Share your de-conversion story
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25-03-2017, 04:05 PM
RE: Share your de-conversion story
I am still in the process of deconversion. In my intro I claimed agnostic but I don't think I'm there yet. I still have questions such as how do you know intelligent design isn't real? Also, I found myself squirming after reading what some would do to a 2' stack of biblesShocking That tells me I can't truly claim to be atheist but I'm working on it. As I've said in other threads I really appreciate reading what all of the frequent posters take the time to write. This lurker is learning! For example, after watching the videos on "Your Inner Fish, Reptile, Monkey" I felt very comfortable accepting the scientific theory of evolution. It's amazing to see the connection of one bone, two bone, multiple bones in our arms. The egg yolk embryo feature was also an eye opener. It was shortly after watching these videos I was able to decide on my avatar - getting in touch with my inner reptileBig Grin

So how does someone go through so much of life believing in God, the Bible, Jesus etc? You send a "good" kid like me to Christian school from 4th through 9th grade. You keep them in church most of their life. My parents didn't want me to believe the lies of Santa, the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy etc yet Jesus was fine. The earth was created in 6 days, the oldest tree is only 4000 years old, evolution is a theory etc etc. It's almost embarrassingBlush

So what started the deconversion? I would have to say it was a small group bible study where we gave each other permission to ask the difficult questions about inconsistencies found in the Bible. Also, I developed an interest in psychology at the time and started reading Psychology Today. I received warnings about reading the secular material but thankfully I was hooked into the subject matter. Also, the logic started to bother me. For example when catastrophes happen and only one or two people are spared because "God was watching over them". I guess He really had it in for the rest of the poor saps. Anyway, we just started staying home on Sunday morning and that became more and more of a habit.

It's been about 10 years since our church days and I have to admit the only thing we miss is the camaraderie of like minded people to spend time with. Our Christian friends just kind of dropped away since we quit going to church. I started looking around on Match.com for groups and found skeptics meetups that looked intriguing. A bit more research led me to Seth Andrews and his podcast. This was a few months ago and it's like a breath of fresh air. He happened to be talking about how a snowflake can be created from nothing and that really caught my attention! That's what led me to TTA.

So today I find myself working in a very religious organization but I started there almost 15 years ago as a believer. Now that I'm coming around it drives me crazy some days to listen to all the religious chatter. I work with a woman in upper management who doesn't want to make any decisions until she feels God is guiding her. Talk about holding back eyerolls and facepalms! I'm tempted to sneak in the office at night and write directions on the wall and sign it "God". Oh well, luckily I'm really busy and can mainly ignore it. I also have an escape plan but that will take a year or so.

In the meantime when I have a few minutes here and there I like to lurk, fence sit, etc on the TTA forum. Besides soaking up lots of good science I also get the enjoyment of all the personality typesWink In my next life I want to be a psychologist. Oh wait, this is the only life - damn.

Ok, now about this snowflake...??
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25-03-2017, 05:34 PM (This post was last modified: 25-03-2017 06:16 PM by Thoreauvian.)
RE: Share your de-conversion story
(Edit: I realized I already wrote out my decoversion history in my introduction, so I deleted it here.)

Oops.
Hobo
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25-03-2017, 07:55 PM
RE: Share your de-conversion story
(25-03-2017 04:05 PM)mustardseed Wrote:  So what started the deconversion? I would have to say it was a small group bible study where we gave each other permission to ask the difficult questions about inconsistencies found in the Bible. Also, I developed an interest in psychology at the time and started reading Psychology Today.

What aspects of psychology helped you to question your beliefs?
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26-03-2017, 06:20 AM
RE: Share your de-conversion story
(25-03-2017 07:55 PM)Jay Vogelsong Wrote:  
(25-03-2017 04:05 PM)mustardseed Wrote:  So what started the deconversion? I would have to say it was a small group bible study where we gave each other permission to ask the difficult questions about inconsistencies found in the Bible. Also, I developed an interest in psychology at the time and started reading Psychology Today.

What aspects of psychology helped you to question your beliefs?

It started with the question of how could people be moral without the 10 commandments. Plus I was realizing you can't just pray away any problems. When I started read Psychology articles it explained why/how we do what we do as humans and no matter what the issue you can't just pray it away. My mom is almost 80 and it hasn't worked for her yet.
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26-03-2017, 07:32 AM
RE: Share your de-conversion story
(25-03-2017 04:05 PM)mustardseed Wrote:  I am still in the process of deconversion. In my intro I claimed agnostic but I don't think I'm there yet. I still have questions such as how do you know intelligent design isn't real?
You might as well ask how you know Rumplestiltskin isn't real. You don't "know" any hypothetical isn't real, but you certainly can develop a (dis)belief in how (un)likely a thing is.

The existence of an invisible deity, even one watered down and camouflaged as an Intelligent Designer, isn't a falsifiable proposition. You're never going to either prove or disprove ANYTHING that you can't formulate as a scientifically valid hypothesis.

It is all speculation.
(25-03-2017 04:05 PM)mustardseed Wrote:  Also, I found myself squirming after reading what some would do to a 2' stack of biblesShocking That tells me I can't truly claim to be atheist but I'm working on it.
While one might argue that an atheist is FREE to do "horrible" things to a stack of Bibles, it is not a requirement. Most of us wouldn't harm ANY book, I'd wager. The ONLY thing required to "be" an atheist is to not afford belief to any deities. From there you can be of any political stripe or pursue any practice you might wish, those things have nothing to do with atheism. You don't HAVE to be anti-theist, in fact most of us are really just indifferent about such things except sometimes in very specific circumstances, like in a debate setting such as this. Don't forget, this setting isn't Real Life. In real life the topic of my god-(un)beliefs have come up maybe twice in sixty years, and even then it wasn't earth-shattering.
(25-03-2017 04:05 PM)mustardseed Wrote:  So what started the deconversion? I would have to say it was a small group bible study where we gave each other permission to ask the difficult questions about inconsistencies found in the Bible.
Many a former believer lost their faith asking honest questions. That's why it's so often discouraged.
(25-03-2017 04:05 PM)mustardseed Wrote:  It's been about 10 years since our church days and I have to admit the only thing we miss is the camaraderie of like minded people to spend time with. Our Christian friends just kind of dropped away since we quit going to church.
If you're fairly social, that's a very real practical problem. Society has few structures for social support with the ubiquity of churches, particularly in the US. We have bars, of course, but that's more for pointless killing of time, not actually relating to people or improving yourself.

Personally as an introvert I get by just fine visiting places like this online and engaging in occasional neighborhood activities, but everyone's different.
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26-03-2017, 08:04 PM
RE: Share your de-conversion story
(26-03-2017 06:20 AM)mustardseed Wrote:  It started with the question of how could people be moral without the 10 commandments. Plus I was realizing you can't just pray away any problems. When I started read Psychology articles it explained why/how we do what we do as humans and no matter what the issue you can't just pray it away. My mom is almost 80 and it hasn't worked for her yet.

I found several psychological ideas useful in questioning beliefs. One was how people so often behave the same in different social groups no matter what beliefs they hold. Another was how people use rewards and punishments to train others to certain beliefs. Yet another was about how unreliable intuitions are.
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26-03-2017, 09:02 PM
RE: Share your de-conversion story
(25-03-2017 05:34 PM)Jay Vogelsong Wrote:  (Edit: I realized I already wrote out my decoversion history in my introduction, so I deleted it here.)

Oops.
Hobo

This thread is stickied and intros tend to get lost with time.
Go ahead and copy/paste it into a new post in this thread, Jay. Thumbsup

This thread and these stories are here to help others. There might be one sentence you've written, that only one person can relate to - it could change their way of thinking. Your story could help another begin their own story. Shy

A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels. ~ Albert Einstein
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27-03-2017, 10:05 AM
RE: Share your de-conversion story
(26-03-2017 09:02 PM)kim Wrote:  Go ahead and copy/paste it into a new post in this thread, Jay. Thumbsup

This thread and these stories are here to help others. There might be one sentence you've written, that only one person can relate to - it could change their way of thinking. Your story could help another begin their own story. Shy

Okay, here it is again with minor edits:

I was fifty years old when I became an atheist.

What took me so long? I was an agnostic by my early teens, since I found most aspects of Christianity unconvincing. I read Thoreau's Walden in my mid-teens, which led me to simplify my assumptions and avoid unnecessary rituals.

But I thought knowledge of God might still be possible with mysticism, and spent twenty-five years studying Sufism and the Islamic God concept. I was attracted to Sufism's iconoclasm, psychological insights, and rich literature, and ultimately understood that everything within that philosophy traced back to the "no god but God" idea. However, I was still left without any means of verifying God's existence. After I found myself in conflict with other students of Sufism over how to interpret lucid dreaming experiences, I realized so-called mystical experiences could never be veridical. I abandoned Sufi studies in 2000, and avoided metaphysics altogether for six years. I was disappointed by my waste of time and effort.

Finally after reading Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion in 2006, I dropped the idea that the God concept was necessary for anything. I read other books on atheism and especially found the book God, The Failed Hypothesis by Victor Stenger helpful in organizing my thinking. (I changed "no god but God" to "probably no god of any kind" to preserve the benefits of the iconoclasm I had learned.) And I've spent the last ten years, on and off, posting at the Amazon God Delusion and Atheist forums.

How would I describe myself today? I am a hybrid Thoreauvian / metaphysical naturalist, and I wish I had discovered atheistic ideas thirty years earlier.
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28-03-2017, 04:58 PM
RE: Share your de-conversion story
Have I posted mine here yet? I checked to try and make sure and didn't see anything. Tongue Oh well, here goes:

I was born and then raised in a non-denominational Christian family. I have cerebral palsy and scoliosis, and I wasn't expected to live long after my birth. Much of my survival has been attributed to God and it's been hard for me. I cannot describe in words how difficult the whole process has been for me.

As I grew older (was about 7 at this time), my severe spinal curve lessened considerably, something I was told was impossible: once more attributed to God looking out for me.

Now, the real trouble came with the churches. My family had trouble finding a specific one that they liked, but I swear, all of the churches we went to seemed to love the idea of hell. I remember in the kid's church, this adorably decorated, inviting little place where you wouldn't think this sort of thing would be shown to kids -- boom! We're shown a skit about sinners and non-believers being thrown into hell to suffer for all eternity because, well, God is love.

And yet, no matter how hard I prayed, no matter what I did to try and please this loving heavenly father who was just aching to send me into hell: I never heard his voice like the teachers said I would. And I never "felt" saved, I always prayed over and over again just in case I hadn't done it right, but it didn't change. It was just this constant, awful dread. This sick feeling in my stomach.

Then we went to an apostolic church, I think it was. I remember the pastor very well, it was in the state of West Virginia and his name was Pastor Verton (might've spelled it wrong, eh). He was loud, red-in-the-face, constantly yelling "HOGWASH!" This is the church that I would say was the most cult-like in my upbringing.

And he would bellow every sermon about how much we needed God, and was very fire-and-brimstone preachy. Loved to threaten us all with hell because JEEEEEZUS saves from it and keeps you from the world's HOGWASH. Quite misogynistic. He had two interesting clashes with my mom, one yelling at her for daring to pray over someone else and another telling her that she should submit to dad more (and she actually told him to go to hell for that, shortly before we stopped going there).

But there was one particular sermon there that would be critical to my life and de-conversion: the one he gave on the unforgivable sin, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the one thing God would never even think of letting you go for. Me, only a 9-year-old at this time, I was horrified. But when you tell a kid not to do something...

Yep, I went home that night and thought all sorts of horrible things about the Holy Spirit, and felt my stomach turning wildly as the thought ripped into my mind that I had finally blown it and that now, no matter what, I was damned.

Granted, it was my own fault for doing that, but either way, growing up thinking you can never be redeemed and are headed straight for hell no matter what you do fucks you up. I was terrified every day. "What if I die today? I've given up heaven for eternal suffering. I hope I live a long time on earth because hell is next." I became a nervous wreck.

But, over time, I began to calm down. My eternal fate was pushed to the back of my mind and I began to focus on other things. God-stuff was the last thing on my mind.

... Then, at 18 years old, in May (I often mistake the month for June like an idiot but I'll clarify here it was May) I took my first airplane flight to visit an internet friend of mine. I won't name any names, but she's from a deeply religious family and lives in South Carolina. A pastor's kid. And he is very nice, you can tell he means the best, even if he insists... that we all deserve Hell.

He also works as an orthopedist. That doesn't have much to do with my deconversion, but I figure he'd be another who would attribute my survival to God, since he's also an avid miracle believer.

Anywho, the first couple days of my trip were fantastic. Went out with my friend, had a lot of fun -- but it was the third day, I think, when the home-held church sermon happened. I forced myself to sit through the beginning because I didn't want to seem disrespectful. But during the singing and the guilt-tripping about Jesus being a rose trampled on the ground... I broke. I flat-out snapped.

All the fears about my eventual stay in hell came back. I burst into hysteric sobs, ran upstairs, and cried all fucking night in what I can only describe as the worst despair I ever felt. I'm tearing up thinking about it now. I broke.

I stopped eating. The next day, I had a whopping... one bite of ramen noodles. That's it. One bite. I was scared and sickly feeling and didn't want to touch a thing. I was headed for hell. In the car, my sister and them listened to Christian music while I stared out the window and did my best not to start bawling all over again. The next day I didn't eat anything at all. I had a couple drinks of soda, no food. Hell.

I flew home and was never more happy to be there. My family doesn't attend church anymore and hasn't for a while, and they're much less focused on God talk now, so I felt so much more safe -- but that damning fear and sickness was still there. I still wasn't eating. I would lie in my bed for hours on end, snuggled in the blankets, and hyper-focused on a newfound desperation to debunk Christianity. Though I was still in horrible shape, I realized something: the atheists everyone around me scorned had some pretty damn good reasons not to believe, and there was way more stuff debunking my mind-breaking faith than I'd been lead to think!

The Thinking Atheist. Ex-Christian.net ("It's not just me?!"), Debunking Christianity. I became obsessed with reading articles throwing it all in the garbage, reading stories from others that showed me even in all my agony I wasn't alone, there might not be a hell, there probably isn't a hell--

Still, I was scared. Still, I wasn't eating. Arguments from Christians still held merit to me and I was thinking up ridiculous reasons why I might be wrong, as if I wanted to punish myself, as if I really felt I deserved this. One of the more ludicrous ones: What if all these atheists are FAKING it just to trick you in particular? As if the world fucking revolves around some anxious character in the desert they don't even know.

But Christianity had nearly destroyed me. My ability to critically think had been torn apart before I even knew what critical thinking was, I had been taught that every part of me was deplorable without Jesus, I was the reason he died, and he would never forgive me for the unforgivable sin; I deserved the earthly hell I was putting myself through now and the eternal suffering I'd go through when I died.

Fuck...

The next week, still reading, I was given a cheeseburger by my mom.

"I have to eat," I thought. I took a bite. IMMEDIATELY, I fucking spewed it all over the floor. Then I realized that if I didn't eat I would die sooner and I could still be wrong and go to hell, panic panic panic.

Mom realized I couldn't eat. To the hospital I went. We talked about how I felt and Mom was very accepting, saying I was innocent and God would never do that to me. But I hadn't told her about the unforgivable sin, what I did. Would God still punish me then, if he was there? I had, at least, admitted to her I was an agnostic (she hates the word atheist). She didn't care.

"I'm just so scared of being wrong," I was sobbing the whole time.

Nausea medication worked wonders. For the first time in weeks, I was able to eat. It wasn't enough, as I usually ate only a meal a day and eventually went down to 88 pounds -- BUT, as I finally began recovering, I'm happy to say that two years later I'm almost at 100 again and am back to eating three.

The anxiety and depression is still here, and even after all I've read, hell still loves to come back to me. But now I have the knowledge to combat it, and now I know all sorts of places for people just like me. They aren't faking shit to trick me, they aren't going through a phase -- they genuinely don't believe anymore and that's awesome. It's so great to be free.
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29-03-2017, 04:25 AM
RE: Share your de-conversion story
(28-03-2017 04:58 PM)Diddlyboop Wrote:  ... It's so great to be free.
Awesome post Diddlyboop! I didn't experience the fear you write about but did grow up with the same teachings i.e. hell, holy spirit etc. Now that I'm de-converting it makes so much sense that non believers want to have a voice. So much unintended damage is done to kids in the name of religion and a "loving God".

I hope you continue on this path and enjoy a continued freedom.
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