Saturday, 6 August 2011

You Can't Handle The Truth!

Before I go any further with my personal story I just want to pause, and reflect a little, on a few of the emotional dynamics that are involved in a de-conversion experience.  It would have been all too convenient for me to turn my back on further investigation, especially after reading John Loftus' book, since my whole world was (and is!) inexorably tied to Christianity.  Sure, I was starting to supsect that Christianity might be untrue, in terms of its factual claims, but what would this mean if it were so?  Could I really just walk away from being a Christian??  How?!?

For one, every member of my family, on both sides, is a "born again" Christian...even up to and including my aunts/uncles, & first cousins etc.  I mean everybody.  And this isn't to mention my work situation, plus nearly all of my friends and acquaintances (also Christian).

I decided, rightly or wrongly, that these issues (of life, death, the meaning of life...) were just too important to leave alone.  I HAD to know, come what may, if Christianity was true or if it wasn't.  Mind you, I'm keenly aware of the fact that not everyone feels this way, at least initially.

My wife, who stunned me recently by annoucing that she too is no longer a Christian, took a de-conversion path that was dramatically different from my own.  I remember asking her one time, while she was still a believer, "If Christianity were indeed false (hypothetically speaking, of course!), would you want to know?".  Her answer was an unflinching "no", absolutely not, she would not want to know.  This took me back a little, at first, but it did help me to better understand why she didn't seem interested in discussing the various issues (pro/con Christianity) that were so enveloping my world.  She most emphatically didn't want to read any books about them either! 

By her own admission one of the reasons, for this reticence, lay in the fact that she wasn't prepared to even entertain the possibility of not one day seeing her grandmother again, in heaven.  If there really is no afterlife, you see, she just didn't want any part of the "arguments" or "evidence" that might convince her of that fact.  We later came to jokingly refer to this as taking the "ostrich approach" (just stick your head in the sand so you don't have to face the arguments) also helps if you put your fingers in your ears, and say "la la la la, I can't hear you, I can't hear you...". 

There are two points I'd like to make here...firstly, how frequently are atheists arguing with Christians (both on the internet and in person) who are not even prepared to genuinely consider the possibility that Christianity might be false?  I think this is much more common than we realize.  The factors that hold someone to Christianity are both conscious and subconscious, and these factors are HUGE in their scope, complexity, impact etc.

Secondly, for any Christians who might happen to stumble onto this blog, I simply want to ask you the same question I asked my wife, "If Christianity were indeed false, would you want to know?".  Be careful, please don't answer too quickly here.  You need to permit yourself to imagine that you've become completely convinced of this, and then think through the implications step by step.  For example, would you tell your parents?  Right away, or later on?  Your friends?  Would you stop going to church (right away, or later on)?  How might this impact other areas of your life?  Remember, you might be able to fool other people (into thinking you're an honest seeker after truth) but you and you alone are the one who loses if it's not really the case.
Should your answer to this question be "no", than you need to walk away unless/until that changes, but if your answer is "yes", than you owe it to yourself to read some of the best skeptical material on the market today.  (The stuff recommended by atheists, not your fellow Christians)  If you have never done this, than how can you be confident in the truth of Christianity?


  1. Your blog has been an encouragement to me. We have similar backgrounds and I am just starting down the road of unbelief, so it is a relief to find others that have gone down this road ahead of me. Thanks for putting yourself out here.

  2. Respectful Atheist6 August 2011 at 22:13

    Thanks so much Merbie. It was former Christians who were the biggest encouragement to me, as well, so I completely understand where you're coming from. If there's anything I can help you with, along the way, please don't hesitate to ask.

  3. Your blog is awesome, I love how you think and explain everything. My deconversion process has been much like yours, and I can relate very much to everything you write. Thanks :)

  4. Respectful Atheist11 August 2011 at 02:21

    You're welcome Anonymous, and thank you!

  5. I just stumbled upon your blog this evening, and it seems we have a lot in common (except for the bit of working for a Christian organization - good luck with that!). I too am in my early 30s, was raised in church, but have always had nagging doubts. (I call it my bs alarm or spidey sense :P)

    I recently started examining my faith after some long discussions with a close friend who recently became an atheist. I realized I had no basis for what I believed other than what my parents and/or Sunday school teacher told me. Like the experience you went through, I am in the phase where I am reading, scouring the internet, listening to podcasts, and absorbing everything I can from both atheist and Christian perspectives.

    I don't know where my journey is going to lead, but I'm going to evaluate the arguments and evidence to the best of my ability and let the chips fall where they may. Thankfully my wife (who is pretty conservative) is supporting me on this journey, although I can't envision her ever abandoning her faith.

    If you care to follow me on my journey, my blog is at:

    I have a few family and friends on there who comment from time-to-time. Most are believers still, but one friend is my buddy who recently deconverted. I'm not a scientist, philosopher, or anything like that, so I would love to have more diversity of thought and opinion for me to consider on my journey.

    Best of luck to you, and I look forward to keeping up with your blog!

  6. Respectful Atheist15 August 2011 at 15:13

    I think you're taking the right approach David. Be sure to pace yourself, so your emotions have a chance to keep pace with your intellect. De-converting can be extremely difficult and you may find yourself struggling with anger/denial etc., at various stages, regardless of how it turns out in the end. I have signed on to follow your blog, and thanks for keeping up with mine!

    PS--On the subject of podcasts have you discovered Resonable Doubts yet?

    It's excellent stuff.

  7. Thanks for your blog - you are a very clear writer and your tone is loving and respectful as you say. I am a cradle Christian but am having some serious doubts. I would definitely have answered the question "no". I would still give anything not to have any doubts and go back to blindly following my church's teachings. But it seems like the cat is out of the bag and I doubt (ha) I can ever bury these doubts again. It is like the placebo effect. I think placebos are great and I would have no problem with my doctor giving me one as long as a better medicine was not available. But once you know it's a placebo, its just not gonna work. I do have a question about your statement: "Remember, you might be able to fool other people (into thinking you're an honest seeker after truth) but you and you alone are the one who loses if it's not really the case." My plan would be to continue to go to church and not really "come out" about my disbelief. Why would I "be the one who loses" if I follow this course? I just don't want to lose the community of my church and it would cause a lot of pain to my wife, kids, and parents - better to pretend I think?

  8. Respectful Atheist17 August 2011 at 18:43

    Thanks for the kind words T.J. I can relate to what you're saying. There were moments, on my journey, when I wished I could go backwards and "un-learn" the things I was learning (back to when I was positive Christianity was true!).

    In terms of my statement...what I meant to say was don't fool YOURSELF, by pretending to have intellectual integrity if you don't really have it. I wasn't trying to imply that someone should "come out" to others about their disbelief and/or doubts. (And if I had been I would be a giant hypocrite since I myself am still an "in the closet" wife knows, but no one else)

    This is a personal decision but, as for me, I do hope to dig my way out of the atheist closet sooner rather than later.

  9. Greetings Respectful Atheist,

    So strange that I stumbled upon this blog of yours, but I will say it has been intriguing to read. I am currently in my graphic design class and would rather not be working on my assignment.

    Firstly, I would like to say I appreciate your humility, and fully understand your anonymous standing due to your position at work. But simply put, it is encouraging to see you be so honest, and I will boldly say that this honesty is going/assumed it has brought you much freedom.

    I have read up until this point of your blog (as of yet, will continue up the ladder after I comment haha), and your closing statement, "for any Christians who might happen to stumble onto this blog, I simply want to ask you the same question I asked my wife, "If Christianity were indeed false, would you want to know?"...
    I take bias into account, and the closed handed statements, answer is I do know in my heart 110% of God's saving grace in my life, and cannot bring myself to a place of denying that. Even if I try...(I was an atheist for 18 years of my life)...I cannot bring myself to denying the unspeakable that has happened. Coincidence just merely isn't valid.

    I guess I will find this sooner or later by reading your blog, but I am intrigued with your process of deconversion...and I simply wanted to know if you were specifically burned in your life...on your journeys...shut down with your questions...
    My heart hurts for you, genuinely. Not a "pity him" state...I just sense a lot of reject and pain that must have come to you and just wanted to say that I do care, and even if the statement is no longer filled with power in your perspective, I am praying for you now as I leave my class, praying for comfort that can only be given from the Lord.

    Again, I appreciate your blog and that you are able to let out the deepest thoughts and feel heard in some way.

    Keep your mind open, and your hands open.

    1. Madeline, I appreciate the tone of your comments, very much, thank you for that.

      You seem to be assuming that I deconverted because of "reject" and "pain" etc. Nothing could be further from the truth though. My experience, with Christianity, was mostly a very positive one (and I continue to have very positive feelings, about most Christians, to this day). I simply became convinced, on an intellectual level, that the claims of Christianity don't hold up to proper scrutiny, ie. that they are most probably completely false on the face of them.

      Are you absolutely certain that your conversion, TO Christianity, was not emotionally driven (primarily)? Please be honest with yourself, on this score. I strongly suspect you are projecting here, and you are pretty far off the mark (at least in my case).

      Thanks again, for your thoughts!