What has surprised me the most, in my transition from devoutly passionate Christian to skeptical atheist, is that very few (if any) of my Christian friends or family have been remotely interested in why or how I lost my faith. That lack of curiosity I've taken very personally. If they knew me, then they would know that losing my faith was a big deal... and not just because I'm now apparently going to Hell.

For one, they should know I'm analytical, and not led around by my emotions. They should also know I'm not easily influenced! I was the one person out of my group of friends to abstain from drinking and drugs; to abstain, even, from sex! I took my faith the most seriously. I was the one always lecturing and advising. After I reached a certain age, I went to church on my own... sometimes by myself. I moved to Nashville to "get closer to God". I lived and breathed Jebus.

Honestly, yes, I expect my friends and family to be shocked, and for that shock to drag them into a burning curiosity. "But why?! She was such a strong Believer!"

Perhaps I have not been perceived the way I felt I was projecting myself. This would not be surprising. It happens all the time. I wouldn't be the first to lament the misunderstanding of myself by the world. Even still, very few else can say they waited as long as I did before having sex. I was going to wait until I was married (until I realized that it was becoming borderline creepy). I was "the virgin", and what goes wrong when even "the virgin" ceases to believe?

For all that effort I put into my faith, the reaction of all whom I knew as a Christian has been disappointing... maddening... invalidating. What a waste it truly was. When I dedicated my entire being to trying to discover God's will, it's hard to accept it was not a noteworthy undertaking. And if they now notice my sudden transition into atheism, they're silent. No one is asking me, "But Cara, why?" And if they do ask why, they've already interjected their own answer before I've uttered a word.

I must think too much of myself (or must've thought too much of myself as a Christian). I'm not sure what my own reaction would have been if one of my Christian friends suddenly fell off the bandwagon. The fact is, Christians are so well insulated from critical thought that I'm sure I would've had the same silent contempt for those who lost their faith while I was a Believer. There's no inkling in the mind of a Christian that something is amiss.

But then, I did have atheist friends. Though I couldn't understand how they could reject a Creator in general, I didn't question their inability to accept Jesus Christ. He did seem like a strange character to accept, even as someone who believed in him. I think that aspect of the narrative never sat right with me, but I couldn't articulate why. I couldn't rule out other possibilities, either. The Bible is full of some strange stuff. Why not other strange stuff? Whatever. The point is... I enjoyed having intellectual discussions with nonbelievers. I was curious. Of course, I wanted to convince them to be a Christian, but I was still fascinated by their lack of belief.

So why is no one I knew as a Christian somewhat curious to know why I lost my faith? I have a burning curiosity to know why they don't want to know why! And, not even for my own benefit. Doesn't it strike them that nonbelievers are usually extremely intelligent? Of course, I know all their conspiracy theories. Arrogance! Pride! Selfishness! Rebellion! None of it has to do with a thirst for understanding.

Okay, I know... I know why they reject obscure evolutionary scientists, or far-off biologists. World-renown scientists are so... out there, so... inhuman. But why does it not jar them when a devoted Believer suddenly flips the switch? When they go from pastor and apologist, to outspoken atheist? There should be something in their little brain that wonders what happened, and that is not satisfied with "sin" as the answer.

I think I've answered my own question. They're not curious why I lost my faith because they're not curious at all. While they were busy ostracizing Christians-turned-atheist, I was busy engaging in intellectual discussions with them. But there is at least one friend from my past life that seemed like an inquiring mind; she was tantalized by atheists, yet she converted from borderline Pentecostal to Episcopalian! What a weird direction. And, as far as I know, she's still got her V-card. And... it makes me sad, because her beautiful, creative mind is being wasted. Like mine was.

Views: 238

Tags: curiosity, lost faith

Comment by Cara Coleen on April 12, 2011 at 3:52pm

Ha! Well, I don't think I'd give them that much credit (not the ones I'm talking about anyway). The Christians I know, who are not asking "why" or "how" fully believe what they say they believe, and seem to be fully insulated from anything that would contradict their belief. For instance, my mother. She definitely does not know the answer, isn't interested in understanding the counter argument, and will fight to the death over the most absurd points. Yes, she thinks she knows the answer... and yes, this is the very reason she doesn't ask the question. But I guess what bothers me is that nothing ever shakes her out of her faith.

My older brother has had a really, really rough time lately (he's atheist, too). I mean, just terrible luck the past two years... two brushes with death, and massive debt resulting from hospitalization (and that's only half of what went wrong). My mother has been trying to convince him God is trying to communicate with him via all these horrible events. She sat him down in the past week trying to let my brother know that if he just believed in Jesus, none of this would feel so bad. 

What's so astounding about this is the fact that she's been through really awful things, too! Jesus didn't seem to take the edge off her own misery. Jesus didn't shield her from horrendous things happening over the years. Yet she still acts as though having faith in God will make one FEEL better, when she can't even use herself as evidence. If I were her, and I did believe there was a god, I'd tell him to fuck off already. She's been devout and had nothing but bad luck. So why push it on us when it doesn't work?

I could go on with examples... of friends, too. One of my good friends on the west coast had a fantastic streak of good luck and smart business decisions. She was coasting along, feeling like she couldn't NOT fail. And then... it all came down. She's one of those, Christian, that probably does know why... but clings to her faith regardless. It all depends on the person.

I think the main reason I wrote this blog is because I'm frustrated with my younger brother. I wrote him a long, heart felt email... tried to share my story of how I went from Believer to atheist... told him about this web site... and hoped he would be curious. I just hoped he would take the bait. I wanted him to be interested enough in me, as a sister, to look deeper... to try to understand. And he hasn't joined; hasn't poked his head in. He said he might, but it's been several weeks. He's too INTELLIGENT to be brainwashed like this. It's so frustrating to come against this wall. It's so effing impenetrable.

Comment by Big Fella on April 12, 2011 at 3:57pm

@ Tom Margolis,

 

Intelligence is not in question, but who is to say that intelligence is a measure of quality of a person, besides I know of many theists who surrounded by atheist still exclaim that they cannot imagine being without their god(s). 

To me this speaks to a lack of imagination, not a capitol offense in my book though.

 

I personally know of many atheists who are unwilling to critically examine or open their mind to the possibility of being wrong, we all share that as humans to some degree I suppose. Still, it's in everybody's right to question and criticize each other on perceived weaknesses.

 

I think the reason we are atheists may have something to do with a difference in our essential neurology - helped along by education and exposure to data, of course

 

I suppose so, to each person it's a different mix but I agree on the ingredients.

Comment by Dylan Sloboda on July 19, 2011 at 10:27pm
I have a burning curiosity to know why they don't want to know why!
lol Wow, you're awesome.
Comment by Andrew Viceroy on January 5, 2012 at 5:04pm

I too remain astounded that all the Christians I know don't want to know why I lost my faith. The few who did ask were mostly only interested in emotional reasons, but I guess they don't realize that eventually emotional reasons become tied to our intellectual reasons, as they are neuronally reinforced by inputing more reasoning and empirical evidence (and perhaps admitedly, gradual identity realignment with another social group). That's why the work of people like Mercier and Sperber (see Point of Inquiry show with them) is so critical in dialogue if you want to keep that dialogue going as long as possible- IF you want to do that, then you need to constantly reinforce/highlight the things that you do have in common. Unfortunately, I learned this too late and I don't have it anymore (about religion anyway) with anyone, family or friends on facebook, because I wanted to constantly hash out our differences- even though I was respectful and never used ad hominem, etc. They ignore any posts or replies on their posts about religion now. I guess the evidence alone is often confrontational enough.

I know that when I was a Christian, I was not responsive to criticism until I was ready to be self-critical and it is rare to catch Christians in that molting process.

Comment by Cara Coleen on January 6, 2012 at 10:54am

Yeah, just like you, I wouldn't have been responsive to criticism had I not been in the right place mentally. I spat out all the same pat answers myself, like "You just have to have faith!" But I think I wouldn've been curious to know what happened if any close friend of mine had lost their faith. I knew of people who became atheist, or had friends who already were, but I never had anyone I knew on a deep level lose their faith the way I did. I really would've wanted to hear their story I think, even if I wouldn't have been fully convinced. I think I would've believed their experience was genuine, but I still might've rationalized it by saying (to myself) that maybe they just weren't "chosen".

Oh well. I think I've been through all the stages of deconversion now, so I'm not as angry anymore. I'm more frustrated with atheists in many ways. There was a conversation on Facebook about atheists who would glean pleasure from humiliating theists in public (like on radio shows). "They deserve it, don't you know? And they should have it together already at their age! And it's their fault I was brainwashed growing up!" I find it disgusting. They seem to forget their own journey, and how hard it was to overcome religion. Everyone is at a different point. I expected better of atheists who were former Christians, but... I guess I was naive. We're all just human. And humans are mainly irrational, even when they stop believing superstitions. And then the hate and intolerance just gets perpetuated...

Comment by Kir Komrik on January 6, 2012 at 2:21pm

Hey Cara,

 

That must be very disappointing. Yea, you would think they would want to know, especially in your case.

 

They're not curious why I lost my faith because they're not curious at all

 

I think that is the most likely answer, at least from the little I know. From what you wrote you are of a different cloth.

 

- kk

Comment by Kir Komrik on January 6, 2012 at 2:26pm

@Andrew,

 

Do you think this has something to do with insecurity? You know, that they are insecure about their religion and unsure about their beliefs? I think that is a big part of it but I don't want to generalize to individual cases.

 

@Cara

 

!" I find it disgusting.

 

Thank you. We can't deconvert people by viscerally insulting them "just for fun". And besides, as you noted, it is insensitive and cruel. The big difference between those that believe in Leprechauns and those that believe in gods is that religion exacts a heavy emotional price in terms of pressure, brain washing and fear.

 

- kk

Comment by Cara Coleen on January 6, 2012 at 3:18pm

@Kir

It's tough coming to the realization that people just want to believe what they want to believe; not the truth. I guess I've known that for a while, but I just can't seem to wrap my brain around it... not the point that it doesn't bother me anymore. It was the same why in high school... and I'm 29 in a month, so I've had time to digest that people only want to believe what's convenient.

What's more maddening is that they'll say the same to me: that I don't believe in God because I don't want to believe there are consequences (i.e. Hell) for my actions. But religion is SOOO convenient! If you just follow a few rules, then you end up in eternal paradise. PUH-LEEEZ! They don't seem to realize how utterly inconvenient it is for me to be atheist when they're all still Believers. I miss having an imaginary friend (sort of) that listened when I cried, and whom I believed would fix all my problems, and the security of thinking it was impossible for me to screw my own life up because there was a plan. I miss having a more open relationship with my mother. I miss having my family's approval. I miss community! I mean, atheists are rallying together like never before, but it's just not quite the same. Uniting around a LACK of something (belief) is not great for building relationships always.

Anyway... I don't have to direct my frustrations at an individual, or a group of people. I know that religion is just a terrible disease that has been perpetuated for hundreds of thousands of years, and to insist there is a scapegoat is futile. I'd rather theists realized atheists are just people, and a lot of us are good and kind. Obviously not all, but when atheist insist on being jerks to people, they're just confirming (in the mind of a Christian) that atheists are angry because they lack Jesus in their little hearts.

Comment by Sharyn Lesher on January 6, 2012 at 4:02pm

Try to think of it as uniting around truth & intelligence, sharing our love of knowledge and not a convenient solipsistic folk tale. Penn Jillette wrote a funny & smart piece where he talks about people who claim "I have faith, i believe so-and-so in my heart and nothing you say or do can shake my faith." He says that is just a long winded way to say "Shut Up" or two words a little more obscene. But all obscenity is less insulting than, "How i was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do" Believing there is no god lets me be proven wrong, and that means I'm learning something

Comment by sway austin on January 6, 2012 at 4:07pm

I'm with Forrests' comment. I'm a firm believer that most are skeptical, but most are also scared of the fact that they are, therefor are in constant denial.

I hear more requests for prayer that I do testimony of answered prayers...

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