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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Deconversion Stories

I thought it might helpful to readers of this blog who are starting to question their faith, fenc-sitters and new atheist to describe our 'deconversion' stories.

I found a lot of common experiences among deconverts druing their initial period of questioning their faith. Feelings of confusion, isolation, loss - I know as for myself, I was under the impression I was the only atheist in the world for several years. LOL! Of course, this may now be less common with the availibility of the internet, but it can still be a difficult period for someone coming from a Christian or other religous background.

I will post my deconversion in the comments later today when I have more time. If anyone else thinks its a good idea to share - please do!


  1. and yes...I suck at typing and spelling

  2. Ya know, I've been meaning to do this for awhile because several people asked so I'm just gonna go ahead and do it. I'm going to post it on my blog though because it's along and I have no idea how long a comment can be here.

    I'm going to work on it now and will try to get it up either tonight or tomorrow.

  3. I'll go:

    Raised in a nominally Christian household in a nominally Christian nation and sent to a nominally Christian school - so no real indoctrination to speak of, other than reciting the Lord's Prayer every morning at school.

    I was still very aware of the Bible because of the cool stories (people getting swallowed by whales, David vs. Goliath, 10 plagues; all the good stuff) but never really derived anything other than the fact they were supposed to convey some sort of moral teaching (not quite sure what it was meant to be though..)

    The thing that sparked a serious search into what I believed was meeting a guy at uni (on a science-based course) who was a Creationist. I never knew people like that existed! The thing was that he was smart, honest, practical and didn't strike me as the kind of person that would believe such nonsense.
    I took to going to the Christian Union with him and listening to the evangelist-types talking about much the same stuff that Ray does these days and we had some very interesting discussions about the whole thing.

    Then my mum announced that she was born-again!

    Now I had to really understand what the whole thing was about and why people believed it.

    Needless to say that a number of years of research and observation of the ongoing evolution vs. creation debate settled in my mind that Biblical literalism was a load of shite but that there still could be a god out there somewhere.

    It wasn't until I was directed to the old Comfort Food blog from FSTDT.com that I heard some really convincing arguments for atheism and saw theism for what it was. So congratulations to all the Raytractors and others; you've damned me to Hell with your heathen ways.

    Not a particularly dramatic tale, to be sure, but someone has to go first and whet the appetite for the stories of atheist oppression that are sure to follow.

    Oh, and on census forms I always put Pastafarian.

  4. My "deconversion" was relatively easy. I was born a skeptic and my Mom would get pissed off sometimes because I questioned so many ideas at such a young age (Get this- my Mom had to swear me to secrecy so that I wouldn't spill the beans on "Santa" to my sisters; but I rather had fun with it for a couple years because my sisters became my psych lab specimens- I'd test their gullibility on many occasions. It's quite a family joke between us now because looking back, they well remember my enthusiasm for feeding them all that BS, and them believing me- I had a license to lie!)
    I actually enjoyed it for a couple years. I am somewhat above average IQ but I don't consider my self highly intelligent, because I'm not, but I do love to read, and investigate and consider myself a good student. I read "virtually" all of the encyclopedia britannica by age twelve. I read the bible many times, along with every other non-fiction book I could get my hands on (I never did like fiction.)

    I was raised in the Catholic church and I went to catechism and church mostly once a week though the 11th grade, with my Dad, Mom, and two sisters. All that those events produced for me was more troubling questions that I really didn't have anybody to ask about for fear of becoming a pariah.

    Having said that, my parents were quite progressive for their day.
    When I did ask my Dad a pointed question he would usually tell me that I would have to work through those issues as I matured and for now, our church communtity is a great focal point for the family unit.
    We lived in the middle of the Allegheny national forest in NW PA, so the nearest library was 45 minutes away by bike, so my library time was limited.
    Then I arrived at college and the first place I went was the library. I was in heaven!
    Then, one of my first year classes was in Expository Prose, taught by a professor who also had a degree in philosophy. One of my first papers was to be written in response to an essay written by Bertrand Russell (who was still alive at the time) and that was it.

    I never set foot in a church again.

    I kept my views mostly to myself for the next thirty three years.

    In the late 80's I watched as the Religious Right through the Moral Majority was gaining political power.

    And then, On September 11, 2001 I said,"enough is enough!" These religionists are all bat shit crazy.

    I became very vocal in my Atheism and became active in several organizations to fight against the RR.

    So, in a nutshell and although not very well composed, there you have it!

  5. Yes, thank God for spell check!

    I just want to say that I was raised a nominal Episcopalian. Went to services, sunday school, prayed before any meal eaten in the dining room, was confirmed, married, and baptized my children in the church.

    I gotta say I love the liturgy, the book of common prayer, the hymns, and all the kneeling and standing. I admire the Episcopalians for their stands on homosexuality and women. As religion goes, it's not so bad.

    So, what made me leave? I blame the fundamentalist. The more people like Pat Robertson, Jimmy Baker, Jerry Farwell, etc appeared on TV and media the more I disagreed with their views. The controversy over abortion, prayer in school, gay marriage, women's rights set me against groups like the Moral Majority and Focus on the Family. Once I started to tear apart their fundamentalist beliefs I came to realize how little I could believe my mainstream ones. I started dismantling the bricks and the whole wall came down.

    I live in the deep south and I don't tell anyone my views which probably explains why I've glommed onto this blog and you guys.

  6. My story is such a hard one to tell because it spans such a long period of time. Here's the Reader's Digest version though:

    I was raised to believe in God, and when I was little, my mom started spending time with the Jehovah's Witnesses. While we never fully joined, we did have them over, and we did adopt a lot of their beliefs like no more holidays and the notion that demons were everywhere trying to influence us.

    Looking back on it, I spent a lot of time worrying about "demons" when I was little. If I would hear a bump in the night, that's what I feared it was. I also used to have sleep paralysis, so believing in demons just exacerbates that sort of a thing.

    There were times in high school and college where I tried to attend the religious services of friends of mine. I never felt comfortable, and they always seemed phony and ridiculous for the most part. I hated singing all of those stupid songs, and there was no way in hell I'd raise my hands up in the air while singing. (What's the point of that shit? Better reception?)

    I was genuinely interested in the Bible though, and I even joined a Bible study group. Sure, part of the reason was that the girl I'd go with was a cutie, but I was interested. I enjoyed the first few meetings, but then all it was about was how we could get more people to join. I no longer saw the point, so I stopped going.

    At the local community college, I took a Philosophy of Judeo Christian Principles class, and my teacher was openly agnostic. This was my first introduction to the concept, and even though I still considered myself Christian, I felt that his viewpoint was pretty respectable. After all, I didn't really KNOW that God was real, did I? (Ironically enough, and I love to point this out, a friend of mine took this class. He's now a Christian singer/songwriter. Not hugely famous, but he does well enough to make a living.)

    I started to get into skepticism and I read books by James Randi and Michael Shermer. From there, I started to point my skeptical finger at my own beliefs, and I became an agnostic. I also visited online forums where atheists and Christians would battle it out, and the atheists always had the more logical arguments.

    I eventually bought a Bible and started reading it for myself. I think it was at the part where Lot offered his virgin daughters to the crowd where I finally admitted to myself that not only had I become an atheist, but that I had probably been one for several years.

  7. I am the youngest of 8 raised in a stereotypical Irish-American Catholic family. My Grandma had rosary bead in here hands always and believed that eating meat on Fridays was a one-way ticket to Hell. My Mom constantly had candles burning around the house to honor the Virgin Mother or the saint of the week or some vigil set up for the faithful departed. And, of course, all the men in my family were drunken criminals {j/k}.

    I went to Catholic school. My folks were great parents; my Dad was one of the most intelligent men I’ve ever known. But they were old-school, I guess back in their day they were too busy trying to survive to have time dwelling on philosophical questions. But, I know they did what they thought was right even if I disagree.

    I was always interested in science and I guess my mind has a natural tendency to be analytical. At a young age [in between fornicating] I remember when being made to go to confession I asked the priest the “What about the dinosaurs” question. He gave me some Comfort-esque double-speak. I went on to ponder these things on my own. My conclusion was that the OT was just myths, but the NT was all true. This seemed reasonable at the time but it didn’t last.

    In high school [in between fornicating] I began to ask myself ‘why was I willing to believe the far-fetched stories of the NT when I could not belief those of the OT. Again God was on shaky ground. My conclusion this time was that the Bible and all religions were just allegory’s revealing some deeper ‘Truth’. All different paths lead to same, one true God, a person just had to pick the right path for them. It’s a nice thought, but again it wouldn’t last.

    In college [in between fornicating] I was exposed to new ideas and read books I never heard of before. I realized the god I believed in was one I created out of a need to believe in a god. I keep molding God to fit in with reality as I observed it. Why? I think fear. The thought of this father-like Omni-being that is ultimately in control is comforting. The thought of being reunited with lost loved ones is comforting. The idea of existing beyond death is comforting. Also, the Catholics are very good at pouring on the guilt. The fear of Hell was pounded in my head for a lifetime and it was hard to dispose of it. But I was forced to confront the true, I didn’t actually belief, I was just lying to myself to make myself feel better.

    My road to atheism took many years. When I finally came to terms with it I had mixed feeling. Some were positive – I was relieved of the feelings of fear and guilt and most of all I felt I was truly being intellectually honest and accepting myself for who I truly was. And that felt good.
    But part of me was also confused. As I mentioned before, there are comforts in belief and I had to learn to accept reality for what it actually was rather than for what I wanted it to be. Also, all my family and close friends are Christians, so I felt alone. It wasn’t to a while later I realized than were many more people like me and I became friends with free-thinkers. And that felt good, too.

    Accepting the truth had definitely made me a better person and the world and life much more happy and interesting. It had nothing to do with ‘love of sin’ and everything to do with a sincere desire to discover the truth.

  8. Ok, I was actually able to get my story churned out a lot quicker than I had thought it would be.

    It's lengthy so I posted it on my own blog. You can find it here.

  9. Nafa,
    You said,
    "Also, all my family and close friends are Christians, so I felt alone. It wasn’t to a while later I realized than were many more people like me and I became friends with free-thinkers. And that felt good, too."

    This is a tough one for many people. Some people do not have the propensity to cope well without their "suppot group."

    That is where I was lucky. Being an introvert, I felt better off without those bastards poking into my life.

    I also got lucky because I ended up getting married to an extrovert who has the ability to actually get me out to socialize a couple times a year, and I actually rather enjoy it, sometimes.

  10. Hey Guys,
    What a great delurking thread. I sorta started my own boycott at Ray's when he did the name switch and found out about the strike thanks to his blog post. I made a few posts under the name Brandon over there. One actually got accepted as one of his blog postings, the "Relentless Attacks" post. Anyways...

    My story kinda needs a little back story. Mom is a sucker. She always falls for anyone knocking at the door. She has sold Shaklee, Amway, Avon, Tupperware... So it comes as no surprise that when a couple of Mormon missionaries knocked at the door, Mom was ready to sign up on the spot.

    So Ma and Pa were good Mormies for a while. Then (6yrs prior to my birth) one of my older brothers met an untimely end at the age of 2. This caused my father to fall out of the church, and it seems to have sucked my Mother into it all the stronger. Oh ya, and dad liked his beer.

    So enter me, 5th child to a fundie Mormon and an alcoholic. AWKWARD! To my mother's credit, she did a pretty good job of raising a mormon family in spite of having a live in apostate. My three older sisters are still completely devoted.

    Growing up Mormon in Wisconsin is uncomfortable. Regular christians do really see you as not belonging to the group. You might have picked up on this over at Ray's. There were only 2 other mormonies in my high school, and they were both weird as shit. Its my personal theory that Mormonism outside of Utah attracts a disproportionately large number of weird people to it. It may be the same in Utah though.

    I've been fortunate to inherit my father's rapier wit and not my mother's gullibility. From an early age I was engrossed with science and how the natural world works. As soon as I learned of evolution the creation story seemed silly to me. I remember grimacing and putting on the "agreeing" face when people in church tried to disprove evolution. Even as a boy I could tell that they were intellectually impaired. I still believed though.

    Around the age of 15 I started doing a lot of thinking on just what was it that I believed. I haven't read much of the bible. The Mormons believe that the king james version is the only correct translation and in my opinion reading that thing is torture. I was very aware, however, of jesus's statements that the only way was through him. That if you denied the holy spirit you were condemned to hell with no takebacks. It seemed so unorthodox to me. If you, as god, were going to lay down your one unforgivable sin, wouldn't you make it baby raping or genocide? Someone could just be mistaken and they would go to hell forever to be tortured. It REALLY didn't add up for me. To me Jesus started looking like more of a cult leader than a revealer of transcendent wisdom.

    It was during this wishy washy time for me that my parents made me get a job. I took one as a dishwasher at a restaurant close to my home. My boss's name was Jerry Garcia. It was after my second night at work that I smoked pot for the first time. I was amazed. I had never experienced anything of the sort. It only brought on more questions for me. How could there be a ghost inside the machine if the ghost gets high when I smoke pot. Sure the church said that when you indulged in any intoxicants that the "spirit" leaves you, but it didn't seem like that at all to me. It just seemed like I was getting high.

    At the same time in my chemistry class my teacher gave out assignments on researching chemicals of certain classes. Lucky me got to do a report on Ketamine and PCP. So I found erowid.org and began devouring trip reports. I was just enthralled by what people had been able to experience just through the ingestian of a few milligrams of substance. Very profound and spiritual experiences that left the religious experiences in the dust. Needless to say I started having some profound experiences of my own. Still I wondered, how could this be intoxicating my conciousness, my spirit.

    About the age of 17 I had had enough of the mormie life. I had been going to church hungover on Sundays for almost a year by then, and that shit is 3 hrs. long! I still remember the Sunday that I finally said enough is enough. I didn't have a lock for my door so I took a wedge and jammed it underneath the door so my mom couldn't come into my room. She must have banged on the door for at least an hour. We had a pretty good screaming match. I remember screaming "I don't believe in that shit!" a couple times. She did finally leave, and I never went to church again. For about a year she pressured me REALLY hard to go back to the church. I finally sat her down and explained to her that the harder she tried force me to come back to the church, the further it was going to drive us apart. Since that talk she kinda turned back into good old mom again. She'll still try to pull the old teleological arguement on me now and again, but I'm way to smart for that.

    Anyways, I guess thats my story. My "profound" experiences are now few and very far between, but I'm still gonna use some chemicals to cure fucking cancer.

  11. Here's my deconversion story:
    I was brought up with all the classic literature available, from Gilgamesh through Homer to Goethe and Schiller, in my parents' library. One birthday or Christmas (which is called Hallow Night in my country) I got gifted with an illustrated Bible. It was a fascinating book, with full-color pictures of battles, catastrophe and destruction, and stories about a nice guy who thought it would be a good idea if people were nicer to each other. I thought, 'Wow, this Jesus guy's really swell.', 'If I understand this correctly, he's identical to that God person who was involved in all that carnage on the other pages, but now he's changed his mind, but he's eternally unchanging and all-knowing. Ok, that makes no sense at all. *glancing at the Iliad, the Odyssey, Gilgamesh and Faust* Ah, it's a myth, I get it'.
    Took me about four seconds from conversion to deconversion.

  12. Speaking of deconversions, has anyone heard from Garret recently?

    For those unacquainted with Garret, he's a very recent deconvert; so recent, in fact, that just a couple of months ago he was among the bleevers at Comfort's blog, whatever its name was at the time. Then he went away and had himself a little think; then he wandered by Irukandji's blog; and that's where he chose to come out as an atheist. I believe he has commented once or twice on Comfort's blog since then, and I know some of the Rayniacs learned of his deconversion at Irukandji's blog. Not that it worries them greatly; after all, if he no longer believes in any god, then obviously he couldn't have been A Real True Genuine Sincere Proper Honest-to-Hank Christian(tm) in the first place.

    Garret, wherever you are, I'm thinking of you. Take care.

  13. My deconversion story:

    I was another stereotypical Irish-Catholic kid, growing up in rural Eastern Canada. One Sunday when I was 16 (I think), my parents took me aside after Mass and asked why I hadn't taken Communion that Sunday, nor the week before, nor the week before that.

    I shrugged and said simply, "Because I just don't believe in it anymore."

    They exchanged a look of dismay. Dad observed brusquely, "Well, you're still coming to church with the rest of us!"

    "I never said I wouldn't," I pointed out as they turned away.

    And that was that. I was tense for a couple of weeks, wondering whether they might send the parish priest to remonstrate with me. I needn't have worried. In my anxiety, I had forgotten that Dad hated the priest, and while Father M. was a drunk he was bright enough to know where he wasn't welcome.

    I think I had actually ceased believing some years earlier, when I read an assortment of myths -- Greco-Roman, Norse, Egyptian, North Amerian Indian -- and noticed how the same plots and characters kept turning up all over the place. It wasn't hard to deduce that the Christian religion was just another story that people told to buck each other up, to keep some distance between themselves and the cold universe, to get them through one more night until dawn could bring relief.

    But I knew better than to make my disbelief public. My parents weren't prepared to argue with me (and I'm still not quite sure why), but plenty of my neighbours and schoolmates would have and it would have been unpleasant all around. Still, it was Canada and religion isn't a big deal here. It wasn't even that hard to sit quietly through Mass, standing when everyone else stood and sitting when everyone else knelt and thinking my own thoughts all the while. Nobody ever asked me about it, not even my sisters. Not once.

    So I didn't think much about it until my mid-thirties, when it occurred to me that it might be useful to read the Bible.

    I read it, closed it, and thought, "What bloody nonsense."

    Since then I've re-read it every couple of years and my reaction is always the same. (Chuckle: I once knew another atheist who told me how he read it at 15 and "decided it was impossible for any god to be that stupid.")

  14. I've written an introduction entry on my blog where I discuss my former beliefs and my "deconversion". I don't want to paste the whole thing here, so pleasecheck it out if you're interested.

  15. Just wanted you all to know I've really enjoyed reading your stories.


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