Why Oh Why Can’t I?

Why do I do this? Why do I strive with believers who sometimes seem impervious to logic? Why do I care?

This appeared in my Facebook feed yesterday. I don’t think Pastor Chuck knew I saw it.

PastorChuckThere were a number of things that troubled me about this post, honestly. But the item I’ll focus on is this:

“He is dear to me – but is quite outspoken in his atheism.”

How interesting. I had no idea that, while I was supposed to let my light shine, and not hide it “under a bushel/bowl” (Matt 5:15-16) as a Christian, now having left that behind, I’m supposed to shut up and not say anything? My being outspoken is a problem?

Actually, for them it is a problem. Earlier, shortly after my deconversion (and yes, Chuck, that is what we call it, because we have done exactly that) another Christian friend, whom I’ve referred to as Titus, actually urged me not to share my thoughts with other believers for fear I would lead others to fall away. I don’t recall his exact words, but he told me that it was okay if I didn’t want to believe for myself, but that if I led others astray, I risked the Wrath of YHWH for leading others astray. He actually quoted Matthew 18:6 to me:

If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Now, forgive me a touch of mockery, but if I don’t believe in any of that, how is that supposed to scare me? And if I’m wrong and already going to Hell to suffer eternal torment, how am I supposed to be upset at qualifying for the Extra Torment version? Is it going to be even hotter? Will there be those around me who kept quiet and therefore are enjoying a slightly milder torture temperature?

In all seriousness, though, I’m disturbed by the fact that Chuck and others have consistently criticized not only my non-belief, but the fact that I’m, and I quote, outspoken, vociferous, brash, and an attention whore. Titus even told me that I wrote all this just to hear myself talk. I’m sure that I’m supposed to take all the in the spirit of love and caring, as it’s meant, but I wish they could somehow hear themselves with other ears.

Why is it a virtue for a Christian to speak up and be vociferous about their faith, but a something to be criticized when one is not a believer? Surely this falls under the same arrogance that drives their perception of Truth. They believe that, because they’re Right (with a capital “R”) that they should, and have every right to, shout it from the rooftops. But because they think we’re Wrong (another capital letter) we should keep our mouths shut. Yet another rank double-standard.

And I haven’t even gotten into what it’s supposed to mean for me to be defeated and come to the end of myself. Now I tend to be prickly, so it’s tough for me not to see that as some sort of wish for calamity to befall me in order to wake me up to my need for Jesus or somesuch. T is pretty sure I’m wrong about that and, as my wife, it’s her job to always be right, so I’ll go with her on this one.

So why do I do this?

Well, there are a few reasons.

One, I’ve always been outspoken. Always. I’ve always spoken my mind, for good or for ill. So whether or not I believe, I will be speaking my mind. Believers and non-believers alike are welcome to listen or to not listen. I’ll still be saying my piece.

Two, a little selfishly, I have a lot to process. Twenty-six years of religious thinking doesn’t lend itself to a smooth and easy transition to living comfortably in a rational mindset. Plus there are little scars and detritus littered all about my life and the life of my family. There are also nice parts left over too. Part of this is processing through the refuse that needs to be left behind while holding onto the very human and positive things that occurred during my time in that community. I’m also processing the parts my own psychology and emotional issues played in my accepting belief, persisting in belief, and finally giving up that belief. This is my way of processing those things.

Three, I have come to believe that religion is a drag on the progress of society and the long-term survival of the human species. The religious mindset discourages the precise sort of rational, long-term thinking that we will likely require to survive terminal population growth. If we don’t destroy ourselves with ideological and religious wars and conflicts first, we will outgrow this planet and will need to find new homes within our solar system and eventually beyond. How can we as a species focus on such massively important scientific progress when we still have 40% of our population believing the world is 6,000 years old and that we all descended from an immortal couple who became mortal because a talking snake told them to eat fruit from the forbidden tree?

But the best reason, in my book, is this: We non-believers live in a country where we are a minority, and in many, perhaps most communities, are discriminated against, vilified, and treated with open derision. Our rights to religious freedom (and freedom from it) are openly and disrespectfully run over roughshod by the Christian majorities in these communities. We are outcast by our families and our friends. We are treated as pariah, as interlopers, as unworthy citizens. Sometimes, in the midst of all that bullshit, we need to know we’re not alone.

I’ll share a few comments I’ve received over the past year or two:

From Peter:

Thanks for telling your story. I am still working through the process myself. I have not yet been prepared to call myself an atheist. But my faith has crumbled. I have pulled out of church leadership and stopped attending services, though the church folk think I am having a bit of a break.

I suspect it is to do with my personality, I crave certainty and tend to a pessimist. I still have a lingering worry that I might be wrong in my conclusion that the Bible is a human creation. So I find it hard to act based on what every part of my intellect tells me, really. But I know I will need to follow what my mind tells me, as I can no longer see the Bible as divine.

Thanks for stories, such as yours they help people like me to make the same journey.

I really do admire your wife, she seems to be a most wonderful person.

He’s also quite right about my wife. Smart guy!

From Quixie:

Thank you for sharing your story. It was very well written and easy to follow but, more importantly, it makes me feel completely normal. Okay. Not a freak. Not alone. So thank you so much for that.

From Sheri:

I am beyond happy to find this Blog. I feel alone in this journey of mine. I have kept this a secret. I just told my husband last year and now I have given hints to my teenage children. I do not outright say my doubts, I just throw questions out there. I will admit, I am fearful that I am wrong and Jesus is our salvation and I have condemned myself to hell and possibly my children if they follow in my footsteps.

From Tasha:

I’m so thankful for this blog. For the better part of 4 years I haven’t spoken to my family more than the typical cordial holiday greetings and birthday wishes. They are devout Christians and I am on the cusp of my own complete break from the chains of the faith. I’ve never felt supported by my family in any way. Before my father married the woman he is with now he never pushed religion on me in any way. Then when she came along I was forced to go to church, forced to pray, forced to cancel my astronomy class because I’m not supposed to “look to the heavens,” forced to dump my mixed race boyfriend because “even the bible says the races shouldn’t mix” (her exact words). Even as a child I knew that all of these things were completely asinine but under their roof I better not ever say that out loud! I love my family but religion has made them nasty, ugly, judgemental, unsupportive people that I simply love from a distance. I too feel like Poppy that I’m alone and that if I admit my non-belief to anyone I will be looked at like a freak or a demon even. I’m waiting for my breakthrough but until then I will continue reading 🙂

From Poppy:

Anyway … I wanted to let you know that I’ve enjoyed reading your blog this afternoon. Conflict or no, it’s good to know I’m not sitting out on an island by myself talking to a volleyball named Wilson even though it sometimes feels that way.

From jim (sic)

I’ve been reading your blogs with much interest and delight. After calling myself a Christian for over 50 years I have recently renounced the faith. I basically came to the same conclusions that you have over a period of about 5 or 6 years. It all started with research for sermons (lay pastor) that I was preparing. One thing led to another, one question led to another, one book led to another and when my reading led me off the prescribed grid my eyes started to open. I fell off the wagon with much pain and soul searching but off the wagon I came. It has been very difficult to explain my position to my wife and friends who are still Christian so I mostly just keep my mouth shut. It’s good to know that I’m not alone. Thanks for you writing.

From SecretSally70:

I’m pretty much in the closet about my faith (or non faith lol) when my husband talks to me about it…. He says he thinks I was never saved now. And the stories I read from others.. They probably weren’t ever saved either. It’s frustrating because I want to talk about things that don’t line up straight about God, and I mostly get dismissed because the only conclusion…. I was never truly saved.

I love your blog… Yours was the first that I found. You helped me to see I’m not alone. Christians do not understand how hard this is and how frightening it is to say you no longer believe . Don’t let his unkind words bother you. I know there are so many like me that are so happy we found you!!!

If there’s ever a reason for me to do this, it’s comments like these. While I’ve been fortunate to be in an environment that’s much more accepting, many are like some of these folks who are utterly alone and scan the internet because they’re afraid (and have been told) that they’re abnormal, that they’re freaks, or even demons. Then they see that they’re not alone. Not only do they see what I write, but the many thoughtful commenters who’ve also tread the lonesome road of non-belief.

So yes, I blog for myself, for my own peace of mind, but I also do it because I know I’m not alone, and I hope others will also find some solace and comfort knowing they’re not freaks or demons, and that they’re very much not alone.

39 thoughts on “Why Oh Why Can’t I?

  1. I’m with you, Anthony. You’re not alone. This growing number of defectors exists for a reason, and it is good that it is growing. We are all starting to discover the truth. And we are “outspoken” in our atheism because we want others to discover the truth, too. Keep on doing what you’re doing, as I will, as many of us will…and someday perhaps more and more will “defect” to the good side.

  2. This is a great post to leave a first comment on.

    I found this blog through Quixie; I still find it weird that I get more recommendations to follow Christian blogs than to find deconversion blogs. Maybe part of it is because WordPress still doesn’t think it’s a word.

    At any rate, one of the reasons why I blog is because of the deconvert blogs I found at the tail end of my faith too. The FB comment by Chuck illustrates exactly how people who leave the faith are pressured to keep quiet. That sort of treatment is why I blog anonymously. He asked for you to be “defeated,” like it’s some sort of military encounter. To carry that analogy further, he wants your capture and bondage back to their camp.

    If you and Chuck have messaged each other on FB before, and unless he’s exceptionally absentminded, he knows you’ll see that prayer request. That makes it a passive-aggressive stunt to ask you to stop talking about leaving the faith…without asking you directly. Personally, if I still had a FB profile, I’d throw up a message on my wall talking about how great a day you’re having today and how only being godless could have made it possible.

  3. What caught my attention is his wish that you be defeated. I know a lot of people who have a naturally religious frame of mind but have turned, not to atheism, but to various forms of pantheism (complete sometimes with prayers to St Michael and other spirits, to Jesus and other prophets, to Spirit with a capital S and the auras that surround us and God knows what else — never to space aliens — OK, almost never) and none of these people, when contending with family members that pray they will change direction back towards the Lord they moved away from, wish for anything so mean. I hear a lot about praying people will follow the lights that will lead them where they need to go. I never hear about prayers that they be defeated.

  4. It is encouraging to see the tide turning on Belief. I am most encouraged by a Facebook page called “I Am A Proud Atheist” that is written almost entirely in Arabic script. I imagine some is Arabic, some Farsi, I really don’t know. Some of it is proselytization from Muslims who want their people to return to faith, as you might expect. But I suspect it is mostly a welcome oasis for people living in societies where using your natural-born mind is a lot more dangerous than it ever could be here.

  5. It’s touching in its way that he is also concerned about your readers. I do not doubt his sincerity. When 9/11 happened I was attending church. Our congregation was unanimous in praying not just for the victims, but for the terrorists and their families and countrymen. Unsurprisingly, certain atheists in the newsgroup we frequented back then refused to believe me.

    • That is a good point, and the vein T encouraged me to see it in. I don’t doubt that he sincerely cares, from his particular point of belief. I think it’s what belief does to the caring, and how that would look to an outsider without your and my perspective 🙂

  6. Well, Chuck will soon realise that God does not really care about you and us, readers and deconverts. Their prayers will fail, with two conclusions posible: their faith is to small to get God moving or God doesn’t want to be moved. I could have told Chuck before because God had all his changes to keep me saved, while i was in period of great doubt. He knew how seriously my efforts have been, to be a good christianboy, for about 30 years. Praying every day: “that i will do Your will and not mine. Teach me how to that, oh Lord. Teach me how to pray. Etc”. God could have had it all ( and i was under the impression (indoctrination) that He had it all in his hand).
    During my period of great doubt , the silence was deafining. At first scary, but later on i realized that it was in fact always that quiet. I only did see what i wanted to see (or what i was indoctrinated to see). All my prayers are still floating around in the cosmos somewhere.

    The stories of the deconverts are powerfull. We know how it is to be indoctrinated. We know all the arguments to use against the non-believers. I’ve done it myself many times. Fooled myself and others with “intellectual” christian ramblings.

    I live in The Netherlands. Religion is already much more to background than in the US. It takes much more coureage for you guys and girls, to come out of the closet as an non-believer. Much respect for that!

    • Yes, of course you’re right. It’s a strange thing over here, the stunning surprise of believers when you tell them you don’t believe. I’ve had people say so many things that were weird, yet predictable – You’re just angry – Well, then where did everything come from? – How can you be a good person? – How do you teach your children morals?

      They’re certainly all working from the same playbook, and I don’t mean the bible. I mean the Christian Cultural Bias.

      T and I really want to spend some time in northern Europe and get a taste of that secular culture. It must be refreshing.

  7. You’re so brave Anthony. I do not ever see myself fully coming out… I have so much at stake that I have to remand silent. Lol, I’m even waiting for my children to return to school so I can blog my journey.

    I had questions in my mind for years… What was amazing…. When I found you and others, you all had the same questions!!! I was in shock! I never Googled it or spoke to others… It was so comforting to find you.

    Keep up your work, please!!!! And don’t worry what people like Chuck say!!

    • Sally,

      I’m sad to hear of your husband’s reaction. No True Scotsman is such a tired trope.

      If you want to stand your ground / pick that fight, you can point out all the fruit in your life before that demonstrated the sincerity of your belief, his and your own past belief that you were saved, and likewise most all of us deconverts. If you/we were never saved, then he can’t know that he is, either. No one could ever know until they died without defecting.

  8. I’m sure Chuck sincerely believes he cares and is doing the best for you but his FB status post is really upsetting. It reminds me of a FB email that a Christian friend of mine sent about her unbelieving husband. She shared with every single one of her Christian FB friends about her husband’s “struggles with faith” in the name of prayer. Even though I was still very much a Christian at the time I was appalled. I wrote her back (privately) and told her that her husband may not appreciate her sharing this information with all of her casual aquaintences. I just thought it was so disrespectful and gossip-y. Sure, she wanted her husband “saved” but more than it seems she wanted to talk about her husband’s flaws (unbelief) and get support that she was on the right path in trying to convert him.

    There is something very disconcerting about this idea that others are banding together in prayer to break your spirit so that you can join the Christian Club. It very much reminds me of the Borg from Star Trek:

    Oh, and btw, thank you very much for the mention! You have helped me very much so.

    And…I love the song you linked. That song has always given me hope. I’ll give to view The Wizard of Oz again from a non-theist lens. I’m sure that’ll be interesting.

    • Yes – that’s a perfect example, Quixie. There’s something unsettling about putting someone on blast (as my daughter terms it) in a place like FB. At least he didn’t use my name, although he made it clear to one mutual friend who he meant.

      It’s that talking about me like I’m not there.

      He actually IM’d me this morning to make it clear that he intended for me to see that. He thought the number of folks *concerned* and *praying* would impress me somehow. I did at least tell him that their baseless assumptions from ignorance were no more than amusing and often disappointing.

      But the assumption that I’m broken, damaged, less-than – that I’ve committed a wrong… ugh, that’s what disgusts me. And of course he can’t see it. I think I’ll go on thread and invite everyone to come to the page and give me their best argument, with some caveats… I’ll have to think about that.


      • Ugh, OF COURSE he wanted you to see it! If there are many “godly” witnesses you are obviously in the wrong, man, and definitely need to repent. 😉

        Yes, it’s really odd the things I was concerned about as a Christian. Things that were NONE of my business, like people’s spiritual beliefs or their sex lives. Ugh. I’m disgusted with the old me, but really amused at the same time.

        Knowing what we know about why Christians are so concerned (our lost souls and all) what can we do about it? Anything? Is there anything we can say to convince others that their “concern” is a bit offense? The optimist in me really thinks there must be some way to “get through” in communications.

        When you say “go on a thread” do you mean invite the Christians to comment? That sounds like walking into a lion’s den, so to speak. That sounds really brave, but if you are up for it go for it! Just let me know how it goes. I’m not sure I’m up for debating myself, but I’ll bring some popcorn and enjoy the spectacle. 😀

        Or did you mean you were going to have some atheist friends respond to your former pastor’s post? That sounds even more entertaining!

  9. Loved this post, arent Christians sweet 😂😂

    Its all that peace, love and understanding they are supposed to have😏 i cant take anymore

    Many thanks for a great read from a loud atheist 😈😈


  10. Pingback: Recover From Faith First | Amusing Nonsense

  11. This is interesting, and i wonder if Chuck did a little self-reflection he might discover that his intentions are not honorable. A 2014 study indicated that over 1.2 million people will leave the church in the next year, approximately 3,500 hundred people a day. According to the Christian Post, in 2015, it is estimated that over 10,000 churches will close their doors.

    What this is all about, IMO, is job security. Yes, your wallet is dear to him.

    • Well, I know Chuck pretty well, and to be truthful, I doubt he’s worried much about his livelihood. He’s near retirement for one, and he’s never been that much of a cynic. He’s a pretty sincere guy, even though I think he’s very wrong in his sincerity.

      That said, the threat/exodus you mention probably does greatly concern him (he implied as much, of course) but more from a spiritual sense rather than a temporal/fiscal sense.

      To me those figures are heartening. We need rationality more than ever.

  12. I clicked over here from SB’s blog…and I’m so glad you refuse to be silenced. I was one of those people completely alone when I lost my faith last September. I was in serious mental anguish and had a great deal of trouble coping until I stumbled onto an atheist’s blog (violetwisp’s place). I could finally have conversations with people without being condemned, and these internet friends also supported me so I could stand up to the christians who were mowing me down. I do not believe my sanity would be intact without this help and support. Speak loudly and freely, as is your right, and help countless people who are trying to break away from religion. I am trying to return the favor by speaking loudly myself.

    As for your pastor, I’m rather alarmed he prayed for you to be “defeated.” By saying such a thing he has set you up as his enemy, and this kind of thinking is very damaging to those of us who leave the faith. Christians can’t just let us live, many of them want to silence and cow us completely. It is WRONG.

    Some people may have to stay silent for good reasons, but for those of us who can speak against religion loudly, we should. I do, others do, and I’m glad you will too.

    • Thanks for visiting. And you’re right – they can’t just leave well enough alone, because we’re not just defectors. Our defection is a threat to the indoctrination and the dependence on the church they try to foster.

      And yes, it does make me feel like an enemy. As he is also a friend, I can see through that to what he’s *trying* to say, but the language implies something else for sure.

  13. This reminds me of the review I did of Veggie Tales’ Rack, Shack and Benny (if anybody isn’t familiar, it’s a religious kids show and that episode was a silly take on Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego). It was a fun story, but of course the whole theme was “stand up for what you believe in.” Rewatching it as an atheist, I realized for the first time that nobody was actually getting praised for standing up for their beliefs, just for standing up for beliefs that happened to be the ones the authors approved of.

    • Right – you’re not praised for standing up for your beliefs. You’re praised for standing up for their beliefs they’ve imposed upon you or indoctrinated you into. Otherwise you’re supposed to shaddap.

      No can do 🙂

      • It pleases me to report that when I left choir, my pastor understood and respected my reasoning, that I could no longer proselytize something I did not have in my heart. When not long after I also left the church, the pastor’s love and respect were in no way diminished. He was tearful, but he was loving, and wished me all the best.

        With all this talk about Christians who come across as a little lost (i.e. controlling), I feel I’ve been very lucky to know a few who walk the walk pretty well.

  14. Heh, I’ve lost track of how many “good Christians” have told me they’d “pray for me” when they learned of my paganism. I don’t exactly trumpet it from the rooftops, but I don’t hide it, either. I just live it, and, well, when someone finds out and asks I tell them. I’m pretty sure you saw how some of our Usenet buddies started attacking me and others when we came out of the broom closet; we were the same people they had known online for years, but now that we’re calling ourselves “pagan” we’ve morphed into someone unrecognizable. I have one coworker who isn’t shy about trying to impose his narrow views on others, and he’d think very differently of me if he ever found out; he gets positively giddy when he learns that I’m working on his shift – he’s a night shift pharmacist – but the only thing he’s ever heard me say about anything personal is that he really doesn’t want to know what kind of music I listen to outside of work 🙂 He’s never said anything about the big Halloween raffles another coworker and I have put together the past few years – last year’s included a life-size jointed skeleton – but I know he was the one who got the Halloween decorations the pharmacy used to put up taken down, because they were “celebrating Satan” or some such rot.

    I’m pretty sure, though, that in some cases they’re just “doubling down” on their beliefs, out of fear that they may not be as secure in their faith as they think they are. Questioning one’s beliefs isn’t easy, as you know, and losing that certainty is frightening to some. Some of us embrace it and revel in it; my personal beliefs have evolved tremendously in the past 15 years since I embraced my inner pagan, and will continue to evolve as I continue in this life. To a fundamentalist Christian, that’s a very disturbing thought, so they have to try to make us “see the light”.

    You keep on telling it like it is, Looney. And if you ever find your way down to the Anaheim area, hit me up and we’ll do dinner or something.

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