Posts tagged ‘de-conversion’
Well team, it looks like we’ll hit the million mark sometime this weekend ahead of our 2nd Anniversary in March. This is being achieved without counting the page views of our many contributors since WordPress does not accumulate those views in their statistics.
Of course, we could not have accomplished this without our many visitors who came to d-C via StumbleUpon.
On our busiest day, we saw 13,834 views and it’s an honor to be ranked in Alexa.
- The de-Convert
This post is somewhat of an addendum to my previous post in which I discussed how I was beginning to realize just what being an “elite” Christian had done to my thinking. In this post I wanted to focus more closely on one area of my thinking that has truly been tainted or hurt by being a fundamentalist conservative Christian: how to be a friend.
Recently I was asking advice of a friend and was basically told to either submit to Biblical advice or get nothing. This hurt. Quite a bit. I thought that by even asking for advice I was trying to be a friend. But I realized that the advice from this person – and the associated love – was conditional: I needed to be or do something first in order to warrant a love that I felt I should receive either way. And this was from a friend who has taken almost no time at all to try and connect with the pain and suffering leaving the faith has brought me this last year. So while I am to listen to this person: they feel no need to listen to me at all.
Although I am obviously upset, this has got me to thinking: this is how everyone I knew acted. It is how I acted.
My friends and I were basically trained to feel uncomfortable around people whom we considered to be a potentially bad influence on us. I can’t express how frustrating this is now. Even until recently I found it hard to feel comfortable around certain non-Christians I knew because I consistently had my guard up, looking for areas of disagreement like a dog trying to pick a fight or looking for reasons to distrust them because they might unwittingly be a bad influence on me.
A good Christian can never be too careful about being a friend…
February 17, 2008, I preached my last sermon, said my good-byes, and changed out of my clergy garb for the last time. Since then, I’ve learned some things similar to Josh’s experiences, though our roads have had some different curves.
Where do you go when you leave the church?
1. I went back to church:
I got a job back in the town I had grown up in, and attended a few Lutheran worship services with friends who were part of the worship team there. It’s a beautiful service, but I was suddenly an outsider. Even as a theist, I would not participate in hymns or prayers I could not support the message of. Now, there was little I could give voice to. I had to get out and put some space between myself and church.
2. I studied other religions:
An old friend found me on Facebook. He’s been a member of the Sikh clergy since I last saw him. We exchanged a few stories, and I started reading up on Sikhism. I admired much of their philosophy that I could find, but I had no real connection to it.
3. I looked for a church-replacement:
I did Google searches for secular or humanist groups around here, with no success, then tried “universalism”. If nothing else, people who described themselves with such a term would not consider me hellbound…
I have a confession to make. Despite the way I may sound confident after leaving the faith, I admit that being myself has been so difficult. It has taken about a year for me to see this, but this last year has been a massive realization that so much of how I thought about life was driven not by who I actually was but by who I felt expected to be as a ‘mature’ Christian.
Within the faith I feel there is a sub-class of the elite faithful. These are the individuals who are looked up to for advice and who in many ways drive the faith forward. In many ways I saw myself as one of these individuals within Christianity just a year ago. Was it arrogance? Probably. Was it accurate? I don’t know.
But I am just now discovering how it truly affected my thinking. This last summer as I was leaving the faith I can remember this sense of hurling over a cliff… as if my entire thought process about the world and life was being reinvented. Oddly I was the same person, but the way in which I thought about things was changing.
One area I have struggled with is the area of friendships. On the one hand, I love my old friends within the faith. On the other hand, I am finding that so many of my previous friendships just are not working the same way anymore. So many of those friendships were based on the faith itself – on discussions about Bible passages or prayer or accountability – that now I find I do not have much in common with those people. Furthermore I am finding that some of the friendship decisions I made within the faith were actually really poor, but I made them for ‘spiritual’ reasons. For example, there were friendships I started or kept going because I thought that the Lord wanted me to be a ministry to someone but if I had not been a Christian I probably would have stayed away…
This year, I’m planning to write a series of posts about my journey into and, later, out of Christianity. I guess I should start at the beginning.
I was born into a multi-faith family. My mother was of Jewish heritage, although her father was an atheist and their family did not practice religion. My father was raised in the Catholic faith, and his mother was very devout. They went to Mass every week, said the rosary every day, and their home was filled with reminders of their faith.
Ever since I was a child, I’ve always been surrounded by friends and family members who were different than me. I never thought I was unusual in this way. Even with a start like that, I was still ignorant of the amount of diversity around me. I was six years old before I realized that not everyone was Catholic or Jewish.
I stood on the front stoop with my mother, looking down the block toward Trisha and Diane’s house. My two friends had invited me to go to Vacation Bible School with them, and since school was out for summer and I was bored, I wanted to go. My mother wasn’t so sure it was a good idea.
“It might seem strange to you,” mommy said. “They’re not Catholic…”
My holiday reading was Godless: How An Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists by Dan Barker. I had travelled a similar journey (albeit in a less publicised way). Having made the change from being an evangelical leader, preacher, counsellor, and author (for over 30 years) to an unashamed, blogging atheist, I thought it would be interesting to read the human story. I wondered how far Barker’s experience would parallel my own, and if his analysis of his change would help me see my own in a new perspective. I am really glad that I read through to the end of the book.
The book is divided into four sections: his life as a believer; his loss of faith; more detailed reasons for rejecting Christianity; his present work for the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).
His faith didn’t disappear overnight, and I could certainly identify with the agony of the period where he felt so hypocritical. On the outside everything was OK and everybody was looking to him for Christian leadership and teaching, but on the inside the certainty of his faith was shifting dramatically. And once the faith had really disappeared, his experience certainly shed light on my own clinging to a pretence for so long. Not only was I clinging to a culture and people that I had known for most of my adult life, but I was also clinging to a public reputation that I had established. In our cases, faith wasn’t just a private matter, but it also came with a history, a community, and an important identity. The faith was private, but the ‘ baggage’ was public and, in some ways, was more ‘psychologically sticky’…
What? Another one? Didn’t you finish with these quite a while ago Leo?
Yep. Another one. This one was sitting in a folder for a while, so I finally decided to finish it and put it up. (I did consider entitling it “Just Imagine” and linking in the Barney song by that name, but then I decided I’d spare y’all.)
Imagine that you left your house in the care of a neighbor while you went on vacation. When you return, the animals have not been cared for, the lawn is all dried out, and the newspapers are just scattered on the driveway where they were thrown. What do you conclude about that neighbor?
Now let’s imagine that you give the neighbor another chance. This time you call him by cell phone and send him emails to remind him of what needs to be done. When you come home, things are still a mess. Now what do you conclude?
Obviously you conclude that he’s not trustworthy. And you conclude that you’re not going to entrust him with anything more.
Imagine you go to a doctor and he can’t do anything about your ailments. Not even set a broken arm…