Help through Deconversion
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23-10-2013, 07:04 PM
RE: Help through Deconversion
(23-10-2013 06:57 PM)ivaneus Wrote:  I know it's hard. I'm living through the same thing. I think I speak for most people here that we are ready to help you. At the very least with listening ears and sound advice. Hang in there. Smile

I hope everyone here knows how much that means to me, by the way. It was incredibly frustrating that when I brought this up to some of my religious friends, no one seemed to care that I was suffering, it was just "go to church, you need to know God better"

I've made it clear I don't believe anymore, not because I want to not believe, but because it does not make sense. Their solution then is for me to "force" myself to go to church, but wouldn't make me a lukewarm Christian who is doomed to Hell anyway?

I'm relieved there are people who have gone through the same thing I have. I've felt really damn alone on this so far...
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23-10-2013, 07:09 PM
RE: Help through Deconversion
(23-10-2013 07:03 PM)WeAreTheCosmos Wrote:  
(23-10-2013 06:06 PM)Jasozz Wrote:  3. If I have children, how do I raise them? I know that my experiences in the church and the mission field had a huge part in defining who I am today, and while I don't believe in that God anymore, how do I raise my children with those values while dealing with a family that is Christian?
Like anti-homosexual values?

I agree with your other points, but this one here, more-so just the values of unconditional love, selflessness, and the likes. I understand these values aren't EXCLUSIVE to Christianity by any means, however, I learned them most through my time in the mission field and doing volunteer stuff through our church.

I personally have nothing against homosexuality, but that is not the discussion here.
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23-10-2013, 07:51 PM (This post was last modified: 23-10-2013 07:54 PM by cheapthrillseaker.)
RE: Help through Deconversion
Welcome to the forum, Jasozz. I feel your pain, I really do.

Well, for your first question, I guess the logical approach would be to ask yourself how many gods/hells there are represented throughout the world. If there are so many different versions claiming to have it right and that all the rest are wrong, how sure can you be that the one you were raised in is the right one? That's the problem I find with branch-offs of religions - they all carry similar banners of being the one that 'saves' - but which one truly is the right one if all of them say that? In other words, it's a gamble either way. A gamble, that with further research, might just show itself to you as a gamble based on a concept that was created by man.

There's no need to tell any family members right away, or at all if the cost is too high. There are several factors why people don't tell anyone they haven't a belief in god or gods, some of them are geographical, others are for fear of being ostracized, others for fear of losing their lives. Just recently I met a guy who went to a country for work where if saying that you don't believe in a god could result in his execution.

Your third questions makes it sound like you're planning to have a family soon. It is a big thing, and with what you're currently going through, the deconversion, if it is ultimately what will happen in the end. I suggest maybe holding off on that for the time being as you gather your bearings and figure things out. Take it one step at a time. Get used to the waters, so to speak, and then make a conscious decision once you think you have a pretty good idea.

For the last question, part A), just like with your first question, I suggest you research to find the answers to your questions. And question EVERYTHING. Yes, I'm quoting a motto of Seth Andrews, the creator of this website. He wrote a book called Deconversion, and from what I can tell, it's a book he wrote of his point of view of the process he went through when deconverting. I've not read it, but it might have some information in there that may be useful to you. Might I suggest if you do acquire a copy, keep it at work or somewhere else those close to you don't have access to it. I can't tell you how you're going to be able to deal with part B), but I can share with you how I experienced it: I still go through it. Why? Because I'm so used to the indoctrination from when I was a kid and being told that I would live forever on Paradise Earth (I was raised a Jehovah's Witness). To have that dream ripped from me was painful. It still scares the shit out of me. Now, though, two years later after having agreed with myself that I don't believe gods and the promises that came with them exist, I work on the present. I've gone back to school. I want to do something with my life that gives me meaning - meaning that's not derived from an old book or meaning told to me that I was supposed to feel by men speaking to a congregation full of followers. Though I still go through moments in my life where I wish my identity could be preserved for eternity - aka "I don't wanna die" - as I once believed, I content myself with knowing that I don't have fear guiding me. That fear is what those preachers were counting on, but they lost their hold on little old me. :)

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23-10-2013, 07:56 PM
RE: Help through Deconversion
(23-10-2013 07:04 PM)Jasozz Wrote:  
(23-10-2013 06:57 PM)ivaneus Wrote:  I know it's hard. I'm living through the same thing. I think I speak for most people here that we are ready to help you. At the very least with listening ears and sound advice. Hang in there. Smile

I hope everyone here knows how much that means to me, by the way. It was incredibly frustrating that when I brought this up to some of my religious friends, no one seemed to care that I was suffering, it was just "go to church, you need to know God better"

I've made it clear I don't believe anymore, not because I want to not believe, but because it does not make sense. Their solution then is for me to "force" myself to go to church, but wouldn't make me a lukewarm Christian who is doomed to Hell anyway?

I'm relieved there are people who have gone through the same thing I have. I've felt really damn alone on this so far...

If it would help you to read about deconversion stories like yours, there is a thread here called Recovering from Religion. I can't post the link coz I'm on mobile but you can find it easily on the forum home page. As a summary of my story, i was Roman Catholic, got married to one as well. Deconverted when my son was 8 months old. Had a huge fight with my wife when i told her. She almost left me then and threatened to take our son. Now it's like walking a minefield. But we are taking it one day at a time and it's tough, but it will work out if we keep at it. Smile


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23-10-2013, 08:21 PM
RE: Help through Deconversion
Lots of sound advice, thanks alot.

I think maybe I'm just expecting this to be a quick and easy thing, but I need to moreso buckle down and accept that its going to be fairly long and drawn out.

I don't actually want children, nor do I plan to have any any time soon, but I just thought of that as a possiblity, since i had always planned on raising a church-going family, but now I know that will not be the case. Always thinking ahead, which is probably doing more harm than good at this point...
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23-10-2013, 08:24 PM
RE: Help through Deconversion
Welcome! I can feel the pain in your words, and want to give you a big hug! Hug like others have said, you seem like a very nice and caring person, I'm sure this will all work out for you.

1. I agree completely with wearethecosmos on this one. If god wouldn't give you what you needed to believe in him innately, what kind of man would he be to worship, if he were to punish you for his shortcomings. Also, I find no evidence for god, therefore no evidence of hell.

2. This is something only you can know, something you can only do at your own pace. When you decide the time is right, be calm, respectful, and clear regarding your thoughts. Be ready for some heartache, and know that we are here for support.

3. Raise them to think, to question. There are SO many other activities, groups, events, that they can participate in outside of the church. Teach them what you think it means to be a good person. With your guidance and love, they will flourish!

4. Yes, we are all going to die. It's all about what you do while you're here that counts. The thought of us being alive at this moment on this minuscule rock, in the center of an awe-inspiring universe, making connections with others that are just as lucky to be here, is always an amazing and humbling thought for me. Touch the lives of those close to you, get joy out of bringing joy to those that you love. Dive more deeply into your favorite hobby, and every once in a while take a moment to think of all the good you have in your life (seems you are already good at this!) Smile

I wish you all best!!
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23-10-2013, 09:20 PM
RE: Help through Deconversion
(23-10-2013 06:06 PM)Jasozz Wrote:  1. What if I'm wrong and there is still a God/Hell?

It is very highly unlikely that the triune God of Christianity exists and that there is such a place as Hell. There is no evidence that there exists an immaterial component of persons that survives death; furthermore positing such a component is devoid of explanatory power. If there were some huge gaping hole in relation to consciousness that the notion of a soul explained then as weak a reason as that is for believing in a soul it woul be nevertheless a reason. But there is no such reason. I'm not saying that we have a complete neuroscience but there is nothing that a soul explains. So even if there were a Hell it would be uncelar how you qua person with identity would get there. The alternative (Christian) narrative represents an accretion of improbability upon improbability. We can't give you a deductive proof that God/Hell don't exist but we can give you a good inductive argument that they are extreemly unlikely to exist and that death is the end of your personhood.

Quote:2. How do I tell my entirely Christian family that I don't believe anymore?

With tact and much preparation so you can answer their questions and objections intelligently and gracefully.

Quote:3. If I have children, how do I raise them? I know that my experiences in the church and the mission field had a huge part in defining who I am today, and while I don't believe in that God anymore, how do I raise my children with those values while dealing with a family that is Christian?

Classical liberalism and secular humanism can serve as a source of moral and ethical values and directives. A thoroughgoing humanism can inspire acts of charity and public service.

Quote:4. (The Big One) I now feel like life is pointless. Recently I can't get excited about anything because my mind just jumps to "it won't matter and you're going to die eventually".

Christian eschatology (and others that have an afterlife) is seductive because it invites its believers to suspend a sober evaluation of the human condition as it relates to themselves. Finitude and loss--two major parts of the human condition--are avoided by conceiving life as continuing essentially ad infinitum. Life thus becomes (apparently) meaningful in that it becomes oriented towards purchasing this infinite extension to life. It would be disingenuous of me to claim that this project doesn't lend life a clear purpose, it clearly does, in the same way that preparing for an important academic exam does so. I would hazard a guess that this is one of the psychological drivers of religiosity.

But if Christian eschatology is a sham then your life would have been doubly meaningless. You would have spent it preparing for the exam that never take place.

Quote:I've also developed a MASSIVE fear of my own mortality since this deconversion thing kicked into high-gear, due to A) being afraid of being wrong and there being an eternal punishment

The world of the metaphysical naturalist isn't one of certitude. Excepting mathematics and formal logic we have only probabilities. There is some small non-zero probability that you will somehow die whilst using your computer; the probability of Christianity being true is less than that.

Quote:and B) feeling the brevity of life now that I've started really thinking about it.

That is a feature of the human condition. We are the only animal that is apparently able to conceptualise its own finitude.

Quote:I do not think Christianity is stupid nor do I hate Christians.

Neither do I.
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23-10-2013, 09:55 PM
RE: Help through Deconversion
The anxieties about hell are exactly what hell is designed to induce... To keep you from thinking too much.

I was brought up in the Jehovah's Witnesses, who don't teach fire and brimstone hell... To them death is hell, and that hell is basically oblivion. So I personally didn't share that fear.

For me deconversion was more a relief than a struggle... The JWs teach you to fear God more than anything.

As for feeling that life is pointless, I'll offer this...

You exist, that in itself is an amazing feat... consider what has had to happen in order for your birth to take place.

I have found that you don't need a reason to exist... Just look around the universe and you'll realize what a cool place it is to be. And this universe has given little old you the opportunity to experience it, and learn about it.

You don't have to justify your existence... Just live, love, and be happy. Dedicate yourself to whatever you think is meaningful... Be it family, friends, music, work, golf or whatever. As long as it doesn't hurt anyone, then its all cool..

Existentialism man... Peace and love!

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23-10-2013, 11:54 PM (This post was last modified: 24-10-2013 09:05 AM by Reltzik.)
RE: Help through Deconversion
(23-10-2013 06:06 PM)Jasozz Wrote:  Hello everyone, my name is Jason. I'm going through what I consider to be a deconversion process and its really screwed up my life. Its a long story, so keep reading for the backstory, or skip down towards the bottom for my questions at least. I appreciate everyone's time.

I'm posting here because I've found myself in a rough spot and was hoping some people here may have had similar experiences to my own.

I was born into and raised in a Christian family. My parents are fantastic, and raised me with great values into the well-rounded, loving, ambitious man I am today. I always felt at home in the churches we attended, and consider many members of the congregation as extensions of my family. I was in youth groups, went on mission trips, participated in VBS and drama, and loved all of it. I never had any times in church where I felt like my life was being run by my religion, or felt like I was trapped in it, so my thoughts and feelings do not reflect a feeling of bitterness towards the church.

The fact of the matter is, around 8th Grade or so I got into that critical-thinking part of my life where I started to question alot more, and around this time I finally read the Bible cover to cover, and I kind of realized that it didn't really make sense to me anymore.

I started to notice the discrepancies in the religion, such as asking myself how it is fair for God to judge me, who was raised in a loving Christian family, and also someone who grew up in a Hindu culture loving that religion, or in a Kiberan slum, knowing nothing but pain and sorrow for most of their life. How is that fair to begin with, coming from an all-loving God, and how is it fair for them to be judged equally on their eternal fate? There's many other things that I picked up on, but I'm not here to discuss Christianity or try to prove/disprove it.

With doubt, came my engrained fear of Hell, and I told myself that I was just going through a phase, and kept going to church and tried not to think about it.
Through high school, my doubts grew and my attraction to church dwindled. By my sophomore year, I could no longer, with a clear conscience, say to someone that I believed in God. I graduated and went to college, and basically stopped going to church. During this time I sort of blocked out the issue altogether. Thinking about it only caused anxiety (something I suffer from to begin with) and as much as I tried, I couldn't get myself to decide either way. The ONLY thing tethering me to Christianity was my fear of Hell and punishment, as well as the pain of losing or hurting my family if I became the ONLY non-Christian in our entire family, but that wasn't enough to make me want to keep going to church.

After a rough breakup and some pretty deep depression, I thought connecting with a church might help me out a little, but unfortunately I found I could no longer get engaged with the church. I joined a Men's group that was all about being a better man/husband/etc., which I loved, because I was still CULTURALLY a Christian, and to this day I still deeply value the teachings of serving and loving others unconditionally, as well as a great deal of other non-deity-related teachings. This wasn't enough to light my spiritual flame though, and I stopped attending and went back to ignoring the issue.

Fast forward a year, and I've met an amazing girl. By far one of the sweetest and most amazing women I've ever met, with a heart for everyone. However, like the other girls I'd dated, she was an atheist. This didn't bother me at all, because I knew that I wasn't a hardcore Christian to begin with.

// PROBLEM STARTS HERE //

However, one little argument kicked my life into one of the worst rollercoaster rides I've ever been on.

We were discussing something about creationism in schools, and something she said took a stab at Christianity, and I immediately went on the defense to defend Christianity, and realized I had nothing to say. I love my family, and I love the church and the people I grew up with, and I have a servant's heart, and love volunteer work, disaster relief, you name it. Yet at that moment, I had no desire to defend the theistic parts of Christianity. I had some of the worst anxiety attacks of my life the next few days, realizing that I didn't believe in Christianity anymore, wondering what was going on.
Was I going to Hell? Was there a Hell? How do I tell my family? Is this my girlfriend's fault? Is this my fault?

Its been about two months since then and I've done a great deal of reading and thinking on the matter.

I've concluded that I no longer accept the Bible as truth, and haven't for a long time. While there are some great lessons in the Bible, overall, I do not believe in the Christian doctrine.

Now, I'm facing a lot of huge, looming fears with deconversion.

1. What if I'm wrong and there is still a God/Hell?

2. How do I tell my entirely Christian family that I don't believe anymore?

3. If I have children, how do I raise them? I know that my experiences in the church and the mission field had a huge part in defining who I am today, and while I don't believe in that God anymore, how do I raise my children with those values while dealing with a family that is Christian?

4. (The Big One) I now feel like life is pointless. Recently I can't get excited about anything because my mind just jumps to "it won't matter and you're going to die eventually". I've also developed a MASSIVE fear of my own mortality since this deconversion thing kicked into high-gear, due to A) being afraid of being wrong and there being an eternal punishment and B) feeling the brevity of life now that I've started really thinking about it.

If anyone out there has had a similar experience and can help, I could really use the advice. I do not think Christianity is stupid nor do I hate Christians. I love my family and I want this to be the least painful as possible.

Thanks for reading and sorry it was long-winded.

1) Never experienced this, I'll leave it to the others.

2) Identify the reasons for telling them that you're not an atheist. (EDIT: Not a Christian. Oops.) That's the first step, and it will dictate how you do it.

3) This isn't a big deal. Or, rather, it's a big deal that you pull it off, but pulling it off isn't hard. Raise them with the values and not the religion. You don't need the woo to get them to be good people. Kids are capable of empathy. Don't teach them not to steal because they'll go to hell for it, teach them not to steal because they wouldn't want it done to them. If you want to instill volunteerism in them, make it routine, say, every 2nd Saturday of the month or whatever fits, that you go out as a family to do that, and if you volunteer for disaster relief find a role for them in that too as they get older. The habit will carry over into adulthood.

The big challenge, as you mentioned, will be negotiating children and the rest of your family. Be honest with your children from an early age. Tell them that a lot of people believe a lot of different things, that it's not possible for all of those things to be true, but it can be pretty hard telling when what you believe isn't true. Tell them that your folks believe that something called Christianity is true, and you used to as well, but then you came to the conclusion that it's false and changed your mind. Explain that it's all right to be honestly wrong, that everyone's wrong at some time in their life and that isn't something to be ashamed of, so long as they work to make themselves right once they realize they're wrong. Explain that the rest of your family thinks that you're wrong and you think they're wrong, but because you all realize that people can be honestly wrong and because you love each other, you get along in spite of that. (Hopefully this will be true.) Tell your children that eventually -- not any time soon, but eventually -- they'll have to decide for themselves if Christianity or atheism or a hundred other things are right or wrong, and you may disagree with them, but you'll still love them and vice versa. And then draw a line for the rest of the family, no conversion attempts, your children's religious upbringing is in your hands, not theirs, and you won't tolerate them trying to convert your children any more than they'd tolerate you trying to deconvert your nephews and nieces. Make it clear that children are not a legitimate battleground in a religious debate.

One thing I plan to do when I have children... and I'm sure that this is going to fail utterly, as I'm sure all well-laid plans will... is to play a game with them once they're old enough to talk and think. When they make up fantasies, or maybe when I read them stories, or whatever, I'll ask them, is this make-believe, real, or a hypothesis? I'll explain to them that a hypothesis is something that we think might be real, but we don't really know. If they answer make-believe or real, I'll ask how they know. If they say hypothesis, I'll ask how we can find out whether it's make-believe or real. (And of course make-believe is legitimate fun, so long as they know it's make-believe.) I figure if I do that a few hundred times the scientific method will just start coming naturally to them.

4) Focus on others. Individuals, or society at large. Think in terms of a legacy that will endure beyond your death. Find a big thing you want to change or accomplish in the world and set about it. Don't philosophize until you've second-or-third-or-fourth guessed yourself into depression and inaction. Pick a good cause and devote yourself to it for a few years, and then look back and count the positive influence you've had. Normally I think that introspection is a good thing, but if you want to have a meaningful impact, the first step is to stop examining your own navel. You already know how to do good in the world. Get your head out and go do it. That simple.

---------------------

I also suggest you find a good Unitarian-Universalist or Secular Humanist minister to discuss these things with, or a professional psychiatrist if you can afford one. They're professionals with a lot of experience in exactly these issues. We're the peanut galley with some legitimate experiences and ideas, but not in the same league, and not capable of one-on-one, face-to-face counseling. If you're really having these severe anxiety attacks, and they're severely impacting your life, you should seek help. There's no shame in that. Also, dude, talk to your girlfriend if you haven't already. Make sure she knows where you're at, so you don't feel you have to hide from her and so you can ask for some space when you need it.
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24-10-2013, 12:18 AM
RE: Help through Deconversion
Just a thought. You seem to feel the need to let your family know how you feel about this, yet dread the thought of doing it. I was in the same boat when I lost my faith.

I wrote a letter to my parents. It was pretty emotional, full of the kinds of argument I needed to share with them, to let them know that this wasn't a "hatred" of god or some decision I had come to lightly.

Over the course of a few months, I rewrote and revised this letter, until it said what I really wanted it to say and what I thought they needed to hear. Over the course of a few months, it changed drastically. The more I thought and learned, and the more I thought about what would be the most beneficial for them to hear me tell them about what I believed, the more it changed.

When I finally got it down what I knew I needed to say to them, I read it over one last time.............then deleted it.

I would encourage you to write this letter, whether or not you ever end up sending it. It's very cathartic and helped me work through some of the tougher points of what I had realized and held to be true.

I still haven't told my family about my atheism. There hasn't been a need to yet. I realize this isn't everyone's situation, but yours sounds a bit like mine. I know it'll come about one day, my two kids being the primary reason that I know a discussion about whether I am raising them "right" will come up. But I'll be prepared for that day. Until then, it's not worth the fractured relationships that might occur if I come out and throw that in their face. I'm waiting for the right time.

It's been posted time and again, but if you haven't seen it I think it's one of the most well put arguments for leaving belief that I've ever heard. So I'll just post it for you.




But now I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.

~ Umberto Eco
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