Posts tagged ‘deconversion’
For some people, not having to participate in ritual is one of the benefits of deconversion. This was not true for me.
True, rituals tend to be silly when looked at objectively. Lighting candles on a birthday cake just to blow them out a minute later while everyone sings at you is a practice I expect some anthropologist has spent a fun day with. But for me, rituals are a helpful tool for building community and celebrating what (and who) I value.
I’ve been asked why I don’t keep the trappings of my old faith, continuing to go to the churches I know. I can’t do this. I’ve tried. Those rituals are tied too tightly to feelings of loss and anger for me to take up lightly. And the stories told, if not true, are not ones I consider moral. So I tried joining other communities who might gather for joint ritual and song, and work together to make themselves and the world a little better. I missed that. (more…)
Several years ago, I began receiving private messages on our now-defunct forum from a xian with the handle “Rocky”. He sent me some generic questions that were not directly preachy and I answered in ways that briefly made my position clear without directly challenging his faith. Until one day he asked a rather more pointed question, to which I drafted a detailed answer:
Rocky, sorry this has been so long in coming. You asked a question which I know touches on a subject near and dear to your heart. So far I have tried to stay away from direct challenges to your faith. But to give you an honest answer to this question, I must directly address just those issues. So if you have had a bad day, or are feeling particularly touchy just now, I recommend you put this answer aside and read it later.
Take a deep breath, here we go.
You asked: “I have a question for you, if you found out tomorrow that Christ truly rose from the dead would you submit to and follow Him? I am really interested in your answer.”
The short answer, which may surprise you, is NO…..
Thanks for having me.
So let’s just jump right in. Did you have any Christian background before you “joined the tribe” so to speak?
I grew up in a suburb of Vancouver, Canada. Basically in the countryside. Where I lived, our only choices were to be “secular”, or to adopt Evangelical Christianity. A few became Jehovah’s Witnesses. My own family was not religious, although my parents brought me and my siblings to Sunday School at various churches. That was common practice in those days. Just to give kids a foundation of morality, or so the parents thought. Really it was about arts and crafts, a few fantasy-like Bible stories and silly songs. My generation of kids didn’t take it all very seriously.
If I grew up in Saudi Arabia, I’m pretty sure I’d be a Muslim. If in Thailand, I’d be a Buddhist. Or in India, a Hindu. I think the planet’s citizens are most often tied to their religion by geography than anything else.
Did any person, or book, or something else, win you over to Christianity?…..
When I launched this blog back in 2007, I was in the process of de-converting from Christianity and trying to come to terms with my non-belief while pondering how I even could have believed in the first place. The Bible, which I once believed to be the Word of God without contradiction, became a book of myths, fairy tales and riddled with contradictions. The God described in the Bible, who I once believed to be a loving Father in heaven, became an evil psychopath who used humans as pawns in some wicked cosmic game (see this blog). Through this site, I found many others who were dealing with the same issues and we all wrote blogs and engaged each other in discussion. Before our two year anniversary, we had reached 1,000,000 views and had over 20,000 comments.
Gradually, we all began contributing less and at some point, the blog atrophied and primarily remained active by Leo, through comments on the Mormon thread and spam.
Why did we quit contributing? I know for me, I came to a point that I just didn’t care anymore. Many of my former beliefs became so ridiculous to me, that it seemed pointless to even discuss it. I became firmly rooted in the “other side” and I no longer needed to come to terms with my non-belief, it was a reality. I am interested to know if this was the case for the others also. In other words, I became fully transformed by changing the way I think.
I’m assuming there are constantly new groups of de-converts who are walking the same journey we walked and I would love for these groups to keep the blog alive as it’s a useful process to come to terms with non-belief. I’m not sure at this point on how to connect with these individuals but please comment here if you would like to become a contributor to this blog.
I will try to do a soft re-launch in 2015 and see where things go. I will dig through my email and see if I have any de-conversion stories I requested and begin publishing those. I welcome any other suggestions.
- the de-Convert
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Young people aren’t walking away from the church—they’re sprinting. According to a recent study by Ranier Research, 70 percent of youth leave church by the time they are 22 years old. Barna Group estimates that 80 percent of those reared in the church will be “disengaged” by the time they are 29 years old. Unlike earlier generations of church dropouts, these “leavers” are unlikely to seek out alternative forms of Christian community such as home churches and small groups. When they leave church, many leave the faith as well.
Thus opens the publicity blurb for a book entitled, Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults are Leaving the Church and How to Bring Them Back. In an interview published by Christianity Today, author Drew Dyck made this observation:
No two “leavers” are exactly the same, but some patterns did emerge. “Postmodern” leavers reject Christianity because of its exclusive truth claims and moral absolutes. For them, Christian faith is just too narrow. “Recoilers” leave because they were hurt in the church. They suffered some form of abuse at the hands of someone they saw as a spiritual authority. God was guilty by association. “Modernists” completely reject supernatural claims. God is a delusion. Any truth beyond science is dismissed as superstition. “Neo-pagans” are those who left for earth-based religions such as Wicca. Not all of these actually cast spells or perform pagan rituals, but they deny a transcendent God, and see earth as the locus of true spirituality. Spiritual “Rebels” flee the faith to indulge in behavior that was incompatible with their faith. They also value autonomy and don’t want anyone—especially a superintending deity—telling them what to do. “Drifters” do not suffer intellectual crises or consciously leave the faith; they simply drift away. Over time God becomes less and less important until one day he’s no longer part of their lives.
These groupings were not meant to be scientifically precise; their value was diagnostic and utilitarian. I wanted to help people understand why young people abandon the faith and equip Christians to engage leavers in meaningful conversations about God.
I’ll list Dyck’s categories below to facilitate my consideration of them:
I don’t think much needs to be said about the “Postmodern” category, as Dyck appears to have described that mindset adequately. I am offended, however, by his glib dismissal of the “Recoilers:” people failed and God was blamed unfairly. Uh, no, Drew – people failed and God did not do what he was reasonably expected to do, either
a) protect the victims who were hurt, or
b) prevent the perpetrators from hurting them.
In other words, Drew, God reneged on two of his key responsibilities: delivering people from evil (which is doubly evil when it’s done at the hands of so-called “godly” people or, even worse, in the name, and on behalf, of a god), and enabling his followers to be good, kind and honest, rather than nasty, brutish and devious. I consider divine protection and divine prevention (or intervention) reasonable expectations because both of those functions are ascribed to the Christian god in the Bible and in church doctrine. Therefore, when a god does not perform as promised, it’s reasonable to wonder if he/she/it does anything at all, including merely existing, and to reject a god that doesn’t live up to its billing.
Dyck’s characterization of “Modernist” church-leavers renders that category as little more than a stick-figure. Since his book is an example of social scientific research, one would presume that his concept of “science” goes beyond the “hard,” physical sciences that often come to mind when the term “science” is used in casual conversation. Readers who understand Dyck’s use of the term in that narrow sense may miss the fact that many, if not most, Modernist atheists are informed by insights gained through the natural sciences, the social sciences, the humanities, and the arts. We are not geeks with our eyes glued to microscopes, and pens and calculators sagging in our shirt pockets. We are multi-faceted people with multi-faceted interests who think in multi-faceted ways, characteristics that Dyck’s categorization appears to miss, or dismiss, completely.
The author’s final two categories seem adequate. I went through a period of spiritual rebellion as a teen, and I’ll admit that his description captures quite accurately the attitude I had then. And many of us can probably think of people who are Drifters.
I briefly considered getting Dyck’s book, just for shits and giggles, but I’ve decided to keep my money in my wallet. The bottom line is, I’m not going to waste my time reading a book that
…equips and inspires parents, church leaders, and everyday Christians to reawaken the prodigal’s desire for God and set him or her back on the road to a dynamic faith…. identifies six different kinds of leavers…and offers practical advice for how to connect with each type. Shrewd tips also intersperse the chapters alerting readers to opportunities for engagement, and to hidden landmines they must sidestep to effectively reach leavers.
The reason I’m not interested in reading this book is that Dyck has misidentified the problem at hand. His view is that people who leave churches are problems. I don’t agree with him. In my view, the people who leave churches are not problems. Rather, churches themselves are problems. The problem is not that so many people are leaving the church. The problem is that too many of them are staying.
– the chaplain
For several of the many possible reasons, I realized that I could no longer hold fast to the faith that I once built my life around. When this realization struck me, it was emotionally painful. Worse, most of the ways I had coped with pain and grief before were no longer open to me, as they were all forms of prayer- alone, in a group, or with a Bible. I could not really turn to my Christian friends or my Christian family for support, as they saw my doubts and concerns as an attack against them and all that they valued. I could not go to my pastor- I was the pastor!
Things I did that helped me get through this time of grief and pain:
– Go for a walk outside/get some healthy exercise.
– Fill a playlist with upbeat MP3s (Jonathan Coulton, Weird Al, Tom Smith, ABBA, etc), and listen to them whenever possible.
– Pick up an old, creative hobby I hadn’t engaged in for a while (roleplaying, in my case. Yes, I am a geek.)
– Spend time in a social activity with friends (without discussing religion).
– Find ways to help people as I had when a Christian, without the Christian trappings (and realize that I am still the same person I always was).
– Find a support group of people who have gone through similar struggles (this site was a huge help for me!).
– Find people I could talk honestly to (see previous parenthetical).
– Journal (blog) the experience, and/or what led up to it.
– Remember to breathe!
– Explore different faiths, different fellowships, different philosophies, and find out what I wanted from them, what I could offer to them, and (most importantly to me) what I could put my faith in.
How about you? What helped you through your de-conversion, if it was painful, or helps you through other times of trial now that prayer is no longer an option?