Posted by: Jim | January 2, 2009

The Joys of Deconversion – Part One

I’ve spent a great deal of time discussing why I became a Non-Christian, and I’ve spent even more time through other avenues helping Ex-Christians navigate the extremely difficult waters out of their faith. But I would like to spend some time talking about how fulfilling life is as an Ex-Christian. Please note, that if you were never very serious about any religion, then these joys are things you’ve enjoyed your whole life—and may not have realized it.

 

Joy #1: The Joy of a Single Source of Information

As a Christian, I had two sources of information: Reality, and the “Truth” as proscribed by my faith. I doubt I need to say it, but these two sources were often in conflict with one another. The exercise of juggling reality with faith was an enormous burden. I spent a great deal of time, effort and brain power trying to twist one or the other into pretzel-shapes in order for them to somehow work together in the same universe. If the facts did not conform to my faith, then I would attack the facts as somehow “incorrect” or “deceitful.” If the facts were incontrovertible and in direct contradiction to my faith, then I would consider how possibly my faith was misunderstood, and revisit the Biblical passages, sometimes delving directly into the original Hebrew or Greek definitions to somehow come up with that little pinion that allowed my submarine engine to function in a ’56 T-Bird. It was pure sophistry, but I persisted. Ironically, I kept insisting that secular thinkers “just didn’t get it.”

 

I’ll say it again: the continual act of juggling reality with faith was exhausting. My subconscious mind knew that I was trying to fool myself. Over time, the cognitive dissonance ultimately weighed me down until my nose holes slipped beneath the water line. The good news is: when I started to drown, I got out of the water entirely. After the initial de-conversion reprogramming pain, the joy of being able to see life clearly is probably second only two the joy I get from my children. I no longer had to juggle! I could just look at the universe as it was—compare the facts—and draw conclusions. No other source required reference, or comparison. If I learn new facts that don’t conform to the theory then *presto* the theory is either wrong or incomplete. But who cares? I’m not trying to prove anything—I’m just trying to figure it all out because it’s fun. It is such a relief for it to be okay to be wrong. And such a relief to have a reliable method to view the world. After being a non-Christian now for 13 years, I have to say that this method—nor the joy it gives me–have never let me down.

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Responses

  1. Ha. Jim, I love the distinction you make between Reality and the Truth. Nicely put.
    I can so relate to the struggle to find ways to reinterpret the bible so that you can continue believing in the inerrancy of the scriptures while accepting the reality around you. I believe that is called having your cake and eating it too!

  2. Don’t many Christians have a single source for the truth, too – The Bible?

    If not, this will be headline news for most of Mississippi!

    I was waiting for a punchline that never came…

  3. I do think that opposing Reality with the Truth of your faith is problematic, as reality in the West, is informed utterly by the ‘truth’ of Christianity. Or has your entire morality been re-evaluated, too, etc.

    I say this not to diminish your post, but just to point to the picture being far more complex. I am presently reading Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition, which says so many interesting things about how the philosophies of Ancient Greece and the teachings of Christianity continue to inform fundamental ideas that we have about our ‘reality’ and what is moral, what is the proper role of the state, etc.

  4. I’m speaking from experience–and mine was 15-25 years ago. Perhaps things have changed, but I would guess it’s actually changed for the worse for Christians.

    Granted, there are probably many Christians who successfully shelter themselves in a bubble that disallows any contradictory information in. But even this is a feat worthy of a Cirque du Soliel main feature. The amount of information contradictory to Christianity is staggering, and more is released every day. This helps explain the disdain Christians have for “biased news” and scientific endeavors in general.

    For the Christian who is even slightly curious, and dares to peak his nose outside the bubble, the reality of the universe is a huge threat to his Christian worldview. At least it was for me.

  5. This is fair comment. I just hope that I am never caught up inside one of the Judaeo-Christian values, such as doctors forcing me to live, etc. There was a recent case in the UK where a young woman who did not want further life-prolonging operations had to prove to the satisfaction of a legal and medical panel that she was sane and her reasons for making this decision over the future of her own health and body were acceptable. This is one example where I feel the issue needs pressing, so that people can escape from this notion that comes from Christianity, that we have an obligation to live because human life is sacred, etc.

    This is why, despite not being involved with the church since my teens, I feel strongly that these people and their beliefs must still be battled, for as long as they are applying their values through the courts and through society’s traditions.

  6. I can give you empirical evidence so you can all withdraw your guesses.

    I am a practicing Christian. Now, define ‘practicing.’

    Some say that attending church each Sunday makes you a practicing Christian. Some say repentance in your dying hour can make you a practicing Christian.

    My view has always been that for me to practice my faith, I need to believe in my faith. It’s that simple. I don’t thump my Bible and insist that others believe in it. My wife is agnostic, yet it comforts her and calms her (her words) when I read the Bible with her. This is not a plan or a scheme I have, this is…wait for it…REALITY.

    This is my reality, and it feels good.

    I, on the other hand, feel very sorry for the ‘fundamentalists’ who live such a sheltered life that they are not exposed to the evils in this world as well as the good. I have stated before that my father and his family were/are deeply religious, and they really don’t see anything outside of their purified scope of the world. These are my observations, and I could be wrong. Either way, it is not my place, nor is it my responsibility to make that call, but it saddens me that those sheltered by their faith do not get to ride the World’s roller coaster, E-ticket style.

    So, to sum up, I have my faith, I believe I practice it, I don’t feel the need to convince people otherwise if they do not agree with me, and I still get along with 99.99% of the people I encounter.

    I like my faith, and while I don’t believe my religion has changed at all, I have changed. It’s called growing up, and I see you doing the same thing Jim, only in your own direction. That is your choice, and I would never try to tell you it is wrong.

  7. Nobody’s had doubted your Reality, Todd, it’s the Truth part you struggle with.

  8. Felix, I was merely providing a dose of reality so Jimmy wouldn’t have to guess. To me, he was asking what it was like from a believer’s perspective. I provided that. How you derive that I have trouble with the truth is beyond me. You are in no position to question what I believe. I’m not even sure what you’re saying – are you questioning what I believe to be the Truth, or are you admonishing me for not believe as you do?

  9. Todd there was absolutely no “guessing” involved with my post. I was detailing my very personal experiences with why de-converting became such a positive experience for me.

    The only “guess” I referred to was in my comment, and that was that I “guessed” that it must be harder to toe the line for Christians now than it was 15 years ago, but I am directing that at fundamentalists, which you are not. In fact it IS harder, because there is still more scientific evidence that the Biblical account is innacurate. So it’s not really a guess at all.


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