Posts filed under ‘KieranBennett’
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…
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…
Earlier I stated that dissatisfaction with the answers to simple questions proffered by the religion was the most common reason cited for de-conversion amongst the sample I read (14.89%). However, the realisation that religious dogma contradicted observable reality was
the second most an equally common reason for de-conversion cited within the sample (also at 14.89%). In other words, religious fundamentalists wage war against science with good reason.
Surprisingly, as the following examples highlight, rarely was it Richard Dawkins ramming logic down someone’s throat with something like The God Delusion that resulted in de-conversion. De-conversion appeared to occur when people didn’t have their religiously trained defenses up. And again, it could happen at a young age:
When I was in 8th grade, I was studying my cousin’s biology book, which happened to teach evolution. I remember hearing things about how evolution was “incorrect” according to the sometimes Christian media. I did not completely dismiss the idea of god at this time, but it caused me to invalidate the idea of an actual organized religion because they were inelastic and unable to accept change or new ideas because their “holy” scripture was infallible. This was the beginning of my de-conversion to atheism.
Simple facts, and simple doubts. It did not even have to be evolution, something as simple as a scouting trip can provoke doubt…
Religions other than Christianity exist. These religions have existed and competed for followers for the entire history of religion, but this seems to be something that some Christian de-convertees reported being shocked about. They had been taught by their faith how special and how singular they and their beliefs were, and as a result, stumbling across the realisation that many religions were just like theirs caused deep doubts for 8.5% of the sample I read.
Consider the following examples:
- In English class we were reading a book about ancient mythology. I thought to myself, “If everyone thinks of these people’s beliefs as a crock now, I wonder how our society’s beliefs will look to people in 2 or 3 thousand years. Hmmm.”
- The revelation happened while reading the “Upanishads” on a bus to work. I realised that the Hindu religion made as much sense and was just as convincing (or unconvincing) as Christianity was…
As an atheist looking into the world of Christian de-conversion, I expected to see more tales of people de-converting after they realise how hypocritical churches are. In fact I barely expected any other cause, perhaps aside from exposure to science. I thought that Christians who read the bible did so through the lens of the preachers words and were thus immune from realising it’s faults, and that religions would have all the answers to the really simple questions down pat. I mean, surely children have been asking the church “what about dinosaurs” since dinosaurs entered the popular imagination.
But pedophile priests, church leaders blowing money on yachts and a luxurious lifestyle, or the existence of something like the Vatican bank – surely these were the things that would shake people’s faith in large numbers. However, only 8.51% of people in the sample attributed their de-conversion to the hypocrisy of the church.
Personal experience highlighted the hypocrisy of religion to this person:
I began immediately to see hypocrisy in both the organizations and the individuals with whom I associated. I married a man in seminary studying for the ministry but I knew from the outset that his heart was not in what he was doing and he was just there because his minister father had pushed him into it. I am still married to this man after 35 years and I still love him but I noticed a great unhappiness in him…
This is the third installment of the series “Why do Christians de-convert?” in which I’m citing the primary reasons for de-conversion amongst the sample of the 117 de-conversion stories I read.
Billboards exhort us to “read your bible”, and perhaps it’s a good idea. For 10.63% of people in the sample, reading the bible was significant in ending their faith. For some de-convertees the bible demonstrated how little their present religion had to do with the holy text that it supposedly revered.
Consider one person’s experience when quite young:
I had to fill out a worksheet about what the teen-age Jesus did after he woke up in the morning, rolled up his mat (like a good fundamentalist child) and went out to help his father in the carpenter’s shop. When I went back to the bible and saw that no one knows what happened [in those years of Jesus’ life].
A simple “learning” activity prompted the above Christian to question their faith…
In my first installment of the series “Why do Christians de-convert?”, Why d-C? (1) Answer the damn question Mr. Priest!, I discused the fact that dissatisfaction with the answers to simple questions proffered by the religion was the most common reason cited for de-conversion amongst the sample of the 117 de-conversion stories I read.
But it’s not just questions about dinosaurs, or the world outside the religious paradigm that can provoke doubt. Many de-converted Christians spoke about realising the contradictions within the dogma itself. De-conversion stories that spoke of a realisation that the religious dogma was internally incoherent amounts to 12.76% of the sample. The most common cause of these doubts appeared to be when the religious dogma contradicted “religious” values (the reason for using scare quotes here will become apparent later).
This example shows conflict between a child’s own belief they have done nothing wrong (sin requires wrongful action), and the idea of original sin:
“When a boy 10 years old in Catholic school Priest pointed at the Cross and said “You put him there. He died for your sins,” I did not accept that statement. I was not old enough to have sinned!”…