Of all the subsets of people who become non-religious, it seems like people who leave Christianity need more affirmation that what they’re doing is right. I know I certainly felt that way when I first realized I didn’t believe in supernatural deities anymore. A lot of other people further out along the journey seemed so sure of themselves. Some of my early posts reflect that polite search for confirmation that the math I ended up with was right.
Validation is important to former Christians because it’s important to Christians.
Anyone who spent enough time in the deep end of the faith knows this on some level, while people who realized it was rubbish probably didn’t care. The faith promotes itself on constant reinforcement of belief, of checking in once, twice, or even three times a week to get back with people of a similar mind. People get their tanks of faith topped off, and they’re ready to go another stretch.
Additionally, one has the invalidation of other beliefs. Atheism is stupid. Islam is stupid. Fortune telling is stupid. A lot of arguments developed by the faith rely on one question alone: “Are you sure you’re right?” Hear it enough times, and one can be conditioned just like Pavlov’s dogs to have to reevaluate everything for no good reason.
I have to admit I was lucky; the curtain got pulled on a lot of persuasive devices Christianity uses to keep people’s butts in pews. Learning about how it’s supposed to affect people softened the blow when I left my faith behind. Not everyone gets that luxury, and they might need some encouragement to feel safe that what they’re doing isn’t what their faithful friends and family are trying to tell them.
Despite any training, it still can affect me at times.
I’ve been an atheist long enough to know that any arguments for belief are not exactly new. The packaging might be different, but there are only so many ways a person can try to ignore their audience and insist invisible deities are real. I’m positively fatigued at hearing the trite lie that I’m misrepresenting Christianity or that I never was a true Christian. Yet on occasion, I’ll hear a new combination of words and examine my own thinking.
All of this gaslighting is intended to bewilder people out of their minds, and it shows in the fear former Christians have around their Christian colleagues. Just stating that I’m an atheist or that I don’t believe Jesus died for sins isn’t a gauntlet getting thrown down to people I care about; it’s just a statement of where my mind is. Despite this, I know the effect it can have on people of faith, and I’m not a sadist who wants to throw them for an emotional loop.
But doing this puts me in a cage. I’m not in control of any one Christian’s feelings. They are the ones who choose to get upset and spout off nonsense even after it’s their question that might have prompted the whole exchange. By being afraid of this outburst, I must go the other direction and seek positive counsel from others.
The kindest thing anyone can do for deconverts is to let them know they’re right. Yes, it might seem a little silly, but all that’s doing is telling people that they got the same math results. And no, the other people who set their worktables on fire were not doing math in the first place.