Why did I never hear of believers deconverting because of reasonable arguments? I am not strong into “conspiracy theories” and it seems over dramatic to speak of a conspiracy of silence, yet it is not discussed in a church setting.
Perhaps, simply because it happened to me, I am now more attuned to it, but it is not any more prevalent. Like when you find a certain colored car, but once you see one, you seem to find them everywhere. I know I have never met a deconvert in person, nor had I ever heard of one before me, so I figured it was rare.
I hadn’t really thought about it much. Having been on varying forums, I have met others that have deconverted, but I figured “birds of a feather” were just flocking together. We were oddities, sprinkled about the world, but not in real numbers.
Now I am out in blog-world, and I keep running across blogs of people that deconvert. Sure, it is what I am interested in, but I see more and more and more.
And I recall (at the time I thought nothing of it) that in conversations with leaders of churches, more than once it was mentioned that they had “friends” that had become atheists. I thought (like I would as a Christian) it was back-sliding, hard-drinking, sexual deviants that despised the moral requirements of Christianity.
Now I am not so sure…
Is it becoming more common? Is the internet allowing people to interact with others of different beliefs, causing us to question, in ‘net-universe, what we never interact with in life? My family is Christian. My friends are Christian. My social life was geared around a Church. In my work life, religion is never discussed. The only conversations I ever had about beliefs were with those that believe just like me.
And now I see that my friends and family would prefer to not discuss deconversion. Or what I learned. Or what I have argued, studied, investigated, and pursued. Is it that this is happening, and the Christians don’t want to talk about it? Has it become a forbidden topic?
And a nagging thought keeps pressing my brain. Why are theists not interested in acquiring knowledge? This is the belief system they are betting their entire life (and after life) on. I would think they couldn’t get enough. The nagging thought intensifies to a growing concern—is it fear of knowledge?
Learning One universal statement that is replete throughout every deconversion story I have read, is that it came from a desire to learn more. It is commonly stated that a person encounters a particular problem, and begins to investigate it. Traditionally, this leads to further difficulties, further investigation and eventually a full blown study of the very basic tenets of the belief.
For me, it started simply enough with some questions about how atheists could possibly have morality. Then to questions on the canon of the Bible, inspiration, and various troubling verses. At each turn, I was looking up articles on-line, buying and borrowing books, reviewing debates, reading debates, lurking, and thinking. I would read the Bible, pray, and wrestle with the concepts that were presented.
But I never stopped, to this day, learning.
Willingness to Learn At one point, I decided to abandon my entire study, as it was causing difficulty in my faith. It lasted for about a day. If there was a god, and it had given me a brain, and my brain was full of questions, why should I avoid them? Wasn’t I to use my intellect to research the questions on god(s) to determine the appropriateness of each belief?
I do not see a willingness to learn in many theists. Oh, they like to hear the general idea of the other side—but to study it? Understand it? Know it so well, they could actually, if called to, be able to argue the position? No thank you. This requires work, dedication, and more study than the Christian wants.
Besides, the Christian already knows they are right, why bother? It would be a waste of time. Yet I can’t help wondering—if it is such a waste of time, why be afraid? Put the skeptic’s criticisms to rest. Understand it, learn it, and then explain, using God-tapped power, how it is wrong. Or is it that there is just a twinge of fear that the Christian would be unable to do so? Even after requesting God’s help?
It is so freeing to be unattached to a particular dogma or doctrine! No, not in the ability to go out and rob a bank, but in the ability to review a particular statement or claim, and have the freedom to review every possible angle, without necessary adherence to one view. Studying the Bible is actually fun, when not caged in doctrine. Is it an interpolation? Redaction? Original to the author? Is it a story, a history, a polemic? What are the possible Greek/Hebrew interpretations or translations? When was it written, by whom and to whom?
No longer must the Gospels recount an actual historical Jesus. It is possible that some, or even all of it is myth. While I do not hold to a complete mythical Jesus, the possibility remains, as further study continues.
That is what I am talking about, in terms of a willingness to learn. A willingness to even abandon what I held true yesterday, upon learning new information today.
It is at this point, I find many Christians shut down. Run away. While they are willing to review the possibility of a slight modification upon overwhelming evidence, the idea of review basic beliefs is so foreign, they will not take the first step on the path.
Misrepresentation of opposing views. This one surprised me. I see more and more apologetic books hitting the market, in an almost frenzied attempt to rationalize the validity of a belief based on faith. (Think about it.)
But what surprises me is the lack of honest inquiry. Rather than say, “Look, there are two sides to this issue” and fairly present both sides, with an argument as to why the author’s position is the better, I see, “There is the other side” which is then misrepresented.
“Evolution is just a theory.” No, that is a deliberate confusion of the word, “theory” as commonly used, as compared to how science uses it. “There are no absolutes” is confusion between a moral absolute and a logical absolute. “Atheists have just as much faith by sitting in a chair” a confusion between “faith in the unknown” and “trust based upon repeated experimentation.”
Over and over, I see apologetic books misrepresent the position of the opposing side, and then perform a beautiful job of destroying this false argument. Commonly called a “strawman.” If a God is based upon truth, what possible harm could come from fairly and adequately presenting BOTH sides, and then letting the truth shine out?
Almost every single deconvert (including me) has been informed at least once, “Have you read ____?” in the hope that one book would turn around a year of study. And if we dare reply, “No, but I will read it, if you read ____” we get rejected more times than not. We are to read Christian apologetics, but no Christian dares read skeptical books. They are forbidden.
Look, if you want to read what evidence a skeptic bases their claim upon—read the skeptic! Don’t read the theist that claims what the skeptic says—go to the source. It is very damning to say, “Skeptics once believed the Bible was not true because it mentioned Hittites,” when the research reveals the inaccuracy of this statement. Hard to re-establish credibility.
But as I have said before, one has to choose. If all you want to do is bolster the claim in the Sunday School class, go right ahead! Read only Christian apologetics. Make such statements. No one will call you on it. No one will research it. No one will investigate.
They are too afraid, I think.