My deconversion has been a long time in the making. Ok, maybe not that long in the grand scheme, I am only in my mid-20s after all. By long, I guess I mean for a large portion of my life. Bear with me on the length.
Here is my story, my exodus:
I was born and raised a true, believing Christian. I bought it all with all of my being. I attended church from my earliest memories. In fact, my father was a youth pastor when I was born, though he moved on to other work shortly after. I accepted Christ at a very young age, as is typical for Protestant Christians. I was baptized when I was in about Grade 6. I went to a Christian school from K through Grade 12 and attended a (admittedly liberal) Christian University. I was a street evangelist for 5 years. I attended church more or less regularly until only a couple of weeks ago. I say that first off because I hear it is popular for Christians to argue that deconverts “were never really Christians to begin with.” I can tell you, that is pure and utter RUBBISH! My faith was real. It was vibrant. But it was also dark and full of doubt, even from the beginning. It really didn’t take much for everything to come unraveling apart. It seems the most mind-boggling part for everyone I have told is that my deconversion is not in response to some horrible experience, or some crisis in my life. Nothing happened to make me “angry with God.” It just happened. The unraveling was quick, yes, but the fraying had been present for years.
I have always been a thinking man. An academic. A trained Biologist (yes trained at that same Christian university, which was actually an amazing experience and had a lot to contribute to my deconversion, but I will get to that later). My most treasured pursuits have been science, ethics, theology, philosophy, politics, etc. This has always been the case, even as a child. I have always been a rational and logical person, though much of that has to do with the intense well of emotion running beneath the surface. Much like the Vulcans of Star Trek, logic and reason were my first line of defense against the crippling emotions tearing at my soul, longing to devour me. Depression, self-loathing, anxiety, fear. So much fear. I can’t think of a time in my life when these things weren’t threatening to destroy me, sometimes literally. It was logic, rationality and a tight leash on my emotions that brought me through.
This being said, it was only natural that when I took an Ethics class in high school, one that truly forced me to think and sort through what I believed, I drank it in. My teacher was fantastic, and really tried his best to shatter everything we ever thought we knew so that we could build it back up for ourselves. This was the first fracture. I could see the contradictions between what was required of us as Christians and what I felt deep inside, and arguably all Christians feel, was the RIGHT thing. Thus, I made moral sacrifices for the sake of logical continuity. Worldviews such as Absolutism required an unwavering commitment to keeping oneself pure from sin. A truly selfish way of living. I was CONVINCED that because I couldn’t commit a murder, I wouldn’t be able to defend the life of the innocent if it ever came to that. Because lying was wrong, I could not morally lie, even to save a life. Everything within me reeled at this idea. Protecting life was “sacred.” Of course, I refused to see the unspeakable horrors perpetrated by the Christian God in the Old Testament. More on that later. This class truly set me on my journey and was probably the most integral factor in my eventual deconversion. It taught me to hone my reasoning skills, but it also taught me, indirectly, to practice cognitive dissonance. A skill I became so adept at, it took years to break.
The next series of events was far more gradual. I enrolled in the Biology program without much thought, it seemed like a fitting stream of study, and it turns out I was correct. I took to it right away. Yes, this training was at a Christian university, but looking back, I am amazed at how liberal and open-minded the majority of the faculty was; the students even more so. In my classes, evolution was not so much taught, as assumed. A few classes took some time to lay out the facts of evolution, as they should, but rarely did they present it as a debate or something “to be discussed” or “disproved.” Now, this has been the first time I had really been exposed to the theory in much detail, but I had already been trained well enough in logic and reasoning to realize the weight of evidence. I had already been exposed to the evidence for an old earth in Middle School. It took very little for me to decide there was no way this could not be true. My reasoning was this: how could a good, loving God create humans with the ability to reason and a thirst for knowledge, and then go planting evidence across the universe that directly contradicts what he actually did? The only reasonable explanation was that he simply used evolution as his “creative tool.” If Genesis is taken as a figurative or poetic tribute to explain moral or theological truths instead of providing science, it would all make sense, right?
About that time I had been taking an elective course on the book of Genesis, and that line of thinking was EXACTLY what we were discussing. This was the class where the debate and discussion about evolution and theology occurred. I had no shame in expressing how I viewed the situation, and even wrote my final paper on how such a standpoint could be upheld. I remember the professor talking to me in his office, telling me that he didn’t envy my position, trying to marry evolution and Christianity. I just didn’t see the needlessness of God in my explanation. I was still coming to the question with the assumption of his existence.
For a while, things seemed to make sense. There were no science vs. faith conflicts, just misunderstandings of ancient texts meant for ancient peoples. It wasn’t until much later that I realized how this just didn’t make sense. I sat firmly and loftily on my high horse, thinking I had it all figured out and the other Christians were just deluded and somewhat ignorant. My faith had become a completely intellectual pursuit, and in such, took on a sort of split personality. I began to realize just how much of faith was built on emotionalization. There were precious few Christians capable of meeting me at my level, intellectually. Some did, and presented very persuasive arguments, which I thirsted for, more due to the general lack of intellectualism in Christianity than the actual subject matter. I realize now that I had no “relationship” with God. That sort of thinking always eluded me. God to me was an idea, a distant entity, not a person. Not a friend. Not a father. Thinking back, I was a Deist for much, if not all of my adult life.
I mentioned depression and all its friends earlier. These haunting emotions remained rumbling beneath the surface for much of my University career. After graduation, they began to take a dark, ugly turn. With no goal ahead of me, like graduation, to push me on, my life slipped into a blur of pleading for death and trudging along like a zombie in a perpetual state of undeath. Though I am married, my wife is not the most nurturing person and I have a hard-wired need to bury my pain deep inside, even from her. Loneliness became overwhelming. It was in this blur that we moved to a small town in the middle of nowhere Alberta, Canada.
This town is a very fundamentalist community to which my wife’s family has connections (her father was a pastor and a bible school teacher here). Having left behind all of my friends (who were becoming increasingly few anyway) and moving to a town where intellectual stimulation is about as easy to come by as a store open past 10 pm, I felt trapped. I distinctly remember begging God to end my life. It had become so painful, so unbearable, that I could stand it no longer. I was far too much of a coward to commit suicide myself. I knew the consequences it would have on my wife and her life. I couldn’t do it myself, so I begged God to do it for me. At one point this past December, I remember falling to my knees in the shower and pleading with God to “bring me home.”
This thinking dominated my life. It’s roots firmly planted in my floundering Christian worldview. I was not meant for this world. I loved this world, Nature, but I was not meant for it. I was meant for something more, something . . . other. That something would be revealed after my death, so my death needed to come soon.
When it became obvious that God wouldn’t grant me my wish, I began pleading for God to simply show up. In any way. Any form. To merely touch my lips with a finger dipped in water to alleviate a tiny fraction of my thirst. To be the friend, lover, father, or savior he promised in the Bible. I knew that the Bible talked about God providing faith to the faithless, that faith the size of a mustard seed could move mountains, that we wouldn’t be given anything more than we could handle. I held to these promises and begged God to make good on them. When I was at my lowest, a time when I freely admitted that God was the only one/thing capable of giving me the strength for anything, he failed to show up. Anxiety from work, loneliness, feeling trapped, wanting above all else to just fade away into nothingness: it all culminated one night in an emphatic declaration: “FUCK YOU! I don’t even care if you exist. If you want me COME AND GET ME!” I made a promise that I would give him NOTHING until he showed up for me.
I would be lying if I said that solved all my issues, but for the time being, I felt more confident and less anxious and depressed. I finally had the backbone to stand up for myself. To dream for something for myself and MAKE IT HAPPEN! I didn’t need to pine over “God’s Will” or wait for some arbitrary and foggy sign. I hadn’t yet given up a god of some sort altogether. I am more than willing to be corrected, but everything points towards the ridiculousness that is Christianity. How could a benevolent god allow such torment, listen to such painful yearnings and do NOTHING?! How could a perfectly loving father listen to the agonizing screams of his child and offer no comfort whatsoever. I know that my situation isn’t even that bad compared to the torture others have had to endure, and I cannot imagine how they could have done it.
I decided then and there I would search for truth, truly and honestly, on my own terms. That search lead me to books like The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, The God Argument by A.C. Greyling, The End of Reason by Sam Harris, Some Mistakes of Moses by Robert Ingersoll. Youtuber Evid3nc3 had a phenomenal playlist of videos laying out his deconversion (I’ll link below). I began to understand just how much of a monster the god of the Old Testament really was. Direct murder of countless people (Genesis 7:21-23 & Exodus 12:29). His commands to murder villages full of innocent people (Numbers 31:7-18, Deuteronomy 13:13-19 & Judges 20:48). His condoning and even ordering the rape and enslavement of virgins (Exodus 21:1-11, Numbers 31:7-18, Deuteronomy 20:10-14, Deuteronomy 21:10-14, Deuteronomy 22:23-29, Judges 5:30, Judges 21:10-24 & Zechariah 14:1-2) . Child abuse (Judges 11:29-40 & Isaiah 13:16). Murder of infants (Hosea 13:16, Psalms 137:9 & 2 Samuel 12:11-14) Human sacrifice (Genesis 22:1-18, Judges 11:29-40, 1 Kings 13:1-2, 2 Kings 23:20-25 & Deuteronomy 13:13-19). Slaughtering his own people for dumb, arbitrary, or undisclosed reasons (Exodus 21:15, Exodus 22:19, Leviticus 20:13, Numbers 16:41-49, 1 Samuel 6:19, 2 Kings 2:23-24, 2 Chronicles 15:12-13, Isaiah 14:21, Isaiah 13:15-18 & Joshua 7:15). Slavery (Exodus 21:2-11, Leviticus 25:44-46, Leviticus 27:28-29, Ephesians 6:5 & 1 Timothy 6:1-2). How could this god, the same one who claims to be all-loving and merciful in the New Testament, be who he says he is. Is God not “the same yesterday, today and forever?” (Hebrews 13:8) Even if this god did exist, he is at best grossly negligent and at worst a vicious, blood thirsty monster, neither of which is worthy of our praise or even our time.
As a scientist, I cannot deny the possibility of a god. I understand that god cannot be proven one way or another. However, it is not too much of a stretch to say there no no credible evidence for the existence of a god. Particularly not the Christian god. It just does not make any sense to believe in him. That is what I tell people: it just does not make sense any more! The Old Testament is a bunch of nonsense written by superstitious, Bronze Age shepherds in an attempt to justify their desire to conquer all of Canaan. The New Testament is just a floundering hodge-podge of mostly invented or embellished stories about some teacher whose followers couldn’t accept that he was killed.
All of this has lead me to where I am today. A skeptic. A staunch atheist. A champion for reason. A seeker of the truth. I am merely trying to figure out how to live my life honestly and morally.
Trying to be Good and Godless.
A Holy Goat.