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Pathetic Partial Deconversion


Llwellyn
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A lot of Christians get to the point where they become dissatisfied with the Christian doctrines -- divine wrath, hell, atonement, justification, faith -- but instead of making a full deconversion, they make a partial deconversion into some kind of distorted, neutralized Christianity.  They don't have the ability or courage to become atheists and agnostics, but still wish to call themselves Christians and be friends with Jesus.  The doctrine of hell is one area in particular where you see Christians partially deconvert, downshifting from the true faith to one of the lower, sub-Christian doctrines.  I speak from experience because I spent about six months in a partially deconverted state as I was heading out of the gates of the Christian kingdom.  (I was at position 4 below.)  Here are the gears of christianity from high to low:

 

1.  God shall make non-believers suffer throughout eternity.  This is the true faith.  "The devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever."  Rev. 20:10.

 

2.  God shall punish non-believers with annihilation.  This is so-call "annihilationism."  I myself could never understand the attraction of this doctrine.  How does this make Yahweh any less culpable than position 1 above?  Below is a YouTube trailer of a movie featuring someone peddling annihilation as a "different gospel" Galations 1:6-9.

 

3.  There is a punishment for sin, but Yahweh shall forgive everyone, with everyone going to heaven for eternity.  This may or may not have to do with Jesus spilling out his life on the cross.  This is so-called "Christian Universalism."  Again, a home for the cowardly.

 

4.  There is no divine curse for sin, instead "hell" is a kind of self-created misery for people who refuse to be happy.  As they say, "The Gates of Hell are locked from the inside."  This was the position of C.S. Lewis, it is also the position, more and more, of the Roman Catholic Church.  Imagine that -- the Pope himself (JPII) engaged in a kind of partial deconversion!

 

What are your thoughts about partial deconversions?  Have you gone through it?  Do you see others in it?  Am I being too judgmental by calling it cowardly?  Is there a time and a place for it?  Does it allow the Christian meme to exist and reproduce in a kind of benign, more acceptable form?  What do you think about meme-smiths who engineer the religion to be more neutral in these ways?  Have you seen other forms of low-grade Christianity -- particularly addressing the idea of God's wrath?

 


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There's a lot of money to be made (tax free) from partial deconverts i.e. Joel Osteen and his "followers". Megachurches thrive on #4 and and fill their pews with people who want to be fed a saccharine self help style version of jayzus.  

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As a member of a liberal denomination, my entire Xtian life was spent in a state of partial deconversion, without my realizing it. I can say that it made actual deconversion easier later. Given the other degrees of belief, I think partial deconversion is a relatively positive place to be.

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How one views the doctrine of hell depends on one's reading and understanding of the relevant scriptures. For example, the hard core Calvinists say one goes to hell because one is not of the elect. For them, it is not about belief, but election, though they usually say that the elect will believe. Calling a particular take on the doctrine of hell the "true faith" is problematic, just as the Calvinists and Armenian views differ so much. Each, of course, think they are stating the "true faith" with the Calvinists proclaiming election and the Armenians proclaiming belief. So, too, do other denominations come to differing conclusions.

 

I don't know what the "true faith" says about hell, but I am glad for the children who attend the churches in category 3 and possibly 4 because they are not taught to have a fear of hell, which fear causes a lot of people emotional problems as we have seen so many times on ExC.

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There is also another hell variable - what causes a person to go to hell. Growing up, I assumed that almost nobody would actually go to hell. Later, as I made friends with non-Christians, I assumed that non-Christians would go to heaven too.

 

I had a dream where Jesus seemed to show me that #3 is correct (Christian Universalism). That is what I tend to believe now when I dither about Christianity.

 

Ironically the true-blue authentic Christians on a christian forum did more than anything else to make me question my #3 Christianity. Almost no Christians like #3 for some reason.

 

I think the cowardly label only applies if the person is being dishonest with himself/herself. Also as Orbit mentioned, it depends where you start. Liberal Christians are somewhere in between.

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For some its a stop along the way in their journey ,

For others its a destination,

 

You don't really know who's in what group.

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I don't know whether to call it cowardly or not. Rationally, I never found Osteen convincing, and idn't know why the Xians railed against him so. He just seemed altogether unconvincing. But it is true, the more evangelical True Christian ™ churches can best be called atheist factories. Had my Wife not come home with those checklists, asked me to answer them as She did, and I not caused Her to burst into tears over my answers, I would have never begun to tear apart my so-called 'reasonable' Christianity. A Christianity whose beliefs other Christians found very unconvincing, and atheist coworkers rightly judged to be mostly atheistic. I had a lot of contradictions I was trying to juggle, and a softer, what the True Christians ™ call lukewarm, Christianity would have seen me stay in instead of think it all through. Although I personally found Rob Bell to also be unconvincing, I found the counterapologetic to his book to be very instructive.

If you read it carefully, the True Christians ™ state that without Hell, the Cross is meaningless. If Hell makes the Cross have value, then Hell is logically the Supreme Power. That sealed the deal for me. True Christians ™ whether they know it or not, worship the Pit. They may not like it, or talk about it openly often, but everything done in Christianity ™ is Pit avoidance. The Cross, the true emblem, the insignia of their faith, has no meaning or value at all without a Pit wherein all their unbelieving family and friends will be tortured eternally, where "The smoke of their torment shall go up forever and ever." Why else do you suppose so many of us on ExC have such trouble with Hell? I feel like I have less than some describe on here. And yet, the other night, there I was, dreaming about Hell again. As usually happens, the worst of it is not that I am about to fall in. That's part of it, yes, but in it is the friend I had who died of AIDS, all my nonbelieving coworkers, my brother who is an atheist, some of my wife's family, and a whole host of other people. Their being there is actually the worst part of the dream when it happens. Especially those who are already there, according to True Christianity  ™. Any wonder? It is Pit worship and Pit avoidance, pure and simple. I never was fully cognizant of how much that played into things when I was in, but it certainbly is.

As a humanist, all I can say is, Christians like my mother-in-law who is a Methodist and told me she doesn't believe in hell? I am glad for those. Because if you see Christians right after an unbeliever dies, they are an awful lot like war-torn refugees. Especially the kids. It's morally awful. They have no hope or real reassuring words, because their bible makes it clear to them their unbelieving but honorable relative or friend is now burning for all eternity. And they are told to celebrate that tru reprobate scumbags like Ted Bundy are in heaven, and this exemplifies how wonderful the Cross is. Pretty sick, if you ask me. But I don't blame the Christians who are in it: they're running scared. Nor do I blame those who have opted for another brand that doesn't believe that. I don't know how they get that, using the same book, same middle eastern terrorist Osamu Bin Yahweh deity warlord, but if they can make it work, it's better than the Pit worship and Pit avoidance of the True Christians ™.

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I will admit that I spent more than a decade in No. 3, but I think it is a bit unfair to refer to it as cowardly.  Actually for the whole of the about 2000 years of Xtianity, it has been more of Xtianites as opposed to Xtianity.  I will admit that if my views on who and what god is, I could have remained a Xtian Universalist.  I deconverted for other reasons.

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I think Xtianity is subject to the law of supply and demand. Since very few Xtians actually study the bible to understand what it says it has always been within the ability of those who are the leaders to change the religion to fit the culture. How do you think guys like Schuller (sp?) of the Crystal Cathedral fame was able to convince his thousands that if they name it and claim it god will supply it? That certainly was not what Jesus said, at least not in a way that could be construed as a right to claim material gains through praying. But thousands upon thousands bought into that ridiculous belief. Why? They don't know what the bible says and have no idea of its contradictions. So just about anything goes if your preacher is glib and has the right appearance. So, in the 60's, when science was "in" more than it is now, the clergy, or some of them, subtly shifted the message to fit the audience. Good works was what Xtianity was all about and faith in the literal meaning of the bible was de=emphasized or simply not discussed. In the 19th Century Xtians should not involve themselves in politics because "worldly" matters were for others. Xtians were to focus on the hereafter.

That certainly is not true today.Whatever the current culture demanded, that's what the Xtians churches (most of them) would supply,   bill

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Steps 1-3 seem representative of the absurd "intellectual gyrations" Christians go through to try to rationalize the irrational things they're convinced they have to believe. Having escaped that childhood indoctrination and knowing how hard it is (as many here do) it's fightening to recall that as ridiculous as they obviously are, these things didn't seem absurd at all from the inside. I would not call it cowardly, as much as insideous on the part of those who are intellectually capable of knowing better and perpetrate those ideas for personal gain. It is disgusting how they are willing to totally distort their own "beliefs" when necessary, while at the same time condemning anyone of a different tradition which is essentially saying the same thing.

 

If one is at Step 4, the logical conclusion is that heaven then is self-created ecstasy for people who refuse to be unhappy. Of course if you follow things to their logical conclusion you are already well beyond Step 4 and no longer need any of this nonsense to explain reality.

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Leo, I totally agree with your observation about "pit worship". I had a beautiful dream where Jesus showed me how his universal love results in universal salvation. When I mentioned this idea on a Christian forum the reaction was extremely negative and almost hostile at times. It was like they considered an attack on hell an attack on Christian theology.

 

Nor do I blame those who have opted for another brand that doesn't believe that. I don't know how they get that, using the same book, same middle eastern terrorist Osamu Bin Yahweh deity warlord, but if they can make it work, it's better than the Pit worship and Pit avoidance of the True Christians ™.

On the question of reconciling liberal Christianity with the Bible, I know the answer to that from personal experience. The Bible is not internally consistent so obviously it is at most only partially inspired. Some people have the "dancing bear" experiences, so they "know" God is true even if the Bible is obviously garbled. Those people assume there must be some divine inspiration in the Bible somewhere, so they cherry pick the parts that seem true to them. When a person begins to doubt the "dancing bears" then they start moving towards atheism IMO smile.png

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heaven then is self-created ecstasy for people who refuse to be unhappy.

 

That's me.  yellow.gif yellow.gif GONZ9729CustomImage1539775.gif GONZ9729CustomImage1539775.gif

WhistlinginHell.jpg

 

I was being deliberately provocative in my original post, to those of you I have insulted, please accept my apology.  Insofar as partial deconversion and moderate religion are related, perhaps it is better that most Christians are partially deconverted.  A belief in divine curses is related to mania, violence, religious wars, and religious torture.  I suppose I should be pleased that Christians and Muslims are better than their religions.  Most of them set aside the most crazy-making bits.  Like this one:  "God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries."  Nahum 1:2 
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heaven then is self-created ecstasy for people who refuse to be unhappy.

 

 

 

I should be pleased that Christians and Muslims are better than their religions. 

 

 

Nice thought - that's an enlightened view towards those you need to love (or at least like) who are still Christians.

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I think you are just describing different shades of Christianity; it hinges more on the divinity of Christ and the Resurrection more than who exactly goes to hell.  But yeah, I took a similar path; hell was probably a big catalyst for my deconversion.  

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Why? They don't know what the bible says and have no idea of its contradictions. So just about anything goes if your preacher is glib and has the right appearance.

I would argue that awareness of the Bible's contradictions is the motivation for discarding doctrines that seem wrong.

 

It's like being a gold miner in 1849. I scoop a pan-full of sand in my pan and shake it around. Once in a while I find a little nugget that feels like God might have inspired it. That's the only sensible way for a Christian to read the bible IMO.

 

It is the fundamentalists who are being illogical by claiming to believe the entire Bible is inspired when it obviously contains contradictions. I guess they apply their theological double-think to pretend the contradictions aren't there.

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Of course if you follow things to their logical conclusion you are already well beyond Step 4 and no longer need any of this nonsense to explain reality.

 

I agree that followed to its logical conclusion, Version 4 leads right out of the door of Christianity.  Pope John Paul II described Version 4 of the Partial Deconversion in his sermon:  Hell Is the State of Those Who Reject God, 28 July 1999.  "It is not a punishment imposed [lit. inflitto dall'esterno—inflicted from outside—ed.] externally by God but a development of premises already set by people in this life." . . .   "The thought of hell and even less the improper use of biblical images must not create anxiety or despair."

 
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That was interesting text from the Pope. But though he covers it over, he still states that those who reject Christ will go to hell. Of course, what is accept and what is reject, that is, and always has been, the question. Evangelicals themselves really don't believe the Sinner's Prayer really does it. "f you / he / she / they are really saved, then ..." andthen come all the endless confirmations.

I do realize Pope Francis has urged all people everywhere to do good, even those who do not believe. But other cardinals have quickly spoken up to make sure everyone knows the Pope didn't absolve us atheists and other nonbelievers from hell.

I suppose, if I had seen a liberal Christian convince a die-hard evangelical of their more moderate ways, I at one time might have been convinced. That one time is long gone, now that I know what I have learned since.

I think there's two reasons though. The Liberal Christian doesn't think the Evangelical Conservative is going to hell for their beliefs. I also don't see the Liberal Christians amassing with the same political power. I have known Conservative Christians like my mother for my whole life, to go on and on and on about these liberal Christians. I'm not saying they're not there. My wife's mother is one. But if they're so threatening, where is their counterapologetic to the Dinesh D'souzas, the William Lane Craigs, the Ravi Zacharias, hell even the C. S. Lewises? My Wife took classes for a Certificate of Ministry Readiness, and one would think in the Conservative apologetic they would at least point out their foes. At least, I dunno, name one? At least one? Some vague idea about an emerging or emergent church, and the types like Joel Osteen. I haven't read his books, I confess. Heard him talk, found it remarkably unconvincing. But are you sure he's liberal? Joyce Meyer is alleged to be some kind of positive thought person, and she is so plugged into the Republican Matrix, she just might short a circuit. This I didn't know, as I wasn't a follower of any of those, until some Xians I knew came back with these rag mag leaflets of hers and her husbands practically throwing themselves with reckless and illogical abandon at George W. Bush and John Ashcroft. No reasonable Wall Street Journal-reading conservative would take them seriously, but I bet they rounded up the sheeple at the voting booths.

And, Rick Warren? I heard all the time he was a liberal. Again, only having read his Purpose Driven Life when the churches were doing those study groups. Some liberal: he was all over the homosexuals and gay marriage like his wallet was needing a refill or something. The Presbyterians are supposed to be liberals, but what do you got from them? D. James Kennedy? He's their heavyweight champ, and boxes for the Right like there's no tomorrow. He does Christopolitical mélange like few others can.

I'm not saying hey're not out there, just that all these evangelicals raving and raging against the so-called Liberal Christian machine sure can't name any names for us. They can name names of who looked at porn, who's gay, occasionally they can even grudgingly name names of who is now an atheist, even if they have to tell lies about them first. But, no names. Just "those Liberal Christians are practically secular humanists!"

I just wonder if the liberal versions don't speak up, because they simply don't want to enter the fray. Fair enough. It's expensive to go up against lawyerly types who have multi-million-dollar debate prep teams. People like William Lane Craig, D. James Kennedy, Ravi Zacharias and others. These are all rich guys, with a ton of loot, a lot of big guns behind them, and a ton of popular peasants ready to kick up a fuss at a town hall. But next time a ConservaChristian starts to bleat about these terrible Liberal Christians, tell them to name you one. Then, if they can do that, ask them for one thing that hristian has said.

Ironically,  I got this from the other side. The Wife saw me reading a Jeff Charlet book on Christian fundamentalism behind American Power. She said something she wouldn't have said before I deconverted: "I think you should sometimes read a Christian from the Left." I just asked: "Who? Do you know anyone? Even Rob Bell is what could best be described as an evangelical universalist." I know there are Liberal Christians, of course. The Wife's mom is one, and it seems the Methodists as a whole are such. Sounds like the Episcopalians are also. But what we don't see is their counterapologetic to the standard Evangelical rhetoric. And we don't see convincing converts headed over there saying, "Well damn! The eveangelicals are wrong, and here is how! I've got it now!"

I do sometimes wonder how different being a Xian would be if one was in Europe or someplace else outside the U.S. and its missionary efforts. Speaking of which: Can anyone name an American missionary effort where the American government didn't first stomp the population's guts out militarily, or American corporations didn't rape the local business community? It's like American Power depends upon American missionaries to be the cleanup crew after the fact, and if they're lucky, put a nice new shine on the situation.

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