My Deconversion Story

This is supposed to be a comment on Ark’s archive for this stuff, but I was getting too wordy. I also realized that I’d deleted many of my posts on my blog about it during a particularly bad episode. I’m leaving this note here also to ward off a future deletion of this post. While I’m writing it because Ark’s intentions are good (you should check out his post; for curious Christians, read the deconversion accounts without commenting, please), this is the most complete I’ve been able to be about a really troubling point in my life. So it’s here.

Quite literally, this is an important part of who I am. If nothing else of me remains, I should like for people to know this about my life. I’m also going to post some silly memes to hopefully break up the heaviness of what I’m writing about.

My deconversion was an emotionally challenging process, but only because it was inherently attached to my mental break back in 2013. Until then, my faith was strong despite not attending church regularly. I’m fairly sure my faith was held in the gaps that willful blindness and years of indoctrinated intellectual laziness provided. The deity I believed in was a changeling that could fit whatever I thought I needed at the time.

Most notably, the main article of faith I saw crumbling first was my fear of hell. Being suicidal tends to gravitate one’s thoughts to that topic. What worried me was that as I was getting worse, my fear of hell waned. In other words, I was noticing that my fear of hell wasn’t keeping me away from wanting to end my own life. Throughout all the research I did to pursue that end, I would sometimes stop and wonder why I wasn’t getting called away from such obscene inquiries.

From there, I do remember trying to invoke the divine more earnestly for a time. Since I did believe there was an invisible force out there, and I was allegedly doing that deity’s work (I thought this deity had sent me to law school, which is silly), I thought my chances were good that I’d get the help I needed. Ordained destiny was at hand, so to speak, and I was going to obey no matter the cost. Thus, when I became more obsessed with death, I also prayed more to try to undo the process.

Naturally, my prayers went unanswered – even in the vague way evangelicals are instructed to look for. At some point about four years ago (it was in late October and early November), I realized with terror that I no longer gave two shits about going to hell. I still believed in it; I just didn’t care that I was going to have a hand in torturing myself for eternity. From what I remember, my main line of thinking was that it was going to happen sooner or later, so I should just get it over and done with.

I cannot stress the importance of noting that even after I tried to kill myself, I still had belief there was a deity out there, that this deity was the one Christians spread the gospel about. Despite all that had transpired, I was still hoping that maybe my failure was a sign or that anything happening to me was a sign. Even as I felt abandoned, I was still blaming myself for it.

Fortunately – and this is the delicious irony – I still went to church. Two events, one on Christmas Eve and one the Sunday after Christmas, finally helped me rid myself of my belief. The first event was during the ride home from the Christmas Eve service. My family and I were in the car listening to the lame holiday family friendly comedy channel on satellite radio. This guy was a Christian comic, and he was doing a bit about what Christianity and Christmas is really all about. Apparently, it’s about helping god first, others second, and yourself last. It’s about putting everyone’s needs (real and imagined) before your own. I remember thinking that the way this guy described it, he was being very unhealthy. There are some occasions where people have to put themselves first, but this has no place in traditional teachings. Quickly I mentally changed the subject, and I tried to ignore it because it made me quite uncomfortable.

The last event is one that I’ve probably told people the most about. I went to this church service where a seminary student had the job of delivering the sermon. He was the son of one of the members of the congregation, and he was pretty clear about letting people know it was his very first sermon. Climbing up to the pulpit, he let us know he was going to be talking about Matthew 2:13-18. Go ahead and read it; these verses helped me not believe anymore. This seminary student was in the pulpit, giving his sermon, and making a very poor case for defending why the slaughter of a bunch of kids in Bethlehem was a good thing. I was a little angry at the time because I’d jotted down a few notes on my bulletin, remarking at how poorly he was defending his thesis. He botched the job, and then I realized he was defending the slaughter of children to provide street cred for Jesus’s messianic status.

Still, after the service I shook his hand and thought I lied to him, “You did a good job with the sermon.” As it turns out, he did do a good job. That was the last church service I ever attended. On the way back, I thought more and more about what that guy had to do standing in the pulpit. He minimized the alleged suffering of an entire town’s worth of people losing a generation of infants. He shook off the sadism by which a prophecy could be so coldly given. He could not make the later teachings of Jesus consistent with that act of murder.

At that point, I was finally able to drive a stake through the heart of my former faith. I filled its proverbial mouth with garlic, I severed its monstrous head, and I buried it to never see light again. Of course, I didn’t start realizing the full ramifications until later. It didn’t feel like an epiphany, either. Looking back on it, I can say my faith went quietly.

I can say now that this is the opposite of my conversion process. While learning to follow Jesus was an extended ordeal spent with emotional pitfalls, manipulation, and coercion, leaving it was peaceful, quiet, and invigorating. Without losing my faith, I would most assuredly not be here writing this now.

Looks like the Greeks were right, too.

23 thoughts on “My Deconversion Story

  1. Excellent!

    This guy was a Christian comic, and he was doing a bit about what Christianity and Christmas is really all about.

    I immediately thought of John Branyan. They really believe their comedy is funny but in truth it is gag awful and cringe-worthy in the extreme.
    If you have not seen any of Branyan’s material ( and can stomach a trip down that path) then go watch a video.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Haha! When I was contemplating suicide, the thought of eternal life in Heaven put me off. The whole point of suicide is to end it all, right? My fear of Hell was what held me back from chucking my faith, until it dawned on me that it was the coercion that royally pissed me off. My defining-moment scripture was Romans 9:17-23, where Paul says Yahweh creates people for Hell. I love pulling that one out when a believer gets chippy with me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love this line: The deity I believed in was a changeling that could fit whatever I thought I needed at the time. The most accurate description I’ve seen to-date!

    BTW, thank you for sharing. We each have our own deconversion experiences, but yours is especially touching. Very glad you’re now on this side of the tracks. 😉

    Liked by 4 people

  4. A superb essay, SB.

    As I read through it, our little 4-year-old granddaughter was dancing around the kitchen singing, “Your true colours are beautiful, like a rainbow. Don’t be afraid to let them show”. (Only in an Aussie accent). I couldn’t help but think it was prophetic. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  5. The whole concept of Hell was a big factor in my deconversion. When I was able to look back at it without fear and seriously consider the implications of it, I realised how messed up it was. There’s no way a loving God could create something like that.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Hi SB. This was quite incredibly well written. Thank you for sharing this.

    There’s something in the air during pagan holidays that are stolen for Jesus. Mine was in 2012. I realized once and for all that I was an atheist. I had finished a three plus hour phone call with a Messianic Jewish friend to wish her a Happy Purim. We discussed her horrible trials and god. I knew what I was after that call. I calmly told my husband I was an atheist. Easter was just days away.

    I wish you and your family the very best. I sincerly hope that you have dear friends or a supportive extended family nearby.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hey Charity, sorry for the late reply.

      I’ve got a friend who deconverted probably a year or so before I did. Other than that, I don’t talk about it much with family (my parents are hyper-religious, my sister is still a Christian, and I have an older brother who is basically into a variant of Jewish mysticism). Although it keeps me up to date on the latest qualms Christians have with non-Christians, sometimes I wish I could just shut it all out.

      Like

      • Hi, SB,

        It is what it is. I don’t like it, but I am trying to do something about it. We’ve just begun the process of selling our dream property here in little town, Tennessee. We are looking to move much closer to my husband’s job in Memphis.

        We didn’t want to do it. This is the longest any of us have stayed at one house, including my husband and I at 45. It’s been a traumatic seven and a half years though, even during the first couple of years while we were still Christians. The neighbors are mean and now their kids are joining in on the bullying more consistently than before, especially towards my oldest. I started online schooling for his sake. Only my youngest is enrolled (since October) though. My oldest is waitlisted. We’ve had five instances of bullying from this past Wednesday through Saturday. I called the local police to our house after the last incident. The administration at two schools have been made aware of these situations over the years as well.

        My oldest just came home with another Gideon Bible. This makes the third time in a year and a half between the end of fifth grade and the beginning of seventh grade. While both of my kids were in elementary school, they often came home with church pamphlets and their school meetings sometimes opened with prayer. Both schools start every day with the pledge and a moment of silence on the PA system. Their elementary and middle schools are public schoools. My kids do/did not follow along in prayers, nor the pledge. Other kids and substitute teachers have given them a hard time about not standing to recite the pledge. They begin (began) their class work for the day instead.

        I hate giving up my dream house, beautiful big yard and low taxes. However, I treasure my sanity and beautiful boys more than those things. We’ve tried so many things to make it work here. We don’t have southern accents, we’re not Southern Baptists and we truly are the only family we have here for hundreds of miles. We’re also transplants. All of these things make us prone to isolation and being bullied by the locals.

        So, you gotta do whatcha ya gotta do. It’s been my experience from many travels and many moves that people are not the same every where. I’ve lived in environments like this one before, particularily many years ago while I lived in a small town in southwest Georgia as a teenager and again in my 20’s. Even as a dedicated, Evangelical Christian I was not received too well there. I suspected this town to be similiar to that one. However, I had convinced myself that the issue wasn’t god or other Christians, it was me. As a result, I tried my best to put down roots here.

        Christianity is the epitome of victim blaming and victim shaming. I thought I was the one who was always in the wrong and that this place was a good way for the four of us to grow up in a Christian environment. Christianity doesn’t make room for self care, it encourages the opposite. As a result, it has traumatized my family. After all the therapy, money spent on our house and the many attempts to make and maintain barely breathing friendships with the locals, we now know it is time to leave before we are all wounded even more.

        I know this sounds depressing. However, I’m just being realistic. If I’m not honest, I’ll continue to press on in this miserable mess. It’s essential to take stock once in a while. Atheism allows me to say that I don’t like something. Atheism isn’t for yes men/women. It’s not for the weak of heart either.

        So, there’s my most recent novel. No need to reply, SB. I just hope you and your family enjoy some great times together this week. I appreciate you being forthcoming about your experiences. Religious trauma is all too real and many do not want to address it for it’s controversial to do so.

        I hope for the best for you and yours during the holidays.

        Peace,
        Charity

        Liked by 3 people

  7. can say now that this is the opposite of my conversion process. While learning to follow Jesus was an extended ordeal spent with emotional pitfalls, manipulation, and coercion, leaving it was peaceful,

    I think you had messengers and instructors and personal understanding not of the Holy Spirit if you feel this way. Obviously you did not receive the peace , liberation, comfort and joy that is the intent. Unfortunate for you. Jesus and Paul relate that not everyone will find and embrace the message. However, you can if you persevere. That is promised. I am truly disheartened that faith is such a matter of torment for you.

    Like

    • Carl, I was willing to bet my life on waiting for that peace, liberation, comfort, and joy you hold in such high regard. There are too many Christians who say they’re willing to do that, but they’re cowards at heart. It’s easy to believe in a deity when things are going right and belief makes you part of the in-crowd. It’s also easy to believe when your faith isn’t going to get you killed.

      My problem was perseverance in my faith no matter what really was going on. If that’s not what Jesus and Paul wanted, I don’t think we read the same Bible.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ” It’s easy to believe in a deity when things are going right and belief makes you part of the in-crowd. It’s also easy to believe when your faith isn’t going to get you killed.

        I agree completely. But being a Christian does not include any promise of having a delightful life in Disneyland.A person who thinks like you suggest misses the point. Following Christ is not easy. Not meant to be. Jesus relates that we will suffer, be persecuted and mutilated by the ways of this life and certainly for following him. .His message is supposed to make us uncomfortable. He replies with the Beatitudes to illustrate what can be a most dreadful existence.

        Easy to believe when things are going well and count your blessing ? You are correct. But I don’t know anyone today or in the history of humankind that has not been agonized by tragedy and suffering. The challenge is to retain faith.

        Like

      • “Following Christ is not easy. Not meant to be. Jesus relates that we will suffer, be persecuted and mutilated by the ways of this life and certainly for following him.”

        Except here in the States, people aren’t persecuted by the government for being Christians. Christians have many privileges other religions don’t have. Nobody’s talking about banning Christians from emigrating to the U.S., or preventing Christians from holding public office, or demanding we return to Hindu beliefs to appease those deities which are punishing us.

        You missed my actual point, which is that my faith was going to get me killed. This isn’t an abstract concept.

        Like

      • “I don’t think we read the same Bible.”

        So you ARE reading it. Then I would conclude that the foundation of your essays is not a dismissal of Christianity but a matter of discernment and that is
        encouraged by we Protestants who also reject the dictatorship of the Roman Church and its doctrines.

        Like

  8. “I don’t think we read the same Bible.”

    So you ARE reading it. Then I would conclude that the foundation of your essays is not a dismissal of Christianity but a matter of discernment and that is
    encouraged by we Protestants who also reject the dictatorship of the Roman Church and its doctrines.

    Like

    • I have to read it all the time to make sure I’m quoting it properly or that other sources I use are quoting it properly. And you’re wrong about the foundation of my essays. I am dismissing Christianity with regards to supernatural claims and some natural claims.

      Discernment has nothing to do with it. There isn’t a magical force that makes words of the Bible make sense differently than what’s written. The burden is on you to demonstrate otherwise.

      Like

      • SB, I don’t think there’s a way to help Carl understand. He is only able to see from his limited perspective as a believer, where you have the understanding of a person of faith and now as one who has left that faith. I remember being totally unable to understand how anyone could leave Christianity…until I left. A person has to come to that place in their life where they begin to experience the cognitive dissonance for themselves and they start to ask, “Is this really true?”

        Carl, we know the gospel backward and forward. There’s nothing you can say that we haven’t heard, haven’t said ourselves. And I think there’s nothing we can say to you until you are confronted with doubt and are ready to ask of your doctrine, “Is this really true?”

        Like

  9. “Carl, I was willing to bet my life on waiting for that peace, liberation, comfort, and joy you hold in such high regard.”

    I don’t always have it or have understanding or comfort. My daughter is a drug addict and has abandoned her three children preferring the delightful world of crack cocaine. On the other hand the husband and wife as foster parents, well I have known the woman since she was 14 years old and the children could have no better home and are not in the dread state foster care system. I have been sending about 35% of my net income to help them for almost 2 years now. I’ve had my tragedies and losses and have been in times of darkness and despair. I survived my own addiction, survived open heart, survived cancer. I have purpose therefore: to support and love that family.

    Like

  10. Pingback: Decrease in church attendance not only a recent feature #3 The German Scare | Bijbelvorser = Bible Researcher

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