Irrespective of What You Think – My de-Conversion Story

June 18, 2009 at 7:52 pm 147 comments

I was raised Catholic though my parents were hardly devout. Looking back, I sometimes wonder why they brought us to church at all. I can only assume it was out of some kind of unspoken obligation to their parents. I received my first communion, was an altar boy and felt a certain degree of closeness toward God. At the very least I never questioned that He was real, even though I frequently got into trouble for acting out in Sunday school. My family attended church dutifully, if not faithfully, until I was confirmed in sixth grade, at which point we stopped going altogether.

I tell you this so you’ll know, I didn’t de-convert because of overbearing parents who left a bad impression of my religion. Even though I was initially “forced” into the church, when I started going back at the age of seventeen, it was entirely my decision. An easy one at that. Fear of Hell drove me into the pews. That’s the one thing Catholics (and later, I would realize, all Christians) are really good at—putting the fear of eternal damnation into you, just in case God’s love wasn’t enough. But once I came back, I was in all the way. I went to confession, received communion and prayed my Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s every single night. I met with my priest on several occasions. He was a good and saintly man, and he comforted and encouraged me in my faith while at the same time challenging me to go deeper.

I will always view that summer before college as the time when my faith was at its strongest, its most unshakeable. I read the Catechism. I stopped cursing. I received communion every week (sometimes several times) and went to confession as often as possible. As the ultimate act of devotion for a seventeen-year-old boy, I even gave up masturbation once I read it was a “mortal sin.” I had zero doubt I was on the right path and I couldn’t believe there were people in this world who didn’t believe in God.

Despite going to an incredibly liberal college in an incredibly liberal city, my faith remained strong, though I did begin to compromise on certain “social issues”. I drank, I cursed, I had gay friends. The masturbation thing went out the window after six months, as eventually did the no sex before marriage thing. By the time I graduated, you could probably have labeled me as just a general “theist.” Though I still identified myself as Catholic and continued to attend mass every Sunday, my general outlook on religion was that it didn’t matter which god you had faith in, so long as you had faith in something.

Then I met a girl. Her dad was an Evangelical preacher. Curious, I went to his church and was blown away by the service. The preaching. The music. The people. When Catholic Mass is all you’ve ever known, going to a church where the songs are fast, where the sermon is engaging, and where the people look genuinely happy to be there, is like a breath of fresh air. Of course, mixed in with all that came a whiff of sourness, since, according to my new girlfriend’s father, Jesus was the only way to God. The only way to Heaven. All other ways, by default, led to Hell. Throw in a couple of comments about the evils of homosexuality and I suddenly wondered if all that music and clapping were just pretty dressings on something otherwise ugly.

And yet, something in the way my future father-in-law preached a personal relationship with Jesus rang true to my soul. In the Catholic Church of my youth, God and Jesus were impersonal figures, entities you approached with solemnity via a priest or a pre-written prayer. The idea of going to God with boldness, with songs of praise, with a prayer you made up on the spot seemed somehow more… real. More true. I still couldn’t stomach the idea that so many people would be going to Hell simply because they’d picked the “wrong god”. But I was willing to table that feeling for the moment in order to figure out if Jesus really was “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” A few months later, I came up for my first altar call and asked Jesus into my heart.

I tell you this so you’ll know, I didn’t de-convert because the conviction of God made me run and hide in my own sin. When I became an Evangelical Christian, it was a conscious decision, something I did despite the parts that felt wrong. I recall having a conversation with a highly spiritual friend around this time who said I was becoming close-minded in my attitude toward religion. Even now, I tend to disagree. For the first time in my life my mind was opening to the possibility that maybe God really did only have one straight and narrow path. My friend said she refused to believe that any God would send people to Hell. To which I responded, “If God is an eternal and sovereign being, don’t you think He is who He is irrespective of what you think? Irrespective of whether or not you like it? Irrespective of whether or not it makes sense?”

I started reading the Bible for the first time in my life and the first thing I noticed was how wrong the Catholics had gotten it. Things like the divinity of Mary, the origin of the papacy, their theories concerning end times… none of it, as near as I could tell, was biblically based. The realizations were encouraging. Now that I was doing the work I could actually see results. At church I sang with feeling. I listened to sermons with rapt attention. When I prayed, I prayed with all my might. I spent a good deal of time online in Christian forums, asking questions and exploring my faith. A month before my wedding, I proved my commitment to Jesus by being baptized, and I looked forward to the day when the Holy Spirit Itself would baptize me, causing me to speak in tongues. I still had a hard time getting over the whole “Jesus or Hell” dogma, but I simply put faith in God and trusted that He would reveal the wisdom I needed when the time was right.

I tell you this so you’ll know, I didn’t de-convert because I refused to seek God where He was. As irony would have it, it was the very act of seeking a deeper knowledge of Him that eventually led me away from the faith. As I read my Bible, I would make notes about things that struck me, things that spoke to me, and things that confused me. Especially things that confused me. A pious man of God gave his daughters to an angry mob to be raped? God encouraged Hebrew warriors to slaughter every man, woman and child, but keep the virgins for themselves? David had how many wives? How many whores? How many egregious sins? And yet he was a man after God’s own heart?

But the most damaging passage of all came from the Gospel of Luke, where the writer gives the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to Adam. To Adam! The first man. It didn’t take a math whiz to realize there weren’t enough generations between Jesus and Adam to account for all of human history. I’d always assumed the Bible never really mentioned anything about the origins of humankind beyond the account in Genesis. I figured, if anything, it was just a bunch of vague fables and symbolic allegories that you could never really prove or refute. Yet here they were, providing us with a definitive timeline that even a seventh grade Western Civ student could identify as false.

I asked several “seasoned Christians” about the passage and they gave me some answers that weren’t really answers: “there’s a gap between Genesis 1 and 2… a day to the Lord is as a thousand years… we don’t know how long Adam and Eve were in the garden.” And when I asked what I considered to be natural follow-up questions, they responded the way one might deal with a petulant child. They’d tell me with a huff that I just needed to have faith, or that questions of origins “had no bearing on salvation.” Which struck me as the worst kind of cop out. After all, if even one verse in the inerrant Word of God could be called into question, how could you trust any of it?

This happened a lot over the next few years. Especially with pastors and people who fancied themselves biblical scholars. If something confused me, I could get in perhaps three questions (four if they were really patient) before they’d throw up their hands, assume I was being willfully difficult and end the discussion by telling me to pray on it, or by recommending a book by a Christian author… which usually did no better a job of answering my question than they had.

Mind you, I was never the kind of person who needed every confusing thing spelled out in order to believe. I understood that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In a lot of cases, I found the questions to be kind of exciting. For instance, who were these “sons of God” who could supposedly impregnate human women? What did the prophecies really say about the timing of the Rapture? Why did Satan rebel against God in the first place? After all, no matter how much pride you have, nobody picks a fight unless they’re pretty sure they can win. Speculating on questions like these actually fueled my spiritual curiosity and encouraged me to dig deeper.

Still, it did bother me that the Bible disagreed externally with science and history. Evolution aside, the Old Testament writers certainly seemed to be saying the earth was flat and the sun arced around it. And wasn’t it worrisome that no contemporary writers even mentioned Jesus or any of the miracles that put Judea into such an uproar? How does raising Lazarus from the dead not catch the attention of at least one historian? For that matter, how did it not catch the attention of the other three gospel writers? Turns out, what bothered me most was how the Bible disagreed internally with itself. Explain it away however you want, the four Gospels do give differing accounts of the crucifixion. Follow the footnotes whenever Jesus fulfills a prophesy and you realize that, quite often, the prophetic verse had nothing to do in context with whatever Jesus did to fulfill it.

Those questions which “had no bearing on salvation” eventually gave way to questions that did. Because salvation, according to the brand of Christianity I was following, depended entirely on believing in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. But it’s hard to believe when the book you base your faith on seems like nothing more than a bunch of well-intentioned fairy tales… or worse, a pack of outright lies. Taken out of context, even the Adam and Eve story is little more than some Greek myth entitled, “How the Snake Lost its Legs.” Taken out of context, the story of Jonah sounds no less a kid’s fable than “Pinocchio.” If someone from another religion were to pass along a similar tale from their own holy book, we’d laugh that smug little Christian laugh and marvel at how blinded from the Truth they were.

The more I read the Bible, the more it pointed me toward one scary conclusion: my entire faith had been founded on bullshit. I tried desperately not to believe it. I tried to believe that these deeper nagging questions, the ones I didn’t dare ask out loud, were simply the work of the devil sowing seeds of doubt.

I tell you this so you’ll know, I didn’t de-convert because I didn’t know the Word of God. I knew it. Certainly not as well as others who can (and do) quote Scripture at will. But I knew enough to recognize it was severely damaging my ability to believe. I gradually turned all spiritual attention toward prayer and first-person experience.

A lot of Christians will tell you “God isn’t a feeling.” You can’t depend on your human senses to reveal eternal Truth. Mind you, these are often the same people who fall on the floor, speak in tongues and claim their prayers have been answered simply because it “felt right.” But that’s beside the point. When God’s own instruction manual is pushing you farther and farther from the faith, all you can rely on is God Himself to bring you back. Call it a “feeling.” Call it an “experience.” Call it a “revelation.” All I knew was I needed something. Anything.

While I tended to look with annoyance and suspicion upon people who spoke in tongues and who worshiped Jesus with vocal abandon, the truth is I envied them. They really did believe they were experiencing something. I wanted a taste of that. I wanted it so badly. And so I prayed. I begged God to reveal Himself to me the way he had to them. The best I can say is I occasionally felt a pleasant kind of buzzing during times of prayer, a mild euphoria during worship. But these weren’t any different than the things I can feel while hiking to a vista, singing along at a rock concert or watching “Field of Dreams”.

My prayer mantra became a quote from the book of Mark: “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” A man says this prayer after Jesus tells him he can heal his daughter, “if only he believes.” This had always struck me as an amazingly honest prayer. What’s the point, after all, in lying to the Creator of the universe who knows your innermost thoughts anyway? If I was having trouble believing, surely God already knew that. And if there was any prayer that He would answer, certainly that would be it. And so I prayed over and over again, “I believe in you as much as my human self is able, Lord Jesus. But please God, you have to help me the rest of the way because I don’t think I can do it anymore.

I tell you this so you’ll know, I didn’t de-convert because I never tried to have a personal relationship with Jesus. I cannot convey how much I wanted exactly that. It always amazed me how my fellow Christians could have such an abundant prayer life, such a close friendship with God. I don’t know if they were hearing back from Him in a way that I was not, but for me, the one-way pseudo-dialog had finally became too heartbreaking to continue.

Praying wasn’t working. The Bible wasn’t working. Talking to other Christians had proved fruitless years ago because they kept shoving increasingly useless books in my face and telling me to “just have more faith.” I know they meant well, but none of them could realize I’d reached a point where I had nothing to base my faith on. If I couldn’t base it on the Bible and I couldn’t base it on personal experience, was I to base my faith on faith? But how was I to know I was basing my faith on the right faith? Through faith? None of them could see the circular logic in that. Does one believe in something because they have faith? Or do they believe in it because it’s the Truth? And how do they know it’s the Truth? Faith?

Besides discussion forums on the internet, the only person I could talk to about these matters was my wife. Because, quite frankly, she was the only Christian I knew who wouldn’t play mental gymnastics with theology. If something didn’t make sense, she would come right out and admit, “Yeah, I don’t get that either.” It felt good to actually discuss these things, knowing I wouldn’t get a huffy “just pray on it” after asking one question too many. At the same time, I envied her the way I envied all Christians who were able to believe without question… or to believe in the face of questions.

I don’t think even I realized how close to the edge of unbelief I was. I can remember praying for several atheist friends one day and begging God to fill them with the Holy Spirit so they’d believe. I’d stopped asking Him to bless me with the gift of tongues long ago. After almost eight years, it felt like that prayer had been answered with a definitive “no.” Instead, I prayed, “Lord, I will never not believe in You. So please, bless my friends with that gift so that they might believe in You too.” I honestly believed that no matter how many questions I had, my faith was at least strong enough to survive all out atheism. The reality of God simply seemed more logical than the alternative.

Two months later, I followed a link to the following de-conversion story and everything unraveled. My only experience with atheists to that point involved people for whom religion had always been a patently crazy idea. But here was the story of somebody like me. His upbringing had been far more fundamentalist than mine, but the turmoil he experienced realizing he was losing his faith was identical. Tears sprung to my eyes and my entire body went numb as realization washed over me. “This is my story.” It put into words all the intangible fears and questions that had plagued my Christian faith since I first asked Jesus into my heart. After that, it was only a matter of time.

Fear of Hell was the only thing that kept me hanging on. Funny thing is, even when my faith was at its strongest, Hell never made sense to me. Christians would always say that Hell had to exist because “our God is just God and He can’t allow sin into His presence.” But sending somebody to Hell (or even “allowing them to choose Hell” as some Christians like to spin it) would be akin to a parent letting their three-year-old run away from home… then beating the shit out of them nonstop for the rest of their life and calling it “justice”. It simply doesn’t make sense, especially for a God who’s supposed to love us as a father loves his children. After all, what are we in the grand scheme of eternity but little kids who don’t know any better? But, as I’d said to my friend years before, God is who He is irrespective of what we think or whether or not it makes sense. And if it turned out that He was, in fact, willing to torture me for all eternity simply because I’d picked the wrong answer, well, didn’t I owe it to myself to give faith one more chance?

I waited until everyone in the house had gone to sleep, then got down on my knees and pleaded with God to pull me back from the brink. I begged him to be the Abba, Daddy, Father He claimed to be in the Bible. Because no father who loves his children would let them walk into a pit of fire. No matter how rotten my son had acted, no matter how rebellious, no matter how much of a pain in the ass he’d been even moments before, I would drop everything to save him. I would tackle him if necessary, wrap him in a bear hug and say, “I don’t care how much you hate me. I love you too much to let you do this.” It seems only reasonable to expect my eternal Father—who supposedly loves me more than anyone else in the whole universe—to do the same.

Christians will say I was testing God by demanding a sign. “Do you ask your own parents to prove they love you?” they ask rhetorically. No I don’t, but I have no doubt that they do, because they’ve shown me my entire life. I don’t want a sign from my Dad. I want a friggin’ hug! A real conversation. I want Him to tell me He loves me… and not via a “letter” He wrote and xeroxed to all His other “kids” before we were born.

Kneeling on the floor that night I squeezed my hands together and prayed: “I love you, Lord. I want to believe in you more than anything. I want to believe you love me too. Please, please help me. You say that a father will not give his son a rock when he asks for a piece of bread. Please don’t give me silence when all I need is comfort.”

The only response was my own voice reflecting off the walls.

A few months later, I read the popular Christian fiction book THE SHACK. In one scene, the lead character watches his dead daughter playing in a field of flowers in Heaven. Standing there next to him, God assures the man that they’ll be together again someday. It’s such a simple yet beautiful scene, and I suddenly found tears rolling down my face as the realization hit: it’s never going to happen. If something horrible happens to me or my family, there will be no comfort in Heaven, no joyous reunion in the clouds, no loving Father to wipe the tears from our eyes. It was at that moment I knew, without a doubt, I was no longer a Christian. No longer a believer. At least not in a God who cared one way or the other about me. It was, perhaps, the most hollow feeling of my entire life.

I tell you this so you’ll know, I didn’t de-convert because I wanted to. Losing faith broke my heart in ways I never thought possible. God had been such a constant throughout my life. He’d been a source of strength, comfort and hope. Knowing that all we see was just the prelude to something bigger and better encouraged and motivated me. I didn’t want to believe that this is all there was. I wanted to believe that once I was with my Father in Heaven, everything would be wonderful, amazing, perfect. But as I’d always known, as I’d always feared, God is who He is (or isn’t) irrespective of what I want.

Breaking the news to my wife wasn’t easy. But after the initial shock and kneejerk assumption that this would ruin our marriage and the lives of our children, she has been amazingly understanding, if not entirely empathetic. Not that I blame her. More than anything she feels genuinely sorry for me, for what I’ve lost. At the same time, I know she worries for my soul. I know because I used to worry the same way about friends and family who weren’t saved. Believing that your loved ones will be burned and tortured for all eternity, or even just believing you’ll never see them again after this life passes… it’s a gut-wrenching burden.

That’s why I don’t mind that she prays for me every day. Prays for me to come to my senses. Prays that God would reveal whatever it is I think I need in order to believe again. I’ve agreed to continue going to church and supporting our children’s Christian upbringing. At least for the time being. Our congregation doesn’t preach the kind of fire and brimstone you get at other churches. They don’t stand outside funeral homes chanting “God Hates Fags.” They’re refreshingly global with their missionary work, putting money into missions that do tangible good, as opposed to simply “spreading the message.” So I’m willing to play along at least until the kids are old enough to understand my decision and handle its emotional implications. Just like with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, I have no interest in robbing them of their belief in magic and imaginary friends before they’re ready.

I tell you this so you’ll know, despite no longer believing in God, I understand how important belief is in people’s lives. I’m not on a crusade to convert others out of the faith. Nor, on the other hand, will I stand idly by while faith-based initiatives running counter to my ideals get pushed through Congress. My morals, my responsibilities, my sense of right and wrong no longer arise out of fear of divine retribution, but out of my own desire to make this world a better place. As Richard Dawkins once said: “We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.” The same goes for Hell. As a Christian, I never had to fear the consequences of not being Muslim or not being Hindu, because I knew those beliefs to be false. Now I simply apply that mentality to the Hell of all religions, including the one I followed for thirty years.

Despite overcoming that mental hurdle, I know the road ahead won’t be easy. My de-conversion didn’t happen in a vacuum. I have a wife, children, family and friends. People I love very much. People who are going to worry themselves sick for as long as I walk “outside the light.” It’s not a matter of judgment or anger for them. They love and sincerely want the best for me, but it’s impossible not to feel a sense of dread when you believe someone so close to you will burn for all eternity. I will never fault them for that. If I thought it would do any good, I would pray comfort on their souls.

I tell you this so you’ll know, I didn’t de-convert because I had no good models of Christian living. Quite the contrary, despite the occasional personality conflict, the Christians I have known—Catholics and Evangelicals alike—were decent, intelligent, patently not crazy people. In their daily lives, they embodied the very model of Christ-like behavior that everyone else should emulate. They gave me a bed to sleep in when I had no money. They invited me to dinner when I was far from home. More often than not, they were friendly and compassionate, even to people they knew to be sinners. Their passion for God was infectious rather than off-putting. If anything, they are the reason I stuck with it as long as I did. But a story’s truth cannot exist on the strength of its storytellers alone. And as much as I hate breaking the hearts of the people I love, I simply cannot bring myself to believe their fairy tale, however well-intentioned, any longer.

- Brian (guest contributor)

Entry filed under: ~Guest. Tags: , , , .

My steps out of Christianity The Sky’s the Limit- a Poetic look at De-converting

147 Comments Add your own

  • 1. orDover  |  June 18, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    What a powerful story. Thank you so much for taking the time to write it out and share it with us. I particularly like the structure you used, attempting to shut down the classic Christian arguments against de-conversion before they eve had a chance to be voiced. It also gave your story a heartbreaking sense of introspection, honesty and rhythm.

    I’m glad this site has been a helpful source for you. That’s what it’s here for after all…not to argue with Christians, but to support those on their way out.

  • 2. BigHouse  |  June 18, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    Remarkable story that I read while on the edge of my seat. Thanks for sharing what a lot of us have also experienced.

  • 3. Ubi Dubium  |  June 18, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    That was amazing. And just as reading someone else’s story helped you put together your fears and questions, I’m sure that your story will help someone else free themselves from dogma and fear. I was going to write a long note of admiration for this post, but I don’t think I could say it any better than OrDover just did. Thank you, Brian, for your sincerity.

  • 4. CheezChoc  |  June 18, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    Brian, that was superbly written.

  • 5. Quester  |  June 18, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    Thank-you, Brian. I can’t write my story so concisely, and it’s nice to see one so helpfully- and non-judgementally- laid out. Like you, learning the Bible better weakened my faith more than any other contributing factor. Like you, I received The Shack shortly after deconverting, and could not accept it. Like you, I have many good models of Christians around me who I don’t want to hurt.

    That last one’s the hardest.

  • 6. Jeffrey  |  June 19, 2009 at 12:01 am

    I really like this story. It especially mirrored my experience in that it perfectly expresses how the problem is Christianity itself, and not Christians.

    My favorite section:

    >If I couldn’t base it on the Bible and I couldn’t base it on personal experience, was I to base my faith on faith? But how was I to know I was basing my faith on the right faith? Through faith? None of them could see the circular logic in that. Does one believe in something because they have faith? Or do they believe in it because it’s the Truth? And how do they know it’s the Truth? Faith?

    When this finally hits home, it hits home hard. Most of the ways of believing in Christianity involve starting at different points on the circle. To really understand this, you have to continually chase the reasoning backwards looking for a place to stand until you return to the approach that you rejected in the first place.

    And then you have to hear over and over again “but if you had just started at my place on the circle, you’d still believe.”

  • 7. LeoPardus  |  June 19, 2009 at 12:13 am

    Excellent Brian. There’s a lot of this I really identify with. Thanks for writing in for us all.

  • 8. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 19, 2009 at 1:09 am

    This is an incredible story. Very well written. I wish I had the capacity to put my thoughts into words like this so I could tell my story in such a compelling manner.

  • 9. Aussie Ali  |  June 19, 2009 at 2:56 am

    Yes I absolutely agree.

    When you said
    “My prayer mantra became a quote from the book of Mark: “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”

    That was one of the ones I used to cling to as well.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  • 10. Brian  |  June 19, 2009 at 6:49 am

    Thanks everyone for your comments and support! And thanks more for the support you’ve given me these past six months or so. I really had never heard the term “de-conversion” in this context until the day I read that first de-conversion story. The people here and on the forums have been so helpful and understanding, answering my questions and not getting annoyed when, in the midst of my fear of losing faith, I asked question after clarifying question. Since you’ve all been through it before yourselves, you knew (unlike entrenched Christians or lifelong atheists) just how hard it was for someone like me to go through. I really can’t thank you enough for helping me get through this gutwrenching processes.

  • 11. Tilly  |  June 19, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Brian, this was beautifully written. I like the part about the circular struggle of faith. I have had this argument with myself many times. I feel that your story has made me a little more comfortable with my own de-conversion process. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • 12. Kyle  |  June 19, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Brian, your story is very well written and you have opened up your experience of inner conflict with great transparency. It is good to hear that you and your wife have been able to maintain your relationship and work together towards figuring out how to navigate your family’s future now that there is this new twist in your family situation. I wish you the best in that endeavor.

    Thank you also for your detailed account of the timeline of your struggle. I am a follower of Christ, but I don’t disagree with you about the path you have taken – or, perhaps more accurately, the path to which your reason led you (not so much an intentional choice, but a consistent response to what you found to be the truth). Perhaps you are correct and I am the one who is mistaken. I have questioned almost all of the things you mention, I have just come to different conclusions.

    But if the choice were between disbelief due to the difficult questions you raise and belief in light of the simplistic answers it seems you were provided, I would certainly have gone with disbelief as a act of intellectual honesty. But man, as you say, that must have been a very gutwrenching process.

  • 13. Slapdash  |  June 19, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Very well written and I related to many of the moments and thoughts you describe. The inherent injustice of an infinite hell for finite sins hit me particularly hard…as well as the idea that I really needed a hug from Jesus, something to signal that a real relationship existed instead of an elaborate imaginary friend.

  • 14. GA  |  June 19, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Hi Brian,

    Thank you for sharing your story, my favorite sentence (question) was

    ” Why did Satan rebel against God in the first place? After all, no matter how much pride you have, nobody picks a fight unless they’re pretty sure they can win”

    Regards
    GA

  • 15. Joe  |  June 19, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    “Why did Satan rebel against God in the first place? After all, no matter how much pride you have, nobody picks a fight unless they’re pretty sure they can win. Speculating on questions like these actually fueled my spiritual curiosity and encouraged me to dig deeper”.

    Brian–

    I’m sure you have heard the oft told story of the man who walks into a McDonald’s or other crowded place, shoots a bunch of people and then kills himself? It is so common we wait for the sentence “after shooting the victims the gunman turned the gun on himself”.

    And what this person is doing is “picking a fight” he cannot win in the least. And he is taking out his problems, or his pride, or his hatred on others and then on himself. He reasons “if I’m going down I’m going to take a bunch of others with me”. This is very real and we see it’s affects on the news every few months or so.

    This is Satan’s plan in microcosm. He has picked a fight he cannot win, yet is crazy enough to continue with it. He ALSO reasons “If I’m going to go down then I’m taking as many with me as I possibly can”. We can scoff at that—-but if we see smaller versions of this scenario happen with increasing frequency, who’s to say there is not a much LARGER version of that same scenario taking place?

    It’s just part of your whole post above—but your statement stood out to me. I would just say that MANY people pick fights they know inside they cannot win.

  • 16. Joe  |  June 19, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Brian—

    I posted above about Satan etc., but really did want to address your article. It is very well written by the way. You show very clearly why you deconverted in a very concise manner. Reading your story though caused me to look back on my own conversion experience, and why I am still a Christian 36 years later.

    I am sure you have seen the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. If you remember, in that movie, Richard Dreyfuss has an “encounter” and an “image” is implanted in his memory that he simply cannot put out of his mind. He tries to construct the image out of mashed potatoes, and eventually constructs a huge replica of this “image” in his own living room. He finally sees the image on TV and it is a place—and he absolutely has to go there. He is being DRAWN to that place and HAS TO find out why.

    Every time I see this movie it reminds me of my conversion experience. The reason I say this is because the day I accepted Christ something was implanted within me through the Holy Spirit. And the “spiritual image” was so strong I have never been able to forget it. For two to three years after I first became a Christian God’s presence was very real in my life. It was so strong I absolutely could not deny it—-I still remember it to this day. Shortly thereafter though that presence left. I believe God wanted me to learn to walk by faith.

    During the 30 or so years since then I had (1) time where that HUGE experience of God’s presence returned—but almost all of the rest of the time has been dryness—like walking in a wilderness. Not that I am not encouraged by God’s promises, and answers to prayer (though far more infrequent than I would like)—but what I mean is that that “first taste” I had as a new Christian was far more real than anything I have ever experienced since.

    But I have to emphasize this—-it was SO REAL that there is NO WAY I can deny it. I can TRY not to believe—-but
    I ALWAYS remember those first few years—and I recall what was implanted within me. A knowledge of God and the hope of Heaven. It is still there—I just don’t FEEL it any more—-I now see it by the eye of faith. And just like Richard Dreyfuss in that movie, I cannot “shake off” what I KNOW I have seen and felt.

    Sure—the movie is fiction. But it holds within it a very real example of what a Christian has experienced. That is why deconversion amazes me so very much. I read stories like yours with wonder. Because no matter how dry my Christian walk might have become at times, or how much I may doubt, or even complain about unanswered prayer—–something happened that I ABSOLUTELY CANNOT DENY. 36 years later and there is no way to deny it. I can say “oh, it was just an emotional experience you conjured up”–but I KNOW that is not the case——what I experienced was far more than some self-conjured emotional experience. There is absolutely no way I could have conjured up what I felt and experienced—-especially because I was all alone and had no idea what conversion even was!

    So I have to say that I enjoyed your story—but to me it reads like a fictional story would—-something you know could never be real in your own life. I hope you understand what I am saying. Your story reads to me like one would form someone who said they had visited Venus a year ago in a space ship. :>) Because after experiencing, and knowing what I know, deconversion seems impossible—because I cannot deny what happened to me—to do so would be foolishness. It would be like me trying to deny my own physical birth. :>)

    But you are one hell of a good writer though.

  • 17. HeIsSailing  |  June 19, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Brian, thanks for the story. My expereince and de-conversion was vastly different from yours, but I – and countless other deconverts – can relate to this statement from your story:

    As irony would have it, it was the very act of seeking a deeper knowledge of Him that eventually led me away from the faith.

    Boy, ain’t that the truth? I had recently gotten married, and wanted to search the Scriptures so God could make me a wise husband for a successful marraige. Faith slowly vanished from that point on….

    It is important for people like you to tell your stories – because like you needed to read one when you were leaving Christianity, others will read yours – and be encouraged by it.

  • 18. BigHouse  |  June 20, 2009 at 7:19 am

    Joe, how do you get from the powerful emotional experience to believing a very specific sect’s doctrine?

  • 19. Brian  |  June 20, 2009 at 10:26 am

    Joe, I completely understand what you’re saying and the Close encounters analogy was a valid one. And perhaps if I’d had an experience like yours this story would never have been posted. But what is a person to do when they don’t have that experience that they cannot deny, and they have a book that does nothing to fill in that void? How, at the very least are they to accept, as Big House said, a very specific sect of believers’ doctrine? Until God can give me that undeniable experience, I have no choice but to assume that either he doesn’t exist or that at the very least, every other religion’s god is equally valid.

  • 20. GA  |  June 20, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Joe,

    If I understand you correctly, you kind of “dismiss” his non experience as a personal experience, and then you try to validate your point by your own personal experience!

    GA

  • 21. Jeffrey  |  June 21, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    >During the 30 or so years since then I had (1) time where that HUGE experience of God’s presence returned—but almost all of the rest of the time has been dryness—like walking in a wilderness.

    I’m glad to hear it’s sporadic. If you always felt like God was talking back to you, I would suspect that you had some sort of mental illness.

    Your post reminds me of something a wrote on my blog a couple months ago:

    Imagine what it would be like if atheists thought this way. We’d have motivational speakers telling us things like:

    I know sometimes you might see crazy things like someone healed right in front of you, but just try not to see God in it. Sometimes, you might find yourself in a place where it’s just obvious God has done something. It just doesn’t make sense any other way. But don’t believe it! It doesn’t have to make sense. If you need one, find a support group to help you not believe even after you’ve seen a miracle. You aren’t the only one this has happened to! Lots of atheists in the past have seen miracles and still found a way to have faith in God’s non-existence! You can do it too!

  • 22. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 21, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    36 years later and there is no way to deny it. I can say “oh, it was just an emotional experience you conjured up”–but I KNOW that is not the case——what I experienced was far more than some self-conjured emotional experience. There is absolutely no way I could have conjured up what I felt and experienced—-especially because I was all alone and had no idea what conversion even was!

    “Knowing” it is true does not make it so. The brain can conjure up far more “real” experiences than the one you describe. And yet, somehow, you “know” that your experience of God’s “presence” is more real than someone having a vivid hallucination where they can see, hear, touch, taste and smell something that isn’t really there.

    What kind of pathetically weak god can only reveal himself in ways that are less convincing than hallucinations?

  • 23. finallyhappy  |  June 22, 2009 at 8:36 am

    I’ve read your story several times since its posting and I must say for myself, THANK YOU for putting into words that which has proven difficult for me to explain.

  • 24. Brian  |  June 22, 2009 at 9:17 am

    (blush) Thank YOU finallyhappy, and everyone else who’s had such nice things to say. Knowing you have company, knowing you’re not alone, knowing there are people out there who can say, “I understand EXACTLY what you’re going through,” was at times the only thing that made this process easier.

  • 25. Joe  |  June 22, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    “What kind of pathetically weak god can only reveal himself in ways that are less convincing than hallucinations?”(#22)

    Snuggly—

    I wish I had a better way to explain myself. I was “handed” a Gospel of John by someone. I only had a small inkling of what was written in the book. All they said to me was “there is still time” which I completely did not understand. I sat the booklet down for several days and did not read it.

    Later, a few days later, when I had some time, I went to my room alone and began to read it. At first it was like a “history” book to me. It didn’t mean anything. But I continued to read and as I did something completely changed. It was no longer a history book–Someone was talking to me—and I KNEW it in my heart. I cannot explain this—just as a baby could not explain why that woman with the gentle smiling face brings so much comfort to them. The baby just yearns for that woman’s embrace–it doesn’t realize yet perhaps that that woman is their mother.

    How can I describe this? Small children run to their mother because they know they will receive an embrace they are expecting and yearning for. A baby cries knowing that a very gentle woman (who they later will KNOW is their mother) will come and pick them up, and they will be fed and comforted.

    I, as a brand new Christian has these same intense feelings. I did not “conjure” them up—-I wasn’t even expecting them at all. But I was engulfed with comforting love—and a presence so real and kind that words cannot describe it in any way. This continued for several months. But, as I mentioned, these “feelings” were withdrawn after time—-I believe so that I would learn to walk by faith and not feelings and sensations.

    BUT—-the short time I experienced them was so real and intense, and so life-changing—–THERE IS NO WAY I CAN DENY IT. Just as a little child cannot deny the comfort and love they receive in the arms of their mother, so neither can I deny what took place back then—-to do so would be to deny something I KNOW without a doubt happened to me. I simply cannot.

  • 26. paleale  |  June 22, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    has no one picked up on Joe’s psychoanalysis of the devil in post #15? Sorry, I can’t really let that one slip by.

    Joe, did you have a chance to interview Satan? I mean, where did you get this remarkably in-depth perspective on the motivations behind Lucifer’s actions? The biblical references are few and far between and all pretty sketchy with no real explanations given about his plan or motives.

    This is just another example of how the church has continued to develop and embellish upon the mythology in the bible.

  • 27. HeIsSailing  |  June 22, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    paleale:

    The biblical references are few and far between and all pretty sketchy nonexistant with no real explanations given about his plan or motives.

    Sorry paleale – I could not let that go.

    In all fairness though, I used to wonder this as a kid – why was Satan so bent on sending alll us people to Hell? He rebelled against God – what bone do I have in that fight?? The ol’ Bible is silent on this issue, which just leads to guesses like Joe’s from comment 15:

    He ALSO reasons “If I’m going to go down then I’m taking as many with me as I possibly can”

    OK. That is all it is though – guesswork.

  • 28. Joe  |  June 22, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    paleale— (#26)

    I base my “conjecture” (because I realize that is all it is—-I cannot say that what I said in #15 is entirely scriptural) on what I read about Satan in Isaiah, Ezekiel and Revelation. In Isaiah there are (7) “I wills” that Lucifer declares–even stating that he will replace God on his throne. For a created being to state that is insanity.

    In Revelation it says that when Satan is cast upon earth “he is filled with anger for he knows his time is short”. He then goes about amassing an army and a leader called “anti-christ”.

    Only someone who is insane would try to do battle with someone they KNOW they cannot defeat. One also has to ask then why he “blinds the minds of the unbelieving” as the Bible says he does. Why would he seek to deceive, mislead and blind men? To what purpose? I postulate this—he KNOWS what his end is—-yet he continues to do battle—and if he is going to go down he is going to take as many with him as he can. That can really be his only motive for wanting others to wind up “lost” and “unbelieving”.

    But again, I realize this is all “conjecture” and is “my opinion”. I do not offer it as scriptural or Biblical. I do have to say when I hear of someone killing a bunch of people and then turning the gun on himself I do think of this conjecture though—I can’t help it.

  • 29. paleale  |  June 22, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    HIS

    I was throwing out a bone and including the serpent in the garden, the devil’s wager with God over Job and the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. There’s the reference in Isaiah 14 about “Lucifer” or “Day Star” or “Venus” that most Christians grab as Satan being cast out of heaven but in context it’s merely a rant about the king of Babylon so while I was tempted to include that in my thinking, I really can’t. Likewise with Jesus’ proclamation that he saw Satan fall from heaven “like lightning”. This seems more like figurative speech given in praise of his 70 returning disciples who are telling him of their actions. So I guess you can’t use that either. Hmm…

    If you rule out the aforementioned snake and wager then all we have left is the temptation story which no one was around to witness.

    Damn, you’re right! The references ARE non-existent.

  • 30. paleale  |  June 22, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    ruling out the snake and wager stories as legend or allegory and not to be taken literally.

  • 31. Brian  |  June 22, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    You know I actually had that same reaction the first time I read the passage about Lucifer. I was like, “Wait, this is supposed to be about Satan? It just sounds like their talking about another evil king to me. What’s so special about this particular passage that make them think it’s about anyone other than some random guy.”

    In a related note, the Pentecostal Evangel this weekend (which they pass out at church) reported a statistic how something like 58 percent of christians don’t believe that Satan is an actual person, but just a symbol representing all evil. It was clearly a source of dismay for the evangelical world. My question was, “What difference does it make even WITHIN the context of belief?” As long as you acknowledge that evil is in the world and you need to resist it, what difference does it make if you ascribe that evil to a specific person or to just “evil of the world” or the “evil of our human nature.” As long as you’re fighting against it with Jesus as your weapon, does it matter what form you believe it takes?

  • 32. Joe  |  June 22, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    “You know I actually had that same reaction the first time I read the passage about Lucifer. I was like, “Wait, this is supposed to be about Satan? It just sounds like their talking about another evil king to me. What’s so special about this particular passage that make them think it’s about anyone other than some random guy.” (#31)

    Brian–

    You need to re-read the passage then. I have pasted it below. Though it is addressed to the “KIng of Tyre” it is definitely speaking of someone cast from heaven. It is far from being “some random guy” as you state—this person was a “Cherub” and was on the “mountain of God” :

    The word of the LORD came to me:”Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says:
    ” ‘You were the model of perfection,
    full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.

    You were in Eden,
    the garden of God;
    every precious stone adorned you:
    ruby, topaz and emerald,
    chrysolite, onyx and jasper,
    sapphire, [b] turquoise and beryl.
    Your settings and mountings were made of gold;
    on the day you were created they were prepared.

    You were anointed as a guardian cherub,
    for so I ordained you.
    You were on the holy mount of God;
    you walked among the fiery stones.
    You were blameless in your ways
    from the day you were created
    till wickedness was found in you.
    Through your widespread trade
    you were filled with violence,
    and you sinned.
    So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God,
    and I expelled you, O guardian cherub,
    from among the fiery stones. Your heart became proud
    on account of your beauty,
    and you corrupted your wisdom
    because of your splendor.
    So I threw you to the earth;
    I made a spectacle of you before kings (Ezekiel 28:11-17)

  • 33. Joe  |  June 22, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Ezekiel 28 first addresses the “Prince” of Tyre, but then changes directions and addresses the “King” of Tyre. And God is obviously addressing a much greater being than an earthly king. He is addressing someone who was once “the model of perfection” and also “perfect in beauty”. It was someone who once walked in the Heavenly Eden on the Mount of God. Compare this with Isaiah 14.

  • 34. Kat  |  June 23, 2009 at 4:18 am

    Hey, Brian. I can really relate to your story — especially the parts where digging into the bible only served to further your doubt in it. Regards.

  • 35. LeoPardus  |  June 23, 2009 at 11:05 am

    I read the passage about Lucifer.

    I was quite surprised one day when my wife was reading Roman mythology to my kids. Suddenly I hear her reading about Lucifer, the bright and Morning Star.
    A little research and I find out that the whole Lucifer myth has its origins outside of the Bible.
    By that time I was already de-converted, but this just drove one more nail into the coffin.

  • 36. Jeff  |  June 23, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Great post Brian. I know everyone has said it but I just wanted to chime in and say that it was really good to read your story. I ended up loosing my marriage over the whole thing and it really sucks for my kids so it is good that you are able to keep that going for the time being. I seriously thought about just plugging back into the matrix a few times for my kids sake but in the end my ex wouldn’t have and I probably couldn’t have kept my mouth shut.

    If it’s ok with you I may re-post your story on my blog.

    Jeff

  • 37. Brian  |  June 23, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    Jeff, I’m fine with it, in fact I encourage it so long as the moderators of this site don’t mind.

  • 38. Rachel  |  June 24, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Brian, thank you so much! I burst into tears as I read your prayer to God – begging Him to just show up. A few days ago, I found myself doing the exact same thing. Thinking, “If God loves me unconditionally, if He is all-powerful, all-seeing, then when I say, ‘Show up – be real – for just a moment – so I know I’m not crazy to believe in you’ – He’ll have to.” – but, like you, all was silent.

    I can’t tell you how grateful I am for your story – it’s a great comfort!

  • 39. Bizarro No. 1  |  June 25, 2009 at 8:07 am

    I could comment on a lot of what you said, but I’ll just pick this – “Fear of Hell drove me into the pews. That’s the one thing Catholics (and later, I would realize, all Christians) are really good at—putting the fear of eternal damnation into you, just in case God’s love wasn’t enough.”

    ALL Christians do that? Really? Do you know every Christian in the world to make such a bold statement? You so obviously don’t that you shouldn’t have made such a foolish statement.

    I am a Christian who believes God loves us as a perfect father does, and therefore wants to spare people all pain. I believe that people who go to Hell go freely because they believe they deserve to, not because God sends them there. If people don’t want to experience Hell, I believe they only have to take proper responsibility for the wrongs they have done to others. Do you believe that sounds like fearmongering?

  • 40. Brian  |  June 25, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Do you know every Christian in the world to make such a bold statement? You so obviously don’t that you shouldn’t have made such a foolish statement.

    (gasp) Run children! Run in fear! It’s worse than death. It’s worse than damnation. Cower and hide from the dreaded… hyperbole.

    If people don’t want to experience Hell, I believe they only have to take proper responsibility for the wrongs they have done to others. Do you believe that sounds like fearmongering?

    No, though it does sound like you’re making it up as you go along. Which is about what the rest of them do… though clearly not ALL of them, lest we get confused again. Some sects believe Jesus is all you need. Some believe its Jesus + works. Some believe you need confession. Some believe you need to sacrifice a sheep. So hey, maybe your version is the one that’s right. Though probably not.

  • 41. Kyle  |  June 25, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Sometimes I wonder whether people submit absurd posts under the guise of the opposition in order to discredit them. Like if Bizarro was really an agnostic or atheist or Buddhist (whatever) and wanted to discredit Christians by saying odd things on their behalf. Unfortunately I realize that is probably not the case.

    Do you know every Christian in the world…

    Not worth commenting on.

    I believe that people who go to Hell go freely because they believe they deserve it.

    No Christian group has ever taught that. Because they believe they deserve it? So if they are murderers but believe that it is OK and they don’t deserve “hell” then they are off the hook?

    We Christians have not done an adequate job thinking about the doctrine of hell and how it is presented. I don’t have all the answers, but I am positive that flames and eternal torture are not a part of it. What would be the point?

    Many early Christians did not teach the one life, one chance view of eternal destiny. So those who are not caught up with God in Christ in this life are not forever abandoned. Hell here would be some form of separation from God – a la C.S. Lewis’ Great Divorce. Although in Lewis’ work, no one ever gets on the bus that goes from hell (a dull, gray town) to heaven. If there is the possibility of “postmortem” salvation, it would be possible to accept God’s love even after death. Think of the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. Why would God ever give up on anyone?

    To me, this also would put these deconversion stories and the lack of God “showing up” in a different perspective.

  • 42. feeno  |  June 25, 2009 at 10:24 am

    Hello Brian
    It was a very well articulated and honest story. And very well written. I can see why all the high praise, especially among others who have de-converted.

    However I do have a question for you and Rachel.
    I too as a Christian pray to God to help my unbelief, or to increase my belief? If I pray to God, “God Show me a sign of…..(name miracle) and then God answers that prayer and performs that miracle, then does this same act for everyone else who asks, why would we need faith? We are blaming God for our unbelief.

    I do like your story, I too had Catholic/Fundie experiences. Peace be unto you.
    feeno

  • 43. LeoPardus  |  June 25, 2009 at 10:37 am

    If I pray to God, “God Show me a sign of…..(name miracle) and then God answers that prayer and performs that miracle, then does this same act for everyone else who asks, why would we need faith?

    Read your Bible. Please name the Bible character who never saw God, or saw a miracle. There are just a couple. The rest of them had no “faith” as you are attempting to define it.

    Sorry man, but blind belief in something for which there is zero objective evidence may be called “faith” by many, but in reality it remains stupidity.

    We are blaming God for our unbelief.

    No. We are blaming the non-existence of a god for our unbelief.

  • 44. feeno  |  June 25, 2009 at 11:28 am

    W’dup Leo

    My question would still be; what were those praying the prayer of “Lord help my unbelief” expecting when they prayed that?
    Both Rachel and Brian prayed that.

    Dueces, feeno

  • 45. Brian  |  June 25, 2009 at 11:39 am

    We were expected no more and no less than what the prayer says: HELP. Help from a father who loves us more than anyone in the universe and who knows us better than we know ourselves. Help from an “all powerful” being who clearly had no trouble answering this prayer in the past, if we’re operating from the mindset that the Bible is accurate.

  • 46. feeno  |  June 25, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Hi Brian

    Thanks for the response, look I’m sympathetic with you. Like I said, I’ve prayed that prayer before as well.

    But “help” is a relative term, how much help do we need in order to believe?

    Peace out, feeno

  • 47. Brian  |  June 25, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    how much help do we need in order to believe?

    Apparently more than God was willing to give.

  • 48. Rachel  |  June 25, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    I’ll go ahead and throw in my two cents … well, maybe more than two cents :)

    My prayer was not one for “help”, nor do I think it could be categorized as a prayer of unbelief either – since at that point, I still believed in God.

    After two years of reading, study, talking with other Christians, I simply was tired of making the case for God based on a text that is flawed and personal experiences that could be easily dismissed. I only wanted one tangible, indisputable moment so that I would know I wasn’t crazy for believing.

    I made a considered, rational request of God (please don’t get the idea that it was this one thing that changed my mind – it was the last in a long series of things):

    If all of the following are true as given by Christianity:
    God is eternal and universal.
    He loves me unconditionally.
    He sees me (omniscient).
    He can do whatever He wants (omnipotent).
    He doesn’t change.

    Then, it would be outside of possibility and His nature to ignore a request from His child who is saying, “I need You to show up. Don’t leave me looking like a fool – defending You without persuasive, objective evidence.”

    If this request goes unanswered, there are two options:
    1.) He exists, but is not the loving God He is reported to be or
    2.) God doesn’t exist.

    Mind you, before I even went down this road, I considered all (okay, most – again, we don’t want to get anyone distracted by generalizations that cause them to focus on little details rather than the big picture) the Christian explanations that would be given for why God wouldn’t answer – but they would all contradict the basic claims about who/what God is.

    Logically, then, you can not claim that God is all loving, all knowing and then use some convention like, “We don’t understand the ways of God” (especially when there are scriptures that speak to being able to know God in this way) to explain why He doesn’t show up at a critical moment.

    So, sitting in the silence following my request, I stopped believing in God.

    To Feeno: a common position, one I’ve taken myself, is that we are to live by faith not by sight. That faith is belief without evidence and to demand evidence is to abandon faith. However, this argument is neither logical nor Biblical. You will find in the Bible many instances where belief is born out of signs, revelations, miracles, or being in the presence of God as a result of a person’s direct request. It should also be noted that the very verse, “We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7) was written by Paul – who HIMSELF (as the story goes) had a tangible, experiential encounter with Jesus! Interesting, don’t you think …

    To LeoPardus: well said!

  • 49. Brian  |  June 25, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    Exactly. What she said. :-)

  • 50. paleale  |  June 25, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    We should ask Satan to show up and see what he has to say. I hear he’s more willing to make appearances.

  • 51. feeno  |  June 25, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Thanks for the responses. And Rachel, yes that was certainly more than 2 cents, but very thought provoking.

    Once again Brian thanks for sharing your story.

    Shalome, feeno

  • 52. LeoPardus  |  June 25, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Rachel:

    Very well said. Impeccable really.

    And further on 2 Corinthians 5:7, Paul not only had a powerful encounter to convert him, he also saw and did beaucoup miracles thereafter. He had plenty of ‘sight’ to go by.

  • 53. Rodrigo  |  June 25, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Rachel,

    I’m not so convinced. Isn’t it possible that in God’s eternal loving wisdom, he knows it is best not to give you simple and direct evidence of his presence, as you imagine it? Isn’t it possible that the evidence is there before you, and you have failed to notice it? Or maybe he will reveal himself yet, and you are being impatient. Possible?

    Google for “hidden god” and you will see that as early as Luther, this has been a persistent question even among the devout.

    (Full disclosure: Rachel and I know each other IRL, and I happen to be lifelong non-believer.)

  • 54. Quester  |  June 25, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    Rodrigo,

    Wouldn’t it follow, then, that in God’s eternal loving wisdom, God has decided that we should not believe God exists at this time?

  • 55. Rodrigo  |  June 25, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Quester,

    As I understand it, he doesn’t make decisions for us.

  • 56. Ubi Dubium  |  June 25, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Rodrigo –

    As I understand it, he doesn’t make decisions for us.

    Really. I suggest you read Exodus again. That part about where Pharoah was going to release the Hebrews until god “hardened his heart”. Your biblegod has certainly been reported as making decisions for people.

  • 57. Rodrigo  |  June 25, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    Ubi,

    Maybe you’re right. But then, what if God has decided that we should not believe he exists? He would still exist, wouldn’t he?

  • 58. Rachel  |  June 25, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Rodrigo .. an initial pass at answering your questions:

    Isn’t it possible that in God’s eternal loving wisdom, he knows it is best not to give you simple and direct evidence of his presence, as you imagine it?

    If, as Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:3-4, God “desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth,” then I would say it would be quite unwise for God not to give me simple and direct evidence of His presence, since not doing so results in my no longer believing.

    So then, for God, it would be something like this, “My daughter, Rachel, wants me to give her evidence that I exist. I can’t, because little does she know that it’s not in her best interest that she have that evidence right now. But I know, because she told me, this is it – show up or shove off. And I do really want all men (and women too – at least, I hope they know I meant women too, Paul always left out the women) to be saved. So now, do I stick by my eternal wisdom and leave Rachel in the lurch or do I show up and ensure her salvation. Hmm, what’s the loving thing to do …” (of course, this is all based on certain assumptions about salvation – all of which are also debatable!)

    So then, if I accept the lack of simple and direct evidence to be because of God’s eternal, loving wisdom, well, then I can keep believing in God – but not the God of 1 Timothy. In which case, which God am I left believing in?

    Isn’t it possible that the evidence is there before you, and you have failed to notice it?

    Certainly a possibility.

    Many a Christian would first argue that I had not been clear or specific enough in my request. They would quote Genesis 24:14 as evidence that God answers prayers that are clear.

    Some would argue that Nature is evidence and quote Psalm 19:1, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God.”

    Some would argue that, because I feel distraught when I hurt others, because I have conscience, that this is evidence of God and would point me to Romans 2:15.

    Others would say God is evident in my dreams,

    So, I suppose it matters what you mean by “evidence”

    Or maybe he will reveal himself yet, and you are being impatient.

    Well, I’m a pretty patient person. Still, it is possible that he may yet reveal himself. If and when that happens, I’ll be glad to change my mind :)

  • 59. Rodrigo  |  June 25, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    Rachel,

    All right all right. But I’m not done with you yet. :)

    As I imagine it, if God were to reveal himself too directly, too obviously, then you may not know the truth or be saved. It may be that a degree of indirection is necessary to be fully persuasive. Think of parents who after teaching their children how to tell right from wrong, then realize that only experience will bring the lessons home.

    Could it be that direct divine presentation would lead to disbelief? That it would lead to confused vice and corruption? I don’t know. I’m grasping here. But there seems to be something to the intuition that you cannot simply tell people the truth when they are not ready to hear it. And it is rarely the hearer who is in a position to judge when he is ready.

  • 60. Rachel  |  June 25, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    As to the first thought, teaching lessons and revealing Himself are two different things. I have no qualms with the idea that one could take the lessons of the Bible (or any text for that matter), and, only by experience, see them fully realized or come to fully appreciate their importance or meaning.

    However, I am not seeking direct revelation as to what the lessons or principles of God are, but rather direct revelation of the actual existence of God. In that, there are many scriptures (and even modern day personal accounts) that relate a very direct encounter with either God or one of His messengers. So, it can not be that directness is either 1.) impossible or 2.) harmful.

    If, as reported by the prophet Malachi (3:6), we believe that He said, “For I am the Lord, I change not” – then isn’t it fair to expect the same behavior as that offered to Moses by way of the burning bush, to Mary by way of the angel Gabriel, to Paul (called Saul at the time) by way of Jesus, etc., etc.?

    As to second thought, that direct divine presentation would lead to disbelief, vice, or corruption. I can only return to the same argument. If it were to do any of those things, then, by God having done so in the past, He would be allowing for these possibilities and thus contradicting the nature He is reported to have elsewhere – thus again, nullifying His existence as reported in Christianity.

    Finally, if I think I’m ready to hear the truth and ask for it, but do not receive it because I’ve ill-judged that I was actually ready to hear it, then I assume, God being able to best judge when I’m ready to hear it, will show up.

    :)

  • 61. Rodrigo  |  June 25, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    God can’t be bothered with direct revelation of his existence. Not for everyone, it seems. Not as we imagine it anyway.

    I think the only argument I have left is that we may be failing to recognize the wonders of nature and our conscience as evidence for God. And yet, this ultimately amounts to the same argument from a different angle of approach. Evidence is always subject to interpretation. No matter what evidence God presents, it will remain yours to interpret as the revelation you demanded or not. And I wonder whether sometimes, there is nothing that would work quite so well as presenting you with nothing at all. I leave it an open question. As I disclosed, this is all very very removed from me personally.

    I’m reminded of the old Woody Allen joke. “If only God would give me a sign – like making a large deposit in my name in at Swiss bank.” Now THAT is a revelation I could live with. ;-)

  • 62. atimetorend  |  June 25, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    I am not seeking direct revelation as to what the lessons or principles of God are, but rather direct revelation of the actual existence of God.

    That is an excellent distinction, and I think undermines many of the apologetics for the hidden God.

    I think the only argument I have left is that we may be failing to recognize the wonders of nature and our conscience as evidence for God.

    And that’s still a hidden God as far as Christianity goes, because it is a long way from there to, “Accept Jesus into your heart as Lord and Savior to be saved from an eternity in Hell.” Those things are NOT explicit in nature in any way. People can only contrive to make their own tenuous and speculative connections.

  • 63. samanthamj  |  June 27, 2009 at 9:10 am

    Brian –
    Thi s was a wonderful post about your story. I could identify with so much that you wrote and had many simiiar questions and feelings. I wish when I had been going thru all my own “deconverting” I had the internet and websites like this… because it really does help (and amazes me!) to realize that I was not alone….
    ~smj

  • […] 9, 2009 Well, after finally writing down my de-conversion story, I have finally sat down to write the “coming out” letter to the family. With everyone […]

  • 65. Jeremy Styron  |  July 23, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    Incredible story, my friend. I both empathize with you and send you my best wishes, for I have in the last year, been through striking similar circumstances. Your ultimate reason for disbelief equals mine: adject silence from God despite an intense desire and attempt on my part to believe.

  • 66. Quester  |  July 24, 2009 at 12:05 am

    Jeremy,

    Your ultimate reason for disbelief equals mine: adject silence from God despite an intense desire and attempt on my part to believe.

    I think that’s a fair sum-up for many of us.

  • 67. paleale  |  July 24, 2009 at 1:28 am

    Here here

  • 68. paleale  |  July 24, 2009 at 1:30 am

    Or is it ‘hear, hear’? Dang it, now I’m confused.

  • 69. Joe  |  July 24, 2009 at 11:03 am

    It is “hear! hear”—as in “listen to what this speaker has to say!”

  • 70. paleale  |  July 24, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    But maybe it’s “here! Here!” Like ‘I’m over here, listen to me over here!’ Or perhaps a combination of both… Hmm

  • 71. Joe  |  July 24, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    Hear, hear
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Hear, hear is an expression used as a short repeated form of hear ye and hear him. It represents a listener’s agreement with the point being made by a speaker.

  • 72. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 24, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Yeah, it’s definitely “Hear! Hear!”

  • 73. Joe  |  July 24, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    paleale—

    Kirk: Hear hear
    Picard: here here
    Spock: Hear here

    :>)

  • 74. paleale  |  July 25, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    thank you for the grammatical clarification, gentlemen. I do appreciate a good English lesson, complete with etymologies!

  • 75. Joshua  |  July 26, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    “I think the only argument I have left is that we may be failing to recognize the wonders of nature and our conscience as evidence for God”

    If the wonders of nature are evidence of God, and atheists are a part of nature, then… yeah, my brain almost locked up on that one.

    As far as our conscience goes, I would consider my conscience evidence of God’s presence if I felt my conscience was independent of what I believed. But for me at least, I have learned that I only feel guilty for things I believe are wrong or things I believe others will shame me for doing. Since the conscience is relative, it seems a little odd to me to posit it has an Absolute source.

    My 0.02

  • […] go read it). It reminded of my biggest turtle problem, which is nicely summed up by d-C contributor Brian*: Praying wasn’t working. The Bible wasn’t working. Talking to other Christians had proved […]

  • 77. Anna  |  September 8, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    Brian, I hope that you find the gift/knowlege that “the source” is there, loving us, giving us the lives that we live. The source is the energy of everything and we are here on this earth as a learning process. I myself do not believe in hell, but I think that some individuals may have the need to experience it for a while until whatever sin they believe they have commited has been “forgiven”/ pardoned in their own minds. We go through different lives incarnations on this world to learn. “Heaven” is another plane that we will seek out loved ones and our higher self to plan for our next incarnation. It is difficult to summarize a lifetime accumulation of beliefs, but I wish you well on your journey to find them.

  • 78. Anna  |  September 8, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Brian, I hope that you find the gift/knowlege that “the source” is there, loving us, giving us the lives that we live. The source is the energy of everything and we are here on this earth as a learning process. I myself do not believe in hell, but I think that some individuals may have the need to experience it for a while until whatever sin they believe they have commited has been “forgiven”/ pardoned in their own minds. The Bible (in my mind) are young souls (on the spiritual evolution ladder) that have attempted to write down a fractured at best oral history.We go through different lives / incarnations on this world to learn. “Heaven” is another plane that we will seek out loved ones and our higher self to plan for our next incarnation. It is difficult to summarize a lifetime accumulation of beliefs, but I wish you well on your journey to find them.

  • 79. Ubi Dubium  |  September 8, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    “The source is the energy of everything “….???
    There’s this big ball of fusing hydrogen out there, and I thought that was the energy of everything here on this planet. It’s nice that you don’t thump the bible as infallible, but I don’t care to replace organized religion with new-age woo, either. I didn’t just dump one religion, I dumped them all. I wish you well on your journey, but I wish it included more “thinking” and less “believing”.

  • 80. HeIsSailing  |  September 10, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    “The source is the energy of everything “….???

    That reminds me – I just finished reading The Holy Longing: The Search for A Christian Spirituality, by Ronald Rolheiser -a prominent Catholic author. Rolheiser constantly refered to ‘Spirit’ as ‘Energy’, a notion that is highly offensive to a physicist (like me). I will have to write a review of that book, and submit it here.

  • 81. mary  |  September 13, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    Hi Brian, thank you for sharing. Just thank you.

  • 82. Beth  |  September 17, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    This is my first time commenting on a deconversion site of any kind. My deconversion process has been gradual over the past year, but I’d say that I have been a non-believer now for about four months.

    My struggle is that I have no one around me that isn’t a Christian. My husband and kids, my side of the family, my husband’s family and my friends are all within the church. I live in a small town where everyone knows everyone else. My husband’s father is a pastor in a charismatic denomination. My husband grew up in a charismatic church and is a very devoted Christian.

    The church that we go to is very vocal about political and social issues that I just don’t agree with anymore. Not only that, but my kids are involved in a youth program where I have to work with them on biblical homework each week.

    I just don’t know how to approach my husband to tell him that my beliefs have changed. He saw me reading a book about evolution several months ago and we had the worst fight we’ve ever had. I told him I was just curious since I’d never been allowed to learn about it growing up. He was worried about my salvation (rightly so, it turns out).

    I had an experience similar to yours, or crying out and trying to cling to belief. I even asked god to take me from this earth rather than to fall into disbelief. Obviously that didn’t happen.

    I just feel very isolated right now. I’m scared what my husband’s reaction will be (not of violence or anything, I just love him very much and don’t want to ruin our relationship).

    So that’s my long-winded way of asking, do you have any advice on how to go about breaking the news to him that I don’t believe anymore?

  • 83. Brian  |  September 17, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Beth, the only thing I can tell you is that it’s going to suck. A LOT. How’s that for a pep talk eh? :-)

    It’s been about 9 months since I “came out” to my wife. Unfortunately, the initial “bomb dropping” came about as part of an argument about a topic only tangentially related to faith, but which ultimately gave me an inroad to break the news. As expected, it was met initially with a great deal of confusion, anger and fear that this was going to ruin our marriage. Only through time, lots more discussions, and truth be told, a few more blow out screaming arguments have we come to a certain peace with the situation.

    Ultimately, the thing that I think made it easier for her and the rest of my family to stomach was my telling them, “Listen, I’m not morally opposed to believing again, so please pray for me. Pray that God reveals Himself in a way that I will have no choice but to believe.” If they have genuine faith, which my family apparently does, then they must know that the power of prayer has already saved me. In fact my wife says with perfect confidence (not fake Christian smugness I must point out) that she knows God is going to bring me back.

    And honestly that’s all that she needs. Sure there are still rough moments where a topic comes up that sets us on opposite sides of the religious and political spectrum that we have to be careful not to be antagonistic toward each other. But she loves me truly and sincerely. And I love her just as much. And based on that (whether you believe it came from God or not) we are going to work hard to make it through this rough season in our lives.

    Coming out to my, and her, family was a little easier, mostly because I used this story as my coming out letter. It answered a good deal of questions that I knew would be raised and helped them to at least understand where it is I’m coming from before they could let loose with a barrage of false assumptions. I told them too to please just continue to pray for me but allow God to do the work of re-conversion.

    If you ever want to talk more or bounce thoughts off me, feel free to follow the link on my name to my website. My email address is there. Or, you can also go to the forums at deconversion.org where you’ll find a good number of people who have gone or are going through the same thing and can, at the very least, give you a healthy dose of empathy.

    -Brian

  • 84. Bethany  |  September 17, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Brian – Thank you for your swift response. I have been thinking that whenever I tell my husband… well that it will probably come out in a similar way, as part of an unrelated discussion (fight), or almost on accident.

    It’s just almost impossible for me to sit through the smug and insulting church services lately. Thankfully I have been able to discuss with my husband how inappropriate I feel those topics are for inclusion in a sermon. We are currently looking for a new church. I just hope that we can find something that’s more liveable for me, but realistically I know that nothing is going to be a perfect fit because he believes and I don’t.

    I keep wanting to tell him that I don’t want to find a new church, I just don’t want to go to church at all, but I know that’s not going to go over well.

    I think deep down he must suspect something. I just don’t know. Did you wife have any idea about your disbelief, or was it a total surprise to her?

    Anyway, thanks for being upfront about how much it’s going to suck. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens. I wish this was easier. I wish I didn’t worry about it so much.

  • 85. Jeremy  |  September 17, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    It’s nice that you don’t thump the bible as infallible, but I don’t care to replace organized religion with new-age woo, either.

    I agree, Ubi. There’s no need replace god with talk of ubiquitous life forces and spiritualism. Indeed, that goes one step forward and, at least half a step, possibly two, back. This is either a natural world or it’s not.

    Oh…and Quester, I believe I meant “abject,” but you knew what I meant. lol

  • 86. Frreal  |  September 17, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Beth,

    Your situation is mine exactly. I have been deconverted for almost 2 years now ironically after pursuing greater faith. I have never been open about my nonbelief with my hubby or my family. Though a few times I touched the surface with some hardhitting skeptical questions and could immediately see I was causing stress and a wall being put up. So I pretty much dropped it. I have a perfect family and its just not worth the risk of the unknown disruption vs destruction. As far as they know I am just anti-established religion. That works for though everyone is different.

    If you would ever like to exchange ideas I think there is another forum here. Sometimes it’s hard to find wives that have deconverted when the husbands haven’t. We have that whole “Eve” baggage to deal with.

  • 87. Jeremy  |  September 17, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Beth,
    I think Brian touched on the one thing that will make it easier for you and the thing that has given some level of comfort to my family. If you decide to break the news, just ask your husband to pray for you. As I told my mom: “if God is who he says he says, you’ve got nothing to worry about.” I, personally, don’t very much like the idea of my folks praying about me all the time in this way, but if it helps them get through the day and makes them worry less, it’s fine by me. Also, I think writing out your thoughts and presenting them via letter or something might immediately answer many questions rather than a person-to-person confrontation, which may get overblown before it begins.

    I hope some of this helps you. And good luck. It’s a courageous thing (and a scary one, I know) to step away from something your whole family is wrapped up in, even your spouse, but I think it’s worth it … at least after all the suckage dies down. Time really does make things easier. :)

  • 88. Joe  |  September 17, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    It’s just almost impossible for me to sit through the smug and insulting church services lately (#84)

    There are some excellent ear plugs called “Max” by Howard Leight Ear Protection. They’re pre-shaped and fit the ear perfectly. This should help with the church situation.

    But I think the comments the others have made above are right on about asking your family to pray for you. This will give them comfort. I am a Christian and have to admit that hearing that from a family member would be far easier than hearing some blunt declaration of apostasy. I am just being honest. :>) All the best to you Beth!

  • 89. atimetorend  |  September 17, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    I just hope that we can find something that’s more liveable for me, but realistically I know that nothing is going to be a perfect fit because he believes and I don’t. I keep wanting to tell him that I don’t want to find a new church, I just don’t want to go to church at all, but I know that’s not going to go over well.

    My wife and I have ended up at a more moderate church. The doctrine suits us both better in some ways, the areas where we have common ground, even though she believes and I don’t. There is faith for her, and honest inquiry for me. I can definitely relate to not wanting to go. Moving to the new church removed a lot of the intense stress I felt at the old church though, which helps me to be able to make the best of it.

    I think deep down he must suspect something. I just don’t know. Did you wife have any idea about your disbelief, or was it a total surprise to her?

    If I can answer the question too… I was surprised that my wife didn’t know better what was going on with me when we finally started talking about it. I think partly I didn’t bring it up enough because of how hard she did take the little things I mentioned along the way towards deconversion. I also think she chose to repress the things I mentioned because they were hard to take. Whatever it was, it was more of a bombshell for her than I expected. It’s a year later and we’re making out OK, but things were very rough at first.

  • 90. Roy  |  September 17, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Beth,

    I’ll weigh in with my two cents worth.

    “We are currently looking for a new church. I just hope that we can find something that’s more liveable for me, but realistically I know that nothing is going to be a perfect fit because he believes and I don’t.”

    You might want to start here whenever you feel like “going back” to church:

    http://www.unity.org

    I’ve been de-converted from that “Old Time Religion” for quite some time and I only recently found these folks. You might find it liveable and I doubt your husband would, but you never know. It depends upon how open his mind is.

    Now that you are where you are, I congratulate you, but I would encourage you to remain open minded.

    I wish you the best of luck.

  • 91. LeoPardus  |  September 17, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    Wow Beth. Stick around here and the forum site. You’ll be wanting and needing the support.

    I was fortunate enough to be able to initially break the news to my wife at a time when we were both stressed and questioning things. Unfortunately she went on with the faith just fine and I left it. When I finally talked to her again about it, I was completely done and it did bother her.

    There’s no good time. Maybe in the midst of stress isn’t a bad time at all.

    I like the idea of telling your family that they can pray for you and that you’re open to a “Damascus Road” experience.

    Best of luck to you. Tread lightly.

  • 92. Bethany  |  September 18, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Thanks everybody for all of the kind responses!

    I decided to leave some of the books that I’ve been reading out on the coffee table yesterday, because I didn’t want to feel like I was hiding anything from my husband. Our relationship has always been built on honesty, and I think part of what has been bothering me so much is that he doesn’t know what I’ve been going through and I’ve been too gutless to bring it up.

    I could tell that he saw the books yesterday because he glanced at them and then studiously avoided them the rest of the night. He got up before me this morning and looked through them, and then when I woke up he asked me if we could talk about the books. He said he noticed that they were different from my normal reading material, and he seemed very unsettled.

    I was groggy and the kids had to get ready for school (it just didn’t seem like the right time to start a long emotional discussion) so I told him I would talk to him about it more tonight.

    See, this is the point where in my old life I would be calling everyone up and asking them to pray for me. :)

    I’m so nervous and scared. I think I’m going to approach it by telling him my experiences chronologically, like a story. Hopefully that will help me to keep from getting too emotional about it. So that he can see that I’m serious and that I’ve taken the time to reason through it and it’s not just some emotional backlash/rebellion.

    I wish that I could just write him a letter, but I think that as my husband he deserves a face-to-face explanation. My second biggest fear is that he’s going to call in reinforcements and I’m going to be spending the weekend defending myself to my in-laws. As long as he is understanding and supportive I know I’ll be able to handle everyone else.

  • 93. Bethany  |  September 18, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    If anyone could tell me how to post this topic in a new forum, I’m sure I’ll probably have a lot more to discuss at some point. I haven’t figured out how to start a new topic.

  • 94. LeoPardus  |  September 18, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    REALLY hope it goes well.

    Note: Even my wife (PhD in physics) becomes easily upset and irrational when/if I challenge her faith. So take it easy and be ready to break off ’til another time if your hubby looks like he’s getting too agitated.

  • 95. LeoPardus  |  September 18, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Beth:

    If you mean you want to post this topic here, in the blog site, as a new article, you have to be a contributer. An admin can do that for you if you like.

    Otherwise, you can start a thread on the forum site. For that, click on the “Forums” tab, select the area you want to be in, and click the “Create Topic” box.

  • 96. Bethany  |  September 18, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    My husband just instant messaged me to ask if I was doubting and said that if I was it would lower his opinion of me and that he would probably want a divorce.

    I’m so shocked. I thought that with how much we have loved each other over the past twelve years…. I thought it would be worth fighting for at least. And he just jumped on the divorce button.

  • 97. Brian  |  September 18, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Oh man, that’s heavy… and kind of a crappy thing to announce over text. Sheesh.

    I don’t know you guys or know your husband, but honestly, that was my wife’s kneejerk reaction too, that this was going to be the end of our marriage, that it meant our vows were all a lie, that they’d been based on nothing. She came right out and said, “if I’d known this was going to happen 7 years ago, I never would have married you.” It really did seem like the end of the world to her. The past few months of seeing how this hasn’t fundamentally changed who I am has calmed her down a lot. Seeing that I’m not going around telling our kids, “Hey guess what, God is fake,” has made her realize that I’m not going to be antagonistic toward her faith.

    I’m sure that for some people, something like this WOULD be a deal breaker, cause for divorce. I think those people are shallow and ridiculous, especially if there is true love there. But I wouldn’t necessarily freak out right now. When you’re in the faith, you are conditioned to think that atheists are by nature, evil hedonistic people. It will take time for him to realize that you’re not either of those.

  • 98. Bethany  |  September 18, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    We messaged back and forth and I admitted my doubts and I sent him a letter explaining the changes in my beliefs.

    My husband just called me on the phone and said basically the same thing, “If I’d have known that you weren’t going to believe I never would have married you.”

    Then he said, “I love you but you’re a different person now and you’ve been lying to me about who you are. I don’t respect you anymore. I don’t feel I can trust you with the kids. What attracted me to you was your faith in God and now I’m not attracted to you anymore. You might as well have slept with somebody else because you broke my heart today.”

    I’m shattered and speechless. What am I going to do?

  • 99. Brian  |  September 18, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    I’m so sorry. My wife seriously said almost identically the same thing when I first told her. There was a lot of crying. A lot of accusations of lying. A lot of accusations that I hadn’t done this or that to preserve my faith. It was all just a kneejerk emotional reaction which took, honestly a couple days for her to come down from. It’s almost like a stages of grief process. Denial that you are the same person. Anger and Sadness. Bargaining, “Well have you thought of THIS” more anger and sadness and finally acceptance.

    Certainly your husband loves you for something MORE than just your faith in God. Unless every single good time you ever had was in a church setting, there’s bound to be more that you can base an ongoing relationship on. It’s just going to be hard for him to see that at first. I definitely think there is an “irrational hysteria” phase to those stages of grief as well. :-)

    Keep us updated. This is normally when I’d offer to pray for you but, well, you know.

  • 100. Brian  |  September 18, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    This may or may not help, but it’s worth a shot. Ask him to imagine if neither of you had been saved when you met. If, after you got married, and HE became born again, does he think YOU would have lost respect for him and decided you didn’t love him anymore? Doesn’t he think you would have tried to work with it and find a way to preserve the love and the relationship? Hopefully it’ll help him to step outside his paradigm where it would be unfathomable to consider being with somebody who didn’t believe the same way he does. Has he always been “saved” or did he have a conversion experience at some point in his life. Ask him to imagine that conversion happening AFTER you’d been married.

  • 101. Jeremy  |  September 18, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Wow Beth. I’m very sorry to hear that. It’s just tragic that religion has that utter power over people. I’ve experienced similar “harsh” statements from believers following my turn, things they wouldn’t have said if not in the heat of the moment and at the height of their “hysteria,” as Brian said. I truly hope all these are just knee jerk reactions and once the initial shock wears off, things will be easier. Here’s hoping for the best for you. As a colleague at work has to remind me in tough situations: Things will always get better. And they will.

  • 102. Bethany  |  September 18, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Brian – Thank you for the suggestion, I’m sure I will use it. He was saved when he was a very young child as I was.

    Jeremy – Thanks for the encouragement.

  • 103. Brian  |  September 18, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Incidentally, just curious, what reading material did you leave out that he saw?

  • 104. Bethany  |  September 18, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    LeoPardus – I see what to do now. I was on the wrong page in the forum to start a new topic. Perhaps I will come back after the weekend and post in there. Thanks for the help.

  • 105. LeoPardus  |  September 18, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Beth:

    Some others have commented that their spouses had the immediate reaction about divorce. I recall my wife’s was to the effect of “our marriage vows aren’t valid anymore because they were made ‘in Christ'”.

    It’s a common reaction apparently. I’ve heard it from many de-cons.

    All that to say to you, “Take it slow for now” Your husband’s sort of “in shock”. He’ll need time to adjust.

    BTW. Your husband is working hard at being an utter hypocrite with selective bible application. Typical of ALL christians. If he persists, you’re well within your rights to club him with his own holy book. Have him read 1 Corinthians 7:13-16. …. I tossed that at my wife and saw a miracle; she was speechless for a few seconds. [Joke folks] But really she did just stand there for a bit trying to mentally handle it.

  • 106. LeoPardus  |  September 18, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    But before you club him with the bible, try talking to him rationally.

  • 107. Mystery Porcupine  |  September 18, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Beth, I just wanted you to know that I’m thinking of you. My husband and I were both Christians since childhood, and we both went through a secret de-conversion process at roughly the same time. STILL – he told me first that he was no longer a Christian. Even though I was barely a Christian myself anymore, my knee-jerk reaction was that our vows had been voided, since they were said to Christ first and then to each other. I was looking at my husband and I was scared where this path would lead him. Did this change mean I didn’t really know him at all? Would his life center around things that never mattered to us before? Would he still treat me with such love and concern? I mean, I started crying in public when he told me!

    So…I can understand how a devout Christian would freak out a lot more and say all of those things out loud. Because your husband believes he is in the right straight from GOD and he has the right to say those things (UGH). I imagine that he could talk to some church folks about this and go even further toward rejecting you outright. If he believes he is supposed to be your spiritual head, he could get quite…ummm…in your face. In my opinion, this is definitely the time for you to step up and make the case for yourself and your marriage. Keep in mind that some of his reaction is coming from insecurity and fear of the unknown. Here are a couple of points:

    Maybe it would be good to ask him if he is willing to work through this with you…to sit down and talk about what your doubts change and what they don’t. He is probably thinking “this changes everything.” If so, shouldn’t you two sit down and make sure that’s true before he jumps to get a divorce?

    Talk to him about why you didn’t tell him about your doubts sooner – how hard it was on you, maybe you were hoping it was a phase, you didn’t want to disappoint him. And you did everything you should do – you kept going to church and praying until you got to this place. You also kept raising the children in the same way, treating people with love and respect, doing the things that you always do for your family. Look how much *hasn’t* changed even while you were dealing with this heavy burden within yourself.

    You probably love your husband for more than his faith – for his actions and for his character. They are both influenced by his faith but are not his faith. Does he appreciate how you treat people? Does he appreciate your honesty, your values, your character? Your morals have not necessarily changed – maybe he’s assuming they have.

    You are up against a big wall, and I hope that everyone’s comments have helped and that you will not be ashamed or allow anyone to disrespect you or treat you harshly because of this. At the same time, I guess the burden is on you to be as full of love as possible in order to prove their misconceptions wrong. I really believe if anyone rejects me because I don’t believe, I want them to reject the whole me – a whole person with many facets (besides lack of faith) who loves them and is willing to work things out.

  • 108. LeoPardus  |  September 18, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Amazing. I just note how amazing it is how unloving these followers of Jesus’ religion of love become as soon as one dares to cross their personal beliefs. Of course it’s not really amazing is it? It’s not a religion of love. It’s all about me me me me me. Self aggrandizement and self justification. As long as I believe just the right things about just the right deity (all of which I decide for myself), then I am in with the big deity and everyone else better march to the same drummer.

    Sheesh! OK. Rant off ….. for now.

  • 109. HeIsSailing  |  September 18, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    Beth, I was going to reply to your comment #82 until you shocked me with this:

    My husband just instant messaged me to ask if I was doubting and said that if I was it would lower his opinion of me and that he would probably want a divorce

    Oh good grief that sucks.

    If your husband is like most fundamentalists, there are no true apostates of the Faith. If you are a true Christian, you cannot possibly leave the arms of your Savior. Therefore, you were never a true Christian, and you deceived your husband on the altar of matrimony.

    Hopefully, your husband is just over-reacting to the shock of it all, and will calm down after a time. I guess the only advice that I can offer is from what I learned when I de-converted, while dragging a very confused Christian wife along for the ride.

    I never had a “Big Bang” moment when I shocked my wife by telling her I had left the Faith. My de-conversion was very gradual and very subtle. Like yours, it came after reading a lot of books. I never hid these books from my wife. One of first I read in my doubting phase was Spong’s ‘Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism’. My wife and I also hosted evening Bible studies in our house, so we were used to going through books together. So I asked to if we could go through that book – not even chapter at a time, just idea at a time – I told her that this raises some tough issues, and I confessed that I was struggling with them. “Could we please go through these? It would really help me.” So she was with me step by step in the process. She eventually reached a point in her beliefs where she could go no further, even as I kept distancing myself beyond where she was willing to go. But at least she saw what I was struggling with.

    We had our share of arguments over the issue, and her mother and I had even worse arguments. She was also afraid that we were not legitimately married, and we had to work through that tough issue.

    In the process, I never tried to de-convert her, or make her lose her Faith. Her Faith understanding had to adjust a little in order to reconcile my leaving Christainity, but in the end, she feels the better for it. She wishes I were still a Christian, but she at least now understands why I am not a Christian any longer, and she accepts that.

    I guess the main points of advice I can give you are these:

    Give your husband a little info at a time. Just pieces. Don’t give him a dissertation on every stinking point you find your former Faith objectionable. It will overwhelm him, and he will discard it all immediately. “Here is one bit about Christianity that I am struggling with – this is tough – what do you think of this? Hasn’t it ever bothered you?”

    Continue to show your husband that you love him. I had to convince my wife that even though my views on God had changed since I made marraige vows in his name, those vows are still valid. Because upon that marraige altar, I made vows not only to God, but to my wife, to her family, to the pastor, to alll our friends, and to all who witnessed our marraige ceremony. I have no intention of breaking those vows and making a mockery of our marraige simply because my views of God necessarily had to change upon learning more about the world. I am certain the same is true of your marraige. After he cools from his shocking reaction, I hope your are able to convince him that you still believe in your marraige.

    Do not try to de-convert your husband. Faith should be a private matter, and so should de-conversion. But at the same time, I think you should bring up the issues and concerns that you have about your Faith. Like the Apostle Paul says, “Pray without…” er I mean “Talk without ceasing”. During the process of my de-conversion, I incessantly talked with my wife about my “Spiritual journey”, to the point where I was sometimes afraid that I would wear out her paitience. But I had to. It was either that, or shock her with a few infrequent bombshells after I let my increasing skepticism brew inside my head for a couple of months. Instead, she was with me during the whole process, in small doses. If your husband does calm down after his initial over-reaction, try and talk with him calmly about how you are doing in frequent small doses. Go for a walk, and talk about it, away from kids or other distractions.

    Talk about ideas you read in books, talk about people you meet from your church and the conversations you have, talk about your confusion, your weakness, your fear, talk about why you don’t see the benefits of your prayer, talk about common religous expereinces that you have had, talk about what you have learned, talk about what you are missing in the church, talk about your frustration, talk about your hopes, talk about your marraige in a religious context, talk about what religion means to both of you, and always ask for feedback from him. Do not argue. Talk. It sucks to have to drag your husband through a de-conversion, just as it sucked to drag my longsuffering wife through it, but the alternative was, in my case, a potentially failed marraige. I am convinced that incessant talking with my wife saved our marraige. But you both have to do it. Things will be much more difficult if either one of you puts up a barrier that communication cannot cross. I hope you can convince him of that.

    Also, find support on the internet. This is but one of countless internet sites devoted to those who have left the Faith. We are out there – we just typically keep our traps shut in normal life. Some sites are better than others, some are thoughtful and honest, others are immature ranting – find what suits you best and begin to find strength and support there.

    Good luck to you, Beth.

  • 110. HeIsSailing  |  September 18, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Leopardus rages:

    Amazing. I just note how amazing it is how unloving these followers of Jesus’ religion of love become as soon as one dares to cross their personal beliefs. Of course it’s not really amazing is it? It’s not a religion of love. It’s all about me me me me me. Self aggrandizement and self justification. As long as I believe just the right things about just the right deity (all of which I decide for myself), then I am in with the big deity and everyone else better march to the same drummer.

    I gotta quote the whole thing, because you are so true. Sometimes this stuff just infuriates me. Because people are such cowards that they dare not entertain a even single question of their god who will just as soon eject them onto the griddles of hell if they don’t have the magic password. But, as George Carlin said in what has to be the best turn of phrase ever uttered:

    “But He Loves You..!!”

  • 111. Brian  |  September 18, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    “He loves you and He needs… MONEY!”

  • 112. HeIsSailing  |  September 18, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Mystery Porcupine says:

    “My husband and I were both Christians since childhood, and we both went …”

    I love this comment from you, and I mirror your advice.

    As I read through this whole string of recent comments, I thought to myself, “GAG!! When are churches going to wake up and realize that marraiges, real marraiges suffer when one member leaves the Fiath. And when are they going to stop denying that it happens, and happens a lot more frequently than they want to admit?? And when are they going to accept the responsibility to those marraiges, and start ministries devoted to saving such marraiges????? The only thing I ever hear from these churches is stonewalling, and insisting that one who leaves Christianity was never a “True Christian”. The only effort I hear given to save such marraiges is advice given to the believing spouse to win the apostate back to the fold!! NOTHING about love, nothing about commitment, nothing about understanding, nothing about communication, just CONVERT.

    As LeoPardus said, it is all about “self aggrandizement and self justification”. me me me me me me me.

    Gag – now I am getting upset….

    Gag – now I am

  • 113. Joshua  |  September 18, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    If I may join in the infuriating rage. The story of my father is one of the most heartbreaking things that ever happened to me.

    I sat down, explained that I was an atheist and started to explain why. He couldn’t handle it and started a monologue in tears, completely cutting me off. Then he told me that he didn’t believe that I really didn’t believe in God.

    I asked him, “Dad, in the last 23 years, can you remember the last time I ever lied to you?” After a moments pause, he said “No.”

    “So why would I be lying to you now?”

    I don’t really remember much that happened after that, just the sickening feeling that my dad is one of the biggest cowards I have ever known. He would rather believe his child is fundamentally a liar – against all his experience with me – than admit that he might be wrong and listen to my reasons and thoughts on the subject.

    I’d be infuriated right now, but I think I’m more sad.

  • 114. Joshua  |  September 18, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Religion DOES poison everything.

  • 115. Joshua  |  September 18, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    … including honesty, respect, love for one’s neighbor, patience, the search for truth, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control, and every other fruit of the Holy Spirit.

  • 116. LeoPardus  |  September 18, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    Religion DOES poison everything … including honesty, respect, love for one’s neighbor, patience, the search for truth, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control, and every other fruit of the Holy Spirit.

    WORD!

  • 117. Jeremy  |  September 18, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    add one more to the list: relationships, as we’ve seen here.

  • 118. Joshua  |  September 18, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Jeremy, indeed.

    Ironically, really, that the OT prophesied the return of the hearts of fathers to children and children to their fathers…

  • 119. LeoPardus  |  September 18, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Ah but the NT said one should hate one’s family.

  • 120. Mystery Porcupine  |  September 18, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Love your post about communication, HeIsSailing. It sounds like you have an awesome marriage.

    I am wondering, do we all forget that we used to be these people with whom we are so angry? To be fair, many of us came to disbelief by investigating faith further. We did NOT think that investigation would lead us to de-convert! But when we de-convert and then encourage believers to listen to our reasoning and to investigate, we are asking them to do that knowing that it led us to de-convert. So we are basically asking them to consider de-converting. Is that really something you would have considered when you were “strong” in your faith? I wouldn’t have. I remember shutting out an atheist’s logic all the way back in high school – imagine how much harsher I would have been after thirty more years of programming! Now if that atheist came to me in need or distress, I would have done a lot better listening and helping. But I would not have been able to accept their disbelief as something that was so logical that it applied to me.

    If Christians could really empathize with an atheist, would they treat you this way? NO. They don’t get it, they haven’t been there, and their natural ability to reason has been thwarted by a GOD and nearly everyone they love telling them that reason has limits when it comes to faith.

    I see this as a sad stalemate. To be true to himself, a de-con has to come out and share what he thinks. To be true to his convictions, a Christian is supposed to show tough-love, preach, shun, whatever he has been taught to do. How is this conflict avoidable? If the Christian “loosens up” at all, he has to admit that what he bases his life on could be wrong. An atheist can’t “loosen up” without pretending to believe something he doesn”t. We can all rant about it, but that just adds more pain and distance.

    Also to be fair to churches, if they create programs that encourage marriages even when one person is a non-believer, they know where that will lead. There is a reason that they so strongly preach that Christians shouldn’t be unequally yoked or even have non-Christian friends. If I hadn’t been taught that I probably would have left the faith a lot sooner, because I would have had real discussions with people who don’t believe, and I may have even respected them as equals.

  • 121. LeoPardus  |  September 18, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    RIght on Mystery Porcupine.

    I must admit that I am coming more and more to agree with Emil Zola. “Civilization will not attain to its perfection until the last stone from the last church falls on the last priest.”

  • 122. HeIsSailing  |  September 18, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    Mystery Porcupine, a few thoughts:

    Also to be fair to churches, if they….

    Honestly, I have no desire to be fair to the churches, when they do not play fair with their congregants. I place a higher priority on the people rather than the club that they belong to. I understand what you are saying, and it is a stalemate. They want to maintain a firm faith, so they cannot even entertain placing ex-christians, even ex-church members on an equal playing field. But how fair, and how honest is that with the doubting believer, or the husband of a doubting Christian wife? The church’s frequent practice of withholding information from their faithful laity only causes people like me to snap and eventually leave the faith altogether. Honestly, IF my church dealt with my doubts a little more openly and honestly than “We find it very hard to love you any more because you deceived yourself and us” there is a strong likelyhood that I would still be a Christian today. Believe me, there was no joy in my leaving the Faith. Even something like, “Maybe this congregation is just not right for you anymore. We see that you have different needs and are travelling a different path than we are. Here is the address to church so and so, and pastor such and such. They are Christian, but of a more liberal denomination and they do a lot of goodin the community. Give them a ring!” would likely have saved my Christian Faith.

    I know I know, Fundamentalism loaths liberalism. “…So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth…” and all that.

    And I guess that is where my anger comes from. Believe me, I am of no mind to de-convert others. I never, for instance, asked my wife to consider what I had to say in order to convince her of my arguments. She rejects a lot of my reasoning, further, I understand why she rejects a lot of it. But I simply wanted her to understand why I thought the way I did. Truth be told, I did not want to leave Christianity, and I *don’t* want her to leave her Church or de-convert, because as a liberal but devout beliver, she is happy with it, loves it, identifies with it, and it makes sense for her, and her particular culture is entirely wrapped up in it. Good enough for me – why would I want to take that away from her???

    And that is all I ask of Christians. Just at least understand that “Hey, I was once a beleiver, but I don’t share those beliefs anymore, but I am still a pretty decent person – hey enough about that so how about a game of football now??” I don’t give a rip what they believe, but it never works out that way does it? Why? Because it is that stalemate that you speak of, Porpupine, that stonewalling that infuriates me so. The supression of all heresy, the constant need to deny the reality that negatively affects their congregations, all in order to keep them under a tight and controlling grip. Not fair to the churches? Tough. It is not fair to the laity. One of my old pastors used to hold it as a matter of pride to remain as uneducated and closedminded (his words) as possible, in order to remain untainted by the evil world around him. He would teach his congregants that same thing – do not read this, stay away from that, you don’t want to look at this other thing, just stick to the Word of God and you will be fine. Is it any wonder then, that us apostates are afraid even to make ourselves known, because we are so easily branded as Satan’s Spawn?

    I truly don’t care what people believe or do not believe as long as they are decent humans. It is the willful suppression of information, and the willful spread of fear among Christians that really upsets me.

    Yeah, it is pretty maddening. I can’t say it has all been bad. There are one or two friends of my wife who don’t mind serious, and honest discussion about my lack of Faith. They are never condesending or mean, and we always have a good laugh about it at the end of it all. But such dear freinds as these seem few and far and between.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments Mystery Porcupine.

  • 123. Joshua  |  September 19, 2009 at 12:52 am

    “Ah but the NT said one should hate one’s family.”

    You and your damn EOC interpretations, LeoPardus. Join the One True Church of Jesus Christ of Last Day Revelations of 1st Century Inspirations and we will make sure you never use a bad hermeneutic like that again.

  • 124. Mystery Porcupine  |  September 19, 2009 at 12:55 am

    HeIsSailing, we have a lot of similar thoughts. I hate to hear how you were treated by people in the church. I think I would have been treated the same way if I had brought up my doubts to people in church. I knew what the leadership was teaching and what sermons the people were sitting through each week. Expecting someone whose mind is filled with that stuff to be understanding of such a threatening thing as doubt would have set me up for so many difficulties. So I have avoided all of that by not talking to any Christians in detail about my de-conversion. In fact, I am pretty amazed that you have a few Christian friends with whom you can have serious discussions about this. Don’t they feel the need to throw out the same old arguments and verses over and over? I can’t handle hearing that stuff anymore. You must have more patience than I do!

    My “to be fair to churches” paragraph was written a bit tongue-in-cheek if you notice where it led. ;) To be fair to them, there is a “perfectly good reason” why they taught me that certain people are not my equals. Yeah whatever.

    “I truly don’t care what people believe or do not believe as long as they are decent humans. It is the willful suppression of information, and the willful spread of fear among Christians that really upsets me.”

    Unfortunately, so many of them think that it is noble and good to suppress information for God. And for them the fear is legitimate, because they are picturing burning for eternity. So to say they aren’t decent for trying to save people in the face of burning for eternity…I don’t know. I think they are as decent as they can be in that situation. Even the leaders – I imagine that many (if not most) of them believe what they are teaching. So if they are picturing burning hellfires forever, then I understand what they are doing. But I do wish they would stop.

  • 125. HeIsSailing  |  September 19, 2009 at 2:19 am

    Mystery Porcupine asks:

    “In fact, I am pretty amazed that you have a few Christian friends with whom you can have serious discussions about this. Don’t they feel the need to throw out the same old arguments and verses over and over? ”

    Honestly no. The people I am referring to are catholic nuns, who have a totally different perspective on Christianity than I did as a Calvary Chapel Fundamentalist. Their mysticism is quite interesting, and although I don’t buy their brand of Christianity, they are actually thoughtful about their Faith and even respectful about mine. I still help out with their missions amongst the desperately poor near the Mexican border just minutes from my house. They don’t proselytize since everyone they help is already Catholic, and I don’t mind helping with a hammer or lifting heavy things.

    I don’t care what they believe – the fact is I only wish I could be as good and charitable as these fine people who have given their lives to social justice in the name of their religion.

    I could not handle a conversation with my old Calvary Chapel buddies. They would do nothing but throw stale Bible verses at me, and complain that I am not “interpreting” them properly. Gag – I have better things to do with my life than try to figure out God’s secret handshake.

    I think I know what makes rational conversations with my catholic freinds possible. They are devout, but quite progressive and liberal in their beliefs, and they confided in me that….

    …they do not believe in Hell. They are Universalists. When I asked them why when their church explicitely taught Hell, they were frank in telling me they simply chose not to. They found that not dwelling on the worst aspect of God removed much of their own fear. That is pretty arbitrary if you ask me, but I am not complaining!!

    My wife is also a devout Catholic who does not believe in Hell, although it terrified her as a young girl. That universalist catholicism seems to be spreading around here.

    I do believe that once that poisonous belief of eternal damnation is removed, rationality can begin. I do not condemn the belief in God or religion like many in the atheist community do. I do condemn the belief in eternal damnation. That is nothing but pure venom, and in my opinion is the one sole source of the fear, the lack of communication and stonewalling among Christians. Remove that dread, that fear, and rationality discourse really can occur.

    Funny – my friend actually confided in me that she believed God made me an atheist to rescue me from Fundamentalism.. Absolutely hilarious…Oh the irony of it all..!!!

  • 126. LeoPardus  |  September 19, 2009 at 10:51 am

    I have better things to do with my life than try to figure out God’s secret handshake.

    LOL !!

    And i think your previous post deserves “rant of the quarter” status at least. :)

  • 127. LeoPardus  |  September 19, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Beth

    Hope you’re OK. We are all likely imaging you having a helluva weekend and hoping we’re wrong.

    Hang in there. We’re here if we can be of any help.

  • 128. HeIsSailing  |  September 19, 2009 at 11:29 am

    Leopardus:

    Beth

    Hope you’re OK. We are all likely imaging you having a helluva weekend and hoping we’re wrong.

    Amen brother! Beth, I did not pray for you this morning, but I did wonder how things were going. We have all been through something similar at some point – and we know that it is a trying experience. Write an article if you want, and email it to one of us contributors. We would be glad to put it up as the lead article on the site if you want.

  • 129. Frreal  |  September 19, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    Also thinking of you Beth and hoping for you.

  • 130. Brian  |  September 21, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Regarding Porcupine’s comment, earlier, I too don’t hold it against people who are so entrenched in the faith that they cannot see my point of view. Well… I TRY not to hold it against them anyway. The fact is, atheists and believers are operating from two completely different rulebooks. It’s like trying to argue the merit of a particularly great football play while using baseball terminology. You’re not even playing the same game anymore.

    If hell isn’t real, then all the crap that Christians do in the name of conversion and whatnot is mind control and, as Dicky Dawkins would say, child abuse. If hell IS real though, then it’s simply tough love. After all, who would fault a person for tackling somebody else, maybe even breaking a few of their ribs and knocking a few teeth out, all to prevent them from falling off a cliff into a lake of fire? Nobody. If that lake of fire is real, the tackler is a HERO. If there’s NO lake of fire however, he’s just crazy or a bully. Two different rule books.

    That’s why as much as I think he’s a crazy loon, I have a begrudging respect for Ken Ham and people like him. After all, if you’re going to operate from the starting postulate that God is real, hell is real and the Bible is inerrant, then how could you be anything BUT like Ken Ham, or like the fire and brimstone preachers who everyone agrees is crazy. If your rulebook says hell is a literal place, then shit, you’d be crazy NOT to be preaching like that. Doesn’t leave a lot of room for constructive dialogue.

  • 131. Joshua  |  September 21, 2009 at 10:55 am

    Brian, I completely agree.

    Which is why the Christians who piss me off, though, are the ones who believe I am going to hell and don’t seem to be trying to stop me. All they need to do is listen to my arguments and show me where I went wrong. They don’t. Either they won’t listen or they won’t respond.

    What? You say I am going to hell? Listen, if you want to see me saved… LISTEN TO WHAT I HAVE TO SAY AND SHOW ME WHERE I WENT WRONG.

    That would turn me back to Christ.

    But no one does. Not a soul. And if they try, by the time they finally figure out what I am saying and go “oh, that’s what you meant” I’ve moved even farther from the faith because that makes me realize there must be nothing divine living inside of them enabling them to minister to me.

    Anyway, it blows my stack when someone honestly and truly believes that someone else is destined for that lake of fire and yet they passively conclude it is all either in God’s hand or the damned person’s fault.

    Complete apathy is worse than radical opposition. Which is why I consider the worst Christian’s those who hold to double-predestination or extreme forms of Calvinism. That, ultimately, turns people into automatons, which is, ironically, just what they claim evolution does… except these robots get to suffer for eternity because of God’s will. It’s disgusting.

  • 132. Bethany  |  September 28, 2009 at 11:32 am

    I’m sorry that I haven’t been updating. I just wanted to let you guys know that things are going ok right now. I think it’s going to be a long road for my husband and I to make our relationship work, but we’re trying right now. I can tell he’s very depressed right now and thinks (hopes) that it’s only a matter of time before I come to my senses. I’m hoping he comes to accept me as I am at some point (without being tortured by the thought of me burning in hell forever while he’s by himself up in heaven). I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen, or if he’s going to be able to bear the pain he’s in. Whether or not we stay together – I think that’s going to depend on how much he can bear that pain that he feels when he’s around me.

  • 133. GeorgeZ  |  September 28, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Beth, the Bible states in simply

    Can two walk together unless they be agreed?

    Faith in Jesus Christ, and an atheist. No way.

    You are free to leave, he is free to allow you to leave, according to the Bible.

    Glad you are not of the faith of Islam, you would be killed if you lived in an Islamic state.

    Thankfully, you get to leave, or stay. If your husband cannot bear to have the closest person to him leave the faith, again he is free to marry again.

    Hope there are no children.

  • 134. Jeremy  |  September 28, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Beth,

    That’s at least good to hear that he’s willing to try to make it work. The level of suckage is monumental, I can imagine, and I had the same feelings when confronting my folks … or should I say, they confronted me. He can take comfort in the fact that there are no tears in heaven. It’s not just a good Clapton song. It’s true … if you believe the Bible. If you remain a non-believer and he a believer, chances are there won’t be much need or time for earthly “love” in his heaven since he will be spending all his time worshiping his deity and marveling at streets of gold and what not.

    My best,

    J.

  • 135. Brian  |  September 28, 2009 at 11:57 am

    And Beth, ignore GeorgeZ. He’s apparently one of our many drive-by flamers. He’s good for Bible quote barrages and an inability to consider anything you say if it’s not contained within his own fundie interpretation of the Bible.

  • 136. Mystery Porcupine  |  September 28, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Beth, what an awful thing for you to go through. We all know you didn’t want to cause your husband any pain. I hope that he can find his way out of the pain and back to your loving relationship. Every day that you treat him with kindness and love is a real challenge to the pain he is feeling. It seems like the situation would cause so much cognitive dissonance that he will either leave you or the church, but maybe he will just find a way to stay with you both. It must be really hard for you to try and wait this out. I hope for the best for your family.

  • 137. GeorgeZ  |  September 28, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    And Beth, ignore GeorgeZ. He’s apparently one of our many drive-by flamers. He’s good for Bible quote barrages and an inability to consider anything you say if it’s not contained within his own fundie interpretation of the Bible

    You are correct, Brian. There is no reason for me to consider anything other than the truth that Jesus Christ died for the sins of mankind.

    Israel is the key to Bible prophecy. These events are going to continue no matter what the world attemps.

    Stay tuned. You will just have to continue to deny, deny, deny.

  • 138. Joshua  |  September 28, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    There is no reason for me to consider anything other than the truth that Jesus Christ died for the sins of mankind

    GeorgeZ, I hope it becomes apparent to you someday that your mind is stuck in an infinite threat / rewards loop.

  • 139. CheezChoc  |  September 28, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Beth, I’m glad you checked in. I was worried.

  • 140. LeoPardus  |  September 28, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Beth:

    I too am glad you checked in. Like CheezChoc, I feared the worst. Now that you’re past the original revelation to your husband, and he’s trying to adjust instead of just bailing, things are a bit brighter I hope.
    Most of the split marriages of folks on this site have turned out fine. In some cases the believer later woke up too.

    And do ignore George. He’s a complete troll, with an emotional and intelligence quotient to fit.

  • 141. Quester  |  September 28, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    Hey, Beth! A long road isn’t the worst of options. It will give your husband and yourself a chance to learn that you are still you. It took me a year to learn how to be me again, without my usual crutches. It’s nice to know they weren’t actually necessary.

    Thanks for letting us know how you’re going on. We wish you the best.

    Oh, and as others have mentioned, we seem to be suffering from a prophet infestation just now, but he isn’t to be taken seriously.

  • 142. HeIsSailing  |  September 28, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    Hey Beth. My wife and I thought about you this weekend. She and I are making our marraige work, and so can you with effort, love and dedication. Please keep us posted periodically.

  • 143. Jeremy Styron  |  September 29, 2009 at 12:26 am

    GeorgeZ,

    So Christ died vicariously for the sins of mankind? How is that possible? Why is it possible, and why is it even ethical? I should be accountable for my own transgressions and you for yours. Yet, Christ takes on all of our accountability on himself without our permission, but with a dire, dire, dire, dire price. What sort of irrationality is this? You will say: ahh, it’s a gift from Christ! If we would only accept his gift of salvation, we will be saved from eternal fire. But we didn’t ask for any salvation nor did we want it or need it. Yet, the price for not accepting this free “gift” is eternal punishment? And this from a loving savior? Please.

  • 144. Carlos  |  April 30, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Wow! I still need to catch my breath.. No doubt, powerful, very eloquent. I do appreciate the use of personal experiences plus prudent allusions to gay issues. I was raised catholic, split and attended many different services, cried, prayed, on my kness asked God (He/She/or It) to make me straight and never there was a speck of compassion. This went on until I was 32, and decided finally to come out. I decided I am a proud deist, like many of our country’s founding fathers. There has to be a Maker, but we cannot comprehend a divine realm, we are too little, transitory, human, imperfect. I read the bible many times, but cannot base my beliefs in a book written 2000 yrs ago and put together by the romans and their cronies to save an empire and turn it into the holy roman empire out of constantinople. I praise the authors inner searching and logic. I am sure the creator, that gave us a very capable brain, values that we use it and we question human and divine authority. I wish to close by saying, I rather find my faith in the light of all the information available, rather than following blindly in a narrow track the dogmas of a particular sect.

  • 145. Quester  |  April 30, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Carlos! I have no idea why “There has to be a Maker” or why, if we can’t comprehend a divine realm, we can say it exists, but deism is a stance with a fair amount of beauty and very little fear or hatred built in, and I’m glad to hear you’re allowing what information is available to shape your beliefs.

  • 146. Kaleb Lippert  |  May 20, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    I left the Baptist Church to become a Catholic. I think you should look my faceboom up, Kaleb Patrick Lippert, Protestantism is a bad as naziism and communism combined! http://www.lippertkaleb.globspot.com

  • 147. cag  |  May 20, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    #147 Kaleb, so pedophiles are a step up?

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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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