Posts tagged ‘deconversion’
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…
As I have left the faith this last year and half, I have watched old ideas shed themselves from my mind systematically. One of these ideas was the mentality that said I should always be paying attention to / worrying about what other people “think”.
The Protestant churches and schools I remember spent an inordinate amount of time with their finger to the wind of culture, constantly on high alert. Every slight change in culture or thinking outside the church should be brought to the attention of those in the church and critiqued for everyone’s “edification”. In particular, I remember spending a considerable amount of time discussing “post-modernism”, why it is bad, how it is bad, how we can counter it, and how we could witness to those confused post-modernists.
In many ways, I feel like some of the Christian commenters on this blog are doing this. They are here to “feel out” why people are leaving the faith, to get a sense of the changes in culture that are causing the church to lose members. I do not blame them for doing this. If one has the Absolute Truth of the Universe in their possession, it is only natural that they guard it – and themselves – from every “empty philosophy” the world offers.
But this post is not for them, it is for those who are leaving the faith and feel an overwhelming – and perhaps debilitating – responsibility to convert or immunize everyone around them from Christianity. In the time I have spent perusing blogs of ex-Christians, I have seen that there tends to be a period of militant anti-Christianity as people who are severely hurt by those beliefs try to protect everyone else from a similar fate. I went through this period myself…
Well, after finally writing down my de-conversion story, I have finally sat down to write the “coming out” letter to the family. With everyone on Facebook, it’s all eventually going to come out anyway, and I’ve frankly gotten rather sick of living a double life these last few months. Now that I’m fairly secure in this new life philosophy, it’s time to let everyone else make peace with it as well. Writing this I think was even harder than writing the DC story. Here’s hoping hitting SEND will be easier. I’m waiting until I give my wife the chance to read it so she doesn’t get blindsided with phone calls asking her what’s going on.
This is, without a doubt, one of the most difficult letters I’ve ever had to write. I’ve gone over and over in my head how to go about saying it (and even whether or not TO say it) knowing that its implications are going to trigger extreme emotions. In the end, what I’m about to say may or may not surprise you. Some of you may have already suspected as much based on things I’ve posted to Facebook in the recent months. There’s really no way to ease into it, so I guess it’s best if I just come out with it…
I’ve been meaning to submit this story for a long time. However, whenever I feel the urge to testify regarding my former life as a born-again evangelical fundamentalist christian, I head to my blog and throw a little piece of my former self onto my Hot-For-Jesus Former Fundie site. After a year and a half of blogging with both a satirical and serious angle about my Jesus days, I realize over and over again that no matter how much I write, I have barely put a dent in my story. However, the testimony/story-telling helps me deprogram as my christian past continually loses its power over me.
Currently empathetic atheist with a appreciation for human wisdom whether pagan, christian, or buddhist (et. al), I grew up in a born-again household. We attended many, many churches, but were most comfortable among the Evangelical Free and Baptists. I’ll never forget the spurt of going up over the Canadian border every Sunday to attend a Mennonite Church. (wonderful ppl, btw)
I went forward and was baptized while in late elementary. I started singing for Jesus about that time and eventually became a camp counselor at a Baptist Bible camp, leading children to Christ. I faced doubts and strengthened my faith while at an Evangelical Lutheran college.
After college, I quickly left behind my english teaching career to pursue music and theatre in the Big Cities. But there was a catch. I filtered every artistic endeavour through my belief system. More than once I turned down artistic opportunites because the message conflicted with my theology. I wrote and performed Jesus music because I truly believed that my talent/curse was meant to be used to praise him…
I have been reading articles here for awhile now, intending to share my own de-conversion story eventually. I must say, I’ve been impressed with the tone of this site. It seems like a great place for thoughtful interaction.
For someone who is just now publicly “coming out” from a religious background as hopelessly fundamental and conservative as mine, it’s encouraging to find a faithless friend or two who can relate to my own experience. I hope that by sharing my own story, I can be of some encouragement to you as well, wherever you happen to be in your life.
Here we go…
The Missionary Kid
My story begins in the tropical jungle of north-central Brazil, where I was born and where I spent the majority of my childhood growing up as a missionary kid. My dad was a high school teacher, and my family lived on the campus of a boarding school that served to educate kids whose parents were off spreading the Christian Gospel. Some of these parents were Bible translators living with Indian tribes, others were support staff stationed in different cities in Brazil. Our little school was where they sent their kids to get an education. It was only a small school—during my time there, the student body probably averaged around 40 or so students every year, from first grade all the way through high school.
But I’ve gotta say, it was a pretty sweet place to grow up! Year-round tropical weather, jungle for camping and exploring as far as you could walk, and the murky Amazon River for fishing and swimming. If it sounds like a little boy’s paradise, that’s because it was…