LimitedGrip

My 25+ year de-conversion

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LimitedGrip    10

I’m in my early 40’s, the eldest of 4 brothers. In age sequential order: I’m an atheist, though of the variety that most Christians would insist is merely agnostic. Next brother is still a believer, though I suspect of the Pascal’s Wager variety. 3rd has shared with me that he is also an atheist, though among his friends, he remains “in the closet.” The youngest is the militant atheist, hostile to both religion and its practitioners.

 

I find it interesting the different levels of belief among brothers who, essentially, were raised in the same manner, by parents who were, at the time, still together (though they did separate when the youngest was 17; the rest of us had begun our own adult lives) . Our mother is still devout. I suspect my dad has also denounced his faith; at the very least, he no longer practices.

 

Each of our testimonies of de-conversion (or of extant belief in the case of one) are completely different, despite the fact that we are all still, and have consistently been, very close. Closer, actually, than we were growing up.

 

Though I cannot speak for them, I may interject some comparisons as I share my journey (my ages through said journey is estimated). I’d also be happy to answer any questions you may have about our differences, if that is interesting for you. Though, again, I cannot speak for them; only intimate some impressions I get based on discussions I have had with them.

 

I remember the first doubting question I had. I was raised in a conservative Baptist church, and many of you will recognize this question as being very Calvinistic, which was very difficult discuss with the peers and leaders with whom I was able to speak. It is, of course: “If god is the omnipotent, omniscient creator of the universe, how can free will exist?” I was probably 11 or 12 at the time. If you were to discuss this topic with the 4 of us now, 30 years later, you’d likely get these responses:

 

  1. Me: I still have not met with an adequate response to the question, though one was somewhat coherent. Most Christians say something along the lines of “just because god knows what we will choose, does not mean he forces us to choose it.” To which I respond: it does if he was the creator of everything, among infinite possibilities. He is not merely an observer, but the actuator of the situation. The one somewhat coherent response was that there may be some reality akin to the dual-split experiment/quantum position wherein his creation, and our free will can exist simultaneously. Ultimately, he was unable to expound upon this idea, and said it MUST be that way because the Bible teaches creation and free will.

  2. Brother two: doesn’t give it much thought; doesn’t care, even. Things are one way or the other, and it doesn’t matter which. Once he’s dead, he won’t care one way or the other, so why care now?

  3. Brother three: Probably hasn’t discussed it with Christians much, but if he had, would likely have similar arguments to my own.

  4. Brother four: Would likely argue that recent neurological experiments have shown that it may be that NOBODY has free will, whether there is a god or not. Our choices boil down to how our neurons fire, over which we have no control.

 

For my teen years, and early adulthood, I forced myself to accept that this was just a question that I’d have to ask god one day (the standard response from, primarily, my mother, and secondarily anybody at the church who I approached), because prayers were certainly providing no enlightenment.

 

In retrospect, I’d classify our church as YEC, but the topic of the age of the earth rarely came up. Moreso, evolution was frowned upon, but also not prolifically. It was enough though, that I steered away from Biology as my science of choice in high school, in favor of Chemistry. However, I did take an astronomy class, and really didn’t have an issue with the idea of an old earth/universe. In my circle of peers, it wasn’t a particularly important question. So, I entered a period of time that I would now consider being an OEC. (though it is interesting to note that one of my younger brothers mentioned that after I had left for the Army, one of the youth pastors started preaching YEC dogma, to include presenting Kent Hovind videos).

 

But, that transition comes with more questions: how to reconcile the creation account in Genesis? Why was there life on earth for so long prior to the creation of humans? What about original sin and death? Was Noah’s Ark a real, local event, or an allegory of some sort?

 

By the age of 24, I had (somewhat) reconciled those questions through reading OEC literature, and allowing the confirmation bias to assuage my doubts. So I was ready to start tackling evolution. I wanted to debate “evolutionists” as they are now “known.” I felt that the best way to do this was to try to understand both points of view. So I read arguments from both sides.

 

What I discovered was nothing like I expected.  My first impression had nothing to do with arguments themselves. It was the intellectual honesty. Time and again, I would find the “evolutionists’” arguments better sourced. When rebuttals were offered, the evolution group would post links to the rebuttals, and the creationists would not. When creationists DID supply sources, the sources often did not say what they claimed it did. When I started, I was constantly taking the creationists at face value, and fact checking every “evolutionist” claim. Gradually, over a few years of research, the opposite was true. I wouldn’t trust the creationist claims.

 

By the time I was 30 or so (yes, the confirmation bias was strong in this one), I no longer felt I could adequately argue for creationism, though I hadn’t yet accepted the evolution arguments. That is, until I came across ERV’s and pseudogenes. I did, and still do, find these particular arguments to be smoking guns for evolution (as much so as science will allow, at any rate).

 

So entered my “theistic evolutionist” phase.

 

This actually satisfied me quite well for a while. I discovered the liberal rather than conservative nature of the majority of New Testament scholars. But my original logic question (about free will) still haunted me.

 

I decided it was time to research church history and read about the evidence in support of the resurrection. Again, what I found was unexpected. The first thing I researched was extra-biblical support for Jesus’ ministry. I wanted to read every piece of secular, contemporary historian commentary concerning Christ.

 

Uh oh.

 

From the time I accepted Christ at 10 until now, my faith seems to have declined linearly. But it wasn’t until I started really researching the history of the Bible that I became concerned. I read books like Evidence Demands a Verdict, and The Case for Christ. However, by now, my confirmation bias has abated to the point that I recognized them for what they were: books to strengthen the faith of believers, rather than convince the unbelievers. Conclusions that I once would have readily agreed with, were now met with, “but, but….not really!”

 

I hated the fact that the vast majority of ALL THOSE MANUSCRIPTS we have are from the 9th century and later...and the earliest ones are mostly small fragments. Why had god not protected his words better?

 

For the first time in more than 20 years, I cried. I bawled on my mother’s kitchen floor as I explained to her that the questions I had shared with her and pushed aside for all these years were becoming too much to ignore. I wailed in my room, asking god to restore my faith. On and off, for SEVERAL MORE YEARS.

 

Finally, I accepted that I didn’t believe anymore. However, I would remain open to truth, no matter what it was. Suddenly, parts of the Bible made SO much more sense. The extreme example is Matthew’s embellishment. Why was he the only one to mention King Herod? He wanted to parallel the story of Moses. He also wanted to force fulfill prophecies of the OT, some of which were not intended to be Messianic prophecies in the first place, and in one case (the riding into the city on two donkeys) based on a MISINTERPRETATION of the OT passage.

 

That was about 7 years ago, and I have maintained an interest on the topic ever since, ultimately bringing me to this site.

 

I’m fine with my conviction now, but it scares the shit out of me. For me, nothingness after death, the lack of consciousness, is a far more terrifying idea than even hell. I know I won’t care, obviously, when it happens, but I do NOT want to get there anytime fast.


Well, that’s the quick version, and I appreciate all who have made it this far. Even if nobody does, it was cathartic, in a way, just writing it. My de-conversion took the better part of 25 years, so there is so much more I could write, as you can imagine.  

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Geezer    2,005

Welcome aboard LimitedGrip. The de-conversion journey is often a long and treacherous affair. My journey out of Xianity began in earnest in 2005 & I'm still studying and researching religious historical scholars for answers and validation. My research has convinced me that the Gospels & Epistles were human fabricated myths as well as the characters in those stories, including Jesus & Paul. I have reached the point in my studies that I'm absolutely convinced there is no afterlife, heaven, hell, or supernatural deities.

 

I'm convinced each person on this de-conversion journey will have to find the answers they seek themselves. I can provide references for books and scholars that might be helpful, but ultimately everyone must find their own answers. I wish you well on your journey and I think you will find this site helpful. You are at least among like minded people here who have taken, or are on the same journey.

 

 

 

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4 hours ago, LimitedGrip said:

Brother four: Would likely argue that recent neurological experiments have shown that it may be that NOBODY has free will, whether there is a god or not. Our choices boil down to how our neurons fire, over which we have no control.

 

I find the concept of libertarian free will to be incoherent. Either our choices are a product of our neurons and the external inputs to those neurons, or they're not. OTOH, our neurons are us. I am tentatively of the compatibilist free will school, meaning that even if our choices are deterministic, we are still making those decisions. I view this not as a fact, but as a perspective necessary for the continued assignment of personal responsibility, without which our society could not function. Philosopher Daniel Dennett has more to say on this concept than I can.

 

4 hours ago, LimitedGrip said:

I’m fine with my conviction now, but it scares the shit out of me. For me, nothingness after death, the lack of consciousness, is a far more terrifying idea than even hell. I know I won’t care, obviously, when it happens, but I do NOT want to get there anytime fast.

 

This is unusual. Most atheists feel the opposite, including myself. The idea of death being final was a gradual one for me, though, so the trauma was minimal by the time I actually deconverted. I don't know how other ex-Christians come to this realization or come to accept it.

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LimitedGrip    10
1 minute ago, Cousin Ricky said:

 

 

This is unusual. Most atheists feel the opposite, including myself. The idea of death being final was a gradual one for me, though, so the trauma was minimal by the time I actually deconverted. I don't know how other ex-Christians come to this realization.

 

Yeah, I've only come across one other atheist who has expressed similar feelings. The worst nightmares I've had in my life, the only ones which have woken me in cold sweats, are ones dealing with infinite emptiness. It's hard to explain. 

 

In one sense, though, I can see how some ex-Christians would agree with the sentiment, in that they have never really feared hell. They have always believed they would go to heaven, and then by the time they didn't, they didn't believe in hell, anyway. 

 

But it's more than that for me. If I compare the idea of hell and the idea of permanent annihilation, hell is the lesser of two evils, as it were. 

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LimitedGrip    10
49 minutes ago, Geezer said:

Welcome aboard LimitedGrip. The de-conversion journey is often a long and treacherous affair. My journey out of Xianity began in earnest in 2005 & I'm still studying and researching religious historical scholars for answers and validation. My research has convinced me that the Gospels & Epistles were human fabricated myths as well as the characters in those stories, including Jesus & Paul. I have reached the point in my studies that I'm absolutely convinced there is no afterlife, heaven, hell, or supernatural deities.

 

I'm convinced each person on this de-conversion journey will have to find the answers they seek themselves. I can provide references for books and scholars that might be helpful, but ultimately everyone must find their own answers. I wish you well on your journey and I think you will find this site helpful. You are at least among like minded people here who have taken, or are on the same journey.

 

 

 

 

Thanks, it's been interesting reading posts from people who are either in the process, or recently de-converted. Most of the boards I have been to before are populated with people well situated in their stances. 

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18 minutes ago, Cousin Ricky said:

The idea of death being final was a gradual one for me, though, so the trauma was minimal by the time I actually deconverted. I don't know how other ex-Christians come to this realization or come to accept it.

 

My experience matches Cousin Ricky's for sure.  Even as a Christian, I struggled to believe in life after death.  By the time I reached atheism, I was certainly ready for the idea of death as the end.  I have a lot to live for, and I hope to be around for a few more decades, but I fear bad health and dementia more than death itself. 

 

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LimitedGrip    10
2 minutes ago, ThereAndBackAgain said:

 

My experience matches Cousin Ricky's for sure.  Even as a Christian, I struggled to believe in life after death.  By the time I reached atheism, I was certainly ready for the idea of death as the end.  I have a lot to live for, and I hope to be around for a few more decades, but I fear bad health and dementia more than death itself. 

 

 

Heh. Dementia is one of the ways I'd rather go. Sure, the early stages would suck...I would hate that part of it, but once you get to a certain point, you don't give a shit about anything. It would be much harder on family than myself, of course, so given the choice, it would not be the way I want, but I certainly don't fear it. 

 

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My feeling towards there not being an afterlife is not fear, but disappointment. I am disappointed that I will not see what becomes of the future. But I am not afraid of being in a state in which I am literally unaware of anything. I do not view death as infinite emptiness, because I will not exist to experience it.

 

Quote

Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not. —Epicurus

 

If I fear anything regarding death, other than whatever painful process might lead to it, it is not living life to my satisfaction before it ends.

 

On dementia, I have to agree with my Catholic sisters Catholic neighbor: I dont want to outlive my brain. In addition, I experience the effect my dad’s dementia has on the rest of us, and I don’t want to be that kind of burden on my loved ones.

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LimitedGrip    10
4 minutes ago, Cousin Ricky said:

My feeling towards there not being an afterlife is not fear, but disappointment. I am disappointed that I will not see what becomes of the future. But I am not afraid of being in a state in which I am literally unaware of anything. I do not view death as infinite emptiness, because I will not exist to experience it.

 

 

If I fear anything regarding death, other than whatever painful process might lead to it, it is not living life to my satisfaction before it ends.

 

On dementia, I have to agree with my Catholic sisters Catholic neighbor: I dont want to outlive my brain. In addition, I experience the effect my dad’s dementia has on the rest of us, and I don’t want to be that kind of burden on my loved ones.

 

Intellectually, I realize that it is silly to fear, but the idea of my consciousness ceasing to exist creeps the eff out of me. 

 

Obviously, dementia is a burden on the family, and I'd not wish that upon them, but from the personal perspective, it's one of the least worst ways, imo. 

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LimitedGrip    10
2 minutes ago, LimitedGrip said:

 

Intellectually, I realize that it is silly to fear, but the idea of my consciousness ceasing to exist creeps the eff out of me. 

 

Obviously, dementia is a burden on the family, and I'd not wish that upon them, but from the personal perspective, it's one of the least worst ways, imo. 

 

And the funny thing is that I realize I should feel exactly the same about dementia. But I don't. Perhaps it is the gradual loss which eases my mind. I've never been able to adequately describe my...phobia?

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MOHO    457

Hey, LG,

 

Welcome to Ex-C!

 

I read New  Evidence That Demands a Verdict https://www.amazon.com/New-Evidence-That-Demands-Verdict/dp/0785242198 as well and my verdict: Religions are all man made bullshit! The section on the fact that the Bible is the best translation of all time, for a work of it's age, proving, on it's own, the legitimacy of xianity, made me want to put the book down. I kept reading, however. I guess for someone who is determined to find reasons to believe, it would be a handy tool. For the rest of us, however, well...not so much.

 

Nothingness after death is more a disappointment than fear for me as well. I won't be able to squeeeeeeze my fundy wife, hang out with my grand-daughters, (all of them teens or pre-teens - going on 46!), cut code, or wale on my git-tars. Hey - but we all look forward to sleep, eh?

 

Think of it like that.

    - MOHO (Mind Of His Own)

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Loopylou    38

I have no fear of death because it's the same as the period before I was born. I've had billions of years of practice at it already and I don't remember having been afraid at the time. :):Old:

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13 hours ago, Loopylou said:

I have no fear of death because it's the same as the period before I was born. I've had billions of years of practice at it already and I don't remember having been afraid at the time. :):Old:

That's a good way to look at death and how I try to see it.

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LimitedGrip    10
5 hours ago, readyforchange said:

That's a good way to look at death and how I try to see it.

 

So...the intellectual side of me understands this. I'm not actually afraid of the shit after death. Of course I'm not going to give any fucks. But I LIKE my consciousness. The ability to think, feel, reason, love, hate, etc. I don't want that to end.

 

And knowing that it WILL end, sucks. 

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I don't particularly fear death either and, like others have said, I think of it as the same sort of existence (or lack thereof) before birth. However, I also can't remember most of the time I've spent sleeping, yet I've continued to exist during times of sleep. So is it possible that I could still 'exist' before birth and after death, yet not be aware of that in the here and now? Ultimately I can't shake the nagging feeling that there is something more to be discovered about consciousness so I am exploring this area and trying some benign things like learning ways to meditate. 

Ive seen things much, much worse than death so I'm also trying to have a spirit of gratitude about what I do have and doing my best to enjoy the present, no matter what my circumstances. 

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17 hours ago, LimitedGrip said:

 

So...the intellectual side of me understands this. I'm not actually afraid of the shit after death. Of course I'm not going to give any fucks. But I LIKE my consciousness. The ability to think, feel, reason, love, hate, etc. I don't want that to end.

 

And knowing that it WILL end, sucks. 

 

You know, I missed the "no fear" part earlier.  I do fear death.  And same as you, I like my consciousness and do not want it to end.  I would love to be able to see what the world is like several thousand years from now. 

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