The first post in this series can be found here, or you can just keep scrolling down the page till you find it.
In the previous posts, I talked about the actual events of my deconversion. In this one, I’d like to go into some detail about my thought process throughout the experience.
My Starting Point
When I was a zealous Christian, I thought about my faith constantly. If you’ve read the preceding 11 posts, you’ve no doubt come to realize that the Church of Christ is a bit different from most other denominations. I grew up believing that most people, even those in other denominations, were lost. Most of you probably didn’t grow up that way, but imagine what it would be like to think almost every person you encounter is a lost soul: your teacher, the bus driver, your best friend’s parents, even some of your relatives. It made the “religious truth” I possessed an extremely important commodity! I knew what could save these people that I cared about. The problem was, most of them thought they didn’t need it — they already had faith.
If you’re a Baptist, how much luck would you have in converting a Presbyterian? Probably not much — they already believe in Jesus, why should they be interested in your particular flavor of Christianity? That’s the same problem I ran into, except I believed these people still needed salvation. So the problem of the lost was not some far off thing for me — I didn’t have to think of Muslims or Buddhists to imagine the lost; they were all around me.
It was through all those experiences of studying with people from other denominations that I realized how strong the evidence for “true” Christianity would have to be if it was to convince people. Most people, regardless of their religion (or lack of it), feel confident that their beliefs are correct. To be convinced otherwise, they need to be shown some strong evidence, and that’s why I had such a high view of the Bible’s inspiration. If I could show people prophecy fulfillment in the Bible, and show them that every account in it is consistent with the other parts of the Bible, despite all the different people that penned it, it would show that man could not have accomplished it alone — God must be behind it. So we, as people, must strive to follow it. And that’s the message I tried to share with people for many years. It’s also what allowed my faith to be shaken when I saw that the Bible wasn’t as perfect as I had imagined.
I also believed that Christians could lose their salvation if they turned from God. I didn’t believe this happened easily, because I knew God’s grace would cover many things. But I believed that consciously choosing to live in sin (in whatever form that sin took) would cause someone to lose their salvation. And I had known several Christians that fell away for various reasons.
As you can imagine, these beliefs led me to think that the number of saved was very, very small. In a way, that fit with the teachings of Jesus — “the way is narrow, and few there are who find it.” But it sure was depressing. In fact, each time my wife was pregnant, I worried that we were making a bad decision in bringing another soul into the world, when their chances of being lost were so high.
That’s why the problem of Hell was such a big deal for me. Again, I didn’t lose my faith because I didn’t like Hell — but I did wonder why God would set up a plan in which the vast majority of humanity never achieved salvation. And if it was because humans are just so flawed that we don’t want salvation, then why did God make us that way? It’s not that I was unhappy with Christianity; I was unhappy with the version of Christianity I’d grown up with. So I spent time trying to better understand Heaven, Hell, and the nature of salvation.
Once I began studying the claims against Christianity, it really didn’t take very long for me to realize there were actual problems. On the surface, that might sound as though my initial convictions hadn’t been very deep, but that’s not at all the case. I had always viewed the Bible as either inspired or not — and if it was inspired, then it should have no errors. Not every Christian shares that view, but that was my stance, and it didn’t allow for all the problems I was finding.
Any time you experience a major shift in your world view, it puts everything up for grabs. I remember looking up at the night sky at one point and feeling very, very small and afraid. Who was out there to take care of us? What kept some asteroid from simply obliterating us all? But before long, I realized that the same forces were in play that had always been in play. If the God of Christianity was not real, then that’s the way it had always been, so the sky was not going to suddenly come crashing down just because I’d come to a new realization.
My wife and I also worried about how we would teach morality to our children without a divine authority to appeal to. But again, we soon realized that we wanted our children to be moral for some very good reasons — reasons we could explain to our children. Hopefully, those reasons would make them want to live morally too. But even if they didn’t always live morally, we no longer believed that they would be judged and punished for those mistakes.
That brings me back to Hell. Wasn’t I worried about being wrong and going to Hell? Or about leading my family there? No. When I was still just dealing with doubts, I was very worried about making the wrong decision. I prayed constantly that God would help me find the truth, regardless of what it was. But once I stopped believing Christianity, I had no more reason to be afraid of Hell than I do to be afraid of Frankenstein.
What about the forgiveness that Christianity offered? What avenue did I now have for salvation? Once I stopped believing in Christianity, I realized that there was nothing I needed to be saved from. The Christian god is not real, so it’s impossible to sin against him. If there’s such a thing as sin, it’s what we do against one another, and those kinds of sins need to be corrected with the people we’ve sinned against. Imaginary beings just don’t factor in.
Some Closing Thoughts
I hope that helps explain some of my thought processes as I went through my deconversion. It would be hard, maybe impossible, to encapsulate everything I thought about during those months of study, but I think this touches on the main points.
I really appreciate the interest you’ve all shown in this series — it’s been a tough one to write. Going through my deconversion and facing the subsequent problems in our families has been the toughest thing I’ve ever gone through. There are some things that I wish could have done differently, though I’m ultimately glad that I’ve come to this point. I appreciate all the great comments and the compassion you’ve shown, even if you don’t agree with my point of view.
Finally, I want to stress that even though I’ve been critical of the Church of Christ in many of these posts, there are still a number of things I admire about them. They firmly believe that the Bible is God’s perfect word, so it should be followed as closely as possible. Even if they’re incorrect about a couple of their positions, most of them have the best of intentions. It was a good way to grow up, in most respects. My parents taught me to be a critical thinker, and that’s the best gift they ever could have given me. I deeply regret how sad they are over my current beliefs, and I hope that we can one day come to some kind of resolution.
Thanks again to everyone who’s stuck with me through this series. I gotta say, I’m looking forward to writing about something else! 🙂