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The Mental Barriers To De-Conversion


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This was a biggie:

 

It's a sin to show the lack of faith to question the existence of the Christian god or the TruthTM of Christianity.  It's a really bad sin that can land you in hell forever because you left the path and now there's no hope for you.

 

Yep, the "doubting Thomas" tactic:

 

Jesus admonishes Thomas for being such a skeptic he needs to actually touch the wounds to believe it's really the resurrected Jesus... and praising those who believe without needing evidence. (And isn't it sort of gross Jesus came back as a not-quite-fully-healed zombie??)

 

Anyway...  All hail blind faith!

 

That message gets drummed into us SO HARD it's truly amazing and wonderful that we were able to escape. 

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I'm sure variations of this topic have come up before. But I wanted to start this thread to pick apart as many barriers as I could think of that are used as scare tactics (intentionally or not) that a

"Consider the lilies of the field. They toil not, neither do they spin. Yet your heavenly father cares for them. Are ye not much greater than they, oh ye of little faith?" And sure, those little flowe

Margee: I don't like it that I can't give you positive points anymore.   bill

"7. If no God... no heaven. Maybe no afterlife. You've been looking forward to eternal bliss... and now it feels like if you stop believing... it's like going to the doctor and finding out you have terminal cancer."  RaLeah


 


This was an "argument" I thought about when I first started having doubts about god. Later, I realized that this is not an argument that either tends to prove or disprove god. Even later it dawned on me that there being a god (i.e., the bible god) would put the majority in a far worse position than than if there were no god. At least we don/t have to contend with hell.   bill

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1. "If you want to leave, just get up and leave...!" said one of the pastors in the middle of service when talking about members who grudgingly carry on, and stress over church affairs.

 

I bet there were a lot of people in that congregation who secretly, somewhere deep down inside wanted to walk out. I mean, he invited people to just walk right out. Because let's face it, church can be stressful. For some churches, their leaders (or bosses) treat it like a second full-time job. But of course no one is actually going to just leave like that, it would be rude in their eyes. 

 

I would have left sooner if I had known any better. It's all just fear tactics to keep people whipped up into shape. They want you to forget that you have a choice, and instead keep you in a state of oblivion and false bliss. 

 

2. "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end therof are the ways of death." Proverbs 14:12; 16:25. 

 

I remember this being taught many, many times. I thought those "ways that seemeth right" were just my own reasoning and not the ones I later realized that I was programmed to think were the ways of God. Whose to say reasoning is a bad thing? That's called learning from trial and error, and this verse and the Christian thinking in me tried everything to avoid that. 

 

3. "Quit your whining! It's not about you, it's about God!" 

 

Pretty self-explanatory. I hate hate hate hate this phrase. 

 

 

 

 

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Thank you, everyone, for such thoughtful replies and kind words. 

 

Something along the lines of:  jesus loves me soooo much that he died for me--me! a worthless sinner!  No one has ever loved me that much.  How could I betray that love.

 

Getting you to first believe you are worthless and sinful and disgusting and therefore require God to sacrifice Jesus to take the punishment you deserve... is just a vile tactic. Imagine telling a young child they are disgusting and sinful in need of salvation. You're crushing their own sense of goodness and making them think the only reason their conscience guides them to do something nice for someone else is God urging them to do it, and when they feel a pang of conscience when they're considering doing something wrong, they attribute that to God as well, not to their own innate goodness. This feels like a form of child abuse. Demolish a child's sense of self-worth, replace it with a proxy.  

This is something I would never imagine doing to my son.  How my parents were able to justify doing it to me is beyond my imagination.  I have no words...

 

 

I agree, it's horrifying. 

 

Also, telling a child they should be grateful to this divine being who did something HUGE for them, and it's sinful and bad not to accept that....

 

I mean, you're telling a kid they should be grateful someone died for them for something they didn't do and didn't ask for... but they should be grateful... because they are naturally evil and deserve hell... that's so sick. 

 

I still remember on my first day of school, my FIRST GRADE TEACHER passing out brand new maroon-colored Bibles to each of us, then telling us this story of our sinfulness and that's why Jesus had to die in our place because we all deserved hell, and me thinking, "What? I'm going to ask my parents about this when I get home. This can't be right...." and then my parents saying, yes, it is. I mean, I grew up in the church, and I'd heard of Jesus dying on the cross, and that meant we could go to heaven, but I hadn't heard that I deserved hell just for being born. I felt crushed. And I still remember that feeling. And I was only 6 years old when that happened. I remember it like it was yesterday, how hard it was for me to understand it. I wasn't Adam or Eve. Why is it fair that their choice meant I was so evil I deserved hell forever? 

 

I tell you this: If I ever have children, I will never, ever let them hear that message from anyone in my family. If it means I can't leave them alone for babysitting for even half an hour, so be it. I won't have them go through that. 

 

Good for you, RaLeah!  I was one of those children who never questioned authority or the church.  I didn't realize how bad it was to be raised a catholic in the 1950s until this past year.  I literally absorbed all the lies and took them as truth.  I withdrew into myself and figured I was an evil person not worthy of anything and not able to do anything good.  I thought I needed to become like all those other religious people around me.  I tried to fit my square peg in a round hole, so to speak, never realizing that it would not work.  This carried on into my adult life when I became a born-again christian in my late 20s.  I still tried to become like all those bible-believing people and, turns out, I was miserable.  Therefore I blamed myself for being a terrible person.  This way of thinking went on for a very long time.  I was pulled in different directions and never was really happy all through my early marriage years and with my children.  It is a wonder I didn't kill myself.  Now, I'm here and now I am learning to think for myself and am finding out who I really am.  

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2. "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end therof are the ways of death." Proverbs 14:12; 16:25. 

 

I remember this being taught many, many times. I thought those "ways that seemeth right" were just my own reasoning and not the ones I later realized that I was programmed to think were the ways of God. Whose to say reasoning is a bad thing? That's called learning from trial and error, and this verse and the Christian thinking in me tried everything to avoid that. 

 

 

Yes.  Also, "For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."  1 Corinthians 1:25.  Conditioning from birth that your own reasoning is flawed and worthless is a very powerful mental barrier to deconversion.

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This is off-topic, but just to tell you how good our memories are....

 

On the plus side, I got so many spankings that year  that this was when I learned how to take a spanking without crying,

 

 

One of the things that has happened to me in the last 3 years during deconverting is looking  back over my whole life to see where my whole 'up bringing' and  the part that religion played in my adolescence. I got spanked at home so many times and 'clipped' across the side of the head by my dad.  I adored my dad but I was petrified of his putdowns. I always tried so hard to please.

 

 I got strapped so many times in school I learned not to cry anymore also RaLeah, made to stand in corners of the classroom in front of everyone (for chewing gum, giggling during class, etc..).... and seems like I was constantly sitting in the principals office. At age 19, I discovered jesus and got saved. I was so full of shame by this point in my life that I think I would have done anything to have the shame removed and that's just what they told me jesus would do for me.

 

Then for the next few years...I was highly indoctrinated and made to feel much more shame for not being able to follow jesus 100%. I left the church, backslid and ended up doing something that I vowed I would never do because I seen so much of it in my family. I went on an 8 year drunk. Partied my guts out and almost destroyed everything in my life. Satan had a hold of me again. More shame. (note: haven't drank alcohol for 22 years now, something that I am extremely proud of.)

 

Back to the alter I went...Asking jesus for forgiveness for all my rebelling. Then I got very involved again, only to feel more 'shame' for not getting it right again. The church always told me I was 'lukewarm', even though I spent my whole time praying, binding the devil, speaking in tongues, praising him through music at home and reading every Christian book I could get my hands on.

 

I was told that I asked too many questions and that I just had to have more faith. So I prayed and I prayed 'hard' formore faith for the next few years. Hence my ''Please Forgive Me'' letter here on Ex-c.....

 

Wow. It is amazing to look back over your life and see where some of the shame and guilt one carry's throughout their whole lives.....

 

Thanks for letting me get this shit out of me this morning but this post has really got me thinking even more.......

 

Love and *hugs* to all of you today...

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omigosh, Margee. What you write makes a lot of sense. Really amazing to see all this stuff being worked out. I can relate but not ready to quite yet. Ouch. Big hug to you girl, what you share with us means a whole lot to me.

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1. "If you want to leave, just get up and leave...!" said one of the pastors in the middle of service when talking about members who grudgingly carry on, and stress over church affairs.

Did he say this AFTER they'd passed out the offering plates?

 

Bwa ha ha

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These are all so true and I can relate to them all, being young both in age and de-conversion.

 

The one I'm currently struggling with is a bit of a rabbit hole:

I rejected Christianity in reasons that ultimately trace themselves back to reason and critical thinking. 

But how can we trust reason and critical thinking? 

This sounds like a no-brainer at first, but I mean philosophically; if we can't trust reason and critical thinking, what reason is there to not embrace Christianity with open arms? 

So I'm worried that rationality is irrational, and that our entire premises of thinking are inherently flawed, hence rejecting Christianity is not rational...? Wendytwitch.gif

Hi, AA, RaLeah and others have already given some good answers to your question. I'll just add:

 

even in formulating your question, you're using reason and critical thinking. Aristotle pointed out that the person who gives an argument against doing philosophy is already doing philosophy. Some stuff about the basic laws of thought just has to be axiomatic.

 

Also: Christianity isn't the default position. There are many religions out there, so EVEN IF you couldn't trust reason and critical thinking, you'd have to pick among a slew of religions. And what but reason and critical thinking could you use in the end to differentiate among them?

 

Also: Christianity is screwed up on many levels, and there is much about it that screws up people's lives. There are very good pragmatic reasons for not following it.

 

Cheers, F

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Just up-voted you, RaLeah!

 

:)

 

BAA

 

 

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One of the things that has happened to me in the last 3 years during deconverting is looking  back over my whole life to see where my whole 'up bringing' and  the part that religion played in my adolescence. I got spanked at home so many times and 'clipped' across the side of the head by my dad.  I adored my dad but I was petrified of his putdowns. I always tried so hard to please.

 

Shame is an interesting topic.  Unlike you and Raleah, I was never over-disciplined and had a rather model up bringing (outside the religious indoctrination aspect), yet I too remember being almost immobilized by shame and guilt as a believer.  The freedom I felt when I deconverted was so profound, I guess that's why even though it's been so many years, I'm still hanging out at this site talking about these issues.  Some seem to be immune to religious guilt, but I was not one of them. 

 

It makes sense to me that someone who was raised by a strong disciplinarian would feel such guilt, but I don't know what it is about someone like myself who to felt it.  Perhaps it's just a character trait one is born with. 

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I'm sure variations of this topic have come up before. But I wanted to start this thread to pick apart as many barriers as I could think of that are used as scare tactics (intentionally or not) that are used to keep Christians from questioning their beliefs, searching for knowledge outside of Christianity, or accepting new evidence.

I relate to all these, RaLeah.

 

2. I can't be wrong about God existing--haven't I "felt" God during worship service, during prayer? 

This was huge for me in the beginning; by the end, it had pretty much morphed into loving the liturgy and various human expressions of community and piety.

 

I did have a very strong sense that being a Christian had become the basis of my identity, as SteveBennett talked about a while ago.

 

4. All these people (in my community, state, country) can't be wrong. I mean, my parents believe it, and they're older and wiser than I am. They can't be wrong, can they?

To this I added: look at all the intellectuals who embrace Christianity. They can't be wrong.

 

5. My teachers say that evolution is not proven. It's actually dis-proven. Carbon methods for dating don't work reliably. Sometimes people believed an entire hoax of a fossil based on one tooth. Evolutionists are just grasping at straws trying not to believe in God. There's a huge world-wide hoax of scientists in on it, trying to trick people into giving up God. There's no real evidence for it. It's "just a theory."

I never really thought that evolution or age of the earth/universe were significant problems because fairly early I'd encountered methods of interpretation that allegorized or symbolized a lot of things in Genesis 1-3.

 

6. Satan / the devil is very smart and powerful, and he can trick you. Don't trust your own senses, your own mind. 

I thought that Satanists must really be worshiping the devil, so I concluded that a fortiori God must exist.

 

7. If no God... no heaven. Maybe no afterlife. You've been looking forward to eternal bliss... and now it feels like if you stop believing... it's like going to the doctor and finding out you have terminal cancer. 

 

This one is hard.

yes.

 

8. If you're wrong... hell. It doesn't matter if you're a "good" person. Works can't save you from God's wrath for rejecting Him. And it's worse, because you heard the gospel message and then rejected it. God will have no mercy on your soul. You deserve fire, flames, and torment for eternity for not being able to believe in God with all your heart. 

yes, big time.

10. Cognitive dissonance: I already know the truth and I believe it. I can't change my mind now, and why should I? I know I'm right.  

yes, for a long time.

 

11. How could an atheist's life have any meaning, devoid of God or spirituality or purpose? 

Yes, I bought into this, too.

 

Glad I got free, painful to relive all this.

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1. "If you want to leave, just get up and leave...!" said one of the pastors in the middle of service when talking about members who grudgingly carry on, and stress over church affairs.

 

I bet there were a lot of people in that congregation who secretly, somewhere deep down inside wanted to walk out....

 

Oh yeah, I heard this one...."anyone is FREE to leave this church!! there's the door!!"... and I KNEW the pastor was referring to me because I was really questioning him and he did NOT like that. (he's probably used that line on anyone daring to question...)

 

I remember almost falling over when he said that- because FREE to leave would be a hug and a blessing.  But everyone in the cult I left -knows if you DARE to leave, you will be Church Disciplined & shunned. Church discipline involves a sermon that is basically slander about you, how you "sinned" or how you didn't agree w/ the doctrine & the devil was getting into you, blah blah. But the worst was being told that you would now be an enemy of God, by leaving the True Churchtm & forsaking the assembly. I was told that God just might kill me or my family, curse us, etc. Bible verses are used to terrify you. It is very traumatic. People you thought loved you would throw you to the curb like you are garbage.

 

and that's FREE to leave? Oh such word games that pastor would play.  glare.gifglare.gif He would say one thing from the pulpit, but you KNEW it was

the exact opposite!! Wendybanghead.gif

 

The day the church votes you out, as the pastor gets up there and tells you HIS version of the story (he's the prosecution) and there is no other side to be heard! Believe me, you had BETTER vote the way pastor wants you to...I think just about every "vote" was unanimous.

 

*sigh* There is a whole lot of pressure to conform to what the leader wants...breaks down your own will. sad.pngsad.png

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*sigh* There is a whole lot of pressure to conform to what the leader wants...breaks down your own will. sad.png:(

Yeah, I hear you. Ravenstar and RaLeah probably know a lot more about these studies, but I've read about psychological studies on the power of someone's telling someone else to do something. The studies conclude that people are often more compliant than they believe they would be. When it's a leader, even more pressure.

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When you are raised in fundamentalist Christianity from a very young age, you hear over and over the Bible verses that demean your reasoning ability and cause you to doubt yourself. You don't even realize what is happening to you, and you just accept it because everyone in your family believes it.

 

There are actually threats of death in the Bible for thinking for yourself. All of this registers on a deep subconscious level. No wonder we have problems when we get older and have to actually make decisions!

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When you are raised in fundamentalist Christianity from a very young age, you hear over and over the Bible verses that demean your reasoning ability and cause you to doubt yourself. You don't even realize what is happening to you, and you just accept it because everyone in your family believes it.

 

There are actually threats of death in the Bible for thinking for yourself. All of this registers on a deep subconscious level. No wonder we have problems when we get older and have to actually make decisions!

Exactly Deva. Even if you got indoctrinated later you still don't realize what is happening. Mind games.

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^You don't realize how bad it was until you're out of there, on the outside looking in. Mind control does that.

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All of that! "God gave you free will, but you will go to hell if you use it to choose anything but this one thing! God gave you a mind and intellectual ability, but not to QUESTION!" 

 

The guilt & shame double-whammy was probably the biggest for me, too. This whole thing encapsulates my feelings of worthlessness as a child:

 

Getting you to first believe you are worthless and sinful and disgusting and therefore require God to sacrifice Jesus to take the punishment you deserve... is just a vile tactic. Imagine telling a young child they are disgusting and sinful in need of salvation. You're crushing their own sense of goodness and making them think the only reason their conscience guides them to do something nice for someone else is God urging them to do it, and when they feel a pang of conscience when they're considering doing something wrong, they attribute that to God as well, not to their own innate goodness. This feels like a form of child abuse. Demolish a child's sense of self-worth, replace it with a proxy.  

 

 

Later, as I was leaving organized religion and questioning the messages I'd been taught, my grandmother, mother, and aunts were absolutely floored that THIS was the message that I'd taken from Christianity. They couldn't wrap their minds around how I thought I was a piece of garbage as a result of Christianity. How could I distill God's message as "you are bad and worthless and useless and deserve to go to hell?" when it was so clearly about God's and Jesus's love?!

 

I still don't get HOW COULD THEY NOT?!

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Excellent, Pantophobia. Christianity is presented as being about a loving God. The nasty flip side of that coin is that you are deserving of hell because you were born a "sinner."   Some of us become aware, eventually, of just how damaging this idea is; while most Christians don't even seem to see the problem. They just accept that humans are depraved and automatically deserve to be tortured forever because of who they are.

 

Now, if you do just a little meditation, its easy to see the fallacy of this idea. Most Christians don't have any form of spiritual life, in my opinion, although they would say they do. They don't know who they are; they have been told who they are and just accept it. That isn't spirituality.

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All of that! "God gave you free will, but you will go to hell if you use it to choose anything but this one thing! God gave you a mind and intellectual ability, but not to QUESTION!" 

 

The guilt & shame double-whammy was probably the biggest for me, too. This whole thing encapsulates my feelings of worthlessness as a child:

 

Getting you to first believe you are worthless and sinful and disgusting and therefore require God to sacrifice Jesus to take the punishment you deserve... is just a vile tactic. Imagine telling a young child they are disgusting and sinful in need of salvation. You're crushing their own sense of goodness and making them think the only reason their conscience guides them to do something nice for someone else is God urging them to do it, and when they feel a pang of conscience when they're considering doing something wrong, they attribute that to God as well, not to their own innate goodness. This feels like a form of child abuse. Demolish a child's sense of self-worth, replace it with a proxy.  

 

 

Later, as I was leaving organized religion and questioning the messages I'd been taught, my grandmother, mother, and aunts were absolutely floored that THIS was the message that I'd taken from Christianity. They couldn't wrap their minds around how I thought I was a piece of garbage as a result of Christianity. How could I distill God's message as "you are bad and worthless and useless and deserve to go to hell?" when it was so clearly about God's and Jesus's love?!

 

I still don't get HOW COULD THEY NOT?!

The analogy I often use is a father taking his son to a candy store and telling him, "Son, you can have anything in this store that you want; but if you don't choose what I want you to choose, I will beat you until you're black, red, and blue."  How could any loving parent justify that?

 

How can anyone with human feelings justify a god who does that?

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Thread pinned.   Margee was right about this being a 5-star thread!  It is and will continue to be so helpful for those who are questioning and struggling with their faith.  Thanks for such an insightful post, RaLeah, and thanks to everyone else who has contributed.

 

  thanks.gif

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You are told NOT to trust your OWN thoughts and inner voice.

 

Bile verses such as "trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding..."

 

it was hammered into us that we were NOT to trust our feelings, emotions, gut, inner voice, etc.... that we needed to just trust God

& of course the person who is speaking for God is the Man-a-Gawd = Pastor.

 

In time you stop trusting & listening to yourself & begin to follow blindly.

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You are told NOT to trust your OWN thoughts and inner voice.

 

Bile verses such as "trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding..."

 

it was hammered into us that we were NOT to trust our feelings, emotions, gut, inner voice, etc.... that we needed to just trust God

& of course the person who is speaking for God is the Man-a-Gawd = Pastor.

 

In time you stop trusting & listening to yourself & begin to follow blindly.

Seek ye first the kingdom of god and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.  

 

This one sentence alone caused me to be completely unprepared for life in the real world when I entered adulthood.  I just thought god would provide for my earthly needs so long as I followed his path.  The disillusionment of realizing that it was a lie nearly destroyed me.

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