An Epilogue

December 23, 2009 at 2:34 am 42 comments

A year flies by so unbelievably fast. Yet, I simultaneously can’t believe it’s only been about a year since I admitted to myself something I had known for a long time: I no longer believed in God. It’s kind of strange. I look back on my journal entries and first few blog entries. I’ve grown so much in the last year, and in so many ways. Timid, scared, and incredibly sad are words that once suited me well.

A year ago, I could only timidly confess the intellectual reasons why I stopped believing in God. I did, however, leave my conservative church for highly painful, emotional experiences I could barely breathe through, let alone write about. Now I fiercely write just about everything. Through my writing, I find support, and through the support, healing. Healing that never existed in Christian circles.

I imagine my atheism will always have a tinge of awkwardness with my highly conservative family, but I’m getting used to it. Losing the depth of those relationships has been very difficult, but everyone is adjusting. It’s not the normal I’m used to. They’re not as meaningful as they were BDc (Before De-converting). But it is something, and even as I have lost those relationships in some ways, I have found new relationships. A new family in the friends I have now. Friends who love me and care about me whether or not I follow their idea of a life path. Friends who laugh with me, cry with me, and celebrate with me. They are happy because I am happy, not because I am conforming to their standards. That is a gift, indeed. I never realized how conditional the love my church and family gave. It feels as though my relationships now are capable of so much more depth because of it.

Too, I recently realized, as a former Baptist minister’s wife who rarely had a voice in the religious world dominated by men, that while I had lost my faith, I gained my voice. Even while I mourned for a loss of something I held dear, I did not realize I was gaining so much more. So take heart, those of you who are still in the agonizing phase of losing everything you once held dear: it gets better. I know it’s rough. I know there are moments when you want so badly to cling to the religion you left behind, but you can’t. So you grasp at anything, and it feels like you are grasping at the air, hanging onto nothing. Or you’re angry at the pain you suffered at the hands of those who were supposed to love you. And you don’t know how to find healing, because the only way you were ever taught to find healing was through Jesus, who you want so badly to believe in, but can’t. There were moments I didn’t think I could make it. There are still bad moments, but they are manageable now. Keep hanging on. You find your new normal. You grow, and you like what you see. If you don’t like what you see, you now have the power to change yourself into something you do like. No more rigid gender roles! No more desperately trying to conform yourself to a personality and standards that don’t fit. Focus on those positives. Go where you want, do what you want. Chase down those dreams. It will all be worth it in the end.

It’s been a year. Are things perfect? No, no, and no. Definitely not! I still struggle with many issues. I still have days where I feel I’ve fallen so hard, I’ll never get anywhere. But those days are becoming fewer and farther between. Life is better. A lot better. Each new day brings just a little more healing. With that healing comes more confidence: I am strong. I am likeable. I am able. I am free.

How have you changed since you de-converted?

-by Laura

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The Intelli gent ly Designed Post WWJD Series: Jesus, Thoughtcrime and Eternal Anguish

42 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Quester  |  December 23, 2009 at 4:24 am

    How have you changed since you de-converted?

    Wow, what a question. Let’s see, for me it will be two years come February. So much and so little has changed, all at the same time. I’m still helping people find the answers to their questions, but as a reference librarian (well, library assistant) instead of a pastor. The expectations are different, but there is a fair amount of overlap in the skill set required. My employers no longer have input into my living arrangements or social life; I have set hours, listed expectations and there is a significant difference between being on the clock and off the clock. But those are the sorts of differences that could happen in any job change.

    I’m making some selfish choices. I’m more spending time with people whose company I enjoy rather than focussing on befriending the friendless. I’ve bought myself a few toys, like an mp3 player and an ebook reader, instead of giving the money away. Nothing too elabourate. I’m still learning how to value myself, instead of blaming my sinful self for all evil and giving God the glory for all good. I’m beginning to see my self-loathing as irrational, when viewed objectively, instead of from within a game we are set up to lose (all evil, pain and suffering as the result of sin, but laws written so that being sinless is impossible). I’m contemplating seeing a psychologist to help me, but have been making some decent strides with the help of friends.

    It used to be that I valued little that wasn’t of eternal consequence. Now I see nothing of eternal consequence. I’m having some success learning to value some things, anyway. In the meantime, there are advantages to not feeling like I have to take some fairly superficial things deadly seriously. There are a few odd learning curves. Last year, I couldn’t bring myself to sing any Christian Christmas carols. This year, I realized that Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and Hark the Herald Angels Sing are both fun songs about seasonal stories I can enjoy without believing.

    Speaking of music, I’ve been listening to a lot of music, no longer seeking out what I “should” be listening to, to train and transform my mind. This also helps drown out some of the self-destructive thought processes I’ve developed over the years.

    Nothing huge or impressive, but not too many years ago I was begging God to take my life because I could not stop sinning and leading others to sin because I couldn’t see his will clearly to preach it. It was tearing me apart. I’ll take what progress I can manage, even that which might not look like progress to who I once was.

  • 2. mikespeir  |  December 23, 2009 at 6:46 am

    How have I changed? In several ways. One I actually lament is that I increasingly can’t put myself back into a believer’s mindset. There are times when it would be nice to throw myself back such that I could see an issue from the believer’s perspective. That’s getting harder to do as time goes on. So often I simply cannot fathom how someone could adopt opinions I once held to fervently myself. As a result, I’m sure I’m not as understanding as I could be and tend to forget that these people really do believe this stuff and aren’t just trying to be a royal pain.

  • 3. L  |  December 23, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Thoughts of suicide, always accompanied by the desperate desire to get out of this life and into the next presumably more heavenly one, when my god did give me more than I could handle, are gone.

    They have been replaced by the desire to appreciate every single instant, pleasant or otherwise, that I have remaining in my all-too-short time on this planet.

    God saved my life. In a totally ironic way.

  • 4. Scott  |  December 23, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Ironically, In many ways I haven’t changed that much since deconverting, which some would say speaks volumes about my christianity, maybe it does.

    I HAVE noticed that I am more relaxed with myself, more accepting of myself than I ever was as a believer.

    Leaving God, while disconcerting at first (and still at times), has brought me more peace than I ever would have thought.

    You mentioned befriending people. I suck at that, but when I was a christian I felt I had to try to be friends with others so I could win them to christ. I didn’t like it because I’m not a people person, but I felt it was my christian duty. Now I can be friends just to be friends!

  • 5. Grace  |  December 23, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Lord have mercy! Of course, your self-loathing is irrational, for heaven’s sake.

    I was not going to comment, but have too, Quester. I’m an Episcopalian, and this is far from the teaching of my priest. It’s over the top, friend. It is little wonder you want nothing to do with church.

    No sane, or balanced person would long be a Christian believer, holding to these views. To my mind, we are fearfully, and wonderfully made, a blessing. Jesus says that we are to love our neighbor as ourself. This presupposes that we should be loving,, and accepting ourselves, doesn’t it?

    There is a huge difference between recognizing the reality of human fallenness, and feeling that we are simply worthless, and despicable.

    I think it’s great, and righteous to befriend the friendless, and give to the poor.

    But, this doesn’t mean either that folks are simply our projects, or we have to feel compelled to beat everyone that walks over the head with the Scripture. God is the one who draws people to faith, not us. And, I think it’s fine to set healthy boundaries.

    Hey, I’m a committed Christian, and I say enjoy life, love God, and do as you please, a paraphrase of St. Francis of Assisi. :)f

  • 6. athe  |  December 23, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    Looks like your website is under attack from supernatural forces…

    http://boards.history.com/topic/Nostradamus/Atheism-Is-Deadforever/520085067

    you really need to add comment moderation to your blasphemy…

  • 7. Ubi Dubium  |  December 23, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    I’m a committed non-Christian, and I say enjoy life, question all claims about gods, behave in a socially responsible manner, and do as you please so long as you are not hurting anyone else.

    No sane, or balanced person would long be a Christian believer, holding to these views.

    But millions of people do live with this kind of overwhelming religion every day. Are they sane and balanced? If you ask them, they would say they are. Yet they, and you, follow a religion that is based on the idea that a creator god made flawed humans, then will punish them for being flawed unless they believe the story of a human sacrifice written in a 2000-year-old book largely written by Bronze-age goatherders. I came from a moderate Protestant background, probably not very different from yours. Yet I realized that even though the church I attended seemed sane and reasonable, the basic belief system was not. No matter how nice the people were, how good a community there was or how fun the activities were, the stuff I was asked to say I believed in just made no sense and never realy had. So during college, I left. Been out for 25 years now.
    A few years ago there was a reunion party for my old Youth Group from that church. It had been an incredibly active and fun group to belong to. At the reunion we chatted and caught up and remembered some of the old songs. Then half the people decided they needed to sit down and have a bible study together. That was my cue to go home. I’m not going to pretend to believe in things I don’t anymore, even when it would be easy and socially acceptable. I’ve got to be the person I am now, no going back.

  • 8. Grace  |  December 23, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    Ubi, I want to be kind, and yet, honest. I think the concept many folks have of Christian faith is quite frankly like the understanding of a young child. It’s a caricature, except they don’t know it.

    And, how can this be shared without causing great offense? It can’t. Do you honestly think people become separated from God simply for innocently, or mistakenly holding to the wrong opinion. It’s so much deeper than that.

    And, don’t get me started on this crude analogy of Jesus volunteering to go to the cross, so this angry, vengeful God, could have His Shylockian pound of flesh, and let us “off the hook,” so to speak. What a travesty of the love of God shown in Jesus Christ.

    You are perfectly right to be honest, not to pretend to be someone you’re not. I wouldn’t do it, either. No way!!

    I’m going off line over the holiday, Ubi, and will be away. Think I need to pray, and reflect deeply about whether I should keep blogging at all.

    God’s peace.

  • 9. Quester  |  December 23, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    Grace,

    I tried not to teach self-loathing, either, but it’s inherent in the Christian tradition, including the Episcopalian tradition. Do you still use the Prayer of Humble Access in your Episcopalian church?

    We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

    What does that mean to you? That you should accept yourself as you are… a grovelling dog begging at the master’s table for the blood of the sacrifice that was killed for your evil?

    A core part of Anglican teachings, from the very beginning of the Anglican/Episcopalian church, centres on our inability to do anything outside of the grace of God. Try reading articles 9-15 of the 39 Articles and think about what they mean if you take them seriously. http://anglicansonline.org/basics/thirty-nine_articles.html

    I want to be kind, and yet, honest. I think the concept many folks have of Christian faith is quite frankly like the understanding of a young child. It’s a caricature, except they don’t know it.

    I’m not so concerned about being kind just now, but to be honest, a theology that centres on a God who accepts us and wants us to accept ourselves is a superficial piece of idolatry which smugly ignores 90% of scripture and almost 2000 years of tradition in order to pretend at an unjustified claim of enlightenment and sophistication. I’m glad your priest is teaching you nice things, but look at your Bible, your Prayer Book and your Church’s official teachings, and see if any of these can be held long by your “sane and balanced person”.

  • 10. Grace  |  December 24, 2009 at 8:20 am

    Quester,

    My priest is a godly, and intelligent woman, preaching the word of the Lord. Doesn’t Jesus reveal to us the exact nature of God? Look at the gospels. Did He teach people that they were all despicable creatures, to loath themselves?

    I’m running out the door to work, and then off to visit my kids, and grandkids for Christmas.

    I’ll be back,Quester after the holidays to talk more, if you want. I love the book of Common Prayer. We have very different views of this.

    Do you think the naturalist view that we are here by pure chance, based in nothing more than survival of the fittest, (natural selection,) is actually a better philosophical base to suppose that all human life is sacred, and that we have immeasurable worth, and value, than the witness of the Christian faith?

    Lord have mercy!

    Pax.

  • 11. Ubi Dubium  |  December 24, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Grace,
    Hope to hear from you when you get back.
    Do you think the naturalist view that we are here by pure chance, based in nothing more than survival of the fittest, (natural selection,) is actually a better philosophical base to suppose that all human life is sacred, and that we have immeasurable worth, and value, than the witness of the Christian faith?
    You are presupposing your conclusions there. I don’t decide what is true by what is a better “philosophical base”, I decide by looking at where the evidence points. And you should explain what you mean when you say that all human life is “sacred”. Please explain what you think the meaning of that word is, and why, outside of a religious context, we would suppose this. And your statement that we have “immeasurable worth” is an assertion that you also have not supported.

    I think the naturalist view is the correct one, even if it isn’t the one people wish were true. I think worth is about what we do or have the potential to do with our lives, not just who we are. I think sentient life is important, but I do not hold anything as “sacred”. That word just does not mean anything for me anymore.

    As for the childlike understanding you think you are seeing, I spent 18 years as a very active protestant, participated in endless bible study, and read the bible cover to cover twice, in two different translations. I have also read many of the apocryphal books, extensive religious writings and a good chunk of the Qu’ran. That being said, I probably have much less background in this than many of the regular commenters here, some of whom are theologians and ex-pastors. These people do no know “too little” they know their subject in great depth, and saw through all the superficial muddle and apologetics. They asked themselves whether their religion (or any religion) was at its core, true. And concluded it wasn’t

  • 12. Quester  |  December 24, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Grace,

    My priest is a godly, and intelligent woman, preaching the word of the Lord.

    I’m not surprised. I number more than a few Anglican/Epsicopalian clergy among my friends, most of whom I met while in seminary. These men and women are compassionate, caring, intelligent, funny, wise and loving. That doesn’t mean their theology is correct, neither does it mean it’s incorrect. Frankly, bringing up your priest is to base your argument on the person of an authority figure. This is a logical fallacy and has nothing to do with the truth or falsity of your claims, and nothing to do with their sophistication or childishness, either. The Bible your priest received upon her ordination did not have the answers in the back like some math text books do.

    To answer your questions, no, yes, and yes. But we can get into that when you’re back. Enjoy your time with your family!

  • 13. 4riozs  |  December 26, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    Laura I really enjoyed your post. I almost cried. I can really relate to the things you have said. I have only been away from the church about 9 months. It’s finally getting easier. I feel better than I have in years. I have finally left behind the pressures involve with the church, one of those being- faking happiness. I always felt like a black sheep b/c my problems did not go away, and if I expressed my discontentment other Christians would judge me or tell me I was sinning. It has been truely liberating leaving the church. I have changed in alot of ways, but all positive changes. I think the best change has been the ability to love myself and also to see how capable I actually am, instead of always waiting on God to do things, that never happen anyway. I used to wait on God to liberate me from my sadness, that was result of the many problems surrounding me, I have learned to fight for my own needs and stick up for myself- I found my liberation, but it wasn’t in Christianity. I’m happy about the changes and hope to continue evolving into a more complete person.

    Again I enjoyed your post.

  • 14. Grace  |  December 27, 2009 at 9:03 am

    4rioz,

    Shades of “Job’s comforters.” These “Christian” people are lying through their teeth. Life is hard. No one is going to be happy all the time, and we all have problems. Christians are not supposed to “fake happiness.” We are supposed to be real, encourage, and pray for one another.

    Of course you are capable, and should love yourself. Does God make junk? As the psalmist writes, “I will praise you oh Lord, for I am “fearfully, and wonderfully made..”

  • 15. Grace  |  December 27, 2009 at 9:05 am

    Hi, Ubi, and Questor,

    Will be back later after church, and hope to return comments if my internet connection holds.

  • 16. Grace  |  December 27, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Ubi, you have shared a great concern that I would have with philosophical materialism even from a pragmatic point of view.

    Years ago, I worked with a dedicated group of people, trying to help men who were in danger of undergoing forced sterilization because of violating the “two child policy,” in China. This procedure was quite dangerous at the time, serious infection being common, sometimes leading to death.

    In an effort to control population growth, women having more than two children were also coerced into abortion which could happen even at term, as the baby was beginning to progress down the birth canal to be born. I could share the horror stories.

    Many times girl babies had been aborted at any stage of pregnancy, until a couple was able to conceive a wanted son.

    You see, wIthout a sense of the intrinsic worth, and value of human life apart from convenience or performance, what Christians would term “the sanctity of life,” it is easy to suppose that the “end justifies the means.”

    Anything can become possible. Why not even forced ethunasia for those who are infirm, and elderly, the chronically and severly disabled? It becomes a fine line, Ubi.

    If it is thought that we are simply highly evolved animals, here by chance, based in “survival of the fittest,” natural selection, any abuse can ultimately become possible to help ensure the survival of the whole, or sometimes even for societal convenience.

    It’s true that there are atheists who have taken an existential leap, and are humanists..But, athiesm is an empty room. One could just as easily take the philosophy, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die..” or, “I’m going to get mine, while I can …” People define happiness differently.

    I believe this is a very dangerous philosophical base for an entire culture. Even in more secular Europe, most people believe that there is some kind of spirit, or life force.

    And, I think in many ways people are still living on the borrowed capital of the Judeo-Christian ethic in these countries. Few, have actually been reared in athiesm through generations.

  • 17. Grace  |  December 27, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Quester,

    Share with me more fully when you’re able. I believe that what God has created is good, a blessing. We are “fearfully, and wonderfully made.”

    It’s true the Christian faith teaches also the reality of human fallenness, and brokenness. We have become alienated from God, and from each other. In terms of God’s perfect love, and holiness, we all fall short. We can’t “fix ourselves by ourselves.”

    So, there is this paradox..Quester. But, I certainly would not interpret this all to mean that we are these despicable creatures of no worth to God, humanly speaking incapable of anything good.

    I honestly don’t feel that this is the overall witness of the Christian faith.

    In my own life, I think my sense of self-worth, and wanting to make a positive difference for good in the world has greatly been enhanced by my faith in Jesus Christ.

    Is this idolotry? It doesn’t seems so to me.

    I don’t want us to get into just a debate together, Quester. I’ll listen, and try to be as open as possible to understand what you’re sharing.

    Sincerely,
    Grace (Rebecca)

  • 18. Quester  |  December 27, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Grace (Rebecca),

    I hope you had a wonderful time with your family. I know I did.

    I want to thank you, Grace. It’s been quite a while since I last made a post on this site, but trying to think how best to respond to you really inspired me.

    Doesn’t Jesus reveal to us the exact nature of God?

    My quick answer was no, mostly because there is no god. But to go a little deeper, the story of Jesus’ birth, three years of ministry, death and resurrection, if assumed to be the revelation (or Word or logos) of a god, can be interpreted to reveal pretty much any nature you want to attribute to a god.

    Did He teach people that they were all despicable creatures, to loath themselves?

    Yes, by teaching them that their honest feelings and the thoughts they can not control separate them from God, make them deserving of unending torture, and must be paid for in blood and suffering.

    Do you think the naturalist view that we are here by pure chance, based in nothing more than survival of the fittest, (natural selection,) is actually a better philosophical base to suppose that all human life is sacred, and that we have immeasurable worth, and value, than the witness of the Christian faith?

    My answer of yes was again just a quick answer, based on the idea that reality is always the best base for philosophy and that the witness of the Christian faith can hardly fail to be improved upon, but there is deeper we can go. Let’s look at something you have said to Ubi, “athiesm is an empty room”.

    That’s true. There are no positive claims within the definition of atheism, simply a lack of belief. Upon what can a positive philosophy be built? Nothing but reason, empathy and the simple facts of the universe we live in. In what way is this an improvement over Christianity? Well, as the many different sects and evolution of beliefs tells us, Christians, like atheists, build their philosophies and morality on foundations of reason, empathy, and the reality of the universe around us. They are handicapped in their reason, however, by valuing faith without evidence. They are handicapped in their empathy by believing that things will be made better after they die. They are handicapped in their understanding of the universe by believing in an entity who can change physical laws on a whim.

    You and I, Grace, live in the same empty room. I don’t see how populating the room with imaginary beings gives you any advantage, even if they tell you to do (think and feel) things you think are good things to do (think and feel), and tell you not to do (think and feel) things you think are evil.

  • 19. Grace  |  December 28, 2009 at 10:26 am

    Hi, Quester,

    Glad you had a awesome time with your family. I did too, except that I ate too, too much turkey, and apple pie!!

    Quester, the Episcopal church in the U.S. teaches that our faith does need to be informed by reason, as well as the witness of Scripture, and church tradition. We really do expect folks to examine their convictions, and not check their mind at the church door.

    It’s true we don’t think in wholly naturalistic terms, but this doesn’t mean an incredulity relating to the miraculous either, or a rejection of modern science. I mean, the presi;ding bishop of the church is a woman with an earned doctorate in marine biology.

    It’s just that we think that by reason alone, we can’t know God, that there’s more to us, and to the universe, than the purely material.

    I’m not sure where you’re at in terms of the empathy concern. Do you think that because people affirm the hope of the resurrection, we don’t care about hurting people or life in the here, and now?

    I know some Christians might veer off in that direction, but TEC really does not. We are actually supporting the UN millennial goals as a way of expressing the love of Christ.

    I see that our conversation as inspired you to a post about Jesus, how He reveals the nature of God to us. Appreciate your honesty, Quester. I’ll go up there to comment, too.

    Quester, do you think Anglicans in the UK may think differently than what I’ve shared? Has your experience been different? There is a diversity in every church, and people are at various places in their spiritual maturity/understanding, and their life in God.

    Again, I appreciate hearing your thoughts.

  • 20. BigHouse  |  December 28, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Grace,

    What do you think about a God that gives us our mental capcity and the ability to reason yet hides himself outside of that mental capcity to know and understand him?

  • 21. Quester  |  December 28, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    Ah, Grace,

    Yes, too much turkey and too many cookies, but it was all so delicious!

    I am well familiar with the three-legged stool metaphor for the support of Episcopalian theology- using reason and tradition to interpret scripture, reason and scripture to build from tradition, and scripture and tradition to inform reason. I think that this helps the Episcopalian church avoid some of the nastier beliefs and actions that the Christian faith can lead to, but are in no way better than using reason to inform empathy and empathy to guide reason.

    Please do not think that when I say “handicapped in” I mean “incapable of”. Christians, like members of any group of people, are very much capable of reason and empathy. But while a person wearing thick, woolen mittens may be capable of tying knots in a piece of string, she is making it unnecessarily difficult for herself to do so. Remember that I am not arguing that Christianity is evil, just a poorer philosophical base than naturalism.

    Speaking of unnecessary difficulties, Grace, what are your thoughts on the Anglican Communion Covenant? http://www.anglicancommunion.org/commission/covenant/final/text.cfm

  • 22. Grace  |  December 29, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    Well, Quester, we have to agree to disagree. This has definitely not been my personal experience.

    Haven’t always been a Christian, and at one point in my life, was actually agnostic.

    This is difficult to sort out, in one sense. We don’t all begin from the same place, and folks can have widely differing innate temperments. Some may just naturally be more empathic. For them, faith or not, may have little to do with it.

    Want very much to talk with you about the Anglican Covenant, and would like to hear your opinion, too. But, I’m typed out,and have to run for now.

    Later, Quester.

    Pax.

  • 23. Quester  |  December 29, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    Feel free to disagree with me, and if you have arguments to back up what you say, so much the better. Laura’s post struck me in a way I felt the need to respond to, even though I knew it opened me up to arguments of misunderstanding Christianity from people who don’t know me, and your comments did help me put into words something that’s been bothering me for a while.

    As for the covenant, most of what I’d discuss about it centers on 4.2: The Maintenance of the Covenant and Dispute Resolution. As an instrument of forcing either obedience or a split church, the covenant is very well written.

  • 24. Grace  |  January 3, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Hey, Quester,

    Sorry about the lapse in my posting, here. Personally, I don’t believe unity can, or should be forced. It’s a gift of God’s spirit.

    I see no reason at all why folks cannot rest in their unity in Christ, affirming the basic essentials of the faith, such as the incarnation, and agree to disagree about something like the ordination of gay bishops, or the blessing of same sex union.

    I’m personally very affirming of GLBT inclusion in the church, and would not want to do anything to hinder anyone in the gay community in anyway from coming to Christ, and becoming fully a part of His church.

    Hoping, and praying that all this wouldn’t lead to a permantly split church. But, think that God is ultimately in control, and that we can so trust Him.

    Afterall, it’s Jesus Christ who builds, and protects His church, not us. I’m speaking now of the universal church, Quester, not just the AC.

    Off to wintery upstate NY for my job related training. Brrr!!!

  • 25. BigHouse  |  January 3, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    I see no reason at all why folks cannot rest in their unity in Christ, affirming the basic essentials of the faith, such as the incarnation, and agree to disagree about something like the ordination of gay bishops, or the blessing of same sex union.

    What makes you think you know which points are “core” and which ones can be “agree to disagree”. Why can’t Jesus’ resurrection be a debatable agree ti disagree point?

  • 26. Quester  |  January 3, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Thank-you, Grace,

    This is going to be an interesting struggle to witness over the next few years. Right now, the Anglican Communion seems to be trying very hard to either fragment or fall apart. Fifty years from now, I wonder if there will be any practicing Anglicans or Episcopalians outside of Africa.

    As Big House implied, there is remarkably little agreement as to what are the “basic essentials of faith” and what are not essential (this is true within the Anglican Communion, the larger Christian body, and within the yet larger category of theists). Jesus’ depictions of eternal punishment for vague “crimes” will do that, if nothing else (well, at least for Christians).

    But I agree with you, Grace. If a god were to exist, the unity of his church would be his to grant or deny. By choosing to communicate clearly, a god could encourage unity. By failing to, we’d have what we have right now.

  • 27. Grace  |  January 3, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Big House, and Quester,

    The center of Christian faith is the reality of the incarnation, and the work of the cross. All Christians believe that God loved us so much that He fully entered into human life, and suffering, that He absorbed the consequence of sin, and evil into Himself, so that we could share in His life.

    It is the confession of the Christian church that by the dying, and rising again of Jesus Christ, we are put right with God, and with each other.

    Basically, this is summed up in the Nicene Creed of the church which is affirmed every Sunday in all churches that are part of the Anglican Communion.

    Quester, I know you’re troubled by this teaching of Jesus relating to what you term, “thought crime.”

    But, I’m a social/counselor by profession, and while I agree that we can’t, and shouldn’t repress our honest feelings, and emotions, or stress over every stray thought that crosses the mind, I think Jesus really is sharing a very huge concern.

    People don’t simply commit assault, and murder generally out of the blue, on the spur of the moment. That rage, and brooding anger, that lead to murder, often were being given firm root in the mind, focused on, and nursed along for sometime.

    I think Jesus is trying to encourage people to consider, and think deeply about the root of things, and where that can lead, rather than just our outward action.

    Also, I think this teaching needs to be considered in it’s context, along with the overall witness of Jesus Christ, and of the Scripture. It’s certainly not “by works of righteousness that we’ve done, but according to God’s mercy, that He saves us.”

    Quester, I want to say, in case we don’t talk again, that I very deeply mourn, your lose to the church of Jesus Christ.

    I”m so glad, though, that you’re finding healing, and will hold you in prayer.

    Want to also say, as a social worker :) , please, please, don’t hesitate to look for profession counsel if all these issues don’t resolve themselves.

    You know, no one thinks twice about heading off to a physician if they have diabetes, and then even taking insulin if needed.

    Yet, so ofter there is this stigma about seeking mental health support, or taking medication if needed for help with depression, or anxiety. Alot of times, there are hormonal, and biochemical imbalances that can really be greatly helped, and corrected.

    Quester, hope you aren’t offended by my sharing, but I really felt lead to say a word about this.

    Think you’re a good guy with a loving spirit. Wishing so much the best for you.

    Thanks both of you for talkin with me, too. :)

  • 28. BigHouse  |  January 3, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    But Grace, HUMANS created the Nicene creed and placed it at that importance. What if they were incorrect to do so?

  • 29. Quester  |  January 4, 2010 at 2:33 am

    Grace,

    The center of several of the worldviews which are lumped under the umbrella term “Christian faith” is one understanding or another of the incarnation, and what is usually a very poorly defined concept that can be called “the work of the cross”. These concepts are understood as literal, metaphorical, or unimportant by various folk who term themselves Christian. Most Christians believe that God saved them from something, though few agree on what, or how. Options for what Christians might be saved from include, but are by no means limited to: sin, death, hell, torment, disease, doubt, God’s wrath, Satan, their own nature, the natural consequences of their actions, and law. Options for how they might be saved include, but are by no means limited to: substitution, free gift, role modelling, sacrifice, cleansing, purchasing, or overcoming. Some Christians go further to think that God saved them for something, not just from something, though there is even less agreement on that. Disagreements as to who, exactly, is saved, and what that means is the overt reason for most splits that have happened in the Christian churches.

    The Nicene Creed is an interesting document, recited by several of the Christian denominations. I wonder if you went to three people in your church one at a time, out of the hearing of the other two, and asked each of them to take you through the Nicene line by line, telling you what it means to them and whether they believe it, how much difference of opinion you would get.

    I’m glad you feel that honest emotions should not be repressed, but I think you’re putting your training and experience in Jesus’ head and words, making him agree with what you know is true from your studies outside of the church. I’m not saying this to be mean. We all did that when we believed. And since you seem like a kind and loving person, I’m not surprised that the god you create for yourself is also kind and loving.

    And I entirely agree with you that Christian teaching needs to be considered in it’s context, along with the overall witness of Jesus Christ, and of the Scripture. There is nothing that leads to atheism faster or more surely, except sometimes the church. I highly encourage you to study your Bible and the traditions of the Epicopalian church. Read entire books of the Bible so you get the context. Compare one gospel to another, looking at what happens, what God is doing and how God wants us to respond. Look at all that Jesus and Paul say about salvation, and look at their words in the context of the Old Testament covenants. Find the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament and think about how they are and aren’t fulfilled. Find the Old Testament quotes included in the gospel of Matthew, then go back and read those verses in their original contexts. But first, make sure you’ve got a support system in place. It can be a bumpy ride.

    I hope you enjoy and profit from your job related training. I am seriously considering therapy (have looked up local psychologists and researched what would be covered under my job’s benefits). Even with the burden of Christianity lifted from me, I still struggle with the habits of thought I developed over years of considering myself a sinner relying on the grace of God. I do think I may need help to groiw through this.

    I’m not sure whether you’re the same Grace I’ve spoken to on this board before, but thanks for dropping by. Whatever this means to you; I wish you all the best.

  • 30. Grace  |  January 4, 2010 at 7:48 am

    Quester,

    I’m that same Grace.

    I have studied all that you say, at one time or another. Well, actually I graduated from probably the most progressive seminary of the ELCA in my country. I was Lutheran at the time. My focus was counseling, as well as theological studies.

    My undergraduate study was cultural anthropology focused in philosophy, and comparative religion at a secular university. Not one of my professors at the time, to my knowledge, was a Christian believer.

    Probably have read everything from Bultmann to work by the Jesus Seminar, as well as Dawkins.

    But, for me, ultimately through it all my trust in Jesus Christ, and what the love, and grace of God mean in my life, has been strengthened.

    Our experience, and how we take hold, and interpret all of this is vastly different ,Quester, to say the least. :)

    Pax.

    Out the door to my training. It’s five below zero, with the wind howling. Grr!!

  • 31. Quester  |  January 4, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Our experience, and how we take hold, and interpret all of this is vastly different ,Quester, to say the least.

    Everyone’s is, Grace, for what do we have to check our interpretations against? This was one of the largest indicators I had that we’re making it all up.

    Peace be with you, too.

  • 32. Grace  |  January 5, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Quester,

    What if it was in any part through your faith in Jesus Christ that you actually came to a deeper sense of your own value, and self- worth, and found greater joy, do you think this would have swayed your opinion?

  • 33. Quester  |  January 5, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    Grace,

    Which opinion, exactly? I’m afraid I’m not quite sure where you’re going.

  • 34. Eupraxsophy  |  January 7, 2010 at 8:52 am

    When I was a Christian I felt that it wasn’t my place to question God, but rather to know that I was forgiven and given a new life in order to follow Jesus. When faced with what might seem true,
    if it contradicted the Bible then it must not be true and I should have faith in that God works in mysterious ways and his way is the best for all and that we can not possible understand his ways.

    To Christians the Bible is the Word of God and the Truth. But how do they KNOW it’s the Truth and The Word of God as opposed to believing it’s the Truth and The Word of God?

    How is it God wants vengence as opposed to true justice?
    True justice is not in lieu of responsibility, but rather it is being
    responsible to all truths that apply to all who are responsible.
    Vengence satifies only irresponsibility and pride where as true
    justice satifies truth and responsibility. It satifies all who are
    responsible. I might be responsible for sin, but I am not
    responsible for creating it nor am I responsible for my own existance. Why does God want us to forgive our enemies when
    he can’t even forgive his own? Because Satan insulted his pride?

    Humility and truth are two of my moral values. The two are
    relevant to each other. Truth has no weakness and integrity is
    it’s strength. And the destination of wisdom and the enlightement
    of truth is traveled down the path of humility.

    In order for anyone to be able to move on with their lives one must face the truth, accept the truth, and respect it for what it
    is. Instead of having pride in a god, have pride in what you have
    accomplished and do for others to give your life meaning and purpose so that you can have self worth as opposed to selfish worth. Open your mind to truth so that you can be wise and open your heart to humility so that you can show compassion and respect truth for what it is. Humility gives one the wisdom to see both the ugliness and beauty that resides in the truths about ourselves and others.

  • 35. Grace  |  January 8, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    Quester,

    What I mean is this. If through your faith you had not found this bondage, feeling of worthlessness which led to deep depression, might you have taken ahold of your questions, views of differing interpretations, discrepencies in Scripture, etc. everything that we’ve talked about very differently?

    If your faith seemed to be destroying you, how could you have come to any different opinions? At least, it seems unlikely to me.

  • 36. Quester  |  January 9, 2010 at 3:48 am

    Grace,

    My questions: Who is God? What does God want of me?

    Differing interpretations/discrepencies in scripture and creation: These make it impossible for me to answer my questions,

    With a faith that led to a low self-image, I had to trust entirely in God, base my worth in His grace, and was pathetically grateful for every small blessing in my life. If I had at any point felt that God was destroying me, and that I had no reason to trust in Him, I might have rose up against Him, but I would not have stopped believing. If I had felt that my faith led me to a greater joy (which I did- I never considered my self-loathing to be a bad thing. I found great joy that God could love such a wretched sinner as myself), I don’t see how this would remove the contradictions inherent in the Bible, or bring a cease to the suffering in the world that is not caused by the results of our own free will.

    No. My lack of faith is not the result of any pain, sorrow, depression or other emotion. Nor is it really an opinion in any way. It is simply my coming to grips with the complete and utter lack of a coherent or consistent revelation of God’s character, will or existence in creation or scripture. For me to believe in a god, I would have to create one. I can’t find any to put my faith in.

    Now, let me turn your question back to you: why have you chosen to believe in a particular, Christian interpretation of a loving Creator? Is it just because it gives you a feeling of self-worth and value to believe that there is an almighty and powerful deity who can do anything but has chosen to love you as a being with individual worth, make a plan for your life, and interest Himself in your thoughts and feelings?

  • 37. Zoe  |  January 9, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Quester # 36…just want to say, great comment.

  • 38. Grace  |  January 10, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    No, Quester, I would not accept something if I felt it was a lie simply to gain some feeling of value. It wouldn’t be real, and would seem useless to me.

    I came to faith as a young person. What first drew me to think deeply that there was something or someone greater than myself was the reality of creation. I was very much into astronomy, and science at the time.

    Instinctively knew that the universe could not have made itself, that we were not here by mere chance, and randomness.

    I accepted the witness of the Christian faith after much searching. Suppose that I could not condense this down into a blog post.

    But, it seemed to me that if God made the entire universe, and everything in it, and realizing this desire in myself to know Him, to search for truth, that perhaps this didn’t come out of my own head..

    The witness of Jesus Christ, and the resurrection began to make sense to me. Again, could go into much detail about this, but, in a nutshell, I didn’t feel that the apostolic witness could be so easily explained away, naturalistic bias, aside.

    As an older Christian believer, I can see many ways in my life now, how my faith has enhanced my life, sense of value, and purpose.

    I faced possible death once, and God’s love was very real, saw first hand how the hope of the resurrection is no small thing.

    Quester, I’ll be honest, even though it may cause offense.

    I think many, many people are simply culturally conditioned into a specific religion. They were just reared this way, have never before questioned anything, maybe have had some kind of mystical experience. .. as a young person.

    But, I don’t think anyone who has truly had their life hidden in Christ with God, being “born from above,: knowing HIm, is going to forever, and permanently walk away.

    They simply can’t.

    Give you the last word, friend.

  • 39. Quester  |  January 10, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    Thank-you, Grace.

    There’s not much I can say in response to how you interpret your personal experiences, except that I once interpreted my life experiences rather similarly.

    Instead, I’m going to focus on your first and final paragraphs.

    I would not accept something if I felt it was a lie simply to gain some feeling of value. It wouldn’t be real, and would seem useless to me.

    I hope you will accept that I, in a like manner, would not deny something I had any reason to think was real, simply because it caused me to lose some feeling of value. I would be purposefully deluding myself, which I’m not really very good at. I just can’t seem to shut off my thoughts.

    I don’t think anyone who has truly had their life hidden in Christ with God, being “born from above,: knowing HIm, is going to forever, and permanently walk away.

    They simply can’t.

    If there is a God, a Christ, that is true. It is also true that I have not walked away. I just stopped pretending. If there is a God, a Christ, then I am open to seeing evidence for such, and responding appropriately. If that happens after I die, well, that’s still less time than forever, and thus you would still be correct.

    On the other hand, I don’t think that anyone who looks at creation, different worldviews and various “holy scriptures” of different religions can honestly say that there is enough evidence to say anything about God: not God’s character, attributes, number, power, will, nor existence, beyond personal desire to describe God in one way or another.

    There just isn’t.

    Now, this is no reason to walk away, but provides no direction to walk toward, or even with. So all we can do is keep our eyes and mind open, and live as best we can.

    It’s always a pleasure talking with you, Grace.

    Peace be with you.

  • 40. Grace  |  January 11, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Thank you, Quester. Peace back atcha! :)

  • 41. Zoe  |  January 11, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Quester: “I just stopped pretending.”

    Zoe: Amen.
    :-)

  • 42. Quester  |  January 12, 2010 at 12:43 am

    Thanks for the appreciation, Zoe. I hope you’re doing well.

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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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