Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
DeepestDepth

My Deconversion

Recommended Posts

Hi all

I've been a lurker here occasionally on ex-christian for a few years, and I feel that it is the time for me to share my personal story with you.

 

I am 24 years old.

Looking back, I loved my childhood. My parents raised me to be a man of God from the very beginning. Every Sunday we went to a small non-denominational protestant evangelical church, and we were very involved in the church community. I went to a private Christian school all the way grades 1-12. It was an incredibly sheltered life, but it was great. The people I trusted unconditionally taught me all I needed to know about god. Before I was born, my mom and dad were missionaries. I knew this as a kid, but it didn't really sink in until I was in middle school. The youth group at church was organizing a mission trip and I participated. This was life changing experience. I dedicated my life to God and was baptized. My life had a purpose and things are looking sunny. I read my Bible cover to cover - even Chronicles. I was on the path that was already laid out for me.

 

Skip forward a couple years -- in my high school, I had one history teacher - a christian - who taught me how to seriously think critically. This is when I learned how to take a historical document and write an analysis as opposed to a book report. Mix this with my fervent passion for God, and all the sudden I had an interest in Christian apologetics. Interestingly, my dad's personal testimony had a lot to do with believing in God because of reason. He had become convinced by evidence that Christianity was right. And since my dad and this teacher of mine both had a strong faith, I knew that if I started going down that road, my faith would be strengthened, and I would be able to more effectively defend my christian worldview. Worst assumption I ever made. It worked out great for a couple years, and I got pretty deep into christian apologetics. Studying all the big guys like C.S. Lewis, Lee Strobel, and Thomas Acquinas. All of the big theological debates I found fascinating. Debates within Christian circles like predestination, general and specific salvation, and age of accountability...

 

Then came college. As I quickly realized, all the hotshot stuff I read in high school...it was all on the Christian side. I took a philosophy course freshman year, and with all the questions my professors and peers were asking...those weren't the atheist arguments that I had read about. I thought I knew them, but the Christian apologists always had some straw man, distorted or inconsistent picture of what the anti-theist position really was. This was a little bit unnerving. As I was learning in my studies, if you are serious about reason and logic, and you are serious about persuading other people that your view is correct or at least most likely to be true, then you have to start your investigation with a clean slate. Even if you have strong beliefs, you have to suspend them in order to start on common ground -- otherwise your dialogue will be pointless. That means not assuming that the Bible is true. It also means no circular reasoning. At the time, I thought to myself that this system made a whole lot of sense, but I took it as a challenge. "Ok, fine! I'll assume that we really don't know if god exists, and I'll still find a nice logical thought process that would inevitably conclude that it is more reasonable to believe in God, than not to believe in God. I mean heck, CS Lewis did it already, I just have to go back and remind myself what it is." I really thought that by pure reason alone, I was going to conclude that my beliefs -- out of all the belief systems in the world now and in the past -- my beliefs would be the ones that would come out on top.

 

Needless to say, after reviewing the apologist writings in light of some of the real objections I had heard, this did not go over very well. And even worse, I was starting to come up with my own rational objections and doubts. The 'age of accountability' theology that I was so intrigued with earlier, was a total disaster! Predestination was entirely incompatible with human free will. And the millions and millions of people who lived before Christ or who have never heard of Christ...did they all go to hell? That didnt seem right...Or were they saved by some vague kind of faith in a higher power, like Abraham's faith was 'credited to him as righteousness'? If so then why do people have to specifically believe in Jesus today? For every single issue the theologians were always twisting the scriptures into pretzels to make everything appear to be consistent. And they couldn't even agree.

 

Basically all of these things came together in a perfect storm, and I was struggling for quite some time with a lot of doubts spinning around in my head. I got an 'A' in that philosophy class. And I was also seriously entertaining the possibility that everything I thought I knew about God...all those tugs on my heart and that warm feeling I got from worship, might have just been people deceiving me, and me deceiving myself. I lost trust in the theologians and started just going straight to the Bible and to prayer to see if I could find the answers for myself. Night after night in bed, with a long prayer ending in tears and crying myself to sleep. Lord, reveal yourself to me! It says right here to seek and you shall find. It says right here that you helped the man who asked you specifically to help him with his unbelief. It says right here to taste and see, and that you will draw near to us. Why isn't it happening? Why are you letting my faith fall apart like this? You are supposed to know exactly what I am feeling. You gave me this brain to think with didn't you? Why are you requiring me to go against my own reasoning? If I could somehow choose to make myself believe I would! I am trying to believe but I just can't!

 

Since there were many nights I couldn't sleep, I would take walks on those cool nights at 3am on campus over by the lighted path near the lake. Sometimes I'd sit over on that bench, look up at the stars and just ponder and try to organize some of the chaos going on in my head. One of those nights I remember making up my mind. I was going to say one final prayer. I laid it all out on the table and poured my heart out one last time. I asked God to reveal himself to me again and again, and also asked God to forgive me if I was in the wrong. After that draining experience and realizing that God was not changing my attitude, walking back to my room was eerie. Is this it? This is the end? I am no longer a Christian?

 

That was the one moment I can clearly identify as having given up the fruitless struggle. And tt has taken some time for me to accept the fact that I don't believe in God. One video that I saw really helped me in this regard -- I owe a big thank you to atheist Youtuber Scott Clifton (aka "TheoreticalBullshit") for uploading a video entitled "...And what if I'm wrong?"

This plus a few other encouraging videos really gave me a peace about my nonbelief that I didn't have previously. I am ok with it now.

 

As for my family, no one knows I am no longer a Christian. I've been a closet atheist for several years now. When I am in my hometown I still attend church. My parents know I probably won't become a missionary, but otherwise they think I'm still a regular Christian and share the same beliefs as them. Ever since this whole thing started I have wondered whether I might come out, but I have always been too afraid to. There are so many reasons why I feel that I should not. First, I love my parents and I appreciate how they raised me. They honestly do believe in God, and are so serious about it that if they knew I did not believe in God, they would think that they have failed as parents. I was taught that the most important responsibility of parents is to raise their children to become mighty men and women of God. I don't want them to think that they have failed. They havent failed. Secondly, I remember my mom having a conversation with another christian mom whose son was having a serious problem/run-in with the law... my mother encouraged her with some spiritual lesson, and during the course of this, followed up with "The only thing that my children could do that would truly, I mean truly, disappoint me would be if they turned their back on God." Those words stung. Thirdly, I know what happens to people in the family or church community who fall away or have a serious problem. Just being a part of this community for so many years I have seen it over and over. The whole freaking family and the whole freaking church ends up finding out about your personal business and you get a ginormous 'prayer army' praying for you every week at church or at the small group meetings and trying to 'help'. They are dear people and they mean well but I don't want any of that. My whole family and extended family are Christians and I feel that I would lose a piece of my relationship to them.

 

And yet, sometimes I still wish I could come out. At this point I don't even know if I ever will, except to someone I might consider marrying. I've been an atheist for several years now but I will always have a soft spot for Christianity. I even would say that I 'like' it mostly, aside from a few social things that I perceive as moral flaws. I don't hate it at all. It is a rich tradition and that is entirely how I view it - as a tradition.

 

Bottom line is, I felt that I should share my story because I know there are so many people out there who are struggling with this. My story isn't over yet, but I just want people to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. And I want to know that too for myself. That is what this entire community is about.

 

Thanks for reading, and bless you all smile.png

  • Like 7

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Its good to read an account where someone is not angry with the way their journey has turned out - I just feel there is so much negativity on this site, your account is refreshing to read.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm 41, and I share the same fears about telling my parents of my unbelief. They talk about God constantly, making it impossible to avoid the subject, so I'm afraid that I may end up breaking their hearts eventually. The elephant in the room is so obvious that I tend to avoid talking to them. I wish that I could figure out an easy way to clear the air without causing years of grief.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Its good to read an account where someone is not angry with the way their journey has turned out - I just feel there is so much negativity on this site, your account is refreshing to read.

 

For me Christianity was such an integral part of my upbringing I can't see it any other way. Interestingly, my parents did not raise me to believe in Santa Claus. I was the one kid in the class who knew Santa didn't exist, but I was told to keep it a secret so as to not spoil it for the others lol. But I did grow up with God. And for me that is special even though I don't believe in it anymore. As for church, I have found at least at my church, most of the sermons or songs are actually applicable to regular human life. If you really listen to a sermon, I have found that you can learn some great things and learn new perspectives on how to be a better person. When I hear something that is specific to Christianity that I disagree with, that's fine. I mostly just replace the word "God" or "Jesus" with "love" and it usually ends up still holding together and being a fairly good motivational speech. I understand why some people are bitter towards the church. But it was part of me at one point. I empathize with Christians and my heart breaks for the ones who are struggling with their faith

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I too grew up in an extremely religious home and i can relate to your quest of apologetics. I became an atheist years ago, however i started seeing a theologian a while back to ensure what i thought was true, i almost went back to Christianity because the more reason based version seemed so attractive to me, but there were so many problems, problems i knew would never be solved. Conflicting truth of evolution and Reformed theology was a major one for me, if there was no original garden of eden then there would be no original sin, which would make arminianism the correct philosophy which in my opinion is unbiblical and a twist of Christianity.

 

I also find it interesting you are at such peace, i wish i had that ability, but sadly i may never, not until i escape the influence of it.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi DD,

I really appreciated your story. You and I have much in common. Except that good for you--you got out a whole lot earlier than I did! I kept suppressing the warning lights/bells going off on my intellectual dashboard.

Welcome to Ex-C. It's a great place to process our shifting worldview!

Peace!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi DD

 

Loved reading your story. Really felt the emotion of your journey.

 

Welcome to Ex-C. I think that if you are not around your parents very often, your approach to just going to church when you visit is excellent.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Welcome DD!

 

I very much relate to your upbringing, including the private xian school through graduation. I didn't see the truth until I was 38 years old. Congratulations that you found it so young.

 

As far as telling the family, I've had mixed results. My wife's parents and siblings are very accepting. Her Mom is in the process of deconverting. The rest are holding on. My sister is very accepting. My brother and parents know but do not bring up the subject.

 

Stick around and make some friends. You are welcome here.

 

Jason

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, great story of your de-conversion. I'm curious how you felt when you came to the realization that there is no heaven or hell and that this existence is quite possibly, it.

 

For me, I've been fighting off depression for so many reasons surrounding the thought. I can tell over time that I will heal but it's been a struggle thus far.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

and my heart breaks for the ones who are struggling with their faith

 

My heart breaks for the ones who aren't, the ones who still think that "faith" is a good thing. It is not. In the words of Sam Harris, "Faith is the license religious people give one another to keep believing when reasons fail.".

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for posting your story. It's a hard road, having the rug yanked out from under our conception of reality. I have to wonder, though, while you still have a fondness for your community and tradition, it sounds like you believe your family and community's fondness for *you* is very conditional upon what they assume is your shared belief. If your unbelief were revealed, there'd be significant social penalties, including being a deep disappointment to your mother. You're okay with them, despite the disagreement, but if they knew you, they would not be okay with you. Doesn't that bother you? I don't know what you'd do differently if it did, but maybe the fact that you've stayed closeted shows that it does bother you and you'd rather not go through the hassle. You also don't say how much time you spend in your home town, so maybe you have some distance and it's not a constant nagging problem. Nobody wants to hurt their parents, but I guess if it were me, I'd want to know who my real friends were.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, great story of your de-conversion. I'm curious how you felt when you came to the realization that there is no heaven or hell and that this existence is quite possibly, it.

 

For me, I've been fighting off depression for so many reasons surrounding the thought. I can tell over time that I will heal but it's been a struggle thus far.

 

I had a sort of mixed reaction. I don't think I ever really had a clear understanding of what I thought heaven was going to be like. I think I imagined it sort of as just a more colorful version of this world, where nothing goes wrong and where God is at the center of everything, and where no one "sins". I mean, it had to be good if it was God's infinite reward - but it's just difficult to imagine exactly what it would be like, so in that sense it wasn't too disappointing. The part that I did find disappointing, is just that I would have liked to live forever, or at least for longer than my earthly years, if for no other reason but out of sheer curiosity. The idea that I won't ever get to find out all the stuff that happens after I die was a letdown. I think the most difficult part to accept was the fact that this means there are some people I will never see again. When I go to a funeral, it's not the "I'll see you later" kind of mindset anymore. They're gone forever except in memories, and there isn't even any hope at all of a future reunion. Swallowing that was hard, and still is hard.

 

On the flipside, the fact that hell doesn't exist either is nice. Even considering all the injustice in the world, having a God sending people to infinite punishment for committing finite crimes would have trumped everything.

 

Regarding death, I wasn't afraid of it when I was a Christian because of heaven, and I'm not afraid of death now because it can't possibly be any worse than me not existing for billions of years before I was born, which didn't seem to bother me at all. Although both before and after though I am still afraid of the *process* of dying. It's most likely bound to be a very unpleasurable experience :/

 

And regarding life, knowing that there is no afterlife does put an added sense of urgency on the here and now. Out of the billions of years the universe is around, I get less than 100 years and there are no re-dos. It motivates me a little to get my act together and enjoy life because, well, this is it

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for posting your story. It's a hard road, having the rug yanked out from under our conception of reality. I have to wonder, though, while you still have a fondness for your community and tradition, it sounds like you believe your family and community's fondness for *you* is very conditional upon what they assume is your shared belief. If your unbelief were revealed, there'd be significant social penalties, including being a deep disappointment to your mother. You're okay with them, despite the disagreement, but if they knew you, they would not be okay with you. Doesn't that bother you? I don't know what you'd do differently if it did, but maybe the fact that you've stayed closeted shows that it does bother you and you'd rather not go through the hassle. You also don't say how much time you spend in your home town, so maybe you have some distance and it's not a constant nagging problem. Nobody wants to hurt their parents, but I guess if it were me, I'd want to know who my real friends were.

 

That is a very good point. The situation you describe *does* bother me. I do feel deeply that if I were to come out to my parents and family, they would still love me. Same goes for the rest of the community - or most of it at least. However because of this, they would never accept it in the sense that they wouldn't stop trying to change me. It's pretty much inevitable - according to most Christians, I would be going to hell if I died today. That is a major problem. And some people might disagree with me here, but I think if you truly care about someone, and they are having a serious problem -- lets say for example they are suicidal. If it is as serious as that, you try to help them even if they do not want your help. Even if it means putting the relationship in jeopardy. The way I see it, the situations are comparable. The problem isn't necessarily the nature of the relationship or their attitude. The problem is their incorrect belief that this is in fact a serious problem and that I would be heading to hell for eternity.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

[...] However because of this, they would never accept it in the sense that they wouldn't stop trying to change me. [...]

 

After a while of not getting the result they want, they'll have to adjust their expectations, and that's when you find out who your real friends are, whose love doesn't depend on your belief. On the other hand, the people we mostly hear about are the ones who have problems. My Christian mom didn't stop loving me, has apparently given up trying to change my mind (almost), and our relationship seems fine. She knows I'm still a nice boy. I have other religious friends, and we mostly just don't talk about it. I haven't been seriously preached-at in years. If it ever comes out, I hope your community lives up to your expectations.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

[...] However because of this, they would never accept it in the sense that they wouldn't stop trying to change me. [...]

 

After a while of not getting the result they want, they'll have to adjust their expectations, and that's when you find out who your real friends are, whose love doesn't depend on your belief. On the other hand, the people we mostly hear about are the ones who have problems. My Christian mom didn't stop loving me, has apparently given up trying to change my mind (almost), and our relationship seems fine. She knows I'm still a nice boy. I have other religious friends, and we mostly just don't talk about it. I haven't been seriously preached-at in years. If it ever comes out, I hope your community lives up to your expectations.

 

Right. And considering all of the internal struggle that has already happened, I really can't think that coming out to anyone could possibly be any *worse* than that. I think it might just be that things seem fine as they are now and I am afraid to change it. I know I have a right to do it. And I might feel more free if I did. Part of it does bother me. But it seems to me like such a small problem. If this is the heaviest burden I have to deal with in life, I think I would be doing pretty well. Maybe I don't really yet appreciate the full personal benefit of coming out of the closet, or maybe it just isn't bothering me enough for me to do anything about it. And those things could change, who knows. Up til now I've been pretty satisfied from just going with the flow and making the best of it, but I'm open to others' opinions and experiences. I'm interested to hear from any of you about it whether you are still in the closet, or not

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wish I had the kind of peace you do. Not the "I'm cool that I'm atheist" peace, but the "I don't hate Christianity" peace. I am at this point where I'm convinced that Christianity (and all Abrahamic religions) is more evil than good. I could understand how you could appreciate the role it has played in our history and such, but to me, the war, unnecessary suffering and bigotry overrides any appreciation I may have had for it.

 

Cheers, from the League of Closet Atheists! You are lucky to have deconverted before finding a partner. It's one thing to come out to family, but if you find a partner that you can confide in about your atheism and not have to worry about them leaving you or making your life miserable, well, that's one less person you have to worry about. Hopefully, you'll be able to come out to your family one day, so they don't find out from someone or something else first.

 

Remember, always wipe your history!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wish I had the kind of peace you do. Not the "I'm cool that I'm atheist" peace, but the "I don't hate Christianity" peace. I am at this point where I'm convinced that Christianity (and all Abrahamic religions) is more evil than good. I could understand how you could appreciate the role it has played in our history and such, but to me, the war, unnecessary suffering and bigotry overrides any appreciation I may have had for it.

 

Cheers, from the League of Closet Atheists! You are lucky to have deconverted before finding a partner. It's one thing to come out to family, but if you find a partner that you can confide in about your atheism and not have to worry about them leaving you or making your life miserable, well, that's one less person you have to worry about. Hopefully, you'll be able to come out to your family one day, so they don't find out from someone or something else first.

 

Remember, always wipe your history!

 

I have two friends who do know about my deconversion. One is my best friend from college who pretty much knew about it from the beginning. The other is an ex-girlfriend back from when I was a Christian. Before we had started dating I was the one who got her into Christianity, and for some reason I felt I had an obligation to tell her. The former calls himself a Christian but us mostly apathetic to religion, and the latter is struggling with her faith a little bit. Anyway I'm on good terms with both of them and I trust them to keep my confidence. It's good to have at least someone who does know. And then of course there are plenty of other relationships that I expect most people would have where the relationship is secular and religion is not discussed one way or the other.

 

When I was in college I also had the opportunity to take some classes *on* religion. My religion professor was a self-proclaimed atheist and he shared his story with the class. His dad was a southern baptist minister, and he had confronted him about it. I thought that was pretty hardcore! I found it interesting though that after his deconversion he chose to make his career about studying the various religious traditions in the world. The course was a survey of modern world religions and we spent most of the time studying Hinduism and Buddhism, and a smaller time devoted to the Abrahamic religions, which was good because we were all more familiar with the Abrahamic faiths. I liked how Buddhism and Hinduism were in general much more tolerant. But what particularly struck me was this guy's actual enjoyment out of all of the religious stuff. As an atheist, he enjoyed studying and especially actively participating in the religious traditions of many other faiths. There is such a variety of different ways that people express themselves though religion and religious customs and I thought it was great learning about some of those foreign traditions and why they are so special to people. That's the kind of attitude I want to have towards religion. I don't have anything against challenging religious people on what I think are big flaws. But I think atheists need to do it respectfully and deliberately. I think atheists can tend to be overly sarcastic which can hinder constructive dialogue

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"I don't hate it at all. It is a rich tradition and that is entirely how I view it - as a tradition.

I personally would like you to explain this more. What do you mean by the word tradition? Do you mean the comfort you've had with family? Because that is not purely Christian. Do you mean you like the rituals in the Church, but not the beliefs? Does the history fascinate you in some way?

 

I personally do not understand why you don't have the anger towards Christianity like many of us do. I don't see why we shouldn't be pissed as hell as to the lies we were told when we were not old enough to make our own choices. And besides Christianity is a MEAN institution. They have committed mass murder in the name of God again and again and they continue to try to take people's rights away because it is against their dusty old book that has no proof of being applicable to them. (I'm speaking of Levitucus 18:22)

 

But on the other hand I was in a place at one point where I respected all religious traditions. And I researched various religions and found the similarities comforting, the problem being it didn't do anything for me as a human being.

 

(I'll go more into detail on my personal view in another forum topic.)

 

My question for you is... what about going to church helps you? What about the rich tradition helps you further yourself as an individual?

 

Or is it really just a limbo state of, "well I don't want to put a ripple in the pond." The world lives off ripples in the pond. Progress is made this way.

 

And to be perfectly honest, I'm not making a whole of ripples in my pond right now, but part of me can't wait for that to happen so I can move forward and take out of life what I want.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I personally do not understand why you don't have the anger towards Christianity like many of us do. I don't see why we shouldn't be pissed as hell as to the lies we were told when we were not old enough to make our own choices. And besides Christianity is a MEAN institution. They have committed mass murder in the name of God again and again and they continue to try to take people's rights away because it is against their dusty old book that has no proof of being applicable to them. (I'm speaking of Levitucus 18:22)

 

I've had my anger but the problem is there is nobody to focus it on. When I was a Christian I was deluding myself. And everybody who had a hand in influencing me were also deluding themselves. It really boils down to human stupidity. So instead of getting angry I would rather just speak out aginst the worsts of it and make sure my kids are raised to be rational. There are specific practices that are harmful. We can fight against those.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi DeepestDepth! I haven't commented here in a while but I really felt like I can relate to a lot of what you wrote. I grew up in a similar background - while my parents weren't missionaries themselves, they still ran in those circles - and I have always had a love of apologetics. Lots of things caused the foundations of my faith to crack, but what started it tumbling down for good was realizing that all the Christian apologetics I could find were, as one atheist commenter on a religion forum said, elaborate smoke and mirrors masking the fact that there was nothing substantial underneath. I realized he was right. I'm still mostly closeted to Christian friends, although I did come out to my parents as "not able to believe in God anymore" when they asked me about my sudden lack of interest in going to church. My parents sound a lot like yours - good parents, except for the god-delusion thing they've got going on. They took it ok. They cried and "talked" about it, but they were careful to be understanding. I have no doubt that my mom especially prays for me all the time, but they have been very careful not to do any of the stereotypical crazy Christian things that would drive me further away from god. This, of course, won't do them any good in bringing me back to Christianity, but it at least allows my parents and me to have a good relationship still. I hope that if/when you decide to come out as an atheist, your experience is similarly not so bad. Good luck with everything, and welcome!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

DD, thanks for posting your story. I can identify with a lot of it. I was also raised in a fervent Christian environment that made the Christian worldview seem to be consistent and accurate. I didn't have any truly bad experiences with the church (my father was a bit heavy-handed, but I know he meant well). I also wasn't taught to believe in Santa Claus, and I got into apologetics on the premise that Christianity is true and would therefore withstand any honest scrutiny. Although the indoctrination ran so deep that it took me quite a few years before I was actually capable of analyzing Christianity objectively, my in-depth Bible studies and the pondering of Christian views and arguments eventually led me to the realization that Christianity simply isn't true.

 

Although it was a difficult process for me and I was upset at having been fed a lie all my life, just like you I had nobody to direct that toward. Those who "nurtured" me in the faith weren't consciously lying to me, because they simply believed the lie that they had been fed, and they thought they were doing the right thing by leading me down the "straight and narrow." Though there are very harmful aspects of Christianity (and religion in general), most of the Christians I know personally are genuinely decent, honest people who have simply been misled, much like I was. I can't exactly fault them for that, other than the fact that most of them haven't critically examined it and therefore they haven't found out that it's not true (which goes especially for those who have been Christians for much longer than I was, since they've had much longer to examine it).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.