My steps out of Christianity

June 16, 2009 at 12:22 pm 67 comments

[This post has been sitting in my files for a while. Finally pulled it out and "finished" it. Writing never really seems finished, does it?]

Noting that my journey out of Christianity is different from most (in fact, unique in my experience so far*), I took some time to try to recall the steps I took over the years. I list them here in no particular order (though they are roughly chronological). *For any who don’t know, my path was, very briefly: “saved” at 19; evy/fundy for many years; converted to Eastern Orthodoxy for about 3 years; left the faith entirely.

- I sought to base my morality, politics, and behaviors in more than just, “the Bible or my church says so”.  After all, if something is right, it ought to be right for everyone, Bible or no Bible. I mean isn’t that what’s really meant by, “the absolute truth of God”?

Funny thing is that I did this right from the beginning of my Christian life. So maybe I was just doomed from the outset eh?

- I got sick of the shallowness.  Those damn praise choruses [“Jesus I luuuuv yew. Jesus I neeeeed yew. Jesus I luuuuv yew. Yes I doooo.”] are just drivel. So is the “Jesus, my buddy” flatulence. There’s just gotta be more to a faith than lousy songs and Forest Gump level theology.  This garbage was/is growing by leaps and bounds throughout Protestant churches, and was even making headway in some Catholic parishes.

- I got it through my head that young-earth creationism was WRONG. I.e. that evolution did happen, that the fossils were really old, that the flood of Noah was not global, that dinosaurs and humans never lived together, that the speed of light is in fact a constant, and so on. (I can’t tell you how humiliating it is to admit that I was idiotic enough to ever believe that crap.)

- I finally got a clear view of how utterly evil (dare I say, “utterly depraved”) Calvinism is and how prevalent it had gotten in the evy/fundy wing of the faith.

- I started to study church history in earnest. This is as opposed to reading Protestant (and ONLY Protestant) writers, teachers, pastors, etc for church history.

It is still astounding to me how utterly ignorant Protestants (and even a lot of Catholics) are of church history. And I’m not talking about pew potatoes here. I mean seminary professors. Try asking one to describe the origins of the Coptic church, or the history of the Filioque clause, or the development of monasticism and the effects of the East/West dichotomy thereupon, or for that matter just ask them what happened between 300-1500 AD. A palm-sized notepad and stubby pencil will be quite sufficient to write down everything they get right.

- Somewhat later -after some time in the EOC- I realized how WRONG monasticism is.  It is in direct opposition to what Jesus commanded believers to do.

- I finally realized that everyone was just making up their ideas about God – their moral stances, their doctrine, etc. – as they went along. There weren’t really any “God-ordained” absolutes.

- I finally realized that no one was doing what the Bible said they were supposed to be doing in any consistent way.

- I finally realized that God never showed up or responded in any way. That if you want to believe in God, you have to imagine that he is responding to your prayers, and you have to come up with elaborate, contradictory, double-think to explain when and why he does or doesn’t respond. That if you want to believe God is active in the world, and you want to “see” evidence of it, you have to play a game I call “Where’s Goddo?”  [Derived from the game “Where’s Waldo?”, in which you try to find a cartoon character named Waldo somewhere in a large, very busy drawing.]

- I finally realized/acknowledged that the lack of distinctiveness between Christians and non-Christians in terms of lifestyle, behavior, priorities, where their money goes, morality, etc. was a powerful indicator that there was no supernatural Holy Spirit operating in them. I found that this applied not just to pew potatoes but to nearly everyone. Including the great and holy examples that were held up for us. E.g., superevangelists, missionaries, monks, bishops, “prayer warriors”.

- I started to see the contradictions in the Bible for what they really are: contradictions.

- I found out that non-Christians ARE able to lead happy, decent, productive lives, and to love their kids, and be good neighbors, and to behave like good folk.

- I started piecing together a lot of bits and pieces of how Christianity was pieced together from bits and pieces of other religions (e.g.,  the ancient Greek and Egyptian myths).

- I definitely confirmed that the Orthodox, like the Catholics, were indeed worshipping Mary and had elevated her to “honorary fourth member of the Trinity”.

[Try saying this to an Orthodox or Catholic and you’ll get a quick denial. It’s a lot like the auto-responses you get for pointing out bible contradictions to most evangelicals.]

- LeoPardus

Entry filed under: LeoPardus. Tags: , , , , .

Change creeps in unawares Irrespective of What You Think – My de-Conversion Story

67 Comments Add your own

  • 1. paleale  |  June 16, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    I’m confused. Did I write this? Are Leo and I the same person?

  • 2. LeoPardus  |  June 16, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Nah. You like pale ale and I like dark beer. :)

  • 3. paleale  |  June 16, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Whew! I was getting creeped out! Thanks for setting me straight, Leo.

  • 4. Joe  |  June 16, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    “- I finally realized that no one was doing what the Bible said they were supposed to be doing in any consistent way”. (from article above).

    Joseph Smith actually said the same thing before starting his own church.

    The trouble with that statement is that we are all human, and OF COURSE no one is doing what they are supposed to be doing consistently. No one can really point to one church and say “They are doing exactly what the Bible says”.

    So do we walk away from ALL churches, and from Christianity because we can’t find one that is consistent in ALL things?

  • 5. AB  |  June 16, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    thanks for writing this. i’ve been on my own deconversion journey for about a year now. it sometimes scares me when I think of just how far I’ve come and how foreign my old beliefs feel to me. Every so often (less and less now) I wonder if I’ve made a mistake and think i should take some time to sit down and list out my reasoning, but I haven’t managed to do so yet. Your list is so exactly what I would write…it puts a lot of my random thoughts in a nice concise format. It helps to see them laid out in front of me like that. Again…thanks.

  • 6. LeoPardus  |  June 17, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    AB:

    Glad we can be of help to you on your journey. That’s truly what this site is all about.

  • 7. grace  |  June 17, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    From my perspective as a Christian believer, the issue is not so much what the other folks in the institutional church are doing or not doing. For me, the issue is more in what I’m doing with my faith, what Christ means in my life, and how I’m walking that out.

    I know the tremendous difference knowing God has made in my life over time, so in terms of my personal faith, where other folks are at seems like a side issue to me.

    The other piece of this is that as mere mortals, we are only able to judge by outward appearances. We really don’t know everything that God might be doing in someone else’s life, where or how far they’ve come. The church is composed of broken, fallible people. And, none of us have it altogether, or know every answer.

    The absolute central issue for me as a Christian is simply centered in the truth of the gospel. If the ‘”good news” is true, then where else can we go? From the Scripture relating to Jesus, “You have the words of eternal life.”

    Why should any of us allow the sin, and hypocrisy, even the limitations of others to keep us from God?

  • 8. Quester  |  June 17, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Why should any of us allow the sin, and hypocrisy, even the limitations of others to keep us from God?

    If we could find a god, then we shouldn’t. But if we can’t find any gods, or even any evidence pointing to the existence of a god, among the people who claim to follow one, where else should we look?

  • 9. LeoPardus  |  June 17, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Grace:

    What does your post (#6) have to do with the article? Only the 14th paragraph talks at all about other believers. Do you think this is the lynchpin upon which my whole de-conversion pivots?

  • 10. grace  |  June 17, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    But, Questor, is this true? Are you saying that in all your experience as a Christian, and as a priest, you never met anyone who God made a difference in their lives? I’ve known people whose lives were completely transformed by the gospel.

    Even in past history, have you seen the film, “Amazing Grace,” the story of Newton who after coming to faith renounced the slave trade, and eventually became a priest in the Church of England. His life was very much changed.

    There are scores of people out there in the helping professions , and ministries, whose faith shapes their whole lives. What about folks who work with organizations like World Vision, or Compassion International, just to name two?

    There’s a real mix in the institutional church, and people may attend for all sorts of reasons. We’re all fallen, and broken. Christians are not going to have it perfectly together, either.

    But, it’s hard for me to believe that people posting here have never met a single, genuine Christian, whose life in God has made a difference.

    Leo, it’s hard to address everything in one post. :) And, I don’t want to just get into a debate.

    But, ok, take another issue that of young earth creationism. There are scores of Christian believers who think that the Scripture was not written to be a modern day science textbook, and whose faith doesn’t stand or fall in a literalist interpretation of Genesis. What does the precise age of the earth, have to do with the gospel?

    I was just talking about this today with a physics professor in the town coffeeshop who attends my church, and teaches at the local university. He’s actually doing research relating to this very topic to understand people’s thinking in this issue, and then what influences them to change their mind.

    We were discussing together why when people come to believe that Genesis is more allegorical, or that there could possibly be any kind of error in the Scripture, that this leads for some to total atheism.

    Could it have something to do in part with how people’s minds are wired to think differently.

    So often, it seems to me that when people are more conservative, or fundamentalist, and experience a lose of faith, they have a tendency toward almost a kind of fundamentalist atheism. It seems to me to reflect an inate black or white kind of way of thinking.

    When others simply adjust their reasoning in specific areas, but move on in a life with God. They don’t “ditch the baby with the bathwater.”

    Of course, I’m reflecting my own bias, and values here, I know. But, I”m really trying to understand, and don’t mean to cause intentional offense.

    Hey, I’m up to discuss any topic. What point in your article would you want to address more fully, if you want to talk some more that is, LeoPardus.

    I don’t want to force the conversation.

  • 11. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 17, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    But, it’s hard for me to believe that people posting here have never met a single, genuine Christian, whose life in God has made a difference.

    I wouldn’t believe that either. In fact, what makes you think that some of the de-converts here weren’t these genuine Christians you speak of?

    And I wouldn’t say we ditched the baby with the bathwater. Some of us slowly drained the bathwater, and realized there was never a baby in the tub to begin with.

  • 12. Quester  |  June 17, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    To expand upon SB’s response, I have met a great many people who creditted a Christian understanding of God for the wonderful things they have done. I have met others who have done equally wonderful things and gave credit to the Goddess, Allah, the Great Spirit, the Light of God and the ten holy Gurus, karmic balance, and simple human decency. But these stories never involved a definite working of a supernatural power, just an exertion of will. This is impressive, and worthy of appreciation and celebration. It isn’t, however, reason to assume the existence of one or more gods, nor to tell anything about the will or character of those gods.

    As for the baby and bathwater, once you learn that some of scripture is allegorical, how do you discern which parts aren’t?

  • 13. Kat  |  June 18, 2009 at 1:48 am

    Sorry; enlighten me. What’s a pew potato?

  • 14. Quester  |  June 18, 2009 at 2:00 am

    Are you familiar with the term “couch potato”?

  • 15. LeoPardus  |  June 18, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Kat:

    A ‘pew potato’ would be someone who just goes to church, sits in the pew, maybe sings the hymns, and listens to the sermon; but the never do anything or change in any way, or make any effort to make something more of themselves or their faith. They are about as active as a potato placed in a pew.

    SB:
    Some of us slowly drained the bathwater, and realized there was never a baby in the tub to begin with.

    Well said. :)

  • 16. LeoPardus  |  June 18, 2009 at 10:47 am

    grace:

    Each of the ‘steps out’ I listed may have been incremental in the whole of my eventually coming to see that God (Christian or otherwise) was not real. But not all of them were critical or even very important.

    Hypocrites in the church were always there and I couldn’t help noticing them. But they didn’t push me out of the faith. In fact they made me want to live the faith even more because I did not want to be one of the goats of Matthew 25.

    Creation/Evolution did not push me out. When I discovered what a fraud creationism was, I was angry at the liars who propagated such a lie in God’s name. But I did not even come close to thinking of leaving the faith. [Just to give you a time frame, I discovered what a lie creationism was in 1991. I was still strongly part of the Faith until late 2006.)

    It was only in retrospect that I look at cre/ev or hypocrites and see them as strikingly clear and strong indications of the overall falseness of the Faith.

    If you want to look at some of the ‘steps out’ that were truly critical, here are the ones that are absolutely central. (I can’t place them in exact order of their importance, but I’ve tried to do so at least roughly.)
    -God never showed up or responded in any way. (This really is the most important, single element.)
    -Everyone just makes up their ideas about Go, moral stances, their doctrine, etc. as they went along.
    -The lack of distinctiveness between Christians and non-Christians. (Yes. I know this seems like the hypocrisy issue. It’s not. It’s an issue of God’s promises not being true. Please see my old article, in the archives, “Reasons why I can no longer believe: 3 – Unchanged lives” for a more complete treatment of this.)
    -Church history.
    -The shallowness. Not of people, but of the entire Faith.
    -Orthodox and Catholics worship Mary. (Yes. I already know what a non-O or non-C will say to this.)
    -How WRONG monasticism is.

  • 17. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 18, 2009 at 11:37 am

    I know my faith was starting to lean towards something much more moderate and “reasonable” just prior to my de-conversion. I had become completely disillusioned with fundamentalism; accepted that whatever the Bible teaches about homosexuality it could have no bearing on the marriage issue in the U.S. (at least not constitutionally); accepted that sound sex-ed and access to contraceptives was the most effective way to prevent abortions; and I was about one step away from embracing theistic evolution (I was at the point where I couldn’t reject evolution, but wasn’t quite over my church-conditioned aversion to it).

    I think I was well on my way to a much more moderate version of Christianity. Certainly everything I listed above is anathema to my parents and the religious tradition I was raised in. At that point I probably could have found inconsistencies in scripture and been fine maintaining my faith in spite of it. I was more than willing to adapt my theology.

    The problem finally arose when I asked myself why I believed any of it in the first place. I had no evidence that suggested a deity. You can claim there is evidence in people claiming God changed their lives, but you can see such drastic changes in people of all faiths, and none.

    With no reason to believe in God in the first place, my faith pretty much disappeared, almost literally overnight. I spent quite a bit of time trying to regain that faith, all to no avail.

    Your characterization of fundamentalists switching from Christianity to atheism and having a “black-and-white” view is very likely inaccurate for just about every apostate I know of (on the other hand, I’m sure it is true for some people).

    When the specific area of reasoning you have to adjust is whether God even exists, it becomes rather difficult to “move on in a life with God.”

  • 18. atimetorend  |  June 18, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    “Your characterization of fundamentalists switching from Christianity to atheism and having a “black-and-white” view is very likely inaccurate for just about every apostate I know of (on the other hand, I’m sure it is true for some people).”

    This statement struck me because I may have characterized my departure from conservative Christianity as just that black and white. But as I think about it, while the external change was black and white, there really was an internal struggle much like that which you describe. I had given up most of the “fundamentals” internally some time before being willing to face the consequences outwardly and relationally. And admitting to myself I no longer believed.

  • 19. orDover  |  June 18, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    grace said:

    From my perspective as a Christian believer, the issue is not so much what the other folks in the institutional church are doing or not doing. For me, the issue is more in what I’m doing with my faith, what Christ means in my life, and how I’m walking that out.

    I know the tremendous difference knowing God has made in my life over time, so in terms of my personal faith, where other folks are at seems like a side issue to me.

    and then…

    Are you saying that in all your experience as a Christian, and as a priest, you never met anyone who God made a difference in their lives? I’ve known people whose lives were completely transformed by the gospel.

    ….?

    Contradictory, no?

    First comment says that we shouldn’t pay attention to other Christians, but just our own “personal walk” with Christ. The second suggests we look to other Christians as evidence of the existence of God. The first comment admits that there are lots of “bad” Christians, hypocrites and whatnot. The second holds up “good” Christians as evidence for God. Using that logic, shouldn’t all of the “bad” Christians be evidence against God?

    For the record, most of us did not deconvert because of “bad” Christians or faithful hypocrites. Sure, we noticed them, and it dismayed us, but it was our “personal (fictitious) walk” with an absent deity that really did us in.

  • 20. atimetorend  |  June 18, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    I think that seeing good people or bad people in a group often can and should help us decide if we want to joint that group. The goofy thing is conflating that with the truth claims of a religion. Then you get the problems orDover points out, for even the best intentioned people trying to adhere to Christian doctrine. Since people in any group tend to be good and bad and all kinds of in betweens, the generalizing and categorizing of people doesn’t work. How much easier is it to just say, we should expect to see good and bad people in any group, Christian, atheist, agnostic, or otherwise, and just leave it at that?

  • 21. orDover  |  June 18, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    How much easier is it to just say, we should expect to see good and bad people in any group, Christian, atheist, agnostic, or otherwise, and just leave it at that?

    It would be exceptionally easy, except for the fact that one of these groups uses “personal testimony” as evidence that they alone have the correct worldview.

    Christians expect to convert people solely through testimony, whether it be the testimony of those who “saw” Jesus’ resurrection and reported it in the Bible, or the testimony of a charismatic pastor, or the testimony of a ex-con who found Jesus in the middle of a heroin binge. How many times have we had people drop by here to tell us a few of these testimonies? These are their only proofs.

  • 22. LeoPardus  |  June 18, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    the film, “Amazing Grace,” the story of Newton

    Uhmmmm…. that movie is about William Wliberforce. Newton shows up briefly a couple times and is quite a minor role.

  • 23. LeoPardus  |  June 18, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    I’ve known people whose lives were completely transformed by the gospel.

    I’ve known many more whose lives were completely not transformed by the gospel (or by church, or the faith, or religion, or whatever you like to call it).
    I’ve also known many whose lives have been utterly f****d by those things.
    Frankly, these two categories are MUCH more populous than the one you describe. So why shouldn’t I pay more attention to the OVERWHELMING weight of evidence?

    And I’ve known people who were transformed by significant events in life that were not religious.
    And I’ve know people who were transformed by other religions.
    Why shouldn’t I go for those other religions, or just shoot for uber-cool experiences?

    What you are doing is called “cherry picking”. In more scientific terms it’s called “confirmation bias”. You start off with what you want to believe or conclude and then you only pay accept as valid those things that support your case. Anything that does not support your preordained conclusion you explain away. In the world of research we call this ‘fraud’.

    What about folks who work with organizations like World Vision, or Compassion International, just to name two?

    What about people who work for the Red Cross or Peace Corps to name just a couple that are not “Christian”?

    Cherry picking again.

    Christians are not going to have it perfectly together, either.

    Now here’s an interesting thing. Your holy book commands directly that believers are to be perfect as He is, and holy as He is. It also says that the Holy Spirit will indwell believers and guide them and enable them to live holy.
    So this all begs the question: If your all-powerful deity tells you to be holy/perfect AND promises to get inside you and make you that way, why aren’t believers holy/perfect?
    The most obvious answer is….. it’s a lie.

    , it’s hard for me to believe that people posting here have never met a single, genuine Christian.

    I’ve met them. I’ve met “genuine” non-christians too. How about you?

  • 24. grace  |  June 18, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    Hi, Snuggly,

    I’m not able to make an ultimate judgment concerning someone’s spiritual condition. To my mind, that’s God’s business, and way above my paygrade. :)

    I know this is going to sound crazy to most people posting here, but my feeling is that many folks who post on these deconversion blogs are on some level still open, and seeking God, otherwise they would not really care about all these issues at all, and would have moved on. It would not matter to them one way or the other.

    Were you reared in the church, Snuggly? What brought you to faith in God in the beginning? Do you feel this was a deep conviction coming from your own heart, and mind, honest searching, or was it a belief system just inherited from your upbringing?

  • 25. grace  |  June 18, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Questor,

    One way that I determine if parts of the Scripture are given to be seen in an allegorical, poetic kind of way, or meant to be interpreted literally is based in the context, and in the literary genre itself. Knowledge of Christian tradition, and the culture of the time is also a help.

    To give an example, no one was really around to observe, and then write about the creation of the universe. Can we have twenty four hour days without the sun? Is God like a potter to make people from clay, or dust?

    But, other parts of Scripture read more like a straight forward historical narrative such as the Book of Acts. Or consider the preface to Luke…

    Luke 1:1-4 (New International Version)

    Luke 1
    Introduction
    1Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled[a] among us, 2just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

    I think the book of Revelation is another part of Scripture that contains tons of metaphor and allegory. Do we expect Jesus Christ to come again riding through space on a white horse with a literal sword protruding from his mouth, or some beast like creation going around with folks wearing his number???

    Of course Christian people can disagree, but I don’t think being a person of faith means we check our minds at the door of the church.

    Can you see what I’m saying, Questor, or am I clear as mud?

  • 26. grace  |  June 18, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    Ugh, Leo, I just wrote this long post to you, and lost every word. Noooo!

    Will try to stop bye early tomorrow to talk before work, and then will probably be off line until Sun. night. Have a lot of company comin over the weekend.

  • 27. Ubi Dubium  |  June 18, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    I know this is going to sound crazy to most people posting here, but my feeling is that many folks who post on these deconversion blogs are on some level still open, and seeking God, otherwise they would not really care about all these issues at all, and would have moved on. It would not matter to them one way or the other.

    Yes, that does sound crazy. Those of us who have decided that god is just a myth still have to live among those who have not. We have friends and family who daily try to force their religion on us. Some of us are still recovering from the feelings of guilt and unworthiness that xianity pushes on its followers, some are recovering from anger at vast amounts of time and money wasted on trying to please a non-existent god, and some are dealing with how and whether to break the news to their loved ones. We no longer have the support group provided by the “church”, so here is a place we can support each other. There are people out there alone and in anguish over their inability to believe in the dogma any more, and as we were offered a virtual shoulder to lean on, so we extend that same support to others. Xianity no longer matters to me. Helping other people matters.

  • 28. Lucian  |  June 18, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    I’m confused. Did I write this? Are Leo and I the same person?

    Whew! I was getting creeped out! Thanks for setting me straight, Leo.

    Man, I never get tired of listening to Jack talking to Tyler Durden. 8)

  • 29. Lucian  |  June 18, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    The church is composed of broken, fallible people.

    Well, that’s one thing that the Church and Soilent Green have in common: they’re both made of people. :D

  • 30. Lucian  |  June 18, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    The lack of distinctiveness between Christians and non-Christians. (Yes. I know this seems like the hypocrisy issue. It’s not. It’s an issue of God’s promises not being true.

    I’ve known many more whose lives were completely not transformed by the gospel (or by church, or the faith, or religion, or whatever you like to call it).

    You my dead conscience raised from the grave? Have You come to torture me before my time? :-|

  • 31. Quester  |  June 19, 2009 at 12:18 am

    Grace @ 24/25,

    I hope you have a good time with those visiting you.

    I think I understand what you’re saying, but these clues to genre leave me with more confusion, as the NT writers didn’t seem to make such distinctions. Theophilus (Lover of God), for example, who Luke addresses his letter to- I don’t know if this is a person or a literary device. When Luke describes the unwitnessed tempting of Jesus in the wilderness, I suppose Jesus could have told others, but no one witnessed it to write about it. There was also an unwitnessed apparition of Gabriel to Mary, and Luke misquotes Isaiah 40:3 to make John the Baptist fulfill an OT prophecy in Luke 3:4. This is just looking at the first three chapters, and are perhaps meaningless to you, but if the creation myths are allegorical, is the concept of “original sin” also a poetic notion, leaving Jesus nothing to save us from but our own needless fears of death and judgement and the laws we made to help us stave off those fears? There’s nothing wrong with that interpretation of Christianity. It just seems a little superfluous.

  • 32. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 19, 2009 at 3:30 am

    I know this is going to sound crazy to most people posting here, but my feeling is that many folks who post on these deconversion blogs are on some level still open, and seeking God, otherwise they would not really care about all these issues at all, and would have moved on. It would not matter to them one way or the other.

    I think you’re forgetting one of the primary purposes of blogs like this. At least with deconversion.com, it’s purpose is to be a resource for those going through the process of losing their faith. I don’t hang around this blog because I’m still seeking; I hang around here to lend my support to those going through the same thing I did a year ago.

    Were you reared in the church, Snuggly? What brought you to faith in God in the beginning? Do you feel this was a deep conviction coming from your own heart, and mind, honest searching, or was it a belief system just inherited from your upbringing?

    I was indeed raised in the church. The second couple of questions are a bit harder to answer. At the time I certainly would have said it was all from honest searching, but I think the root of it at least was just from a desire to please my parents as a child. I really don’t think I would have ever considered religion seriously without my parents pushing me to. On the other hand, once I was already steeped in belief, I sought God quite earnestly, trying to improve my “walk with God” to use a bit of Christian lingo. At the time, I certainly felt I had a deep conviction about the reality of the Christian God and everything that entailed.

    Of course, no amount of conviction from my heart makes God real. I think that’s one of the things that can make de-conversion such a painful process: knowing in your “heart” that God is real while realizing with your mind that he almost certainly is not.

  • 33. grace  |  June 19, 2009 at 6:46 am

    Thanks, Quester.

    Hi, Leo,

    Just something briefly before headin to work,and then I hope to stop bye on Sun. evening.

    In what way are you looking for God to show up? Are you looking for Him to perform a spectacular miracle, something like that?

    I once thought in that way as an agnostic young person, but then I considered that no matter what God might do like a spectacular cosmic magic trick, how could we know it was truly Him, any more than by the witness of creation? It could be anything from aliens, to a govt. plot, to mass hallucination from an unknown source, etc.

    Can you see what I’m saying? Even in the time of Jesus, there were people who after seeing the miraculous, would not believe. Jesus actually stated according to one of the gospel accounts, that some folks would not be persuaded even if a person returned from the dead.

    To my mind, I think God is showing up right now, in the middle of our conversation.

  • 34. grace  |  June 19, 2009 at 6:49 am

    ((Ubi Dubium))) gentle hugs!!!

  • 35. lauradee24  |  June 19, 2009 at 7:17 am

    Add in a different denominational background, and those are a bunch of the same conclusions I came to while still in church. I learned a bit about church history in my Baptist college, and am amazed that they have about a 0% de-conversion rate. And I HATED those stupid worship choruses. I started listening to secular music because I was so tired of the same three songs on KLOVE! :)

  • 36. lauradee24  |  June 19, 2009 at 7:24 am

    oh, Grace, I’ve thought about that! I know you were in no way referring to me, but I still think about that occasionally: What would God have to do to make me believe in him again? For me, I straight up don’t know. Every time I hear someone say they audibly heard his voice, I think “One message from god. Would you like a Haldol with that?” So even hearing an audible voice, I think I would just think it was my mind playing tricks on me or the beginning of schizophrenia. :) Having learned so much about what the brain can do in my psychology courses, I honestly can’t think of anything that I wouldn’t write off. Maybe seeing an amputee get healed! Or even some scientific evidence that prayer works or whatever. I think if God operates according to the rules of science, we should find god when we discover new things, but usually we just find explanations that mean god is completely unnecessary.

    And then there is the whole God is here right now thing. I have heard that SOOOO many times! And I think what would convince those people that god ISN’T here right now? So turning the question on to you. . . .

  • 37. FFFearlesss  |  June 19, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Grace, that’s a question I grapple with too, something my wife has asked me, or sometimes thrown in my face as an accusation, that I’m so closed off that God could be standing right in front of my face and I’d still say He wasn’t.

    Here’s honestly what it would take for me to believe again. It wouldn’t be a single event. A miracle. A voice from the sky. A prayer answered. You know what it would take for me to believe that there is a supernatural being who loves me like a Father loves a son? It would take a relationship. And actual relationship. Something I could feel. Something that was a two-way street, not just me saying prayers to the walls. Ask me what one thing my wife did that let me know she loved me. I couldn’t do it. It was several months of building a relationship before i realized I loved her. Several more months before I was certain I wanted to commit my life to her. And it’s been an ongoing thing ever since. If my relationship with God is supposed to be even more intimate than THAT, it’s going to require God giving a little back.

    Right now, in spiritual terms, I feel like a husband who finds out his wife has been screwing around on him behind his back. How much time would my wife need to spend convincing me that she truly loved me after spending our entire marriage being acting cold toward me, all the while screwing some other guy? It would take a LONG time… assuming I gave her that chance. No one thing is going to make me believe in God. Only God being with me (and dwelling in me as they say) will make me believe in God.

  • 38. Brian  |  June 19, 2009 at 9:32 am

    I should stress that the cheating wife thing was strictly a metaphor. My wife so far as I know has been completely faithful. :-)

  • 39. LeoPardus  |  June 19, 2009 at 11:41 am

    grace:

    In what way are you looking for God to show up?

    Actually I’m not since I know there is no such being.

    Are you looking for Him to perform a spectacular miracle, something like that?

    That would be fine. An infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful being who knows me better than I know myself could come up with whatever he wants.

    I considered that no matter what God might do like a spectacular cosmic magic trick, how could we know it was truly Him, any more than by the witness of creation?

    This is a familiar, silly, shallow, not thought through cop out for why the nonexistent deity never does anything. Think about it now. Do you REALLY want to stand by you notion that an infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful being who knows every person better than they know themselves could not come up with whatever it takes to get through to them?

    He got through to Saul of Tarsus, doubting Thomas, Nebuchadnezzar and more. Has the old deity lost his oomph, his magic touch?

    Even in the time of Jesus, there were people who after seeing the miraculous, would not believe.

    Dandy. The Pharisees didn’t want to believe in Jesus. They had a vested interest in their power and livelihood. Now deal with all the people to DID believe because of the miracles.

    To my mind, I think God is showing up right now, in the middle of our conversation.

    To my mind there’s a red pegacorn outside my window. No one else sees him though, ’cause he’s invisible. But he changed my life and now I’m happier, getting richer, and run a faster mile. Some folks say that I only run a faster mile ’cause I’ve been running more, but I KNOW it’s the blessed pegacorn who speeds me with his wings.

  • 40. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 19, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    To my mind, I think God is showing up right now, in the middle of our conversation.

    That’s the kind of evidence for God you could apply to just about any supernatural being. What would you do if you were in a conversation with a Muslim and he said “to my mind, Allah is showing up right now, in the middle of our conversation”?

    If the Christian God is real, why can’t he out-perform any other gods? For that matter, why can’t any gods perform better than random chance?

    It seems to me that the most reasonable answer is that there are no gods.

  • 41. LeoPardus  |  June 19, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Re comment #18:

    orDover’s point needs to be hammered on.

    This is so common and so utterly contradictory, illogical, idiotic, hypocritical, such a blatant example of only looking at what you want to see.

    grace and almost all other Christians are constantly throwing up, “Look at the changed lives of believers.” or, “God made such a difference in my life,” and they expect people to look ONLY at these claims (not facts mind you) and to say, “Oh. Well your god must be the real McCoy then.”

    AT THE SAME TIME they tell us to just ignore the far larger numbers of Christians who are obviously unaffected by their god/faith/what-have-you.

    Blatant cherry-picking or confirmation biasing.

    ANNOUNCEMENT to Christians. You can’t have it both ways!

  • 42. Brian  |  June 19, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    But Leopardus, (pshaw), clearly the people who weren’t affected positively weren’t real Christians. Duh!

  • 43. HeIsSailing  |  June 19, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    LeoPardus says:

    grace and almost all other Christians are constantly throwing up, “Look at the changed lives of believers.” or, “God made such a difference in my life,” and they expect people to look ONLY at these claims (not facts mind you) and to say, “Oh. Well your god must be the real McCoy then.”

    LeoPardus, I think it is even worse than you make out. Not only are we to disregard those Christians who live unregenerate lives (e.g. the dreaded “Carnal Christian” that church pastors are always railing against) but that line also rests on the assumption that God is the *only* source of changed lives.

    Grace, if I am to know God is real by the regenerated lives of converts, what am I to make of the unregenreate? In my experence, it is claimed that they are either not true Christians, or prodigal sons whom God is working on. And what am I to make of people, including non-Christians, who’s lives have been changed by any other means? People’s lives change for a vast number of reasons – including converting to *any* religion, for instance: marrying your sweetheart, earning a college degree, the birth of a child, the death of a mother, moving to a new country, a near-death experience. Falling in love. A profound book or movie. Joining a 12 step recovery group. Simple maturity in growing older. etc. etc. etc…

    Grace, once one recognizes the outrageous special pleading involved when looking at the changed lives, how are you supposed to sift any ontological meaning and knowledge of God out of your one special case of “changed lives”?

    LeoPardus is right. We recognize this for what it is, and Christians cannot have it both ways.

  • 44. LeoPardus  |  June 20, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Post 4:

    “- I finally realized that no one was doing what the Bible said they were supposed to be doing in any consistent way”.

    The trouble with that statement is that we are all human, and OF COURSE no one is doing what they are supposed to be doing consistently. No one can really point to one church and say “They are doing exactly what the Bible says”.
    So do we walk away from ALL churches, and from Christianity because we can’t find one that is consistent in ALL things?

    Actually that was not one of the most important of my reasons as I pointed out in post #16. It was one of the accumulation of straws. What use is a “god’s holy and perfect message” if no one can figure it out or even follow it in the obvious parts? I suppose it’s about as much use as a Holy Spirit who supposed to strengthen and enable you to understand and do God’s will, but has no effect on people.

  • 45. grace  |  June 21, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    Hi, guys, I”m back.

    Questor, when I shared that I think Genesis one, and two are expressed more as poetry, I didn’t mean that there was no truth there. Its just that Scripture was never written to be like a modern day science text.

    To me, it’s irrelevant to my personal faith whether we should interpret all this in a completely literal way or not. I don’t have to look to Adam, and forbidden fruits, I’m able to see by my own experience, and by the evidence of the world around us that as humans while made in the image, and likeness of God, we are also broken, and fallen, alienated from God, and from each other. We can hurt the people we care about the most, sometimes without even trying.

    I think that God in Christ is reconciling the whole world to Himself. It seems to me that every theory of the atonement of Christ falls short of the reality of the thing itself. What I do know is that Jesus has redeemed me, and that is enough.

    I’m not a fundamentalist, Questor, but I do affirm the Nicene Creed of the Christian church. It expresses the deep conviction of my own heart.

    FFearless, to my mind, one of the ways that God has a relationship with us is through the love, and care of other Christian believers. It seems to me that it would be more difficult to experience a relationship with God apart from Christian community. Not impossible, but difficult.

    It feel that it’s hard for faith to grow, and remain alive apart from this, as well as the ministry of the Word, and the sacraments.

    I think when people deliberately cut themselves off from all this, in a sense they’re choosing to further walk out a certain path away from life in God. I’m speaking in general here, FFearless, don’t know if this is you.

    We very much can become where we focus our mind, all our thoughts, and time, our energy.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m feeling we should have fellowship with all kinds of people And, I’m willing to read, and study anything out there.

    But, let’s face it, if the bulk of my study has to do with everything written by skeptics, and if all I do is hang out with people who have left the faith, and have nothing but negative things to say about the church, I’m probably not going to find a relationship with God there, and my trajectory is going to be further, and further from faith.

    Of course, I’m sharing all this from a human perspective. I was just looking at the blog of a man who up to a couple weeks ago seemed to hate, and despise Christians, and was a confirmed atheist. Now he’s become a committed Christian believer. God can work miracles!!

    Lauradee, read “The Language of God,” by Dr. Francis Collins, and let me know what you think…:) I don’t know what it would take to convince someone that God was not real in their lives.

    I have had times when I sensed the presence of God very strongly, and other times not. I can’t say that my faith, or anyone’s faith is free of honest doubt.

    But, I do have this deep conviction of truth that it is “in Him that we live, and move, and have our being,” as the Scripture states.

    Maybe part of this has to do with how people come to faith in the first place. I at one time was an agnostic, and a skeptic. So, I came to faith out of a lot of honest searching, and questioning. I wasn’t in anyway simply culturally conditioned into the church, or coerced to trust God by fear of Hell. My life wasn’t falling to pieces. I just wanted so much to know truth, and to know God, if He was real.

    Perhaps this makes a difference. I’m not certain.

    Thanks guys for talking to me, and for listening, also for your patience.

    Every blessing to everyone here!!!

  • 46. BigHouse  |  June 21, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    So, I came to faith out of a lot of honest searching, and questioning.

    I’d love to see this fleshed out further. I’ll admit I’m skpetical.

  • 47. LeoPardus  |  June 22, 2009 at 10:51 am

    I do affirm the Nicene Creed of the Christian church.

    Would that be with or without the ‘filioque’ clause?

    And do you really believe in “one holy catholic and apostolic Church”? If so, can you point it out? (I have the sinking sense that I’ll be pointed to the ‘invisible church’.)

    And do you really “acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins” or so you think that baptism isn’t needed for remission of sins?

    Nota bene: Be careful should you try to do any reinterpretation of the Creed. Remember my background.

  • 48. HeIsSailing  |  June 22, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    LeoPardus, forget it. Grace apparantly does not want to touch our questions and objections in coments 41 and 43. Last year, a Christian friend pointed to all the ‘changed lives’ as sure evidence of God’s presence in Christians. When I brought up the same objections that I did in comment 43, she did what Grace – and every other Christian who makes similar claims seems to do – clam up, ignore it, and pretend the problem does not exist.

  • 49. grace  |  June 22, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    Leo, I’m not touching this whole controversy about the filoque clause with a ten foot pole. (laughing)

    HeIsailing, sometimes I get lost in these comments, and neglect to address everyone. It’s generally not deliberate, though.

    I don’t think changed lives can conclusively prove the existence of God, although it’s one evidence out there. I initially made this
    comment in response to Leo’s post that seemed to indicate that no
    Christians were real in terms of their lives, or priorities. I disagree.

    But, I agree that it’s true that people’s lives can be impacted by other things as well.

    Guys, I can only share my personal witness with you that knowing Christ has made a tremendous difference in my life. But, you don’t know me, and I certainly have no way of proving this across the internet.

    I can understand your perspective, but if you stood where I’m at, you would know that no one who is truly in Christ would fail to in many ways be greatly impacted, and changed by His life. Am I going to be able to prove this to you. No. I can’t.

    Hey, I’ll give you the last word here.

  • 50. Noclegi Kotlina Klodzka  |  June 23, 2009 at 6:57 am

    There’d be nothing wrong with religion if it didn’t try to control everything. If they stopped trying to poke their noses into every part of public and private life nobody would mind it.

  • 51. Lucian  |  June 23, 2009 at 7:56 am

    Remember my background.

    Well… we would like not to, thank You very much, and I *think* we’d get a fighting chance at forgeting it if You’ll STOP parading it around 24/7 !!! (Seriously, dude, You should get a job at ancientfaithradio). Geez!

  • 52. Brian  |  June 23, 2009 at 8:54 am

    Leo, you may have done this elsewhere on the site, but can you recommend some good books about the Church history that you mentioned in your post. I know a little, mostly just hearsay stuff from other atheists. I’d like to get an academic lesson on it. Thanks.

  • 53. LeoPardus  |  June 23, 2009 at 11:23 am

    Brian:

    Church history books from anyone in the West are usually poor since for some reason they almost all seem to be unaware of the Eastern Church. By contrast, the Orthodox authors are all quite knowledgeable about the west.

    [Caveat about reading church history. NO ONE writes it objectively. Eastern authors think they have the corner on ultimate truth. Western authors (theistic or not) are ignorant of the East. Theistic authors think there's a God. Non-theistic authors usually don't understand theism, so they can't write with understanding about many of the movements.]

    That said, I’d recommend Bishop Kallistos Ware’s ‘The Orthodox Church’ as a good, basic source.

    Eighth Day Books history collection is quite impressive. http://eighthdaybooks.com/cgi-bin/ccp51/cp-app.cgi?pg=cat&ref=churchhistory

    Here is an incredible, on line source of primary documents from the early church eras. http://www.voskrese.info/spl/index.html

    From the Wast, Kenneth Scott Latourette is good but very dry.

  • 54. LeoPardus  |  June 23, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Grace:

    I can only share my personal witness with you that knowing Christ has made a tremendous difference in my life.

    And this differs from a Mormon saying, “I bear you my testimony” how? … Or from a Hare Krishna telling you something similar? Sorry, but subjective “goody good vibrations happenin’ in me” are worthless. If there is no objective reality to your faith or deity then there really is nothing to it. (OK. There is wish fulfillment of a sort.)

    I’m not touching this whole controversy about the filoque clause with a ten foot pole.

    Hey, it’s only the pivot point of the biggest split in the history of the Church’s first 1500 years. But that aside……..
    What about the ‘one church’ and baptism?

  • 55. Brian  |  June 23, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Also can you or anyone suggest some good reading on the history surrounding the canonization (?) of the Bible. So often you hear Christians falling back on the infallibility of the Bible and trusting implicitly that a bunch of men sitting around a conference room were somehow able to pick only the God inspired books while ditching the rest. Surely there must be a decent narrative history of that somewhere.

  • 56. LeoPardus  |  June 23, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Brian: (post 55)

    The best book out there is still F.F. Bruce “The Canon of Scripture”. Yeah, he’s a Christian, but he is a scholar and he is honest.
    One thing I was stunned to learn from reading him was that the NT Canon was not as “closed” after Carthage as we are often led to believe. In fact there were still Protestant Bibles being printed with “apocryphal” books in them even into the 1900′s.

  • 57. Charon  |  July 10, 2009 at 1:56 am

    Just to leave the record straight on the movie Amazing Grace:

    Newton was not involved in any way, shape, or form in this movie or the historical events about which it was made. William Wilberforce was born in 1759. Isaac Newton died in 1727. Even Hollywood didn’t change things that much.

  • 58. Charon  |  July 10, 2009 at 1:58 am

    “Where’s Goddo?”

    Goddo sounds just how one would pronounce Godot with an American accent… waiting for Goddo? Waiting for Godot…

    Okay, I think that’s funny, but then I’m the kind of person who’s made Beckett jokes before.

  • 59. LeoPardus  |  July 10, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Charon:

    JOHN Newton. Not Isaac.

  • 60. Anonymous  |  July 10, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Hey, its ok, Charon, a honest misunderstanding. We all have plenty of them, don’t we?? :)

    Did you happen to see the movie? It’s pretty inspiring.

    Your girlfriend would probably enjoy it. Newton, the former slave-trader, after his conversion became an Anglican priest.

  • 61. Anonymous  |  July 10, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Yes! Someone made a theatre reference!

  • 62. paleale  |  July 10, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    That was me, btw, cheering for the Gadot mention.

  • 63. miles  |  September 10, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Hi LeoPardus,
    Did the problem of the messianic prophecies play a role in your deconversion? The apologists love to use the prophecies as a proof, but honest investigation shows otherwise.

  • 64. LeoPardus  |  September 10, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    miles:

    No. Messianic prophecies didn’t play a role in my de-conversion. As a believer I accepted them. Since de-converting I’ve looked at them with an unclouded eye and been able to see them for what they are; cherry picked, post-hoc-ergo-propter-hoc silliness.

    I can see how an honest look at them could be an issue for someone as part of their own de-conversion process. They simply weren’t in my personal case.

  • 65. No_limits94  |  October 10, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    I completed a graduated degree, and work as a researcher now. ,

  • 66. Faggot46  |  October 13, 2009 at 2:32 am

    I felt they were making fun of, if anything, "wannabe white boys" you know? ,

  • 67. Faggot83  |  October 22, 2009 at 2:38 am

    For many staff, this can be an eye- opening experience. ,

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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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