Monday, May 4, 2009

My Deconversion Story

I've read various accounts of how people became atheists, and it occurred to me that I have never posted my deconversion story. Mine is nothing spectacular, but it seems like the atheist thing to do, so here it is.

I grew up in a conservative Christian family. And when I say "Christian," I mean the type of believer whose faith rests in the ultimate authority of the Bible, and the necessity of personal salvation through Christ. We had a narrow definition of Christian, and didn't consider most who used the term to actually be Christians at all. For example, most Catholics did not qualify as Christians in our version of Christianity. We went to non-denominational "Bible-believing" churches. They usually did not have an actual pastor or preacher, but rather church elders. The main Sunday service was unstructured. Members would simply read and talk about Bible passages, initiate the singing of hymns, or pray, in a more or less haphazard fashion until the allotted time for the service came to an end. This service also included communion, and the taking of an offering. There was also a separate teaching service, Sunday school, and another service at night. A prayer meeting was held Wednesday night.

As a child I went regularly to pretty much all church services, with the exception of the prayer meetings, which were for adults only. On Saturdays we often had some church-related social activity, and our family friends were mostly fellow Christians. After dinner at home we usually read from the Bible, or other Christian devotional type materials. Memorizing Bible verses was another activity I remember doing. Other than Sunday School, most of the Church services were pretty boring for a kid. But I loved to read from a young age. So while I sat in all those services I read the Bible. I liked the Old Testament a lot, particularly the books with violent histories of the kings and leaders of Israel. Revelations was another favorite. But over the years I read the entire Bible multiple times.

I didn't question the fundamental truth of Christianity when I was young. But even as a child, I rapidly realized that many elements of theology were open to interpretation. As I got a little older, around 10 or 11, I started to disagree with certain things, form my own views, and looked for other theological reading materials. I read various books from the church library, and I loved Chick Tracts -- the little Christian propaganda comic books. I started paying more attention to any speaker at the church who seemed exceptionally knowledgeable. One in particular that I remember had advanced degrees in theology, and made reference to the Greek New Testament and Biblical source material. I was interested in more than just simplistic explanations, and wanted to really understand the faith, so I liked hearing from people who knew what they were talking about. I had a strong interest in history and learned all I could about the foundation and development of Christianity.

But by the time I entered high school, my faith was starting to slip away. I started to see faith as simple-minded belief that covered up glaring logical inconsistencies. Reading the Bible repeatedly led me to question many things. Many of the core concepts of Christianity, such as sin, the Trinity, the meaning of the crucifixion, and the Christian idea of God himself, made less and less sense. The more I thought about them, the less probable they seemed. There was simply no evidence that any of it was true, and I found it impossible to continue believing in something so illogical. Somewhere during my high school years I became a deist. 

When I was Christian, and as I became a deist, I also had a strong interest in the occult. As a Christian I read everything I could about the occult from the Christian perspective, and then in high school I started to read actual occult material. My interest expanded as I entered college. and I went through a phase where I toyed with the idea of paganism. I was strongly interested in ceremonial magic, such as that practiced by the Golden Dawn. But after a couple years of interest -- nothing serious, just mainly reading -- I came to realize that my interest was based on wishful thinking. I found the idea of magic, secret knowledge, ancient rituals, and multiple gods to be fascinating. But there was simply no evidence that any of it was real. My interest in the occult died out. My deism remained intact and was reinforced as I headed to graduate school. 

Through my years in graduate school my deism became agnosticism, as I started to question whether or not there was any God at all -- even a remote creator God of the universe. Eventually, maybe six or seven years ago, I'm not really sure when, I realized that if someone asked me the question: Do you believe in God? My answer would be "no." At that point I faced the reality that I was actually an atheist. I was probably an atheist well before that point, without actually admitting it to myself. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that not only was I an atheist, but also a materialist. I no longer believed in the supernatural at all, in an afterlife, or in the human soul. Years of extensive thought about these matters have only served to strengthen my atheism. If I were asked to name one thing more than any other that caused me to be an atheist, I would say reading the Bible. 


  1. pretty much my story, except we were the catholics. (catholics, btw, do consider other groups to be christians, they just think they're crazy.)

    never read the bible too carefully, it will destroy your faith.

  2. Thanks for sharing your story. I was raised as a protestant Christian, too, and began having doubts at a young age. I'm always interested in hearing about others with similar experiences.

  3. PersonalFailure,

    "never read the bible too carefully, it will destroy your faith."

    That's definitely true. It seems to be even more true for biblical scholars who really delve into the source materials.


    I always find these kind of stories interesting too.

  4. Thanks for sharing this story, I hope more people of like-mind will begin to step forward and put their experiences out there. Humanizing the atheist/agnostic communities can go a long ways towards a more respected view of our beliefs by those who currently view them as satanic or evil.