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Goodbye Jesus

Musings Of A 'mid-Way' De-Convert


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Hi, hey, hello, yo, what up, g'day, how are ya?


I have been reading (and occasionally commenting on) ex-christian forums and blog posts for about a year now, and I've been feeling the urge lately to finally contribute my very own post. Sometimes I think about writing my extimony, but I know it will be a long haul to write down the whole journey and then edit it to a manageable length. So that will have to wait. But in the meantime, I am biting the bullet and at least posting SOMETHING.


Since I first started regularly visiting exchristian.net (and it was a few months into the deconversion process before I would let myself do it) I have read so many profound stories of struggle, despair, reaching out, and (thankfully) hope. Many people who have been 'out' for a number of years (or decades) talk of how long their deconversion took. Some say it took a number of years from first doubts to completely washing their hands of Christianity.


I bring this up as a way of explaining where I am at in this process. I am in the midst of those years. It's been 18 months since it all began, since the foundations of my worldview began to quake. I think I was always on a spiritual fault line, it was just a matter of time before the exact environmental conditions would occur and rock my world.


I will save the details of the process for my aforementioned pending extimony, for now I want to talk about some of my struggles as someone who self-identifies as 'mid-way' deconverted.


For a while, at the start of the process, I was still living with my parents (thinking this was the right thing for an un-married twenty-something woman to do, according to the Bible), so there was some pressure there from them to 'come back' to God, when in my heart, all I wanted to do was be free of the restrictive version of God I'd been fed all of my life and explore other ways of looking at things. As soon as I moved out, that pressure was gone, and my natural self (the one that was hiding inside of me beneath all the religion) had space to emerge and grow.


I feel like I am becoming who I was always meant to be. So many parts of myself make more sense with an agnostic outlook. My all-embracing, humanitarian, justice-seeking, creative heart flourishes in a secular environment. Last night I picked up my Bible for the first time in many months, and looked through the various notes I had made in the margins over the last few years of my Christian walk. Most of the notes and highlighted passages are about wisdom, compassion, love, forgiveness and doing good. I realised that it's not necessarily a Christian heart that seeks these things, it's just a good heart that will look for these in any text in which it searches for truth.


I know all of this intellectually. It's chiefly my intellect that's brought me through this crisis in-tact. (If you want my recommendation of a remarkable intellectual ex Christian, I implore you to check out Kenneth W Daniels - I'm currently reading his memoir 'Why I Believed', which is so comforting in its intellectual and spiritual integrity.) HOWEVER, I am an emotional creature. If any of you are into Myers-Briggs, I'm an INFP, and our way of taking in the world around us is primarily through intuition and feeling rather than facts and logic. I have a 'sense' about things. I see meaningful connections between things. The world is poetry to me. The facts and hard logic of many atheists makes me feel dead inside, even though I suspect they may be accurate in their worldview.


I don't really know what to do about this. Because even though I don't want to be a Christian anymore (I don't think)... and even though I can read all the evidence laid out by science and history, there is still a part of me that won't let go of the idea of re-embracing some form of Christianity. Maybe it's partly because I still pine for the approval of my family members and friends who believe. Maybe it's because I resent the idea of being 'faithless' in a world that so clearly desperately needs faith. Maybe not faith in a deity, but at least faith in something purposeful beyond ourselves. Many people who have that have a wide-eyed, mystical, love-focused aura about them. So many of the people I admire and respect are people of faith (not necessarily just Christian faith, but faith in a 'god' or something higher than us). I naturally aspire to be like those I admire, but as an atheist-leaning agnostic (albeit with one toe still in Christianity) I can't identify with them spiritually anymore. Because my brain says I can't have both.


I suppose it's the old heart-mind war/balance dilemma. Oh, to have a spirituality I feel settled in that is harmonious with my intellectual understandings.


I've noticed many ex Christians saying that they wish they could go back to belief, but they know too much now to actually con themselves back into believing what they say they now know is 100% untrue. I think I'm still at 70 or 80%. Does that mean I'm still 20 or 30% deluded? I'm sure some atheists would say so. It doesn't seem to matter how much I try to tell my brain the facts, it is still inclined to be won over by my spiritual, mystical heart.


I have (to a large extent, despite moments of belief that there could be an attainable ultimate truth) accepted the fact that I will probably always be seeking and never quite finding. The greatest thing that helped me to come to terms with that was this perfectly articulated poem by ex Christian Garret Potter. I'm sure many of you will identify with these words, as I think we have all fervently knocked on doors that have never been opened.




So that's why I see myself as 'mid-way' on my deconversion journey. Because I still feel connected with Christianity, and curious about Christianity. I know I can't have my cake and eat it too. But I don't want to choose a camp. I want to sit on the fence. But the fence is giving me a wedgie. What a conundrum.


Please tell me if you relate to any of my meanderings. I'd love to make your acquaintance and hear from you, especially if you are early in your deconversion journey and can share with me what it is for you that makes you reluctant to fully turn your back on something that you strongly suspect is false.


I'm not necessarily seeking any answers or suggestions on how to progress from where I am (unless you feel stirred to add your 2 bob's worth), just keen to connect with you and feel the sense of community that I always feel between contributors to the forum.


Love and friendship to you all, wherever you're at in your journey.

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Wow I identify with so much of what you posted.  I was raised in a very religious and fundamentalist family and would have been one of those "daughters at home" had I not somehow managed to convince my parents to let me go to college and then met and married my husband soon after.  I still find myself trying to find a way for some of what I was taught about God to be true.  I want there to be something bigger than myself.  But I haven't found anything that really makes sense to me.   I am hopeful that I will either find that "something" or be at peace with the fact that it doesn't exist.  

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I have always been an incredibly spiritual person, and I'd argue, more spiritual than any of the fervently religious people I've ever known.  Religion and spirituality are not the same thing at all.  Religion is about worship of a particular leader (Jesus, in our case) and obedience to the commands of the leader.  Religion is political, not spiritual (no wonder so many Christians are obsessed with politics).  We were part of the kingdom of Christ.  It was a monarchy.  It never really had anything to do with morality.  It was just, obey the master, and hope for rewards. 

Spirituality is heart-led.  You don't have to have a god or master.  I believe in higher powers but I don't know who they are and I don't live to serve them. I will never again devote my life to a being who hasn't even cared for me enough to meet me face to face.  Spirituality means using my brain and my conscience and my heart and everything that is within me to do the best I can in each circumstance that I find myself in.  It is a lot harder than Christianity because there are no direct answers and no certainty.  It is much more morally demanding because there is no Christ to wipe my slate clean every time I do something wicked. If I do something foolish or wicked, I have to own it.  This is painful, and this is how maturation occurs.  I'm evolving. Undergoing the process of evolution is the best thing I ever did for myself.  Most of my peers from Sunday School are the adult version of what they were when we were 12.  I am something else.  I'm not the Rachel I was at 12.  I am changed, for the better and it's not through Christ, but through effort. 

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No-one says that you have to embrace a materialistic worldview on leaving Christianity.  Nor do I consider it accurate to claim that those who maintain a spiritual outlook are necessarily illogical.  Such a person just makes some assumptions, accepts that they are assumptions, accepts that those assumptions may be wrong, but decides to work on the basis of those assumptions anyway because they make sense to that individual.  No issue of a need to proselytize, or to argue for or against any particular scientific outlook.  If "facts and hard logic" (by which I assume you mean concentrating on the material) are not sufficient for you, look to some other philosophy.  If, on the other hand, the materialist approach comes to make sense to you, go with it.  The choice is entirely yours.


Remember also, however, that the choice is not between Christianity and atheism, or even between spirituality and atheism.  There doesn't need to be a belief in any god to accept the idea that we have a spiritual side to our natures; if you do decide to harbour a belief in some sort of deity, there are a number of possible variants.  However, once the outright lies of dogmatic religion have been cast aside, it is generally impossible to swallow them again.


As to what you should "do about this", as far as I can see the answer is simply "follow your own heart".  What anyone else makes of your position is irrelevant.

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I relate to your post so much! I'm and INFJ and have always felt like a spiritual person. Growing up, I'd attend church sometimes and youth group on occasion, and considered myself a Christian. I wasn't tied to the church though, and never really felt in place with a group of people who seemed so sure their way was the right way and everyone else was going to hell. 


My mother died of cancer when I was 20, and after that I became even less "religious" or sure of what I believed in. I started dating an atheist and we started having a lot of philosophical discussions. I realized pretty quickly, that I didn't really identify myself as a Christian anymore and just needed to accept it. That was a couple years ago now, and though I know a lot of things I don't believe, I still am not sure exactly what I do believe. 

As you, if I became a full blown atheist, I'd miss the faith that there could be something bigger and unknown out there. My fiance is set in his atheist beliefs, which I'm fine with. I'm a firm believer in believing what you feel is right. My sister who I live near is a full blown Christian and constantly talks about the Lord's presence in her life. She asked me the other day if I still believed, and I answered "Yes but not what I used to" and gave a vague answer. I don't want my relationship with her to change, and I do believe in something, I'm just not sure what, which is frustrating. I have loved ones on both ends of the spectrum, and I feel lost somewhere in the middle.

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Gemma, we seem to have a few things in common - I also fell in love with an atheist who caused me to think critically about Christianity, and we are still together as well.

Trying to have the same kinds of relationships as I used to with believing friends and famit is proving very difficult for me. It feels really intrusive and unproductive when Christians try to pry into my spiritual progress while I'm still so unsure. It feels like they have the upper hand, and I also don't really want to argue beliefs, I just want permission not to believe as they do.

Keen in touch if you want :)

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Whitehot, I totally get what you mean. I do feel my relationship with my sister is different. I don't have any intention of changing her beliefs, but I feel awkward any time she brings up how "the Lord is telling her to do this" or "it's all in the Lord's timing" etc. Somehow, hearing things like that actually push me even further from religion because I just can't see how people live their lives waiting for "permission" to make decisions. 


I didn't want to completely lie when my sister asked me what I still believed, but I also didn't want it to be something she tries to change about me. Also, my sister knows my fiance is an atheist. Even before I started to date him, I felt my beliefs changing. After we started dating, the conversations we had helped me take a real look at what I believed free from judgement. He didn't push his belief on me though. All my changes in belief have come from within. I'm also afraid that if I'm more public with my change in beliefs, people will blame my fiance for "changing me." Do you ever feel like people will blame your significant other?


I'd love to keep in touch :) Talking my feelings out with someone who understands is really uplifting to me. I'm completely honest about everything with my fiance and so I don't have to hide myself to him, but he's been agnostic turned atheist his whole life so he doesn't get the turmoil the change in belief can bring.

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Hi whitehot!


Welcome! Great to read your story! I identify with a lot of what you write (btw I am also an INFP! ;) ). I hope you have a nice peaceful journey.


I lost my xtianity 20 months ago. My journey to that point was also very long. When I stepped out I feared I may lose it all. People would hate me. I would have to learn so much about the secular world. Indeed it was uncomfortable at times, but there were no major consequences (most of my xtian friends have remained friends and I have faced little ridicule) and I was greatly rewarded for my courage; my natural self has flourished in the space that was created and my life has completely changed, only for the good. I don't have any desire to go back to xtianity. I am also of the type of atheist who sees xtianity of 100% untrue (as you describe).


However I know how long the journey is. The difficult part (for me) was when I wasn't completely sure yet whether I should leave xtianity or not and the time after I stepped out (though at the same time those were very interesting times as well with a lot of changes). Feel free to make your own choice, the most important thing is that you are doing well yourself and that you try to be a good person, but from what I read that seems to be the case! :)



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I also don't think it's true that the an atheist or agnostic has to have a materialistic view of the universe. I do have "spiritual" feelings but I just think it's part of being a human being and not a separate category. I love nature walking and appreciating beauty. I love seeing good in people and sometimes I cry from witnessing acts of kindness. I'm perpetually thinking and wondering about life.


I also attend a Buddhist discussion group. I'm not a Buddhist but I love Buddhist thought.


You said you didn't need suggestions but I'm going to suggest you watch the original 'cosmos'. I can't tell if that's the cheesiest suggestion I've ever made or not.

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