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What Made Us Different?


rocklobster
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Now for me, in my short experience with christianity. literally it took 6 months for it to brainwash and destroy my life.

 

in the beginning it was all good, i had a new belief. it gave me a new perspective. but, i soon (and i mean real soon) found out

how much christianity was not all honey and rainbows. I started to read the bible. i started learning more about god, but never

really caught on with the rest of my fellow brothers about his so called "love for us". I think over time the more that feeling felt absent

the more i started to resent god. things like "hell (i have a gay brother whom im very close to , so this one hit me real hard), the fact that

more than 80% of this world is doomed to it forever, contradictory nature of god started to cause me doubts. i started praying to god in the beginning with

the utmost faith, that these problems would go away or figure themselves out with his helping hand leading the way. but after 5 months of just

growing more and more in doubt, the more i started to resent God. eventually i got burnt out and started avoiding church, i started hating the idea of it.

although im still scared of what may be to come.. i can say i dont want to worship a god of such evils that sends everyone to a place that would make

world war 2 look like a squirt gun fight between 2 kids. that and i have problems with the validity of it all now.

 

but i guess straight to the point...

 

what made me or anyone elses difference in thought change, while my friends at church surely are pegged with the same questions i had to deal with.

I know i had to jump through alot of mental hoops to keep sane with my beliefs. it got to a point where i stopped taking care of myself.

 

surely deep in their heart not feel like hell is a moral thing right? or maybe they can just deal with the mental hoops better than i was able to? maybe they dont mind ignoring those questions?

 

for me its even more to do with the morals and concept of it all rather than even the contradictions or historical facts (although those bother me a lot too)

 

what were the feelings you all went through before fully deconverting? or as of just now.

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what were the feelings you all went through before fully deconverting?

I left the faith primarily to escape cognitive dissonance. I could no longer reconcile the Christian worldview with actual reality. My rationalizer wore out. It's that simple.

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mine was the pain the religion caused me and how i couldent find god no matter what in the begining.

 

but after i broke free emotionaly of christianity i could use my intelect witch so many christians are un able to use in order to understand the faith was of human enginiering, nothing more nothing less.

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I guess I started with a huge advantage already compared to most of you... German mainstream protestantism is in no way morontheistic. In fact, looking back I'd say it ain't really religious in the original sense, but a societal thing. Its teaching can be summed up to 99+ % as "Jesus was a good and decent man [yes, NO mention of the "son of gawd" thing - not seriously that is] and if we all try to be at least a little bit like him it will change the world for the better".

 

Not exactly a flawless position considering what's really written in the buybull, but much better than standard morontheism ;)

 

In other words, leaving that wasn't much effort for me. Fortunately :yellow:

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I sorta just forgot to go to church when I moved out of home and lived in a different part of the city. Forgot to find a new church.

 

Then, a few years later, I got the guilts and wnet and found one that was seriously, nuttily fundy. After one church service I forgot to go back.

 

Then I decided that I had to make up my mind and started reading the New Testament. I took just a few chapters of the book of Luke (first book I started at) to come to a definitive conclusion that this Jesus character was flawed and could nto be god.

 

So .... I guess I was already set up with a default position of not attending church by the time I decided it was all a load of shite.

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what were the feelings you all went through before fully deconverting?

I left the faith primarily to escape cognitive dissonance. I could no longer reconcile the Christian worldview with actual reality. My rationalizer wore out. It's that simple.

 

Same here. The cognitive dissonance was killing me, I couldn't take it any more.

 

 

I think those who feel happy with Christianity are rarely deep thinkers. At least not those who I know. They are content with Christianity's simplicistic and superficial explanations and don't care enough to actually explore these answers or even think about the questions. They just accept whatever is preached to them by authority. Also they need the delusion about a better afterlife.

 

I'm not saying all Christians are like this, because I don't know them all. But the ones I know are like that: they are very prone to accepting authority without asking any questions. If the pastor preached it's good so then it's good so. Questioning our pastor (who I think is actually a mini-dictator) or the Bible is a big no-no in the Christian part of my family.

 

I don't know why I turned out to be different. Thinking back, now I think more and more that converting to Christianity wasn't even really MY choice at the age of 12. I did it just to please my father. But it doesn't mean I didn't believe because I did. Still I don't think it would have ever happened if my father hadn't converted first. If he hadn't been a Christian I would have seen through the crap right away. But because he converted and I looked up to him I thought he must be right.

 

Then of course it brought years and years of struggling: the cognitive dissonance, the guilt, the fear - all because of Christianity! So except for the very beginning when everything was new and I was in hope of getting all the answers, I never really felt well as a Christian. I think I'm actually a natural born atheist. Before my conversion I never felt I needed God. I never felt I was guilty of something (well, until Christianity talked me into feeling guilty, because "we are all sinners" and if you don't admit that then you are being guilty of pride).

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what were the feelings you all went through before fully deconverting?

I left the faith primarily to escape cognitive dissonance. I could no longer reconcile the Christian worldview with actual reality. My rationalizer wore out. It's that simple.

 

Same here. The dissonance was killing me, I couldn't take it any more.

 

 

I think those who feel happy with Christianity are rarely deep thinkers. At least not those who I know. They are content with Christianity's simplicistic and superficial explanations and don't care enough to actually explore these answers or even think about the questions. They just accept whatever is preached to them by authority. Also they need the delusion about a better afterlife.

 

I'm not saying all Christians are like this, because I don't know them all. But the ones I know are like that: they are very prone to accepting authority without asking any questions. If the pastor preached it's good so then it's good so. Questioning our pastor (who I think is actually a mini-dictator) or the Bible is a big no-no in the Christian part of my family.

 

I don't know why I turned out to be different. Thinking back, now I think more and more that converting to Christianity wasn't even really MY choice at the age of 12. I did it just to please my father. But it doesn't mean I didn't believe because I did. Still I don't think it would have ever happened if my father hadn't converted first. If he hadn't been a Christian I would have seen through the crap right away. But because he converted and I looked up to him I thought he must be right.

 

Then of course it brought years and years of struggling: the cognitive dissonance, the guilt, the fear - all because of Christianity! So except for the very beginning when everything was new and I was in hope of getting all the answers, I never really felt well as a Christian. I think I'm actually a natural born atheist. Before my conversion I never felt I needed God. I never felt I was guilty of something (well, until Christianity talked me into feeling guilty, because "we are all sinners" and if you don't admit that then you are being guilty of pride).

 

Ditto for me also Rock - cognitive dissonance.

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Truth has been a top priority for me my entire life. Once I had enough tools through education to see what I believed couldn't possibly be true, my faith just disappeared. It's as simple as that.

 

I'm not sure I experienced cognitive dissonance. If I did, I didn't recognize it as such. My experience essentially started out with faith forced on me, tilting my scale all the way to one side. As contrary evidence built on the other side the scale, faith showed itself to be without substance. It was a painful experience, but I didn't fight it. I prayed hard, but I didn't try and rationalize.

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I'm not sure I experienced cognitive dissonance...I didn't try and rationalize.

You are probably more of a natural skeptic than most of us. My default assumptive stance was that the whole world (as I saw it; remember, I was a child at the time) couldn't be wrong so that I could be right. That's basically the definition of insanity: "You're all MAAAAAD ... I'm the sane person in the WORLD!!" Yet I was intelligent enough to see the logical inconsistencies, the falsities, the incongruencies. Also as I grew older I realized that MY world wan't THE world ... there were plenty of people of good conscience who didn't believe as my authority figures, mentors, and family did. Until I could accept that my fundamentalist upbringing was a "minority report" -- and a nutty one, at that -- I had to furiously rationalize in order to function. "We're all closing our eyes and talking to an imaginary friend that none of us really sees or hears, much less experiences ... but ... but ... this is consistent with the inerrant Word of God ... let God be true and every man a liar ... " and so forth, ad nauseum.

 

In other words: despite the simple evidence of empirical reality, if most people around you are behaving contrary to that reality, you tend to assume you are somehow missing out on some critical info everyone else has, not reading things correctly, or something. My guess, Vigile, is that you would be much more likely to trust your own senses and perceptions and discount that of others. Perhaps you have shed an evolutionary perceptual quirk that has outlived its usefulness. I can well imagine members of a clan who are less perceptive of subtle signs of predators coming to rely on info from others about that sort of danger and responding to their lead. I can well imagine evolution selecting for those who either are alert to the environmental clues or willing to follow the lead of those who are.

 

In short, my good man, you are probably a natural leader and I am probably a natural follower, much as I hate to admit it.

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for me its even more to do with the morals and concept of it all rather than even the contradictions or historical facts (although those bother me a lot too)

 

Same here. I think it began with my first question as a child: "How can there be nothing before God? Who is behind God?" Later as a Fundy, I was in hook, line, and sinker. In addition to DesertBob's famous "My rationalizer wore out", it was the hypocritical morality of the bible that motivated the hypocrisy of many christians. Christian love is pretty divisive and cruel. I attributed it to a failure to follow Jesus and the bible, until my "rationalizer" began to fail me. Then the scales fell off, and I saw clearly what inspired the cruelty. The moral ground of the bible is not solid. It's quicksand.

 

 

I thought I had rescued the real God from the bible, but the more I thought about it and studied pro and con, the more God became the mystery of life itself. Or there is no God that any human can contemplate in that limited gray matter.

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You are probably more of a natural skeptic than most of us.

 

I'm not sure I'm any more of a natural skeptic than the other INT_ personality types on the board here. I developed into one and skepticism became much more important to me as a result of my deconversion, largely in response to the idea "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice..."

 

I can be pretty gullible at times. Just wait 'til next April Fool's around here and you'll see; or just ask Florduh and Magic Monkey. :D

 

We have a few members here who smelled BS when they were barely past toddler stage. I was pretty much hook, line and sinker until 21 or 22 when the questions in my mind started getting louder and I stopped going to church because I could no longer accept their claims. At this point, I still held onto hope that god/jesus were real, but had concluded the church had turned into a cult of sorts.

 

Also as I grew older I realized that MY world wan't THE world ...

 

This was a big one for me too that was exposed through travel. I first moved to DC from Idaho and realized there wasn't the type of overwhelming presence of fundamentalist xianity in that area as what I grew up with. Episcopal was the primary religion in the area of MD I first lived and it seemed more of a social club than anything I was used to. Then I moved to Costa Rica and saw that they were just as genuine about Catholicism as I was about my protestantism, making me question dogmatism in a deeper way (I had questioned it pretty much my whole life, but this one really sealed the deal). Finally, I moved to Italy and there was virtually no fundamentalism of any sort and church and religion was clearly just tied to cultural identity, not 'eternal salvation.' This made it clear to me that the brand of xianity I had grown up with was largely a sect, regardless of the fact that it claimed to be somewhat inclusive as long people accepted a short list of basic tenets.

 

From there, I was completely disillusioned and dug in hard learning as much about philosophy, logical error, etc... as I could. I drank it in like a man dying of thirst who finds an oasis. So, I'd say, my skepticism is rooted in the impact this process had on me.

 

In short, my good man, you are probably a natural leader and I am probably a natural follower,

 

It would be accurate to say I'm not a follower, but I don't think I'm a natural leader. I have held my own decently when I've held management positions in the past. It's probably more accurate to say I'm more of a natural loner who needs to be around people 20-30% of the time and needs to be alone with his thoughts the rest.

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I think those who feel happy with Christianity are rarely deep thinkers. At least not those who I know. They are content with Christianity's simplicistic and superficial explanations and don't care enough to actually explore these answers or even think about the questions.

 

Right on.

 

All the same, there are those who do ask and explore the questions but within the framework of belief that God exists. There is much wiggle room for sophisticated thought inside the parameters of belief. And it certainly takes sophisticated thought processes to reconcile the realities of the known universe with the professed beliefs of even the most liberal Christian believers in the supernatural. When theologians struggle entire lifetimes to reconcile these discrepancies, they take it as an insult of the highest order when told that Christians don't think deeply.

 

My question is: Why don't they accept the possibility that God doesn't exist and explore the questions from that perspective?

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My question is: Why don't they accept the possibility that God doesn't exist and explore the questions from that perspective?

I got an interesting hint to a possible answer to this question from the pastor of a charismatic congregation a few years before I left the faith. We were discussing his belief about the "baptism in the holy spirit" and I pointed out that it was, at bottom, really based upon roughly one half of a Bible verse in the book of Acts that was highly subject to interpretation (one of those deals concerning how literally or allegorically you were supposed to take a particular statement). In good-natured exasperation, he blurted out this: "If we didn't interpret the verse that way, we wouldn't have an identity as Charismatics!". I just sat and looked at him. A seeming eternity of silence hung between us. I cleared my throat and said, "Ok, then, I get it ... you need the interpretation to maintain your identity".

 

And that is probably the case with any faith-based belief, including belief in god. The unwillingness to question fundamental assumptions is an unwillingness to question one's identity. Certain ideas one subscribes to, while seemingly of no great significance relative to a multitude of others, are linchpins which require a willingness to make a massive shift in worldview and/or self-concept, to even question them. It requires a certain suppleness and flexibility and curiosity before you can go there. One thing I have learned is that some people are just incurious and inflexible. They want simple, black and white answers or none at all. My fiancee's daughter is this way, and it drives my Berkeley-born fiancee crazy. That girl is intellectually lazy, pure and simple. Her dad put more oomph into her conception, apparently, because that's definitely where that trait is coming from.

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My bullshit detector kept going off.

 

A brilliant way of putting it!

 

I had a born again experience (which by sheer coincidence happened during a meaningless, low self-esteem period in my life!). Once the virus had taken hold and I was sure I was saved and Jesus loved me, I could convince myself of any argument. I knew the Bible reasonably well and I could debate forcefully and reinforce my beliefs. I prayed daily and my prayers were answered in one contrived way or another.

 

The Bible would fall open at the correct page and I would see the answer I wanted right in front of me (it's just as well that the Bible was a big book with constant repetition). However it was the Bible itself which was its own undoing. A few months into my Christian phase I began to find passages in the Bible that I thought looked strange. I realised they were immoral and I couldn't justify them to myself. Morality should be just to do with harm versus benefit to others and one self. The Bible wasn't like that. I also became aware of contradictions that I could not resolve. I prayed to God but no answers came. It was becoming a one way relationship. Basically I reconnected with my own honesty and humanity. For the next few months I became a hollow man - justifying my beliefs in public whilst secretly hating the imaginary God inside my head.

 

During my deconversion phase other Christians suggested that I had never been truly saved in the first place as if what I had gone through was only a dress rehearsal. My bullshit detector was at this point smoking and about to combust! So I thought to myself - "God is either a prick teaser or he's just a figment of my imagination." At that moment my already crumbling faith was annihilated. And the God of the Bible disappeared up his own orifice from whence he came.

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I think those who feel happy with Christianity are rarely deep thinkers. At least not those who I know. They are content with Christianity's simplicistic and superficial explanations and don't care enough to actually explore these answers or even think about the questions. They just accept whatever is preached to them by authority. Also they need the delusion about a better afterlife.

 

That's my thinking too. In many cases, I think, this is the result of limited intelligence, but not always. My cousin, for example, aced school all the way through college, but today he is one of the shallowest thinkers I know. That he just swallows whole questions that would go down like a camel to me even though he has a degree from a secular university in the same school system I received my degree, just boggles my mind. That he becomes defensive if alternative ideas are suggested and does not even dare consider their validity implies to me he and I are just wired very, very differently even though I'm pretty sure we would both have similar IQ scores.

 

It also implies that he starts from the position that he is right and works backward from it.

 

His sister, btw, is what I would call a natural skeptic. She was questioning faith when were were still 8 or 9 and is herself an atheist today. I doubt she ever counted herself as a believer even though she was raised in the same ultra religious environment I was.

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I wonder how much of it was genetic. I'm sure it was at least in part. I grew up with my dad's side of the family and rarely saw my mother. My dad's side was basically fundy in belief but moderate in practice, but due to technicalities I had to go to a xtian school, which put religion to the forefront. I would be happy in spurts with xtianity but it seems like most of the time I could just never quite sit still with it. But I was so wrapped up in the particulars I never really thought to stand back and question if there was really a god in the first place. That only started happening after numerous failed attempts at keeping with the xtian lifestyle and realizing that I wasn't fooling myself anymore, so how was I fooling god, and if I wasn't fooling god, who the hell had I been "walking with" this whole time?

 

I doubt anyone else on my dad's side had similar experiences or went that far in. But I wouldn't be shocked if my mom didn't believe in god. She never mentioned religion at all, I never saw anything religious at her house, and she once told me to go out looking for other things to learn when I was telling her about religion related stuff at school. Her words didn't get to me then, but maybe her genes already had.

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My question is: Why don't they accept the possibility that God doesn't exist and explore the questions from that perspective?

I got an interesting hint to a possible answer to this question from the pastor of a charismatic congregation a few years before I left the faith.

 

............

 

he blurted out this: "If we didn't interpret the verse that way, we wouldn't have an identity as Charismatics!". I just sat and looked at him. A seeming eternity of silence hung between us. I cleared my throat and said, "Ok, then, I get it ... you need the interpretation to maintain your identity".

 

And that is probably the case with any faith-based belief, including belief in god. The unwillingness to question fundamental assumptions is an unwillingness to question one's identity.

 

Thanks for that. I think you're right on. It makes sense of very many things I have seen.

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It's an interesting question. I don't know. I am completely alone among all my extended family in this regard, and to this day I need a spiritual life.

 

This might be rather lengthy - I was "saved" at age 12 and onboard completely with Christianity until I was about 14, and then I did start to question some aspects of it. Looking at what Christianity said about how Christians ought to behave - and seeing a glaring example of a person in a leadership position (the Pastor) being an ass was a definite problem for me. How could God permit some of this behavior and in a wider perspective, how could a God who supposedly loved me allow some of the shit that happened to me (I was bullied in 7th & 8th grade)? This did bother me. Isn't he all powerful? Maybe I'm not really "saved"? Is it all my fault? Yet, i really didn't see how I deserved this. Later I wondered does human "free will" trump this power or make it completely ineffectual? If that's the case, how is God good? And later still "is there free will at all"?

 

The rapture thing also bothered me and the end times/judgment teaching eventually seemed incredible. I just got to the point where I started thinking "these people doing bad things are getting away with this behavior, and nothing is happening to them and nothing ever will."

 

I don't know why these questions don't bother more people. This religion does not make sense in the real world.

 

I went to college, did not attend church during that time, and got away from the whole mess for a number of years. When I tried to go back as an adult to the fundy Baptist church I found that it was impossible. The creationist stuff was incredibly absurd and they were talking about topics that were completely irrelevant to what I was dealing with. I started thinking eventually that the whole idea of "sin" was a crock. I had accepted that concept without question but I realized that this idea might also be deeply flawed since so many of the other doctrines were. That was the last straw, so to speak. Raised Baptist, I thought the Eucharist of the Episcopal church might be what I needed and what I missed, but once I realized this idea of "sin" was false, the eucharist did not mean the same thing to me and I left the Episcopal Church for good around 2001. I could not get past that what it symbolized was false, no matter how beautiful the performance.

 

So, from there the whole thing fell like a house of cards, but It was difficult to get to that point.

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I wonder how much of it was genetic. I'm sure it was at least in part.

 

On my mother's side everybody I remember is/was an atheist/agnostic. My mother is agnostic, I would say. Her parents are strong atheists. And my grandmother's mother as I remember her was never a church-goer and she despised priests, even if she was a simple farmer in a village, rural environment where most people were religious. Her house stood next to the village church, BTW, but she never went. Though her father or grandfather or something was chorister in the church. But basically everybody I knew on that side were non-believers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I was raised in a sect that placed a lot of emphasis on emotionalistic worship: it was required to feel God and be saved. As a kid I learned emotional awareness and even emotional control, though, because it was the only way I had to resist bullying and the like. I was always so aware of when services were being arranged to manipulate emotions that I could never take it seriously as the move of God. I didn't realize that at the time, though: I just thought I couldn't feel God. That meant I was going to Hell, and further -- after 20 years of being ignored by God -- it sort of meant that God didn't care about my life. That made me angry and depressed, and eventually it got bad enough that I walked out. Disassembling the dogma came later and was not dramatic at all.

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What made us different? I tend to be a people pleaser - some would say I'm that way - to a fault. So I'm still a little amazed at myself that I've walked away from it. I'd say it was something of a "perfect storm" of realizing that Christianity is b.s. plus realizing in a mid-life crisis sort of way that I could either live the last half of my life miserable while everyone else was happy or I could be free and everyone else thinking that I was on the wrong path. I rationalized it this way: I'm not Muslim so I don't go to the mosque, I'm not Jewish so I don't go to the synagogue. So therefore if I'm not Christian, why should I go to church? In a nutshell, I decided against being miserable.

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That's my thinking too. In many cases, I think, this is the result of limited intelligence, but not always.

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah, it's not necessarily about intelligence. I'm no more intelligent now as when I believed the BS. And I would not say there aren't intelligent people among the believers. It's about whether and when someone is willing to engage an open mind.

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The question you pose, "What made us different?", is an interesting one. I think what you mean is why did we leave the religion while others did not?

 

I would love to know the answer to the question, and though I have spent a lot of time thinking about it, I am not yet able to answer it. It is still something of a mystery to me.

 

As some have already suggested, I do not think intelligence or being a "deep thinker" necessarily factors in as primary reasons why some committed Christians leave the religion while others do not. I am sure we all know quite intelligent, highly educated people, who are deep thinkers who are still Christians. In fact, I would argue that Christianity at its core invites a lot of deep thought. For example, Christianity invites its adherents to think through and consider issues that are quite profound: eternity, the meaning of life, morality, the existence of an all powerful and all knowing spiritual being, interpretation of difficult and thought-provoking scriptures, the nature of reality, and many more. That's some heavy duty thinking. And while I would not say that every Christian thinks through everything, my experience with Christians is that they all do think through at least some of these issues.

 

I have heard a number of hard-core Christians wrestle with many of these issues. One example that particularly stands out to me is the issue of what happens to a person who commits suicide. I can recall occasions when committed Christians either had a loved one commit suicide or knew someone who did wrestle mightily with the question of whether the suicide victim was in hell or not. And then there's the issue of how can a loving god allow all the suffering and evil that happens on a daily basis. Again, I have heard a lot of sincere discussion of that issue among those who believe the religion with all their hearts.

 

On a very surface level, I think there may be a number of factors that may play an important role in leaving the religion. Some of those may include:

 

1. Social and familial pressures to remain in the religion.

2. The level of personal committment to the religion.

3. The length of time one has been a Christian.

4. The satisfaction one feels with the answers to life's questions provided by the religion.

5. Experiences, whether good or bad, from the clergy and fellow Christians.

6. The extent to which one's social circle is made up of Christians and the importance of that social circle to the individual.

7. One's desire for eternal life, and perhaps most importantly in this category, their desire to rejoin their now deceased loved ones.

8. One's desire to avoid the threat of eternal punishment (hell).

9. One's level of what they perceive to be spiritual experiences that they feel can only be explained by their belief in a living god.

10. One's receptiveness to questioning the foundational Christian issues such as whether there really is a god and whether the scriptures are reliable.

 

I'm sure there are others, but the above list is, I believe, a good starting point to begin answering the question posed by this thread. In my view, the answer is multi-factoral and there is no single answer which one can use to convince a true believer to abandon their beloved religion.

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