When I started the series, Why do Christians de-convert?, I said I was analysing de-conversion stories with an eye towards answering a rather simple question about tactics. How can we support or even promote de-conversion?
These stories have shown that there are a number of ways of supporting Christians who make steps towards de-conversion, but in almost every single case it appears that the doubt that led to de-conversion came from within the individual.
Here’s the only story I found among the one hundred and seventeen I examined that credited de-conversion to the specific intervention of an atheist:
I ran into a very good friend and told him the story of my conversion. He was not critical, but kept asking questions about why I took to this religion and specifically required that I put things in my own words instead of mouthing what I had been told. He made me think! and that’s all it took.
We can tell people that there are alternatives to Christianity, and for many people who chafe at the stupidity of religion yet are unable to properly express it, this is liberating. We can raise questions about the dogma, hypocrisy, or the illogical beliefs of religion, but most people who cited these as factors, raised the questions themselves…
For my whole life I have shoved my doubts about God’s existence to the back of my mind. There wasn’t a reason to drag them out and investigate them. In fact, there was more reason to keep them shoved to the back. It is much easier to be like everybody else. I wanted to be a Christian and to be on the same page with my husband and family. I love my husband and want to make him happy. Belief in God is what we’ve based our marriage, family and our entire lives on.
Then my 24 yr. old daughter fell in love with an atheist. I love my children more than anything. I want the best for them. My daughter has had her share of downers in her young life. Chronic illness, depression, numerous failures, disappointment in people and especially in boyfriends. This man is everything she has wanted. He is kind, responsible, honest, hard working, treats her wonderfully, encourages her to be her best, and really loves her. We’ve always told our children that the most important thing when looking for a mate is to be sure they are a Christian. The funny thing is that he has better values than most Christian guys she has dated.
At first, my reaction was terror. I live in the South where admitted atheists are a scary oddity. What to do…Should I call all our Christian friends and have a prayer vigil asking God to take this infidel out of my daughter’s life? Do I beg her to break up with him? Do I fear for her soul? Do I grieve for her? Surprisingly, I felt happy and excited for her. What was wrong with me? How could I be happy for her? …
Kieran Bennett recently completed his series on why Christians de-convert. To answer this question, he considered 94 of the 117 de-conversion stories he read on one of the largest archives of de-conversion stories on the internet.
Here is what he found:
- Dissatisfaction with the answers to simple questions proffered by the religion was the most common reason cited for de-conversion amongst the sample (14.89%).
- The realisation that religious dogma contradicted observable reality was
the second mostan equally common reason for de-conversion cited within the sample (also at 14.89%).
- 12.76% of the de-converted Christians in the sample spoke about realising the contradictions within the dogma itself.
- For 10.63% of people in the sample, reading the bible was significant in ending their faith.
- Only 8.51% of people in the sample attributed their de-conversion to the hypocrisy of the church.
- In another 8.51% of the de-conversion stories, people tried to speak to god and they now credit god’s lack of an answer for their de-conversion
- And finally, stumbling across the realisation that many religions were just like theirs caused deep doubts for 8.5% of the sample he read…
As an atheist, it always surprises me that people seriously believe that god really will answer their prayers. Perhaps it’s something you have to be religious in order to comprehend. But some people pray, and pray, and pray, until as one individual put it:
The following examples are from the 8.51% of the de-conversion stories, amongst the sample I read, in which people tried to speak to god, and they now credit god’s lack of an answer for their de-conversion.
“Being very eager to please, I would often beg Jesus to save me. Expecting trumpets and angels, or at the very least a pat on the head, and getting nothing, I think I just eventually realised god wasn’t going to answer.”
For some the experience of god failing to answer their prayers as promised was a highly distressing experience:
In high school, I gradually started to question more, but did not get satisfactory answers. My prayers for clarity and a stronger faith went unanswered. Why would God let my faith slip? That was the question that haunted me for years…