Posts tagged ‘de-conversion’
This guide is in many ways similar to a sex education class. I am neither condemning nor condoning recent de-converts’ decisions to debate their lack of beliefs with Christians. I am simply recognizing that for many of you it is inevitable and therefore insisting that you learn to do so properly.
Of course, I mean “debate” loosely. It’s only half up to you, but it should be a conversation characterized by more than two sides trying to score points by pointing out each and every one of the others logical fallacies by their Latin names. But part of any conversation with conflicting points of view is a debate, and understanding how a pure debate works is important.
Much of what you need to know is just standard knowledge of how to debate and knowledge of Christianity and apologetics in general. I won’t go into any of that, but will instead focus on the psychology of recent de-convert versus Christian debates. It’s my hope that if you don’t know your stuff at all, you find this to be fairly unhelpful. Learning to debate what you do know is the art of communication, while learning to debate what you don’t know is BS artistry.
Recent de-converts are at an enormous debate preparation advantage simply due to timing. De-converts often go through an enormous intellectual struggle trying to make themselves believe before realizing that trying to believing that which one has learned to be false is hopeless. Thus, de-converts know exactly why they left their faith. By contrast, even apologetically inclined Christians probably have not been studying like that, simply because it’s hard to match the passionate study of a de-convert trying to figuring out if they’re going to hell…
My de-conversion came about as a result of trying to reconcile the reality of my experiences with what I had been taught by the church about life. In reading others’ stories I see a lot of common threads. So I know that I am not alone in that my slide into nonbelief started with “being hurt”. I used to think that if the church (of whatever creed) would listen to those of us who had suffered as a result of trying to live its teachings, that maybe a lot of de-conversions could have been prevented. I no longer believe this.
Basically, I was brought up Catholic, the conservative kind. On the way I detoured into a Jesus People group, the Charismatic Movement, and a couple of others before I finally gave up on organized religion.
Ok, so why did I leave? Well, it is a long story. I have a condition called Asperger’s Syndrome. Some of you may be familiar with it, some of you may not. It is a form of autism. Except that when I was growing up they did not call it that. We Asperger’s people can be very intelligent but we suffer from social deficits. I did not realize that I was different until I started school. That’s when the persecution began (and I do not use the term lightly). Here is my view on school prayer: I went to a Catholic school where they went to Mass daily and I went to a secular public school where God was mentioned not at all, and I was treated equally badly in both. Not one adult in authority ever stood up and put a stop to what was going on. In fact I had one teacher who joined in the persecution and actually encouraged the class to pick on me…
Leaving “the faith” was a long process for me, around seven years to be exact (the universe has a funny sense of humor). It started with my questioning the concept of sin. At many times during my Christendom, I wondered why something I did was wrong. I could not reconcile how something that I enjoyed, something seemingly harmless, could be grounds for damnation. Furthermore, I could not reconcile how honest mistakes, such as letting the word “god” or “Jesus Christ!” slip, could be grounds for an eternity of torture and punishment. I also didn’t understand how simply believing something could change the rules.
For a long time, I simply just ignored those raging questions or accepted the Sunday School answer that god didn’t like it anymore than us, but that was just the way it had to be. As time went on it became more difficult to ignore. With each Sunday the questions screamed at me louder until I could not longer ignore or accept the answers given to me. Being born into “the faith,” I was attached to all the notions that Christianity (more so fundamentalist Christianity) had given me. Because of this I blamed the church first. I thought that the nature of sin had been distorted.
I rationalized that a sin is not so much an action that is inherently bad but rather it was the result of that action that granted it the classification of sin. I thought that a sin was something that brought us away from god. It made sense and was compatible with the life I wanted to live at that time. I clung to that notion for as long as I could. Slowly but surely my idea about what is good and what is bad slowly eroded. Well not exactly. They were never really my ideas. I always had my own feelings about right and wrong. Really those ideas of right and wrong I had adopted had been replacements for my true feelings on the subject…
Mom was folding laundry on the bed. I was pairing up socks, rolling each pair into a tight, little ball, and folding one cuff over on the outside to make a neat package.
“Don’t be disappointed,” she said, “but you won’t be getting much for Christmas this year.”
“How do you know?” I asked. It was, after all, still summer. School hadn’t even started yet. Santa couldn’t have already decided if I’d been naughty or nice.
“We don’t have as much money since Daddy left. So I won’t be able to buy a lot of presents for you.”
I looked down at the pile of laundry and dug out a match to the sock in my hand. What could that possibly mean? Had my parents been buying my Christmas presents all along?
“You already know this,” my mother said, “but please don’t tell June that Santa Claus isn’t real.”
Even though I was only nine, I knew I couldn’t tell my mother that I had believed in Santa right up until that moment. I didn’t want to make her sad…
I tasted, and I saw that the Lord was good. At one point in my life, I did take refuge in God, the Almighty. However, my solid belief in the God of the Bible underwent severe trauma that severed my connection with him, or at least the concept of God I was led to believe from my exposure to Christian theology. When you remove absolute certainty that the words of the scriptures is divinely inspired, what do you have left to hold on to? Only experience.
So the question had to be asked: was my experience of God merely emotional excitement and fervour that is part and parcel of Christian ritual and celebration? When I face most Christians with the question on how we can be sure that the Bible is the Word of God, given that it is a collection of books that a group of men decided was divinely inspired, they merely point back to faith. They suggest a simple trust in God that he did guide this group, and the widespread acceptance of the Bible as ultimate truth attests to God’s intervention. I would concur that such trust exists in large portions of the world population – not just amongst Christians, but also Jews and Muslims, who all sharply disagree on this point of their particular perspective being the only true one (not all adherents do hold this position, but the majority do very much outweigh the progressives).
It seems to me to be supreme arrogance to assert that God has chosen a certain portion of the population, and a small one at that compared with the vast portion of the other major faiths. To those who would suggest that God does not choose, but the matter of faith is of free will, I would remind them that those born into strict Muslim families will never have the opportunity to exercise such free will to choose another path. This idea of free will is a fantasy very much restricted to democratic western societies…
The purpose of my rants and opinions is not to change anyone’s mind. There are several reasons I am rather vocal in what I say. I do hope that my posts help people think about what they believe, even if they don’t come to the same conclusions I did. I also hope to better inform those that wish to keep their religious beliefs what those of us who do not have them argue because there is a lot of misinformation out there given by apologetic ministries and the like. My main purpose, however, I think, is to just enjoy having them and not being afraid to express them anymore. Nevertheless, I do occasionally tire from trying to explain everything patiently over and over again to those who have little interest in what I am actually saying, but simply want to dogmatically cling to what they know. In times like those, I remind myself that I used to be one of those people.
It makes me wonder: why did I change my mind when others don’t? I think there are three factors that led to my de-conversion: Humility, knowledge, and misery.
Humility is something taught to Christians, but it is a rare Christian that actually possesses it (at least in the conservative world in which I lived–I never really had much interaction with the more liberal Christians, so from here on, whenever I say “Christian”, know I am talking about conservatives here). I will not say I had an abundance of it–on the contrary, I thought I knew all the answers and could defend them. I was well versed in apologetics and knew every Sunday school answer in the book. Perhaps it was all my schooling in apologetics that made me listen when someone else spoke–I was anxious to prove their argument wrong, so I would listen. Over time, however, I realized that I couldn’t…