My De-Conversion: What Sealed the Deal

May 19, 2008 at 2:46 pm 18 comments

The “best” Christians I’ve ever known were my grandparents. They were active in their church to the point of beatification, and positively affected the lives of many people.They read the Bible in its entirety every year. My grandmother became very upset if someone ate anything without praying and giving thanks. I am having a hard time trying to capture their spirit and their faith as I write this, so perhaps I won’t even try, but trust me they were inspirational.

They died in a car crash.

One very tragic night that lives with me forever, two people who meant the most to me in this human world gone forever. No matter how much time elapses, the raw pain of this ordeal does not seem to decrease.

My life has never been the same. In some ways, it was the best thing that could have happened to me, which sounds odd and certainly twisted. They were my best friends on earth–a 60 year age difference did not matter at all. As soon as I got my own car aged 16, I started driving the 60 miles to visit them more often. I brought all my puppy-love boyfriends to meet them. They served a unique purpose in my upbringing–my parents were pretty unstable and frankly unsuited for the task at hand, so my grandparents were in some ways more like my parents.

When they died, my parents became more religious. When they died, I walked away from Christianity.

When they died, I learned how to live. The cliche is to live like each day was your last, and that I really believe and I feel that I learned it the hard way. No regrets, no qualms, embrace this opportunity we have been given. Now I live enthusiastically and encourage others to do so because the alternative is the place that I come from. I used to be frightened of so many things. Of flying, of strangers, of walking around alone at night. I have learned to embrace the fear as part of the sensation. Recklessness is bad, but overly cautious behavior is equally diabolical.

The best Christians I knew died a horrific death and left behind a huge mess. Although for me, the mess has been the most beautiful thing I could imagine. It was this even that catalyzed my getting out of an abusive marriage and embarking on life with a new spirit. Without such a shake-up I would likely still be where I was, or dead myself as I sank lower and lower into depression.

Music saved me in some ways. They loved music and our shared passion carried me forward. Gardening helped too, they were farmers in the early days and my tending to my plants also felt reverential.

But it was also ironically enough the death of my beloved and most admired Christians that probably at least a little bit caused me to question Christianity. And not in the manner of “if God could let them die like that how can we believe?” but more generally in the sense of questioning everything when the senseless takes place. I don’t blame God directly for what happened, but I do see a random, human element in the world that did not appear to me before. And I don’t feel the need to attribute all, good and bad, to God.

I had odd premonitions that someone close to me would die in a car accident, although in my childhood dreams it was my father, not my grandparents. I was very upset when a plane would crash, that being similar, and I was oddly distracted by the death of princess Diana even though at the time I had never stood on English soil. The element of sudden-ness, of surprise, was a constant fear and theme in my life.

When your worst nightmare takes place in the flesh, and is worse than you actually feared, then you learn to move on. You find solace in the fact that you are still alive, and so are many people around you. You reassure yourself that your grandparents knew how much you loved them even if you missed their last phone call before their death. You cling to a voicemail message from a voice that no longer exists, a letter from someone who can no longer put pen to paper. You move on with your life but you’re changed forever. You no longer see the world as intrinsically good.

When I found the courage to leave my ex-husband, and get out of a nasty abusive situation, even though my grandparents were gone it was their legacy to which I turned. I spent four months living in the basement of my uncle, another in the family who had been divorced and eventually found love and life again. He had stayed in the spare room at my grandparents’ home when he got divorced, so it was strangely comforting to me to know that they would have understood what was going on with me and supported my staying in my uncle’s home.

I miss them. I know that, they being old when they died in the car crash, I was spared seeing them decline and die the way that most elderly people do. But the rational knowledge of that does not make it any easier. Yes, their lives influenced me profoundly when they were living and again in their demise, but I would give back some of the knowledge I have now to have them back again.

– ExEvangel

Entry filed under: ExEvangel. Tags: , , , .

Prayer: Why I may do it Anyway (if asked) Thoughts on Ethics, Post De-Conversion

18 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Julian Rodriguez  |  May 19, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Truly inspiring, a little sad but beautiful. Thanks for sharing. I haven’t lost any of my loved ones yet, but sometimes I try to think about it… and I know I’ll never be prepared enough.

  • 2. bobbi jo  |  May 19, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    My husband went through something similar when his father died in a car crash about 8 years ago. It was his father’s birthday on May 17th, so a lot of memories, heartache, and pain that day. It was a bad day for him. I don’t think I’m much of a comfort on that day. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • 3. joe Brummer  |  May 19, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    thank you for sharing this. This story sounds so personal. I can only guess it was not easy to share. For me the final straw was not death but poverty, disease and disasters. whatever it takes to awake.

  • 4. mec  |  May 19, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    Many of my dreams lately have featured my grandparents…my dearly loved, deceased maternal ones and my just-clinging-to-life paternal ones. Premonitions? Still grieving and anticipating grief to come….

    My grandad died most recently. He was not a “good Christian man” as many would-be comforters asked. He was a good man. My Christian faith–or what remains of it–cannot imagine a heaven without him, even though he never said the fundamentalist’s “magic prayer of salvation”.

    Thanks for the post. Grandparents are wonderful treasures.

  • 5. Walking Away  |  May 19, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    This is very beautiful and personal – and sad. I am sorry for your loss and the shock of your worse fear coming true – only worse than you even imagined it could be. Thanks for sharing this.

  • 6. Todd Wood  |  May 19, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    My grandmother was a godly, sensitive Christian.

    Not too long ago, she had her face caved in from a massive, awful car wreck.

    She had fallen asleep at the wheel.

    My grandfather rushed to scene, holding her in his arms, weeping like a baby.

  • 7. Todd Wood  |  May 19, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    My heart stings over the memory.

  • 8. John S  |  May 19, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    Wow, what a moving and powerful writing. Many portions of it (especially the valid, intelligent questions) make me think of the stories i heard from our friends/ and my wife’s family in the Kenyan crisis in Africa- i videotaped some stories from it so i would never forget what i learned/saw. One thing the church doesnt do well is allow ‘questions’ and as I read the gospels, Jesus was continually asking questions… upsetting alot of folks as he went. Nice post, it took me back to Africa where i was a few months ago.

  • 9. finallyhappy  |  May 20, 2008 at 8:36 am

    Thank you. I’ve just recently stumbled upon this website and it has been a lifesaver. I guess I would describe myself as “in the middle” of my own de-conversion experience (I’ve never been happier), so this article, as well as others, gives voice to my own thoughts, doubts and questions.

  • 10. karen  |  May 20, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Hi, finallyhappy! Glad you are here and I hope we can offer you some resources to help you in your experience. It’s great to hear that you are happy – many of us went through tough emotional adjustments during deconversion.

    Please don’t hesitate to ask questions and join in here when you can!

    OT: Can someone re-post the information on how to personalize the little symbol/avatar that pops up on the right side of the comments?

  • 11. Yurka  |  May 24, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    #9, finallyhappy,
    Please, beware of “happiness”. Are there things more important that it? As C.S. Lewis observed, let’s say a mother is grieving for her son who died in combat. If she could take a drug that would make her happy by removing her grief, would she take it?

    Western society was initially very happy to throw off the yoke of religion, but within a few centuries it led to Nietzsche’s despairing parable about the death of God and to the empty nihilism of Camus and Sartre.

    Why are you happy? What motivates it?

    As to the ‘resources’ and ‘answers’ you may receive here, please just heed this warning to consider the ramifications of everything you’re given. Just pick at them a little bit and see if they don’t unravel before your eyes:
    a) Belief in God is irrational, yet on the materialist hypothesis, your brain evolved for survival, not rational thought, which means we cannot trust our minds to produce rational thoughts if materialism is true.

    b) The Bible is ‘immoral’, yet by jettisoning morality you forfeit the right to make moral pronouncements, as morality is an illusion.

    c) The Bible is ‘unhistorical’, yet if you apply the same historical criteria to other ancient documents that skeptics apply to the Bible, then Caesar, Nero, Plato, etc. are all fictional as well.

    I’m just advising caution, that’s all.

  • 12. Yurka  |  May 24, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    ExEvangel, sorry your bereavement is still so painful. Let me suggest 2 books by C.S. Lewis: The Four Loves and A Grief Observed.

    If you are truly influenced by your grandparents even now, let me just ask you to consider what they would say to you now, could they speak. Remember the great commandment: you are to love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. They would refer you to Mt 10:37-39.

    It sounds like you never really thought about your faith, or came to it because of a true realization of the need for repentance. You went along with it because people you loved were Christian, but fell away when tribulation came, as the seed did that fell on the rocky soil. I would ask you to reconsider Christianity, perhaps for the first time.

  • 13. Em  |  May 24, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    I stopped believing simply because I began reading and thinking more and realized God’s existence really didn’t make that much sense to me. I’m sorry if this offends you, believe me, I have no intention of belittling your grief or your “de-conversion”, but it seems to me that most people who lose their faith are prompted to do so because of a tragedy or a particularly hard time in life, as if disbelieving is a way to get back to God for all the crap he’s pulled. Again, I’m not trying to play down your sadness or your rethinking of religion, but it’s just a thought.

  • 14. The Apostate  |  May 24, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    Hi Em,
    I can only speak for myself when I say my life has, thus far, been pretty free of hard times. I am a suburban university educated twenty-something who, although technically lives under the poverty line at the moment, recognizes that my life is rather gifted in comparison to those in less fortunate (materially) countries.

    In response to the rest of your post, see Leopardus’ Convenient Categories” and the follow up, Inconvenient Categories

    Feel free to engage in the actual reasons nonbelief is substantiated and take it from people who go through the experience, not youth pastors.

  • 15. karen  |  May 25, 2008 at 12:40 am

    Please, beware of “happiness”.

    Oh my! Is there a more typical – or a more depressing – reaction to someone who proclaims their joy and liberation in throwing off the shackles of religion than this?

    Yes, by all means, beware “happiness”: If you experience excessive amounts of it, you might poke through the blinders of strict fundamentalism, you might start trusting yourself, you might decide you’re not a filthy failure, and – worse yet! – you might quit going in for your weekly indoctrination sessions. And we all know what happens when you do that! (gasp)

  • 16. Joe Sperling  |  June 12, 2008 at 3:32 pm


    Thank you for sharing this—and I am so sorry to hear what happened to your grandparents. The only thing I do sincerely want to ask you though is what you think your grandparents would want you to do after they departed this world? Their sadness would be truly great to learn that you walked away from the very faith that endeared you to them. What happened to them is very hard to understand, and I won’t even try to say I know how you feel, because I don’t. But often when people suffer a loss such as that, they try to live the way the people they have lost would have wanted them to. So I am surprised that you actually left the faith, rather than trying to garner what they had in their lives—and which caused them to be such sweet people. Again, I am very sorry to hear of that loss, and thank you for posting such a sad story. But I do have that question, and cannot ignore it. I hope you understand where I am coming from, because I do not mean the least disrespect, or have any disregard for the pain you have suffered, and do suffer.

    All the best, Joe

  • 17. exevangel  |  June 12, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Interesting point. Two things.

    1. You’re right, my knee jerk reaction was indeed to be “more” Christian, the six months after they died was when I accumulated most of the Christian CDs that are lying around gathering dust in my flat now. I even thought in a few scary moments that I should have a baby with my abusive ex-husband. Thank goodness that was never to be! But about six months after they died it’s like I snapped out of it and that was truly the beginning of my deconversion; within another few months I had escaped from the abusive ex and started a new life free of the shackles of Evangelical Christianity. When I got divorced, my family essentially excommunicated me and it was really liberating to see Christians behaving so horribly. I walked away and never looked back.

    2. Within my nuclear family, when things settled out a year or two after the accident, we had the full range. My mother (whose parents it was who died) did become more engulfed in the religious thing, I can’t ride in a car with her these days because she listens to the most horrid Christian radio after being the one who introduced me to Blood, Sweat and Tears and plenty of other really good music. I’d say my sister is neutral, no more or less Christian than before the crash and definitely still Christian, and I’m the shocking de-convert.

    Fortunately time really does heal wounds, this summer it will be 8 years since they died and 7 since my divorce so it’s not too hard to talk about, but many thanks for your cautiousness and concern.

  • 18. 4riozs  |  December 21, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    I was curious, did you stay originally with your abusive husband because of your religion?

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