After leaving Christianity, one of the very tiresome things that happens is that one’s past beliefs are held under a different microscope by those left in the faith. All too often, defects are found and heralded as aberrant beliefs, things that weren’t really Christian. Whether it’s sugarcoated or filled with bile, the claim is simple: you can’t have a problem with Real Christianity™.
It’s tough to describe why that’s frustrating.
When I first deconverted, I thought it was because it arbitrarily ignores what people like me went through on our way out of the faith. My process wasn’t easy, and it’s scary to admit that part of it was completely by accident. In other words, I can’t really chalk all of my disbelief to reason. While my reason did temper my Christianity enough that I wasn’t insufferable, it still had been greatly atrophied by my upbringing.
Negating all of this with ignorant commentary got under my skin. Here were these people proclaiming a profound love for the world, yet they managed to take time out of their day to intentionally inflict their ignorance on former members of their faith. I’d never encountered that specific kind of hypocrisy before, and so I was not fully prepared for it.
Really, it’s the hypocrisy that hurts the most. Over time, the baseless contradictions have become too many to count, so they’re easily ignored. What isn’t easily ignored is the stark fact that because I am open about not believing, I get treated differently than a member of the tribe. Take away that one element, and my criticisms of my old faith would be taken with perhaps less hostility and more understanding.
That difference in treatment means everything.
It stresses that Real Christianity™ isn’t even about really believing the same thing, but only the perception that everyone believes the same thing. I could lie to Christians, go to church, and outwardly pretend that everything is just fine and be held in higher esteem than if I tried to adhere to their teachings. Being confronted with this pains me more and more every day.
A real problem for people like me who want to leave their faith behind and be rid of all the baggage is being constantly confronted with new problems that the former tribe possesses. Although I’ve made some incredible progress in doing that over the years, it feels like Christianity is this hydra that keeps growing new heads. I would love nothing more than to have no problems with the Christians I meet, but I can’t ignore them all.
At times like this, it’s easy to feel bogged down.
As an atheist, my life has been indelibly simplified with regards to believing in supernatural deities. There are so many other problems which require my attention, and I keep feeling saddled by people who come back and demand that I give their really real version of Christianity a spin. The promise that this time it will be different is belied by the fact that what new things they’re saying is stuff I’ve already heard before.
It’s enough to remind me that whatever I believed was something completely artificial and only superficially satisfying. Yes, there were times when I thought my beliefs made me a better person, but those times were few and only selectively valid. Although it would be nice to believe that maybe I just had a bad experience, I look back and cannot find anything new that would suggest otherwise.
I have to remember that I got out.
While deconverting might not have been entirely up to me, I did finally seize upon the opportunity to not believe anymore. That takes a level of courage that I never quite give myself credit for. While everyone around me insisted that there is a Real Christianity™ out there, I finally had to come to terms that there isn’t one.