

    This is the core of true Christianity.

    You may say, “But that’s the same as what Confucius taught!” I only reply, calmly, ‘Yes, I know!’

    Jesus also said that one can have ‘abundant life,’ by the way, and He pointed out the path for seekers.

  • 56. Jeffrey  |  January 29, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    >God is not exactly a magic button

    Is this a euphemism for a God who is distinguishable from no God at all?

    I wasn’t using God as a magic button. I reached the point of needing God to show up because he didn’t work in little ways either. The prayer he really should have answered is helping me find like-minded Christians. My options were fundamentalists who made me think faith was ridiculous, liberal Christians, and non-Christians. It’s no surprise that I lost my faith in these circumstances. I was also fully aware of the direction circumstance was pushing me, and I was trying to fight it. That’s when God should have shown up.

    It’s not that God failed to work as a magic button. He failed to work at all.

    Also, don’t underestimate the role played by biblical problems. They fit poorly into a narrative, but they are 90% of the topic of my blog (click my name.) In fact, I’m guessing that I’ve written 50-100 pages and I have yet to address a biblical issue that I learned about post-de-conversion.

    I fully agree evolution is consistent with Christianity. (At least in principle.) But once you’ve found a place where Christians are really, really wrong, you need places where non-Christians are really, really wrong to balance it out. I need found this. Furthermore, evolution showed me just how deep the intellectual dishonesty of Christians is. Once you’ve seen through all the sophistry of creationists, many of the same lines are less convincing the second time around when looking at apologists’ arguments. It’s like listening to a moon-landing-denier give the case for the fraud of global warming – if they can’t get the easy question right, they lack the credibility to talk about the hard one. Also, if truth is central to Christianity, is it not strange that Christians are wrong on the point of conflict in which truth is most easily discovered?

  • 57. Jeffrey  |  January 29, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    Last paragraph, third sentence should be “I never found this.”

  • [...] months later, I followed a link to the following de-conversion story and everything unraveled. My only experience with atheists to that point involved people for whom [...]

  • 59. BillTN  |  June 22, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Having grown up Southern Baptist, thoroughly indoctrinated and even now having far more knowledge about the subject than most of those remaining faithful, I remain amazed at what thoroughly compromised document the current Bible is. It doesn’t hold up to even cursory questions about authorship, historical accuracy, internal consistency.

    I walked away originally convinced that Paul had simply pulled Christ’s legacy back into his Phariseutical legal system. Then I did some research and realized that there is no external evidence that Jesus or Saul/Paul existed. That most of the Pentateuch was cribbed from Zoroastrianism and Hammurabi’s Code and Sumerian mythology during the Babylonian exile. That there is no evidence of a King Solomon, much less David. Did you know Buddha predates Christ and some of the things alleged to be Christ’s teaching are lifted nearly word for word from the Upanishads?

    It boggles the mind how much of it appears to be made up whole cloth.

  • 60. Joe  |  June 22, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    “That most of the Pentateuch was cribbed from Zoroastrianism and Hammurabi’s Code and Sumerian mythology during the Babylonian exile”

    This is one thing that I really don’t understand to well. I always here that the flood story was taken from the “Epic of Gilgamesh” and that a lot of Hebrew teaching comes from the Babylonian exile. But how do we know that it isn’t the other way around? Abraham was called out of Chaldea. What if he or his relatives and ancestors had originally carried that story there in the first place? We simply don’t know.

    We here that the flood story came from the Epic of Gilgamesh and are so ready to cast away the flood story and others as “frauds” or “lifted” that we don’t even consider that maybe the Chaldeans and Sumerians “lifted” the story from another source themselves.

  • 61. Joe  |  June 22, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    “here” should be “hear” above—sorry for the mis-spelling.

  • 62. mary  |  September 13, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    Thank you, Jeffrey.

  • 64. Glenn  |  December 20, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Jeffrey, when you bemoan how long it took you to deconvert, I laugh. I was 53 before I looked around and discovered my faith was gone. Accusations that I was never truly Christian were belied by a lifetime of sincere theological study, undertaken to strengthen, rather than to undercut, my belief. In the end I realized that instead of talking to God, I had merely been talking to myself for years. The sad thing is that I had also answered myself on the behalf of that imaginary God.

  • 65. paleale  |  December 20, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    The sad thing is that I had also answered myself on the behalf of that imaginary God.

    Sad indeed. Looking back, I remember specific instances where I “heard” what I wanted to hear, or what I thought I should hear. I was in a circle of Christians that took the idea of “hearing from God” very seriously, and even taught classes on how to do it. The still small voice in my mind was my own, bent to resemble what I thought a still small voice should sound like.

  • 66. Quester  |  December 20, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    The sad thing is that I had also answered myself on the behalf of that imaginary God.

    You and every one of us, Glenn. I take some reassurance that my projected God was fairly loving.

  • 67. Quester  |  December 20, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    I hadn’t noticed we’d posted at the same time, there, paleale.

  • 68. Jeffrey  |  December 20, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    >Jeffrey, when you bemoan how long it took you to deconvert, I laugh.

    Fair enough – it could have been a lot worse.

    >I hadn’t noticed we’d posted at the same time, there, paleale.

    Simultaneous posts! It’s a festivus miracle!

  • 69. Larissa  |  May 22, 2011 at 2:49 am

    Hi, there! I find your blog fascinating. A certain special someone close to the both of us told me about your faith (or perhaps you would prefer non-faith?) journey. It’s commendable that you have delved into the process of discovering how you make meaning. I hope it’s a continuing process that never stops!

    As a self-identifying Christian (though of course that definition is as diverse as the people that claim it) I would like to offer some other thoughts to your discernment process. I hope you are just as aware of and will not easily dismiss the progressive, even radical, Christianity of which I consider myself a part. To be a Christian does not necessarily mean to be unaware of the discrepancies in the Bible or uncritical of past tradition. In fact, the wide range of diversity in the Bible could well be interpreted as intentional by its many, many generations of editors, all redacting, reinterpreting, and even rewriting for their specific communities. I personally strongly believe that in light of this the Bible should continue to grow and change. (I advocate the loosening or even opening of the canon to include earlier works that were excluded, like the Gnostic gospels, as well as the addition of newer created works relevant to our current day needs.)

    But I’m going off on a tangent. If you are interested in learning more about more progressive views of Christianity highly concerned with and conscious of the needs of our society and culture, I’d love to talk. If you are interested in starting off with some reading in this vein, I would suggest Harnack and Machen. They are by no means the most progressive. (They were writing at the beginning of the last century.) However, they address some of the concerns you seem to have above in terms of the “clashing” between Biblical study and logic. Perhaps you’ve already read them. If so, then I would be interested to know if you have read any liberation theology. Or maybe a-theology? (Or my personal favorite, feminist and womanist theology.) There’s so much we could discuss!!! Hope to hear back!

    – A Union Seminarian

  • 70. Ubi Dubium  |  May 22, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    I’d say that progressive christianity might have been a stop on the journey for some of the people on this site. I’d also support christians reading more of the excluded canon, because so few of them have any idea of how their “special book” was assembled, or by who, or what the reasons were for the inclusion or exclusion of certain books.

    But for me, progressive christianity could never be more than a brief stopping point. Once I started really critically looking at the claims of religion, there was no going back, or staying with a touchy-feely “nice” version that only believed in the good parts and left out all the rest. Nope, the whole faith thing went out the window. Once I saw the “man behind the curtain”, I just wasn’t going to believe in the “great and powerful Oz” anymore.

  • 71. Jeffrey  |  May 22, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Hey Larissa,

    The key question with any version of religion is simply “But is it true?”

    The issue I’ve always had with more liberal version of Christianity is that I usually don’t have the slightest idea what “it” even is. I can see there are lots of things conservative evangelicals believe that you don’t believe, but I have no idea what you actually believe.

  • 72. cag  |  May 22, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Larissa #69 – When you can provide evidence for your absurd, ridiculous beliefs, come back. With about 2 billion “believers”, it is amazing that not a one of them has come up with any evidence of your or any other god. The Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Norse, Celts, Aztec, Maya and so on all fervently believed in their unevidenced deities. You are just as deluded as the people whose deities have now been assigned to history, the same history that your faulty beliefs are headed.

    There are no gods, no angels, no devils, no ghosts and no afterlife. Quit listening to the conmen whose only interest is picking your pocket.

    If what you are offering is your beliefs then you have nothing to offer here. You have led a life believing those who have a vested interest in keeping you believing. It is time that you thought for yourself.

    At least it appears that you recognise that the bible is not the word of any god

    To be a Christian does not necessarily mean to be unaware of the discrepancies in the Bible or uncritical of past tradition. In fact, the wide range of diversity in the Bible could well be interpreted as intentional by its many, many generations of editors, all redacting, reinterpreting, and even rewriting for their specific communities.

    so why do you believe?

  • 73. Neil C. Reinhardt  |  May 31, 2011 at 12:21 am

    FYI Larissa,

    As the Catholic Church states:

    “Give me a child until the age of six and they are MINE Forever!”

    The facts the reason NEARLY EVERY religious person IS religous in the First place, the reason they believe in the God (or gods) they do is SIMPLY becasue those who raised them carefully PROGRAMMED THEM to believe in the religion and the god they do.

    The Odds are about 100 percent while YOU are still programmed, you have neither a clue you were ever programmed or that You Still Are!

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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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