Jump to content
Goodbye Jesus

A Lackluster Deconversion


Recommended Posts

  • Admin

sent in by Jeff


A Lackluster Faith Journey


The story of my conversion to, involvement with, and de-conversion from the

Christian faith is not nearly as dramatic, lengthy, or painful as it has

been for others.


Growing up, I had little exposure to Christianity except for irregular

visits to a Lutheran church for Sunday school and attending Catholic Mass

with my grandparents once in awhile. Neither of my parents was particularly

religious; my dad was and is a confirmed agnostic leaning heavily toward

atheism, though if you asked him today he'd probably identify strongly with

Buddhism. Interestingly enough, at one time my father had been pursuing a

career in Christian ministry. He'd been raised in a strict Lutheran home,

and due to some factors stemming from a dysfunctional family and his own

personal demons (homosexuality), he felt at the time that immersing himself

in faith was the answer. It wasn't. But this really isn't about his faith

journey, so it suffices to say that in terms of the father I know, he is



My mother, I found out much later, has a belief in God but is not religious.

Like many Americans, her faith is cultural and doesn't stem from any

dramatic spiritual epiphanies or adherence to biblical dogma. Out of her

three kids, only my brother and sister were ever confirmed in the Lutheran

church, and that was as much due to their desire to be confirmed as it was

due to my mom encouraging them to explore faith. In fact, I don't remember

even once discussing God with my mom until after I became a Christian.


Mostly, my early experiences in the church, though infrequent, were little

more than exercises in play acting and observation. I was a good boy who

knelt when I was supposed to kneel, prayed when I was supposed to pray, and

sang when I was supposed to sing. Very early I sensed a certain hypocrisy

about worship, even though my vocabulary didn't yet include that word. The

whole exercise was pretentious to me, especially since I knew some of the

people who were neighbors, and didn't at all behave according to the way the

pastor suggested. When I became a Christian, I looked back on those

occasions and rationalized it differently; these people weren't pretending,

they were being cleansed of their weekly misdeeds.


During my teen years, my official church attendance dropped to almost

nothing, though it could easily be argued I was closer to being a Christian

than I ever had been by the time I graduated. I had become something of a

closet Christian, as almost none of my friends were believers (that I knew

of). My teen years were filled with hormonal dramas and social awkwardness

just like many others, but I kind of also became something of a "bad boy,"

in rebellion against my father who expected me to achieve, and my mother &

stepfather who were too drunk to care. I had already built up a fair amount

of baggage from stealing my parents' car, to experimenting with drugs, to

sexual promiscuity, to drunk driving, to...well, you name it I probably did

it. Short of getting caught, that is. I was too much of a coward to really

push the envelope in any way that could be called daring. But I'm getting

off-topic here.


The point is that by the time I was in 11th grade, I had a lot to feel

guilty about. After quitting school in the last trimester of that school

year, I spent a summer re-evaluating where I wanted to be in life. Reality

came crashing in because as a result of quitting school, my dad had kicked

me out and I was forced to live with a friend of mine in an apartment. Of

course, he quickly taught me that there's no free lunch in life and I

learned that for a 17 year old, there aren't many opportunities to build the

kind of life I'd envisioned. Near the end of the summer, I called my mom

begging her to take me in. Over my senior year in H.S., I was able to

redeem myself to some extent and pulled out a decent graduation with honors.

But as I said I'd become something of a closet Christian.


At that time (during my senior year) there was a church nearby that

maintained a chapel that was open to the public 24/7. I had a little pocket

NT, and I'd go to this chapel alone to try and commune with God. Even though

I read the NT again and again, meditated in the chapel, and spent hours

praying trying to contact God, nothing ever happened. I was feeling this

overwhelming guilt for the things I'd done, but nothing would alleviate it.

My counselor had me almost convinced it was due to emotional stress, but

somewhere deep down I felt like I needed a savior. None ever came. It was

a fairly big let-down at the time, but I thought that the message was a good

one and that the problem must lie within me for failing to understand it and

receive the grace that was promised.


Yet I didn't have time to dwell on it too much. I joined the Army, and

about six months after graduation was deeply involved in learning how

spoiled I had been; basic training does that to you. For the next year and

a half, God wasn't something I gave any thought to. I went about the

business of being a soldier, whose off-duty concerns ran more along the

lines of where the next beer was coming from and how I was going to get laid

this weekend without paying for it.


It was when I was stationed in Germany that Christianity entered my life

again in a rather powerful way. Several people I had become close to turned

out to be Christian. A new roommate was a devout Christian, my then

girlfriend (whom I would later marry - and divorce) was a Christian, my

platoon sergeant was Christian, and a couple other people in my platoon

"came out" as Christians. Not that they were hiding it before, but it

became noticeable. Kind of like when you buy a car thinking it isn't that

popular, but then you start seeing them everywhere. But the most

significant influence at that time came in the form of a converted



While on leave, I ran into an old girlfriend. Our relationship had been

brief but intense, and I romanticized the intensity as something other than

it was. The reality was that the intensity stemmed from sex and drugs

rather than love, but that's not how I remembered it. Anyway, we went out

to dinner. It was during dinner that she told me she was born-again, and

described her life between graduation and her conversion along with how her

life had changed afterward. But her conversion, combined with my lingering

attraction to her, had the result that for the rest of my time on leave and

all the way back to Germany, I read the entire Bible cover to cover. I

wanted to know just what it was that was so special and what I had missed in

the past.


Well, I convinced myself that God was really trying to reach me. With all

the people in my life who it seemed had found the transcendent truth I

convinced myself I had been searching for, I started to believe that God

really did have a plan for me and that he wanted me to accept his grace.

Before leaving Germany, I married a woman whom I thought God wanted me to

marry - and whom I thought would help me not to be lonely the rest of my



Following our successive discharges from the military, my wife and I moved

to Maryland where we became involved in a local Methodist church. During

many of the services, I would get extremely emotional, sometimes even

weeping as the pastor read various verses - especially those dealing with

the Passion Narrative. This further reinforced the conviction that God was

speaking to my heart, and set the stage for the events that followed.


It should also be noted that I had never really dealt with the issues from

my teenage years; the baggage was still there, only hidden. Plus, my wife

and I had some significant problems and had separated a few times. There

was adultery involved (hers, at that point), and serious disagreements over

parenting of not only our newborn child but her two boys from a previous

marriage. With my tendency to blame myself, I let the guilt for this pile

on, adding yet more reinforcement to the notion that I needed a savior.


At some point (exactly when escapes me, but it's not important), our church

hired a new youth pastor. Since he was the same age as my wife and I, we

easily identified with him and we became fast friends. His theology

contrasted that of the senior pastor, in that he was far more conservative

and seemed to be much more committed to the cause of Christ. Well, he found

out that I play guitar, and invited me to take part in a new contemporary

Christian band he wanted to put together, and to help him put together a

contemporary service for the younger members of the congregation. I was

extremely pleased and proud to be asked, and began to feel that God was

calling me to ministry. Music had always played a huge role in my life, and

I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to use it in this way.


The musicians we put together were simply amazing. We played and sang so

well together it was easy to think that God was guiding us. Many people

commented on how "the spirit was really moving" when we played. Indeed, I

often felt so moved by the emotional nature of the music that it welled up

in me and came out in my singing. The lead singer (I sang harmony as well

as played guitar) later told me that when she would falter she'd find

encouragement in my voice. Oddly, my ego wasn't inflated by any of this. I

felt that it wasn't me at all; it was God moving through me.


At the same time, I was becoming more and more conservative. As the youth

pastor and I spent more time together, I began to take on his theology.

Additionally, I jumped into the Bible with both feet, convinced that

everything in it was divine truth meant for all people in all ages. Yet

this was not enough. I purchased books on apologetics, becoming a fan of

such people as J.P. Holding (an Internet apologist), Josh McDowell, Lee

Strobel, and many others. I bought the biggest concordance I could find,

and devoured commentaries, biblical dictionaries - anything that seemed to

confirm the truth of the Bible. Through the Internet, I became a regular

visitor to places like www.carm.org, www.answersingenesis.com, and many

others. Not only that, but I came to the conclusion that every atheist or

non-believer was merely someone whose questions had not been answered, and

sought them out on message boards so that in keeping with 1 Peter 3:15 I

could "give an answer." Though I didn't understand it at the time, all of

those with whom I engaged in debate were far more logical, far more

reasonable, far better informed, and quite easily defeated every single

argument I ever advanced in favor of belief in God. I persisted in my faith,

but this was a tiny seed that would later bear fruit.


There were some darker elements to my faith as well. As the youth pastor,

myself, and a few others became further entrenched in what was becoming a

decidedly fundamentalist theology, we began to take issue with many of the

positions issuing from the pulpit of our church. You see, the senior pastor

had (and probably still has) a more liberal take on the Bible and theology.

This, in our estimation, was antithetical to what God had intended. So, we

set about trying to spread a more conservative doctrine.


Meanwhile, I had become aware of legislation pending in Montgomery County,

MD that would add "sexual orientation" to the Equal Opportunity code. That

is, employers and others would no longer be able to discriminate on that

basis. Well, a local conservative Christian group called Take Back Maryland

was gathering signatures for a petition designed to force a moratorium on

that issue, preventing it from being added. I became affiliated with that

group, and decided that I would take signatures from those in my church.

The youth pastor encouraged me to do this, being the first to add his

signature to the list that I was to gather. Other members of the band added

their signatures and encouragement as well. Though we didn't think of it

this way, we had become fundamentalist bigots, fostering hate for everyone

not like us.


Frankly, I don t know whatever happened with this legislation because I

stopped gathering signatures after a particularly interesting confrontation

with the senior pastor. While gathering signatures, the senior pastor's

wife rebuked me for going around the church gathering signatures without

speaking to the senior pastor first. So, I went to speak to him. We wound

up having a long discussion about whether I had the right to do that, and

about proofs in the Bible regarding homosexuality. This conversation

planted one of the seeds for my de-conversion, though I didn't realize it at

the time.


During the conversation, we of course discussed Romans 1:26-28. This is one

of the NT passages used along with the OT verses in Leviticus to show that

homosexuality is against God's will. The pastor made the comment that Paul

probably didn't know that one day his letters would become scripture. This

is a rather innocuous statement, to be sure, but one that got me thinking

again. Later as I recalled this statement, I started to think, would Paul

have known that his letters would someday be considered scripture? Would

any of the biblical authors have thought that? Even if God was using them

to author the Bible, there is never any mention of God doing dictation.

That being the case, is it possible that Paul - or any other biblical author

- could have been expressing his own prejudices while believing they were in

keeping with God's will? Basically, it re-opened the door in my mind to the

possibility that the Bible was an entirely man-made book; a concept that had

become buried as I had dug deeper into fundamentalism. However, as I

mentioned I didn't yet realize this and left the pastor's office still

convinced of the righteousness of my position, even though I did stop

gathering signatures for the petition at his request.


Shortly after, there was a division in the church caused in part by the

actions of those of us adhering to fundamentalist doctrine. The youth

pastor was fired - though he says he quit - after he scolded the entire

congregation one Sunday from the pulpit. He had told me of his plan, which

was to denounce the senior pastor, his predecessor, and the congregation for

turning to liberalism and forgetting that tolerance does not mean tolerating

those who aren't Christian or those who flout God's laws. Surprisingly (or

perhaps not surprisingly) there were more than a few people who agreed with

him, including me at the time. We left the church.


Later, the youth minister and a group of fellow ordained friends founded a

new, non-denominational church in PA. This church was too far away for us to

attend regularly, although I did make guest appearances with their

contemporary band. He even invited me to join and become one of the

"elders" of his new church, but my wife and I didn't want to move at that

time, so we turned him down. In the meantime I looked for another local

church and was lucky enough to get hired on as a permanent member of the

staff as the Praise Leader for another Methodist church. I was responsible

for leading the contemporary service, which consisted mostly of putting a

band together and selecting music that would match the lesson being taught.

It was during this time that the statement I mentioned above started to bug

me. Also, this church had a female pastor - something I did not agree with

at the time. I thought part of my mission there was to change things.


Long story short, I failed in each and every way at that church, and wound

up being summarily dismissed because of disagreements with the female pastor

and failure to properly grow the contemporary service. There were some

personal factors that contributed, such as my full-time job, persistent

issues at home (including my wife's non-attendance at any of the services,

which hurt me deeply), and simple exhaustion, but mostly it was theology.


About four months after being dismissed, I traveled to Biloxi, MS to be

trained in networking in connection with my new position as a member of the

Air National Guard. While I was there, I began to fall away from the faith.

I decided to test my long-held belief that the Bible, if it is the Word of

God, should stand up to the most rigorous scrutiny. So I began to study.

Really study. When I wasn't working out or in training through the week, I

was into the Bible, my concordance, commentaries, and online, checking

reference after reference, reading scientific journals, comparing

apologetics to scholarship, and began to recognize that my faith was built

on what amounts to a house of cards. I was extremely fair, I think, in that

I looked at both sides of the debate equally. In the end, having a greater

understanding of historical context, ancient literature, logic, evidence,

and other topics I came to the conclusion that very little of the Bible was

actually worth emulating. That being the case, the God of the Bible was

placed into the category of those things worth having doubts about. I came

to think, much as deists do, that if God exists, he must necessarily be

above all the human frailties attributed to His personality in the Bible,

and that He is basically an unknown quantity that has no practical influence

in this world. To my mind, this was a much bigger God than that offered by



I stayed roughly agnostic for awhile, but eventually came to the conclusion

that I must be, by definition, an atheist. I do not believe God can be

proven nor disproven, and I believe exercises that attempt to do either make

for interesting but ultimately futile philosophical dialogues. I guess that

makes me technically agnostic, but leaning toward atheism. I do believe

that the Bible is the work of man, and that if God had anything to do with

its inspiration, it would have to be more like the inspiration attributed to

the Muses of ancient Greece rather than divine dictation. I now realize -

as all of us do, really - the inherent superiority of evidence over faith in

terms of describing the universe we live in. I also feel that at this stage

in human history, religion has outlived its usefulness and has become

dangerous. Today, religious extremists (among whom I might have counted

myself, had my life not followed the path it did) seek to impose their

version of God's Truth on us all. From Islamists seeking nothing less than

the overthrow of Judeo-Christian and secular nations around the world, to

politically-motivated Evangelicals halting stem cell research and doing

nothing of substance to halt the spread of AIDS, or trying to shoehorn

creationism into the science classroom, religion as we have known it no

longer contributes to humanity as a whole.


I have no problem with those who find comfort in the idea of heaven, or that

God gives them hope for more in the afterlife, so long as they continue to

interact with the world around them as humane and rational people. I don't

even have a problem with those who choose to go to church for the sense of

community and belonging, so long as they are welcoming to all and not

interested in changing the world according to biblical dogma. That is, as a

practical matter we only have proof of this life. As such we should spend

our time doing our best to add value to not only our own lives but those

around us. By judging those around us by a theological standard put in

place by Bronze Age barbarians - or any form of dogma really, including

atheist dogma (if there is such a thing) - we short-change everyone,

including ourselves.


So I guess the short answer is that I studied, and ultimately rejected,

biblical dogma. But again this doesn't mean I have a problem with God

(since as a practical matter God might as well not exist), or that I have

any desire to destroy faith. Faith and intuition are a worthwhile part of

the human experience, but we have no business at all judging by, or trying

to force others to conform to any form of dogmatic faith. The only standard

that has any practical application is that which increases our ability to

survive and thrive in this world. As far as morality, I think it is best

summed up by Sam Harris:


"The truth is that the only rational basis for morality is a concern for the

happiness and suffering of other conscious beings. This emphasis on the

happiness and suffering of others explains why we don't have moral

obligations toward rocks."


There are loads of other components to this de-conversion, but add up to the

same thing. This gives you the general idea of the process with some



In the final analysis, I don't like calling myself an atheist. I am a

secular humanist who wants the best, not just for me, but for everyone.

That may sound a bit cheesy, but that's how I feel, even if I'm not always

good at expressing it. As far as judging others, as humans we can't avoid

doing that because we are constantly reconciling ourselves to our

surroundings. So I try to understand the positions of others, and agree

whenever possible, because I have an equal chance of being wrong. That is,

I try to judge a person by his or her actions, rather than by whatever God

they may want to believe in (or not). For all I know some day I'll be

standing before the Judgment Seat of God saying, "Well, I'll be damned." Of

course, if the Bible really is His word, He'll say, "Why, yes you are!"


In the meantime, I'm just going to continue being human.




(aka UberGeek)

State - Maryland

Country - USA

How old were you when you became a Christian? Hard to say

How old were you when you ceased being a Christian? 35

What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? 3

What labels, if any, would you apply to yourself now? None

Why did you become a Christian? Thought I was touched by God

Why did you de-convert? Many reasons.

email: jeffrey.samuelson at wvmart.ang.af.milhttp://exchristian.net/testimonies/2005/07...conversion.html

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This topic is now closed to further replies.
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.