Posts tagged ‘deconversion’
I’ve been reading the comments here lately and I have noticed that a lot of Christian readers say the same things over and over again: “If you REALLY had been a Christian you would have never de-converted.”
Now the details of the statements differ from reader to reader, some saying “if you’d really had faith,” others saying “if you’d really known the love of God,” or “if you’d really read the Bible with an open heart,” “if you really prayed honestly,” or even “if you were a true seeker you would have found the Lord.”
I’ve been struck by another thing recently as well: noticing that many de-converts were formerly in the ministry.
These two things made me think that maybe it’s being TOO dedicated, too devoted, too much a seeker that is the danger.
Here’s what I mean: Maybe we de-converts were more real in our Christianity than the people who can’t believe we eventually rejected “the truth.” We weren’t content with going to church on Sunday and Wednesday, or with going to confession once a week, or with saying our daily prayers and reading the Bible in a year every year — whatever the flavor of true devotion was in our particular version of Christianity.
We wanted more. I know that is true for myself. I wanted to see the power of God, the way it was described in the Bible. I wanted to experience what the apostles experienced on the day of Pentecost. I was hungry for more of God and I read the Bible every day, over and over again in several translations. I worshipped Jesus with all of my heart.
I know whatever I say here won’t convince anyone that I was a “real” Christian…
I put the phone back on the receiver with a hesitant click. Did I really almost end the message with “In Jesus’ name, amen?” Could I seriously be praying too much?
Glancing to the other side of the room I once again fell back into my mind. The thoughts haunted like an itch on the brain that you are desperately trying to scratch, but cannot. Flooding in were the doubts, the questions, the wondering at my every action and thought. Was it a lie if you had honest intentions at the time? Did you need to confess it?
An erection during church service. The horror. Every small slit of cleavage told a story of a young man’s temptation. Except for Mrs. W… I hope God doesn’t put me with a woman like her. How does her husband do it… do her. But God probably will. God knows best and often what we think is best for us is not what is best. Doubtless I would end up with an ugly woman, just so God can teach me how to be thankful for what I have. I wonder if it is all the same in the dark. I wonder what a vagina looks like. What do you call a vagina anyway? I know on men it is called a penis, but dad only explained to me what an erection was and didn’t tell me what sex actually was. I’ll bet I could find a picture of a vagina in the dictionary if I knew what it was called.
Flipping the pages one by one, each one falling with a thump that was only matched by a beat of my heart. Thump. Thump. Thump. B. r. e… a… Jesus wouldn’t want this. Jesus is watching me. Oh, how I love you Jesus, but I am dying of curiosity. A footstep upstairs. What if I was caught with my erection up and my hand on a picture of a naked woman? Lust is sin. Slide the dictionary back onto the shelf, Josh. There, Josh. Thank you Lord for helping me resist temptation…
I was a seminary-trained pastor who felt responsible for those I pastored. I was responsible for telling them the truth, and more- for pointing to the Truth, the Way and the Life. My problem was that I could not figure out what the truth (or Truth) was. At one point, I counted at least twelve possible biblical understandings of Jesus and the Christian gospel- all of which were supported by some verses and condemned by others. What was I supposed to teach? The more I studied, the less confidence I had that I could say anything certain about God’s works or will. Eventually, I had to admit to myself that I had no confidence I could say anything certain about God, including whether or not there was one. When I reached that point, I asked my bishop to release me from my ministry.
Back in April, Leopardus posted a video about critical thinking and open mindedness. The same people have now made a video called Putting Faith in its place. This video shows the reasoning that led me to deconversion better than I could. Enjoy.
It was my sister’s turn to ride in the front seat, so I climbed into the back. I wasn’t in the mood to talk, but that wasn’t unusual, so I sat quietly as mom backed the station wagon out of the driveway.
I was thinking about the doctrine of the virgin birth, that it was simply impossible for Mary to get pregnant without “knowing a man.” I wasn’t stupid, after all. I had read the booklet that my mother gave me about the sperm and eggs joining to form a zygote; I had taken health class in seventh grade. I’d already known everything in the booklet that Mom had given me, but I hadn’t told her that. She was trying to be a good mother, it wasn’t my place to tell her that she was too late to teach me about the birds and the bees. And health class came even later, when I couldn’t think of even one kid in my class who didn’t already know the material that we were taught. We may have been immature, giggling and blushing behind our text books, but we already knew where babies came from. So now, sitting in the back seat of the car, I couldn’t stop thinking that it was impossible for Jesus to have been born of a virgin, it just didn’t make sense. But how could I be doubting such a basic Bible story, one I’d been taught for my entire life, the single fact that was considered true in every church I’d ever attended? I’d known about sex for years, yet I’d never had a problem believing in this miracle before.
My head hurt from the frown on my face, my clenched teeth, and the intense concentration of my mind. I could not come up with an answer but I knew I didn’t want to doubt. I wanted to have faith, even faith as small as a seed that could grow into a tree. If I could only muster up a tiny bit of faith…. but no. The doubt, the science of reproduction, was prevailing over my thoughts. My heart started pounding in my chest, and my breathing got faster and faster. In a few minutes, tears started flowing down my face. I tried to cry quietly so my mother and sister wouldn’t hear me. But they were used to my emotional outbursts by then and probably would have ignored me anyway, after asking what was wrong and getting no response.
Inside my head I began chanting, “Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief!” I couldn’t talk; my nose was completely stuffed up from the crying…
My story isn’t strange—born into a Christian home, raised into a Christian lifestyle and led a faithful Christian life as an adult. I was a missionary for six years, both living overseas and operating from a stateside base from which to travel. I worked as an assistant pastor/worship leader and youth pastor. I had always wanted to be a professional musician and opportunities arose which allowed me to pursue that dream as a member of a Christian band that saw a decent amount of success, both in the Christian music industry and the mainstream industry as well. Funny, at least one other de-convert here actually has one of my albums. Ah, irony.
As a teenager I left my Southern Baptist upbringing to follow a more charismatic faith. Later in life I left the protestant faith altogether and converted to Catholicism, having come to the studied conclusion that it was the most historically accurate iteration of Jesus’ and his disciples’ teachings. Throughout all of my transitions, however, I remained faithful to the core of Christianity. Yet I remember, on a few occasions, allowing doubt to surface.
What about people who are born into other religions? Would God punish them eternally in Hell for being born in a country where the social landscape was dominated by a different (read: false) religion? Regarding creation, I had always leaned towards theistic evolution, which was only inches away from pure evolution. At what point were humans given the “breath of life” and acquired souls? How did that evolve? Or were we plopped fully formed into an already evolving environment?
I asked a friend once ‘how could we know that any of this is real?’ My friend, who was educated in theology and philosophy wisely responded, “We can’t.” It was simply a belief that in the end we chose to believe out of desire and faith…
Today I was thinking a little bit about the reasoning process I see quite a few Christians use. Quite frankly, every Christian I have ever known – including myself – used this reasoning. It goes like this:
So far, all my experience shows me that Christianity is true. Therefore, I should believe Christianity until it is proven false. But because it is wrong and / or uncomfortable for me to doubt, I should do everything in my power to first eliminate my doubts. Leaving the faith requires a serious increase in my doubt, therefore I will work to defend the faith and leave only if I cannot: I will start with the assumption I am correct and only leave if proven wrong.
The inevitable result of this thinking is this: the person works intentionally to invent an explanation of their faith that is unfalsifiable. Why? Because an unfalsifiable faith is the only faith that can never be doubted because no evidence can ever contradict it. Unfalsifiable propositions are the holy grail of any faith system, because it makes the object of their faith omnipotent.
I see this regularly. A believer, when pressed to provide a reasonable and demonstrable test for their faith will inevitably shy away from a… well… reasonable and demonstrable test. Instead, any test and all surrounding definitions of God must be calculated and invented so that their faith will not collapse even if the test fails. Ultimately, the believer is only seeking their own selfish comfort when – ironically – selfishness and personal comfort is the one thing Christianity so lavishly preaches against…
Discussions between religious believers and nonbelievers frequently come to a point at which one participant asks the other(s), “What would it take to convince you that there is/is not a god?”
My current answer to that question is this:
All I’d need to believe in to believe in god would be a direct, unequivocal, simultaneous revelation of him/her/itself to all humankind.
Sacred writings are insufficient – we already have plenty of those; they are only persuasive to those who, for psychological, emotional and sociological reasons are predisposed to believe them. Moreover, many of them contradict each other and there are no standardized criteria by which humanity can separate the wheat from the chaff.
Personal testimonies are insufficient – we already have plenty of those; they are totally subjective events, which can be described to, but not experienced by, others. Therefore, differing interpretations of the events are not easily resolved.
Traditions and creeds are insufficient – we already have plenty of those; many of them continue to be useful at the current time, and others have been discarded for more effective or humane alternatives.
Miracles are insufficient – we already have plenty of purported miracles that have, eventually, been explained as natural phenomena. Even if one grants that some events have not been explained – yet – as natural phenomena, the odds are that natural explanations for these events will be discovered eventually. Moreover, even if an event could only be explained as miraculous, then that explanation would raise a plethora of questions about the being that performed the miraculous act: its identity; its character; its intentions toward humankind…