Feedback discussions - Ben
is going through the process of leaving his church.
He was wondering where to turn as the non-believers around him wonder what the fuss is about and his social circles are virtually all Christian.
We discuss the value of finding links to so many atheists who have honestly examined the arguments and are living happy, healthy lives.
This is at odds with everything his church has been telling him about how awful and shallow life is outside of Christianity.
To: Steve Locks
Sent: 29 June 2001 21:56
Subject: Leaving Christianity Web Site
Thank you very much for your time and effort in producing and
maintaining the aforementioned site. My wife and I are in the process of
leaving our church (seventh-day adventist) for many of the same reasons you
rejected Christianity. Both of our families remain in the church, and likely
will not understand or approve of our decision. As our church is a
proselytising church, I've seen the struggle new members have had in dealing
with their families who do not accept their conversion. I realise we will
have a similar struggle with respect to our "deconversion". The difference
is that whereas the Xian convert can lean on his newfound "church family"
for support, the ex-Xian has nowhere to go. My atheist/agnostic business
partners were all raised as secular Jews, non-practising Catholics, or
agnostics. They don't see what the big deal is about leaving a church and
why I'm struggling with it. Most of my friends are from my church, and due
to the evangelical charater, all social events organised by the church are
designed to "win back" errant former members. I am thus somewhat cut-off
from my social circle, with nothing to replace it but my conviction that I
cannot continue living a lie. Your site has given me much food for thought,
has helped focus my thinking and has been both an intellectual challenge and
refuge. When I was growing up, we were told that once one knows the "Truth"
there is nowhere else to turn, and if one rejects it, one will hit rock
bottom. We were told that those who left the church still believed that it
taught the truth, and that these "apostates" or "back sliders" were
knowingly rejecting the living god. Most of the church members blindly
followed its teachings. Many of the young people fiercely questioned the
church's teachings on behaviour such as dress, worship-style, modern music,
cinema going, politics, sabbath observance, etc., but none seemed inclined
to raise the big question as to whether or not the entire theistic
world-view makes sense and can be justified. I knew of no serious and
committed Xian who left Christianity on intellectual grounds. Usually the
former member left because of a personality conflict, or because he got into
a fight with the pastor, elder or deacon, or he wanted to divorce his wife
to run off with his secretary and the church didn't approve. If the member
left for "intellectual" reasons, it was to join another Xian denomination.
We were taught that atheists were ignorant and rebellious, who don't want to
follow any rules. I on the other hand, was sincere and studious. And through
more and more bible study, I came to reject the bible. I thought I was the
only one. I'm glad I reached my decision based solely on bible study and not
on atheist materials. It gives me the peace of mind that I am not under
"undue influence". Your site and others though have given me comfort in that
I am not alone.
From: Steve Locks
Sent: 30 June 2001 20:56
Subject: Re: Leaving Christianity Web Site
Thank you for your kind words and interesting email. I must say you are very lucky that you are going through this at the same time as your wife. Most married people whose stories I've read leave Christianity whilst their spouse is still a committed Christian and agonise over what to do, how to broach the subject with their partner, or even whether they should mention it at all.
You are correct that in the non-cyber world it is often difficult to find sympathetic people to turn to (although you are very lucky to have your wife!) but as you've no doubt gathered there are plenty of discussion groups of like-minded people on the Internet with whom one can off-load and share experiences. Realising one is not alone really is a major factor in self esteem and regaining mental health after the mental gymnastics that often accompany Christian belief! This is especially so if the Christians around you accuse you of various spiritual flaws for having rejected what they hold so centrally. I'm pretty sure you will get some uncomfortable reactions, though maybe not all bad. For fascinating insights into Christians reactions (and how your feelings might be to them) the following experiences are page turners!
There are also plenty more scattered through the stories you'll find through my site.
It is normal to feel quite insulted at some of the comments that one gets if you do let your church know what happened to you and you may need a thick skin! It won't be too long before you hear someone tell you that you can't have been a "real Christian" in the first place.
Good luck to both you and your wife. If the experiences of the thousands of others I have read stories from/conversed with are representative then however difficult your Christian circle may be, internally you will gain a lot of mental health, perspective and fascination.