No Turning Back

A while back I had to come to peace with the fact that while my ugly breakup with Christianity was complete and I was never going back, a lot of people who I love and value still wanted us to get back together.

I’m no longer emotional about this desire that other people have. It probably helps that people have been loving enough (or simply polite enough) to give me space to process things and to form a new identity. But, I do remember what it was like to be a Bible-believing Christian, and so I understand that what seems “over and done with” for me, could still be a fresh, open question (a tender scar, if you will) for those who hold out hope that something will change my mind or connect my spirit back to God. I understand that they may not see my intellectual reasons as being the primary drive for leaving the faith, but may believe that a hardened heart is at fault. I don’t envy people in such a position. I know it can be hard to see a loved one repeatedly make bad choices, and from their perspective I’m making the worst possible choice by rejecting their god (whatever my motives are).

If you are one of those close friends or family members please know that I love you. I also want you to know that I have no agenda to convince you to completely reject Christianity like I did. Yes, there are books and video tutorials on how to instill doubt in people’s minds and turn them into atheists. For a variety of reasons, I’m simply not interested in such a project. On the other hand, if you do want to work through a specific objection that I have with Christianity and teach me where I’ve gone wrong, you can expect me to be forthright in such a dialogue and to present my case as clearly as possible. But that will only occur if both sides decide that such a conversation is mutually beneficial and enjoyable. I won’t be prying open the door. I don’t think that you are stupid. We disagree on some pretty major topics. I am quite strongly convinced of some of my views which contradict traditional Christianity and the Bible. But, that doesn’t mean that I view you as less intelligent simply because we have come to different conclusions. People are complicated beings with a mixture of biases, personal experiences, and peculiar “facts” which may clash with the biases, personal experiences and “facts” which are believed in just as strongly by people who are also sincere and educated.

I think I’ve said enough for today, but I just wanted to get that off of my chest. Peace and Freedom.

winding road


photo credit: Jon Ottoson

My 2015 Year in Review

2015 has been a great year and also a very challenging year for me.

I’m going to recap some personal highs and lows here, and also briefly review my longer posts that I published this year.

Personal Events

Caroline and I celebrated our 7 year anniversary in January. We’re both excited to mark our 8 year anniversary in a few weeks. Our relationship definitely doesn’t look the same as when we were both starry-eyed college students, but it has grown into something deep and wonderful.

We welcomed Emerson Tobias Hood into the world. As of this post he is nearly 7 months old and doing very well on a diet of breast-milk, formula and solid foods. He loves to scoot around on his back. He is a joy to all of us.

Our older children, Kenny and Serenity, entered public school for the first time. Serenity started Pre-K and Kenny started Kindergarten. It’s been amazing to watch them grow and expand their minds so much this year. Kenny has become a very eager young reader. Serenity has kept on dancing (she loves to move around) and is working hard on her scissor skills (apparently we don’t often let our kids use them very often).

In April I was officially hired on by the company I had been doing seasonal (temp) work for. This year I have really improved a lot in my customer service skills since I started taking customer calls back in the fall of 2014. I’m still working at home and enjoying the convenience of an extremely short commute. Many of you are aware that I did freelance website hosting and design work on the side as well. Due to the demands of my full-time job I decided to bring that part of my professional life to a close.

On a very sad note, this year marks the passing of Bob Turney, Caroline’s father. We have missed Bob since his sudden death in October (probably due to a heart attack).

I haven’t written a ton on this blog in 2015. Some things that impacted me were left unsaid here, but still I hope you can see a snap-shot of my intellectual and emotional life in the posts listed below (list doesn’t include every single post, just the long-form entries). Here’s to more Peace and more Freedom in 2016. Happy New Year!

Blog Entries in 2015

January 2015

Brief Thoughts on Taoism – I summarized my thoughts on an ancient Eastern philosophical and religious tradition. I especially enjoyed reading Chuang-Tzu (considered one of the canonical texts of classical Taoism) and plan to re-read it sometime in 2016.

February 2015

I am Pro-Choice – I explained my new stance on the contentious issue of abortion and reproductive rights. I was previously pro-life as a Christian and felt it necessary to reconsider that stance after deconverting. While this particular view of mine has changed, I believe it is actually more consistent with my individualist anarchist (aka ‘libertarian’) inclinations which have been part of my views for quite some time now.

Liar, Lunatic, Lord…or Legend? – In this post I examine a very common apologetic argument in favor of Jesus’s divinity and briefly review some of the books written by New Testament scholars which I have found useful in better understanding the historical Jesus.

March 2015

Thy Kingdom Come – What did Jesus mean when he stated that he would come back in “this generation”? I quote a lot of scripture and present my own thoughts on a passage that has been giving believers headaches for millenia.

April 2015

Finding Myself – A hopeful and reflective spring-time post. Just a simple journal entry of sorts expressing some of my newfound confidence “post-faith.”

Reflecting on the 7th Principle – In this post I dig into (in a kind of meditative, spiritual way) one of the guiding principles of Unitarian Universalism. I’ll just quote my conclusion as a summary here: “What the 7th Principle teaches me is that we should value the natural world, not because we have been designated as its overseers, but because we humans are part of nature too.”

May 2015

Is John the Baptist Elijah? – If the first-century equivalent to cosplaying counts…then the answer is yes. This was planned to be part of a longer series dissecting some of the major prophecies used by Christian apologists to attempt to show that Jesus (and only Jesus) uniquely fulfills Old Testament prophecy. Alas, I must admit that I got a bit burned out after trying to hash out the issue of prophecy with a Christian friend. I wasn’t certain that further effort on this topic would really move our conversation forward. If I have enough motivation and time I may pick up the topic again in 2016 and provide analysis of questions like “Who is the suffering servant of Isaiah 53?”, “Does the prediction of the ‘virgin birth’ of Immanuel properly apply to Jesus?” and possibly the broader question of the usefulness of prophecy in establishing truth claims in the first place (what are the limits of such an apologetic). We’ll see.

June 2015

Father’s Day Reflection – I talk about my relationship with my father, my father-in-law Bob, and about the kind of parent that I want to be for my children.

August 2015

Afterlife Reflection – I used to fear hell and now I don’t (either the classic hell or the nicer “Hell 2.0” that is more like a very long time-out). Another upbeat reflection on how my views have changed since deconverting.

October 2016

Explaining Deconversion – Many concerned believers have asked me about the immediate circumstances of my deconversion and what exactly it was that I think tipped me over the edge from faithful Christian to doubting skeptic in such a short time period. For several reasons I’ve often dodged the question in the past or given just a partial, unsatisfying answer. Part of me was afraid that by opening up about some of the emotional issues related to deconversion it would be easy for Christians to dismiss and the sincere intellectual objections which I now hold and that I feel stand independent of my personal history (or that they would use those emotional issues as some sort of crude wedge to open a door for re-evangelizing me). After being inspired by one of my favorite ex-Christian bloggers, I think I finally found the right words for those believers who are still curious and really want to know how it happened. A brief note on this entry: I don’t think that the specific events that led to my deconversion are the most relevant factor. The fact that I was raised to assume Christianity was true and that I built up faulty defenses of my religion are the most relevant factors. If things hadn’t happened exactly as they did, that wouldn’t rule out me losing my faith by some other chain of events (in fact, what happened to me actually wasn’t uncommon and I know many people who have gone through worse and only ended up more religiously devout in the end, which might suggest I was already “primed” to deconvert due to other factors). No matter the initial cause, once I determined to expose my beliefs to more rigorous cross-examination, all of the same problems of Christianity would be there waiting for me. For myself the change happened suddenly, but I could easily imagine other scenarios where I–like many other zealous believers–would have experienced a “slow fade.”

 

christams family photo
family photo-shoot, Christmas 2015

 

Gary Francione on Abortion

“If we approach the abortion question outside the framework of religion and souls, and outside social conventions that characterize a pregnant woman as a “mother” and a fetus as a “baby” from the moment of conception, it becomes much more difficult to understand how fetuses–particularly early-term fetuses–may be said to have interests. Although it is not certain that any fetuses are sentient, it is clear that early-term fetuses are not, and therefore they do not have interests in not suffering–they cannot suffer.”

by Gary Francione, from the FAQ page on abolitionistapproach.com (question 11)

Gary also acknowledges that for those fetuses which may indeed be sentient “abortion presents a most unusual conflict of rights.” I would say that my current position on abortion is nearly identical to what he lays out here (I would express more confidence in the notion that late term fetuses are likely to be sentient, at least in a minimal sense of being conscious of external stimuli and having subjectivity/awareness).


Related Post: I am Pro-Choice.

Explaining Deconversion

I love the words Neil Carter uses to describe his deconversion from devout Christian to atheist:

People often ask me that same question: Why did I quit believing? But to me it’s a far more interesting question to ask: Why did I start believing in the first place? I personally feel that once that question is answered in full, the other question will be seem less important.

The answer to my alternative question is that I absorbed and internalized the Christian belief system because I was taught it from my youngest years. Before I was old enough to possess the critical reasoning skills to challenge such beliefs, I was taught that everything that exists had to be made by a person, and that person had to be the Christian God and no other. I was taught from my youngest years to accept whatever the Bible says about Jesus, about judgment, and about my need for salvation from a coming punishment.

Life is too short to walk around with only one eye open, and this self-examination led me to raise my standard toward my own belief system.  I began to ask harder questions about how I know the things that I know.  That process is eventually what led me out of my faith.

The Two Main Reasons I Left My Faith

My own journey differs from Neil’s in some key ways; he left Christianity later in life and he deconverted within a culture more heavily saturated with modern Christianity. But we both recognized the need to ask hard questions and to raise our personal standard of belief.

cross grave marker
faith & death are connected

For me the journey out of faith took a pivotal turn after I watched my wife undergo her first miscarriage and experienced the pain that caused her. No, I didn’t leave the faith or give up on God because I was angry at him. What happened was that in that moment, in that slice of life, I became especially self-conscious of how Christianity provides a nice-feeling answer for times of grief and hardship. It suddenly seemed just too convenient that my religion (out of all religions and ideologies) had this nice neat answer to suffering, and that my religion had got it right. I asked myself “What if religion was something that we humans constructed to feel better about death and suffering?” I recognized that people of other faiths found comfort in a similar way, even though the specific content of their beliefs were directly at odds with mine. I recognized that of course a grieving parent would want to hear that they could meet their unborn child in heaven some day (being Evangelical we strongly believed that even tiny embryos were imparted with souls and would go immediately to heaven if they died, a belief which is not unusual within that group). Of course we’d want to hear that beyond the grave and beyond cancer, illness and heart attacks there is a place of eternal bliss where we are reunited with our loved ones. I was comforted by this when my mother in law passed away several years prior. Who wouldn’t want such a comforting message? Who would want to look too hard at such a gift? Well, I decided that I wanted to look hard at it. I wanted to know if the comfort which I sought in my religion was based on truth that would last, or if I was placing my hope on something insubstantial. That led me to re-examining my reasons for belief. In a very short time I realized that my reasons for belief weren’t actually very good at all. Instead of seeming like valid justifications, my reasons now all appeared weak and pale. It was unnerving to subject my beliefs to the same type of critical scrutiny that I had used to tear down other faiths. Self-examination is hard. On the whole, I think it’s been worth it. While I’ve lost the comfort of an afterlife, I feel like I’ve gained much more. I don’t know that such a journey is for everyone, but it’s the journey I took, and I’m glad I did.

 

Cross grave-marker photo by Simeon Muller. Source.