For the well-meaning Christian: on showing basic empathy and respect.

Pho­to cred­it to Flickr user aleξ

Hel­lo, Chris­tians in my life. Espe­cial­ly those of you from my old church camp or Bob Jones Uni­ver­si­ty. I’m real­ly glad you’ve stopped by here today, because I’d real­ly like to have an open, hon­est dis­cus­sion with you. But before we get start­ed, I want to explain some­thing about how and why I use spe­cif­ic exam­ples to dove­tail into broad­er dis­cus­sions. This is some­thing I’ve striv­en to do as long as I’ve been writ­ing this blog, as evi­denced in posts like my cri­tique of priv­i­leged pro­gres­sivism, the real­iza­tion I had that puri­ty cul­ture was bogus, and my asser­tion that Chris­tian­i­ty has a con­sent prob­lem.

You own every­thing that hap­pened to you. Tell your sto­ries. If peo­ple want­ed you to write warm­ly about them, they should have behaved bet­ter.
~Anne Lam­ott, Bird by Bird: Some Instruc­tions on Writ­ing and Life

It’s not unusu­al for you to tell me and my friends that we shouldn’t talk about sit­u­a­tions unless we direct­ly link to or oth­er­wise include all par­ties orig­i­nal­ly involved. (That is, when you’re not telling us to just keep it all to our­selves qui­et­ly.) I’m not sure if this is some weird car­ry-over from Matthew 18 or what, but it hap­pens with sur­pris­ing fre­quen­cy. Clear­ly, I dis­agree — large­ly because I’m almost always more inter­est­ed in address­ing a broad­er sys­tem of which a spe­cif­ic sit­u­a­tion may be mere­ly symp­to­matic.

Hon­est­ly, I see no rea­son to pub­licly name or shame any­one when the point I’m try­ing to make is big­ger than the anec­dote I’m using to illus­trate it. And so I do tell my sto­ries, even when they include your some­times damn­ing actions or words. I’m care­ful to not name names because I’m not out to attack you at all. I real­ly don’t want to draw unnec­es­sary atten­tion to you as an indi­vid­ual. Instead, I want to redi­rect atten­tion to the larg­er point at hand. With that in mind…

Let’s talk about the problem many Christians have with showing basic empathy and respect.

I’ve always been a writer and an artist. As long as I can remem­ber, I’ve used the writ­ten word and my art, let­ter­ing, and design to express my thoughts, feel­ings, and beliefs. When I was a Chris­t­ian, many of you real­ly loved my ded­i­ca­tion to shar­ing my faith like that — you often point­ed to it as proof of the solid­ness of my char­ac­ter. You com­mend­ed me so often for the depth of my per­son­al­i­ty, the clar­i­ty I had in express­ing my beliefs, and the love and kind­ness I showed to all. I can’t even tell you how often y’all have told me and oth­ers that I’m so sweet and have such a ten­der heart.

To per­haps no one else’s sur­prise, when my beliefs began to change and I used the very same media to con­tin­ue to express my now-evolv­ing-and-no-longer-approved beliefs, your sup­port evap­o­rat­ed almost instan­ta­neous­ly. That kind of leads me to believe you nev­er sup­port­ed me so much as what we agreed about. All the com­ments about how ten­der-heart­ed and sweet and pleas­ing to the Lord I was were replaced overnight by pub­lic and pri­vate demands for silence or repen­tance. It’s like left reel­ing at the about-face of your respect and regard for me.

What do I mean exact­ly? When I talk about Chris­tian­i­ty, athe­ism, or even human­ism in spheres where you can eas­i­ly see, it’s inevitable that one of you will pop in with some sort of “gotcha!” com­men­tary that I can only guess is sup­posed to make me stop in my tracks and be con­vict­ed by the Spir­it. You rarely engage the points I’m actu­al­ly mak­ing, and instead make claims about me or my beliefs that are often demon­stra­bly false or else recite the Bible at me like I’ll sud­den­ly real­ize that these are the droids I’m look­ing for, after all.

I do want to take a moment here to clar­i­fy that some of you haven’t done these things. Some of you have told me that you love me no mat­ter what, and our rela­tion­ship is more impor­tant to you than us agree­ing about our beliefs. I can’t express in words how much this means to me, as I’m often left feel­ing alter­nate­ly attacked or aban­doned by peo­ple who once claimed to love me.

But some of you?

Some of you try to evan­ge­lize at me, sin­gling me out in pri­vate mes­sages, emails, or posts. These inevitably feel like you’re try­ing to bait me into a heat­ed dis­cus­sion, and no mat­ter my response or non-response, you’ll nev­er change your mind (because char­ac­ter?) but I’ll be demo­nized for the same. I can’t even defend myself in these sit­u­a­tions, because you’re so con­vinced any response I give is jus­ti­fy­ing my sin, prov­ing I’m con­vict­ed, or just more proof that athe­ists are some­how unrea­son­able.

You’ve accused me of being unap­proach­able, untrust­wor­thy, or delib­er­ate­ly offen­sive — despite my large­ly pub­lic efforts to val­i­date the beliefs of all so long as they are respect­ful of oth­ers. In fact, on Face­book (where much of these sorts of con­fronta­tions seem to hap­pen), I have an entire sys­tem in place so that I’m always care­ful with which audi­ence I’m shar­ing my views. No mat­ter how respect­ful, cour­te­ous, or under­stand­ing I am, it seems that my mere exis­tence as a For­mer Chris­t­ian Now Athe­ist is an offense most of you just can’t over­come.

Some of you tell me in no uncer­tain terms that moral­i­ty and jus­tice can’t exist with­out the Chris­t­ian God. Are you aware that you’re imply­ing I can’t pos­si­bly live a moral life and must live a nihilist exis­tence? (There’s always the argu­ment for com­mon grace, but if I remem­ber cor­rect­ly, since I once believed and now don’t, y’all tend to see me as an apos­tate rather than a prodi­gal and prob­a­bly think com­mon grace doesn’t apply to me any­more.) I mean, do you real­ly think you or God have a monop­oly on moral­i­ty or jus­tice?

Strangers, acquain­tances, and friends alike point­ed­ly say that if I’d ever been a True Chris­t­ian™, then I could nev­er have left the faith. This par­tic­u­lar claim effec­tive­ly inval­i­dates the first 24 years of my life, not to men­tion 6 years of intense soul search­ing and upend­ing my entire world in my search for a belief sys­tem both true and non-tox­ic to me. It’s espe­cial­ly offen­sive and hurt­ful.

Some try to silence me, telling me that speak­ing open­ly about my life, expe­ri­ences, and beliefs is dis­re­spect­ful to those who dis­agree with me or a slap in the face to spir­i­tu­al men­tors in my pre­vi­ous­ly Chris­t­ian life. (To which I say, please see the quote at the begin­ning of this post.)

Oth­ers rem­i­nisce about the hope­less­ness of your lives as athe­ists before you found Chris­tian­i­ty. I’m guess­ing this is an attempt to make me see my own life as hope­less with­out God. (Which…really? You want me to be mis­er­able? “Hurt ’em to save ’em” is nei­ther an effec­tive wit­ness­ing tool nor a lov­ing, healthy thing to do to any­one).

And some of you just qui­et­ly unfriend me, drop out of my life, and avoid me when I do hap­pen to be in your real-life spaces, act­ing as if I’m a dis­ease you may catch if exposed for too long.

In most of the sit­u­a­tions I relat­ed above, the peo­ple try­ing to get me to see the error of my ways are those who were once men­tors of some kind in my spir­i­tu­al life, or else men (who, as you know, are con­sid­ered spir­i­tu­al author­i­ties that I, some­one con­sid­ered a weak­er ves­sel, am expect­ed to sub­mit to). Hon­est­ly, it feels like a mas­sive par­ent­ing effort where I’m con­sid­ered a stray child that must be set straight. As Cap­tain Cas­sidy point­ed out, Chris­tian­i­ty as a whole often sees itself as The Des­ig­nat­ed Adult — and that’s not respect­ful at all.

It just seems like so many of you are so caught up in the fact that we don’t play for the same team, as it were, that you’ve com­plete­ly lost the abil­i­ty to empathize with me (or with any­one who believes dif­fer­ent­ly than you). And talk­ing to peo­ple who lack basic empa­thy for oth­ers is kin­da scary, and cer­tain­ly not an endorse­ment of your beliefs. A sys­tem of belief that sev­ers com­mu­ni­ty and dehu­man­izes the very peo­ple it says it wants to reach is not a sys­tem that can real­ly claim to love or accept any­one, espe­cial­ly not uncon­di­tion­al­ly.

But hon­est­ly? I don’t real­ly care about whether you’re liv­ing up to the high­er ideals of your faith or not. What I care about is how you treat me and any­one else you dis­agree so strong­ly with, because a lot of you seem to lack the know-how of show­ing basic empa­thy or respect for peo­ple who are real­ly dif­fer­ent from you.

I real­ly hope you can hear me out about what I am say­ing and what I’m not say­ing here, because I absolute­ly don’t expect any of you to stop talk­ing about your faith in gen­er­al. It’s such a huge part of your lives, and it’d be real­ly unfair of me to expect you to keep such an impor­tant part of your life to your­self and nev­er speak of it. That’s cru­el and dis­re­spect­ful, and would mean that I don’t real­ly care about you in the first place. To bor­row the spir­it of the words of a friend, “It’s part of your life — and I like your life.”

This is where it could do you some good to learn a lit­tle empa­thy, learn to put your­self in my shoes for a lit­tle bit, so maybe you can learn what treat­ing me with respect actu­al­ly looks like.

Because just like Chris­tian­i­ty is an inte­gral part of your iden­ti­ty and it would be wrong for me to expect you to keep qui­et about it, my sec­u­lar human­ism is inte­gral to my identity…and it’s just as wrong of you to try to guilt, shame, silence, or change me for it.

When you share Bible vers­es, what you did in church last week, a Chris­t­ian arti­cle that inspires you, I gen­er­al­ly under­stand that it’s not an attack on my per­son­hood or beliefs (unless you sin­gle me out by tag­ging me in a bald attempt to evan­ge­lize or shame me — for the love of all that is decent, don’t do that). So the corol­lary there is the same: when I share arti­cles or art­work that reflects my beliefs, it’s not an attack on you or your beliefs, and I’d appre­ci­ate it if you could stop treat­ing it as such.

As I’ve said before, I ful­ly sup­port peo­ple not want­i­ng to be friends with me if that’s the best thing for their men­tal or emo­tion­al health. I actu­al­ly wrote a whole thing about how to be cour­te­ous both in per­son and online in uncom­fort­able sit­u­a­tions, and I’m not going to be the per­son who doesn’t take the hint and con­tin­ues to push her­self or her views on peo­ple who would rather be left alone. In the exact same way, I expect you to respect my auton­o­my and beliefs by not forc­ing your­self into my spaces when I’ve set a bound­ary and by not try­ing to recon­vert me to your faith.

I do my utmost to not assume things about you that I have no basis to assume. It can be real­ly hard some­times, since I remem­ber very clear­ly think­ing, say­ing, and doing the same things that you’re doing now. Where­as I was once a sin­cere, ded­i­cat­ed Chris­t­ian who believed most of the same things you do now, most of you have nev­er been athe­ists (which hon­est­ly, you real­ly keep using that word wrong). Ahem. Any­way. I am not you. I don’t know your sto­ry. It would be pret­ty dis­re­spect­ful of me to claim that you believe things you don’t or that your expe­ri­ences aren’t real. So please do me the same cour­tesy of not spec­u­lat­ing that I was nev­er real­ly saved in the first place, or that I nev­er real­ly gave Chris­tian­i­ty a chance. That’s patent­ly wrong, dis­re­spects me as a per­son, and doesn’t allow for any sort of actu­al con­ver­sa­tion since you’re cre­at­ing a straw-man ver­sion of me to dis­mem­ber rather than address­ing what I actu­al­ly say about myself and my life. Not to men­tion that it kind of flies in the face of that whole “God looks on the heart” thing.

You know what I would love? I would love it if we could actu­al­ly have a real back-and-forth con­ver­sa­tion about what we have in com­mon rather than each hav­ing a mono­logue at each oth­er detail­ing how wrong the oth­er is. Or I even wish that you could just lis­ten to me and my oth­er for­mer­ly-Chris­t­ian friends when we tell you how cer­tain expres­sions and prac­tices of your faith has been dam­ag­ing to so many. I’m still invest­ed in Chris­tian­i­ty, at least inso­far as I am invest­ed in mak­ing the world a safer, more healthy place. And I’d real­ly love to work with you to cre­ate that safer, health­i­er world.

If you’re read­ing this and you’re some­one who men­tored me in some way while I was a Chris­t­ian: I real­ly want you to know that I love you. I always have. You shaped me dur­ing my most for­ma­tive years, and that’s awe­some. Some of the lessons you all have taught me will be with me for life, and I’m grate­ful for the love and care you showed me. But I’m an adult now. I’m not a child or a teenag­er or even a col­lege-aged kid. I’ve done my research, I’ve searched my own metaphor­i­cal soul, and I’ve devel­oped my own beliefs, my own life. We cer­tain­ly dis­agree on many things, but I think you’d be sur­prised to see how much we still agree on. But more than all that, I’m a per­son.

And I real­ly hope that you real­ize that what I’m ask­ing for is basic human respect.

Related reading.

There’s quite a few arti­cles I think you could ben­e­fit from read­ing, in addi­tion to the arti­cles I’ve linked through­out the piece. Please take the time to hear what we have to say for our­selves, to respect us enough to allow us to speak for our­selves, and to maybe even dis­play enough humil­i­ty to lis­ten to our input on what you could do bet­ter to make your sec­tion of the world a bet­ter place.

If you’ve noticed, I’ve linked pret­ty heav­i­ly to Neil Carter through­out this post. A big rea­son for that is that Neil and I have sim­i­lar per­son­al­i­ties and ways of observ­ing and expe­ri­enc­ing the world, so much of what he says res­onates deeply with me. Oth­er blog­ger friends I’ve found to be par­tic­u­lar­ly adept at express­ing prob­lems with Chris­tian­i­ty relat­ing to athe­ists are includ­ed here as well, name­ly Dan Fincke and Cap­tain Cas­sidy, along with the Ex-Com­mu­ni­ca­tions blog from the orga­ni­za­tion Recov­er­ing from Reli­gion.

Online as in person: basic etiquette, boundaries, & choosing your own team.

But even on my blog and Twit­ter, I’m not oblig­at­ed to let some­one talk at me until they run out of breath or things to say. These are still my spaces. They aren’t courts of pub­lic opin­ion. I’m not oblig­at­ed to allow oth­ers free speech. My social media isn’t a democ­ra­cy. I have the final say in what I allow, and no one else can change that.

Think of it as my house. You don’t get to come into my house and say what­ev­er you want and expect me to put up with it. You don’t get to do that in my online spaces, either. Even if we’re meet­ing some­where in pub­lic, nei­ther of us are oblig­at­ed to make our dis­cus­sions open to the pub­lic, or put up with any igno­rant thing we might spout at each oth­er. It’s the same online.

You might not like that. But guess what? You can total­ly do the same on your social media pro­files and in your life. You get to decide what you post, who is allowed to com­ment, what kind of con­ver­sa­tions you want to have, whether you’ll delete com­ments or not. The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less, so if you have some­thing you just real­ly need to say, go to your spaces to say it, just as I’ll keep using my spaces to say what I need to say.

(Christians Are Not) The Designated Adult.

…ex-Chris­tians have to be real­ly care­ful nav­i­gat­ing the trap of the Des­ig­nat­ed Adult. Usu­al­ly in our case it’s the Chris­t­ian who is try­ing to “par­ent” us. Most of us have rel­a­tives or friends going that route so they can get us back under con­trol and into the fold again; some­times this con­trol is sub­tle, like pas­sive-aggres­sive tricks: “hey, can you read this apolo­get­ics book and tell me why it’s wrong?” Some­times it’s quite overt: “if you don’t start going to church again I’m tak­ing away your col­lege fund.” They do these things for our own good, they say. They’re damned proud of assum­ing the role of Des­ig­nat­ed Adult over us–implicitly declar­ing that we in turn are chil­dren in need of their sub­lime guid­ance. They seem con­fused, angry, or hurt-sound­ing when we reject their attempts to par­ent and fix us. They’re “just try­ing to help.”

This behav­ior is abu­sive, and we are right to call it for what it is and to refuse to play along with it.

Top 10 Tips for Reaching Out to Atheists

Do not assume you are either moral­ly bet­ter, spir­i­tu­al­ly more attuned, or hap­pi­er than we are sim­ply because you belong to your faith.

The trope that with­out God peo­ple are mis­er­able and lost but with God they are hap­py and live lives of pur­pose is pro­pa­gan­da.  Reli­gious peo­ple have highs and lows and so do irre­li­gious peo­ple.  That’s called nor­mal human psy­chol­o­gy.  If an athe­ist has a sour per­son­al­i­ty, it is quite like­ly no more or less because of her athe­ism than a sour reli­gious person’s dis­po­si­tion is Jesus’s fault.  People’s per­son­al­i­ties are much deep­er than their beliefs on the ques­tion of divine beings.  And athe­ists’ trou­bles are not just signs we need Jesus.  We will not appre­ci­ate it if you triv­i­al­ize our com­pli­cat­ed prob­lems by treat­ing them like they can be mag­i­cal­ly cured with the panacea of Christ.

Do not assume that the only way to be spir­i­tu­al­ly seri­ous and feel emo­tion­al­ly secure is to be with­in the faith.  You may not believe that it is pos­si­ble out­side the faith, but many of us are liv­ing proof it is.  Espe­cial­ly if you thought we were spir­i­tu­al­ly deep before we left the faith, don’t con­de­scend to us by treat­ing us as though we must have sud­den­ly turned shal­low, con­fused, or anguished the moment we left the fold.  We didn’t.  Expand your mind to appre­ci­ate how peo­ple out­side the faith can and do find mean­ing too, even if you think our views are some­how mis­tak­en.

What Christians Are Saying When They Dictate My Experiences To Me.

It’s a lot eas­i­er to make up stuff about some­one and attack that stuff rather than learn about that per­son and deal hon­est­ly and tru­ly with them. Some­times you’ll hear that referred to as a straw man tac­tic–the per­son who is using it inten­tion­al­ly and delib­er­ate­ly cre­ates a “straw man” of the opin­ions s/he would rather fight against, and fights that cre­ation instead of the opponent’s actu­al stat­ed opin­ions. Some­times a straw man in action is both cringe­wor­thy and hilarious–like one debate described by Neil at God­less in Dix­ie where­in a not­ed Calvin­ist Chris­t­ian lit­er­al­ly debat­ed sound bites of his athe­ist opponent’s past speech­es rather than engage that same athe­ist oppo­nent in real­i­ty, an athe­ist who was more­over phys­i­cal­ly sitting right there next to him for the actu­al pur­pos­es of debat­ing him that evening. “Sur­re­al” doesn’t even begin to cov­er how that looked!

In the same way, a Chris­t­ian who decides uni­lat­er­al­ly that an ex-Chris­t­ian sim­ply nev­er was a TRUE CHRISTIAN™ can decide all sorts of things about that ex-Christian’s past and argue on those bases rather than just ask the ex-Chris­t­ian about it and have a real dia­logue. They’re not talk­ing to the actu­al ex-Chris­t­ian in ques­tion but to the ex-Chris­t­ian who exists only in their own heads, but since their words are meant more to enshrine their own cor­rect­ness into law than to actu­al­ly talk to any­body, that’s not real­ly much of a problem–except for the Chris­t­ian who hap­pens to be under a direct com­mand­ment from Jesus him­self (appar­ent­ly) to love his or her neigh­bor.

Does the Christian Faith Make People More Loving?

My obser­va­tion is that Chris­tians can do a pret­ty decent job of iden­ti­fy­ing with their own kind, at least up to a point.  Hon­est­ly, that’s true of just about every group, right?  Trib­al­ism is woven deeply into the fab­ric of our col­lec­tive men­tal­i­ties, and it’s only nat­ur­al that we would do a bet­ter job of tak­ing care of our own than we do of iden­ti­fy­ing with peo­ple who are very dif­fer­ent from us.  But there’s a nar­row­ness to Chris­t­ian trib­al­ism which often mar­gin­al­izes even their own kind when­ev­er some­one varies from the norm on mat­ters of doc­trine or prac­tice.  Just pick the wrong side of a the­o­log­i­cal divi­sion or walk into the wrong church with tat­toos on your arms and you’ll see how well they have learned to accept peo­ple who are dif­fer­ent from them. Walk into a Bap­tist church as an unwed moth­er or a “prac­tic­ing” homo­sex­u­al (hey, prac­tice makes per­fect, right?) and see how they look at you. Don’t take it too per­son­al­ly though, because they do the same thing even to mem­bers of their own church when they fail to con­form to group expec­ta­tions, which often are myr­i­ad and incred­i­bly spe­cif­ic.

Your Love is Toxic

Dear chil­dren, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Far from being a tan­gen­tial ques­tion, this love-in-action is sup­posed to char­ac­ter­ize Chris­tians above all oth­er traits, and it’s sup­posed to lie at the heart of what it means to be a Chris­t­ian. Jesus said, “By this all peo­ple will know that you are my dis­ci­ples, if you have love for one anoth­er.” And as we’ve seen here already, love isn’t just some­thing you feel, it’s some­thing you do.

If that’s true, then your love for oth­ers must be judged by the actions you take toward them, not by the speech­es you weave around your actions nor by the feel­ings you feel when you act.  Talk is cheap, and actions speak loud­er than words.  So that must be how we deter­mine if you are indeed lov­ing your “loved ones.”  It won’t do sim­ply to say it.  Your actions must actu­al­ly ben­e­fit the ones you say you love or else they do not real­ly demon­strate love.

I belong to me: learning agency & consent outside Christianity.

By and large, Chris­tian­i­ty as a sys­tem in the West­ern world teach­es peo­ple to run rough-shod over the bound­aries of those with­in and with­out their camps under the guise of love. The con­sent of its mem­bers and non-mem­bers alike isn’t required, as clear­ly demon­strat­ed by the past almost 28 years of my exis­tence. And that’s amas­sive prob­lem, enabling (and at times com­mand­ing) the manip­u­la­tion, mis­treat­ment, and abuse of count­less peo­ple.

In fact, I’d say one of the defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of Chris­tian­i­ty today is that it has a con­sent prob­lem.

And until Chris­tian­i­ty as a whole takes a good look at its refusal to rec­og­nize or hon­or the bound­aries of oth­ers and work to change their ram­pant ten­den­cy to con­trol the lives of all they can in the name of God, con­sent be damned…Chris­tian­i­ty is not a safe place for any­one. And more and more peo­ple like me will have to leave it to find any sort of free­dom, respect, and dig­ni­ty.

Top 10 Tips for Christian Evangelizing (from an Atheist)

We are both unfair­ly dis­par­aged as inher­ent­ly dis­re­spect­ful, intol­er­ant, and author­i­tar­i­an by the same kinds of sec­u­lar people–whether they are athe­ists or just non-evan­gel­i­cal reli­gious peo­ple. They are the ones who say, “I do not care at all what oth­er peo­ple believe so long as those peo­ple nev­er try to share their faith with oth­ers or try to chal­lenge the faith of oth­ers.” They often make it a supreme moral prin­ci­ple that “Thou Shalt Not Try To Change Anoth­er Person’s Reli­gious Beliefs”.  Both evan­ge­liz­ing Chris­tians, like you, and dis­pu­ta­tious athe­ists, like me, are equal­ly sin­ners to them. They are proud of their tol­er­ance and inclu­sive­ness and yet their idea of respect­ing your views and my views is to tell us to keep our beliefs to our­selves at all times and to indis­crim­i­nate­ly label us as extrem­ists when we don’t do so. With very lit­tle nuance the sim­ple desire to per­suade oth­ers to change their minds is con­flat­ed with a bul­ly­ing desire to force oth­ers to believe as we do. I don’t think that’s fair to us argu­men­ta­tive athe­ists. I don’t think it’s fair to you evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians. Granted–I think mem­bers of both our groups are ter­ri­ble about how they han­dle dis­agree­ments over reli­gion. But I want to be con­struc­tive about how to do it bet­ter rather than give up on dis­cussing such ideas alto­geth­er.

Why this atheist is still invested in Christianity.

Being right is more impor­tant than lov­ing your neigh­bor as your­self. And no self-respect­ing per­son is going to respond well to that.

When things like this hap­pen, to me or to my friends, I real­ly strug­gle with how to respond. Part of me says, “You’re not a Chris­t­ian any­more, so just ignore it. It’s not like it affects you any­more any­way.” But that’s not real­ly true. There are lots of things about Chris­tian­i­ty that deeply affect­ed me for over 20 years, and when Chris­tian­i­ty also tends to play a role in U.S. pol­i­tics, it sure as hell affects me.

And the thing is, when I stopped believ­ing in God, I didn’t stop car­ing about peo­ple. I care about the world around me, about mak­ing it suck less, about help­ing make sure that peo­ple with­in my old faith don’t have to have the feel­ings and fears and expe­ri­ences I did. I think there’s a lot of val­ue to Chris­tian­i­ty, if the tox­ic parts could be done away with.

And that’s why I’m still invest­ed in Chris­tian­i­ty, despite hav­ing reject­ed it for myself. It was my entire life for over 20 years, and if I can help my awe­some Chris­t­ian friends make their faith a pos­i­tive force in the world, I’m going to do it.

You Were Never Really One Of Us

…mis­guid­ed or not, those twen­ty years of my life were sin­cere and pas­sion­ate and a very impor­tant part of my life.  How would you like it if some­one took an eras­er to two decades of your life, telling you they were ille­git­i­mate?  Through those years, I came to know both the Bible and the Chris­t­ian mes­sage very well, and that earns me a place at the table of dis­cussing reli­gion in a pub­lic set­ting.  I am not approach­ing these mat­ters as an out­sider.  I come to this table as one who has earned the right to say some­thing about mod­ern Amer­i­can evan­gel­i­cal­ism.  So of course it both­ers me when some­one pre­tends those years nev­er even hap­pened.  That dis­cred­its my con­tri­bu­tion to the dis­cus­sion.  It dis­en­fran­chis­es peo­ple like me so that our voice doesn’t have to be heard.  That’s not play­ing fair, and it lim­its what you can learn from peo­ple like me.  In oth­er words, nobody ben­e­fits from this tac­tic, and you’ve just lost any chance you might have had of dis­cov­er­ing some­thing new and expand­ing your own ide­o­log­i­cal hori­zons.

I know I’m not alone in this feel­ing.  Peo­ple like me who spent years devot­ed to the Chris­t­ian faith don’t appre­ci­ate it when we are round­ly dis­missed with the wave of a hand.  It’s not a char­i­ta­ble way to have a dis­cus­sion, and it’s dis­re­spect­ful.

Choices That Aren’t Actually Choices.

My dis­be­lief is not a choice.

It is a con­clu­sion.

I could not choose to believe in Chris­tian­i­ty again because nobody actu­al­ly choos­es to believe any­thing. Belief springs forth; it can­not be com­pelled either way.

If I had a good rea­son to believe in any religion’s claims, then I’d believe.

But I don’t have a good rea­son to believe.

Instead of giv­ing me a good rea­son to believe, way too many Chris­tians den­i­grate my dis­be­lief as some kind of petu­lant choice I made, like some recal­ci­trant tod­dler who didn’t want to wear any­thing but her Bat­man cos­tume to day­care that morn­ing.

In so doing, these Chris­tians show their true col­ors and make me feel more cer­tain of my con­clu­sion.

No more faith: the whys and why nots of my deconversion.

Hav­ing been a devout believ­er for my whole life until recent­ly, I’ve been privy to how peo­ple react to the “falling away” of a broth­er or sis­ter in Christ. I’ve had many of these assump­tions myself when friends and acquain­tances left the faith. As I’ve gone through the decon­ver­sion process and observed oth­ers who have done the same, I’ve real­ized that most of the rea­sons Chris­tians tend to assume some­one leaves Chris­tian­i­ty are either com­plete­ly false or con­fus­ing­ly mis­placed. So I’d like to cov­er rea­sons that most cer­tain­ly aren’t why I decon­vert­ed, while also explor­ing with you what things did con­tribute to my change of belief sys­tem.