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Deconverting For Reasons Unique To Me?


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Hi there. I left the Orthodox Church half a year ago and started thinking about leaving 1 1/2 years ago. Before this I attended Episcopalian and conservative Anglican churches (ex-Episcopalian) for 2 years, trying to feel my way into Christian faith. I decide to walk away from Christian religion for many reasons, but mostly they were not the usual ones people hear. I was never a fundamentalist exactly but I think conservative Christian would have described me.

 

I came out as bisexual and genderqueer in a Christian sect that is hardly gay friendly. I also had many gay friends I had made online, while previously I had known few gay people, and none as friends. My best friend on Second Life was a lesbian woman that was very shy, the more I learned about her, the more I understood teh pain of gay people. Eventually I realized the feeling of difference I had made me have kinship with the GLBT experience. I also made friends there with non-Christians, too. I saw alot of pain and agony in peoples lives. I had a strong sense of empathy and justice, but it was often heavily muddied down by a need to have religious conviction.

 

I also realized due to my time on Second Life (an online virtual world environment, like a chat room with three dimensional avatars), I had gender and sexual issues, so went to a therapist and was soon diagnosed by a neuropsychologist as having Asperger's at the age of 35. I was devestated emotionally after feeling a brief sense of relief, feeling alot of grief over losing years to this disability (I am chronicly unemployed) and not receiving much help from society after my diagnosis. Eventually I was also told I have a brain tumor. My priest in RL, sensed I was having issues with my sexual orientation and gender identity and confronted me and I was honest with him. For my honesty, he bluntly laid down the Church's teachings in a way that didn't seem to sink in very well, it was clear that I was getting tired of my faith journey's "cross to bear". My heart ached from all this, feeling like what had become family distancing myself from me, putting conditions on their "love", and I walked away and read more about queer issues and disability issues. In time I became angry. I realized that the religion really did not live up to its claims about itself. Far beyond questions of truth are questions of relevance, and I found the Christian message to not be transformative in a unique way. If anything I believe some teachings of Christian churches discourage personal transformation through encouraging narrowness of thought, exclusivity, and so on.

 

The worst sin of all I saw in Christianity was the historical denial of the voice of the oppressed, which is very hypocritical as the Old Testament is full of concern for the "widow and orphan". What is called "Christianity" is ultimately the political-religious machine created by Constantine to justify the status quo, politically, socially, and economicly- every bit of it the Creeds that Christians hold dear is touched by that emperor's political ambitions, and the Bible itself nothing more than the tool created by the state-sponsored religion to define its canonical boundaries. So at its heart, Christian belief in the orthodox sense (the Trinity, Deity of Christ ,all the usual beliefs one assosciates with "Christians" as oppossed to Hindus, Buddhists, or Muslims) is thoroughly political in its implications. And if you have a heart for the marginalized and the opressed, which I increasingly found myself having... its hard not to be deeply troubled by that.

 

So now, simply, I'm a non-theist, not an atheist. I believe in something like the "supernatural", I think something like an "afterlife" is not totally ridiculous (though I'd put the term "afterlife" in quotes- I believe in the survival of consciousness after death, not in pearly gates), and maybe God exists (in a philosophical sense), however, clerics and preachers have no special knowledge of God, the Bible is mostly a bunch of myths and legends, and Christianity as an ideology is not useful for living a good life based on compassion and justice. I increasingly se how Christianity is an unquestioned ideology in our culture- not just questioned scientificly but in need of deeper questioning sociologically, psychologically. One can be an atheist and still tainted by Christian though, after all. I wanted to root out the deep tendrils of this faith into our culture and get to the heart of matters: a great deal of our culture is "Christianized" in ways that people do not realize (our "work ethic" for one- which by the way I do not consider a good thing). But perhaps that's best left for another post.

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Welcome to Ex-C! DT, I have no doubt that your experience in conservative churches was not a positive one. I will say that I am confident that if I had not been raised in a conservative church I would never have considered attending one as an adult. I will also say that you seem to have developed some good insight into your own life and situation. One can certainly be an atheist, but still retain the thinking of the conservative Christian or adopt simply an unthinking rebellion. As you state so very well, the "deep tendrils" of this faith do go exceedingly deep. I appreciate your statement to that effect, and your understanding.

 

I am sorry to hear of your brain tumor. I hope you are seeing doctors about this situation and that you are being treated for it.

 

One question, if I may: On the whole, with your experience and in hindsight, do you think Second Life is a positive or negative activity? I have my own personal reasons for asking this. I have never participated in it myself.

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I will say that I am confident that if I had not been raised in a conservative church I would never have considered attending one as an adult....

 

One can certainly be an atheist, but still retain the thinking of the conservative Christian or adopt simply an unthinking rebellion. As you state so very well, the "deep tendrils" of this faith do go exceedingly deep. I appreciate your statement to that effect, and your understanding.

 

I am sorry to hear of your brain tumor. I hope you are seeing doctors about this situation and that you are being treated for it.

 

One question, if I may: On the whole, with your experience and in hindsight, do you think Second Life is a positive or negative activity? I have my own personal reasons for asking this. I have never participated in it myself.

 

I was not raised in a conservative church, by the way... I was a spiritual seeker. I was raised Methodist, spent many years agnostic. I actually was drawn initially to the Christian faith as an adult through contact with the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Thomas Merton, and so on. So... I took the plunge into what I saw as a spiritually deep Christian environment. And it is in some ways. But there's a huge price to pay in the process. I do not think my experiences in Orthodoxy were totally negative. I don't think Christianity is wholely negatively either- somebody like Bishop John Spong I can appreciate, for instance, in his insistence on the need to move beyond theistic belief in a personal God, his belief that religious authority should be deeply challenged by humanistic values, and so on. But he's a minority voice in the religion called "Christianity". The majority of "progressive" or moderate Christians simply enable more poisoning/closing of minds, never calling out the toxic values of their peers in the name of latitudinarianism (evidenced in Spong's own denomination, the Anglicans/Episcopalians).

 

To answer the second bit, yes I found Second Life generally valuable. There's a great deal of non-mainstream communities there, communities that are marginalized in "real life" (RL). I've met many people with Asperger's there as well.

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