Monday, January 07, 2008

A deconversion story

Here's a deconversion story from

The first paragraph: "I broke free from Christian fundamentalism in April 2006. I was a third year student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. This seminary is considered by many to be the intellectual hub of evangelical seminaries. The president of the seminary, Dr. Albert Mohler, has been called "the leading intellectual voice for evangelicals in America." He has been a frequent guest on Larry King Live, debating controversial topics such as gay marriage, abortion, religious tolerance, etc. Dr. William Dembski also teaches at the seminary, who is widely considered the world's leading proponent of Intelligent Design. Dr. Dembski was my professor in the fall semester of 2005...."

What's makes this very interesting is that the former-Christian also includes several e-mails sent to him by his pastors, after he told them.

Here is an excerpt:

"Gabe lets cut to the chase here---what drugs are you on? Is it cocaine again?--I know you told Ryan you used to snort. Are you on meth? Smoking weed? What is it Gabe? No Christian in the history of creation walks away from the faith in the manner that you have. There is always a sin issue!! ALWAYS! I will not except this garbage that you just stopped believing because of some doubts you had. You can tell me that all day long and I don't except that Gabe."

In our research on deconversion, we've found that Christians' responses to initial doubt often serve to further alienate the doubter.

Thank you Edward for the link!


Mark said...

I have never heard of anyone actually rejecting Jesus. If you dig down into their story what's really being rejected is some human invented religious doctrine that was passed off as God's word.

Markus Watson said...

I think what he's rejecting is the very thing that's illustrated in the pastor's response--judgmentalism, belittlement, legalism, etc., etc. I think a person can absolutely reject Jesus, but I don't think it's usually because of Jesus. It's because of the people who have represented Jesus in that person's life.

kent said...

Why is it we cannot simply listen to the person and let them tell their story without trying to fix them immediately? Why is it we cannot let them have doubts and questions? Why can't we explore those issues and have a conversation? Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.

Jay Livingston said...

Heresy is threatening because religion is based on faith not facts. If someone said that gravity was a wrong idea, it's unlikely that physicists would be very upset. It's only ideas that are on shaky factual ground that have to be defended by attacking infidels, issuing fatwas, etc.

Apostasy is especially threatening because it reveals that doubts exist even among the believers, who repress these doubts to the point of thinking they don't exist.

Whenever some group rushes to attack some idea and those who propose it, the stronger the attack, the more I suspect that the attackers themselves have doubts which they cannot allow into consciousness. The veneer of orthodox certainty is ultimately very brittle.

Me, I prefer a religion or group that allows for ambivalence, doubt, and ambiguity.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Speaking of how they treated him, how about how God allegedly treats Christians, chastizing those whom he loves? I recall reading a verse in 1 Cor. about how "many" had fallen ill or even had "fallen asleep" [died] because they dishonored the Lord's supper. Paul apparently believed that God supernaturally intervened and caused "many" to "fall ill among you or fall asleep" as judgment for not worshipping in a serious enough or charitable enough fashion. In Acts a couple are struck dead after lying about having given "everything" to the church. And there's verses about sending people out of the church, declaring them to be "anathema" so that their flesh may be destroyed and trusting God that such folks will come cringing back again.

How does one react to such verses, assuming one believes that what Paul said was true, and the story in Acts as well, or the promise that people's flesh would suffer, forcing them to return to the church?

Sounds kinda like superstitious and fear-based authoritarianism. So it's no wonder to me as to how he was treated by his church if they knew of such holy verses and examples of "church discipline."

Brad Wright said...

I think it's right that the pastor illustrates the problem with response.

Sometimes listening is the most important thing (not that I'm any good at it...). In a situation like this, it would go a long ways.

Good questions, Edward. I'll defer to the more theologically-advanced to answer them.

Brad Wright said...

Jay, I think that you're right that people react strongly to other's doubt out of their own insecurity about their own doubts (you didn't actually say this, but it may be close).

Not sure that I would hold up scientists, physical or social, as a group that is open to doubt or ambivalence... There's a lot of bad blood in academics over disagreements that involve doubting each others assumptions.