Quote #47

This is how I feel after deconverting from Christianity. Once I got past the struggle and walked into my new life as an atheist, it truly felt like I’d been given wings. butterfly via Word Porn on Facebook

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What Led Me to Leave Christianity?

Back in October I received the following comments and questions from a visitor to my blog but life was too busy for me to really give it a well thought out answer. But I’m taking the time today! And I’d like to mention here how much I appreciate respectful comments and questions like this even if the author and I don’t have the same viewpoint. Also, if you’ve followed my blog for very long you know that I don’t write posts very often, but when I get in the zone, I write long-winded ones – lol! So I somewhat apologize for veering off topic – this turned into a revisiting of my deconversion. But I hope it gives my readers a bit more insight into my journey and maybe it will even help someone who needs to know they aren’t alone in their doubts and questioning.

Brenda, I am a fairly recent “convert”, if you’d like to call it that, to Christianity, and in comparing my own conversion to your “de-conversion” or what have you, I am really struck by the fact that we both cite reason and evidence as two of the main factors spurring us to change sides, so to speak.

So, I must ask: What really clenched it for you? What convinced you that Christianity is false? What convinced you that God does not exist? I ask only because I didn’t believe in God or in Christ’s divinity until two years ago when I actually began looking at the evidence, and saw that a lot of it points to Christ, that a lot of it corroborates historical/geographical details from the Bible, that there are good reasons to believe in an infinite-personal Creator of the universe. Have you looked into these matters much? I mean, as someone who had grown up assuming that the only way to be a Christian was by blind faith, I was stunned!

I go to a church where about 40-50% of the congregation is from an atheist/agnostic background. Conversions happen everyday, literally; it’s very much the norm to see a college-educated atheist or agnostic come to our Bible studies for a few weeks or months and wind up accepting Christ. I was one of them. So, to hear of someone abandoning their faith–especially after 20 years–is quite surprising to my ears. Anyway I was just wondering what your thoughts would be on this.

~Leggatt

Hi Leggatt – thanks for your comments and questions!

What convinced me that Christianity is false?

Here’s a link to My Story if you haven’t read it already. In there I talk a bit about how I started doubting the Bible’s infallibility and from there I started realizing that if the Bible wasn’t perfect then how in the world would I know what was true in it and what wasn’t? It was a frightening experience. I had trusted the Bible as my perfect guide to truth and in a pretty short period of time I realized it was likely just written by a bunch of ancient people who didn’t know much at all about the world and wrote it out of their own ignorance.

That realization freaked me out! If the Bible didn’t have some ultimate truth in it, then where was truth to be found?? I went on a desperate search through books and online to try to find some way that I could recognize and discern truth. I looked at more liberal branches of Christianity, deism, agnosticism, new age material. I was desperate to find some sort of solid ground where I could plant my feet and at least feel like I was on the right path towards truth.

I read and read and read to no avail. But then I reached a turning point. I realized that all of these ideologies were just guesses. All of the people putting forth these ideas and thoughts and guesses were just people like me. They didn’t know any more about any of it than I did. I had been looking around hoping someone somewhere knew more than I did and could show me the way or at least point me in the right direction. But I realized they were all just humans like me who were born not knowing anything and were taught by those around them to think a certain way and while that could look very authoritative, they were just guessing. Almost all of their ideas came from looking around just like I did and they tried to make sense of it and put their own spin on it and called it truth.

So pretty quickly I decided that my best course of action from that point on was to stick with science. It’s not perfect but more than anything else out there it seeks out evidence and makes that its highest goal. No wishing, no hoping, no faith, no manipulation, no using people’s feelings to convince them of anything. No ancient books, no loyalty to ancient wisdom if it doesn’t hold up, no praying, no ceremonies … nothing is sacred … except truth.

And then I took a deep breath, looked around at the world, and I felt peace. You don’t hear that very often, that something as ‘cold’ as science or atheism could give someone peace – but it did. There’s a peace in doing away with all of that other stuff and just saying to anything that comes across my path, ‘Show me the evidence and show me the truth. If you can’t do that for me then I don’t have the time or room in my life for it.’ That was a filter that cleared so much garbage out of my mind and I could then just look at my life and love the people in it and start creating the kind of life I wanted. And I haven’t regretted it for a minute.

But you asked me about evidence and all I can say is that I just don’t agree with you that the evidence is there. You can do searches on my blog and you can visit my Links page, my Bible page, and my Books page where you can see many of the blogs, websites, and books that I read during my deconversion that ultimately led me to where I am now. Many of those will do a better job of explaining in-depth the problems with the Bible and why I absolutely think there is no evidence for the truth of the Bible or any of its core teachings. [Edit: Visit this blog’s Journey pages for some in depth Biblical Criticism. There are many more out there as well. This one is another good one.] You mentioned that you found historical and geographical details from the Bible to be convincing (which I don’t) but even if some of those things were true, it doesn’t mean that anything else the Bible teaches is true. It doesn’t follow that because a historical fact might be true that therefore the spiritual teachings in the Bible are true at all.

Here is a post/page that I wrote explaining why I will never return to Christianity and it probably summarizes well the problems I discovered within Christianity as I went through my deconversion journey: Would I Ever Return to Christianity?

In hindsight, I honestly think people choose religion out of fear and then once they’ve latched onto a worldview they only see the evidence that fits that storyline. What are people afraid of? Everything. Death mainly. There is fear that we are alone in the universe, fear of just living with our mistakes without any chance of truly redeeming them. Fear of hell. Fear that has been built into us as children. Fear that is likely wired into us from our early evolutionary beginnings as humans. It’s a scary world – whatever your particular fears might be. Religion holds out a branch and says hold on! We have some solid ground for you and we have almost all of the answers for you! But instead of grabbing onto that branch and all of the baggage that comes along with it – I would urge my readers to look at their fears directly. Realize that some of them are founded in reality (death, catastrophes, loss, loneliness, pain …) but that some aren’t (hell, sin, all of those worries about bad things you think will happen but don’t …). And the best way to face those hard-to-handle things in life is to take a breath, face the reality of what’s in front of you, know you can handle it, and build the life you want in the here and now. And don’t forget to grab onto all that wonderful and awesome stuff that is out in the world while you’re at it! Love, sex, friendship, births, achievements, music, art, nature, conversation, smiles, laughter … they are all out there to enjoy while we’re here!

Well Leggatt (and the rest of my readers), I hope that gives you some insight into my journey. I didn’t want to rehash all of the research I’ve done regarding the evidence for or against Christianity – I’ve already documented that on my blog over the past few years. If you find any posts that you’d like to discuss further and in more detail I am open to that.

Do any of my readers want to chime in with their own thoughts on this topic or on anything I shared?

Religious Trauma Syndrome

I know posting this will help someone. I also highly recommend the book mentioned in the article. It definitely helped me as I struggled through my deconversion.

Religious Trauma Syndrome: How Some Organized Religion Leads to Mental Health Problems

via A World Without God (A great deconversion blog you should check out!)

Is There Any Lingering Theist In Me Five Years Later?

It’s been almost five years since I very suddenly lost my faith and three years since I started identifying as an atheist. When I look back it amazes me that after twenty years of being an extremely sincere and genuine Christian that within a few years my brain would see all those things that I believed in so dearly as pure fable. And all the Christians can save their, ‘she wasn’t a true Christian’ nonsense. I absolutely was.

But I was pondering whether I ever have doubts about my atheism. Do I ever wonder if there is a god?  Does that question ever factor into my life at all anymore? I’m not completely closed to changing my mind about things. I value reality above all else. If some evidence convinced me that my current take on reality was wrong I’d be willing to shift my thinking. It’s reality after all! Not much point sticking my head in the sand about reality!

But even with that taken into consideration, no, the god question never factors into my thinking anymore. It would almost be like asking someone if they spend time wondering if Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is true and how that might impact their life. It just doesn’t factor in at all. And I’m not saying this to convince anyone of anything. I just find it interesting that once my brain realized that what is in front of me is reality, I just settled in to building my life around that and all the god stuff drifted away never to be seen or heard from again.

A big part of me can’t believe that just a short time ago I believed all that stuff. Was I a different person then? How could I have thought that was all true when now it seems so ridiculous and awful? The changes in my thinking have been so drastic, and looking at it impartially, that fascinates me! I guess once you choose a way of looking at the world and take on its methods of discerning truth, everything else follows. A Christian worldview told me a story and then told me that the Bible and prayer and visions were the way to discover truth (and threw in the threat of hell to make sure I didn’t doubt any of that). But once I pulled away from that and started demanding proof for the things people were telling me about the world, everything changed. Evidence is an amazing filter. Once I applied it my world changed – and for the better.

Freedom & Control

Here’s a blog post I read today that really made me stop and think. When you’re done reading it you can come back and read my rambling thoughts if you like:

What it is like to be a Muslim woman and why we know what freedom is (and you may not)

(via Out Campaign Official on Facebook)

I found reading this touching and sad and maddening all at the same time. It was timely though as my thoughts regarding religion and life in general lately have revolved around the concept of individual freedom and our seeming obsession with controlling those around us.

My thoughts haven’t been about politics so much but more how we as individuals spend a great deal of time trying to make everyone be like us and then turn around and try to be like everyone else. I had started pondering these sorts of things and I started paying attention to how I try to control others. I was with my husband one day and made a comment about an older lady who had dyed her hair blue or something. Then I caught myself and said, ‘Why in the hell do I care what colour her hair is? Who is she hurting by having blue hair? Why do I feel the need to control her and make her like me? Why do I need her to get back in line like a sheep?’

Maybe it’s an evolutionary thing but I’m really sick of it and I think we can do better. Of course we can’t all just do what we want when we want to all the time. We have to live together and get along and care about others. But it wouldn’t hurt us to start asking ourselves more often, ‘Why am I trying to control this person right now? What is it in me that is insecure and needs to make this person do or be different so that I will be ok with myself and my world?’

And of course, since I blog about religion, these thoughts about freedom and control definitely tie in with my past as a fundamentalist Christian. Religion is a formalized way of controlling not only the behaviour of others but their thoughts too.  Whether it’s Islam or Christianity or any other religion, control is at the centre of what religions try to accomplish. Christians may shake their heads at what this ex-Muslim recounts, but if they honestly looked at all the ways that Christianity tries to control them they’d see what I see. Christianity has mellowed a bit because our society has become more secular and Christianity has had to adapt to survive, but don’t for a second think that the obsession with controlling people’s thoughts and actions has gone away. The call to be holy by its very nature controls Christians. Just with that one word, holy, the wheels of control begin to turn. Then add in the concept of sin and throw in a good dose of guilt for every time you step out of line or don’t measure up to that fixed standard of holy … and your every breath is controlled. Every word, every thought, every action is controlled. While I can’t relate to the extreme examples of control that she describes in her blog post, I found myself relating to her description of her escape and her feelings of being on one side of freedom and then the other. I often don’t know how to adequately describe to people who haven’t been on one side of religion or the other just how controlling religion is and how seismic the change was when I managed to get myself out of that world.

Well – I wasn’t expecting to have so much to say on this topic. I hope you get something from her post as well as mine. I have one favour to ask of you. As you go about your day today, start watching for when you are trying to control those around you. Look for the little things. Most of us try to shy away from controlling others in obvious ways, but look for the little times in your day where you try to make someone bend to your wishes. Watch for when you try to make someone say something or do something other than what they had originally intended to say or do. Ask yourself what in you is afraid of just letting them be who they are. And my promise to you is that I’ll do the same.

Poetic Words of Freedom

These poems really spoke to me.  I found them via The Bittersweet End.  Please visit this page on the Recovering From Religion website to read more poems from Bart Phillips.

A Simple Slave
By Bart Phillips

Life was simpler as a slave
Doing only my unseen master’s will,
Devoting all my efforts to his work,
Trusting enigmatic promises made to me
More than a hundred generations ago
In foreign tongues no longer spoken.

“Sacred” texts of spurious origin
Tell me that I am truly loved—
They say that I am worthless, too!
They say that I can be truly free—
They tell me, too, I must yield myself
To take up my “cross” and dumbly follow.

What kind of man would chose to make himself a slave?
How big a fool seeks wisdom for his life in ancient myth?
How silly is the notion that ages past found deeper truths?
Are love and purpose found in succumbing to a “jealous god”?

I refuse forever to be a simple slave
Forsaking the only thing I rightly own:
My limited life on this natural world.
No more! I claim myself for me,
To give my life and love to those I chose,
To live for what my reason says is right.

 

The Voice Inside By Bart S. Phillips

I once believed the voice inside my head was God.
I once believed the voice in me that said
That taking things that are not mine is wrong,
That hitting and hurting others is wrong,
That saying things which are not true is wrong—
That simple voice was God.

But the voice said many other things as well:
That torture and slavery are savagely wrong,
That subjugating women is inhumanly wrong,
That building gilded shrines and lavish temples
While children suffer and starve is heartlessly wrong.
What voice was this?

This voice inside my head also cried out
That punishing people for working on a “holy day”
Or for having sex with someone they love
Or for denying belief in unbelievable things—
These punishments are undeniably wrong.
Was this a different voice?

I once turned to that voice to decide my path,
To tell me what I should live for,
To tell me what I must oppose,
To tell me who to marry, where to live, what to do—
I tried to pledge myself entirely to that voice.
At that, the voice seemed suddenly silent.

So what is this voice inside my head
That speaks in the accent of my ancestors,
That encourages me when I struggle,
That chides me when I come up short,
That dares me to question and to reason,
That compels me to be better, to know more, to grow?

I once believed the voice inside my head was God,
But now I recognize that voice
As it enunciates my humanity,
That voice of intellect, of passion and compassion, of imagination—
That voice is no one else’s.
That voice is humbly, proudly, simply…me.

Dan’s Deconversion Story

I’ve recently started following the blog Camels With Hammers.  I’m new to following this blog but it looks like a great one.

I’ve seen snippets of his story but here is a link to all of his posts concerning before, during, and after his deconversion (the ones he’s done so far).  It would be a lengthy read to cover all of them, but I’m sure it would be very helpful to someone in the middle of their doubts or their own deconversion (or just interesting for the rest of us):

Dan’s Deconversion

I’d love to hear back from anyone who reads through his entire story.

Memoirs of an ex-Christian

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:

Memoirs of an ex-Christian