Last week, I got a note from someone who knows me but wishes to remain anonymous. I haven’t talked to this person in a very long time and he says he stumbled onto my blog and so decided to ask a few questions. I thought it would be interesting to share this conversation here.
1. In your “deconversion” (if you would even use that term), what was your greatest obstacle to walking away from your faith?
Cognitive dissonance. I saw inconsistencies with the doctrines — inconsistencies that I glossed over when I was a believer, or accepted the explanations for. But when I really thought about the answers I was given, it just didn’t make sense to me.
Let’s take the main doctrine of salvation, for example — Jesus came to die for my sins so I wouldn’t have to go to hell. I cannot reconcile the idea of hell with a loving God. I cannot even reconcile it with a just God. The punishment far outweighs the crime. Why the need to make one suffer for all eternity when you had the power to just snuff the life out? And for what crime — simply not believing, or believing the wrong god/gods?
Anyway, that was one of things bouncing around my head at that point in time when I was seriously seeking answers to these hard questions, and I couldn’t find a Christian answer that sounded right. For some reason, the answers and explanations I got sounded like excuses or just bending over backwards to accommodate the idea.
2. Did you ever consider yourself to be a Christian?
Yes, of course. At one point, I was even committed to be a full-time worker/pastor in the ministry. I was very active in the choir, was an officer/leader in fellowships, etc.
3. How would you compare the joy you experience now with the joy you experienced before committing to atheism?
I don’t know that I’ve “committed” to atheism, I’ve just abandoned my former belief. What I’m committed to is finding the truth via reason. Why reason? Well, faith is too fickle for me — how do I decide where to put my faith? Every other religion is also asking for the same type of faith (in their version of god or in their holy book).
I have also tried “just believing” in many instances and more often than not, I was just disappointed in the end, or would end up rationalizing my experience such that no blame whatsoever was placed on God. It was always my fault, my lack of conviction, my lack of prayer, and so on.
When I became honest with myself and started to really examine those experiences, I came to the conclusion that faith doesn’t work for me, and in the instances that it does, it is coupled with reason. And so I decided to put my reason to good use because apparently God gave me a lot of that (I was still a believer at this point) and I treated that as my gift, and this is where it has led me so far.
I am open to there being some sort of “god” or “higher power” or “creator” (a deist position) if there is evidence later on to convince me of it. I just cannot make sense of God as presented in the Bible.
So, back to your question of joy — there was a time when I was a Christian that I also experienced euphoric joy, especially when I was engaged in praise and worship, I look at it now as more of an induced kind of joy — like I hyped myself into it.
Now that I am truer to myself and don’t make contorted excuses for my belief, I do have a deeper joy and peace than when I was a Christian.
4. Have you ever doubted your decision?
Mildly perhaps. I just found myself thinking — what if I’m wrong about all this? Then I actually prayed and said, “Lord, I just need you to make yourself real to me. If you’re real and all-knowing then surely you know how to convince me that I’m going on the wrong path. Please, if you’re real, then let me know you’re real in a way that will silence my doubts.”
That was about a year or more ago. I’m still waiting for the reply.
5. Do you get annoyed with Christians like myself asking questions like this?
No, I don’t. I actually appreciate it a lot. What gets me really pissed is when people I know (friends and relatives) listen to rumors about me and they go on and spread more rumors or ask questions from other people who are equally clueless, until everything is twisted in the end. They could have just dropped me a note (as you have done) or email me (my email address appears in my column every week so it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out) or just set a time to talk to me and ask me their questions directly. I’d be more than happy to answer those.
6. Do you have any regrets about the path that you took to reach this point in your life?
Not really, except perhaps that it took me too long to really embark on it. It would probably have saved me a lot of angst and confusion earlier on.
I have some earlier writings which deal with this if you want to take a look:
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.
Andy Uyboco is a businessman, trainer and speaker. If you have other questions you’d like to ask, send me your email at firstname.lastname@example.org.