Real Deconversion Story #5 – Counter Apologist
Here is another account in my series of real-life deconversion stories. They are often painful, psychological affairs. Counter Apologist has an excellent blog, with some superb posts. Please check it out. Happy reading. The previous accounts can be found here:
I was always in Catholic school or Evangelical Christian school up through high school. I pretty much did the AWANA where you get candy for memorizing bible verses, youth group, youth retreats, the whole nine yards. I had Young Earth Creationist science classes, Sunday school, church service, bible class, bible tests, and then weekly chapel at school. The point is, I knew my theology about as well as you could expect for someone who hadn’t gone to seminary to understand theology. In fact I’d put myself up against most Christians on a test of theological knowledge and I think I’d come out ahead.
Now I don’t want to say this as a condemnation on my parents. They actually sacrificed quite a bit to send me to Christian schools. They were almost always a better option than the public schools and even when they weren’t I was begging them to let me go. So they sacrificed a bit to do that for us and I have no right to complain about my childhood, it was very good. So this isn’t anything on them.
I went to college and I went to a non-Christian school for college because pretty much engineering programs at Christian colleges generally aren’t all that good. Now you’d think that this is where a Christian kid goes and loses his faith, but it’s not. I still believed even though I “backslid”. I started having sex, largely because hormones are more powerful than Jesus, and there was a schism in the church I was in and my parents went through a divorce at the time. So things happened, and I wasn’t going to church, but I still believed.
Now in fact I actually had a renewal of my faith towards the end of my college experience. So when I got out of college I took my girlfriend who’s now my wife and I converted her to being an Evangelical Christian. We went looking for a church, we stopped having premarital sex, and then we got married. We settled into a very conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church although I have to admit that by this point I was no longer a Young Earth Creationist, I actually had a Muslim professor explain how the big bang and evolution was still compatible with theism in general. The church we had was very conservative, but they were open minded enough to let that kind of a view in.
So I got really involved in the church. I was their “sound guy” for seven years, I was a trustee, I did small group bible studies, I worked in various ministries, and in general things were very good. But there was one left over problem, my circle of friends expanded as a result of my wife and college. You see back before college, I didn’t know anybody who wasn’t my specific brand of Christian, let alone wasn’t a Christian at all. Through the course of meeting someone and working with them at a Gamestop while I was in school, and they turned out to be friends with my wife, we became good friends. Eventually they came out as gay and I freaked. My wife pointed out “you’re an asshole, you’re not supposed to be freaking out about this” and she pointed out that I had no problems with this person before he was gay and that I had no good reason to stop associating with him. So eventually after my wife and I got married, our friend found a partner. Us being geeks, we hung out more with our “geek friends” more than our “church friends” which meant that they were hanging out with us all the time. We became very, very good friends with them and my church at the time said the way to deal with this was we were supposed to be a “light for Jesus”, you were supposed to live and be good, and your life would exemplify the values of Christianity, and that would eventually convert your friends who were gay.
Now something you need to know about my growing up, someone being gay was pretty much the worst thing ever. They were pretty much the most out there “demonstrably wrong” thing ever. So my wife actually did quite a bit of work making me not as bigoted towards gays and so did my friends. They put up with a lot of shit. I learned to stop using the word “gay” as an insult. I stopped using the word “faggot” because that made people I cared about uncomfortable.
So I stopped being a bigot, yay me!
But then there was another problem. You see, I realized how much I was and am still in love with my wife. I knew what love was, and through my friends, let’s call them Jason and Tom, that after knowing them for 8 years, it was clear they had the same kind of loving relationship that my wife and I had. They went through the same kind of couple issues, we were just so alike. Basically, I knew what love was, and it was clear as day that they had it.
I could not call that wrong. There is no way you could tell me that love is wrong. Having a loving relationship is probably the most wonderful thing you could ever experience, and to call that wrong just doesn’t compute for me.
This view on their relationship is in direct contradiction with the bible. And it was about this time that I was going online and debating politics and eventually came across some criticism of religion. And while normally this is something I’d blow off, but I couldn’t do that once I started seeing problems with the bible. And I started finding lots of problems with the bible.
The biggest problem I found with the bible was now that I actually had friends that I cared about that this applied to, my friends who were clearly in love, and were wrong for their love according to the bible, were going to hell – aka eternal conscious torture.
And that shook me quite a bit.
As a result all this criticism of religion stuff I read started to stick with me for once. What didn’t help my faith was that this all came to a head for me while I had taken a temporary work assignment in another country for six months. During that time I was working so many hours that even though I had my wife with me, we ended up not going to church during that time just because the schedule was just insane.
I was able to do a lot of reading however, though I kept it to myself. I started investigating arguments against theism and I finally broke through and asked myself a question that I realized I never asked in the 20+ years I was Christian: “Why do I believe in a god?”
I had no answer for this. Now one of the things I realized when I asked myself this question was that I was taught this Jesus stuff since I was an infant. In fact I was taught this by the same people who taught me more concrete things: Ice was frozen water, 2+2=4, and Jesus Christ was the son of god who died for my sins.
Ultimately every argument I found for Christianity fell back on “you have to have faith” or if it was a problem with Christianity it was “Well we can’t expect to know god’s reasons because he’s so far beyond us.” And really that’s not a satisfying answer.
So I read the arguments, the counter arguments, the counter-counter arguments, and eventually when I came back home and started talking to my pastor and church friends about these doubts I was having, they really couldn’t get past the first set of counter arguments and things came back down to the whole faith thing.
The argument that did it for me was the argument from Hell. This is because if you believe in Christian theology, then the only thing that existed eternally is god. And eventually god had to decide to create the universe, and god knew that if he gave man free will, which apparently he really had to do, then he would have to create a hell.
So god is faced with a choice at this point either he creates the universe and create a hell, and according to Matthew 7:13-14 we’re explicitly told that the majority of mankind will be condemned to hell; or not create. And for the vast majority of creation it’s far better off to not have been created if you’re going to eventually be condemned to eternal conscious torture.
So why create? If god is the perfect being and before the creation of the universe he exists in a triune godhead of mutual fulfilling love in the most perfect state possible. He literally is perfection according to Christian theology. So he had to create for creation’s benefit, not for his own benefit or any need or want on his end.
But most of creation is better off not being created! Hell even if it was a small subset of creation that was better off not being created, the only moral choice is not to create anything!
And that’s pretty much the argument that made me lose my faith.
One day I eventually broke down and started crying. I realized I didn’t believe this crap and this was a problem because I converted my wife, the most important person in my life, to being an Evangelical Christian.
It all hit me at once. My entire family was Christian. I realized I’m not seeing my dead relatives ever again. I might get disowned, what was going to happen to my marriage? Why was I lied to my whole life? Why did I convert people to this terrible religion?
All that hurt, but it was also freeing at the same time. Unfortunately, the “freeing” part only lasted a little bit before the social fear took over. I told my wife and she became very upset. She still believed, she wasn’t nearly as conservative as I was and so didn’t see the problems I did since she didn’t have the indoctrination that I had.
So when I showed her things in the bible saying that “No see, hell has to exist. See, homosexuality is wrong, etc” she was shaken but she still believed in a god and she was still a Christian.
So I threw myself into apologetics. Hardcore. For two years.
Trying to make myself go back and believe this shit again so my life could go back to normal. I spoke to pastors, I spoke to friends, I did everything you could think of – I read William Lane Craig, CS Lewis, Tim Keller, even more liberal theology stuff by like Kenton Sparks. I read debate after debate online, reading every possible argument I could get my hands on. I tried to go back, I really did. And it didn’t work.
There was no argument that could make me believe that shit again.
Now fortunately for me everything eventually worked out. My wife and I had stopped talking about the religion thing after a while, but eventually one day my wife told me that she didn’t believe anymore – she wasn’t a Christian. She is more of an agnostic, but that’s good enough for me. We spent a long time working out what we did and didn’t agree on, specifically what to do if we had kids.
That last part was good, because I can’t tell you how happy I am that my wife and I were finally able to have kids, and it was after we deconverted, which is pretty much the best thing ever.
We eventually did have to tell the extended family at that point, especially now that a kid was involved, that we weren’t Christians. This has caused some problems, but it wasn’t a disowning like I thought it might be. It’s been kind of rough but we’ve mostly been good.
So that’s pretty much it. As a result of all this I found out that I kind of like philosophy, and having read apologetics and seeing what bullshit it is, I want to help other people who might be going through what I went through. I want to let people know that it’s OK, you can leave religion. Life is so much better without cognitive dissonance or thinking that the vast majority of people are going to be suffering eternal conscious torture. Now I think that there are better reasons than that to leave Christianity, but that’s a topic for future posts/videos.
Pretty much I wanted to get this out there to let people know my deconversion story and why I’m doing posts and videos. So if you’ve made it this far through this story, thanks.