Last week I stumbled across this blog and I was transported back in time. I had forgotten about this blog but when I saw it I instantly remembered it as one that I visited often in the early days of my religious doubting. He isn’t currently blogging but I emailed the author to thank him for sharing his story and I let him know how it had impacted me. He replied and we exchanged a few encouraging emails. It reminded me of why it’s important for those who have left the faith to tell their stories. After we deconvert we move on with our lives, but there are others who will go through the same struggles and will benefit in some way from reading about our journey. Enjoy reading Kevin’s story:
I want to share with you a link to a free online book that may interest some of you. It is a story about a loss of faith – but so much more. It’s called An Examination of the Pearl and the scope of it is staggering to me. Click on the Table of Contents and then click on items listed there and you’ll see how exhaustive this book really is! He covers any biblical or doctrinal issue you can imagine. If you’re in the doubting stage of your faith then this book is required reading!
I thought I’d give you the author’s words from the first page so that you can get an idea what the book is about:
The Gospel of Matthew records Jesus as comparing the Kingdom of God to a merchant who found a valuable pearl and sold all that he had in order to buy it. No merchant of fine pearls would ever buy one that he had not examined carefully. To take the supreme leap of selling all for the price of one particular pearl would require that merchant to have either found it flawless after detailed examination, or to enter blindly into what might well turn out to be a bad bargain out of impulse, emotion, or deceit.
This book is an honest and unflinching examination of the pearl that Conservative Laestadianism puts on offer as the Kingdom of God. It is a study not just of that obscure revival movement from 19th century Lapland, but also of Martin Luther, fundamentalist and sectarian Christianity, and the Bible itself.
About 18 centuries ago, Clement of Alexandria wrote, “If our faith is such that it is destroyed by force of argument, then let it be destroyed; for it will have been proved that we do not possess the truth.” Many dare not take the risk to their faith, or the faith of those under their influence, of reading or allowing the reading of anything critical about what they supposedly believe. But is that really faith in anything other than the others in the fold who are themselves just repeating the old slogans? They, too, are all too often ignoring the facts about their own unexamined faith that is itself supported only by the claims of others.
There are many such unexamined and fearful faiths competing in the marketplace of religion, some of them also claiming to be the truth outside of which no one will be saved. And without critical reflection like that found in this book, each one is a self-sustaining doctrinal bubble that quivers unsteadily in the air, vulnerable to being poked by the slightest intrusion of fact.
I’d love for you to check it out and to let me know what you think of it: An Examination of the Pearl
Thought this new website might be of interest to you:
One of its creators is Luke Muehlhauser who is the author of the Common Sense Atheism website which was a huge help to me during my deconversion (Luke doesn’t add new content anymore to that site but the archives are still available and there is a LOT there.)
I poked around the worldviewnaturalism.com site and it looks like a good resource. The main categories are readings, podcasts, videos, debates, and people. The readings cover topics such as seeking truth, self & free will, ethics & society, happiness & self-help, and meaning & spirituality. You could spend quite a bit of time on this site watching interviews and following links to podcasts and debates. There are links to almost 100 intellectuals with a naturalistic worldview (including links to their faculty, personal, and wikipedia pages).
Let me know if you find something particularly interesting or useful on the WorldviewNaturalism.com site!
I’ve really been enjoying this blog. I love the topics, the writing quality and style … and the humour. Check it out.
Sharing another deconversion story:
[Click on the next chapter at the end of each of his posts.]
I loved reading all of it but was particularly struck by his explanations of the issues that he could no longer ignore within Christianity. If you are a doubter then you need to read his entire story. I almost hate to pick out any of it because I want you to read the entire thing, but at the end he has this to say that I really related to:
What happens after a Christian becomes an atheist? Well…life moves on regardless. The sun rises, clients call, and newspapers continue to be delivered. While it was a shake-up, much of my life moved forward as before. I met the following weeks, months and years with a mixture of emotions.
Believe it or not, there was a feeling of relief. All those questions and attempts to determine what God was thinking, or what God was saying, or what God wanted were resolvable in the simple notion that everything I had learned about God was the human interpretation of what God was like. It was a human project, with human results. The unadorned answer to these complex questions? God was human-made.
It resolves the Problem of Evil. Resolves the conflicts (both historical and doctrinal) in theistic claims. Resolves the answer as to why God was so non-responsive, so hard to find. Resolves why humans provide 1000 different solutions to 10,000 different questions about God. Resolves why Christian book stores bulge with Self-Help books.
The humanity of God explained why non-believers and believers alike shared the characteristics of good and evil. Both were as likely to be a person of anger as a person of love. There is nothing “divine” in being a Christian; nor in Christian “fruit.” It is humanity looking for a justification to act a certain way.
There was also relief in having been through an ordeal. It is tiring on the body to deprive it of sleep. It was tiring on my spirit to be constantly aching for a God I believed in and hear nothing but silence. It was tiring on my mind to be suppressing the obvious implications of what I read.
I became elated. For the first time, I could openly read the Bible in any manner! There was no preconceived dogma which required “scripture to interpret scripture” or that it was God-inspired, or inerrant. Ephesians could be written by Paul, not written by Paul, or not even qualify to be in the Bible! Isaiah could be a complete book, or a conglomeration of two or three books. It could be written in 740 BCE or 450 BCE. I was not pre-determining conclusions, and looking for evidence to support them; rather I was looking at the evidence, and coming to conclusions.
I want to let him speak for himself, so if you are a doubter, please take the time to read his story. I’m really glad that I’ve been coming across these wonderfully written deconversion stories lately. They speak to the human aspect of each deconversion and I love being allowed to follow along as I read about each stage of their journey. And as always – I hope that sharing this might help someone out there who is struggling with their own doubts and needs to know that others have traveled the same road.
Reading this deconversion story at HeIsSailing is well worth the time. If you want more than just a quick snapshot of someone’s deconversion story then you’ll appreciate as he shares his insights and thoughts about each stage of his life and religious journey. I felt like I was sitting down with a wonderfully written book as I read his story. There are more installments to come and I can’t wait to read them!
[Just click on ‘next chapter’ at the end of each post to read the next installment of his story. And of course – check out the rest of his blog as well!]
When I was going through my deconversion, the Common Sense Atheism site was a big help to me. There is a ton of stuff on his site no matter where you are in your journey. Today I want to link you to his personal deconversion story. It seems that many believers think that somehow people who ‘lose their faith’ must have never really been a true Christian in the first place. They must not have experienced God the way a true Christian knows that they do in their own life. I don’t know that those of us who have deconverted can ever convince them, but when I read Luke’s story, I don’t see how he could have been any more sincere and sure about his faith. And I related so much when he says,
I started to panic. I felt like my best friend – my source of purpose and happiness and comfort – was dying. And worse, I was killing him. If only I could have faith! If only I could unlearn all these things and just believe. I cried out with the words from Mark 9:24, “Lord, help my unbelief!”
So I hope if you are at any point in a deconversion journey that his story will help you know that you’re not alone. If you’re a Christian maybe reading his story will give you some more insight into what it’s like to go from being a true believer to someone who just can’t believe anymore. And if you’ve already been through your own deconversion I’m sure you’ll relate to his story.
[Note: Luke has moved onto other things so he no longer posts at that site, but all the previous material is there for our exploration.]
If you click on the Scarlet A at the top right part of my blog, it will bring you to the Out Campaign’s website. Here’s a link to the blogroll on there (which I’m on!). If you’re looking for blogs written by atheists there’s a ton on there. There are some funny titles too – so just scrolling through is interesting 🙂
Here is a list of the main people, websites, and books that influenced me during my journey of deconversion.
Common Sense Atheism
This is an incredibly smart guy who is a former Christian and there is a ton of info on his site for atheists and Christians (even though he doesn’t post new stuff on it anymore). What I loved about him is that he would criticize even bad atheist arguments – he really was out for truth. He has links to 400+ theist/atheist debates which you’ll probably find very useful. You could spend a lot of worthwhile time on here.
Bart D. Ehrman on the Bible. I realize even he isn’t free from criticism but it was enough to make me realize that the Bible was at least not inerrant and at most not even reliable. He’s on youtube but his books will give you much more.
Authors who also have debates on youtube:
Dan Barker (former Christian – his book ‘godless’ had a huge impact on me)
Michael Shermer (former Christian)
He has obviously had a huge impact on people and what he also got across to me was that there is a problem with the basic storyline of Christianity. He’s amazing in his debates.
I realize this is humour, but it had a big impact on me. It made it possible for me to step outside of my Christian bubble and see it from the outside. I’m amazed how important points can be made with humour even better than in a serious way sometimes. Plus they’re just fun to watch. I think there are 4 or 5 seasons.
This guy had a big impact on me. Let me know if you’re interested in which of his videos I think are the best.
I visited this site a lot when I was searching but haven’t followed it recently. I see he’s done some debates which are listed on his sidebar.
The Secular Web
Click on the Library tab as well as the Kiosk tab.
His deconversion story really impacted me. A true intellectual deconversion explained.
The book 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God by Guy P. Harrison.
Christopher Hitchen’s book God is Not Great.
Dan Barker’s book godless
I’ve been interacting in the comments over at The BitterSweet End. You can look around for my comments there (right now mainly under the more recent posts Doubt vs Faith and What Kind of Morality Is That? Is God Evil?). I think I also posted under his About page and a couple other places if you want to search around and even join in the discussions.
But the reason for this post is that I just wrote a reply and it really summed up well my thoughts about Christianity and why I would not likely ever return to it. Sometimes it’s neat getting a bunch of thoughts down in one place – so I’m going to share my response here. The other commentator had asked me to give God another chance. This was my reply:
I want to tread lightly in my response to this because I know your faith is very important to you, but I also want to be honest and blunt about my views on this. There are reasons that it’s not likely that I will return to ANY religion (the hiddenness of god, the problem of evil and suffering, etc.) but even if I did – it would not be to Christianity. I left Christianity because I no longer trusted its claims but as time has passed I no longer even respect it. I respect Christians – but not Christianity. I don’t respect its basic storyline – I find it not only implausible but immoral (the need to appease a god through the sacrifice of a life, thought crime, punishment for being human to name a few). I don’t respect its methods of discerning truth (faith, an error-prone ancient book, visions, prayer, etc.) or its use of fear (whether you believe in annihilation, separation from god, or a literal hell).
And I don’t see the need to search for god. If he wants to talk to me he knows where to find me (and then I would ask him to reveal himself to everyone on the planet – not just me). I’ve never been convinced that there is a need for a god to remain hidden. A parent is obvious to his children and yet they are still free to choose to love that parent or not.
And even if I was convinced there was a god – that would only be the beginning of the journey. I would then have to figure out what this god was like and determine if he/it was worth paying attention to – never mind whether it deserved my worship and devotion. Christians assume that if there is a god it is their type of god. There are endless types of gods that could potentially exist. Maybe god is an evil god or a god who doesn’t care much about us one way or the other … the list could go on.
If you or anyone else wants to understand my views and where I’m coming from on these issues then you can visit my website at www.leftchristianity.com
I can respect what your faith means to you and others and I hear the sincerity in your desire to explain the god that you know to others. I was there for 20 years so I understand how it feels. But it’s not likely I’ll ever return to Christianity. It would have to change so much that it would be unrecognizable – it would be a different religion.
If anyone wants me to expand on some of these thoughts then ask away and I may even devote another post to doing that.