Deconversion — From Christianity to Atheism
For a little while I had been holding on to a secret. A secret that I couldn’t share with anyone: not my family, not my friends, not even my spouse or four children. What I now knew was so taboo in my social circle, it had the potential to completely ostracize me from anyone and everyone I cared about.
I am no longer a Christian.
Born in 1983, I grew up in a fundamentalist Pentecostal home. My father was Jewish by descent, making me half-Jewish, but our home was Christian through and through. We went to church multiple times per week and believed everything a good fundamentalist and Pentecostal person should:
- Young Earth Creationism: an earth and universe only 6,000 years old
- The inerrancy of the Bible as a historical and scientific document, including events like the worldwide flood of Noah and the proliferation of all species from a single ark, the mass exodus of Jews from Egypt, and all the miracles of Jesus
- The virgin birth of Jesus Christ, his resurrection from the dead, and his eventual return to earth to gather all Christians to heaven
- A literal heaven and hell, with eternal bliss for those that believed in Jesus, and eternal torment for those that rejected him. Those that died in sin without forgiveness would be destined to hell.
- Homosexuality, drinking alcohol, cursing, and impure thoughts are sins that warrant being tortured without end.
- The devil, angels, and demons are all real.
- Speaking in tongues as evidence of the Holy Spirit, as well as supernatural healing, the power of intercessory prayer, and modern prophecy
As a child I had a huge fascination with astronomy and science, and thought eventually I would grow up to be an astronaut, but eventually settled in software engineering. In school I had to be careful to not trust in “unfounded” science such as evolution, the big bang, or anything that could appear to be contradictory to the truth of scripture. I saw Ken Ham speak live, and fully believed that God had created all living things in six days. My love for science and logic seemed to be at odds with my beliefs, but I kept them to myself hoping that I would eventually outgrow my concerns.
And many times throughout my life I had done just that. I have experienced wonderful church services with powerful feelings, heartfelt crying, and regret for the sins I committed. I was a truly sincere Christian. I felt guilty for doing bad things, but couldn’t understand why I kept doing them. I feared for the torture of hell for every lie I told or impure thought that crossed my mind. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was constantly playing a game of whack-a-mole with sin and repentance that would never end, doomed to hell.
I also couldn’t seem to do the same things as my fellow Christians either. I couldn’t speak in tongues; I never had a “calling” on my life; I felt uncomfortable singing songs, raising my hands, or praying for people. I played drums and did various sound-related roles at church over the years, but they were just things I did and enjoyed, and not from a God-given inspiration to act them out. I felt out of place with other Christians.
When I was 25 I sought out the Internet to find the answers to my Pentecostal woes. I stumbled upon a site which made a case against my belief system and instead advocated that once a person was saved, they were guaranteed entrance to heaven, and our sins on earth were merely the consequence of being out of touch with God and needed restoring. The points were laid out so logically with the backing of the Bible that I couldn’t deny it.
I felt a weight lifted from my shoulders. The shackles of Pentecostalism had been thrown, and I was excited for my new religious adventure. I dove head-first into these new teachings and felt relieved that hell was not waiting for me because I “was in”. I volunteered to teach a Bible series based on my understanding of “end times events”, and was thoroughly convinced that Jesus was going to return to earth by 2012 to remove me from this wretched planet.
The year 2012 came and went uneventfully. It was a pretty good movie though.
When I tried approaching my family with the same theological arguments for my new religious viewpoints, they did not come to the same conclusions. My thoughts once again did not line up with those around me, and I once again was the odd one out. I kept my opinions to myself.
Cracks in the Foundation
In 2012 with my faith once again shaken, my family started attending a different Pentecostal church in Omaha, Nebraska. My wife is a piano player and singer, and myself being a drummer, we eventually became involved and dedicated to performing in the church’s services. I made some amazing friends and encountered what I felt was the real presence of God. Life was grand and I felt fulfilled in my service.
I regularly entertain myself in my spare time by watching YouTube videos on various science topics, and I devour them. I find myself especially enthralled by quantum mechanics and relativity due to their bizarre and unintuitive nature. Whenever videos mentioned the old age of the universe, or veered onto “pseudo-scientific” topics of evolution or global warming, I turned a blind eye. I knew better than to entertain these lies. They were just “theories” after all, right? Regardless, I continued to learn and enjoyed gaining knowledge.
One day I had been pondering the issue of the starlight problem with the Biblical creation account. I had accepted the argument that when God created stars and galaxies, he created them with their age in place and the light already traveled to the earth. Then something interesting crossed my mind.
Supernova SN 1987A occurred in, you guessed it, 1987 with a brightness that was visible to the naked eye to observers. Being 168,000 light years from earth, it takes the light from that object 168,000 years to travel the distance from itself to us. Now if the universe was only around 6,000 years old, and we physically saw a star prior to supernova, then observed it going supernova, how was that possible? Did God create the starlight with the age of the star already intact, and we only observed the death? Wait, does that mean we saw a star that never existed, only its death state? Doesn’t that contradict what the Bible says, “God is not the author of confusion…”? Why would God create the appearance of a star’s existence that never actually existed?
Needless to say this line of reasoning bothered me. I sought out the answer to the problem, but no one speaking from an apologetical or religious viewpoint had a convincing answer. I posed the same scenario to friends and could not muster much more of a response than, “Hey, that’s a good question! God is mysterious!” After a year of searching, I decided to give up and rededicate my mind to God hoping my doubts would be resolved. I felt good and at peace spiritually again.
The doubt returned and remained.
Seeking the truth
I like to consider myself an intelligent, logical, and rational person, contrary to my ignorant stances of much of science. Some time into 2016, I decided find out what the truth was. If God was real he would prove it to me, and I could finally be rid of my doubt and have justification for my beliefs. Back to the Internet.
Wading through the biased viewpoints in a sea of religiosity on the Internet when searching for proof of the existence of God is an exercise of patience. “Just look at nature! Carbon dating has been proven false! The eye is irreducibly complex!” What was fact and what was fiction? Tiresome as it was, I was committed to resolving my inner angst.
I eventually stumbled on a series of YouTube videos by Evid3nc3 that outlined the story of a man who grew up with a story strikingly similar to mine. He told of his fundamentalist past, his desire for truth, his resistance and doubt of actual accepted evidence, and his eventual realization of the truth.
He was an atheist. There was no God.
I was an atheist. There is no God.
The phrase rang so hard in the core of my being it was shocking. How could I let myself think such a thing?
Evid3nc3 continued on the series with rational explanations of the history of the Bible, nature, and philosophical discussions. He dove into a clear explanation of Occam’s Razor, and I felt like this was the source of my epiphany. My mind no longer needed God as rationalization for the existence of everything; God was cut out naturally using the razor of my mind. Science increasingly creates reasonable models of reality as the gaps in knowledge are filled in. If I didn’t need God to explain the existence of anything, what knowledge was out there that I had previously dismissed? Was the big bang real? What about evolution? Was I justified in my reasoning for letting go of God or was I deceiving myself? What would happen if my friends or family found out what I had done?
I consumed a mass of articles by those that had also deconverted from Christianity and found solace in the fact that I wasn’t the only one who had undergone this process. I watched YouTube relentlessly, learning about how evolution wasn’t just a theory, it was an established fact with thousands of independently verified pieces of evidence from multiple domains of science that all corroborated each other. The same was true for the origin of the earth, with many domains of science each providing cross-supported facts enforcing its old age. And while the true cause of abiogenesis on earth has not been confirmed, it has been experimentally shown that the potential for living matter to arise from non-living matter is completely realistic.
What was more plausible?
That a magical God had poofed everything into existence leaving behind no evidence, rather evidence that points to the contrary, and the only case being word of mouth and some claims made by old books that we should accept blindly for fear of eternal torment?
Or that the evidence we find is the accurate model of reality and the notion of gods and miracles and feelings is the product of a sufficiently evolved psyche?
My brain of logic, of reason, of rationality had already decided. There is no evidence for gods or anything supernatural. Hell is a tool of fear and subordination. Prayer, deities, and claims of sin and morality were wholly supported only by logical fallacies. The Bible is chock full of so many historical, scientific, and logical errors that it is rendered completely useless for anything other than works of art.
I was angry to be duped for so long.
My entire social circle being a Christian one, my fresh rejection of theism would not be popular. I had resolved myself to not disclosing my views to anyone, to continue my life as though nothing had happened. Why should I risk my relationship with my wife, my children, my friends at church over this? They don’t need to know. Easier said than done.
I was stressed mentally and emotionally for keeping such a core facet of my life held inside. My marriage quickly became strained, but for no good observable reason to her. I had trouble eating and thinking clearly at work from all the stress. I couldn’t live like this for the rest of my life, and I knew I would have to come clean and accept the consequences of my decision. Knowing I would have to expose myself as a fraud only brought more stress.
At the time of this writing, I have been out of the atheist closet for only about a week. I confessed to my wife and friends at church, and while it was not a pleasant experience, I have not been abandoned. They hope that God will reveal himself to me and that I will return to the religious fold, and I do not admonish them for it. Realistically I now understand that I cannot be manipulated emotionally or via faith to return to religion; I require facts based on evidence, which is the antithesis of faith. If those facts corroborate the existence of a god or gods, I have an open mind.
At the present I have not been given any such evidence.
I have studied the scientific, historical, logical, and philosophical reasons arguing against theism and have rejected it; I remain skeptical of any claims to the contrary. If you pose one of these claims you carry the burden of proof.
I wrote this article in anticipation of those that wanted to know the reasoning behind my decision, as I have already told it several times and will tire of having to reiterate my emotional experience. So if I did not tell you this story to your face, I apologize and hope you understand.
While the experience has given me a slight feeling of trauma lately, I am finally happy to have the burden lifted and am overjoyed with the prospects of a new life.