Saturday, June 22, 2013

De-conversion Doesn't Have a "Moment"

Sometimes it hard to admit to yourself that you don't identify with your identity anymore.  

For as long as I've had an identity, it has been wrapped up in the word "Christian", specifically the fundamentalist variety.  I wanted my relationship with Jesus to completely consume me and leave me with no other identity and no errant belief.  My entire life would be spent in gratitude to God for saving me from the hell I deserved.  It was my responsibility to try to love others the way God loved me: by hoping for them to start to follow Jesus too, so that God and I could accept them into our spiritual family.

Then slowly, one by one, my fundamentalist beliefs started shifting, starting first with my beliefs about evolution, then my beliefs about homosexuality, then my beliefs about the inspiration of the Bible, then my beliefs about sexual purity, then my beliefs about salvation only through Christ, then my beliefs about hell.  For about five years, my identity became "liberal Christian".   I embraced my own human limitations and uncertainty, and found beauty in the variety of shades of gray that replaced the black and white of fundamentalism. 

To my surprise, however, my personal journey didn't stop in liberal Christianity.  I don't know exactly when it happened, but one day, less than a year ago, I decided to face the fact that my label had to change.  Even the very broad label "liberal Christian" didn't fit anymore.  I found conversations about Christianity to be extremely interesting, but conversations within Christianity were completely meaningless and empty to me.  I had no desire to pray anymore, and I found the idea of sin and blood sacrifice to be very outdated and arbitrary.  The idea of love in Christianity seemed more like abuse and manipulation to me.  The Bible was not worth my time anymore, and church was nothing but depressing.  I finally admitted to myself that I didn't think Christianity was any different from any other religions, and that I seriously doubted that god even existed, much less that he was actively involved in the affairs of the world.

That is how I arrived at my new label: agnostic.  It was a very uncomfortable label to put on, mostly due to residual fundamentalist emotions that bounce around in my head on occasion.  Some of the discomfort also came from immediately being seen as a tragedy or a project by the few Christian friends and family in my life.   However, I was lucky enough to miss out on the greatest discomfort because my husband has taken a very similar journey as me, at nearly the same time.  Overall, the small discomfort I experienced was short-lived, and the label now feels like a natural part of me; I'm quite happy with the fit, and with the colorful view from here.

6 comments:

  1. My deconversion process was almost identical to yours.

    I waver between agnosticism and atheism these days. :)

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  2. This sounds a lot like the path I'm on right now (on my to the "liberal christian"). I still believe in God, but it's nowhere like how I used to. Breaking free of fundamentalism has been very freeing, though it is difficult to interact with some of my family because they don't understand how I came to be this "black sheep."

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  3. Very similar to my journey. Except the route was a bit different. I've always been very interested in history of religions/university level "Religious Studies." As such I devoured scholarly books on Hinduism, Buddhism, the various Christianities, etc. for a long, long time. Simultaneously, I spent 7 of those years living in Colorado Springs with insider access to evangelical/religious right organizations and leaders. That was shattering. My label is somewhat ambiguous. I see myself as some sort of heretic; a mix of selected Christian and Buddhist teachings with a lot of 1960s-era countercultural tendencies. I know this is quite vague. But it's surely enough to stir the passions of the Spanish Inquisition.

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  4. You might consider trying a Unitarian-Universalist church. Everyone there is on a journey like yours, and UU communities are very emotionally supportive and intellectually engaging. I'm an atheist and still enjoy it very much.

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  5. As usual, I can relate but not fit in quite. LOL. Story of my life! I still love *Jesus*, though I think that substitutionary atonement is bullshit. I see the cross through a totally different point of view, that man demands sacrifice, not God, and that without some grand scapegoat punishment, man would never accept that a)God loves b)God graciously forgives because God loves and c)holiness, enlightenment, whatever you want to call it, comes to those who live consciously lives that are governed by gracious, forgiving love. Not even all mankind, but enough of us, still ruled in part by our reptile brains, hostile and defensive, in our efforts to survive.

    All the rest: yes! Unity with God (salvation) is for all people, there is no eternal hell (though I am quite sure that not all will find unity with God pleasant at first), other religions surely have pieces of the puzzle too, the Bible still interests me but it is not one coherent narrative nor are all words in it equally divine/useful, and church, well, church is useless to me. I am so much happier now that I don't regularly listen to how I will never be good enough, am not ____________ enough, blah, blah, blah.

    Even a Unitarian church doesn't appeal to me, because life is my church now. I would seriously love to share communion with people who also appreciate the universal message of love and acceptance that the cross and the resurrection speak to me, but that isn't likely to happen anytime soon. Though the future is bright and wide open and filled with possibility, so maybe someday? =D

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  6. I am glad you had your husband with you on your journey. I have morphed from Catholic to atheist over the past decade or so, and I too have been fortunate to have my husband along for the ride. Sixteen years ago we married in a 135YO Catholic church with TWO priests concelebrating. Now I am atheist, he is more agnostic.

    Not having experienced the other version, I can't say for sure, but I think that when the time for growing comes, one grows, however slowly and painfully. I have outgrown the relationships I had with most of my siblings -- not entirely through my spiritual changes, but it plays a part -- and it has been very difficult to see those relationships change and wither. I cannot imagine how painful and difficult it would be to grow away from a spouse in spirituality.

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