Share your de-conversion story
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05-07-2015, 05:11 PM
RE: Share your de-conversion story
I grew up fundamentalist (Baptist). My father was first a part-time preacher and then a full-time jail chaplain; at one point he started his own church that met in our house. He lacked the people skills to keep a preaching job, but was successful in jails and prisons. I read the Bible cover to cover numerous times and was required by my parents to memorize lots of verses. The approach in our home was literal, even though my father had a scientific background. One of the things we did as part of the prison ministry was run a halfway house for ex-cons who had accepted Jesus, so I was able to see first-hand that adopting a religious viewpoint did very little in the way of making significant changes in one's personality. Eventually my mother ran away with one of the ex-cons and my father was kind of defrocked, fired from the ministry, and I got to see what absolute jerks the people from the Baptist church that had sponsored him were. They immediately stopped speaking to us kids (we had to keep going to church through all of this, while my mom was gone and my father was still generally in jail on Sunday mornings) and treated us like the spawn of Satan.
i moved to the position of evaluating the god of the Bible and deciding that he wasn't worthy of worship, but I wasn't quite ready to give up god or Christianity. I went to a rigorous (nonreligious) college and found some very nice Episcopalians, so I sojourned there for a while when moving away from fundamentalist Christianity. I read a lot of philosophy, took courses in religion and philosophy, and eventually realized that there could not be anything like the personal god(s) of the major religions. I felt that Christianity when interpreted in the most metaphorical way didn't have anything to offer me, although the Episcopalians were very kind and fed me every Sunday. Any credible god was so amorphous and remote that there was no point worshiping it, and any "personal" god was so petty and evil that worshiping it was morally reprehensible. By my senior year of college I had become philosophically agnostic, pragmatically atheist, and that's where I have remained since. What's changed in the 30 years since college is my assessment of the harms religions do, as I've seen so much damage in others and myself from their upbringings.
I was told throughout my childhood that I was second-rate purely because of my female gender, and that I was fundamentally bad because I was a sinful human being; both of those positions are fundamentally harmful, I feel.
My father, by the way, went back into physics and had a long and successful career at Johns Hopkins, but remains fundamentalist and angry. My mother never went back to my father. She lived for a while with the ex con and then went back to school and became a college professor. The ex con she ran away with was eventually murdered.
I've built what I feel is a pretty happy, productive, stable life without a god or religion. It took a lot of work for me to get to a place, emotionally, where I don't have a default feeling of guilt/shame, but I got there in the end.
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05-07-2015, 05:13 PM
RE: Share your de-conversion story
Welcome and thanks for sharing your story.

“I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man’s reasoning powers are not above the monkey’s.”~Mark Twain
“Ocean: A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man - who has no gills.”~ Ambrose Bierce
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06-07-2015, 07:06 AM
RE: Share your de-conversion story
Ugh, prison chaplains. I've had some fuuuun tangles with those bastards, while I was locked up.

Some of the crap they teach felons makes them worse human beings, and makes the prison more dangerous. As I've written elsewhere, I learned quickly that, in the joint, the most religious inmates are the ones you should generally be most afraid of.

That's not to say anything negative about your dad. I'm sure there are some decent human beings who're also prison clergy, but most of them spent their time teaching extremist views to people who don't need to be hearing justifications for extremist viewpoints, and suppressing the inmates whose religious views disagree with their own. (I've helped on numerous cases where the prison chaplains--who must sign off on things like religious icons/jewelry, prayer rugs, Qur'ans, and religious worship service callouts/study-groups for all inmates--refused to allow things for other religions that they allowed their Christian flocks to practice easily, even obvious groups like Muslims and Native Americans.) I've even been directly threatened by two chaplains, the Major in charge of security, and the shift commander for trying to form a 4-man Secular Humanist study-group to meet at one of the gymnasium tables used by the Bible Study groups every day... they said we'd be classified as a "Security Threat Group" (STG=prison gang) and placed in Administrative Segregation (the Hole) for the duration of our stay if we met again. I'm glad I no longer have to deal with that nonsense.

Welcome to our little Heathen Hangout! Smile

"Theology made no provision for evolution. The biblical authors had missed the most important revelation of all! Could it be that they were not really privy to the thoughts of God?" - E. O. Wilson
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06-07-2015, 07:55 AM
RE: Share your de-conversion story
(06-07-2015 07:06 AM)RocketSurgeon76 Wrote:  Ugh, prison chaplains. I've had some fuuuun tangles with those bastards, while I was locked up…[snip] That's not to say anything negative about your dad. I'm sure there are some decent human beings who're also prison clergy, but most of them spent their time teaching extremist views to people who don't need to be hearing justifications for extremist viewpoints, and suppressing the inmates whose religious views disagree with their own.

Unfortunately my dad would probably fit your general experience of prison chaplains. He is quite rigid and authoritarian. Now that he's retired permanently from physics, he has gotten back into prison ministry big time in a volunteer way, and I imagine he is up to all of his old tricks. Especially since he's getting on now and is trying very hard to improve his chances of heaven by lassoing as many souls for the lord as he can.

Welcome to our little Heathen Hangout! Smile

Thanks! Smile[/color]
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06-07-2015, 08:15 AM
RE: Share your de-conversion story
Ugh, I'm sorry to hear it. But yeah, didn't want to say it-- I've only met a couple exceptions to the rule, in all my time down. Some of the volunteers who came in from outside church groups for particular events were fantastic people, genuinely kind and caring, but the actual prison chaplains seem to be selected with a particular breed of fundie claptrap and authoritarianism in mind.

No one wants to talk about it, but I assure you if it was ever investigated that you could attribute at minimum one to two major fights and/or stabbings a year (at any serious prison) directly to the teachings of those chaplains.

That's not even counting the "we are the majority and you are not" attitude of the Christian prisoners toward the groups they see being officially suppressed. Luckily, there are enough non-sheep there in Population that guys tend to protect the minority religious groups from the Christians, since as I said the Christian groups tend to be composed of the worst humans in there. Sad

"Theology made no provision for evolution. The biblical authors had missed the most important revelation of all! Could it be that they were not really privy to the thoughts of God?" - E. O. Wilson
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10-07-2015, 11:43 PM
RE: Share your de-conversion story
I'm really happy to have the chance to share this story. I put a version in my introduction thread, but I'll be more detailed here.

My parents weren't religious. I was baptized as an infant in the most liberal Church my parents could find, because that was the family custom. Shortly after, we stopped going to Church until around the time my little sister needed to be baptized. My family identified as Christian, but neither of my parents really knew what that meant. My mother would go on rants against religion, albeit she wasn't very intellectual about it. It came down to "religious people offend me, therefor I don't like religion."

I found my family's apathy and my mom's shallow criticism of religion very off putting. I liked the idea of myself as a religious person. It was my way of creating my own identity and separating from my family's traditions to find my own, authentic self.

You see, I became outwardly religious, and I loved it. I loved identifying with religion. But I never actually believed. I've always been a critical thinker. Throughout my journey, priests told me that was a bad thing. Now, I see it's what saved me.

So, at 15, I was confirmed in the Eastern Orthodox Church. I love history, and this group had a lot of it. Their schtick is that they keep old ideas...because they're old. They think that maintaining "Holy Tradition" helps keep the integrity of their religious doctrine, which I totally get. I found the modernism in other churches repulsive and phony.

At 17, I came to terms with the fact that I'm gay. I knew I had to leave my religion (which said gay sex is sinful) if I was ever going to be free to be myself. I took a hiatus from Church for the summer. It was amazing. I realized that prayer doesn't do a whole lot - I have to go and get what I want. I lost 50 lbs. I was more confident, and happier than ever.

Then, I broke down. I couldn't rationalize the certainty I had that there was a God with the idea that absolute truth couldn't be found in a religion. I thought I had no guide for morals or anything. I also desperately missed the community I left - they became my family during my parents' divorce.

I went back to the EOC, "repented" for having left. In reality, I thought that if here really was a God, surely he/she/it understood that I was being sincere and wouldn't mind my straying. I wanted to be a religious person of integrity, so I knew that staying in the Church meant being celibate and doing my best to follow the rules. During this time, I "fell asleep". I handed over my mind. I was told what was real and what wasn't, and I took it all. I met an Orthodox monk who was gay ad had turned from the "lifestyle". I thought I had a friend in him, and I trusted him. He sent me a letter of absolute nonsense that was supposed to be his psychological analysis of homosexuality. He recommended I go to a sex addict recovery group (because you know, all gay men are addicted to sex). I showed the letter to my other celibate friends, and they bought it. I was scandalized, and was alienated from my small support group when I told them I thought the letter was absolute shit.

At 19, I got to college. I was terribly lonely. My inner conflict between my own beliefs, the beliefs I thought I had to accept, my sexuality, and everything turned into a terrible depression. Not wanting to associate with people who would question my convictions (as I was a hair away from an existential breakdown), I made friends in the Roman Catholic club at school. People from the Orthodox Church were allowed to take communion in Catholic Churches, so I did. I left my childhood Church once more - which, with the exception of pretty hymns, had become pretty boring. The new priest was much more "this world is evil and we must resist" than the first priest I knew, who was much nicer and focused on social justice and the like.

I joined the RCC. Soon, I got sick of the people around me - none of them even knew what their own religion taught, or questioned it. None of them struggled with ideas like purgatory. Priests were too afraid of mentioning it in sermons, because they might offend someone. Catholic masses in my town, and I had tried them all, were nothing impressive. A bunch of fluff. No incense or ancient chants like I had known in my old Church.

I went to a traditionalist Roman Catholic Church for a summer. Lovely incense, chants, and Tridentine Latin Mass. Gorgeous. But the priests and the community were totally right-wing. In their sermons, they said that evolution is an anti-Christian lie, that Jews and Protestants are running the US and hate Catholics, and I don't think I need to mention that they were absolutely demonizing to gay people.

This community began to ware on me. I took in what they believed, believing I was being obedient to God. The same thing I was used to, but was missing in a more liberal Catholic Church - surrendering my mind for a sense of belonging.

I wanted to go to a monastery. I called one that did the Latin Mass. They were enthusiastic because of my conservative background (not like those modernists). One question the abbot asked me in our one and only phone call floored me - "Are you manly?" I told him I didn't know how to answer that. He told me how he disliked effeminate men and all. He asked me "Have you ever been attracted to guys?" I told him that I am gay, wanting to have integrity. He told me to just put that I was straight on the application form. He asked other really weird questions "Have you ever masturbated?" "Have you ever seen pornography?" If he thinks the guys who answer these in the negative are telling the truth, I have some news for him.

Western Christianity puts much more emphasis on gender roles. There is more of a need to explain everything, theologically, while in eastern Christianity, everything being a mystery was a common answer to hard questions.

I got to a point where I hid that I was gay for the first time. I was so deeply depressed. I have never been so sad. I almost didn't want to live anymore. I thought there was nowhere for me - the world was too sinful and wrong, and the Church thought I was evil, just for being me. I couldn't tolerate a more progressive Church (and, boy, did I try!) I felt as though there was no reason for me to be existing, because I didn't have a "place".

This new kind of Christianity lead me to question the teachings of the faith. There was no doubt in my head that this theology was made up to control people. I knew in the back of my mind that all of this was utter, hilarious nonsense. I fought those thoughts, but they kept coming. I couldn't stop myself from thinking, from having conflicts over things.

I spent a long time not being able to reconcile what I knew to be true with religion - any religion. I thought "what is truth?" My friends told me the Bible was infallible truth, but looking at the history of the Bible, that's obvious bullshit. My Church taught me to look to them to interpret the bible to me, but why should I trust these people to know, who wrote on this stuff centuries ago?

Religion didn't make sense to me for more reasons than I can put in this post. I looked briefly into other religious traditions, but I couldn't see how they were any more true than the Christianity I was wrestling with.

I thought - there are priests in the same religion who give me the opposite answers to basic questions on life. Who am I to believe? The church's documents on faith and morals don't help at all, as they contradict each other many times, and many times they're obviously false.

It got to this point: Did I believe that a council of men was protected from teaching error (ie. Ecumeical Councils)? Did I believe that the Pope in Rome was protected from teaching error when speaking ex cathedra (ie. papal infallibility)?

I knew my answer, but I also knew what admitting my own disbelief to myself would mean for me, so I buried it. But I couldn't stop thinking about these things. The answer was, of course, no. That was it for me - Christianity is false, because there is no spiritual force making one group right and another group wrong for a minute difference in belief.

Then, I began to mentally chew on bigger concepts. I asked myself a question, and I answered it honestly, forgetting my inhibitions.

Do I believe that communion is the literal body and blood of jesus? No.
Do I believe that the miracles in the Bible, which I was always told to accept on "faith", were really true? No. (And after my first physics class - emphatically NO.)

Then, the biggie. The question that decided everything for me. Can I allow myself to intellectually submit, to believe something that has no evidence, without question? Is my own intellect worth the easy, thoughtless answers that religion offered?

My answer - No. It's an easy thing for me to say now. If something is obviously not true, then that's good enough for me. There probably isn't a God. Why? Because that's a ridiculous idea.

I am going to school for social work. I study people and their environments. I am now able to study people with no discrimination or preconceived prejudice. I can be open about who I am, and be authentically me. I don't need to worry about offending any big being in the sky - that's crazy.

When I walk outside, I marvel at how amazing the world around us is. I can finally be satisfied with the world around me.

What's more, I adore biology. I am considering doing another major in it (though my scholarship won't let me unless I pay for it myself - it may be worth it! It's currently too late to switch.) Studying the science of the world around me is so wonderful, and since I've left my former religious ideas, I am free to study without reservation. What I love about science is, to quote Neil DeGrasse Tyson, is that "it's real, whether people believe in it or not". I trust things that make sense, that are real.

I am so much better. I feel like a bird that's been let out of a cage.

I'm pretty critical of religion now. I'm all about respect and such. Having been on the bad side of it, however, and having been abused by it, I have little sympathy for it.

So, I am an atheist. I really like humanist philosophy. I like to think and learn. I don't discriminate facts anymore - I'm cool letting the world surprise me.

So, that's my story.
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11-07-2015, 08:06 AM (This post was last modified: 11-07-2015 09:00 AM by RocketSurgeon76.)
RE: Share your de-conversion story
FreeThinker - If it's just the information you're after, I recommend you look into making some of your "free electives" biology classes instead of the usual selections. Many advisers will have no problem with this.

I am a former biologist, so if you'd accept a couple of recommendations:

Invertebrate Zoology - Primarily focuses on ocean creatures, which is a large percent of the invertebrate animal kingdom, and turns out to be an effective course in "history of evolution", since many of the body-plans and evolutionary adaptations that Creationists tend to think are impossible leaps are traced out neatly in creatures that not only weren't "badly adapted", as Creationists like to claim, but were so well-adapted despite being transitional forms that they still exist today. A good example is the notocord, which led to the modern spinal column. Tracing the evolution of the gut, of the nephridic system (kidneys), and the brain/sensor-ended critters was especially fascinating to me. All in one, 3-hour-credit class with a 1-hour lab.

Comparative Anatomy - Most universities have some version of this. It sometimes has prerequisites, but you may be able to talk the Department Head into letting you take it anyway, if you explain your reasoning. Essentially, in this course, you dissect a shark and a cat, and locate the identical systems in both, even though they evolved in such different directions. It's a "look right here and you can see the proof that evolution happened" course. What is fully developed in one species is atrophied in the other, and vice-versa... but the systems are still there! It's fascinating beyond words.

Intro to Microbiology - This changed the entire way I saw the world. Also a class-plus-lab course, but you learn a lot from both, and the hands-on nature of it keeps it interesting. It will teach you why and how your own cells work, how various types of cells evolved, and how they rely on others for their survival. It will also shock you to learn just how filthy the human body is, and what exactly is in your cheese, among other things. Most interesting to me was learning how the various types of invaders to the human body do their work, and what the body uses to fight back-- we grew agar cultures (petri dishes) of what's on our hands even after washing with antimicrobial soap and scrubbing like surgeons, as well as "cough-plates" of what's in our mouths/throats... I had strep throat at the time, so I was very excited! Most interestingly, it turned out that my strep colonies got little bigger in 48 hrs in the incubator than about 2mm, while the "touch plates", where our freshly-scrubbed fingers barely touched the agar, literally overgrew their lids! Humans are groooosssss.

Biochemistry and/or Cellular Biology - No way to get around the prerequisites for these, I'm sure, since you have to know a lot about organic chemistry to even understand how a biosynthetic pathway operates, but the knowledge of how your body actually works on a chemical level is invaluable.

And, if somehow you can't get your "extra" classes paid for, keep in mind that many science classes are not at maximum seating capacity, and even if you're not in college a number of professors don't mind if you "audit" (attend without being registered) their classes. You receive no credit-hours, but if the goal is to simply attain the knowledge for your own edification and/or career improvement, then it's not a bad way to go.

Congratulations on shaking off your "thinking is Baaaaaaad" (sheep-bleating voice) religious upbringing. I went through much the same sort of process... as did many of us, here. So you're definitely one of the crew! Smile

"Theology made no provision for evolution. The biblical authors had missed the most important revelation of all! Could it be that they were not really privy to the thoughts of God?" - E. O. Wilson
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25-07-2015, 09:35 AM
RE: Share your de-conversion story
I'm trying to lengthen my story out into a blog, but here's the Reader's Digest version:

When I was five years old, my family moved to a small town called Yellville in Arkansas. My mom was sick when we moved, but insisted we come here rather than have me and my younger brothers grow up in Florida. The next November, she died and I was the lucky one to find her. Not the highlight of my life to be sure. About a year later my dad met and married a young woman whom I have called Mom ever since. It was through her that my family found religion, she insisted she wouldn't marry my dad unless he quit drinking and smoking pot and we had to attend their church. Their church was what they called Full Gospel, which I would describe as a cross between TV televangelism, AoG, and Pentecostalism. Her uncle was the preacher, and the entire 20 member congregation was either blood related or married into the church. Now there was no snake handling or such, but there was quite a bit of the faith healing, speaking in tongues with interpreting, dancing "in the spirit", etc. While it seems quite cultish, other than the shouting hellfire sermons that could last for hours and such, it followed the basic Pentecostal format, everyone lived pretty normal lives. They listened to secular music (Amy Grant was still a couple years away), watched TV and movies, all the regular things that country folks do, except drink alcohol.

Dad converted and immersed himself completely into the culture, and being the oldest boy, I did exactly as he did. By age nine I had not only read the entire Bible cover to cover, but had also read just about every book by Kenneth E. Haggan, a few by Kenneth Copeland, and a couple other Prosperity Gospel preachers whose names escape me. At the same time, I was (and still am) a PBS junky. Already I was being exposed to evolution, other cultures, and mythologies. My zeal for "God" morphed into a zeal for myths and science. Joseph Campbell taught me that all the religions say pretty much the same thing, and I believed that while Christianity was the "true" religion, other religions also had access to that truth. This was quite a step for a fourteen year old. I asked my dad why it was that Judaism, Christianity and Islam were always fighting when they all worshiped the same god. His answer, "Muslims don't worship the same god we do." That's where I realized a) Daddy doesn't know everything and b) I wasn't getting my answers from their church.

So I set off on exploration of all kinds of myths. About this time I developed a crush on my now best friend. She was tall, blonde, and gorgeous, and also a bit of a hippy. She introduced me to modern fantasy. I had already read all of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and a few other classic titles, but she introduced me to Mercedes Lackey. Then she told me she was trying to become a Wiccan. I had no idea what that was, but researched it as best I could in the Dark Ages before Internet. I liked what I read, but didn't like the use of pagan gods. So I created my own version using the Trinity plus Allah to correspond to the four elements and a "God" that was the essence of the other 4 combined to correspond with Spirit or Ether.

That held up until I went to college. Even though I was better at memorizing facts than my classmates, I refused to do homework. My thinking was that the purpose of homework is to help you learn the concepts they were teaching me. I already knew the concepts just from reading the books, so doing the homework was a waste of my time. This would infuriate my teachers, as they knew every other student in my class was gathered around my desk getting the answers to the homework before the tardy bell rang. Then when it came time to turn in the assignment, which they KNEW I had just given out the answers for, I would cross my arms over my chest, lean back in my desk and say, "I didn't do it." So my grades only allowed for a small scholarship to Hannibal-LaGrange College in Hannibal, Missouri. This was a small, Southern Baptist school, and the SBC was at the tail end of the Jerry Fallwell takeover. Peer pressure mostly caused me to abandon my ridiculous (and in hind sight it WAS ridiculous) belief system and take up Fundamentalism.

That lasted about a year and a half. Tuition to the school went up, and I was forced to leave for University of Central Arkansas in Conway. The combined culture shock of real world experience and population increase led to my dropping out of school, taking to a life of petty crime, picking up Wicca and Asatru, and then cleaning up my life by joining the Navy.

In the Navy, I decided that paganism wasn't really for me either and became somewhat agnostic. I knew there was still some kind of God out there, but didn't know what to do about that. In November of 1999 I met my now wife, and in February 2000 we got married by a JP at Jacksonville, North Carolina courthouse. In 2003, after leaving the Navy, I took a job with the VA in Northwest Arkansas. In October of 2006, my wife told me she was pregnant with our first child. She's not exactly Catholic, never having been confirmed, but she felt Catholic enough that she wanted our child christened. I knew there was no way I was becoming Catholic, so the search for a church to accomplish that began.

In February of 2007, we found All Saints, a new Episcopal church was being founded in Bentonville. I found their website and called Father Roger, who invited me to their first service. We went, and I found I had a lot in common with this more liberal strain of Christianity. I was able to utilize my Bible knowledge (I never stopped studying it for some reason), but was soon learning even more about the history of Anglican faith and of Christianity in general. I became moderator of their Theology Pub, which discussed higher spiritual concepts and books over drinks. We talked about not just Christianity, but philosophy and other religions in a neutral, safe setting. This is where I discovered the Gospel of Thomas and Gnosticism.

After a long stretch of studying, I discovered the Nag Hammadi Library, which is a collection of codex (the forerunners of modern books) discovered in Egypt around 1945. Some of these texts were books we had only heard of from guys like Ireneus, Turtullian, and Origen. I found out that some people were reconstructing this more esoteric version of Christianity and immediately started soaking that up. The overarching theme seemed to be peeling away the layers of your beliefs and of the texts to find the truth and the true nature of God. Gnosis meant learning by experiencing God through revelation. And that leads me to where I am now...

By this time I had already rejected Biblical inerrancy, Hell, the Patriarchs and even an historical Jesus. Then I met a priest named Gwen, formerly Gary. She had decided to transition after being with her parish in Arkansas for a few years, and rather than split the congregation, went to the bishop to voluntarily give up her post. After a year she is still out of a job, as this bishop and every other one in the country has told her they don't think they can find a church that will accept her as she is. Won't accept her?! In a denomination that prides itself on inclusion of all?! Really!? I was flabbergasted. Then watching the lead up to the SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality, and I had a conversation with Mom (my step-mother) about a Josh Fuerstein video she shared on Facebook titled, "What Jesus would say about Gay Marriage." I asked her, "I don't understand this. You are willing to take this guys opinion of what Jesus might have said since Jesus never actually mentions homosexuality in the gospels, but are willing to ignore commands against divorce that Jesus is quoted saying in two different books?" I got hit with every clobber passage in the "good book" and the "I don't want to see you go to Hell" speech. I had to admit though, they had a point. The Bible did really say those things, and we, more "enlightened" Christians were doing hermenutical gymnastics to justify what we saw as a natural expression of human sexuality. We were the ones not following His teachings.

So I said, "Ok. Let's look at this rationally. You gave up on the concept of Biblical inerrancy because you found evidence of the contradictions. You gave up the belief in Hell and even in Jesus because you could trace their origins and evolution through history and textual criticism. What about God? We saw in "God, A Biography" how the character of God evolves through the Bible, and you can historically trace the beginnings of Jewish monotheism back to the Babylonian Exile, plus the evolution of God himself from Canaanite storm deity and patron of Israel and Judah, mixed with Amon Rah and Ahura Mazda from Egypt and Persia. Basically the concept of God has grown and changed as human intellect and society has grown and changed. So either God is like what Process Theologians say (and evolves and changes over time as we and he learns since we are an extension of His consciousness) or..." I froze, "God isn't real. He is simply the answer our brain uses to make sense of things we can't understand. There is no God.." It was like the bottom had just dropped out of the universe. I had done it. I had peeled back the layers to find the truth, and in the process found... nothing. The shooting in Charleston last month only confirmed this to me. God had not intervened in the deaths of nine unarmed, devoted followers, but was supposed to be there in the hands of those comforting the survivors and families, and finally got off his ass to intervene by allowing some woman to find the shooter. Bullshit. It's all bullshit. There is no God.

The last month has been dealing with the aftermath of this internal "Big Bang". I'm still grieving, I think I'm almost past the depression and into acceptance. In this accidental discovery, I lost something that was a part of me for thirty five years. My thoughts are a lonely place, and I've had to accept that I will never see my biological mother, my grandmother or anyone else who has died again. I'm beginning to see beauty in it all, and I am still fascinated by the study of the history of the Bible and Christianity. But I'll never be able to sit and throw my wild speculations, fears, hopes and dreams to the God that was always there to listen. He doesn't exist. He never did.

So there's my story, and why I call my self reluctant_skeptic.
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25-07-2015, 11:16 AM
RE: Share your de-conversion story
Well, R_S, I'm sure you're aware that theologically speaking, the Problem of Evil is a bit of a mixed-solid argument (you can't show that God is required in any fashion to intervene; however, it makes God a bit of a dick if they don't, not the claimed source of all good), but I'm amazed that you were able to come up with such a solid understanding of the nature of religion on your own. I also grew up as an avid reader in a fundamentalist Christian home (so much so, we had no TV, because it was, quote, "Satan's way of sneaking into the home" Rolleyes ), and went through a very similar process of discovering that my church leaders/family didn't know everything but sure were willing to proceed as though they did. I know well the hostility of pointing out unequivocal errors in doctrine/logic, only to be ignored or worse.

You have a great story. It reads like the prologue to an excellent book on atheism, and I think you might have something there that's worth writing about.

By the way, I love Mercedes Lackey's books; I've ready nearly everything she wrote aside from the Bardic Voices series.

"Theology made no provision for evolution. The biblical authors had missed the most important revelation of all! Could it be that they were not really privy to the thoughts of God?" - E. O. Wilson
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25-07-2015, 06:51 PM
RE: Share your de-conversion story
Hi Smile

Im not sure if the term "deconversion" accurately describes what happened to me.
I think "violent paradigm shift" is actually more descriptive of the event.
But I should probably back up some and tell about before that happened.

I was born a poor white girl, and indoctrinated into the organized Christian religion from babyhood by my maternal Grandmother, a devout Christian, unless you were discussing unwed motherhood or cigarettes, both subjects which she felt warranted lying about despite the lords commandment about not bearing false witness.
She divorced my maternal Grandfather for reasons unknown to me, but I imagine it was because of his penchant to 'sin' 6 days of the week as long as he 'repented' for it on Sunday.

My paternal Grandmother taught me to read and write before I was two years old, and my paternal Grandfather taught me woodworking, logic, and all kinds of things about nature. Neither were church going people, although both considered themselves to be Christians.

I speak of my Grandparents more than my parents, because they had the most influence over me as a small child, what with daddy being an abusive drunk and Mom having to work all the time. Mom didnt ascribe to any religion, although she studied many of them later in life, and considered herself an agnostic.

I went to church and Sunday school as my maternal Grandmother insisted, and read the entire bible by the time I was five years old. Around eight years old I started asking questions and received no adequate answers, and left the church when I was eleven, and stopped considering myself to be a christian around the age of twelve, although I still followed the teachings of Jesus the Christ.

I tried to figure out what I believed, but could not reconcile the discrepancies in the various religions, so I started creating my own belief; That the Universe is a living being, of which we are all parts. We are the fingers on the hands of the Universe, and therefore are all part of eachother, when we do, it is the Universe doing, when we speak, it is the Universe speaking, when we think, it is the Universe thinking, so when we hurt eachother, we are actually hurting ourselves.
I even had an explanation for the afterlife, that the Universe recycles everything, so when we die the atoms that make up our bodies are used to make something else, and our soul rests for a time, then goes on to inhabit another life, whether it be a person, an animal or even a plant on another planet, we are all connected in the never ending cycle of life, death, and rebirth in the infinite Universe, and those we loved in this life we would see while we rested and love them again in the next life.
Of course this meant that we are all solely responsible for our effect on everyone we meet, and we are solely responsible for each and every act we commit, good or bad, there is no one to forgive us for anything we do, no heaven to reward us for being good, no hell to punish us for being bad, ergo, it is up to the population to mete out justice in life, because after death we just recombine into a new entity and try again.
It was beautiful, it explained everything, and I was happy in my belief.

After marrying my wonderful husband I began to have health issues, uterine cancer, two double inguinal hernias, an abdominal reconstruction, and a number of other things. And then the heart attacks started.
I had three heart attacks all within six months of each other.
But the fourth heart attack killed me.

I had gone to the emergency room, and was in the cath lab awaiting another stent, when I heard someone say "Shes going into defib."

And then there was nothing.
No sight, no sound, no smell, no touch, no taste, no thought, no emotion, no me.
I was not. I had never been. I would never be.

Then for a second or two I felt intense pain in my back and heard someone screaming.
Then nothing again.
Another second or two of intense pain, just long enough for me to wonder who was screaming.
And nothing again.
Again the pain and the realization that I was being electrocuted.
Then nothing.
And more electrocution with the realization that the screaming person was me.

All in all it seemed like less than 10 seconds had passed consisting of four electrocutions and the nothing in which I was dead, unaware that I was dead, unaware that I had ever even existed, unaware of what existence ever was.
Nothing is NOTHING. A far more difficult concept to grasp than never ending eternity for those who live.
Time exists in eternity, emotions exist in eternity, thought exists, concept exists, self exists. All things exist in a realm that never ends.
None of those things exist in nothing. Nothing is complete absence of all.

And I woke up pissed.
I had been made to believe that there was a life after death, so much so that I even incorporated it into my own belief, that beautiful belief that explained everything, and was so completely wrong.

My beautiful belief had been ripped from me, violently and without so much as an apology.

Suddenly, I was a born again atheist.

People keep wanting to convince me that I wasnt really dead, only unconscious.
Even my cardiologist said there are "different levels of dead", so I asked him if they hadnt electrocuted me would I be alive? He pursed his lips and said "No." "Then I was dead." Poor guy, I felt so bad for him.

That which we know as the Soul is a conceptual creation of the collection of atoms that constitute the brain. Once the brain ceases function, the soul concept no longer exists. An idea can not exist without a brain to think it. An atom on its own can not conceptualize, a collection of atoms electrically charged and arranged in a specific pattern is required for conceptualization to occur. When the power is shut off or the collection of atoms is suddenly physically rearranged, conceptualization is no longer physically possible, and the idea of a soul no longer exists, ergo, there is no actual soul, there is only the concept of the soul, and the concept of the soul only exists as long as the brain is properly constructed and maintains constant electrical flow.

Near death experiences happen to people whose bodies have ceased function but whose brains maintain electrical power flow. Different things are experienced by different people as a result of their brains attempting to comprehend what is happening.
Those whose brains lost power flow do not experience NDEs because the brain must have power in order to conceptualize.

Some ghosts are random wandering energy fields, like ball lightening, and may be perceived by a functioning brain which attempts to make sense of what is happening by attributing a known identity to it. Most ghosts are creations of the imagination within a functioning brain. There are no actual ghosts of actual dead human beings, there is only the concept of ghosts within the minds of living human beings, and the concept is used to explain events which are not readily identifiable or are previously unknown.

The concept of a god or higher power is also a creation of the mind, an attempt by the brain to explain the realities of life which are too difficult for the brain to accept or easily live with. The mind insists on a reason for things, so those things which happen for no reason at all are attributed to a god who has caused it to happen for his own purposes which will become clear at some point in the distant future, allowing the brain to live with what has happened. However, once the brain ceases to function, the concept of a god or higher power also ceases to exist, therefore there is no actual omnipotent god, there is only the concept of such an entity within the minds of living brains, and the concept is used by the brain to help the brain keep itself from going crazy after witnessing the horrors of reality.

But even with all the horrors, experiencing is far better than the nothing.

"My children, I created you, and I created this vat of boiling oil.
I will hold you over the vat and drop you.
If you promise to worship me I will catch you before you fall in.
If you do not promise to worship me, you have thrown yourself into the vat of boiling oil."

Yahweh was a sociopath.
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