To those who were formerly religious, how would you describe your deconversion?

Hi, I was a Christian for over twenty years before the seeds of my deconverstion were sown. I began an intensive introspection into the history and psychological nature of religion over 2 years ago about eight years after I began having my initial doubts. It was a difficult process and what I gleaned at first utterly shocked me and shook me to my core. Feeling confused, hurt, alone and betrayed I stopped studying this material because it had already pierced my intellect and spoke to my reason that all of my deepest held beliefs were nothing more than a simulacrum and it hurt too much to think about. After just putting this to the back of my mind for several months I decided to delve even further into the true history, psychology and nature of human evolution, human emotional evolution, biblical history, religious history and the sciences and through this study I am now unquestionably an atheist. All of my family and friends/acquaintances are either practicing Christians or invoke the name of Yahweh when in deep moments of distress and think that "atheists are of the devil and evil" so unfortunately I'm pretty sequestered for professing what I believe in my heart of hearts to be true. In fact I'm in the middle of reading "The God Virus" currently and the more I read into the book the more disgusted with religion of any kind I become! This journey of deconversion has been stranger than fiction, life and mind altering and something that never seemed conceivable to me in my younger, more formative years, yet through all of the mental anguish I feel like I've fed my mind that which it craved most, the truth. I can honestly and unabashedly state that I don't know how we or the universe came into being (although science's theories are infinitely more plausible than religions) or what happens to us when our life ends (probably just finality, no afterlife or "spiritual release") but since devoting myself to what I deem now as my "Atheistic studies" such as watching amazing shows as "The Atheist Experience" or the awesome atheist channels on youtube or reading great books debunking religion and espousing the rationality of science I feel strangely more alive and immersed in the universe than ever before and I'd love to hear about your journey. Thanks so much.

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I'm the son of a liberal theologian and mystic.  My consideration and rejection of fundamentalist literalism was a no brainer, but the release of God altogether was a very long drawn-out and hard fought process.

Since I wasn't a literalist I didn't have to take every word of the Bible as coming from the Bible as from God himself.. I figured that man had written it down, much of it from word of mouth with all the mythology and modification that can happen to stories over long periods of time.  .   I thought that there might still be kernels of spiritual wisdom buried within it... but that you would have to be spiritually wise or 'gnostic' to be able to find them.   My thinking was that spirituality was internal and that's how you grew.  You couldn't just parrot it from some book and call yourself 'spiritual'... You had to be able to do the same things that the prophets and apostles did, like see visions.  Where the fundy's had it wrong, I supposed, was that they tried to interpret the 'spiritual' by running it through a mundane matrix.  They couldn't sift out the 'truth' from the mundane because they didn't know what to look for.

Evolution and the big bang never bothered me.   I figured that 'all the information to make the big oak tree' was within a tiny acorn.....why not the same thing for the universe?   I thought genesis was a 'spiritual' story with spiritual lessons not a literal word for word text of what happened.   I loved science and would be delighted when some new finding would drive the 'fundy's' crazy.   I figured the bible and other religious scripture never got into the actual processes of HOW god did anything.    Why not make the physical laws?  Why not create life so that it was adaptable?

My God was bigger and more loving, forgiving and compassionate than the literalist fundy god... I didn't have to believe that every single word of the bible was the absolute truth or the 'correct interpretation'.  I knew that MUCH had been changed, I knew about the infighting of the early church etc..   So with all these considerations my deconversion was a much longer soul searching and painful process.  

From spiritual Christianity and mysticism I gradually moved to the mysticism of the east...which was inclusive not exclusive..so that I didn't have to reject ALL of Christian mysticism.  There were layers and layers of mystical truth that went like stairs from ignorance to higher and higher spiritually discerned truths.

To cut this book short...it was the very search for truth that finally set me free.  Neuroscience and consciousness studies, my own experiences weighed against the cosmologies or explanations of the mystics from various religions.. I finally had to let it all go.    Don't get me wrong.. I still believe that there are those who have found a 'type' of inner peace and equilibrium ... I just don't buy their cosmology anymore.  I don't think you have to have a 'supernatural answer' to explain.   In fact I think that the more we dig the deeper and more amazing the physical universe is found to be the less there is need for a 'supernatural'  to answer anything.    (sorry for the long reply)

Awesome reply! I both enjoy and appreciate your detailed answer concerning this subject. I really enjoy the sciences as well (what I can actually grasp of them with my limited intellect, lol) especially neuroscience,evolution and natural selection. 

I became an Atheist at 16. At first it was unbelievable and very perplexing. I was at a shock when I truly understood  that this supreme being that was supposed to be my lord and master did not exist. So then from the sheer shock and denial, for like a month I was a deist. I thought that religion is a sham but god is real and probably doesn't really interfere in our lives so that's why we don't hear much about him. But then I came to the same problems as before. I still could not find any prove of god. So then like right after that, it just kinda naturally happened, where I just realized that god is nonexistent and that is life. I became an Atheist and never looked back since then.

Although even today, the concept of death does scare me a bit. Sometimes the thought of a magical afterlife like a fairy tale sounds pleasant to the ear, even if it might not be true at all.

I went through the "deism" phase as well after the initial shock of having my personal beliefs utterly dispelled through irrefutable facts. But just like you I also came to the conclusion that there is no god of any kind and yeah it hurt when I realized that there was no "supernatural, all powerful friend" with my best interest in mind, or that there would be no blessing in the after-life and likely no afterlife at all, and that ultimate justice does not exist either. I'm not thrilled about death either Adam, it's both humbling and troubling to realize that I'm just another mammal formed of atoms and stardust that will no longer be once this precious gift known as life ends, but like you I cannot simply embrace something I don't believe even if it greatly eases my mind.

Jason,

Those are some serious 'guns' you're packing there. 

My deconversion was similar to your own. Years of lingering doubt and unanswered questions led to my ultimately deciding critical thought on the subject of religion was in order. After several discussions with theist and atheist alike and reading secular books on the subject my final determination was that it (supernatural beings) did not add up. Anyone who takes the time to study religion from a historical perspective, going back to animism and beyond, and looks at it's evolutionary development  will come away with the glaring reality that humans unfortunately possess an overactive imagination.

That we do. And thanks, working out has filled many an old void in my life lol. What put the nail in my religious coffin was learning about all of the ancient sun gods and how christ was nothing more than an amalgamation of previous gods.

No fear...

Raised a catholic. Actually sent to church every Sunday by myself only to return to my step mothers Sunday ritual of Santeria and Brujeria (Caribbean black magic). From an early age, around ten years old, i figured it was all crap. Finally admitting it, about 20 years ago, came easy. No longer did I have to worry about going to hell or going to heaven. They don't exist. No fear...

Thanks for sharing Noel. 

I could write a book about this.. and maybe someday I will.  This morning I made a comment to a friend's status on Facebook and it brought back a memory of the very beginning of my deconversion.

My friend started buying meals for a homeless person that she's known since childhood.  I commented about how great of a feeling it is to help someone knowing that 100% of what you're giving is going to a good cause.

I started doing this years ago, anonymously giving money to single moms who were having trouble making ends meet.  Pretty soon I realized that if I gave money to the church, 97% of it would be wasted on overhead.  This pretty much ruined me as I started seeing major inefficiencies in church budgets.  

The church my family and I were attending was a pretty large church, but one day after a budget meeting, I calculated that the church budget for music alone costs $2,600 for every song that was sung on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings.  Of course when I brought this up, I was quickly told that they no longer wanted me at their meetings.

It took about 5 more years before I got comfortable saying I was an Atheist, and that wasn't very long ago, but know I wear the name as a badge of honor.

It's really thoughtful and kind of you and your friend to help the less fortunate. I've been reading "The God Virus" and in one of the early chapters the author who was raised in the church and also became atheist told of a time in college when he donated money to the ACLU to keep young men from being drafted into the military, when he told his religious mother about this she stated that god didn't deem a donation to the ACLU as a valid gift and that instead his donation should have went to the church. His point was that the church leaches off the charitable donations of it's congregation and shuns giving to non church related entities. The level of corruption within the religions of the world is detestable.

My experience was very much like yours. I started having questions when I was about 18, but not so much about whether or not God was real, but what else could be real if he and everything mentioned in the Bible were real (e.g. angels/demons vs reincarnation/magic). I went through a brief phase of tampering with elemental magic/thinking I might have had other lives/people could actually BE angels, etc... weird, stupid stuff haha.

As dumb as it all was, it kinda put a chink in my "faith armor". I basically ran crying and scared back to Christianity after about a year, and I drown myself in my faith for a good six or seven years longer (I was a total goody-goody in Jr and High School... and I was a mild partier when I wasn't on my Christian A-game after high school).

It was while I was firmly traveling down the "straight and narrow" that I began making disturbing discoveries. First of all, I'd determined I wanted to find the truth no matter what. My personal motto was, "I'm not afraid to ask because I do not fear the truth." Ironically, I had faith that the truth would always BE God. So, while all my Christian friends and family chided me for thinking too much, I belligerently pressed forward believing God had given me an analytical mind for a reason, and I wanted to get closer to him by having a better understanding of him and Christianity in general.

So, being both committed to God and truth (not realizing they weren't compatible), I made a point to be intellectually honest. I was helping a cousin with an essay on Creation vs Evolution, and I started doing a little research for her. I found some facts about evolution I hadn't seen/heard before, and I caught myself making excuses for the evidence. Like, maybe it was a hoax, or... or... what am I afraid of? Why am I making excuses? Maybe evolution is real after all... and there's no reason to think it's not compatible with the Bible anyway! The Bible speaks in metaphors a lot, so maybe the Creation story was a metaphor, or maybe it was just a condensed version of what actually took place over millions of years. Yeah, that's it! And that was, yet another, chink in my "faith armor."

And... I just kept allowing myself to think about problems most said I should put out of my head and have faith about. Ducking the hard questions just didn't make sense to me. What could God have to hide? What could Christianity have to hide? If God and Christianity were everything the Bible said they were, there was no reason not to demand answers about bloodshed in the Old Testament, or how a loving God could create a place like Hell, or why Jesus wasn't actually descended from King David like the prophesies about the Messiah said he should be (Joseph was related, but not Jesus' dad... duh... wtf?!)

Then I got to a point where the answers were scaring me; I was teetering on the edge of my faith, and I knew it... and I actually reached out to a couple apologists I knew (I lived in Nashville at the time, which is full of them haha... I was renting a town home from one). One night, I met with a Dr Brian Miller at Starbucks, and drilled him with questions and worries... and he just smiled serenely and told me I was on the right track, never bothering to answer me or assuage my doubts. I was frustrated he didn't get how close I was to losing my faith. I still wonder what he'd think if he'd known I'd later turn atheist. I can only assume that's not what he meant by "you're on the right track."

Anyway, shortly after moving from Nashville, the whole thing came crashing down. My "agnostic" stage didn't last very long, either. It was all very emotional and distressing, but I kept pressing on. The concept of purposefully believing a lie to maintain relationships was inconceivable at the time. I really just believed that ANYONE would want to know the truth no matter what. I was wrong. My family has been less than thrilled, and not at all curious as to why I lost my faith. I naively expected friends/family to know me well enough to know I'd REALLY thought about it, and that there'd have to be a good reason for ME to stop believing. Nope. It's like they all developed amnesia and hadn't known me my whole life. They started spewing out the same evangelical nonsense as if I'd never heard it. "Jesus died for your sins. God loves you. Turn back to the Lord and he'll save you." Like... hey mom, you know I've heard this my WHOLE EFFING LIFE, right?! You know I've said that stuff to people myself?!"

Ugh. Well. Anyway. Five years after my "deconversion", I've sort of chilled out about it all. I was really excited about atheism... wanted to share my experience and help people going through a similar experience... wanted to battle religion's stranglehold on society... which, I still do, but I'm just a little exhausted. Now I just wanna be that "live and let live" atheist, but I also know that's not really possible. People think of ya differently when they find out. I really can't be close to Christians anymore because I have so little respect for their beliefs, but there aren't many people who do NOT believe in the supernatural.

Anyway... all that to say: there are stages. Excitement. Grief. Anger. Excitement again. "Evangelism". Existence. I dunno what's next. I could get all gung-ho again. I'm still happy to see new "de-converts." I'm really encouraged to know that religion is losing credibility very rapidly. I hope the trend continues, and with it... the hunger for knowledge, introspection, and critical thinking skills... and skepticism. I hope no one ever takes their opinion for granted, and never stops learning.

:)

Wow! That was an amazing and entertaining read about your journey, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I totally understand about family and people who you thought were friends shunning you and acting as if they never knew you once you come out to them about your atheism. My mind is very analytic and introspective, often to my detriment and it was just natural for me to delve deep behind the societal and carefully constructed veneer of religion once I became of age to question these things and never once could a believer offer any sound logic to persuade me that my doubts about religion or the knowledge concerning the recorded history of religion were false. And the believers all spouted off the same trite mess that you described such as "Jesus is the only way to life eternal" "God is beyond our comprehension" blah blah blah! 

 So since my mind and my code of personal ethics prevent me from living a lie I've become ostracized in my little "Bible Belt" city in north Ga, but it's cool. Thanks for sharing your interesting story, reading these responses is pretty awesome!!

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