Author Archive

Religious Disenchantment Narratives and the Arts Dissertation

My name is Philip Francis, a doctoral student at Harvard Divinity School, writing a dissertation on religious disenchantment narratives and the arts. I am posting here to see if there are any readers who would be willing to contribute to my project a short memoir of their experience of leaving the Christian fold, making particular note of the role of the arts, creativity, literature, beauty or aesthetic experience (broadly conceived) in this process.

This memoir could be sent to me directly at or posted here. Questions about the project may also be directed to my email address.

The following are some basic guidelines and starter questions, but approach the writing anyway you like.

The memoir may be as short or long as you like and assume any form. It may be signed or anonymous.

Others have found it useful to structure their memoir as follows:

1. The Unsettling: reflect on your experience of the forces and factors that unsettled you from the system of beliefs and practices that you once held in a dogmatically unassailable manner. Were the arts in any way a part of this initial unsettling? Feel free to cite specific examples from the arts and literature, or your own creative projects…

Continue Reading May 17, 2009 at 5:41 pm 7 comments

Dear God,

I realized sometime ago that I don’t talk to you like I used to. The most praying I do these days is the same nighttime prayer I’ve prayed since I was a child. I don’t even say grace before meals anymore. Not out loud, anyway. It’s just the little rhyme Mom taught me, and it’s usually when the first forkful is already in my mouth.

I don’t even know if I miss you. I don’t know who I’m supposed to miss.

Somehow, though, I still believe in you. Somehow, I still hope that you care and are doing something about the state of the world. It would be nice to know that you loved me and really did do some of the things they say you did. But I won’t hold my breath.

I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way, but I guess you know that. I mean that I’m not going to hold out for a sign from you before I live my life. I don’t think I’ll ever fully know or understand your will, so I don’t really see a point in continued attempts to grasp it through prayer and biblical interpretation. I’m just going to keep going, and keep hoping that it will all be okay with you in the end.

You might remember the conversation I had with M. (We’ve been going out. Fellow agnostic theist. It’s been awesome, thanks. :D) We were talking about heaven, hell, and judgment. And I said that a usual scare tactic is a Bible verse about the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” by the people who are shut out, in darkness. Nobody wants to spend eternity weeping and gnashing their teeth, right?…

Continue Reading March 23, 2009 at 11:34 pm 30 comments

Reconciling the reality of my experiences with church teachings on life

My de-conversion came about as a result of trying to reconcile the reality of my experiences with what I had been taught by the church about life. In reading others’ stories I see a lot of common threads. So I know that I am not alone in that my slide into nonbelief started with “being hurt”. I used to think that if the church (of whatever creed) would listen to those of us who had suffered as a result of trying to live its teachings, that maybe a lot of de-conversions could have been prevented. I no longer believe this.

Basically, I was brought up Catholic, the conservative kind. On the way I detoured into a Jesus People group, the Charismatic Movement, and a couple of others before I finally gave up on organized religion.

Ok, so why did I leave? Well, it is a long story. I have a condition called Asperger’s Syndrome. Some of you may be familiar with it, some of you may not. It is a form of autism. Except that when I was growing up they did not call it that. We Asperger’s people can be very intelligent but we suffer from social deficits. I did not realize that I was different until I started school. That’s when the persecution began (and I do not use the term lightly). Here is my view on school prayer: I went to a Catholic school where they went to Mass daily and I went to a secular public school where God was mentioned not at all, and I was treated equally badly in both. Not one adult in authority ever stood up and put a stop to what was going on. In fact I had one teacher who joined in the persecution and actually encouraged the class to pick on me…

Continue Reading March 21, 2009 at 6:18 pm 16 comments

Suppose God does exist. I don’t need god. God doesn’t need me. I’m okay with this.

Leaving “the faith” was a long process for me, around seven years to be exact (the universe has a funny sense of humor). It started with my questioning the concept of sin. At many times during my Christendom, I wondered why something I did was wrong. I could not reconcile how something that I enjoyed, something seemingly harmless, could be grounds for damnation. Furthermore, I could not reconcile how honest mistakes, such as letting the word “god” or “Jesus Christ!” slip, could be grounds for an eternity of torture and punishment. I also didn’t understand how simply believing something could change the rules.

For a long time, I simply just ignored those raging questions or accepted the Sunday School answer that god didn’t like it anymore than us, but that was just the way it had to be. As time went on it became more difficult to ignore. With each Sunday the questions screamed at me louder until I could not longer ignore or accept the answers given to me. Being born into “the faith,” I was attached to all the notions that Christianity (more so fundamentalist Christianity) had given me. Because of this I blamed the church first. I thought that the nature of sin had been distorted.

I rationalized that a sin is not so much an action that is inherently bad but rather it was the result of that action that granted it the classification of sin. I thought that a sin was something that brought us away from god. It made sense and was compatible with the life I wanted to live at that time. I clung to that notion for as long as I could. Slowly but surely my idea about what is good and what is bad slowly eroded. Well not exactly. They were never really my ideas. I always had my own feelings about right and wrong. Really those ideas of right and wrong I had adopted had been replacements for my true feelings on the subject…

Continue Reading March 20, 2009 at 12:23 am 40 comments

My Stumble into Agnosticism

When I first started blogging, I found it difficult to articulate my current perspective on religion. Thus, I wanted to use my blog to explain my spiritual development, my journey, and how I got to such a complicated, cosmological place. Through writing entries, and commenting and reviewing other religious blogs, I have found that I am more sure of my position than I originally believed. I now feel the strong desire to articulate clearly my contemporary viewpoints. However, my spiritual history has not yet been entirely fleshed out.

And so, I am going to continue on, explaining my spiritual development.

Through out my life, I gradually began to refute and dismiss certain religious claims.

I didn’t believe Jesus was a God. I didn’t believe I needed to confess to a Priest. I didn’t think St. Peter stood at the gates of Heaven with a book that listed who could enter. I didn’t believe in Creationism. I didn’t believe in the Garden of Eden, Noah’s flood, or Jesus’ resurrection.

It was just a matter of time before I contemplated rejecting religion all together.

Starting in high school, I started to identify myself as non-Christian. But I was still very much tied to a lot of the Catholic ethics and morals. The Catholic guilt ran through my mind everyday.

I was so conflicted with my Christianity…

Continue Reading February 22, 2009 at 12:01 am 27 comments

My Conversion and De-Conversion Story

I had a conversation with someone lately via email and they were asking about how I became a Christian and how I ended up leaving the Christian faith. In most cases, Christians do not see how someone could have been a “true Christian” if they end up leaving the faith. So, when they hear that I am no longer a Christian, they assume that I had a false faith of some kind. I wanted to briefly share my story of how I became a Christian and how I came to not be a Christian. I know that many Christians may still feel as though I was not a “real” Christian but there is not much I can do about that. The bottom line for me is that I was honestly a Christian and believed in Jesus and the Bible with all of my heart. I left the faith because I feel that I was bound by my conscience to be honest with myself about what I could and could not truly believe anymore.

I grew up in a Christian home but…was not serious about my faith as a teenager at all. I was into drugs and alcohol quite a bit and I had a pretty bad experience on some heavy drugs which scared me into stopping. As I sobered up I had this intense feeling that I was not right with God. I felt that if I were to die that i was likely going to go to hell. I KNEW what I had to do to get right with God from my Christian upbringing and so after a few “divine appointments” of meeting people who invited me to church with them I accepted and went. I KNEW that this was the right thing to do and I FELT that as I heard the gospel and responded that I was forgiven of my sin and assured of eternal life because of the atoning sacrifice of Christ in my behalf on the cross. I accepted this by faith and my life totally changed…

Continue Reading December 22, 2008 at 9:45 pm 17 comments

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Today’s Featured Link

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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