Take a look at this letter I'm gonna send to my folks and bro (texan, christian, fundies) and let me know your suggestions, if it's any good and how you think it will be received. Thanks a lot for your help! Sorry for the length. I just needed to pre-empt all their arguments ahead of time.
thanks and cheers,
I need to talk to you about something important. I wanted to tell you in writing because I felt it would be more clearly communicated and spare us some of the emotional upset.
I have just gone through a very significant phase of growth.
I want to tell you about the changes I've gone through for a few reasons: because I value the closeness of our relationship and want to remain close. I also want to share this change with you because I want you to have the same information that I've come across.
I consider us not just as family but as really close friends. One of the things that has made us so close is that we both hold the same beliefs as very dear to our heart. The belief that Jesus is God, that he is both our Creator and our Savior. These are precious truths that we are blessed to know. These truths are our saving grace. These truths are the most important thing in our lives.
I worry that our closeness is about to be damaged in some ways because I no longer hold those beliefs. I have recently spent a good amount of time looking for the most objective, factual evidence and information that we humans have about the universe, the existence of life on earth, the existence of humanity and the existence of Christianity. This has led me on a fascinating journey through subjects like geology, biology, what science is, the history of humans, the history of Christianity, psychology, neuroscience, astronomy, and more.
As a Christian I don't think I ever really gave true consideration to some of this information. I knew the truth. I knew there was a God, and I knew He was the God of the bible, Jesus. I knew for sure where I would go when I died, heaven. I even experienced God in my life, in my prayers, in reading the bible. I felt him. He changed my life for the better. I knew it was true. So why would I simultaneously look deeply into information that led to a different explanation? I didn't need to, I already had the answers.
Well, I finally did look into what other explanations there were out there and I committed to doing so in the most objective, open-to- consideration mindset I could possibly achieve for myself at the time. I did not set out to disprove Christianity, I desperately wanted to believe. I didn't go into this angry at Christians, or because I was upset with suffering in my life or in the world around me. Sure, I've been turned off by Christians, by some churches, some dogmas, I've even felt angry with them at times. Yes, I have experienced and seen suffering. Yes, I had a little extra helping of suffering in my life last year. But suffering has never caused me to doubt God. I want you to know that those things, those feelings aren't at all to be credited for this drastic change I've gone through.
Because I was indeed a person with a pre-existing belief system, an objective mindset was incredibly difficult to achieve. I had to remind myself again and again to only look at the information objectively. To accomplish this I also had to learn the basics of logic so that I could distinguish between sound reasoning and poor reasoning. Learning what it means to think logically was key.
So, I no longer have a belief in the God of the bible or a god at all. I no longer have a belief in Christianity. Going into the details, the evidence for this, is not my intent in this letter. But I'm more than willing to share the evidence and information later if you'd like.
I never made a choice to stop believing. I didn't get a choice because it simply became crystal clear that it's not real, it's not true. So I simply didn't have the belief anymore. I never chose to stop believing. With more and more factual information received objectively, my belief in god just dissolved.
I realize that this is offensive to you, probably hurtful to you and very saddening and worrisome to you. I am truly sorry for that. I realize you are probably shocked at what a lost, liberal, pagan I sound like.
At times while learning this factual information that was so contradictory to what I, as a Christian, deeply believed to be true I went through a great deal of emotional pain, lots and lots of upset, and felt a great deal of fear. I feared hell. I feared hell often, and deeply. I prayed. I begged. I prayed to God that I was seeking him. I sought him. I feared what my life would be like, what the world would be like for me if I lost my faith, if I found out that God isn't real, if I found out that Christianity is not the truth. It scared me. Josh and I discussed this and are still discussing all of this at great length. Josh also felt scared, and deeply upset by the experience. (although he certainly didn't show it like i did - crying regularly). In hindsight, I see that what I was going through is in part explained by the term "cognitive dissonance". In hindsight I can also see that the upset I went through is quite common for Christians who go through a process known as "de-conversion" to those who have lost their faith. Having one's foundational, core beliefs completely crumble is naturally quite an emotional experience.
I never in my wildest dreams thought I would have the new world view that I now have, and I never imagined I would be coming to an old friend with whom I once held the same beliefs so dearly to say that I have found that our shared beliefs are actually not nearly as true as I once thought. I come to you with apprehension because I know it is likely you will see me as lost and not give real consideration to what I have to say. I am apprehensive because I hope that you won't simply assume that my new world views are wrong and not consider that there could be something to it. I hope you don't think this comes from me living in Oregon surrounded by liberal pagans. I hope you won't think this simply comes from the emotional distress you've seen me in at various times of my life. I hope that you won't think I was too weak intellectually or spiritually to not succumb to things I read. I hope you won't think I lacked critical thinking and naively bought into these ideas. I hope that you will see that my new world views come from careful, objective consideration of the objective evidence and information that we humans have available to us today.
Although my ideas about the world will continue to grow and change as I learn more and as we humans learn more about things,
I have reached a bit of a benchmark and I want you to know that I am now in a very settled, peaceful, calm, happy state in and around my new world views. No longer am I caused great fear and emotional turmoil by this change.
I know that in some ways this has all happened fast. You probably see that I have looked into this huge subject for only a matter of months, and I'm sure that makes it look like I've made a rash, irresponsible decision. Actually in hindsight I can see that I've been slowly working on this realization for years, basically my whole adulthood. I would bet that it looks like it is an emotional decision, a response to pain in my life etc.
But the speed at which this happened does not mean that this growth I've gone through is less real, less credible or is only the result of me going through some emotional upset. This is not the result of any anger I have or anger that you perceive me to have. This is the result of a search for truth in which I held myself to the standard of receiving information as objectively as possible. Critical thinking, the rules of logic, objectivity and the scientific method were and are the tools I have used. It took a very consistent, conscienscious effort to be objective considering I started this "journey" not a blank slate, but a person with an already existing and deeply held belief system.
Take some comfort knowing that I am not becoming an amoral depressed, angry, unbeliever, who acts as if life is purposeless and thinks there is no right and wrong. I don't think that and neither do the authors that I read and respect. I want you to know that even though I think it is most probable that we simply die and that is it, I will not be throwing morals, compassion, kindness and other good values and virtues out the window. Those things are actually even more important to me now.
I think it will be likely that you will disagree with some of my morals/values. That's ok, I think we will have to just agree to disagree. I just hope and ask that in the process that you will give my opinions respect and know that they have come from an honest inquiry into our world and the knowledge available to us in the world right now, and not from ignorance or some attempt to justify actions.
Although I tried to be honest with you and wanted to talk to you about all of this while I was in the middle of it I chose not to for a few reasons: It was such an emotional subject for me that often I was too emotionally exhausted to discuss it further. It helped me to remain objective to not get into any lively discussions or debates with Christians or atheists, or any other person who had their mind made up already. I needed to have personal integrity in whatever it was that I found out to be true, I needed to be sure that I hadn't simply been convinced, but had found the actual truth. I needed it to be my journey, with only objective information coming in so that I could know that this was indeed my analysis of objective information and not the result of me being convinced by someone. So I hope you will understand why I haven't talked to you about this much until now and I hope that this letter's big attempt to maintain closeness and some understanding with you will show my sincerity.
I know I will continue to find out lots of new things as time moves on and I'm intent on always remaining open to new information and always being willing to reanalyze and develop new world views if need be. I am sure that there will be plenty of growth and change over the course of my lifetime (although I don't expect to be led back to any type of religion).
So, in other words, I do not pretend to have final answers about our existence nor do most reputable scientists or philosophers whose opinions I respect. But I do think that humanity will be much better off if we can all take a good hard look at the facts available to us now and if the factual information leads us to new ways of thinking I think we ought to be willing to accept the reality that is so new to us and discard our old beliefs even if they are sacred to us.
I plan to never be meanly argumentative or to be in your face with my opinions. I plan to be consistently kind and loving. Often times I am sure I will be keeping my thoughts to myself sometimes in order to get along. At the same time, I do think it is most healthy for me to live authentically so I may at times carefully make a comment about my perspective, but will be careful to do so in a friendly, clear manner and will not be intending to excite a debate. For lengthy discussions I would much rather do so in writing so that we can both be clear and share information accurately.
I know that this news of my de-conversion from the Christian faith is probably very painful for you. I wish it weren't. I imagine that you think I am headed for a place of despair, darkness, hell - essentially absence from God. I imagine that it must be very painful for you to think that.
I love you and really want to have a good relationship with you. I am concerned that our relationship could become troubled because our world views are so fundamentally different. I hope that we can both work to keep our relationship close, pleasant and healthy. I think the best strategy towards that goal is to avoid verbally discussing controversial subjects and instead engage in written dialogues (email) and the exchange of quality, reputable information (info in all forms: books, articles, debate transcriptions and videos, blogs, video snippets and documentaries etc). Doing it this way will also greatly increase the quality of our discussions because we can display for each other texts etc. that we are referring to rather than being limited by what we can remember of those texts in a verbal discussion and because we will be less likely to inaccurately hear each other when our words are written rather than spoken. Perhaps more importantly, doing it this way will free up our time together to be spent in ways that connect us rather than disconnect us.
I think that the above strategy can prevent us from finding that hanging out together is often spent in upsetting, emotional debate and yet at the same time gain the benefits of the closeness achieved through deep discussion.
I have another idea I'd like to propose to insulate our relationship from these differences. When disagreeable subjects come up when we are together (in the news or in conversation etc.) I would love it if we had a prior agreement to just smile at each other lovingly and move on. Maybe that seems to fake to you, but it's just something I thought up that could maybe help out. Or maybe we could limit ourselves to one concise comment that reflects our views in a polite, friendly way and then agree to discuss it further via email and or the sharing of written materials etc.
I'd love to hear what you think of these ideas, and to discuss the subject of protecting our relationship to find a plan we can both agree on.
I love you very much. I'll be looking forward to a response from you. I'll probably give you a call a bit later to connect.