De-Converting from De-Conversion

April 5, 2009 at 10:13 pm 32 comments

Christian Commentary

Well I think it’s about time, time for me to de-convert from de-conversion.  In other words, this will be my last post on this blog.  But before I post, let me just say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my time contributing to this community.  Back when I was more active with the site, I thoroughly enjoyed the back and forth discussions between various visitors.  For the most part they were very respectful and full of great passion, logic, and philosophy that I found to be quite entertaining.  Of course, sometimes they would turn sour, but that is bound to happen now and again when religion is the topic ;) .  Unfortunately though, I am so busy with work and other pursuits that I cannot give the website the justice it deserves.

Seeing how this is my last post, I want to ask you to bear with me on this one.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all “preachy” and try to convert you… that’d be impossible anyway, I think we both know that.  In fact, of all the posts that I did, my goal was never to get any of you to come back to religion – more or less, my aim was to offer a voice for the “other” side.  This post will not be any different, and it will try to sum up the main point I tried to emphasize is all of my posts.

During my time with De-Conversion.com (at one time, AgnosticAtheism.com), I found one overarching aspect a bit disturbing.  Many brilliant people wrote (and still write) on this site offering many facts and theories on religion and God.  This is fine, and I never was upset with these posts or their topic.  No, instead what I found the most troubling was the over generalization of religion.  Friends, religion is very complex, and I have always been one to believe that theology can’t be reduced down to a bumper sticker (i.e. “Jesus Saves”… ugh, gag me).  I find it interesting that many of the de-converts on this website usually stem from a once fundamentalist version of *insert religion here*.  As a result, the fundamentalist viewpoint is what is usually attacked (and rightly so) in many of the posts and in the comments section.  But folks, this particular view on religion is far from the only one.

I think I’ve made it clear where I stand on this many of times:  Fundamentalists need to wake up – and on that I think we can definitely agree.  Reading the Bible literally is quite the disservice to Christianity.  Doing so only creates contradictions, and what does the fundamentalist do when he/she encounters a contradiction?  If you said, “blindfully believes it even when they know it can’t be true”, then you are following me.  Their religion is like a Jenga tower.  You pull out one of the blocks and the whole thing comes crumbling down.  The fundamentalist can’t risk one of the blocks being taken away, so they ignorantly defend that block to the bitter end… and in the process they look pretty damn foolish.  I think this is why I see so many atheists attacking fundamentalist religion – they are trying to destroy that one block so the rest of it inevitably comes crashing down.

Many of you likely came from a fundamentalist background.  You went to church and would hear things that didn’t quite make sense with how you saw the world working.  This conundrum inevitably let you to turn away from religion altogether.  Your Jenga tower could no longer stand without all of its blocks, and this of course is no fault of your own.  However, religion should not be viewed like a Jenga tower, but instead like a trampoline.  You see, with a trampoline, you may have one spring break, but you can still keep jumping.

Friends, I am still jumping – some days a little higher than others, but still enjoying the bounce.  Do I question things?  All the time.  Does religion always make sense?  No.  Does life always make sense?  Hell no.  But I will leave you with a bit of food for thought that I ask you to take to heart, something that I think can sum up my perspective on all of this God business…

The world’s religions may not very accurately answer the question “How?”, but they are definitely on to something in regards to the  question “Why?”

Take care everyone, thank you for attention over the last couple of years.  Paul, you can now move my name to the “Former Contributors” list :)

- Justin

Entry filed under: Justin. Tags: , .

Good stuff Two “miracles”

32 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Aubrey  |  April 6, 2009 at 9:21 am

    someone’s been reading Velvet Elvis

    you’ve taken systematic theology, and so you know logic and obviously some reasoning methods….

    but I have too, and I would like to say that once you take away the orthodox/traditional ways and definitions of god, do you actually have a religion left?

    It seems I have only met 3 camps … Cians who hold tightly to their views no matter what

    Cians who admit they don’t know anything and are just living on trust

    and former Cians….

  • 2. lauradee24  |  April 6, 2009 at 10:19 am

    As this is a de-conversion site, (and I may be completely wrong here) I think many of us understand that not all Christians are the same. But when speaking about religion as a whole, you HAVE to make generalities. Trying to clarify every statement takes too much time. So all you can write succinctly about is from your own experience while understanding that you are only talking about a percentage. I try to do this on my own blog, but misunderstandings still occasionally arise.

    We run our entire lives through generalities and rules of thumb because our brains don’t have time to process every qualifying statement. When you see a doctor for a stomach ache, he doesn’t test you for watermelon stomach disease. He goes through the common things first. We write about our more common problems with religion. Sometimes, the percentages don’t even have to be very high for us to take certain precautions. I can safely say that my experiences as a Christian, both as a fundamentalist and a liberal, gave me enough knowledge about theology to allow me to safely make generalities, understanding that I am speaking about a major proportion of Christianity’s proponents. What bothers me about the more liberal Christians is that they often get upset that people make broad statements about Christianity in general when they themselves know that it can be used for so much harm and have seen how much pain it can cause. You yourself are making generalized statements about the writers on this site, and in my experience, Christian blogs generalize about atheists more than atheists generalize about Christians.

    On top of all of that, I think some de-converted atheists you read that are making generalized statements are still healing from past wounds caused by the Christian community.

    And telling a bunch of de-converts that religion is complex is like me telling a physicist that physics are complex. :D

  • 3. lauradee24  |  April 6, 2009 at 10:22 am

    PS I think that asking why religion is very complex can be very telling in of itself. Think about it. . .

  • 4. LeoPardus  |  April 6, 2009 at 10:24 am

    Justin:

    Thanks. You have been one of the reasonable, respectful, and thoughtful representatives of a Christian world view. Good luck in whatever you pursue.

    The world’s religions may not very accurately answer the question “How?”, but they are definitely on to something in regards to the question “Why?”

    Hmmm.. Maybe. On the other hand, if they are all talking about fantasies, then they aren’t on to anything regarding “why”.

  • 5. BigHouse  |  April 6, 2009 at 11:10 am

    but they are definitely on to something in regards to the question “Why?”

    I don’t personally buy this but I can see how someone could. However, I think the “definitely” is inappropriate, especially since it’s just an assertion without any backup.

    Thanks for your contributions, Justin.

  • 6. Luke  |  April 6, 2009 at 11:48 am

    “No, instead what I found the most troubling was the over generalization of religion.”

    agreed! it’s all fundie = bad. which is a no duh in my book.

    “The world’s religions may not very accurately answer the question “How?”, but they are definitely on to something in regards to the question “Why?”

    this is the key that everyone and their mom side-steps. myself included. but of course we’ll just say that “religion deals with fantasy” and dismiss it without actually critically thinking about it.

  • 7. lauradee24  |  April 6, 2009 at 11:54 am

    “we’ll just say that “religion deals with fantasy” and dismiss it without actually critically thinking about it.”

    But just because he didn’t write a book in his comment about why it deals with fantasy doesn’t mean that it has not been critically thought about. I myself have thought about it, and realized that religion simply offers a more palatable answer to some. However, an answer’s niceness does not imply correctness.

  • 8. orDover  |  April 6, 2009 at 11:56 am

    The world’s religions may not very accurately answer the question “How?”, but they are definitely on to something in regards to the question “Why?”

    I have to disagree. The “Whys?” of religion simply do not jive with reality, the observed world, anymore than the fundamentalist teachings you decry for doing the same thing. The “Whys?” are improbably, unreal, and illogical.

    I could make up a fantasy list of answers for the “Whys?.” Would I be in any better position than religion? Why are we alive? To consume as many sunflower seeds as possible in remembrance of the True Sun King, who one day return will return to lead us into a sunny eternity of baseball park food and general peace. What is our purpose here? To eat seeds and look up at the sky prayerfully waiting for the return of the Sun King, and to praise his name in order to increase his radiance. There. I answered some “Whys” and my “Whys” are every bit as realistic as Christianity’s.

  • 9. Tit for Tat  |  April 6, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    The world’s religions may not very accurately answer the question “How?”, but they are definitely on to something in regards to the question “Why?”

    Neither science nor religion can answer the why. The best science has to offer is some evidence on the how. The best religion can offer(when its at its best) is how to do community better. When its at its worst(fundamentalism) its utterly divisive. I wonder if Believers and former Believers read scripture with a similar take. One believes it to be absolute truth, the other see’s it as without any truth. Hmmm.

  • 10. schism  |  April 6, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    However, religion should not be viewed like a Jenga tower, but instead like a trampoline. You see, with a trampoline, you may have one spring break, but you can still keep jumping.

    That’s a better analogy than I think you intended.

    See, if a spring on a trampoline breaks (you encounter a question that religious belief fails to answer), that puts added tension on the other springs (more questions logically pop up), causing more and more springs to fail until, finally, you’re left standing on the ground wondering what the frak just happened. You’re then faced with the decision to either find another trampoline, probably to go through the entire process again, or just walk away.

    Personally, I like the ground.

  • 11. Joshua  |  April 6, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Replace the words “religion” with “astrology”, “Christianity” with “alchemy”, and “church” with “monastery” in this post and it will make just as much sense.

    “The world’s religions may not very accurately answer the question “How?”, but they are definitely on to something in regards to the question “Why?””

    Sigh. I once wrote an entire essay defending Christianity with this very argument and rejected the entire thing.

    Oh well. Thanks Justin.

  • 12. orDover  |  April 6, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    I wonder why we think there are answers to the “Whys?” anyway?

  • 13. Anna  |  April 6, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    I think, curiosity and self-interest.

    We find ourselves existing, and naturally, we wonder why. If there is an answer, it’s in our best interest to know it. If there isn’t, we have to figure it out for ourselves, and that is scary.

    Or one can just be apathetic, I guess, and spend your days watching tv.

  • 14. Quester  |  April 7, 2009 at 2:57 am

    Best wishes in your future endeavours, Justin.

  • 15. Quester  |  April 7, 2009 at 2:57 am

    agreed! it’s all fundie = bad. which is a no duh in my book.

    Really, Luke? I see it more as conservative theism makes certain claims which are found incorrect and act on these claims in ways found irrational and often destructive. We discuss liberal theism whenever a liberal theist makes a claim more specific than “I know there is something I can’t define because I have had experiences I have not understood”. My own article reviewing The Shack is an example of this.

    this is the key that everyone and their mom side-steps. myself included. but of course we’ll just say that “religion deals with fantasy” and dismiss it without actually critically thinking about it.

    Why not? Once you have taken the arguments regarding non-overlapping magisteria (as Gould labelled the attempt to seperate religion and science into why and how ten years ago in his book Rocks of Ages), “religion deals with fantasy” is pretty much what the discussion boils down to every time- eventually.

  • 16. Quester  |  April 7, 2009 at 3:09 am

    I wonder why we think there are answers to the “Whys?” anyway?

    Building on Anna’s answer of “curiosity and self-interest”, humans perceive patterns and attempt to give them meaning, all the time.

    Those leaves are rustling. The rustling is coming closer. Why? It may be a predator approaching.

    The girl I am conversing with is biting her lips and attempting to cover her nose without drawing attention to it. Why? I may have forgotten to wear deodrant today.

    I have been struck by lightning three times. Why? The elabourate wire and tinfoil hat I wear to keep God from knowing my thoughts may be offending Him.

    If we know why something happens, we have more control over whether or not it happens again. There may not be answers to some why questions, but if there are, the ones who find the answers to them may gain more power or control in certain areas.

  • 17. Quester  |  April 7, 2009 at 3:11 am

    I see it more as conservative theism makes certain claims which are found incorrect and act on these claims in ways found irrational and often destructive.- #15

    Wow, speaking of overgeneralizing… please throw a few more “often”s and “occasionally”s in there for me, please. Maybe even a “sometimes”.

  • 18. Gary  |  April 7, 2009 at 7:56 am

    It wasn’t all that long ago that I held the exact same position as Justin. I would have considered myself an ‘uneasy Christian’, up until I opened myself up to the possibility that the whole affair just might not be true.

    There is a great emphasis amongst liberal Christians these days about ‘progressive’ Christianity or religion. I found that this progress, using the same kind of doubt that led to my de-conversion, actually showed me the back door! The only true end to liberalizing religion is found in such movements as Unitarianism, unless you choose a regress along the way. I see regression occurring when intelligent people are heard saying, “The Bible probably isn’t true; but there still must be a God because I experience him/her/it, and because of the shared meaning evident in my church.”

    I found out in the end that it wasn’t too difficult to let go of the ‘container’ of meaning that I called God.

  • 19. Aubrey  |  April 7, 2009 at 9:10 am

    (sorry, I don’t know how to quote)

    10
    wow, yes, that’s a great illustration: the tension on the other springs. I can see how that happened in so many places. When the final one broke, I was completely at a loss.

    And I mean COMPLETELY.

    (going to kidnap the train a bit)
    When things came to a head (I was assaulted by a neighbor) people kept saying “what do you expect?” I was extrememly religious, and went into shock for years as everywhere I turned I heard “what do you expect?” The more I answered with anything based on my religious expectations, or with anything requiring a god , the more I was met with this same wall. “What did you expect?” One spring after another broke, and it was terrifying and horrifying.

    (and I did BELIEVE in a literal, personal, involved god, who revealed himself and his desires, and had a specific use and plan for me and my life)

    13
    More and more I see how people’s god is who they want them to be. And, of course, it’s frequently about sex. I can’t even estimate the number of Cians who were against sex before marriage (thought it was totally wrong) until they decided to do it, or did it anyway, and then decided it isn’t that big of a deal. Or drinking. Or drugs. Or divorce. Or ANYTHING forbidden. Once the person does it, it seems to pull into 2 groups. They usually defend their “right” to make the “mistake” that they “had to do” and how evil you are to “not understand”, and say it was wrong.

    and when I myself admitted to my christian friends something I wanted to stop, they walked away, telling me that’s the way it was, and I punished myself harshly for not having the strength to stop

    plus the despair of being left alone to deal

    and the horror of betraying a god I loved, whether the betrayal was a part of me, or not…

    It’s a survival instinct. Finding patterns, and reasons, and cause and effect. And when you think about all the things people need to explain – not just the mechanics of the world, but the mechanics of heart and soul – and give it a few thousand years….

    WE are backward-engineering what parts of religion are true, false, to be kept, to be tossed, symbolical, literal, common, unique….

    but I wonder if the people who created them saw through the same lenses as we do. Definitely probably not. They were products of their times, too. They were putting it out there. We are the ones reconciling the accounts, so to speak.

    And when it comes to conflicting, unreliable, unknowable gods vs. your “real” life…… I kept noticing that the happy people used either or both, but put themselves and good things in their life as the main “cause”. A kind of self-centeredness that makes a closed system, unmovable by outside proof and therefore impervious to disproof (I mean … ??? sorry, this is horrible, I’ll probably edit it later…)

    The more I pull away, the more I see the overarching pattern: the only god you’re accountable to is the one between your ears

    15
    Friends of mine gave me a copy of The Shack, supposed to help me with my doubting. Being a total left-brain human, it was insanely obvious the technique of pulling you into a nice story, getting you to say, yes,yes,yes,… then sneaking in a coup de gras (is that how you spell it?) of philosophy and hoping you’ll just keep saying Yes. grrr

    18
    ****It wasn’t all that long ago that I held the exact same position as Justin. I would have considered myself an ‘uneasy Christian’, up until I opened myself up to the possibility that the whole affair just might not be true.

    There is a great emphasis amongst liberal Christians these days about ‘progressive’ Christianity or religion.

    I found that this progress, using the same kind of doubt that led to my de-conversion, actually showed me the back door! The only true end to liberalizing religion is found in such movements as Unitarianism, unless you choose a regress along the way. I see regression occurring when intelligent people are heard saying, “The Bible probably isn’t true; but there still must be a God because I experience him/her/it, and because of the shared meaning evident in my church.”

    I found out in the end that it wasn’t too difficult to let go of the ‘container’ of meaning that I called God.****

    Yes, this is what I meant by Velvet Elvis. It makes god so subjective, that it pretty much takes him out of the equation. After all, a god with no definitions is purely a god of your own observance. The church I was/am going to is heavy on the subjectivity (sin is whatever keeps you from living your best life) and self-service. There is no higher authority than your own conscience. I thought religion said “This is true… (ex:) adultery is wrong” and you were supposed to take it at its word. Face it, everything religion usually labels wrong (lying, cheating, anger, hate, violence) is something we do for our own, **good** justifiable reasons….. sorry, another rabbit trail

    sorry, I’m not used to expressing myself this way. Please take it as meant with the utmost respect, and forgive me much!!!

    And Justin, that’s what my (old) church kept saying: It’s true because it reflects truths within us.

    but we’re looking for objective, absolute truth

    even if the only truth we find is that
    it’s all up to us

  • 20. Aubrey  |  April 7, 2009 at 9:11 am

    wow, that was long

    Please, please, let me know what you think
    (no beatings!!) ;)

  • 21. mysteryofiniquity  |  April 9, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Justin,

    Thanks for the explanatory post. I agree. Fundamentalism in all its varieties is wrong; plain wrong. It’s this brand of Christianity I can’t stomach, not Christianity itself. I’ve also met many wonderful Christians who I don’t happen to think suffer from this sort of religiosity either and who are fully intelligent and reasoned beings. Your guts at engaging who fundies consider to be “the enemy” is refreshing! Blessings!

  • 22. DaveTea  |  April 9, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    The problem with Rob Bell’s trampoline analogy is that he forgets that trampolines need a solid metal frame in order for them to be of any use.

  • 23. mysteryofiniquity  |  April 10, 2009 at 6:59 am

    DaveTea,

    Now that’s a great observation!

  • 24. Luke  |  April 10, 2009 at 11:13 am

    and the problem with trying to punch holes in a metaphor is that people can make crap up as they go along. the metal frame is existence.. if you’re stupid enough not to notice your springs breaking, then maybe it’s best to stay on the ground least you break your ankles.

  • 25. The Apostate  |  April 11, 2009 at 2:17 am

    mystery,
    first, good to see you commenting again.

    It’s this brand of Christianity I can’t stomach, not Christianity itself.

    Could you explain, if you care, what you mean by “Christianity itself.” I hear this a lot but have yet to see any sort of coherence or consensus on what “Christianity” actually is. When pushed, no matter who is doing the answering, it seems more and more that what “Christianity itself” actually is, is whatever you want it to be. Unlike Buddhism, for the most part, or Judaism, Christianity, like Hinduism, seems to manifest itself as the ultimate syncretic religion – take as you please, whether you are even a Christian or not.

  • 26. Bethlin  |  April 11, 2009 at 11:29 am

    Justin,

    Thanks for this post. Beautifully written. It’s a shame you won’t be writing more.

  • 27. mysteryofiniquity  |  April 12, 2009 at 8:49 am

    Apostate,

    You wrote: “it seems more and more that what “Christianity itself” actually is, is whatever you want it to be.”

    That’s true; I’d agree with that. First, I suppose I should qualify my statement by saying I agree with the general idea behind Christianity or any religion for that matter which starts out as a revolutionary mass movement against the established norm. I’m a sucker for the anarchist impulse even though I’ve not thought through the implications of such movements. Yet, over the years religions has become what those in power want it to become. They use the new religion as a tool to subdue the masses once the masses have begun to equate the institution/scriptures/etc. to actually mean religion/spirituality itself. Once it’s become codified in such a way, the religion takes over and the spirit of it dies out. This happens in practically every religious movement.

    So, I have no problem with the seeds of religion as a revolutionary and evolutionary impulse. I have no problem with personal experiences of encounters with a Divine Spirit. What I have a problem with is how we turn this impulse into an insistence upon rules, regulations, and norms. What I have a problem with are those who demand that others believe exactly the same way. For me, the trappings, rituals & exercises of religion have some use as far as personal discipline goes. It’s a right of every person to use the tools necessary for self improvement. (although some would disagree with religion as such a tool, but that’s another argument) The religious impulse is an absolutely subjective impulse and preference, especially in its expression. One has an experience. How is one to express it? The problem, again, is when fundamentalists make their subjective experiences and their modes of expressing it the normative response for everyone.

    I don’t know if that answered your question or not.

  • 28. The Apostate  |  April 12, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    ^ Hear hear

  • 29. RLWemm  |  May 10, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    I find it interesting that many of the de-converts on this website usually stem from a once fundamentalist version of *insert religion here*. As a result, the fundamentalist viewpoint is what is usually attacked … But folks, this particular view on religion is far from the only one.

    Many of you likely came from a fundamentalist background. You went to church and would hear things that didn’t quite make sense with how you saw the world working. This conundrum inevitably let you to turn away from religion altogether.

    The world’s religions may not very accurately answer the question “How?”, but they are definitely on to something in regards to the question “Why?”

    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
    While your contributions to the discussions here are appreciated, I cannot leave these statements unchallenged.

    It is an unwarranted assertion that most ex-Christians deconvert in response to an exclusive diet of Fundie Fodder.

    Christian Fundamentalism is attacked by Christian de-converts most often because it has long been decried by people of many ideological viewpoints. This includes “moderate” Christians, cradle atheists and the adherents of other religions.

    In this era, American-style fundamentalist versions of Christianity are by far the most dangerous versions of Christianity. They actively incite hatred of minority groups and insidiously and overtly promote intolerance of other people’s belief systems, moral integrity and cultural values. They make virtues of ignorance, poor education, lack of critical thinking and the unquestioning acceptance of authority. They hinder the progress of science, seek to restrict and control the education of school children, and condemn higher and other education as evil when it includes material which challenges the tenets or implications of their belief systems. They work to infiltrate and pervert government, legal and educational systems. These branches of Christianity have been dubbed the American Taliban because they have strong parallels to their nominal Islamic counterpart.

    Along the way to non-theism, many ex-Christians first de-converted from the fundamentalist versions of Christianity to a more mainstream version of the faith. Some try several versions. The general trend follows an increasingly liberal path until the person finds that there is nowhere else to go while remaining intellectually honest. In the end it becomes apparent that the more liberal forms of the faith, while less obviously virulent, are insidiously malevolence and only relatively less ridiculous.

    One of the major issues which deconverts usually struggle with along the way is the stark inconsistency of the behavior and beliefs of Christians, now and through the ages, when compared with the New Testament promise of consistency as the result of the indwelling spirit of god given to all Believers. The inconsistencies within the Christian camp relate not only to morality, values and modes of worship but include mutually incompatible doctrinal beliefs which give differing answers to “why” questions along with “how” questions. Once we add in the rest of the world’s religions, both past and present, the breadth of incompatible and inconsistent answers to “how” and “why” questions become enormous.

    Those who argue that science and religion are merely separate majisteria of determining truth avoid acknowledging the devastating differences in the consistency of subjective and objective systems of truth: The dogmatic revealed truth of religions result in pervasively inconsistent beliefs expressed by adherents both across and within points in time. On the other hand, the objectively determined truths of science show progressive changes in knowledge which are almost universally accepted by adherents at any point in time.

    In other words, systems of supernatural belief are devastatingly incompetent when it comes to providing consistent answers to “why” questions and ludicrously incompetent when it comes to providing validly verifiable answers to “how” questions.

  • 30. Jonathan Walker  |  May 11, 2009 at 10:53 am

    I agree with all this ! I still want tobe a christian though! ARRggh!

  • 31. Quester  |  May 11, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Jonathan,

    What, exactly, do you agree with and why do you want to still be a Christian? No one here is going to force you to stop being a Christian; I’m just curious.

  • 32. starkey hearing aids prices  |  April 19, 2012 at 5:26 am

    Hmm i hope you do not get annoyed with this question, but how much does a site like yours earn?

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

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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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