Is there anybody out there who WAS a true believer and is now an atheist? If so, I'd love to hear how you got from there to here. I always put the whole God story in the same category as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and I was lucky enough to grow up in New York, so I knew from the beginning that there were lots of belief systems and lots of degrees of belief and compliance. I've always been impressed by people who had what must have been the comfort and ease of automatic belief and who gave it up for the much more demanding and unsavory challenges of reality. I'd love to hear your stories, particularly those of people from communities where no other options were around, were available, were even acknowledged.

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A synopsis of my deconversion is on my page, but here is a brief version. I was raised in a Baptist church, which had an influential contingent of John Birchers. On the side, I read, and believed, tracts from the Worldwide Church of God sect. I was a sincere believer. All of this led to fervent reading of the Bible, in order to have better understanding.

The amazing thing is that if you truly believe, that the Bible is the inerrant word of god, and read carefully, you'll find it full of contradiction. Then you can't help but face the fact that something can't be both self contradictory, literally true, and inerrant. Then the house of cards fell tumbling down.

Just as quickly, the fundamentalist churched hypocrites, who preached absolute adherence to the Bible, were disobeying a number of the commandments, while preaching intolerance. They could not be both sincere in their beleif and absolute in their adherence to the Bible, and still be doing the things that they forbid. They also can't claim that the BIble is 100% true and inerrant, then pick and chose, while saying that others cant pick and choose. So there went the culture of the Bible as well as its basis.

Then there was nothing left to believe, other than, that the whole thing (religion) is a way to control and manipulate people, and amass wealth and influence. I was left with a very skeptical approach to any religious belief system.

So being sincere in belief and reading the bible, killed belief. Strange, isn't it?
Even true believers realize that the bible was written by men, not by god, don't they? And if that's the case, that gives you (as believer) an out. You could always say that the men made mistakes in their interpretation of god, but that god itself is still there and still perfect. Or did I just accidentally create another loophole for the fundies to jump through?
No, in my upbringing, the true believer fundy believed that the bible is the absolute infallible word of god, and was not written by man. god guides the mind and hand of man in translation. that was what was taught to me as a child.

later, confronted by internal contradiction, some apologists modified that stance, stating that the original texts were the absolute word of god, and any errors are in subsequent translation. THen the key is to find out what the original texts said - which leaves the door open to interpretation. But as for my own path, which started in the innocence of childhood, the cult-like attitude that the bible is the absolute work of god was paramount.

Again, if it is NOT the word of god, then the slippery path of pick-and-choose means that it can mean whatever you want it to mean - which is what actually happens, but they dont want to admit it.

I was not raised catholic, but I think that the pope is also considered infallible. And for Muslims, the Koran is also considered absolutely infallible. I could be wrong on both counts....
Thanks for the clarification. I always wondered about that. But it leads me to questions . . . If you were raised to believe that you had, at your disposal, the real verbatim words of god, talking to YOU - telling you how to live, how to think, what to believe, etc. - and if you believed that you had this - how could you not spend every minute of every day kissing its butt? I'm not being obnoxious here (not deliberately, any way), I'm serious. If I thought that there really and truly was an omnipotent, omniscient being paying attention to everything I did and wanting some very specific things from me, I would spend my life being terrified that I might piss it off and just kissing its butt and sacrificing kittens to it.
Now you know one reason why some people become so bitter after they deconvert and look back - it's like, "What was I thinking" and "Why did they do this to me?"

My personal view is that there is a lot of self delusion, hypocracy and also intellectual laziness, where most people let a few leaders delude them. The bible is long, boring reading, with lots of filler and boring material that goes nowhere. It's a lot of work to read it, so most people dont, or they dont read cover to cover. They let their leaders do it for them. As to whether those leaders are also self deluded, or cynically filtering their reference in order to spread their prejudices and empower themselves.... who knows? It's hard for me to believe that they are sincere, but I'm not inside their minds.

There are a number of books by deconverted ministers - probabably worth exploring. Some websites too, like exchristian.net, and if you do a google search on "deconversion" with "evangelism" or "fundamentalism" there are lots of personal stories.
I was raised Southern Baptist. *we can have a short pause for my lost childhood*

My general description of this time is "I was a pro-life, anti-gay, Southern Christian girl who walked the aisle at 11 following the sermon titled A Walk Through Hell. I had a Christian t-shirt for every day of the week, participated in Christian activities at school, including See You at the Pole and signed the True Love Waits pledge. Then I got to high school. It was pretty much all down hill from there."

It's funny because those sentiments..."The South Will Rise Again" type attitude never really suited me. But my family was that way. My best friend for all those years is African American and I've always felt a strong pull towards the gay community, I am a total fag hag. I think I'll forever be embarassed at trying to maintain the status quo. Hating people just isn't in my personality.

I've always been a critical thinker and I DID apply that to my faith. Even as a young tween I questioned my church's stance on music (being a big of metal head at that time) and meeting with my pastor when I had questions. But when I got to high school I realized that I was selling myself so very short. I would have a difficult time in the cliquish world of the American High School Experience if I never befriended people different than me. Well...then I lost my virginity and I figured I might as well start making the skepticism leap. I wrote an essay titled "A World Without Religion" for my 11th grade literature class which didn't go over very well.

It wasn't until about 3 years ago now that I really started thinking about what it was that I really believed. Reading some of my blogs from that time now make it evident that leaving behind "faith" was difficult for me, probably because of the cultural influence. I'm from a big, traditional, Southern home...my grandfather is a retired Methodist pastor. He christened me as a baby. My mother did finally convert to Lutheran-which is great because now we don't have to hide our drunkeness. But when I came right out and told her, she wasn't thrilled.

And now I've bored you to tears....;)
Absolutely not! I started this discussion because I really wanted to know. Even though I was technically a Catholic, I never really believed, not the way you did. From the very beginning, I just assumed that all of Catholicism was just "make believe," complete with stuff like secret handshakes and decoder rings.
I live in a third-world country in Asia. People here also like to point out that our country, if not the only, is the largest Christian nation in Southeast Asia. I live in the Philippines.

(2000 census) Approximately more than 98% of the population believes in a god. The rest are Buddhists and others.

I grew up a Roman Catholic. Played my share in the local church. Joined the lectors and commentators guild and read bible verses in front of hundreds of people during Sunday masses. Attended retreats and prayer meetings. Those sort of things. I was pretty much a very religious person amidst other very religious people, in a very religious society. XD

But by my second year in high school (13yo), I started doubting. I also lived a rough childhood. This shouldn't really be a surprising thing about atheists (but I also know that's not always the case). And my curiosity for the truth was strengthened even more by my understanding of suffering. I just couldn't accept that something so imperfect like the world could be a product of such a benevolent and divine being. So I quit the religious organization. And started learning about the other possibility, which is the inexistence of a god. And I read. And I read. And I read. XD

I also posted something about it here.

I'm more comfortable and secure with my ideologies now than I was before. I don't have that many atheist friends in real life. In fact, I have none. It's not easy to find real atheists in such a place. :)
How did you do it? I mean, how were you able to doubt the religious myths when you didn't even know there might be another way to think? If everyone you knew and everyone you ever heard of was a believer - you must have INVENTED atheism for yourself. Yes, it was out there but you didn't know it until you went looking for it so you really did discover the possibility for yourself. That's amazing. Are you extraordinary in other ways?
I was raised in a stereotypical Baptist Texan home. The parents were active and visible in the church/community and all of us kids (there were 6 of us) were required to play the part of the perfect Christian family. My sister slept around as a young teenager, both my brothers were arrested (quietly) for various infractions, and I was abused by my step-mother for being an overweight child. We were dysfunctional, but by God, no one...especially the Church...ever knew. I lived this way most of my life.

I broke the mold a bit by going to a Lutheran university after high school, which caused many a' prayer requests and teary-eyed conversations with my unyeilding parents-but what happened at that university totally changed my perspective on religion, Christianity, and theology. My theo 101 prof was a Lutheran minister who totally re-wrote the Bible from it's ancient Greek (?) texts. He preached of the wayward modern Christianity and the negative effects on society. Then he did the unthinkable: he told me Heaven doesn't exist in the clouds. He confided that he secretly believes Heaven is within each of us and is different depending on who we are.

Oh man, this blew my mind. I literally grew up in the "fire and brimstone" churches you so often hear about in humid East Texas towns. I started paying attention to my philosophy professors and my history professors, then I started looking at art in a whole new way (I was a history and art dbl major)...and one day, I woke up and thought, God who?

Literally, I quit God cold-turkey...this is super hard to do when your entire family believes. But, none of it really made enough sense to me. I started thinking back to high school when I wrote a paper about this religious book from the feminist perspective and couldn't really find biblical references to support my claims that women are equal in the eyes of God. And I remember when all my nutso religious zealot friends got together after school and BURNED all their secular CDs in a bonfire (some crying to Jeeeeezus and some chanting odd prayers). And when my professor told me about his interpretation of Heaven, that really "ruined" Christianity for me.

Now I live among the thorns as a teacher in a rural school. I'm assumed to be a Christian (and a Republican for that matter) be almost everyone, and I constantly have to choose whether or not to reveal my beliefs to coworkers when they start prying into my life....I get around the church question by saying "oh yeah, I go to church...what's the name?....It's the United Universalist Unitarian church in The Woodlands..." They get confused by the words but hear the upscale community in which it's located and that's pretty much it. :)

The thing that pisses me off these days is the social stigma associated in my workplace with being a non-believer. People who before totally "loved" you now regard you as some sort of deviant. I have to say, my grandmother died not knowing I didn't believe the way she believed. She would have been miserable knowing that her baby was going to hell for being a "devil-worshiper". It never would have EVER made sense for me to contend my non-devil worshiper status with the argument that I'm a NON-theist...she's like most everyone else: not believing in God=the Devil....She already called me a communist when we talked politics (oddly enough, I loved talking politics with her...it was a very endearing nickname to have ;)
Thought I'd jump in on this as well.

I have discussed a little bit of my deconversion in my intro (well okay, a lot) and I wanted to fill in a few gaps.

As mentioned, I was raised Lutheran and by a moderately religious family. Mom and Dad never forced religion on me or my sister, however, they did take us to church when we were children. For the majority of the time, I didn't accept it as valid and continued with that mindset. My sister, however, is still very religious, which is interesting in and of itself and makes you wonder if she has the religious genes that most of my family possesses and I don't.

I had one period of time, over about 2 years, that I was a pretty gung-ho Christian. I gave a testimony where I could, witnessed in chat rooms, and generally lived my life as a crazy Jesus freak. And I have to wonder also how sincere I really was, because I went to Christian junior high/high schools and to be a "sincere" Christian was to move up in the echelon of popularity. And, seeing as I was a bit of an unpopular student, it could have been very much ingrained in my head that that was what I "should" do.

It is interesting that there are people in similar circumstances here, similarly to another chatter here, I am bipolar also. Funny thing is, the major thing that put a dent in my faith the first time was my slightly hyperactive researching of bp and its symptoms. I found out that hyper-religiousness was a symptom, and I was pretty much convinced that my religion up until that point was a lie. It was not as comforting the first time.

I went through a second cycle of this type of pattern, from belief to disbelief (this time, most likely not bp related but simply a result of group dynamics). It was popular at that time to believe, so I did, and got sucked in by the group dynamic. After a forced expulsion from the church (long story) and a failed engagement (even longer story) I finally had enough, said to hell with it, and become an Atheist. I haven't looked back since. : )
Hi. Thanks for sharing. Can I ask you a couple of questions to clarify my understanding? I get that you stopped believing in your church, and probably in religion, but did you also really stop believing in a deity? It's such a huge change. Have you really swung all the way to the other side - to the inherent randomness and purposelessness of life that evolved by chance? To acknowledging that human beings aren't special, just another animal trying to get by? That "good" and "evil" are human constructs, and that they change with time and place?

Also, has this paradigm change affected your other perspectives? For instance, have you changed your stance on the death penalty or abortion? Has it affected what you think of people who still believe? And how do you feel about the change - are you proud of having discovered reality, ashamed of having wasted so much time, embarrassed by your new and slightly shameful position? These questions fascinate me because I was never a believer, so I can't imagine HOW such a mental shift could happen and what it would do to a person.

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