Leaving a Faith: What to Expect

November 26, 2009 at 5:08 pm 85 comments

This last year and a half I’ve watched my own attitude change as I left the faith and slowly learned to deal with all the emotions. In the process, I’ve watched countless others go through similar experiences and I can’t help but notice this pattern:

A person de-converts…

1) Loss

De-convert feels extremely sad, a sense of loss and remorse, struggling to cope with a worldview without a Personal Deity. Thoughts of meaninglessness and suicide are often overcome by curiosity about the real world that drives the person to learn.

2) Learning

De-convert spends massive amounts of time devouring new information, studying whatever topics that can help them overcome their particular questions or issues related to their time in the faith – now that their mind is free from restrictions on what to study. In the same way a starving man may first devour tons of food as soon as he is allowed access, a de-convert begins to devour information to help his or her starving mind and curiosity. This period is normally filled with tons of forum browsing, blog post writing, commenting, reading, debate watching, skeptic society attending, new friend making, etc.

3) Discovery

De-convert has learned just how inane their belief system was.

4) Anger

De-convert feels angry at everyone who they feel – intentionally or not – lead them wrong. This period is normally filled with attempts to de-convert others, to speak rationally with those still in the faith, and attempts to immunize others who are outside the faith. All of this is done out of the goodwill to keep others from going through the same thing and to rescue those still inside the belief system they now realize is so stupid.

5) Exasperation

De-convert’s loving and respectful attempts to speak rationally with those still in the faith become so predictably insane, the de-convert begins to wonder how in the world anyone could ever believe that stuff. All attempts to talk with those inside the faith leave the de-convert feeling helpless and as if communication is impossible.

6) Indifference

De-convert begins to feel that all attempts to be respectful toward those in the faith system are useless. Resignation seems to be a common feeling at this point. The de-convert becomes resigned to a world where people believe stupid stuff and there isn’t much you can do about it because reason is undermined in the minds of the faithful. A sense of “it’s not my problem” begins to overcome the individual.

7) Determination

Note: this one seems to depend upon how much interaction with religion a person has after leaving the faith and how much perceived harm it is causing in their life.

The de-convert begins to notice just how much pain and problems faith truly causes because he or she sees how much reason could solve. The attitude begins to shift from resignation and respect of religion to a growing sense of near hatred toward it. Religion itself becomes an enemy like cancer, malaria, or any other disease. This can lead to militant atheism, depending on how much pain the de-convert perceives religion causing in their world. As the de-converts comfort in a worldview without faith begins to strengthen, their determination and confidence rises.

Where are you in this journey?

– Josh

Entry filed under: Josh.

A Letter to Me Hearing Voices

85 Comments Add your own

  • 1. mikespeir  |  November 26, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    All in all, a good summary. I will say I never really went through #4, and I’m not sure #7 hits everybody.

  • 2. Joshua  |  November 26, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Thanks mike, I’ve added a note.

    You never went through #4?

  • 3. Trace  |  November 26, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    One happened to me very early in my life, so much so that I cannot remember ever having any amount of significant faith. Learning happened naturally for me in school and later on in college. Ever since, I have bypassed all other stages and been in a state of concerned resignation.

  • 4. Ubi Dubium  |  November 26, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Everytime I hear someone religious use the term “militant atheist” they usually mean someone who refuses to go hide in a hole and pretend like non-believers don’t exist. Someone who refuses to pretend they wish they were religious, someone who won’t sit quietly while religion is shoved into every corner of public life. It seems like every rational person who is vocal enough about it to be noticed is classed as “militant atheist”.

    For an atheist to actually by “militant” on the scale of other militants, we’d have to be blowing up nativity scenes, barging into churches and insisting they think, forcing evolution to be taught in their sunday school classes, and broadcasting tirades on Sunday morning TV about how believers are completely degernate and evil. Until this happens, I don’t think there are actually any “militant atheists”.

    “Determined” is a better word. You used “confident”, I like that one too. I’ve been a deconvert for about twenty-five years now. It was an undramatic deconversion, I just realized that religion didn’t make any sense anymore and I gradually discarded it. I don’t think I ever had an angry phase. At this point, long past deconversion, I’m determined to help make the world a more rational place. And I hope to encourage as many people deconvert themselves as possible.

  • 5. Quester  |  November 26, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    Wow. That is almost entirely different than my journey. For me, it was more like:

    1) Discovery.

    The realization that there is no evidence to support my worldview. For me, this was accompanied by a huge sense of loss.

    2) Weeding.

    Finding out what is left of my life, my worldview and my identity, once I have removed all that I can that has no support. Again, this was accompanied with much grief.

    3) Browsing.

    Looking into various other worldviews and seeing what they have to offer. Looking at other groups to join for community. For me, this was sort of a denial stage, where I was looking for something to fill my sense of loss.

    4) Acceptance.

    Grasping that life is awe-some enough without adopted spiritualities and that shared interests and experiences build community enough without shared ritual or mission.

    5) Search.

    Choosing how to create meaning for my life, with occasional struggles over why to bother.

    6) ?

    I’m not here yet.

  • 6. J.J.E.  |  November 26, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    I pretty much skipped the loss phase and experienced everything else simultaneously over a few years. No real order. I think I’m pre-adapted to reject faith, as I’m a scientist. The groundwork to make rejecting an unsupported claim was laid by my training as a scientist. It was only after that groundwork was really solid that I happened to re-evaluate my faith. Then, basically, I thought “This faith stuff is crap. It is worth nothing.”

    And then everything else trickled in ever since that moment, except #1.

  • 7. TGD  |  November 26, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    I find myself cycling endlessly 4-5-6-7,4-5-6-7.

  • 8. twirlgrl  |  November 27, 2009 at 12:58 am

    I skipped #1 and now cycle 5-6-7. Today I am exasperated.

  • 9. Joshua  |  November 27, 2009 at 2:51 am


    “Concerned resignation.” That’s probably a good place to be, because it probably doesn’t sap a lot of energy.


    “Militant atheism” is such a weird term, really. Are you a “militant Christian” if you spread the gospel regularly?


    Interesting… I noticed you put discovery first. I think what I meant by “discovery” was more or less that “oh my god, how did I ever believe that” stage. For the first part of leaving the faith, I did have a lot of discovery, but it was more or less just the taking in of a ton of information, watching my belief system collapse, and then discovery happened later when I started to build up my worldview again.


    You never experienced that sense of grief at losing God’s presence?


    I kept cycling for a while, I feel like it is slowing down now into a steady #7 with a healthy dose of resignation.


    It’s a good thing you aren’t dealing with the anger, although I sometimes think that exasperation is more annoying. Normally for me exasperation follows the anger.

  • 10. LorMarie  |  November 27, 2009 at 3:46 am

    I’m at the anger stage,more at myself for believing the hype rather than at others. I also feel quite ashamed of my former beliefs/actions.

  • 11. Eric  |  November 27, 2009 at 7:21 am

    I’d like to add another stage: Grief.

    Though I announced my atheism 2 years ago, I maintained contact with my closest childhood friend, Brad. Brad is a fundamentalist, an evangelical, a music minister in his church and stalwart “I’ll be here for you, buddy” friend with Jesus.

    Wednesday, I emailed Brad a link to an AlterNet article titltes “Is Belief in God Hurting America?” asking for his comments. He refused to coment, belittled himself, and stated he no time for anything save his little world and his family. Understand, though in times past, he would dish out pages upon pages of comments on prior articles, with references and opinions from his “little world.”

    I felt grief, and still do. I feel the loss of a friendship because we do not share beliefs, to say nothing of interests. Grief, I think, is a stage in de-conversion. Sometimes it’s felt immediatly; othertimes not for sometimes; and, still others, grief is felt throughout the process.


  • 12. David  |  November 27, 2009 at 7:44 am

    I don’t think this model works for all types of deconversion. I would suggest that it does work for those who were deeply embedded in a faith tradition that required absolute commitment.

    I was raised Episcopalian, but dropped out at 16. The reasons had more to do with not getting answers about growing up from anyone that made sense, and choosing to question all assumptions and commitments. It didn’t take long before I realized that I had to leave Christianity as well, and I spent another 20 years exploring other religions and spiritualities.

    So Steps 2 and 3 occurred for me after I had already disengaged from my original community. I never experienced Steps 5-7, and the anger I feel is a more recent response to the unfortunate examples of religious extremism in the world today. So I think I jumped straight from 1 to 7, with an occasional relapse into 4.

  • 13. mikespeir  |  November 27, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    No, Joshua, I don’t recall ever being motivated by anger at my former beliefs or at those who taught them to me. They were simply doing what they sincerely thought was the right thing. I, too, taught others those things for years. I know I never intended to lead anyone wrong.

  • 14. Roy  |  November 27, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    Where are you in this journey?

    Determined to learn and discover.

  • 15. Lucian  |  November 27, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Oh, and let’s not forget #8: bloggin’ about numbers 1 thru 7. 🙂

  • 16. Blue  |  November 27, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    2-3-5-7 in what seems to be a nigh infinite loop. Learning is probably the biggest part of it. But the exasperation I seem to experience is more at myself for having both believed for so long, and even more taking so long to move from reluctant agnosticism/spirituality (motivated by fear from Christian days) to confident atheism.

  • 17. Marie  |  November 27, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Wow this was SPOT ON for me! When I first read number 7, I thought it would be something that didn’t really apply, but it does! I find myself hating God and religion more and more – and to end up feeling like that when I initially embarked on this journey to get “closer to God” is a testament to what can happen when you really truly explore the difficult questions in Christianity.

    I’m not sure where to add this in the list, but now I am experiencing a real comfort with my non-belief. I am totally ok with thinking that when I die, I will just be buried in the ground and that’s it.

    “I do not fear death. I was dead for billions of years before I was born, & had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.” – Mark Twain

  • 18. LeoPardus  |  November 27, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    I found these all pretty accurate for me. I’m thinking of a #8, something like ‘Distancing’ – the de-con tries to put some distance between himself and religion so he doesn’t have to be bothered by it. Unfortunately, this isn’t a really easy option for some like me, as we may have spouses, kids, etc who are in the faith and won’t let it go. Too bad for them.

    I’m trying hard to develop more of a next step like “Don’t give a rat’s butt”, in which the de-con ignores religion.

  • 19. Lurker111  |  November 27, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    Actually, when I decided I’d had enough of cognitive dissonance and threw away the last vestige of belief, the emotion I felt foremost was _relief_.

  • 20. Scott  |  November 27, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    Great job Josh! I am happy that you are able to logically lay out the journey especially since I am so new to it. I am going through steps 2 and step 3 at the same time. (You DO realize that you need to add 5 more steps to make this a true 12 step program don’t you?) anyway, I am reading everything I can get my hands on, every web site I can find. I find that as I do this I keep finding my old Christian beliefs creeping up in my expectations. I keep reminding myself to not accept anything that doesn’t have a rational basis for accepting it. When you were a Christian as long I was, this can be tough and time consuming! Looking forward to being a solid 3!

  • 21. J.J.E.  |  November 28, 2009 at 6:50 am


    No, I never did feel a sense of loss. I never felt God’s presence really. Not believing in God was like being told (with very good evidence) that my memory of my long dead grandfather was brainwashing and he never actually existed. I haven’t felt my grandfather’s presence in decades, and to lose belief in his existence would be jarring, but wouldn’t take me from feeling his presence to not feeling it.

    There is one major difference between my grandfather analogy and God. I do actually have memory of having felt my grandfather’s presence. God was always abstract. Despite their most sincere efforts aided by my credulity and willingness to participate in Christian practices, I can say I never felt anything but my own thoughts. Now, reading the Bible, praying, going to church, etc. certainly made for some mind altering thoughts and states of feeling, but none of that “spiritual” stuff felt remotely like meeting anyone.

    I was an extremely avid reader as a kid and loved to put myself fully into the stories I read, so maybe being emotionally and spiritually moved by Christianity was less unique to me because Tolkien, Anne McCaffrey, Stephen King, etc. could already compete with that kind of experience before I started really “feeling” my faith.

    I don’t know. I’ve never really communicated about it in these terms. Until I lost faith, I considered myself Christian, and I considered that I had “obligations” to and a “spiritual relationship” with God/Jesus. But I can honestly never say it ever felt remotely like a real relationship. My de-conversion experience mainly dealt with the giving up of a lifelong assumption, family social pressure, and acknowledging that my life is finite and there will be a point in the future when I cease to exist just as there was a point in the past before I existed.

  • 22. Scott  |  November 28, 2009 at 8:23 am

    I completely identify with what you are saying. one of the problems I had as a Christian was the “personal relationship”. I never felt any relationship. I never truly understood what everyone was talking about. “God” was always just out there, not here with me. Now I realize (somewhat sadly I must admit) that there is no biblegod to have a relationship with.

    I have to say: I don’t know where this falls in josh’s list, but if I had known how much work it is to think for myself, I would have stayed a Christian! (JK)!

  • 23. Quester  |  November 28, 2009 at 11:35 am


    Yeah, I redefined Discovery, as it was still a good word for me, but not the way you meant it.

    I’m feeling rather fortunate for somehow bypassing your steps 4, 5 and 7. I can’t imagine being angry at those who “lied” to me, when no one knowingly did so. I’ve always known that people belive stupid things and that reason and argument won’t dissuade them. And yes, there are aspects of religion that are dangerous, but the same is true of politics and any organization of people who feel they know best what ought to be done, which is to say, any organization of people.

  • 24. Joshua  |  November 28, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    I can’t imagine being angry at those who “lied” to me, when no one knowingly did so.

    I have to confess, it is an odd feeling – to know you are experiencing an emotion that is not realistic.

    However, I do still sometimes feel angry / bitter because I continually, year after year, asked the same questions and was met with the same, lame answers. I think I feel now that I was not taken seriously, and I’m angry no one else (Christian) took the time to take the questions I make seriously.

    For example, here was a question I remember having / asking:

    If a person can be so deceived that they think they are saved when they are not, how do I know I am not that person? Furthermore, how do you know you are not that person?

    Ultimately, I was asking epistemological questions that could not be answered by Christianity at all. After years and years of this, I finally felt like I was getting somewhere in my understanding of Christianity and began to run into this wall with pastors, teaches, my dad on the things I was learning.

    It’s all becoming more fuzzy as time goes on, but it’s as if I am angry that everyone around me was so stupid and unwilling to take me seriously. They were comfortable, and they couldn’t see just how uncomfortable their faith claims were making me because they didn’t make any sense and were contradictory in nature. It’s the whole cognitive dissonance thing.

    Then when I finally figure out all the problems and try to go back to everyone I love and explain what I’ve discovered to them, they basically spit in my face.

    So they put me through hell with their beliefs and don’t recognize it, then when I discover their beliefs are the problem, they condemn me there without a trial or genuinely listening to me.

    So much for any genuine sense of justice or a pursuit of knowledge.

  • 25. Eve's Apple  |  November 28, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Leaving the faith wasn’t very traumatic for me; I just stopped going to church and that was that. There were no repercussions. In fact, it was almost as if I never existed. No one came looking, no one called, no one asked why. They all had their own lives to be busy with.

    Where I am at now is a mixture of anger at being lied to and dismay at seeing the many ways religion harms people, yet not wanting to upset the apple cart. I am not out to destroy others’ beliefs because I understand that deconversion can be traumatic. So I try, when talking about religion, to focus on those attitudes and behaviors that I consider harmful, and leave the core doctrines alone.

  • 26. Scott  |  November 29, 2009 at 8:36 am

    I experienced the same thing, Eve. I stopped going regularly (I attend every once in a while at my wife’s request) and no one seems to know the difference. When I read your post, I reflected back to times I have changed churches and, again, when I left the “old” church, no one came looking. Too busy I guess.

    Like Joshua, I’m not angry at those in Christianity because they truly believe it. They simply cannot understand that someone, once exposed, would reject it. I did experience frustration with those who I felt were more “thinkers” than others and yet, I still could not talk to them about my misgivings.

    And I’ll tell you one area I am going through anger with. Ministry. I “surrendered to preach” when I was a young man (some 30 years ago now) and spent most of my adult life trying to fulfill that. For more reasons than I care to go into right now, it didn’t work. Mainly because I’m not a people person. I’m just not one of those folks who wants to regularly interact with others.

    It took me over 20 years to figure out that ministry wasn’t my bag (lots of rationalization going on in that 20 years) and one of the things I’m angry about is that none of my leaders ever took me off to the side and said, “Scott, look, you’re not cut out for this”. I’m not saying I would have listened (after all God called me!), but at the least they could have tried.

    So I spent the majority of my adult life chasing a bullshit pipe dream. I get angry when I think about what I COULD have done, but chose not to because I was trying to be something I’m not.

  • 27. Joshua  |  November 29, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    You know, I think the whole anger thing probably depends on how intently a person tried to get answers from church leaders and the answers that were given.

    In my case, I tried for years to get answers to certain questions that haunted me and never was satisfied. When I discover the actual answer, I felt cheated – like no one took my questions seriously because their answers were so passive and unconvincing compared to the real answer.

    More or less it is anger that others were too cowardly or myopic to see how their faith and their answers and their position of leadership helped keep me in a miserable state for longer, when the church is teaching left and right about putting others before yourself and being courageous and seeking the truth, etc.

  • 28. Quester  |  November 29, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    Josh re: 24,

    Correct me if I’m misunderstanding you, but it sounds like you’re angry because when you had questions, people were more interested in their comfort than the truth and never took you seriously, and now that you have found answers to your questions, those same people are more interested in their comfort than the truth and are not taking you seriously. It sounds to me like you’re angry because you had a high opinion of people that was disappointed.

  • 29. Frreal  |  November 29, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Stuck between indifference and determination. Determination only appears when I see my little ones might be subject to indoctrination.

    In most other cases I have just resigned myself to first and foremost be the captain of my own ship. Deconversion has led me to be a skeptic in all aspects of life. Trust but verify.

    If i believed there was a god I’d thank him for this blog and its commentators.

  • 30. Joshua  |  November 30, 2009 at 2:10 am

    Quester, that is exactly it.

    Growing up I couldn’t understand so many things… the main one was people’s inability to comprehend fairness and genuine honesty. I was almost relentless in my desire to be honest – even apologizing for accidentally telling things that were not true.

    I’ve since discovered that I take responsibility for my own actions, and I think a lot of people don’t… people in the church often just throw everything in God’s lap. If they can’t answer a question, that is God’s business. If someone is suffering and their prayers are doing nothing, that is God’s business. If the Bible doesn’t make sense or they see an apparent contradiction… that’s God’s business. We’re just supposed to trust Him that He has everything together.

    God is the ultimate scape goat that removes many a Christian from having to take responsibility for their actions, beliefs, and attitudes. Forget “the devil made me do it”. A lot of Christians act like “God has my back.” The difference is subtle, but the effect is the same.

    Ultimately, the Christian doesn’t have to understand, because God does. The Christian’s beliefs don’t have to make sense, because in God’s mind they do. The Christian’s behavior does not have to make sense either, because they were simply doing God’s will. The Christian doesn’t have to verify the sources of their information, because God is inspiring them in their communication of it. The Christian doesn’t have to verify that what they are communicating is true, because God ultimately is in control and they just fall back on God’s grace to work despite their shortcomings.

    Ultimately, I know it isn’t this simple. I know it is so much more complex, so much more nuanced: but in day to day behavior I get the impression this is the attitude that runs most Christian’s lives. They do cast all their cares on Him. To bad “cares” is often synonymous with “responsibility”.

    So yes, I’m angry. I’m angry that I was never taken seriously when the Christian faith was making me suicidal and I’m angry that I’m not taken seriously now. Ultimately, I feel like I was never truly listened to, and I don’t understand how they can treat me like that. Because I would never, in my wildest dreams, do that to anybody. Everyone’s voice means something to me – even if I don’t agree with them.

  • 31. LeoPardus  |  November 30, 2009 at 11:22 am

    In looking at this again I noted one big difference for me. I was not angry at others. I was angry at myself for being duped so long. That has led to puzzlement at how that was possible. I still don’t really understand it.

  • 32. Joshua  |  November 30, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Well, for me I think because I was home schooled and ended up making decisions based on limited information I am not so surprised anymore that I was duped.

    Honestly, I remember thinking over and over “If I had had this type of information sooner, I would have left the faith when I was 12, back when I first started having doubts.”

    So I suppose my anger makes more sense. But I [sortof] trusted those above me, because I was supposed to, and I really believed I was following God at the time. If I had had someone explain some basic things about psychology, biology, genetics, neurology, etc. I would not have stuck around so long, I don’t think.

    Of course, the memories are fading and changing, so maybe I would have stuck it out anyway. I can’t say for sure.

  • 33. Brian  |  November 30, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Wow the timing of this is so amazing that I would be tempted to say that it’s a sign from God. But, well, you know…

    Seriously though I was JUST having this discussion with several people from the site here about the stages I went through in my deconversion. The were amazingly similar to the stages of grief:

    denial (which I’d been going through for about 8 years before I progressed), anger (being pissed at god), bargaining (praying harder and harder for it to not be so), depression (there were several times after realizing I was an atheist that I would hear about somebody’s life being changed by the Holy Spirit and it was all I could do not to break down crying in church) and finally acceptance.

    The phases that Josh laid out definitely came into play after the acceptance phase. There was a LOT of reading and commenting on atheist blogs, science blogs, skeptic blogs, etc. There was a LOT of debating friends and relatives who were Christians about one thing or another. And as I realized that none of my “sound logic” was getting through to them, the anger phase really reared its head with fury. Anger led to exasperation and I really alienated a lot of the people in my life with my need to show them how they were wrong. Even though that’s never what I intended when I originally deconverted, I found that either consciously or unconciously I was trying to preach them out of the same faith they had been preaching me into.

    Finally after hitting a boil point, I have tried going cold turkey into “indifference” though I prefer to call it my “keeping the peace” phase. This came after I realized that it had been a year since my deconversion (happy anniversary) and I decided I was sick of hanging my entire identity on my atheism. It was time to just “be me” and stop trying to make everyone see why my way was right. It was time to find bridges that connect me with my loved ones, not wedges that show how far apart we are.

    I’ve been making a conscious effort to NOT engage people in religious stuff… which has been tough because I have never been one who can leave well enough alone. But already I’m finding a peace that I haven’t experienced since first realizing that I’d lost my faith. It’s a peace to jsut love my family and enjoy the world for what it has to offer here and now and not get so mired in trying to show others how to experience it the same way. Life’s too short after all to spend it arguing.

  • 34. Brian  |  November 30, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Also something I’ve realized that might only apply to me:

    The biggest bulk of my anger and exasperation with other Christians came as a direct result of the fact that the person I was really pissed at, the person I really wanted to yell at and curse and say, WHY to… didn’t exist. I was mad at god. Mad that he didn’t exist. Which of course is a cyclical non-issue that you can’t grapple with tangibly. So since I couldn’t yell at him, I yelled at anyone who claimed to speak for him. And that really wasn’t fair to those people. Mind you, I didn’t grow up, nor do I currently deal with people of the fundamentalist mindset. The Christians in my life have always been the most stand-up down-to-earth people who would, and have, given me the shirts off their backs. None of them were chanting fire and brimstone at me. None of them. Nothing they did where faith was concerned affected my life in the slightest bit. But the mere fact that they could still believe when I no longer could, quite simply, PISSED… ME… OFF!

    In retrospect, all my fighting and debating had the spirtual equivalent of a little kid shouting “Why don’t you love me” at the poster of some celebrity on their wall.

    I’m hoping that moving past that phase into whatever phase you want to call this is going to lead to a much happier, much more peaceful year in the 12 months to come.

  • 35. SnugglyBuffalo  |  November 30, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    I’m with Leo in that the only anger I’ve felt was at myself for being duped for so long. I mean, it makes sense for my childhood, but once I’d gotten older and had enough information, I still clung to belief for too long.

    It’s a pretty fleeting anger, though; no point in dwelling on the past, so I’m more focused on what I’m going to do about it now.

    As far as unanswered questions, the big one I remember was when I asked my parents how God dealt with people who never heard about Jesus. I got a pretty standard “only God knows” canned response. I think with all the difficult questions I couldn’t get answers to, I more-or-less just pushed them out of mind as “unimportant” in order to deal with the cognitive dissonance.

    As an aside, for all the familial problems it’s caused, I’m rather fortunate that my brother has been so open and interested in my point of view. For all the obstinately religious people out there, I’ll have at least influenced one person to take a hard look at their beliefs, whether he ultimately sticks with them or not.

  • 36. milehigh  |  December 1, 2009 at 12:18 am

    Yes, deconversion is traumatic. At first It was clarity and freedom, but it has since turned to depression. Not so much losing my beliefs, but being alone in my lack of belief among a sea of believers. It would hurt my family and wife to know I no longer believe, so I just keep quiet. Revealing the truth would mean loss of income, friends and possibly my family. This internal struggle is probably the fuel for my depression.
    Does it get better? Should I say nothing while my kids are indoctrinated? I really wish I could believe it again, but it’s too late. How long can one or should one keep quiet?

  • 37. Joshua  |  December 1, 2009 at 11:50 am


    I’m definitely sorry to hear that. Whenever I started feeling that way I would work through my emotions by writing in a place where I knew – for sure – others would read what I wrote. I would let out all my frustration, anger, depression, and thoughts – in full, brutal honesty. Honesty about my feeligns is the one thing I tended to avoid in Christianity because I would let things bottle up because I would try to force myself to feel what Christianity said I was supposed to.

    I can only speak for myself. I’m the type who would rather rip the band-aid off quickly and viciously and endure a short period of intense pain over a slow, long period of mild, dulling pain. My philosophy was (at the immature age of 23) that I would be 100% open and honest about where I was at. I did this because I wanted to act in the very way Christians championed so that later in life they could not ‘discover’ things about me and say I was dishonest. That was my story. I came out publicly to everyone as soon as I was certain I was an atheist – without a days delay. It was rough, for sure, but I think it has helped me to move to move on and has helped others to understand my actions so they are not in the dark wondering about my spiritual life all the time.

    Ultimately you have to make your own decision, but let me just say: don’t let your life be a misery because you are bottling the truth inside – afraid it will hurt others. Your life has been dictated long enough by Christianity from what it sounds like. Now that you have left, don’t let it continue to do so if you can help it.

    I recognized I could “lose” my family and friends and two years of education and end up without a degree for leaving the faith, but it was a cost I was willing to sacrifice to be able to finish my life as free as possible from the bondage I felt I was in.

    Also: realize something! If you are depressed, likely others will begin to pick it up and it will start to – even possibly subconsciously – make them depressed as well. Your happiness is essential, because in the end it can directly influence the happiness of others.

    Your situation is extremely sticky, though, what with having a family. LeoPardus can probably speak very strongly to the situation you are in since he recently came out to his kids and his wife knows where he is at on things. I know others here as well have dealt with the same situation. You aren’t alone by any means.

    Does it get better?

    If you are honest and open about your feelings and desires, my experience has been a resounding “yes!”

    Should I say nothing while my kids are indoctrinated?

    First of all, children have pretty flexible and resilient minds. I wish someone had grabbed me when I was younger and been honest about things. It’s this bizarre thing with adults: they always want to protect children from potentially harmful ideas, when of all people children can probably handle new, “weird” ideas the best. I mean kids believe in witches, ghosts, demons, hell, aliens, and the reality of the Power Rangers without a bat of their eye. Of course, I could be talking out of my ass, but I have seen studies have shown a child’s brain to be extremely resilient compared to adults. Someone correct me if I am wrong here…

    I really wish I could believe it again, but it’s too late. How long can one or should one keep quiet?

    I’ve already said my piece, I suppose. My advice: be honest as soon as you are certain about where you are at. If you set that standard, others will be more open to you about their own life because they know you are not hiding anything yourself. That’s my philosophy anyway.

    Others on here have still not come out to their family, so maybe they have some comments. My biggest concern with you is your depression. Eliminating that should be priority #1, if you were to ask me.

    What’s the point of the freedom of life without God if you are not free from life without God?

  • 38. BigHouse  |  December 1, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    First of all, children have pretty flexible and resilient minds. I wish someone had grabbed me when I was younger and been honest about things. It’s this bizarre thing with adults: they always want to protect children from potentially harmful ideas, when of all people children can probably handle new, “weird” ideas the best. I mean kids believe in witches, ghosts, demons, hell, aliens, and the reality of the Power Rangers without a bat of their eye. Of course, I could be talking out of my ass, but I have seen studies have shown a child’s brain to be extremely resilient compared to adults. Someone correct me if I am wrong here…

    The big thing here for me as a parent is that I will strive my very best to teach my kids HOW to think not WHAT to think. They are going to hear about God and Jesus etc from my family and I honestly have no problem with that. But I will also be there to explain where those beliefs are coming from and that what they believe isn’t the only option. And I will explain to them what I believe but not require that they share that belief, but think through things and arrive at their own conclusions.

    What I’m not sure about is how to tactfully handle any attempt of indoctrination or fear-mongering of my kids by my family. Their intentions will be pure, but I do not want the same path to understanding for my kids that I had to go through.

  • 39. withheld  |  December 1, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    @milehigh, you are not alone. I know it can feel that way when you don’t have anyone in your life that you can talk with about your beliefs. I still haven’t told my family yet either, and forums like this are the only places I have found where I can be with people who understand. No, it’s not as good as having real people around to talk to, but it is a safe place to share what you are going through. How long can one or should one keep quiet? Of course nobody can answer that for you. I know I need to come clean with my wife at some point, better sooner than later, but I just don’t know how to start that conversation. The kids are pretty young, and in Catholic school (yeah, that was my idea when I still sort-of believed) so I don’t really want to mess with their heads too much. I think Joshua is right, you need to deal with the depression. If keeping it bottled up is causing the most stress, it has to come out.

  • 40. LeoPardus  |  December 1, 2009 at 3:33 pm


    First, just OOC, does your name imply you’re in CO? Not trying to get you to reveal too much on line, but figure that we might be able to meet sometime if we’re not too far apart.

    More to the point now.

    It would hurt my family and wife to know I no longer believe, so I just keep quiet.

    Understandable. Many of us have done this. Many a spouse has been hugely upset by a de-converted husband/wife. No need to be in a rush.

    Revealing the truth would mean loss of income, friends and possibly my family.

    Ooo.. income.. bad. I take it you’ve got a job tied in with church, ministry, or some such. Really don’t rush. Some hereabouts have dealt with that. Quester for one. At any rate, start looking for other employment. Do it quietly. If anyone finds out or asks, just give them some line about ‘testing the waters’, ‘looking for a new challenge’, ‘need more income’, or whatever.

    Does it get better?

    Almost always. But it can get worse first depending on events and how people react to things. At least you may depend on folks here to be supportive no matter what.

    Should I say nothing while my kids are indoctrinated?

    Spouse first. Then kids. Spouse will need time to adjust.

    I really wish I could believe it again, but it’s too late.

    True words. I remember thinking the very same thing.

    How long can one or should one keep quiet?

    Get it out to your wife. You know her best. Do it in public or private as you know best. Work into it or blurt it out.
    Based on what you know, is it at all likely that she might share any doubts? Has she been abused at all by the church? (As a woman I’d bet she has to some degree.)
    Anyway, get it out to her. If you want to wait until after Christmas so as not to spoil the season, fine. But then, do it right after the New Year start.

    Be prepared for all manner of responses from her. We’ve heard hereabouts of every response imaginable.
    -“What? I don’t think our marriage vows are valid anymore.”
    -“Whew! I’m glad to know I’m not alone in thinking like this.”
    -“OK. We can work through this.”
    -“I’m going home to mother.”
    -“Go talk to the pastor/read this book/pray some more….”

    Try to be prepared. Be patient. But ‘get er done’.

  • 41. Scott  |  December 1, 2009 at 6:13 pm


    Thanks for voicing your concerns (milehigh) and suggestions (leo). I’m going through the same thing: trying to decide how to tell my wife and then my family and friends.

    My wife knows that something is up, but she ascribes it to me being upset with my (now former) pastor.

    I hesitate to say anything because I honestly believe it would be devastating to her and I don’t want to hurt her. If she were the type to question things on her own, I would be more comfortable, but she’s not. She simply believes.

    I too feel alone in a sea of believers with no one to honestly talk to. (Doesn’t that in and of itself say something about Christianity?)

    I am truly grateful for this site. It is the ONLY place I have that I can question, challenge, cuss, scream, cry or whatever else I feel as I figure my new life out.

  • 42. writerdd  |  December 1, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    I went through 4 later, at the same time as 7. Now I am back to 6, where I guess I’ll probably stay.

  • 43. milehigh  |  December 2, 2009 at 12:04 am

    I really appreciate all of the thoughtful comments. i don’t wish this situation on anyone, but my own searching has led me to this point. Our whole lives are based on faith, but I no longer share that. I just can’t stand the way ‘non believers’ are simply thrown outside. I know as soon as I reveal where I’m at, I will join the outcasts. That sucks. I really like christian morals and lifestlye and have nothing else to offer my family outside of that. The only problem is- it’s not real. So WTF, how do I raise my family in a messed up culture and still raise my kids to think critically about truth?

  • 44. milehigh  |  December 2, 2009 at 12:11 am

    I would be happy to get together to discuss further, but I’m not in CO. That is almost a 30 hour drive. Milehigh is the adaptation of a former name, one you had replied to and advised to take my time with this, which I have done. I am taking my time, buy I can only do that for so long. I don’t want to damage my family, but don’t know how else to handle this. I stand to lose so much, I’m not sure if it’s worth it to bring it into the open.

  • 45. LeoPardus  |  December 2, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    i don’t wish this situation on anyone

    Right. Most of us say that. It’s not fun at all to go through. The reward of being in line with truth and reality is great, but the ‘leaving the faith’ part is really horrid.

    I really like christian morals and lifestlye

    Yep. That’s the one thing that really separates me from a lot of atheist/agnostics. I’m very against abortion; I’m not in favor of screwing around; I’m totally against any drug legalization; I recognize anal sex for the incredibly dangerous, damaging, unloving behavior that it is; etc.

    A lot of folks toss the whole basket of morals, political positions, etc away with their faith. I didn’t do that. (Doubtless because I didn’t base those things solely on my faith.) So even as an ex-Christian I’m a heretic.

    how do I raise my family in a messed up culture and still raise my kids to think critically about truth?

    Don’t base your opinions, political views, morals, etc in ancient superstitions. Base them in facts. Base them in principles like “do no (or minimal) harm”. Base them is information, thought, logic, sense, dispassionate analysis. Then teach your kids about critical thinking and encourage them to investigate, think, question, draw conclusions.

    Of course all this is utterly anathema to theistic faith, so you’re swimming upstream at best.

  • 46. twirlgrl  |  December 2, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    Wow, LeoPardus – seriously?

    “Yep. That’s the one thing that really separates me from a lot of atheist/agnostics. I’m very against abortion; I’m not in favor of screwing around; I’m totally against any drug legalization; I recognize anal sex for the incredibly dangerous, damaging, unloving behavior that it is; etc. ”

    I know many atheists and agnostics and I find them all to be highly moral people. I cannot think of a single person who abandoned their morals along with their faith and I take great offense at your implications. If even our own non-theist community views us this way, it is no wonder that so many religionists despise and fear us.

    For the record, I think abortion is horrendous. I think we need strong prevention education and access to contraception so that the numbers can be reduced as much as possible. That being said, I am strongly pro-choice when it comes down to brass tacks although I do not think I would ever undergo such a thing myself. Neither my atheist husband nor I have EVER cheated on each other or any previous partner. I think marijuana is on par with alcohol and should be regulated as such but I do not support the leagalization of any other substances. Anal sex is not my thing but I am certain that there are many loving couples who do participate in it and that is ok. It is no one else’s business what two consenting adults do in their own bedroom.

    I would also submit to you that MANY people of faith engage in the very behaviors you are claiming as the immoral behaviors of the atheists you know. Morals and ethics are not tied to religion.

    I have a 5-yr-old son and I struggle with this as well. My basic method is to try to teach my child HOW to think, not WHAT to think. We talk – a lot – about right and wrong, empathy, ethics, basically what it means to be a good person. My child has impressed me repeatedly in his capacity for love and understanding. We also talk about WHY many things are the way they are; we talk about greed, power, poverty and other things that lead to poor conditions.

    If you are an ethical person and lead by example, your kids will be fine.

    Lastly, milehigh, you may be able to find some guidance through the American Humanist Association or Parenting Beyond Belief (a superb resource). Best wishes to you!

  • 47. LeoPardus  |  December 2, 2009 at 1:39 pm


    I think you probably made my points for me.

  • 48. twirlgrl  |  December 2, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    LeoPardus, I am not sure what you mean and your reply comes off as snarky. Are you implying that I am immoral? If so, by your standards, this was directly a result of my religious upbringing as my views have not changed since I realized I no longer believed in a god. I have very high moral standards for myself; I do not impose them on others. That is a task I leave to the religious.

  • 49. Joshua  |  December 2, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    I do not impose them on others. That is a task I leave to the religious.

    Ahhh, that explains why you are calling out LeoPardus…


    Every person holds others to their own moral standards. It is impossible not to. The trick is to find the moral standards that reduce the most harm, which means morals have to be flexible and adapt themselves to truth based on evidence.

  • 50. twirlgrl  |  December 2, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Joshua –
    I agree that our own morals as our basis for comparison (if I understand you correctly). However, there is a difference between determining if one finds an action to be moral or immoral based on your standards and demanding that everyone else acquiesce to your standard.
    I also agree wholeheartedly with your last statement. 🙂

  • 51. Joshua  |  December 2, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    However, there is a difference between determining if one finds an action to be moral or immoral based on your standards and demanding that everyone else acquiesce to your standard.

    Sortof. People automatically align themselves to moral standards based upon what they think will or will not cause harm (a reduction in value).

    So what ends up happening is that a person perceives that a reduction in value is being caused by an action, and whether they realize it or not, they will begin to hold others to the same standard.

    I think what you are saying is that you believe a reduction in harm is achieved by holding reason above one’s current standard, which gives room for others to hold different standards based on an understanding that they will have different values. So because you value reason above your current understnading, you allow others to hold different moral standards.

    The goal, then, is to use reason to understand their position and communicate yours.

    But in the end, the very way in which we hold reason above our current understanding is actually a key component of our moral outlook.

    So, in a way, your statement:

    I know many atheists and agnostics and I find them all to be highly moral people.

    Is meaningless… unless you are holding everyone else to your own moral standards 🙂

  • 52. Joshua  |  December 2, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Senses -> Information -> Knowledge -> Understanding -> Perception of Value -> Perception of potential harm -> Moral statements

  • 53. twirlgrl  |  December 2, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Excellent summation, Joshua. Yes, I get your point. But when designating these folks as “highly moral” I am basing it on values shared by most of civilization – they are honest, caring people who harm no one intentionally and often work for the betterment of the world.

    I fully understand that others do not share my morals on all topics, particularly with regard to personal choices however, I do not judge them by it and I do not expect them to change their standards to suit me as some would like others to do.

    To return to the original topic, NONE of this is based on religion. To say that there are “Christian morals” is a falsity. There are many non-Christian people who live what most would consider a moral existance. Morals did not begin with Christianity and they do not end with it either.

  • 54. LeoPardus  |  December 2, 2009 at 3:06 pm


    Not knowing you at all it would be impossible for me to assess your level of morality or how it may have changed since leaving the faith.

    My statement about people tossing morals (and politics, etc) with their faith reflects my experience of seeing just that. Not that they toss all morals. Almost none become drunkards, thieves, or sex-crazed bed-hoppers. But those things are not distinctive to any faith (or lack thereof). What gets tossed are the moral stances distinctive to the faith. So abortion becomes OK, anal sex acceptable, wild promiscuity may not be too cool but if you really like someone, then, well OK. And of course not everyone does all (or even any) of these things. But many do change their moral stances.

    Likely you would be someone I could easily trust to watch my house, be honest in business, not steal my sister’s fiance, and so on. Those day-to-day, personal interaction type morals don’t generally tie to religion or non-religion that much.

    I’ll go back to your prior post and try to address it a bit more now.

    I know many atheists and agnostics and I find them all to be highly moral people.

    Me too. Among them some immediate relatives.

    I cannot think of a single person who abandoned their morals along with their faith

    By contrast I do. So what?

    I think abortion is horrendous… That being said, I am strongly pro-choice

    Sorry, that’s too 1984.
    Just FYI: The cement of my stance against abortion comes from working with aborted fetuses in an anatomy lab. I became very familiar with them at every stage of gestation. With that knowledge imprinted, I can never deny the personhood, the life of a child in teh womb. At the thought of abortion, I can summon up an instant mental picture of a baby at whatever age, and I cannot condone its murder. [Obviously the unavoidable cases where the mother’s life is at stake make for exceptions.]

    Neither my atheist husband nor I have EVER cheated on each other or any previous partner.

    Methinks you missed me here. How many ‘previous partners’ are needed before one is ‘screwing around’? Now realistically I’m not a prude. I know people often have sex before marriage. I know it’s usually not going to do any great harm. But it is how STDs get around. It is how unwanted pregnancies happen. And many a criminal act has been caused by jealousy. Much as I find non-theists railing against it, abstinence followed by lifelong monogamy can avoid all that. [Prepares for the onslaught of anecdotes about disasters that followed abstinence/monogamy.]

    Anal sex is not my thing but I am certain that there are many loving couples who do participate in it and that is ok.

    Another one of those areas that puzzles me. Anal sex is (and if you didn’t read what I wrote before, I am repeating myself verbatim now) dangerous, damaging, and unloving. Just THINK about it biologically PLEASE. Hint: If you’re not sure where to start thinking about it biologically, try starting with a lesson you were supposed to have learned before you were five. “Don’t play with your poo-poo.” Do you know why you were told that? Now try moving on to anatomy and pathology.

    It is no one else’s business what two consenting adults do in their own bedroom.

    Except when it ends up in the surgical suite for repair perhaps.

    I would also submit to you that MANY people of faith engage in the very behaviors you are claiming as the immoral behaviors of the atheists you know. Morals and ethics are not tied to religion.

    Non-sequitur to the argument at hand.

  • 55. Joshua  |  December 2, 2009 at 3:22 pm


    It is immoral to cause harm to another man based on unquestioned and unreasoned moral statements.

    The aforementioned statement, thankfully, is not an exception.

  • 56. twirlgrl  |  December 2, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    LeoPardus –
    “So abortion becomes OK, anal sex acceptable, wild promiscuity may not be too cool but if you really like someone, then, well OK. And of course not everyone does all (or even any) of these things. But many do change their moral stances.”

    -Many? Perhaps a few but I have sincere doubt that “many” who give up god-belief suddenly find that they are OK with these things if they weren’t when they believed.

    “By contrast I do. So what?”
    – I don’t contest that you do but just because you know people who have changed their stances on things does not mean that a majority of people who stop believing do. You make it sound as if atheism causes moral decline which is overall not the case.

    “Sorry, that’s too 1984”
    -The fact that I DON’T want my government making this decision is too 1984? I think abortion is terrible but it happens. We should be focusing on PREVENTING those unwated pregnancies so that fewer abortions even have to be considered much less carried out.

    “How many ‘previous partners’ are needed before one is ’screwing around’?”
    -Perhaps we have a differing definition of the word. What I meant was that, prior to being married, when I was “with someone” (regardless of the sexual intimacy level – there are all kinds of cheating), I was “with” that person exclusively. If the relationship wasn’t working out, I broke up with them before dating (or being otherwise romantically involved with)anyone else. Unsafe sex is how STDs and unwanted pregnancies happen. Yes, abstinence can prevent this but largely, so can education. Very few people wait until marriage before having any kind of intimate contact. Not all STDs come from intercourse. Not all pregnancies do either.

    As for anal sex – the reasons you list are the reasons I have no interest in it. Some people disagree. Some people like it. That’s their deal – not mine and I don’t think it is any one else’s business and I don’t think it is a common reason for ER visits. There may be occasions when it does but there are occasions when “conventional” sex does, too.

    I have been in healthcare for almost 20 years with significant experience as an auditor. I am familiar with biology, anatomy and pathology. I spent significant time working with populations in Family Practice and OB/GYN and for the thousands of notes I have audited, including emergency room and surgical notes, anal sex did not come up once as a contributing factor.

    “Non-sequitur to the argument at hand.”
    -Not if your argument is that atheism causes moral decline.

    From the beginning of your response, “moral stances distinctive to the faith” – these moral stances did not begin with and are not exclusive to Christianity.

  • 57. Joshua  |  December 2, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    I really don’t get the point of this conversation.

    It just sounds like LeoPardus is saying that he is proud that he has good reasons to keep some morals that still exist in Christianity without basing them on some authority figure but for tertiary reasons.

    twirlgirl, it sounds like you just want to make sure LeoPardus is not harmfully insinuating that becoming an atheist leads to immorality.

    First of all, LeoPardus did not mean that at all.

    Secondly, it is impossible for a person’s beliefs to lead to immorality. A person’s beliefs can lead to an increase in harm but never to immorality since morality is relative to perception of what will cause harm and in that individual’s mind they will be living a life in accordance with their beliefs and it will be, therefore, the least harmful.

  • 58. twirlgrl  |  December 2, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Joshua, I’m not even sure if it has a point anymore either but it has been good conversation. 🙂

    My goal was to clarify that developing a disbelief in God/gods is generally not a causative agent to unethical behavior in non-theist individuals who did not engage in unethical behaviors as believers. As you so succinctly put it, it did come across to me as “harmfully insinuating that becoming an atheist leads to immorality”.

    If that was not the intended meaning, LeoPardus, I apologize for the misunderstanding.

    At any rate, thank you (and LeoPardus) for the respectful, interesting and entertaining dialogue.

  • 59. BigHouse  |  December 2, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    At the thought of abortion, I can summon up an instant mental picture of a baby at whatever age, and I cannot condone its murder. [Obviously the unavoidable cases where the mother’s life is at stake make for exceptions.]

    Just to play devil’s advocate here, are you saying that it isn’t murder if the mother’s life is at stake or murdering the fetus is acceptable morally if the mother’s life is at stake?

  • 60. LeoPardus  |  December 2, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    developing a disbelief in God/gods is generally not a causative agent to unethical behavior in non-theist individuals who did not engage in unethical behaviors as believer

    Generally I think ethical people are ethical people and tend to stay that way. My experience has been (and note this is my experience, not a nation-wide, blinded survey) that many people, upon leaving the Christian faith change their stance on the following moral issues:
    -Pre or extra marital sex
    -Anal sex
    -Drug legalization
    Usually (by my observation again) the change is a carte blanche one, not one made by carefully analyzing each issue on its own merits and in light of available science, surveys, etc. To me, that’s a bad thing.

    I do want milehigh to know that non-believers hold positions all over the board on these issues, since I think he is a bit worried about some of them. (Maybe I’m wrong there.)

    But to be clear: No. Becoming an atheist does not lead to immorality. It could do so; or it could lead to becoming even more moral than before.

    Again stepping back a post or two:
    The fact that I DON’T want my government making this decision is too 1984

    No. The statements, “I think abortion is horrendous” and, “I am strongly pro-choice” from the same person is too 1984. “I am strongly in favor of a practice I consider horrendous.” ?? That doesn’t make sense to me as readily as, “I am strongly against a practice I recognize as murder.”

    Not all STDs come from intercourse.

    Right. Fine. So over 90% of them do. That’s why they are called STDs. So why are you running up this tiny rivulet and avoiding the huge main river?

    Not all pregnancies do either.

    Wow, an even tinier rivulet. Pregnancies without intercourse. If, as you say, you have some OB/GYN knowledge, then you ought to be able to give me a rough estimate of how tiny a bunny trail you just ran up. This is what? 0.00??% of cases? Why are you bringing up these madcap, tiny incidents and avoiding the gigantic main issues?

    Back now to anal sex. Infections. That’s why you were told not to play with your poo-poo. [Why is it that bloody near everyone who wants to defend anal sex can’t seem to recall/accept/handle that concept?] That’s one reason why anal sex is risky. Add to that risk of prolapse, sphincter damage, mucosal tears, and more.
    So you haven’t seen it as a contributing factor. A ‘contributing factor’ to what? And in Family Practice and OB/GYN about the only rectal problems you’ll see are going to be post-partum or accident trauma. Try the Rectal/GI surg department maybe.

    Anyway anal sex remains dangerous, damaging, and dumb. Now if someone is still stubborn and stupid enough to want to do it anyway, go ahead. In the loonnnnnngg run Darwin sorts all.

  • 61. LeoPardus  |  December 2, 2009 at 8:22 pm


    You play the role well. 🙂

    It’s one of those elementary philosophy conundrums.

    Persons A & B cannot both live. In fact their current state is such that their continued coexistence will cause them both to die within X weeks. Person A cannot survive no matter what. Person B has only one chance to survive, and that involves killing person A. What do you do?

    It seems easy. We’re sorry for person A. In the case of a child in the womb, we had this one worked out long ago. Even in the first half of the 20th century, abortion to save the life of the mother was always recognized as acceptable and necessary.

    Of course, now I can play devil’s advocate and say, “Yeah. But what if persons A and B are potential transplant donor/recipients?” Is it so easy now?

  • 62. Joe  |  December 2, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    In regards to anal sex (from above conversation) it definitely is harmful. I get it once a year from the IRS and it always leads to frustration and tears.

  • 63. LeoPardus  |  December 2, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    Yes. I find the IRS anal to be extremely taxing.

  • 64. Joe  |  December 2, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    LOL. “The IRS– an anal space audit-y”

  • 65. Joshua  |  December 3, 2009 at 11:34 am


    Joe you crack me up.

  • 66. Joshua  |  December 3, 2009 at 11:41 am

    Of course, now I can play devil’s advocate and say, “Yeah. But what if persons A and B are potential transplant donor/recipients?” Is it so easy now?

    Haha, moral condundrums make so much more sense to me now that I understand evolution. Our minds are trying, desperately, to figure out what is going to cause the least amount of end harm. Truth is: we never know because we cannot see all ends. So we just do our best.

    It is so nice that eternity is not at stake in my decisions now and I am not 100% responsible for the situations I find myself in, I’m only responsible for the effort and intelligence I put into resolving them.

    The bigger moral question is whether I should give unto ceasar my gold now or my ass later…

  • 67. Scott  |  December 3, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    How did we get from the 7 steps of deconversion, thru anal sex to the IRS?

  • 68. Joshua  |  December 3, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    I’m thinking the 8th step should probably be Irrelevance.

  • 69. Joe  |  December 3, 2009 at 8:42 pm


    It is a logical progression. The next thought in the progression is not to chew on aluminum. 🙂

  • 70. Joe  |  December 3, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    I should say aluminum foil.

  • 71. The Nerd  |  December 4, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Interesting. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • 72. Brent  |  December 5, 2009 at 6:36 pm


    It isn’t quite as clear-cut as you make it out to be. Your list in comment #60, for instance, comes close to being true for me. I have changed my stance on about 3.5 of the 5 items you list (anal sex was never a moral issue to me, just an uappealing choice, and I have to split pre-marital sex and extra-marital sex.) The timing doesn’t neatly coincide with my deconversion–they happened over the last eight years (I finally shed the horse-collar about two years ago.) But the change was in my attitudes toward others. I recognized that my morals are mine alone, and I have no business forcing them on others. And, more importantly, barring a legitimate others’ life, liberty, or property, neither does the government.

    We can go round and round about abortion, but the fact remains that without a religious or emotional appeal, it is extremely hard to make that case. That’s why it is possible to be personally against abortion, but pro-choice.

    Even the one thing on the list that I find patently immoral–extra-marital sex–is really only an issue for the individuals involved. For instance, it is not my place to look down on people living in open relationships (I’ve known several of those.) An illicit affair can be an indicator of a lack of judgment, but I’m not in favor of turning people into pariahs over them.

    Drugs are sort of the same. A legitimate public safety argument can be attached to them, and I support the government making sure that people aren’t driving under the influence, just as they do for alcohol, and employers ensuring people aren’t impaired on the job.

    So basically, the change is to my attitudes toward others, and my morals have remained largely the same (insofar as they apply to me.)

  • 73. LeoPardus  |  December 5, 2009 at 6:56 pm


    I’m inclined to agree with you a fair deal. I think morals are essentially where any person draws the line of ‘harm’. If people think that gay marriage will rend the fabric of society, then they would obviously be very opposed to it. Conversely you won’t be opposed to it if you think it won’t do society any harm at all.
    That’s really how I judge the issues I brought up.
    Anal sex: harmful to participants; bad; don’t do it. (Of course if you’re still dumbshit enough to do it, don’t ask for sympathy when the piper calls.)
    Abortion: that’s a living human whose life is being taken with no just cause or due process.
    Drugs: if it really stays in one’s own house, I’d not care, but the harder drugs don’t do that very well. Users can suffer long-term damage; they come outdoors and play badly with others.
    Elicit sex: disease, unwanted pregnancy, jealousy, etc. Of course I’d go along with you regarding couples who are cool with one another having a fling. If that’s how they want to run their relationship, OK.
    I think I just set my line in a different place from most folks and for different reasons. I look for data and try to apply it. I think it’s a congenital condition with me.

  • 74. Brent  |  December 6, 2009 at 10:54 am


    I think that’s right on point. We all set our lines differently. But those lines apply only to ourselves. To try to drag others to our line is as much a folly as to try living at someone else’s.

  • 75. Joshua  |  December 6, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Oh, now. Don’t be silly. There’s nothing futile or wrong in trying to get someone else to our line. That’s what discussion is all about.

    In my opinion, it is folly when we assume someone else already knows our own standard and furthermore assume they are intentionally breaking it.

  • 76. Brent  |  December 6, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    I should clarify. I meant dragging by force.

  • 77. LeoPardus  |  December 6, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Right. Dragging someone to your line, or demanding that your line MUST be THE LINE for all is folly. Of course discussing why we place our lines where we do, and trying to convince others to move closer to our line, or convincing ourselves to move our own lines, is a great thing.

  • 78. Scott  |  December 7, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Line? What line?

    I was looking for a half-full glass when you guys start talking about a line!

    Now I gotta start all over 😉

  • 79. amy  |  December 15, 2009 at 10:24 am

    I would have placed “Learning” first as it was always my curiosity and tendency to question and explore other religious/nonreligious views that is probably what ended what little vestiges of faith I had in the first place, thus bumping “Loss” to number 2.

    I would place at number 3 “Relapse: in which the grief of loss in number 2 drives the person back to religion in hopes of getting back the sense of purpose, meaning, and mystery they lost.” I skipped 5 with people I knew personally and kept that on the internet plane–blogs, discussion forums, etc. I hope to avoid 7 entirely–having a “near hatred” of religion sounds very consuming and I’d rather save my energy for more enjoyable pursuits.

  • 80. TheLaughingMan  |  December 17, 2009 at 9:21 am

    I did feel loss. But mostly because I can’t blame god anymore. It still feels strange, but also strangely liberating.

  • 81. Deb  |  December 29, 2009 at 12:38 am

    (I admit I didn’t read all the comments yet.)

    I feel a sense of relief. I now believe that my beloved grandmother who died many years ago is NOT going to burn in hell forever and ever because she wasn’t “saved.”

    But I also feel a sense of sadness, because I no longer believe that I will be able to see my deceased father (or others) again someday.

  • 82. Orientation for new believers | Reason To Stand  |  May 21, 2010 at 8:04 am

    […] pretty much the opposite of this list recently posted on a group support website for former […]

  • 83. BigHouse  |  May 21, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    It must be frustrating when your blog gets zero discussion unless it’s a deconvert dismantling your flimsy srguments. I’m not sure why else you continue to link to us heathens.

  • 84. Spencer  |  March 24, 2013 at 5:29 am

    Im stuck between the first phase and fourth. Im angry but also very depressed feeling no meaning for life and now have an indifference to death.

  • 85. Scott  |  March 24, 2013 at 8:50 am

    I understand your feelings. It takes a while to find your footing in your new life. It’s been almost 4 years for me and I still find myself getting irritated with my former leaders when I think about the things I did and believed. Please note that I am now just irritated, not angry, so that’s progress. The indifference towards death was a relief for me. I no longer worry that everything I do/think/say is going to be judged. I can just be “me”.

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.



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