The first religion course I took at my liberal arts university was “Christian Beginnings,” where we did a parallel study of the gospels and followed up with Pauline texts, clarifying which definitely, maybe, and weren’t actually written by Paul. Before I took this class, many cries of warning came from the general direction of my family and my church. I was told that academia would try to teach me their worldly, “scholarly” lies and that I needed to remain steadfastly discerning, guarding myself with the Word and prayer.
I remember the doubt that inevitably ebbed as I sat through the entire semester of this course. For one assignment, I was told to write a letter from Galatia to Paul, calling out his bullshit, and I executed this task with creative fervor. It was terrifying how confidently I stood against Paul, and I could tell my professor was just as shocked when he gave me an A and wrote, “VERY Insightful, Great Work!” at the top.
If there is such a thing as destiny, I’d think I was destined for a massive break from Christianity. It took a long time and a decent amount of exposure to new ideas for me to discover what had always been true inside myself the whole time, which is that I never found the Bible intellectually resonant no matter how many apologetic books I swallowed.
Should I have been terrified of information that contradicted what I was told to be true? At what point in a Christian’s journey is it okay to face the whole wide world of information out there? What does sheltering yourself from other information really produce? Not an understanding person. Not a person who has verified a tested reason to believe. I dug in and asked the hard questions and happened to come out an atheist. Is this so wrong? What did I do that was so bad? What law did I break?
Some people move from conservative to liberal Christianity in their journeys, and I’ve wondered why that didn’t happen for me. Instead, my entire foundation was overthrown. All of the presuppositions for a belief in God crumbled. I think part of it is because I just don’t care about Jesus. I see no need for Jesus, salvation, or any of that stuff that can only be necessary for someone who starts with a belief in a cosmic power of Evil. That belief itself is not necessary. I learned about the notion of necessity and discovered how much about beliefs aren’t necessary for understanding or surviving. A belief in God is born from something perceived as necessary to a person.
You get notions like these – For anything to exist, God was necessary. Since I feel this desire for God, God must be necessary. I can’t fathom the idea of there not being a God, so God must be necessary.
All of those conclusions are false conclusions for me. God is not necessary for me. I think this was true for a long time, but I didn’t even know it. Some tell me I am having a hard time with the deconversion because I have separated myself from God. Let me ask you about the former Muslims who are having an even harder time or the former Mormons having a harder time or the former Jews having a harder time. Believe me, I’m handling this better than a lot of people–a lot of people who believed in different gods. Why is deconversion so difficult for them? Is it because we’ve all been separated from our respective gods?
A lot of “logic” is flawed, particularly apologetic logic. A lot of the logic that I followed to get out of Christianity was also flawed, but what I finally landed on because of that was the extent of my own ignorance. I wish agnosticism didn’t get such a bad rap because it is truly the position that displays the most intellectual integrity.