Moving Beyond De-Conversion?

November 6, 2008 at 11:28 am 62 comments

Are de-converts able to move beyond Christendom? An honest question. Many of us invested our entire life into evangelical endeavours. Others are swayed by the subtle power of the various denominations Christianity have to offer. One thing is for certain, it has had an unbalanced effect on our growth as human beings (for better or worse).

While I believe my Dobsonesque childhood damaged me in certain ways, I am thankful for my evangelical upbringing if only for, ironically, my skepticism. My parents taught me to be skeptical of everything, other than my own religious views. I was to be on the look out for big government moves to a New World Order, raise a cautious eye to new religious movements (or “cults”), and question everything that society and science through my way. They just didn’t expect that they gave me the same tools to critique my own religious upbringing.

But what now? I continue to keep a skeptical view, including of the sociological reports I must read for my academic life as well as the science I read in pop culture. But what about the rest of my life? Can I move past that Christian worldview? Is it healthy to continue to brew on past beliefs? As a religious studies major, it is inevitable, and I probably have made it harder on myself by choosing such a discipline. But what about this site? Is it a help, or a hindrance to mature growth?

Are we ex-Christians sulking about, fooling themselves that we are providing positive reinforcements for other non-believers and soon-to-be non-believers. Or is it what we say it is – a resource for former and skeptical religionists? Perhaps health and instruction is not part of what we do. Perhaps we are merely deconstructers, allowing the faithless to flounder in their own philosophies of non-belief. Is it possible for this sort of community to act as just another crutch, another religious-like entity that cannot think beyond itself?

I present these questions not as a criticism, but an inquiry – not as a debate, but a conversation. When is it time to move past perpetual de-conversion and just live? For some of us, this article will ring more truth than others. We are all at different stages in our lives. What stage are you in? Is the project of de-conversion a healthy step, an immature one, or a little of both?

Comments, please.

- The Apostate

Entry filed under: TheApostate. Tags: , , .

Failing the Insider Test – My de-conversion story The Psychology of Apologetics: Biblical Inerrancy

62 Comments Add your own

  • 1. LeoPardus  |  November 6, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    All very good questions TA. I think just about all of us will agree that our years as Christians are an integral part of who we are. We will never escape that entirely, and it’s not a bad thing of itself. By talking about it, we can try to strike some balance between keeping most of the faith but just rejecting the supernatural, or rejecting anything that even smacks of the faith, or adopting a new faith, or ……

    And I think we can and do provide help for the skeptical or de-converting/de-converted. I even think we may help the non-skeptical, non-deconverting to try thinking.

    Are we merely deconstructors? No. True, we do deconstruct religious views, but we then also try to reconstruct new worldviews (sans deity). That latter is dang hard to do, so help is….. well, helpful.

    Lastly: Is the project of de-conversion a healthy step, an immature one, or a little of both? I think it’s a necessary one. Certainly, once you’ve opened your eyes to the realization that there isn’t a big daddy in the sky, it would be dishonest, unhealthy, and immature to fail to de-convert.

  • 2. Josh  |  November 6, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Wow, good questions. I’ve had all of them nagging me in the back of my mind for a while.

    I think LeoPardus has it down, honestly.

    There are three key things that I think we should be doing:

    1) Helping those who are still struggling with the emotional and psychological turmoil to take those final few steps “out of the faith” – especially those who are still afraid of hell.

    2) Helping those who have just left the faith to find replacement philosophies for their lost faith. At least for me, the feeling of a “void” after leaving the faith was hard to shake (it is almost completely gone now), and I think it is important to remind people that the void is only an illusion.

    3) Helping those who have deconverted to realize that the sky is still blue, the trees are still green, and all the emotional spiritual experiences they had while a believer are still just as real and can be experienced by just exploring the vastness and beauty of the universe.

    Josh

  • 3. TitforTat  |  November 6, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    TA

    Well said. Though I have not had any type of De conversion that most on here speak of, I can relate from another perspective. I grew up in a very violent setting, in fact much of my early world view was totally skewed by it. Now the thing is, even though there is much dysfunction that came from that view, there are parts of it that have totally benefitted my life. There are areas in my life that were made stronger from having to deal with my situation. I also am now able to relate to others who have had siimilar experiences and hopefully be able to help them see the positives that can come from it. Do we ever totally leave our past behind, I dont think so. I would hope we use it to make our and others world a better place. I think this site does that very well.

    Leo

    Theres nothing wrong with faith in something not seen, its how you apply it that makes it good or bad.

  • 4. Digital Dame  |  November 6, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    It takes a long time to undo all the programming, before you can sit back and view the whole thing with fresh eyes. If you’re newly out of it (within 5 years) give yourself time to adjust to a new way of thinking and seeing the world. After that, things sort of settle down. When deconverts remove this “purpose” from their lives, the natural instinct to try to rush to “fill” it with something else. Go Do. Be.

  • 5. Ubi Dubium  |  November 6, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Well, speaking as someone 20+ years post-deconversion, I continue to find this kind of discussion helpful, for several reasons.

    First, there is the problem of living in an overwhelmingly theistic world. Since organized Atheist groups are much fewer and far-between than churches, having an online community for support is wonderful.

    Secondly, raising my children to think for themselves is not an easy challenge. They face religious fanatics every day, trying to convert them at school, putting commercials on TV and the Internet, and otherwise trying to tell them what to think. I get new perspectives here all the time in how to help them deal with the fundies, and how to help them work out real answers for themselves to the questions the fundies throw at them.

    Thirdly, a continuing part of the de-conversion experience is finding meaning in your life for yourself. For me, I need to leave this planet, and our species, better for my having been here. Any small thing I can do to help weaken the hold of religion on humanity can be part of that. Religion cannot be wiped out by force, it has to fade out on it’s own, one-de-conversion at a time. And each person de-converts on their own, in their own way, at their own pace. So being here, to help the newly-deconverted work things out and overcome their fears, is a small way I can contribute.

  • 6. notreallyalice  |  November 6, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    “When is it time to move past perpetual de-conversion and just live?”

    My deconversion was stunningly fast. Afterwards, I read a few books to inform myself when I was faced with challenges (especially the “you don’t think we evlved from monkeys, do you?” variety).

    As far as my personal progress and self, I do continue to examine myself for ways that my upbringing stunted my growth. This is probably something that every person should do, and do regularly. I keep running into religious blocks, but I don’t think of it as part of my deconversion.

  • 7. orDover  |  November 6, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Can I move past that Christian worldview? Is it healthy to continue to brew on past beliefs?

    Sometimes I thought that it would be awesome to never give another thought to Christianity or religion ever again. And if I lived alone in the woods, or in a world where religions people were few and far between, then I could do that. But as Ubi Dubium said, the world is chock full of religious people, making the topic unavoidable. Aside from the world at large, my own family is so religious that regardless of what I want or my personal beliefs, religion will always be a big part of my life.

    I guess that unavoidably is one of the reasons why I really like this place. Sometimes I feel like I’m in that twilight zone episode where the girl figures out that everyone around her is a robot. I feel so overwhelmed, and so lonely, like I’m the only sane person on the planet. I need to know that there are other people who have de-converted from their religion out there, and to be able to communicate with them and share experiences. I’ve been de-converted for about 4 years now, and that desire to know I’m not alone hasn’t diminished.

    Are we ex-Christians sulking about, fooling themselves that we are providing positive reinforcements for other non-believers and soon-to-be non-believers.

    I think this is categorically untrue, simply because of all of the comments we get from people saying how much a post has helped them, or that they’ve felt the same way and it is so nice to learn they are not alone in those feelings.

  • 8. Jamie G.  |  November 6, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    I’ll be quick.

    After 12 years of being a Christian (most of my teens), I deconverted back in 2006. I took a ‘militant’ atheist stance and bought all the books, read the websites, blogs, listened to the podcasts…. anything that was atheist.

    But, after two years I’ve succumbed… no, not back to Christianity, but to Buddhism, at least a progressive Western pragmatic Buddhism. Science and philosophy are still great interests of mine, but I am tired of listening to the same ol’ atheist discussions. “God” doesn’t exist, I get that. So I have moved on.

  • 9. freestyleroadtrip  |  November 6, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    I will offer a perspective from someone who has not de-converted and don’t see myself ending up there, but I am definitely re-converting from a fundamentalist Christian upbringing in a Nazarene pastors’s home (every single other member of my family is employed by the Nazarene church but I am not) to a larger Christian faith that recognizes truth in many more places in the world. I realized a few years back that I had just blindly accepted what my parents handed me, and that didn’t seem a good enough reason to believe. So I have gone all the way back outside of the bible to discover evidence for God’s existence and then a re-reading of the bible in a different fashion to try and discover new truth that my upbringing skewed or didn’t realize or maybe got flat out wrong. I have become a firm believer in challenging my beliefs and refining them against the evidence, and that takes getting outside of the boundaries of your current system of thought and being open to new and opposing ideas. That is what I love about the de-conversion website. It helps me get rid of the crap and refine the evidence for my belief. In that respect, I guess I don’t consider myself so much as I consider myself a collector of truth, and each one of us holds at least a bit of the truth. If I always am asking questions within my Nazarene heritage, I shouldn’t be suprised when all I get is Nazarene answers. I have to get outside of that to collect more truth. I think your website is doing good things both to support your community and challenge outsiders like me.

  • 10. freestyleroadtrip  |  November 6, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    In the middle I meant to say, “I don’t so much consider myself a skeptic as I do a collector of truth….” Sorry. I detest making typo’s.

  • 11. LeoPardus  |  November 6, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    freestyleroadtrip:

    Thanks for the comments. Sounds like you’re on a good trip.

    Not to worry you or anything BTW, but your “getting outside” your belief system and looking for truth sounds a good deal like my trip, the one that ended up leading out of the faith. … Not that you’re guaranteed to end up there: just noting the similarity.

    Bon voyage.

  • 12. Tit for Tat  |  November 6, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    FSR..

    You might like this one.

    “Truth is one, the sages speak of it by many names”

  • 13. Kat  |  November 7, 2008 at 1:24 am

    I’m leaving fundamentalism and entering – what do you call it? Liberal Christianity? Christian agnosticism? Agnostic theism? I still believe in a God, but I now doubt that the Bible is his supreme word and Jesus his son and/or the Messiah. I miss the assurance that I could grasp what kind of being God is, but I doubt that anything we come up with to relate to or explain God is adequate. I miss the structure of conservative Christianity but I just can’t go back now.

    I guess it’s safe to say I’m somewhere between 1 and 2 in Josh’s comment – I’m still afraid of hell, and I want to know what to do with this void I perceive.

    Who do I talk to? Who knows what I’m going through? Who can explain why I feel and think this way? In a funny way, I’d say that the voices I hear on this site form the discipleship/cell/study/small group that I could never fit into at church. I would go so far as to suggest that God led me here… but then I wouldn’t know for sure, would I?

    How do you go on and just live?

  • 14. Josh  |  November 7, 2008 at 2:28 am

    “I guess it’s safe to say I’m somewhere between 1 and 2 in Josh’s comment – I’m still afraid of hell, and I want to know what to do with this void I perceive.”

    Hey there Kat, this is a rough time – I know. It is a weird feeling, “knowing” that you have a void that can only be filled by Christianity and a “damnation” that can only be solved by Christianity, but then realizing that Christianity is false. What to do?

    I would highly recommend facing the topic head on. For me, this involved:

    1) Finding happy and content people who were not afraid of hell and were not religious. Reading Sam Harris is good for this.
    2) Studying the things I feared, to try and understand how they were invented by men and why.
    3) Studying how beliefs influence our perception of reality (psychology). Richard’s posts on the psychology of apologetics have been most helpful to me.

    Tip: Once you know how hell was invented and why, its ability to instill you with fear is completely lost :)

  • 15. TitforTat  |  November 7, 2008 at 7:06 am

    Tip: Once you know how hell was invented and why, its ability to instill you with fear is completely lost (Josh)

    F-fear
    E-evidence
    A-appearing
    R-real

  • 16. TitforTat  |  November 7, 2008 at 7:07 am

    oops I meant

    F-False
    E-evidence
    A-appearing
    R-real

  • 17. Ubi Dubium  |  November 7, 2008 at 9:26 am

    Kat,
    I agree with Josh – find people who are wonderfully happy without beliefs in the supernatural. I recommend Carl Sagan. He really does a good job of conveying the wonder and majesty of our universe. He’s a shining example of someone who led a worthwhile and fulfilling life, with no fear of hell or expectation of a heavenly reward. Try watching Cosmos – it’s great.

    Another thought – I remember the church working very hard to instill in me the idea that there was a “hole” in my life that could only be filled by their god. I constantly hear the Fundamentalists repeat this idea. But now, long post-deconversion, I’m of the opinion that this “void” is as much of an invention as “hell” is. It’s another device they use to scare us, to trap us in their “box”. Everybody needs meaning and purpose in life, and a place where they can belong, but this isn’t a “void” that needs to be filled by belief in a specific god. My life is full, I fill it up myself, I find my own purpose, and there is no “void” and never was. Not for me.

  • 18. freestyleroadtrip  |  November 7, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Kat. I too am leaving fundamentalist Christianity but I am not abandoning Christianity. Instead I am trying to discover where fundamentalism went wrong. To do that I don’t have to throw everything out. I am trying to read the Bible differently. While I do believe it is a narrative revealing who God is, I also believe that you are correct in saying it does not contain all of God’s truth or supreme words. That can be found all over the place. Rob Bell and NT Wright have been a great help to my re-reading of the bible. As it pertains to hell (and I haven’t come anywhere close to working all of this out for myself yet) I am fairly sure that the doctrine of hell we were taught in fundamentalism is not accurate. It will have to be enough for now for me to say that I think some sort of state exists where God will let us exist apart from him if we so choose, and maybe that is as simple as hell on earth (which is what fundamentalism feels like to me). Just my brief take. I would be happy to share more if you would like.

  • 19. peridot  |  November 7, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Kat shared:

    I’m leaving fundamentalism and entering – what do you call it? Liberal Christianity? Christian agnosticism? Agnostic theism? I still believe in a God, but I now doubt that the Bible is his supreme word and Jesus his son and/or the Messiah. . . .
    I’m still afraid of hell, and I want to know what to do with this void I perceive.

    I too left fundamentalism for a liberal Christianity (and then later full agnosticism). For me, one of the very first fundamentalist doctrines that I abandoned was the idea of hell. I let go of my belief in hell while I was still very much a christian, experimenting with a Lewisesque concept of hell being some sort of separation of god without agony and also with christian universalism. I think even when I was an enthused fundamentalist, the doctrine of hell seemed so unjust — why would god eternally reject and punish people just for not believing correctly? When I decided that I didn’t believe in it anymore . . . ahhhh, that was one of the most pleasant steps in my journey out of faith. It is a terrible burden to bear, and I have never been tempted to go back. I have had moments when I have wondered if leaving the faith isn’t a big mistake, but I simply can’t be afraid of hell anymore.

    I know that your experience and thoughts are different than mine. I just thought I would share because although everyone has their own individual journey out of fundamentalism, all our stories do have similarities. You are right, this is like a “discipleship/cell/study/small group” where we truly understand and support each other.

    Lisa, aka peridot

  • 20. Josh  |  November 7, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    “I too left fundamentalism for a liberal Christianity ”

    I might add in here that one of the things that made me completely skip the whole liberal Christianity perspective was the realization that if I was trying to redefine Christianity I was guilty of the very thing that atheists accuse all religions of: invention. Calling it “progressive revelation” may sound nice, but in my opinion it is dishonest.

    I hope I do not sound harsh, but liberal Christianity is simply a reinvention of Christianity. Redefining hell in a “Lewisesque” fashion is really no better than admitting that most of Christianity since its inception has been wrong. And if they have been wrong, what would make me think that I would be any more accurate?

    The nagging question that I kept facing was: if I am simply reinventing a definition of heaven / hell that I am comfortable with then am I not just letting my imagination have free reign in my theology? And if my theology is coming from my imagination, is this no better than admitting that my theology is an invention of mine? If I am inventing theology, then I am inventing a god. At this point I have check-mated my own theology.

    It is faith indeed that causes a person to conclude that his theological imaginings are reality that can be taught to others.

    Just some thoughts :) Hope I am not stepping on anyone’s toes.

  • 21. freestyleroadtrip  |  November 7, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Josh. It is great to be challenged, and I welcome any toe stepping that might come my way. How am I to advance if not challenged? I agree with you that you can’t just come up with a different Christianity because you don’t like what it says. That is inventing your own god, and then you might as well be an atheist. But you also can’t deny that a feature of any theology involves a human interpretation of the world and the bible and therefore is subject to human error. The current dualism that exists in mainline evangelical theology of all matter being bad and all spiritual being good came out of Enlightenment thinking, and that has huge implications on how mainline theologies look these days. It is possible to go back and examine where it is possible that large branches in the theological tree maybe took off on an errant path and then go in a different direction from that point. It is really only the trunk of that tree (or even maybe just the roots) that really has minimal room for change or different interpretation within all of Christianity. There are a few core beliefs that must remain (the creator God, Christ on the cross, the resurrection, probably the trinity) in order for it to still be Christianity. And I don’t believe that the mainstream thought on heaven and hell are in the trunk. I really think that all God wants is for us to acknowledge and love him, to believe in Christ on the cross AND the resurrection, and to love others. The rest is open to interpretation. The core can’t change. The rest can.

  • 22. BigHouse  |  November 7, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    free, why are your interpretations of what is “core” definitive? You are, afterall, subject to human error as well.

    And why must this error-prone-ness be only confined to the edges and not the core? What if the original bible writers were in (human) error when they wrote the book in the first place?

    I think Josh’s summation is spot on.

  • 23. Not a Church Goer anymore  |  November 7, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Big house I believe what Free was refereing to is what makes Christianity. Christianity can’t be christian without “Christ” and Christ can’t be Christ without “God” to main definitive cores of the religion we call Christianity, without them, in this day in age their wouldn’t be christianity…don’t matter if the human errors involved or not…but in my opinion, Religion is a Farce and a lie from the pits of hell, if hell existed. If we look at history and the human nature of survival and existents, christianity with those core beliefes can be turned into a system to controll the masses; oops that already accured (the Dark ages) oh and still happens to day. I can take any core, streamline it with some other stuff and make it a religion…its human nature.

  • 24. Josh  |  November 7, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    “There are a few core beliefs that must remain (the creator God, Christ on the cross, the resurrection, probably the trinity) in order for it to still be Christianity.”

    I agree, but it is one thing to say that Mormonism needs a few core beliefs to “remain” Mormonism, but it is a completely different thing to say Mormonism is true.

    Who gets to decide what makes up the trunk of Christianity? If Christianity is the “Mere Christianity” that C.S.Lewis talked about, then why do denominations split? Do they not split simply because nobody can figure out what actually makes up the trunk?

    Remember that the trunk of Christianity was built out of splits (and martyrdom) over “core doctrines” of Christianity that most Christians now take for granted. Christians now believe that it is “core” that Christ was fully divine and fully man and that he rose bodily, but these were once doctrinal issues as divisive as Open Theism is today.

  • 25. Josh  |  November 7, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    “I really think that all God wants is for us to acknowledge and love him, to believe in Christ on the cross AND the resurrection, and to love others.”

    Why not just subtract the theology and love others? Then nobody has any reason to change their behavior or approach to others based on what they “believe”. Poor love is love plus required beliefs. Subtract required beliefs and you might just have pure love.

  • 26. Josh  |  November 7, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    “The rest is open to interpretation. The core can’t change. The rest can.”

    If heaven and hell are not in the trunk, then they are open to interpretation as well. This is certainly something no religion needs – open interpretation about an eternity in hell.

  • 27. Luke  |  November 7, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    moving beyond your Christianity is like trying to move beyond your Americanism while still speaking English. As LeoP said, you can’t do it fully. While I disagree with his conclusion of atheism, I think in a relational world we will always be talking in degrees.

  • 28. freestyleroadtrip  |  November 7, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    Not A Church Goer Anymore summed up my answer to Big House precisely. It’s not Christianity without Christ.

    Josh. I don’t think that denominations split over what makes up the trunk. They split over the branches. They split over all the stuff that really doesn’t matter all that much, but they think it matters a ton which is why they split. I can’t say for absolute certain, but I bet most Christian denominations stand on God as creator, Christ’s death and resurrection, and some form of a life to come that is different than this one. I’m sure you can produce contradictions to this that lie at the edges. But I think the trunk is the same and the stuff over which denominations split is largely unimportant.

    As to who gets to say what Christianity is. Well Christ does. It is all about him. And the earliest writings about him are probably the most accurate account of what he said. But then you do get into problems with human error in interpretation and translation of scripture which I am not quite sure how to deal with yet myself. But it is one reason why I don’t think all the other stuff which causes the divisions of which you speak is all that important.

  • 29. TitforTat  |  November 7, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    FSR

    Im not a 100% sure on this, but did Jesus every actually call himself “CHRIST”? and if he didnt then what and who are you actually worshipping? Because if he didnt refer to himself as such then you are actually buying into someone elses idea of who he is.

  • 30. Josh  |  November 7, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    “They split over all the stuff that really doesn’t matter all that much, but they think it matters a ton which is why they split.”

    You just made my point. The very fact that they take the “branches” so seriously is an indication that they are confusing them with the “trunk” demonstrating that Christians are just as confused about what is the “trunk” as they are about the branches.

    “I can’t say for absolute certain, but I bet most Christian denominations stand on God as creator, Christ’s death and resurrection, and some form of a life to come that is different than this one.”

    Of course. But don’t you see? If your “core tenets” are vague and ambiguous enough nobody is going to argue over them.

    Ever notice that the “core tenets” of Christianity have little to do with a change in behavior? It is not until the doctrinal claims of a church begin to require a change in behavior or hint that some of their members are “insufficient” in their faith that people start to quarrel.

    So then, the solution to religion is this:

    Invent a religion whose doctrinal positions improve the quality of a person’s life without requiring a change in their behavior or implying a detriment in their personality, intellect, or human nature. Then you will have “core doctrines”. But because the “core doctrines” are vague enough nobody will quarrel over them and everybody will get along just fine!

  • 31. Josh  |  November 7, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    “Well Christ does.”

    This would be great. Actually it would be fantastic.

    Tell me, then. Which of the 30+ gospels accurately portrays what “Christ said” about Christianity and why should I trust that the authors accurately portrayed it?

    [Sigh. I can't be mean. Keep in mind I am baiting you.... I already know the answers to my questions ad infinum. I am just seeing if you know them - and know their flaws.]

  • 32. Anonymous  |  November 7, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    Josh said:

    Redefining hell in a “Lewisesque” fashion is really no better than admitting that most of Christianity since its inception has been wrong.

    I like your posts and I think we agree on the most important things.

    My own experience was that I was able to adopt Lewis’s Great Divorce image of hell without feeling that I was adopting a new invention. In my upbringing, Lewis was considered a hero of the faith and one of the great xian apologists. (Ugh, I know.)

    Like freestyleroadtrip, I believed that there are only a few core beliefs that are necessary for salvation: divinity of christ, faith in christ for personal salvation, maybe the resurrection and the trinity. I am not a xian anymore, but it seems that most xians, at least American protestants, have this belief. My current view is that the christian faith is hopelessly fractured and that xians do a poor job agreeing on even the minimal definition of what makes a xian. But back when I was a believer, I remember it was almost a point of xian pride that, among all the diffeent denominations and sects, there were so many xians who held these most sacred, core beliefs. This was a common topic of conversation among xians in the interdenominational campus ministries like Intervarsity and CCC that I hung with in college.

    I think that my journey from fundamentalism to moderate to liberal christianity and eventually agnosticism was, for me, the only rational path considering how I saw things at the time. It’s not like I threw out fundamentalism and embraced Spong overnight. It was 1000 baby steps for me, over the course of years, one idea and one attitude at a time.

    One step was when I became convinced that the “bible teaching” I heard about the earth being 6000 years old didn’t match scientific evidence. I adopted theistic evolution and a less literal exegesis.

    One step was when I became convenced that sincere, bible-believing xians can’t agree on what the bible teaches about divorce and remarriage. I eventually concluded the biblical teaching isn’t clear and adopted a compassionate, liberal view of remarriage.

    One step was when I realized that the “bible teaching” I heard about how evil Catholic practices are was exaggerated. I became more generous in my view of Catholics and more ecumenical in general.

    One step was when I realized that the “bible teaching” I heard about the role of women in the church and family was completely ad hoc. I eventually liberalized my views.

    One step was when I discovered that someone in my family who I loved and respected was gay. I suddenly looked at the biblical references to homosexuality with new eyes, and eventually adopted a more liberal interpretation.

    One step was when I realized that the “bible teaching” I heard on abortion didn’t seem to really be in the text, even though most of the xians I knew believed it was. I started to doubt the usefulness of the bible as a source of moral absolutes.

    I was able to take all of these steps and still think of myself as a faithful christian, because I still held to the core christian beliefs. I actually was surprised to find myself becoming a liberal christian. At the beginning of the process, I would have never guessed that I would become liberal in a general sense, just as I never would have guessed that I would eventually leave the faith completely.

    An awful lot of people give up the christian faith by making one step toward liberalism at a time, I believe. I used to participate on the forum at the website for The Center for Progressive Christianity. An awful lot of the liberal christians there had come out of fundamentalism. The level of discourse there was not as intellectual as it is here, but to me they weren’t shallow or ignorant people.

    was able to liberalize my views about homosexuality, because these weren’t core beliefs. I was able to liberalize my beliefs about

    I was able to liberalize my beliefs and journey from fundamentalism to liberal christianity, because I held onto these core beliefs until the very end.

  • 33. peridot  |  November 7, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    I forgot to sign it but post #32 was by me, peridot.

  • 34. peridot  |  November 7, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    The last 4 lines of post #32 was stuff I meant to delete before posting but forgot to. Sorry if it’s confusing.

    I also forgot to mention what was probably the most significant step in my gradual journey out of fundamentalism . . . going from inerrancy to infallibility to limited inspiration. For me, I HAD to take these steps as I became increasingly convinced of the human origins of the bible, but I still believed in God and Jesus.

    I think a lot of it is what flavor of the faith you were originally seduced into. During the formative years of my faith, I was exposed to both fundamentalism and moderate christianity. So giving up on the most fundy ideas didn’t seem like giving up on the faith. I can imagine that those who were raised even more fundamentalist than I was would see it differently. I have known cases where people stopped believing in young earth creationism, and then they abandoned the entire christian faith. That seems strange to someone like me, because some of my earliest influences towards christianity were people who believed in theistic evolution.

  • 35. freestyleroadtrip  |  November 8, 2008 at 1:32 am

    So it seems that most of you think that I am probably on the road to de-converting. I seem to be where many of you were not so long ago. That is very interesting. And I being new to this side of the equation, I don’t have all the answers for which Josh is pressing. I am certain that in my response I will reveal that my specific knowledge and how to argue in opposition to you will be lacking. It really seems that I am at the beginning of the story that Peridot is describing. But I do fail to see why the faith has to be abandoned. Why did you all abandon it? I don’t see anybody finally saying what the final decision-maker was. Why did you decide to stop searching? What is the problem with holding to the core (as I have described above) and searching for pieces of truth in all the rest? What is the problem with coming to the conclusion that because it can all be so confusing sometimes, that it really doesn’t matter at all that much to God that we jump through all the hoops that we were taught as children we had to jump through? That instead all that matters is loving God and people, even when we often times do it imperfectly? I guess I just don’t see why it all should be abandoned for atheism or agnosticism when maybe there is a way to re-examine it all and look at it differently? I’m sure you all already have great responses for me because you have given them to 1,000 people just like me, but I need to hear them or know where I can find them. Sorry for the breakdown here.

  • 36. Communituy, religion, and the lack thereof « orDover  |  November 8, 2008 at 2:01 am

    [...] religion, and the lack thereof Recently on the de-Conversion blog, in a post titled “Moving Beyond De-Conversion?” the question was raised about the purpose and usefulness of such a site.  Specifically, the [...]

  • 37. Quester  |  November 8, 2008 at 4:21 am

    Freestyle,

    Maybe you won’t reach the same point others of us have, but we can recognize some of the same landmarks you describe from our own journeys as you at least cross similar roads.

    One of the main reasons I had to release my core tenants of Christianity, was that I could find no reasonable basis for them. The Bible is inconsistent, the church is in constant disagreement with itself, and God is silent. From where, then, do we receive these core beliefs? If God is creator, studying creation should allow us to learn about God. The universe is awesome, powerful, and mostly hostile to life. What does this tell us about a potential God, and why should we worship such a being?

    If the crucifixion and resurrection are so important, why are the only accounts of them four contradictory versions that disagree on almost every single point?

    If after we die we will have another life somehow different than this one, but we do not know what sort of life, how it will be different, or what (if anything) we can do now to affect the quality of that life, or even how our actions may or may not effect it, why bother caring?

    It’s not so much that I abandoned my faith, but I searched for God’s will and direction and found nothing to hold onto. I’m not even sure a person can abandon their faith. The only people I hear from who claim to have chosen to discard their faith, later choose to take it back up. Deconverts, from what I’ve seen, eventually just reach the point where they (reluctantly or not) have to admit to themselves (if they want to be honest with themselves) that they don’t believe any more.

    Keep your faith, as long as you have it. I know I disagree with others about this, but if you keep seeking truth and sharing compassion, I’m not as concerned about whether you’ve reached the same conclusions as I. But please, don’t wall off your chosen core tenants from your search for truth.

  • 38. guitarstrummr  |  November 8, 2008 at 11:56 am

    “But I do fail to see why the faith has to be abandoned. Why did you all abandon it?”

    Quite simply because to continue believing something I knew to be false meant I was being a bad Christian. It bothered my conscience. I suppose if someone can continue to hold onto the faith with good conscience then I would support their decision. I think there are two things that should probably be avoided:

    1) Pressuring someone into deconverting by emotional appeal.
    2) Holding onto a faith one knows is false.

    Basically, to continue to be an honest person I knew I had to let the faith go. For some reason ever since I was a child I held honesty and truthfulness to an almost impossible standard. Not sure why, I guess I never saw lying as beneficial.

    I will confess, it was emotionally awful. But that was probably because I did not have a support group at all. Every one of my friends was a fundamentalist Christian. Everyone in my family was a fundamentalist Christian. They did not understand. They tried to help: I let them. I wanted to hold on to my faith – as I am sure that you do as well. Every now and then I have moments where I desperately wish it would come back, like remembering an old friend whom one can never see again.

    I have to say that you are in a much better place than I was, FSRT. Thankfully, you have found this site before deconverting (or remaining in the faith) where people will support your decision as long as it is informed, honest, and reasonable.

    Keep seeking the truth, and if you find your satisfaction in Christianity – please let us know! I, for one, would love to return to the faith if it can be shown to be trustworthy!

  • 39. guitarstrummr  |  November 8, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Oh, btw, guitarstrummr is me: Josh.

  • 40. guitarstrummr  |  November 8, 2008 at 11:59 am

    peridot-

    “I also forgot to mention what was probably the most significant step in my gradual journey out of fundamentalism . . . going from inerrancy to infallibility to limited inspiration. For me, I HAD to take these steps as I became increasingly convinced of the human origins of the bible, but I still believed in God and Jesus.”

    Hmmm, maybe you are right. Good insights! Perhaps for me it was a bunch of small steps as well, albeit rapid ones. To be honest it is hard for me to discern them because they occurred so quickly! When I mentioned that I “skipped” liberal Christianity, I probably mean it was a transition that last about a month or two. I rapidly devoured all the liberal Christian stances on issues and realized that they were not going to do for me, so I just decided to drop it all and face what I believed to be reality head-on.

  • 41. Stephen P  |  November 8, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Please excuse me interrupting this fine conversation to air one of my peeves (I’m not getting at anyone personally – I seem to have seen it an awful lot recently). That is the confusion between “tenant” and “tenet”. A tenant occupies your land; a tenet occupies your mind.

  • 42. guitarstrummr  |  November 8, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    A tenet is a tenacious tenant of the mind.

    Couldn’t resist :D

  • 43. Stephen P  |  November 8, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    guitarstrummr; not bad. Alternatively:
    A tenant is someone you can make pay;
    a tenet is something that makes you pray.

  • 44. peridot  |  November 8, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Freestyle said:

    But I do fail to see why the faith has to be abandoned. Why did you all abandon it? I don’t see anybody finally saying what the final decision-maker was. Why did you decide to stop searching? What is the problem with holding to the core (as I have described above) and searching for pieces of truth in all the rest?

    I read Dan Barker’s “Losing Faith in Faith” and the most interesting thing in it was when he said that when he talks to people who have left christianity he finds that there is not one argument or one experience that made the difference for them. Different people find different things to be ultimately persuasive. For some, it is the problem of suffering in the world. For some, it is the problem of Jesus being completely human and completely divine. For some, it is the contradictions of scripture. For some, it is the lack of answered prayer. The list goes on and on. For most of us, I think it is a combination of things that come together and eventually we decide that the preponderance of evidence is against belief.

    For myself, the more I studied the bible and saw how christians actually used and abused it, I decided that it wasn’t divinely inspired. From there, I didn’t have enough left to believe the rest of it. But there are many paths away from god . . .

    That instead all that matters is loving God and people, even when we often times do it imperfectly?

    I now believe that all that matters is loving people. My own experience is that I am not any better at that or any worse at that now than back when I was a christian. I am certainly as committed to loving others as I ever was . . . the idea that christians get their morality from God is false.

    I guess I just don’t see why it all should be abandoned for atheism or agnosticism when maybe there is a way to re-examine it all and look at it differently?

    I didn’t want to abandon it for agnosticism. I spent YEARS trying to re-examine it and look at it differently and hang on to my faith in God. I read a lot of books and asked a lot of questions trying to make it work. I finally had to admit to myself that the bible and the entire christian religion seemed to be a collection of human wisdom and nothing more. Now I’m sure there are deeper christian thinkers than I was who have insights into the faith that I never came up with . . . so did I reject the faith prematurely? I used to have moments where I wondered if I made that mistake.

    I am now 15+ years into agnosticism and I rarely have that worry anymore. Also, I am still open to any new evidence or experiences or arguments that would cause me to go back to christianity. But I haven’t found anything persuasive yet.

    Freestyle, I think you are being very honest, and I appreciate that. We each have our own journey.

  • 45. guitarstrummr  |  November 8, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Stephen-

    lol. Well said :)

  • 46. guitarstrummr  |  November 8, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    peridot –

    I’ve been meaning to read Dan Barker’s book but haven’t been able to find it at a local bookstore yet. How was it? Is it worth buying?

  • 47. peridot  |  November 8, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    guitarstrummr,

    I got it out of my public library. I honestly wouldn’t buy it. I thought it was worth reading, but not worth buying. It’s an interesting narrative, especially for those of us who are ex-evangelicals. He talks a lot about how he continued to preach/teach in the church even after he had decided that it was all bunk. And he talks about the reception he got after he came out. There’s very little in it that could be called intellectual.

    I’m referring to his first book “Losing Faith in Faith.” He has another one out now called “Godless” that I haven’t read. He got DAWKINS to write an intro to that one, which surprised me. He’s a nice guy, but I got the impression from his first book that he’s not well educated.

  • 48. guitarstrummr  |  November 8, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    “He’s a nice guy, but I got the impression from his first book that he’s not well educated.”

    That is really interesting. I have listened to speeches / debates he has done many times and he seems fairly educated now anyway.

  • 49. peridot  |  November 8, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    he seems fairly educated now anyway.

    He very well may be now. He’s had 2 careers: preacher of christianity and “preacher” of atheism. He’s had quite a few years now in his second career, so he probably is well educated at least in terms of arguing against religion now.

    I looked it up and he got a degree in Religion from Asuza Pacific University before entering the ministry. I don’t know anything about this school.

  • 50. LeoPardus  |  November 9, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Asuza Pacific University … I don’t know anything about this school.

    Fundamentalist central. They actually do have legitimate accreditation though, and do have legit coursework in things like business and nursing.

  • 51. CheezChoc  |  November 9, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Azusa Pacific is nearby. A great education in some areas if you can afford it; it is private. And if you apply for a job there, you have to describe the nature of your relationship with Jesus.

  • 52. The Apostate  |  November 10, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    And if you apply for a job there, you have to describe the nature of your relationship with Jesus.

    Similar to Trinity Western University up here in the Vancouver, BC area. Great nursing and some “secular” programs, but don’t think you can teach if you don’t have born-again experience (although they can only put so much in words on their website without losing their “secular” accreditation – something they continue to fight since banning homosexual teachers). The funny thing is, once you gain tenure and have been a teacher for a bit, you can apparently deny much of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy and other such conservative theologies.

  • 53. theist  |  November 18, 2008 at 11:29 am

    An Atheist Professor of Philosophy speaks to his Class on the Problem Science has with GOD, The ALMIGHTY.
    He asks one of his New Christian Students to stand and . . .

    Professor : You are a Christian, aren’t you, son ?
    Student : Yes, sir.
    Professor : So you Believe in GOD ?
    Student : Absolutely, sir.
    Professor : Is GOD Good ?
    Student : Sure.
    Professor : Is GOD ALL – POWERFUL ?
    Student : Yes.
    Professor : My Brother died of Cancer even though he Prayed to GOD to Heal him.
    Most of us would attempt to Help Others who are ill.
    But GOD didn’t.
    How is this GOD Good then ? Hmm ?

    ( Student is silent )

    Professor : You can’t answer, can you ?
    Let’s start again, Young Fella.
    Is GOD Good ?
    Student : Yes.
    Professor : Is Satan good ?
    Student : No.
    Professor : Where does Satan come from ?
    Student : From . . . GOD . . .
    Professor : That’s right.
    Tell me son, is there evil in this World ?
    Student : Yes.
    Professor : Evil is everywhere, isn’t it ?
    And GOD did make Everything. Correct ?
    Student : Yes.
    Professor : So who created evil ?

    ( Student does not answer )

    Professor : Is there Sickness ? Immorality ? Hatred ? Ugliness ?
    All these terrible things exist in the World, don’t they ?
    Student : Yes, sir.
    Professor : So, who Created them ?

    ( Student has no answer )

    Professor : Science says you have 5 Senses you use to Identify and Observe the World around you.
    Tell me, son . . . Have you ever Seen GOD ?
    Student : No, sir.
    Professor : Tell us if you have ever Heard your GOD ?
    Student : No , sir.
    Professor : Have you ever Felt your GOD , Tasted your GOD , Smelt your GOD ?
    Have you ever had any Sensory Perception of GOD for that matter ?
    Student : No, sir. I’m afraid I haven’t.
    Professor : Yet you still Believe in HIM ?
    Student : Yes.
    Professor : According to Empirical, Testable, Demonstrable Protocol, Science says your GOD doesn’t exist.
    What do you say to that, son ?
    Student : Nothing. I only have my Faith .
    Professor : Yes. Faith . And that is the Problem Science has.
    Student : Professor, is there such a thing as Heat ?
    Professor : Yes.
    Student : And is there such a thing as Cold ?
    Professor : Yes.
    Student : No sir. There isn’t.

    ( The Lecture Theatre becomes very quiet with this turn of events )

    Student : Sir, you can have Lots of Heat, even More Heat, Superheat, Mega Heat, White Heat,
    a Little Heat or No Heat.
    But we don’t have anything called Cold.
    We can hit 458 Degrees below Zero which is No Heat, but we can’t go any further after that.
    There is no such thing as Cold.
    Cold is only a Word we use to describe the Absence of Heat.
    We cannot Measure Cold.
    Heat is Energy.
    Cold is Not the Opposite of Heat, sir, just the Absence of it.

    ( There is Pin – Drop Silence in the Lecture Theatre )

    Student : What about Darkness, Professor ? Is there such a thing as Darkness ?
    Professor : Yes. What is Night if there isn’t Darkness ?
    Student : You’re wrong again, sir.
    Darkness is the Absence of Something.
    You can have Low Light, Normal Light , Bright Light, Flashing Light . . .
    But if you have No Light Constantly, you have Nothing and it’s called Darkness, isn’t it ?
    In reality, Darkness isn’t.
    If it is, were you would be able to make Darkness Darker, wouldn’t you ?
    Professor : So what is the point you are making, Young Man ?
    Student : Sir, my point is your Philosophical Premise is Flawed.
    Professor : Flawed ? Can you explain how ?
    Student : Sir, you are working on the Premise of Duality.
    You argue there is Life and then there is Death, a Good GOD and a Bad GOD .
    You are viewing the Concept of GOD as something finite, something we can measure.
    Sir, Science can’t even explain a Thought.
    It uses Electricity and Magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one.
    To view Death as the Opposite of Life is to be ignorant of the fact that
    Death cannot exist as a Substantive Thing.
    Death is Not the Opposite of Life : just the Absence of it.
    Now tell me, Professor, do you Teach your Students that they Evolved from a Monkey ?
    Professor : If you are referring to the Natural Evolutionary Process, yes, of course, I do.
    Student : Have you ever observed Evolution with your own eyes, sir ?

    ( The Professor shakes his head with a Smile, beginning to realize where the Argument is going )

    Student : Since no one has ever observed the Process of Evolution at work and
    cannot even prove that this Process is an On – Going Endeavor,
    are you not Teaching your Opinion, sir ?
    Are you not a Scientist but a Preacher ?

    ( The Class is in Uproar )

    Student : Is there anyone in the Class who has ever Seen the Professor’s Brain ?

    ( The Class breaks out into Laughter )

    Student : Is there anyone here who has ever Heard the Professor’s Brain, Felt it, Touched or Smelt it ? . . ..
    No one appears to have done so.
    So, according to the Established Rules of Empirical, Stable, Demonstrable Protocol, Science says that
    you have No Brain, sir.
    With all due respect, sir, how do we then Trust your Lectures, sir ?

    ( The Room is Silent. The Professor stares at the Student, his face unfathomable )

    Professor : I guess you’ll have to take them on Faith , son.
    Student : That is it sir . . .
    the Link between Man & GOD is FAITH.
    That is all that Keeps Things Moving & Alive.

    NB:
    I believe you have enjoyed the Conversation . . . and if so . . .
    you’ll probably want your Friends / Colleagues to enjoy the same . . . won’t you ? . . .
    Forward them to Increase their Knowledge . . . or FAITH

  • 54. LeoPardus  |  November 18, 2008 at 11:43 am

    Thanks so much to ‘theis’ for bringing us this cute collection of fallacies, courtesy of Chick tracts.

  • 55. SnugglyBuffalo  |  November 18, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    I want the last 5 minutes of my life back.

  • 56. Josh  |  November 18, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    At least with a professors brain you can figure out what is going on.

  • 57. The Apostate  |  November 19, 2008 at 2:53 am

    Oh God.
    I think I actually used this tract once. I got one response the minute I delivered it – someone handed me their biology textbook and showed me a picture of the human brain. I recall then being shown the science of Grade 4 concepts such as heat and cold and how such relative concepts are in no way compared to what is, according to theists, an absolute concrete idea.

    theist, many here would be happy to respond to that tract in a respectable and systematic matter, but I have a feeling that your fly-by isn’t worth a grain of salt. You copy and pasted a twenty-year old tract (at least, I don’t know where or when it actually comes from) without engaging in the article at all.

    Jesus would be proud of you.

  • 58. Quester  |  November 20, 2008 at 3:33 am

    Snug,

    I can’t get those five minutes back for you, but here’s a site that starts from that tract, then continues with a response:

    http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/brain.htm

    And here’s a similar Jack Chick tract, and response:

    http://www.facts4u.com/OffSite_Stored_Pages/wyd_files/wyd.htm

    These could be helpful if/when you run across this sort of story again.

  • 59. LeoPardus  |  November 20, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Oooo thanks Quester. I like this bit I read on one of those links.

    “I f [God} has definitions of things that are radically different from our own, he might have a different definition of lots of other things. He might have his own definitions of such things as eternal reward, or eternal life. Your supposed eternal life in heaven might just be a year, or it could be a thousand years of torture. God could just say he has a definition of reward that includes excruciating torture as part of the definition.”

    Oh boy! Your “good” god might give you temporary life and eternal unpleasantness (by his definitions). And you (who accept that he is “good” even when nasty shit happens to even his most devout followers) may be in for more nasty surprises in the next life.

  • [...] 30, 2008 Recently, in a post titled “Moving Beyond De-Conversion?” the question was raised by The Apostate about the purpose and usefulness of this site. [...]

  • 61. jazzdude  |  December 7, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Are we ex-Christians sulking about, fooling themselves that we are providing positive reinforcements for other non-believers and soon-to-be non-believers. Or is it what we say it is – a resource for former and skeptical religionists? Perhaps health and instruction is not part of what we do. Perhaps we are merely deconstructers, allowing the faithless to flounder in their own philosophies of non-belief. Is it possible for this sort of community to act as just another crutch, another religious-like entity that cannot think beyond itself?

    I have questions as to whether human beings can exist in a healthy way outside of of a community of like-minded people. This isn’t so much a crutch as it is a basic human need to be one of the “tribe”. Of course, this can go overboard as is the case in many Christian churches. When the tribe is held together by irrational,or in some cases even paranoid idealogies, it can sometime take extraordinary effort on the part of an individual to break free of the emotional and idealogical holds of the tribe. While I used reason and rationality to initially break through, the emotional and connectional side did not come so easily. Even today, the christian community I continue to associate with is emotionally very seductive, even though my mind and intellect have made a complete break. There’s a reason that Christians use the metaphor of “asking Jesus into your heart”.

    I really think these forums are helpful for people who are bridging into a healthier, rational world view. It provides some of the tribal connection, but I don’t think it can ultimately substitute for real human (including an emotional) interaction (community) that we need as human beings.

    Visit my blog!

  • 62. The Apostate  |  December 7, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    jazzdude,

    I have questions as to whether human beings can exist in a healthy way outside of of a community of like-minded people. This isn’t so much a crutch as it is a basic human need to be one of the “tribe”.

    Again, the critique here is no whether a community of non-believers is healthy. We need to be around like-minded people (just as much as we need to be around people who differ from us as well). The critique, rather, is whether it is harmful to concentrate so much energy on being non-believers or not. It is one thing to get together to discuss being humanists or ethical secularists and finding common philosophies – it is quite another to focus on the negative aspects of our former beliefs.

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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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