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The Story Of My Deconversion


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Good day everybody.  This is my first post. 

 

My deconversion may be similar to other former Christians. (A long and drawn out process, full of learning, reading, self reflection and the application of self skepticism.) I did not grow up in a highly religious environment. We occasionally went to church and were more or less part of the Christmas & Easter club. However, I lived in an exceptionally conservative state and had many friends who were more or less fairly fundamental and evangelical. During my middle school years, I ended up going to an evangelical church mainly because that is what my friends were doing.

 

Throughout my early adulthood I was not really an active Christian. I more or less believed that a God existed and more or less bought into the "happy" stories of the bible. Interestingly; however, I did take a fair amount of science courses in college including microbiology, anatomy and physiology and others. I always thought the earth was billions of years old and I never doubted the theory of evolution or any of the foundational ideas of science. I guess I was really good at compartmentalizing different concepts. At times I pondered religion and science but just figured that God was beyond all space and time and that is why all the science stuff worked out, and ultimately there was an invisible, supernatural force that cared about me out there somewhere. Strange, I have always been skeptical in nature and have always supported the scientific method, but never applied these ideas to my personal beliefs and myself.

 

I never seriously questioned religion as a whole until I lived in Afghanistan for several months. I met Muslims who were every bit as devout and even more devout than their Christian counterparts in the United States.  They had the same stories and used the same arguments to support their beliefs as Christians do.  However, I remember one situation where I was caring for a little girl who had sustained a brain injury.  She was from tiny village and her father made the trip from an outlying military hospital to Kabul with her. We transported her to a hospital for locals in Kabul and upon arriving in an area that passed as an emergency room, the physicians ordered the girls father to be thrown out and for her to be thrown out in a day. We argued, begged, pleaded and even threatened toward the end to get the hospital to keep them and keep them together.  However, they could not allow the father, a male, to be anywhere near the caregivers (rudimentary nurses) as this violated religious dogma. The father who was presumably a devout Muslim, was on his knees begging to be allowed to stay with his daughter. This incredibly devout man who grew up in one of the most fundamental countries of the world instantly threw his religion away in order to support his daughter.  Unfortunately, nothing worked and we were ordered away from the hospital, apparently with the threat of our lives (translated to me from one of the local physicians that I worked with). It was a sad and harrowing experience and I think it planted the first tangible seed of doubt.

 

After returning home, I went back to college and was essentially immersed in the sciences (Chemistry, physics and so on). This time was only what I could describe as an intellectual renaissance in my life. I was in my 30's and experiencing a paradigm shift. I was able to do experiments that had profound effects on how I looked at the world. One such experiment was known as spectroscopy. Basically, electrons in atoms are excited and when they release energy, the energy is released in the form of light. However, because the energy levels that electrons in atoms inhabit are so well defined, only very specific types of light can be released. This experiment was incredible. No matter how many times I looked, the lines of light never changed. The calculations made perfect, reproducible, accurate and precise predictions.

 

Slowly, I began applying what I had learned to my personal beliefs. Finally, I arrived at the ultimate paradigm shift. I found that I simply could not think about accepting anything without evidence, without a framework that can make predictions that are testable.  No "holy" book can make such predictions. I actually read the bible and had to stomach the horror stories within it in addition to the pure and simple BS stories that simply could not have occurred in this universe. I also turned to the standard folks like Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens. I arrived at a place where I simply saw no evidence for God; therefore I could not prove God's existence. I considered myself agnostic.

 

It was not until I read the Penn Jillette book "God No" that arrived at my current belief. In it he explained that the agnostic answer is good when dealing with the epistemological question "Is there a God?" Answering, "I do not know" and claiming agnosticism is fine.  However, when asked about believing in God, Penn's answer resonated. How can you believe in something if you do not even know it exists? I realized that I was an atheist.

 

That was about a year and a half ago.  Since then, I wish I could say all has been great.  However, I did stumble a bit. The biggest personal battle that I had to deal with was my mortality, the fact that my death would be permanent.  Following that, I began to approach close family members.  My mother had no issues with my beliefs and my younger brother is doing okay.  It caused tension with my wife and we are still working things through. I have another younger brother who is a highly devout Christian and I am looking at discussing my beliefs with him.  Unfortunately, this will probably cause him great pain as one of his greatest fears is having loved ones ending up in hell. We will see how that goes.

 

Sorry for the long post, but it is nice to have found a place where I can tell my story and hopefully some people can identify.

 

Best regards everybody.

 

 

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Welcome to ex-Christian.net. I had a similar experience when I finally deconverted and decided that I was an Agnostic. I held a belief that turned out to be false, that Atheists were as certain that no gods existed as theists were certain that god(s) existed. I realized that the false belief I held was false when watching a show called the Atheist Experience and I discovered that I was actually an atheist because I didn't believe in a god.

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Welcome! Thanks for sharing your story. Your early college description of compartmentalizing science and religion really resonated with me. I had also read a book or two by people "smarter than me" who were able to "find God" the deeper you go into science and mathematics, so I just took their apologetics at face value and moved on with my faith. Maybe I should revisit those books now, huh?

 

I have a young daughter, so your Afghanistan story was very poignant. Just dreadful. As a woman, all of those types of stories creep me out and anger me. I wonder where that father is now in his walk of faith?

 

I'm sorry to hear this deconversion thing is a problem with your wife. I wish I had some advice, but I don't. She'll hopefully see that you are the same good person you always were (not suddenly drinking blood or howling at the moon or anything), and she may even notice a lift in your spirits now that the weight of religious dogma has been lifted from you.

 

I also noticed that for me, once I did a ton of research and it suddenly dawned on me that yes, I am an atheist -- all that burdensome angst went away fairly quickly. Wrestling with those questions was a monumental task for me, and for several intense weeks I could never get enough information. Sounds to me like you too are through that stage, and ready to move on to the next exciting phases. Cheers!

 

Glad to have you. I look forward to your perspective on other topics on the board.

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Thank you so much for the comments. It feels great to find a forum where I can discuss issues with people who seem to understand. It often seems that we can take changing our minds for granted in the United States, unless it involves something like religion.  I have found few people in my personal circle that will even consider discussing what I have gone through.  It is somewhat isolating in a way.

 

RenaissanceWoman, thanks for the reply.  I am not sure where things will go with my wife. It is clearly tough on her because she married a very different person, so I understand that this has to be difficult for her as well. At this point, avoiding any significant discussion about religion seems to keep the peace so to speak. We are still very much in love and support each other, but when the topic of religion comes up, it is clearly a divisive factor. 

 

Regarding the father in Afghanistan.  I am not sure. Unfortunately, people who actively leave Islam or who are deemed apostate will likely face many hardships and may even be killed. Even if he continues to actively question his faith, he will probably not ever be in a position to voice his views. This is particularly true in his position as a rural farmer/herder.  Even the flavor of Islam matters, depending on where you live. For example, one of our local physician's who was a Shia had to flee his home village and establish permanent residence in Kabul proper because the dominant flavor of Islam in that area had transitioned to Sunni. The father very well could have faced persecution or death for his behavior at the hospital. The prospects for his daughter, assuming she managed to survive are incredibly bleak in a society that generally looks down on women. This is a terrible situation that in my mind illustrates the need to have complete state-religion separation among many other things.

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RS, Sounds like you are in a similar situation with your wife as I am.   Our timeline is also similar.    My wife has often said during this that she struggles because I am not the xtian man she married.   She is concerned that our marriage vows were to god and therefore I might break them.   She recently texted me at work that she missed "her friend that she could share all the things in her life with" but added that she loved me.   I took that to mean that she had some xtian experiences she felt she could not share.  

Like your situation, we have chosen to stay away from the religion topic.  Her personality can also change in a flash to somber if I mention I will be spending some time with a non-believer.   I don't let that bother me however.   I have great non-believing friends I bike and kayak with.  I try to balance that by always being willing to spend time with our old church friends whenever we are invited(she still attends, I do not).   And that goes ok with them actually saying how much they miss me but not getting too weird about it.  I just say thank you.

 

My mother in law has even been helpful.   She is not a believer(I feel).   I encouraged her to work with her daughter to understand some better priorities in life and put religion in a better perspective.   I also have a hunch that others spoke to her about accepting me.   Perhaps they added - "and he will come back to god".   Not sure.   Recently all those types of lunches and emails, etc. have stopped.   Guess my message has gotten through.   I am who I am, and I like who I am.  Thank you.

Religion did surface last weekend when I changed the car radio station from the xtian station to an oldies.   She stated that i must really not like Christian music.   I replied as gently as I could, "why would I?".   She left it at that and it was ok.    I know at times I still have to send the signal that I am not going to reconvert and this lets her know to continue adjusting and it will be ok.  To be clear, I listen to the xtian station with her in the car a goodly amount of time.  And sometimes she changes it.

 

I do regret the money that is still spent by her on xtian books, cds, "tithes", etc.   But, hey, I was there once too.  Could be worse.   And it has been.

I suspect that her adjusting was helped along by some very rational xtian friends of both of us who have encouraged her to realize I am still her faithful husband and to accept me the way I am.   So far we have had almost 5 straight months of no religion freak outs.   

 

I certainly understand the dilemma you are living with RS.   I do realize that this has caused a shift in our relationship.   Time will tell.   Perhaps guys like you and me are in untested territory somewhat, at least in our own communities and families.  

 

Thanks for sharing.   It does me well to know I am not alone and I hope you feel the same way after your visits here.

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Welcome to ExC, RogueScholar.  I like your name, obviously a play on Rhodes Scholar.  Inserting the word "Rogue" demonstrates that, in terms of Christianity, you (and we) are a very rogue bunch.  :lmao:

 

Slowly, I began applying what I had learned to my personal beliefs. Finally, I arrived at the ultimate paradigm shift. I found that I simply could not think about accepting anything without evidence, without a framework that can make predictions that are testable.  No "holy" book can make such predictions. I actually read the bible and had to stomach the horror stories within it in addition to the pure and simple BS stories that simply could not have occurred in this universe. I also turned to the standard folks like Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens. I arrived at a place where I simply saw no evidence for God; therefore I could not prove God's existence. I considered myself agnostic.

 

I wanted to comment on the above portion of what you wrote.  I think this "ultimate paradigm shift" you describe will serve you well.  I know that for me after I left Christianity, I thought very long and hard about how I could have fallen for it to the great depths that I had.  I was disappointed in myself for allowing that to happen and swore that I would never allow anything like that to happen to me again.  Now, more than ever, I question everything.

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Oops. I said Pakistan but should have said Afghanistan. Not sure how to edit my post. But you knew what I meant.  kiss.gif

 

EDIT: I got my 25 posts now, and fixed my post above. I feel so powerful now.  wicked.gif

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Oops. I said Pakistan but should have said Afghanistan. Not sure how to edit my post. But you knew what I meant.  kiss.gif

 

You won't be able to edit until you have 25 posts. You're well on your way though. :)

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Ellwood, it sounds like our situations are similar and it is nice to know other people are dealing with this as well.

 

Overcame Faith, I agree as well. I finally feel like I am being intellectually and logically honest in all aspects of my life.

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RS: Welcome to this site. I can predict with near certainty that you will like it here and you will add a lot to the dialogue. I struggled for years before I could finally

admit that I am an agnostic. I don't consider myself an atheist merely because I don't think I'm smart enough to take that position.

 

What is fascinating to me is that most exchristians struggled for years with internal

conflict about their faith before deconverting. Yet, now that I am no longer "in

the fold", not only is the fact that Xtianity is not true obvious, but it is so obvious on so many fronts. Yet it took years to see it.

 

It shows us how very powerful prejudice is. I'm not even sure that "prejudice" is a

strong enough word. Brainwashed is more like it.

 

But just a look at Islam and how it is practiced in so many places across the world is all I now need to discard it out of hand. Although I don't believe most Xtians are

aware of it, christianity has been no better than Islam historically, if not worse.

Who, using common sense, could possibly believe that a god, who is love, would or could be passive during the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the sale of

indulgences, the Holocaust, the genocide against native Americans, to name a few. All

of this in the name of god, and he does nothing? Did Xtians learn anything from that

terrible history? Take a look at the American religious "right". It's scary.

 

Sorry. I get on a rant occasionally. But back on point. I'm really glad you are here.

 

 

bill

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... I don't consider myself an atheist merely because I don't think I'm smart enough to take that position...

 

I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels that way. I'm listening to a lot of atheist podcasts lately (and reading a lot on this site of course!), and I think -- wow, these people are amazing. So much history, science, logic, debate skills, so many books to read... But then again, I realize they/you have had many more years to think about this stuff than I have so far (a whopping 2 months!), so maybe I'll catch up in a few decades? I'm just happy to have found so many great sources for guiding my journey.

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William7davis: Thanks for the warm welcome. I agree with your assessment, religion is quite pervasive. At times I look back and I feel ashamed and even rather stupid for believing such things when the evidence clearly contradicted said beliefs.

 

RenissanceWoman: Do you find your self agreeing with presentations that at one time made the "religious you" angry? I can remember thinking shows such as the "Atheist Experience" being so angry and disrespectful, like religion should somehow not be challenged.

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No, I never got angry with those atheist arguments when I was still a Christian, because I did not even know they existed! OMG! Just to prove what a fool I was: Two months ago, I first heard and absorbed the name Hitchens.

 

I knew of Carl Sagan, of course, and I even met him at a national academic awards presentation when I was a senior in high school. (I seem to recall that his presentation was along the lines of stewardship of the earth, and nothing atheistic.) I pretty much knew "billions and billions of stars," and had been told that anything else he had to say was so complicated I should just not bother. There are better Christian scientists to read instead. OK, dear Christian leader, I'll take your word for it.

 

Up until now, I even considered myself well-rounded and well-read. Ha! I was the outstanding math and science student in my graduating class of high school. In college, studying art history was all about history, politics, art, religion -- I know lots of interesting but arcane things! (If you grew up in a religious home and really knew the Bible, art history was fun, since it's mainly religious stuff.) I read and/or speak three other languages, and have done a lot of traveling. My master's degree work included more comparative religion and philosophy, but I never even considered atheism despite having read Plato and Socrates and all that good stuff. I even taught adult Bible class at my church on the major religions of the world -- which made me delve extremely deeply into Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and even Satanism! All along, I simply worked it out and added all that stuff to my Christian beliefs, and thought I was so sophisticated. I had my blinders on, for sure.

 

I'm just disappointed now that no one along the way pointed to a good atheist book here or there that would have gently pushed me in this new direction. I guess they were all trying to be respectful of my faith. What a disservice.

 

But now... stand back. I have been unleashed!

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Stop reading my posts and telling my parents. This site is supposed to be confidential. You're a jerk and a jack ass whoever you are. Thanks also for hurting my folks. Good Christian actions. NOT.

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RenaissanceWoman: Methinks you underestimate your intelligence and academic achievements. You were simply

diverted. But the gate for knowledge of real christianity is now open for you. We'll be picking your

brain. bill

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Thanks for sharing your testimony, and welcome to the forum. Your testimony is familiar, but also unique to you.  Your experiences in Afghanistan were clearly formative.

 

I like what you said about evidence.  This was important to me too in deconversion.  So too was Penn Jilette - not through his book - but through watching  a lot of his shows and interviews and his thoughts on the subject of the supernatural generally.  Do you know of the British mentalist and illusionist Derren Brown?  He has a similarly useful take, which I also found helpful.  I think magicians must be good at spotting the tricks of religion!

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RS, congrats on telling your family. Dealing with the family can be really scary. The most I have been able to tell my wife is that I have serious doubts about the faith. She kinda freaked out a little bit and said that. I'm leaving her all alone.

 

I have not told her that I am now an atheist. Ian worried about what will happen to us when I tell her.

 

I really don't give a damn if I lose every Christian friend I ever have. But I can't figure out how to tell the wife.

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Dealing with a christian wife or kids is like walking on thin ice. You never know when you will make a wrong step. I stepped wrong yesterday when my wife and I had lunch with a couple of friends from out of town whom we don't get to see much.

 

My wife was telling the friends about a christian school for young girls where we placed our youngest

daughter years ago when she was about 15. The place was run by a christian zealot who believed that god had, based upon her prayers, rid the school building the day before they moved in, of fleas which had infested the building. Enough said? God, the flea exterminator, who forgets about the millions and

millions of starving children in the world but who has time to kill fleas.

 

My wife said that she was glad our daughter went to the school, even though the school manager was a

nut, because she learned about faith. In a reflex response I said, "Not me". Then she said to me, "I

thought you said you believed in a god, though not the Biblical one." I said , "I take the Fifth."

 

We had agreed to not discuss our different opinions about god with each other. My comment did not set

well with her at all. Me and my big mouth. It was my mistake because our agreement had worked well.

 

I know. She brought it up. But that didn't really bother me. I think I was just showing off to my

friends. We talked about it later and agreed to stick to our arrangement. Sometimes I can really be my own worst enemy. Thanks for letting me vent. bill

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RS, congrats on telling your family. Dealing with the family can be really scary. The most I have been able to tell my wife is that I have serious doubts about the faith. She kinda freaked out a little bit and said that. I'm leaving her all alone.

 

I have not told her that I am now an atheist. Ian worried about what will happen to us when I tell her.

 

I really don't give a damn if I lose every Christian friend I ever have. But I can't figure out how to tell the wife.

My thoughts are with you. It has not been an easy ride and I cannot say how things will go if and or when you do tell your wife. I am still waiting to tell my other brother and I am pretty concerned that it may not go well.

 

This really resonates with me however:

 

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RogueScholar, thanks for sharing. I can really relate to never even thinking to question what the church told me about science. I went to public school in a small town and the earth science was incredibly lacking, so I had no understanding of religion until recently. Most people I know have very little understanding of evolution. A whole new world has been opened to me and it's so interesting.

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