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Confessions: When Will My Deconversion Be Complete?







When I was a Christian, I read the book ''A Grief Observed,'' by C.S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis was once a self-proclaimed atheist, but as his life took many turns, he was drawn to Christianity. He is often quoted by many Christians, as being a poignant voice for them. Frankly, he still is one of my favorite authors. He has a way with words that is not only convicting, but also comforting.



In ''A Grief Observed,'' C.S. Lewis talks about loss, pain, suffering, and the process of grieving.



"Nothing will shake a man -- or at any rate a man like me -- out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself." ~ C.S. Lewis



What is this truth that he's talking about? For him, it must have been Christianity. It must have been a belief in the supernatural, and a god...and somehow, this helped him grieve the gut-wrenching loss of his wife. This 'truth' as he calls it, must have been pretty damn comforting, during a time of great sorrow and pain. Truth with a capital 'T.'



I once accepted C.S. Lewis' truth, as my truth. Prayers and supplication were my truths. Suffering once had redemptive value, as that too was another one of my truths. But, a few years ago, I embarked on a journey away from this truth, and traveled down a stark, lonely path towards a new one. When I discovered what it meant to call myself an atheist, it felt like someone had given me a great gift that had been sitting in front of me all of my life, waiting to be opened. Also known as ''reality,'' this gift provided me the keys to freedom, to living my life authentically, and learning to trust my own intuition. When practicing religion, especially one of the Abrahamic versions, you need to realize and accept that you are no longer in charge of your own life. This 'god' that you've agreed to follow, is going to guide you, comfort you, and shelter you from every frightening storm imaginable. But, in return, you will be obligated to 'serve' this god, and that can be the tricky part. I was indoctrinated at a young age, into Christianity, and children are human sponges, as they say. I was a good girl, all of my life...followed the rules, and all of my choices, were based on how I could put others' needs above my own. (to a fault, at times)



I've talked to lifelong atheists both here, and in my offline life, who have a somewhat dark opinion of Christianity - that it is steeped in deception, fear and depravity. As an atheist now, I can identify with them, but having been a zealous Christian, I remember making excuses for those things. We are only deceived, because evil is present in the world. We fear that which we don't fully understand, and how can we ever fully understand the mystery of faith? And, depravity is part of the sin complex. Religion isn't depraved, it is mankind that rejected God's gift...and thus, depravity exists.



See? One can make up a lot of seemingly convincing and viable excuses to stick with religion. The brain is an amazing organ, and it will find a way to process that which is unfathomable. (How can one fathom lies? Call it religion. lol)



So, today, is one of those days that I thought blogging about all of these thoughts, might be cathartic for me. I'm an atheist, but there is something that I can't quite fully let go of, when it comes to my former self as a theist. I don't quite know anymore what that something is, even though I've done much self reflection.



Bur, then it dawned on me today, that maybe I will never know what that something is, and I must find a way to accept that I was duped by religion, nothing more or less. Perhaps, this is what C.S. Lewis meant by suffering, and how it will lead you to truth. The road has been illuminated for me, and if I dare to look over my shoulder at how far I've come, there is still this part of me that wishes to run back over all that trampled ground, back into the waiting arms of theism. The comfort of nothingness, as compared to the vast potential that awaits me. I know what I've left behind, so why do I still look back?



Therein lies the process of grieving. It is a push-pull paradigm that one must go through, in order to grow, learn and emerge a butterfly. I'm not there, yet. I'm still grieving. As futile as it seems on some days, I cannot move forward until I allow myself to grieve the loss of my faith, fully and deliberately. My deconversion will be complete, when I've fully processed and made peace with the fact that religion was never my friend. Never my saving grace. Never my Comforter. I'm almost there, but not quite yet.



I sometimes think it would be easier, if it were all true.



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It would be easier, but it wouldn't be real. The truth is hard. That truth is recognizing our Humanity, that we are responsible to ourselves, to be self-creators. Most people never understand that, maybe even most ex-Christians or most Atheists. I think Humanism shows us that we are responsible to be self-creators. It's a hard road you describe. I walked it for 10 to 12 years before I fully felt that peace -- not about the religion or the religious experience; but peace with myself. I hope it doesn't take you as long as it did me. But however long it takes you, when you reach that destination, you will be grateful to yourself for not giving up. (You seem very self-aware. I believe you will get there. I look forward to finding out someday, somehow, that you did.)


Good essay. Very poignant. Very candid. Very Human.

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Very good post D! I agree.


But, sometimes I wonder if the journey isn't necessarily a destination, but just to stay away or go somewhere else. Its like your time as a Christian was like you moved to a new city. It was originally seen by you to be a strong, prosperous city that you happily lived in and were glad to be a part of. But slowly and surely, the city began to have issues and you became disconcerted with everything you trusted and your happiness left you. The city that used to be a monument to the joy and happiness that christianity brought to your life became just a wasteland of false truths and emptiness. So you left it behind to travel your journey. The city is still there. You just don't visit it any more. You travel elsewhere, seeking new joys and happiness. You visit other cities and even create new cities and visit them often and enjoy your new found life. But the old city is still there. looking good to others who pass into it or who live there.  Whether or not it ended up bringing joy or pain. It is simply a memory of who you were. A time in your life.


In the addiction field, addicted people are always susceptible to relapsing. The human body is remarkable in that if you are sober even for a very long time, if an addict uses just once, their body will pick up where it left off, not start over. So, in some ways, sobriety is simply just avoiding the city. It will never cease to exist. It just becomes somewhere that you can't visit again, or bad things will happen.


I hope this makes sense.


In this case, closure can be found in accepting what happened and working to move farther away from it.


Your ending "My deconversion will be complete, when I've fully processed and made peace with the fact that religion was never my friend. Never my saving grace. Never my Comforter. I'm almost there, but not quite yet." fits this aptly.


Best wishes friend.



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I like your analogy of traveling to cities and building cities.
That's interesting about the body relapsing into addiction. I've noticed, the longer I'm away from Christian environments and influences, that I recognize the psychological, emotional, and social triggers more readily. And I notice that some of them have less influence on me than they used to. I wonder that the mind might be more than just physiology, more than just brain chemicals, and that the mind operates in some ways differently from the body.

I believe that the mind can actually become conditioned into an alternate identity (but perhaps not totally in the cases of those who have left Christianity, because our religious identity did not totally supplant our innate Human identity, and we escaped), and then reconditioned -- or as I like to say, "re-created." The body doesn't really change or morph like that, but only ages, or it alters or adapts to an injury. The brain alters that way, too. But I still believe that the mind is more than the brain.

Deidre, do you find this a tenet of Buddhism, and do you find it a reasonable one? I believe we are our minds, and we are not limited to brain chemicals. So, I believe we can recondition or re-create our minds, our "self," beyond being triggered back into the former identity (the Christian identity/self-image). The amount of effort depends on our individual experience and conditioning. Each of us is unique in that respect.

Our entire life is a self-creation experience. When we understand that, I believe we set ourselves free from coercive conditioning and triggers back into psychological addiction/conditioning. I suppose I would call that "spirituality." Deidre, what do you think?

Good discussion on your blog, Dee! (Good job.)


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@ Storm, I love that analogy, yes that is a great way to process it. Actually, that will help me as I continue along. Logically, I'm comfortable with atheism. There is no objective proof for Christianity, or any religion. And even emotionally, I've let go, but there are times still that when I'm faced with stressful situations, I'd like to retreat into the arms of a loving god...one that doesn't exist, and yet even false hope can be comforting at times.


@ Human, I appreciate your reply. I'm not following any tenets of Buddhism anymore. I've been feeling it smacks of theism too much, and I don't want to keep holding onto crutches. The mind is more than the brain, indeed. Like how you said that. :)

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