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McMike

Coming To Terms With My Identity Crisis (Long Post)

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(Warning: Very long post. This is what happens when you give a writer an open forum.)

 

Well, here goes nothing. I’m an atheist. After nearly 30 years of doing the Christian song and dance, I just can’t do it anymore when none of it makes reasonable sense. Although the journey that took me from fundamentalist Christian to atheist was a little over a year long, it’s only in the last month or so that I’ve allowed myself to use the word “atheist” (even if I haven’t used it with other people yet).

 

So, how did this transformation occur? That takes a little context. If you are familiar with Myers-Briggs Personality Typology, then note that I am an INTP, and that may help explain a little.

 

I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin and naturally (or so it seemed) went to church and youth group. Although I was an excellent student and involved in a number of clubs and organizations throughout high school, the church was the primary place I thought I got my identity. I believed that I was a Christian first, and everything else was secondary.

 

Despite this source of identity, I can remember clearly having questions from a very young age. When I was very young, my parents have told me my favorite thing to say always was “Why?” That tendency continued throughout much of my life, even if I now realize I shielded religion from this probing at times. The few times I would let my reason peak into religion, I almost always came away with questions such as “Where did God come from?” When I voiced those questions, I typically got the pat little answers you would expect ranging from appeals to mystery to being handed a book that supposedly addressed my question. Of course, because my very identity was in Christ, I realize now that I was willing to accept almost any plausible sounding answer and was willing to ignore what I now see as blatantly obvious fallacies.

 

Throughout my time in my church’s youth group, I felt more and more that I was being “called” into full-time youth ministry myself. So, a couple years after graduating high school, I enrolled at Trinity International University in Illinois in their Christian Ministries degree program with an emphasis in Youth Ministry.

 

I did very well throughout my courses in ministry and the bible, particularly excelling in anything that involved a strong writing emphasis. I even was asked to be a student preacher for our chapel services. It was very easy to get wrapped-up in the Christian culture and not really engage with anything else throughout this. Even when I was a student on campus, we joked that we lived in the “Trinity bubble,” and we thought we were blessed to have this opportunity to be isolated from the world.

 

Prior to my junior year, I decided to join the Army National Guard to help pay for the private schooling and, so I thought at the time, “to be a light” to the soldiers in my unit. I decided to join the infantry despite scoring a 98 on my ASVAB because I thought that was where I would be able to have the most impact for god.

 

Basic Training was somewhat of a wake-up call for me, but I still clung to my Christian identity. I learned a lot about myself, and recognized where my real strengths lay. Upon returning to school, I changed my major to English/Communications. Despite not having taken any classes in either school up to that point, I finished that entire degree in one year.

 

One other thing that happened when I was in school, I met the woman that I later would marry. At the time, we both thought the other exhibited everything that was desirable in a spouse, with the chief attribute being a strong faith in god. More on my marriage later.

 

Fast forward a couple of years, my wife and I (no kids) are regularly attending a fairly fundamentalist church in the Chicago area, we’re both involved heavily in ministry and we are a part of a small group (ours was actually led by the church pastor). About a year-and-a-half ago, I got a question that I could not find an answer to that still fit with my concept of god. That question was along the lines of “Can good exist if there is no evil, or does the very concept lose all meaning?” Tangentially to that, “When god declared creation to be ‘good’ in Genesis, wouldn’t that necessitate evil already existing?”

 

Well, despite reading books by Christian philosophers and talking to pastors, elders or really anyone who would listen, I still had no good answer that I found satisfactory. So I decided to do something that I hadn’t really allowed myself to do up to that point — read what ascribed atheists had to say on the topic of god.

 

I went into those books thinking that if my “faith” was strong enough, then the atheist arguments would not hold water. But the more I read, the more I found them convincing.

 

Soon, I was voraciously reading anything on the topic of god I could get my hands on — either for or against. In the span of a couple months, I read books by Dawkins, Hitchens, Barker, Harris, Prothero, Craig, Geisler, Turek and many more. I also spent nearly every free moment I had watching debates on YouTube and listening to podcasts such as “The Thinking Atheist” and “The Atheist Experience.”

 

I tried talking to the guys in my small group about what I was reading, but I usually was assaulted with questions as to why I was reading works by ascribed antitheists and asked if I was giving equal time to Christian authors. I wanted to retort that I had given Christian authors their fair shake for the last 28 years, but I instead assured them that I was at least reading some Christian authors, which I was.

 

Unfortunately, I increasingly found I couldn’t get through a book by an apologist (BTW, why does this job have to exist if god has made himself evident to everyone?) without wanting to hurl it across the room in disgust at the ways they would twist science and reasoning. Besides, I knew all of the Christian arguments already from studying them for years, including fully buying into the idea of creation science and flood geology.

 

The more I read, the more questions I had. The more I questioned things, the more I found the Christian answer lacking and the atheist answer much more consistent with reality. I tried talking about these things with my wife, telling her that I was having “doubts.” That was about eight months ago and only resulted in her breaking down in tears. I tried talking about these things with my small group more, but I knew that conversation was over when I was told I should be worried because “This train of thinking could result in my walking away from Christianity.” By that point, that “threat” didn’t really hold any water for more.

 

Finally, I had a day off from work a couple months ago and sat down one-on-one with our pastor to discuss some of this. I had told him going into the conversation that at that point I was trying to find a reason why I shouldn’t just walk away, and that I had been looking for that reason for the last six months or so. I knew that conversation was done after he told me that at one point he had gone down the same road I am, but didn’t like the implications of a life without god— and that was enough for him. I kindly told him the end result doesn’t matter to me, and I would rather go wherever the evidence leads even if I don’t “like” whatever the implications of it may be.

 

So, we come to the present. All of this has been building for a while, but just in the last week a lot of it has really just exploded. I have been asked to step away from ministry (something I was planning to do anyways), I’ve informed my small group that I no longer will be attending (something they had a good idea was coming) and I’ve had a very difficult discussion with my wife about my “having a very hard time believing in god” (I still haven’t used the word “atheist” with any of them).

 

She took it much better than I had expected, but we have a lot to figure out for our marriage going forward now that we’re members of the Unequally Yoked Club. I haven’t figured out what to do with church at this point with her. On the one hand, I think it would help her if I still went, but I’m afraid it may send the wrong message. The other topic we still need to broach is tithing.

 

So, at this point I’m basically one foot out of the closet. Neither my parents nor my in-laws know I’ve even been questioning, let alone that I’m now a (god forbid) unbeliever. I definitely want to tell them in person before I put it on Facebook as well.

 

Going forward, I do have concerns for my marriage. I love my wife and want to make things work, but I know that won’t be easy, particularly seeing as she is an ESFJ in MBTI. Additionally, I’m just beginning to realize the social suicide I’m basically committing at this point walking away from the church. I’m in the North Chicagoland area, so if anyone knows of an atheist or freethought group, please let me know.

 

If you’ve actually taken the time to read all of this, then you have my heartfelt gratitude. The last year has been a lonely one simply because I didn’t feel I was able to actually discuss any of this with anyone I knew. In fact, the very process of writing all this out has been very therapeutic in itself. I really admire what exchristian.net has done, and I look forward to at least finding some community here. Thank you for reading what probably is one of the longest deconversion stories here.

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(Warning: Very long post. This is what happens when you give a writer an open forum.)

 

I kindly told him the end result doesn’t matter to me, and I would rather go wherever the evidence leads even if I don’t “like” whatever the implications of it may be.

 

Amen and welcome, brother truthseeker. You'll find an understanding home here.

 

And lucky you're in an urban area where you'll also have a good chance of finding peers you can meet with in person.

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Thanks for sharing, McMike. It's good to hear that your wife is taking things well so far. Stop tithing, and find something that you can both be comfortable donating time and resources to. Good luck!

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Hi McMike, welcome. I'm new here too. Thank you for your testimony. My thoughts are with you and your family situation.

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Thanks for the warm welcomes so far from MerryG, TrueFreedom and BlackCat. They are very much appreciated.

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Hey, McMike, I appreciate your story, and welcome to ex-Chr. You may have noticed already that a number of people on here have spouses who are still Christians.

 

BTW what did you find unconvincing about Wm. Lane Craig's defenses of Christianity (lol)?

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Welcome McMike, I am in a similar boat. New here and an INTJ (wife is a believer and an ESFP...what can I say, opposites attract). I just recently had talks with several people, including my pastor, an elder, and some of my closer Christian friends. I, like you, have been dissatisfied with the "implications of life without God" answer. Surprisingly to me, however, I haven't received a lot of flak from my church people about this. They've all taken this in stride and just wanted to know how they might be able to help my family. No guilt trips or hellfire mentioned (yet). But maybe I shouldn't be surprised because we intentionally looked for a healthy and relatively open-minded church when we first moved here.

 

As I've been pondering issues of faith I am increasingly convinced that what keeps people in church is not evidence or logic. It is the emotional experience they get. Interestingly, this is also why many leave the faith. The emotional experience was no longer satisfying, either because of church culture or because of the cognitive dissonance from the questions they had about their faith/the Bible. Speaking for myself, it was not until I experienced a lack of emotional fulfillment in church that I became brave enough to start looking at the atheistic explanations for concepts like the origins of the universe and morality. Like you, I found that they made more sense.

 

I'm learning that no amount of sound logic will convince someone who is receiving a strong emotional benefit from church. Ultimately, for them, their subjective experience trumps whatever objective evidence you might present. As many here have stated before, probably the best thing you can do to convince others is just live a happy, fulfilled life. Then when they start to have questions they will come to you.

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Wow McMike, I continue to be so amazed by so many of us having so many similar experiences deconverting. Welcome. Well stated story. We have all been there and speaking for myself, I am not far ahead of you having "come out" on Easter. Nice day to do so eh? My own "resurrection". Of course my believing wife did not see it that way.

 

Come join our journey!

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McMike, I'm glad you posted your story. Every so often, someone will do the personality survey here, and there's a lot of us are INTJ. My last prayers were for God to lead me to the truth - whatever that was. IDK how people live with all the cognitive dissonance - how did we do it as long as we did? Welcome to Ex-C

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......my very identity was in Christ......

 

So I decided to do something that I hadn’t really allowed myself to do up to that point — read what ascribed atheists had to say on the topic of god.

 

I went into those books thinking that if my “faith” was strong enough, then the atheist arguments would not hold water. But the more I read, the more I found them convincing.

 

Soon, I was voraciously reading anything on the topic of god I could get my hands on — either for or against. In the span of a couple months, I read books by Dawkins, Hitchens, Barker, Harris, Prothero, Craig, Geisler, Turek and many more. I also spent nearly every free moment I had watching debates on YouTube and listening to podcasts such as “The Thinking Atheist” and “The Atheist Experience.”

 

Unfortunately, I increasingly found I couldn’t get through a book by an apologist without wanting to hurl it across the room in disgust at the ways they would twist science and reasoning.

 

The more I read, the more questions I had. The more I questioned things, the more I found the Christian answer lacking and the atheist answer much more consistent with reality. .

 

 

Welcome McMike. I thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I found it to be very interesting. It always amazes me when someone writes out their story and how much we all have in common. I highlighted some things above which were the very reasons for me also, to eventually give up the christian god. I was also a christian for 35 years, so my whole identity was in that.

 

Welcome to a brand new journey in life. It's not easy living in a world of believers.... but you WILL learn how to live with this.

 

Read as many 'testimonies' as you can. They saved me from thinking I was the only one in the world who questioned the christian bible. I knew I never had to feel alone again and neither do you. Stay with us and share your journey. We are right here to support you my friend!

 

Sincerely, Margee

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Welcome McMike. My wife and I deconverted together just over a year ago. We were also believers for more than thirty years and very active in the church, leading small groups, etc.

 

We have no regrets. You are on the right track :)

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Hi, McMike, and welcome to ExC. I enjoyed your story and it was well written.

 

Several have commented at how many of the aspects of your story reflect at least some of their own stories. It's surprising, isn't it, that so many people can relate so well with you here on ExC while the Christians in your life view you as some sort of lost soul or an anomaly?

 

I'm glad you found ExC and wish you well on your journey.

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Welcome McMike!

 

Hope you can see your way through with your wife. Christian believers often seem to believe a load of crap about non-believers - like they all do terrible things and that is the reason why the believer has deconverted (ie so that they can sin without feeling guilty).

 

Your first task will be to convince her that you are still the same kind and lovable person that you always were, and that your sense of human decency and morality is still there (only without the silly bits that Christianity demands).

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Greetings, McMike, from yet another member of the Unequally Yoked Club! I came out to my wife the week after Easter of this year. It was a rather traumatic, but things seem to have been working out very well with my wife since then.

 

Unfortunately, I increasingly found I couldn’t get through a book by an apologist (BTW, why does this job have to exist if god has made himself evident to everyone?) without wanting to hurl it across the room in disgust at the ways they would twist science and reasoning. Besides, I knew all of the Christian arguments already from studying them for years, including fully buying into the idea of creation science and flood geology.

 

This was exactly my thinking for a long time. If belief in God and Jesus is so bloody obviously right that everyone from the most foolish of fools to the wisest of the wise could see it was true, why is there even an occupation known as "apologist"? This was one of the many cracks that appeared in my faith over a number of years.

 

Thank you for sharing your well-written, not as long as you may think, extimony.

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Welcome, our stories sound similar. I read every word of your post and completely understand. There are a handful of people on here in your same situation. I feel your pain and you reminded me that my pastor said something similar about life without god is empty. Its the most frustrating thing because they don't understand. I don't think anyone truly understand except for the people on this site.

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Welcome, McMike!

 

Wow, I could really relate to A LOT of your story. My hubby and I too built our lives and relationship on God. From a very young age, our lives were identified first and foremost as "in Christ". When weirdos would ask me what my astrological sign was, I'd say "The sign of the cross!" D'oh!

 

I totally get the MBTI, too. (I am INTJ; my hubby is ISTP. We are very cerebral....)

 

I too made career decisions 100% for God (another "D'oh!"!)....to great peril and torment. I too started asking all the wrong questions. No one could answer. Everyone said, "You think too much!" (WTF?) or they told me about some personal experience that made God "real" to them and that that sustains their faith, decades later. I found the answers empty and the goalposts shifting.

 

BTW, why does this job [apologist] have to exist if god has made himself evident to everyone?

This thought tormented me for years.

 

I’m just beginning to realize the social suicide I’m basically committing at this point walking away from the church.

I too had most of my friends wrapped up in the church. They generally take apostacy quite seriously sad.png and (unfortunately) don't tend to view it as an opportunity for thinking outside the box tongue.png . However, my hubby and I have made new friends in "the real world" by being involved in many local organizations. It's wonderful!

 

The last year has been a lonely one simply because I didn’t feel I was able to actually discuss any of this with anyone I knew. In fact, the very process of writing all this out has been very therapeutic in itself.

I find Ex-C very therapeutic. Often there is no one to talk to IRL who has "been there"--to crazyville and back--so there is much camaraderie here!

 

Welcome, friend! beer.gif It gets better, but sometimes it's more of a journey than we anticipated.

 

We are here for you!

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Hey, McMike, I'm new here, too, and like so many have said, I identify with a lot of what you've said. The social suicide part, I don't know about. I realized last night that I don't miss a single person at our old church, and am certainly nt attached to anyone at the new small congregation -- I'm not a social person anyway. But the implications for your marriage, well, I hope your wife understands that you're still the same person and will continue to be the same kind of husband. And good luck! We all need it.

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I am unequally yoked too, but that hasn’t proven to be an insurmountable problem for us. I have been able to deprogram and lay my religious beliefs aside and still not have a problem being in the presence of Christians. I’m not involved in anything and I don’t do the small group thing but I do attend services with my wife. I do that because I love her and it isn’t like that is some giant problem that requires me to sacrifice my integrity or anything. I can enjoy the music and tune everything else out. I try to be polite and friendly to everyone. I don’t allow myself to become involved in faith based conversations and I don’t express my option about anything of a religious nature. In other words, I smile a lot and mind my own business.

 

That works for them, my wife, and me because all they truly want is mindless obedient sheep anyway. So, in that sense, I fit right in. I have to acknowledge though that this current situation is just another stage of my deconversion. It took me awhile to become this open minded and benevolent. I went through the I don’t want to hear this crap anymore, I’ll argue and debate you till the cows come home, how can you believe this nonsense, and I don’t want to be anywhere near a church stage before I calmed down and accepted the fact my wife is still a Christian, and like it or not I was going to be exposed to that environment. I eventually decided the best course for me to follow was to accept my situation and make the best of it.

 

The fact that I’m a lot older now probably contributes to my willingness to be submissive to my wife’s needs at this stage in our lives. Longevity of years has taught me that this will pass too because nothing good or bad last forever. Life is constantly changing and I’ve found out that going with the flow whenever possible generally makes life a lot more pleasant. I know the truth and that is all that really matters. It ain’t like I’m going to hear anything from the pulpit that is going to make me repent and run down the aisle screaming hallelujah unless I’m suddenly feeling mischievous. jesus.gifrolleyes.gif

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Welcome! Fellow INTP here... there's no stopping an INTP in search of the truth, we are pitbulls for the truth - born investigators and researchers. Open-mindedness and withholding judgment also comes naturally.

 

One of the main reasons I finally rejected xianity was the lack of sense/logic...contradictions don't sit well and I need to reconcile or I'll go nuts. LOL... but I had to uncover a TON of information before I could make any real decision on what I believed was real and what was fantasy.

 

Hope you'll find this a comfy home... and there's a whole lot more 'secular' people than I ever knew, especially in urban areas - you'll find your right people.

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