Need some support in my deconversion process. (Long post.)
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15-08-2017, 10:01 AM
Need some support in my deconversion process. (Long post.)
Hi,

I'm new to The Thinking Atheist forum and I'm unsure of what subforum to post this in, but I hope it's OK to post it here. Let me know if I should post this someplace else.

I grew up in a very religious environment in Sweden. My family and I attended a fundamentalist Christian church and I attended the church's Christian school for many years. My parents and siblings are still Christians but I don't call myself a Christian anymore (unless my family members ask if I still believe in God and I lie in order to spare them the pain they'd experience if I said "I don't know"). I'm not sure if I'm an atheist though and I'm still trying to figure things out.

I'm certainly leaning towards atheism but I'm still hesitant to call myself an atheist. I'm terrified of hell and of being wrong about God's (probable) non-existence, which would result in an eternity of torture. There's a lot more I could say on the subject of hell (how hell doesn't make sense, how I'm not afraid of any other religion's hell, etc.) but I won't go into that right now. Anyway, I devour everything I can find on atheism. I read a lot of books, listen to a lot of podcasts, watch a lot of videos, and so on, and I've noticed that I tend to side with atheists most of the time. I've realised that the more I think about Christianity, the more absurd it seems. Also, there's no way I can unsee all the inconsistencies and absurdities I've now seen.

I'm really trying to go through this deconversion process (or whatever it is) the right way though and I want to make an informed decision, so I'm also trying to read books and watch videos by Christians. I feel like I'm failing at that though. I feel like I read far more books by atheists than by Christians because I find the books by atheists far more compelling, interesting and sensible. Also, when reading books by Christians I mostly just feel sad, really sad. Sad that I no longer truly believe in the God I grew up believing in. Sad that that comfort is taken away from me. It's like I'm grieving and it hurts.

Got two questions for you at the moment:

1. Because I tend to favour books (etc.) by atheists, I'm starting to worry a bit that maybe I've already made up my mind and that I'm somehow falling victim to confirmation bias. I don't know if that makes sense. Guess I'm wondering how to know if I'm favouring books (etc.) by atheists because I've already made up my mind that Christianity is probably man-made or if I'm favouring books by atheists because I, for some reason, want Christianity to be man-made and I'm now just looking for information to support that. Do you know what I mean? I'm aware I'm probably overthinking this but overthinking things is kind of what I do.

2. I think the sadness I feel when I think about God is difficult to handle. Like I mentioned earlier, it's like I'm grieving. I look back on my years as a devout Christian and feel nostalgic and sad, which triggers thoughts like "see, you miss Christianity and the comfort you felt back then. This might be God trying to get you to come back to him." Sometimes I really feel like maybe there is such a thing as a "God-shaped vacuum" inside of me and it's difficult to get away from thoughts like that. How do I deal with it? The thoughts and the grief. It's like I'm mourning a real person.

Thanks for reading.
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15-08-2017, 10:05 AM
RE: Need some support in my deconversion process. (Long post.)
I'm heading out the door so sorry for not-very-substantial reply...but regarding number 1: There's tons of apologetics out there, pick up a couple of the popular ones. Websites too, must be millions. See if they present any arguments you can't rebut.

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15-08-2017, 10:09 AM
RE: Need some support in my deconversion process. (Long post.)
(15-08-2017 10:05 AM)jerry mcmasters Wrote:  I'm heading out the door so sorry for not-very-substantial reply...but regarding number 1: There's tons of apologetics out there, pick up a couple of the popular ones. Websites too, must be millions. See if they present any arguments you can't rebut.

Trying to. I'm currently reading The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence For Belief by Francis Collins and so far it's only made me sad (because of what I wrote in the first post) and frustrated/angry.
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15-08-2017, 10:27 AM (This post was last modified: 15-08-2017 10:31 AM by jennybee.)
RE: Need some support in my deconversion process. (Long post.)
Hi, I felt the same way during my deconversion. I don't know if you've read Bart Ehrman's The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction and The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings? These books helped me immensly during my deconversion because he comes at things from a scholarly point of view and not from a "here this is what you *need* to believe." He leaves the ability to think for yourself wide open. All he does is present the scholarly historical facts.

The other thing that helped me was to get a *scholarly* Christian Bible Commentary. Emphasis on the word "scholarly." The one I liked was the IVP Bible Commentaries. These commentary books represent the facts without the woo--so it might help you to feel better or feel like you are getting a more balanced approach in making your spiritual (or not so spiritual) decisions regarding philosophy of life.

The mourning period passes. At least it did for me. The way the church works (or any cult works) is that it makes you rely upon it for everything (including social because family and community are involved). This is one way they keep you engaged and active within the community. If you look up characteristics of cult mentality--Christianity hits almost every single characteristic of cult-like behavior.

"Let the waters settle and you will see the moon and stars mirrored in your own being." -Rumi
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15-08-2017, 10:43 AM
RE: Need some support in my deconversion process. (Long post.)
(15-08-2017 10:01 AM)Anonymous Skeptic Wrote:  Hi,

2. I think the sadness I feel when I think about God is difficult to handle. Like I mentioned earlier, it's like I'm grieving. I look back on my years as a devout Christian and feel nostalgic and sad, which triggers thoughts like "see, you miss Christianity and the comfort you felt back then. This might be God trying to get you to come back to him." Sometimes I really feel like maybe there is such a thing as a "God-shaped vacuum" inside of me and it's difficult to get away from thoughts like that. How do I deal with it? The thoughts and the grief. It's like I'm mourning a real person.

Thanks for reading.

You ARE grieving!! That is exactly what grieving is.

Your thoughts are used to going to a certain person/place/thing whenever you experience xxx. Every time your thoughts go there, they encounter a vacuum. This can make you sad or angry. It's not in your control. But it does wear off as your brain slowly learns that xxx does not result in contact with the missing entity.

It's like in programming - when you remove something, you have to remove all references to it also or you will keep looping around. Your brain is removing the references from the program bit by bit. In the end, the info will be saved and ready for recall - your memories.

That is basically what grieving is all about. I know, that's not very romantic and doesn't have enough broken hearts or dragons. But it works that way, and it does so whether you like it or not.

Your god has been a go-to for your thoughts and your thoughts are slowly re-learning where to go. You do have a vacuum. It does hurt. It does pass.

[Image: dobie.png]Science is the process we've designed to be responsible for generating our best guess as to what the fuck is going on. Girly Man
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15-08-2017, 10:56 AM
RE: Need some support in my deconversion process. (Long post.)
*also in terms of hell fears...

Think about what you fear. I mean really think about it in logical and rational terms. Hell, a place no one has ever seen exists somewhere and is defined as a "lake of fire." It is ruled over by a red magical monster put there by a magical invisible genie who lives in a mansion in the clouds. Sound made up to you? Wink You might as well believe in Grimm's Fairy Tales. Tongue The only difference is *people* told you the Bible was true before you had the ability (often as a child) to rationally assess fact from fiction. If no one ever told you about hell, you would not know it existed. If no one told you about the Christian version of God you would not know he existed.

Also, Jesus was not that remarkable in terms of the goings on at the time. Many people were running around claiming magical feats--it was kind of the "in thing" to do. Christians like to say Jesus was "special" but if you do a little digging into history, you can clearly see this is simply not true. Jesus is the one who just happened to stick into legend. *Read Richard Carrier's Kooks and Quacks of the Roman Empire (available online).

"Let the waters settle and you will see the moon and stars mirrored in your own being." -Rumi
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15-08-2017, 11:20 AM
RE: Need some support in my deconversion process. (Long post.)
Let's just be clear that there's no decision here.

It's not like you've got two different shades of paint that you're gonna paint your house with and you're gonna research them both and make an informed decision about which one is the True Paint that you want to paint your house with. In that situation there's equal cases for either of the two shades.

It's more like you've got two different assertions - theories - about how say... gravity works. So you're gonna do all the experiments and research, but ultimately it's not a case of *deciding* which theory you're going to believe, it's a case of observing which one matches the facts and which one is a load of crap.

You're right to be worried about confirmation bias. It's a definite thing to be aware of, but the fact that you are cross-examining yourself... it kinda means that you will be going out of your way to give the God-botherers a chance. Which... I can pretty much guarantee they won't come up with anything concrete.

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If you're perfect -- Alanis Morissette
(06-02-2014 03:47 PM)Momsurroundedbyboys Wrote:  And I'm giving myself a conclusion again from all the facepalming.
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15-08-2017, 11:25 AM
RE: Need some support in my deconversion process. (Long post.)
(15-08-2017 10:01 AM)Anonymous Skeptic Wrote:  1. Because I tend to favour books (etc.) by atheists, I'm starting to worry a bit that maybe I've already made up my mind and that I'm somehow falling victim to confirmation bias. I don't know if that makes sense. Guess I'm wondering how to know if I'm favouring books (etc.) by atheists because I've already made up my mind that Christianity is probably man-made or if I'm favouring books by atheists because I, for some reason, want Christianity to be man-made and I'm now just looking for information to support that. Do you know what I mean? I'm aware I'm probably overthinking this but overthinking things is kind of what I do.

For how many years did Christians have your ear exclusively? And for how many years now have you been reading atheist books? No, I wouldn't worry about confirmation bias at this point. Wait until you are familiar with what atheists have to say as well, then decide where you are. It's only fair.

My favorite book of atheistic arguments is Victor Stenger's God: The Failed Hypothesis.
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15-08-2017, 11:32 AM
RE: Need some support in my deconversion process. (Long post.)
(15-08-2017 11:20 AM)morondog Wrote:  Let's just be clear that there's no decision here.

It's not like you've got two different shades of paint that you're gonna paint your house with and you're gonna research them both and make an informed decision about which one is the True Paint that you want to paint your house with. In that situation there's equal cases for either of the two shades.

It's more like you've got two different assertions - theories - about how say... gravity works. So you're gonna do all the experiments and research, but ultimately it's not a case of *deciding* which theory you're going to believe, it's a case of observing which one matches the facts and which one is a load of crap.

You're right to be worried about confirmation bias. It's a definite thing to be aware of, but the fact that you are cross-examining yourself... it kinda means that you will be going out of your way to give the God-botherers a chance. Which... I can pretty much guarantee they won't come up with anything concrete.

Thumbsup Great points! I think it's also helpful to think in terms of "Okay, Side A says this and Side B says this." Then ask yourself, which sounds more logical, more rational, more plausible?

It also helps to take the word "god" and "devil" out of things because those are trigger (i.e. brainwashing) words which can inhibit rational thinking. Instead replace "god" with good invisible magical leprechaun and "the devil" with bad invisible magical leprechaun. You're basically replacing one mythical creature with another, but in doing so, you are allowing your brain to see the absurdity of thought. Allowing your brain to see the absurdity of thought allows it to kick out any residual religious crap.

"Let the waters settle and you will see the moon and stars mirrored in your own being." -Rumi
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15-08-2017, 11:50 AM
RE: Need some support in my deconversion process. (Long post.)
(15-08-2017 10:27 AM)jennybee Wrote:  I don't know if you've read Bart Ehrman's The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction and The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings? These books helped me immensly during my deconversion because he comes at things from a scholarly point of view and not from a "here this is what you *need* to believe." He leaves the ability to think for yourself wide open. All he does is present the scholarly historical facts.

Thanks for the suggestion. I haven't read anything by Bart Ehrman yet but I've got one of his books (Misquoting Jesus) and I'm planning on reading it soon.

(15-08-2017 10:56 AM)jennybee Wrote:  Think about what you fear. I mean really think about it in logical and rational terms. Hell, a place no one has ever seen exists somewhere and is defined as a "lake of fire." It is ruled over by a red magical monster put there by a magical invisible genie who lives in a mansion in the clouds. Sound made up to you? Wink You might as well believe in Grimm's Fairy Tales. Tongue The only difference is *people* told you the Bible was true before you had the ability (often as a child) to rationally assess fact from fiction. If no one ever told you about hell, you would not know it existed. If no one told you about the Christian version of God you would not know he existed.

Hah, yeah, it sounds like a load of bullshit. I've been going through this deconversion process for quite some time now but it's not until recently that I've really understood how crazy it all sounds. It's like I've been granted access to an outsider's view of it and I'm honestly really surprised that I believe (believed?) in such bizarre stories. A God who created humans and created the devil and then made the devil tempt humans so the humans (and all future humans) became sinners destined for eternal torture in hell. A hell that could only be avoided if God, who is actually three in one, sent part of himself to earth to be born of a virgin and then went on to die on a cross to save humans from himself and the hell he created. That God has also made himself the world champion of hide-and-seek and can't really be found even when people voluntarily choose to seek him, which is too bad for those people because they will be tortured forever in hell since they can't just believe in God on faith. Facepalm

But still I can't seem let go because I'm so afraid of what happens if I'm wrong.

(15-08-2017 10:43 AM)Dom Wrote:  Your god has been a go-to for your thoughts and your thoughts are slowly re-learning where to go. You do have a vacuum. It does hurt. It does pass.

That makes sense. I just hope I'll eventually stop interpreting the feelings of grief as God trying to make me come back to him, which is something I feel even though I realise it probably doesn't make any sense.

(15-08-2017 11:20 AM)morondog Wrote:  Let's just be clear that there's no decision here.

It's not like you've got two different shades of paint that you're gonna paint your house with and you're gonna research them both and make an informed decision about which one is the True Paint that you want to paint your house with. In that situation there's equal cases for either of the two shades.

It's more like you've got two different assertions - theories - about how say... gravity works. So you're gonna do all the experiments and research, but ultimately it's not a case of *deciding* which theory you're going to believe, it's a case of observing which one matches the facts and which one is a load of crap.

You're right and I'm aware it's not a decision. It's not like I can actually choose to believe something. What I meant is that I'm trying to gather information from both sides of the debate and, like you said, see which one matches the facts.

(15-08-2017 11:20 AM)morondog Wrote:  You're right to be worried about confirmation bias. It's a definite thing to be aware of, but the fact that you are cross-examining yourself... it kinda means that you will be going out of your way to give the God-botherers a chance. Which... I can pretty much guarantee they won't come up with anything concrete.

I'm really trying to give the "God-botherers" a chance but I regularly find myself favouring books/videos/podcasts by atheists. Mostly because they make more sense to me nowadays.
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