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  I had no desire to pray anymore, and I found the idea of sin and blood sacrifice to be very outdated and arbitrary.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.


  1. My deconversion process was almost identical to yours.

    I waver between agnosticism and atheism these days. :)

  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."

  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.

  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.

  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

  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.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing your story with the world. It really is quite amazing how many of us have similar experiences within the church, no matter what "faction" of the church it is.

    I became a "born again" Christian around 13, even though my family wasn't particularly religious, I found solace in my "church" family and am grateful to this day that I had that support as a teenager and young adult. Even though I look back and there are things about the evangelical/fundamentalist church that really disturb me, I think my life would have been a bit darker and scary had I not had that support at that time. So I don't regret my past, but instead am thankful for the things it kept me from as an impressionable teenager and adult. While having a "secular" family, I was able to balance my Christian beliefs with a secular understanding of the world and keep myself out of the "Christian Bubble" that so many devoted believers get themselves into. I met a lot of people with stories like yours over the years. I went to Christian colleges as well and took part in a lot of programs as a teenager that allowed me to be to meet people from a lot of other types of Christianity. I had friends like you, who had to wear the "modest" clothing all the time, long skirts and head coverings with long hair. I never partook in those things, my church was a bit more progressive. But It was nice to know those people and talk to them about their way of life.

    After I left my Christian college, my beliefs began to change dramatically. A former college school mate of mine had come out as being gay on social media, and the ridicule he endured from our classmates really spearheaded the change in my beliefs. I was just appalled that my "brothers and sisters in Christ" were so belittling and insensitive. My thoughts changed on a lot of "political" subjects and I found myself becoming a liberal Christian too. After that, I started dating non-believers, and honestly found them to be more sincere and loving than the "Christian" guys I dated. I specifically remember one of the last meaningful discussions I had with a male classmate of mine, who told me and another friend that Christian guys, especially those looking to become pastors, want to find an attractive wife, so as to give off the idea they they are "successful" in Christ. This was really one of the last straws for me. I had been flooded as a teenager with these ideas of "purity" and "modesty" and the thought that our looks were not as important as what was in our heart. But really its all bullshit, lol. People care even more what people think of them in the "Christian Scene". They want everyone to believe that they have their shit together by their appearances. It's quite sad really.

    Anywho, It's been hard, because I had a lot of really amazing friends in the church who, just don't understand me now, or how I feel about the church. It's unfortunate that people are more concerned with your religious status as opposed to your heart. I don't think God ever intended anyone to keep themselves only in a bubble of other believers. That bubble really keeps you from being the "missionary" you say you are called to be. But that is a whole different subject :P

    It feels really great to know that their are like minded people out there, and I applaud you for your bravery to come out and publicly acknowledge the hypocrisy of the church, and the dangers it can bring to people's lives.