I’m Dani Kelley,

and I do lots of things.

No more faith: the whys and why nots of my deconversion.

Image courtesy of freeimages.com.

It’s really rare for people to ask me why I deconverted from Christianity. Like, really rare. It’s way more common for them to assume they already know, whether they’re talking to me while they’re expressing this assumption or not. However, in a single week, I’ve had two separate unaffiliated people ask me a variation of the same question about the role fundamentalism had in my deconversion. Of course, I’ve been trying to figure out my deconversion for the better part of two years. Perhaps it’s time for me to work out of my thoughts here with you.

A quick note: this is a rather long read. I wanted to be as thorough as I could while concentrating on the points below, so I’ve tried to make it as easy to scan as possible.

Having been a devout believer for my whole life until recently, I’ve been privy to how people react to the “falling away” of a brother or sister in Christ. I’ve had many of these assumptions myself when friends and acquaintances left the faith. As I’ve gone through the deconversion process and observed others who have done the same, I’ve realized that most of the reasons Christians tend to assume someone leaves Christianity are either completely false or confusingly misplaced. So I’d like to cover reasons that most certainly aren’t why I deconverted, while also exploring with you what things did contribute to my change of belief system.

Before I get started, if you haven’t read Captain Cassidy’s excellent post, “Here’s Not Why I Deconverted,” that’d be an excellent starting point. Many of these talking points overlap with hers.

Reasons that aren’t why I deconverted.

I’m an extra-special snowflake who just wants attention for my rebellion.

Unfortunately, people really have accused me of deconverting (and also writing about my life in general, actually) for the sole purpose of believing myself to be super special and wanting attention. The “wanting attention” thing has come up constantly over the course of my life, generally in response to me talking about any trauma or mental health problems I’ve experienced. It was lobbed at me for my eating disorder as a teen, for my multiple suicide attempts and self-injury habit, when I started talking about being sexually assaulted and struggling with PTSD, and especially when I started writing more publicly about the doubts I was having about my faith.

This isn’t an uncommon accusation to make of a woman having public opinions or taking up space. It’s also really insulting, actually. As if I was really bored one day and decided, “I know how to make people pay attention to me! I’ll renounce the faith I’ve based my entire existence on! That oughta do it!”

Unsurprisingly, this accusation tends to come from people who both don’t know me very well and feel somehow entitled to control me — a rather unfortunate and dehumanizing combination. Anyone who actually knows me will tell you I’m not a rebellious or attention-seeking person by any means. In fact, I’m actively attention- and conflict-averse. I don’t enjoy concentrated scrutiny at all, particularly the negative kind abandoning my faith seems to have attracted from many I hold dear.

Ryan Bell, of the Year Without God fame, wrote a fantastic post that kinda dovetails into what I’m talking about here, entitled “I’m not bitter and I’m not rebelling.” It’s well worth the read and helps demonstrate that this kind of accusation is pretty typical from believers when one of their own leaves the team.

Speaking of being part of the team, another common insinuation is that…

I was never a serious Christian.

This is a variation of the No True Scotsman fallacy, or as Neil Carter from Godless in Dixie writes, “You were never really one of us.” It’s also a major indication that whoever thinks this has never known me at all.

I’ll never forget talking to a supervisor at one of my first jobs. Conversation had turned to our personal lives and I mentioned my faith. The immediate response was, “Oh, I know you’re a Christian. It’s not hard to tell.” I remember the profound relief I felt that my relationship with Christ was so easily detectable.

Ironically, in the immediate aftermath of the publicizing of my deconversion, I was equally relieved to hear a dear friend tell me that her first thought was, “If Dani can leave, anyone can.” It was so validating to hear acknowledgement that my faith was visible and self-evident by the way I lived my life…so any abandonment thereof wasn’t just chaff blowing away.

Those who knew me well as a Christian ought to be able to testify that I was absolutely dedicated to Christ above all else. All you have to do is peruse #MyFundyJournal to see evidence that I strove to be conformed to the image of Christ through Bible study and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. I was quite well-versed in the apologetics of my denomination, particularly regarding gender-specific issues (just ask me about the headcovering sometime). I was active at my assembly, attending every meeting I possibly could and fellowshipping with the other brethren, even lending my musical skills to congregational accompaniment when I was needed.

But more than the things I did, I was truly and passionately dedicated to God. I took very seriously the command to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. This led me to willingly and joyfully attended Bible conferences, Bible studies, prayer meetings — and even attend a week-long missionary orientation program. Not only that, but as I said in a recent post, whenever I felt like something in my life was getting in my way of my relationship with Christ, I would remove it. The music I listened to, performing music publicly, friends I felt were a worldly influence, colleges I wanted to attend — in my mind, there was no contest between these distractions in my life and my love for God.

I’m not saying I was perfect. I had my fair share of thorns of the flesh and temptations that I regularly confessed and worked to eradicate from my life. What I am saying, though, is that my faith was real and observable. My love for God and my fellow believers was real. Which leads some to conclude…

I just wanted an excuse to sin without guilt.

According to many in fundamentalism, women just don’t enjoy sex. It’s almost as if we’re not supposed to. (I personally think this says far more about what kind of lovers Christian patriarchy teaches men to be by virtue of the subservient role women supposedly fill, but what do I know?) I mean, there are exceptions to this. But the number of times women told me and my peers approaching our wedding nights that sex was something we did for our husbands, not ourselves, and to not expect much pleasure at first if ever…it’s deeply troubling, to say the least.

So perhaps it makes more sense that it was considered the height of depravity that as a 21-year-old, I had consensual premarital hanky-panky — and liked it. I’ll give you a moment to clutch your pearls or roll your eyes, whichever you see fit.

If you're not already reading David Willis's excellent web comic, Dumbing of Age, I suggest you remedy that immediately. Seriously. Start here.

If you’re not already reading David Willis’s excellent web comic, Dumbing of Age, I suggest you remedy that immediately. Seriously. Start here.

I’m sure that many can point to my, ahem, “sexual struggles” as reason for leaving the faith, or at least as a starting point. In some ways, though, they’d be right about my wanting to escape the guilt of my sin — if only because our viewpoints on sin are wildly different. This isn’t a concession to this point by any means. I’ll touch on it again in a moment. Also, let me remind you that I was 21 years old, an adult whose sex life was literally no one else’s business.

But considering consensual sex was such an egregious sin that I was expelled from my fundamentalist Christian college after spending 3 separate “counseling” sessions with elders from the local assembly, then two of my closest friends at the time began treating me like I had a contagious sickness and started making decisions for me since I’d proven I was untrustworthy, I suppose it’s somewhat understandable that some people then leap to the following assumption:

“Bad” Christians drove me away.

It’s this question that two people have asked me within days of each other. “Do you think you would have stayed a Christian if it wasn’t for fundamentalism and how you were treated?” It’s also not unusual for people from my past to lament to me that I had such bad experiences. The implication is clear: if only I’d really experienced True Christianity™, perhaps I wouldn’t have strayed.

To be honest, I find this both puzzling and a little insulting, depending on the person and context. I was taught to look beyond the personality and actions of fellow Christians, particularly authorities. Instead, I was to try to glean from them anything that may have come from the Lord. Which is exactly what I did.

So when a high school peer scoffed at me for placing any blame for my depression and suicide attempts on those who relentlessly bullied me, I decided that God was trying to teach me personal responsibility. When a mentor told me that to experience fear in the wake of my sexual assault was to deny the sufficiency of God’s love, I took it to heart. (Of course, repeating “God hasn’t given me a spirit of fear” in the face of every post-traumatic stress episode served only to make that phrase a trigger.) When my best friends told me that I was untrustworthy as a non-virgin, I told myself that they were acting as iron to sharpen me.

Internalizing these and hundreds of other microaggressions over the course of my life was of course traumatic. I can see that now. But at the time, I had neither the experience nor language to recognize or describe it that way. I deliberately accepted these people and their words as part of the perfect will of God. Even if they had intended it for evil, I believed God intended it for good. At no point in my most sincere Christian faith did I ever think the actions of my fellow Christians were driving me away from the heart of God. If someone was a worldly influence, I simply separated from them.

There was a period of 2-3 years where I decided that fundamentalism wasn’t for me. I figured God’s presence in fundamentalism was a bug rather than a feature. During those years, I befriended many of the “right” kind of Christians according to the people who ask me this question. The kind of Christians who strive to follow the heart of the gospel rather than the letter of the law, who are concerned with the well-being of the least of these and engage in social justice liberation work. Many of these people remain close friends to this day, and we work together to make Christianity and the world at large a safer, kinder place. Ultimately, for reasons to follow, this Christianity just didn’t fit.

In light of the above, the answer has to be no, I don’t think bad Christians or the wrong kind of Christianity are responsible for my atheism. Of course, I can never definitively know, because that’s just not the life I had for so many years. But I can say with reasonable certainty that I would have lost my faith no matter what.

I’m just angry with God.

When I started writing about my experiences with sexual assault and mental health problems, along with publicly analyzing the affects my childhood faith and experiences had on me, many of my fellow Christians became very concerned — not that my experiences had happened, but that talking about them somehow indicated bitterness and anger toward God. No amount of reasoning with them would dissuade this belief, so eventually I stopped trying.

You know, I really can’t honestly say I’ve never been angry with God. I touched on this a bit in an old guest post: upon realizing my teacher had witnessed my attack and chose to sit back and watch, it suddenly occurred to me that God had done the exact same thing. More than that, I realized He did it on a daily basis in allowing tragedies and injustices to thrive around the world.

That absolutely did shake my faith, and it did make me doubt God and His goodness. But more than that — it lent more credence to the nonexistence of such a deity than it did to the existence of any deity supposedly concerned about the world.

What I think people fail to understand is that my anger both then and now isn’t targeted at God at all. It’s targeted at the belief that an all-loving and powerful deity can be said to exist and blithely allow horrors to happen to the world at large and even His children while still demanding love and worship. It’s targeted at the belief that evil is permitted to make room for some greater good — a greater good that conveniently can neither be questioned or even observed in this life. It’s anger at how the idea of God is used to justify the complacence of His people in the face of tremendous injustice at home and abroad. It’s anger at the cruelty belief in such a God creates. It’s anger at injustice and those who willingly allow it to happen.

So…why did I deconvert?

That’s a fair question. And a hard one. But I think I’ve narrowed it down to three major components. They all sort of happened together, in a big ball of wibbly wobbly timey wimey mess. It’s difficult to separate them from each other, but it’s the most sense I’ve been able to make of the whole ordeal of the past several years. These reasons won’t convince everyone, and that’s okay. Deconversion, like faith, is a very personal and individual matter. There’s even some overlap with a few fallacious reasons above. Like I said: wibbly wobbly, timey wimey, big ball of mess. Nevertheless…

I saw the logical conclusion of a biblically literalist Christianity.

I’ve said before, though perhaps not on this blog, that Bob Jones University showed me the depravity my version of Christianity led to. In almost every way, outside of beliefs about church order, we were theologically compatible. I can’t pinpoint what exactly opened my eyes, any specific incident. But it was while I was there that I realized, suddenly and with no going back, that our Christianity necessarily demanded perfection from believers. These people, these “sheep,” if they weren’t fortunate enough to be one of God’s annointed, were systematically subjected to humiliation in the name of Christ if perfection wasn’t attained. This humiliation was ruthless, exact, and sometimes led to excommunication from all they held dear. This Christianity promised love and acceptance and peace, but instead manipulated, separated, and wreaked havoc in the lives of those unable to conform. There was no basic respect. There was no concept of consent. There was nothing but a tattered and flimsy umbrella of protection offered only to those who toed the line. Everyone else was left to rot.

This shook me to my core. It was utterly incompatible with the unconditional love and forgiveness I believed to the be true heart of my faith, the true heart of God. I was left reeling for years after this revelation, caught between intense fearful shame created by aforementioned humiliated excommunication and intense anger that they were getting things so desperately wrong.

So I did what I was supposed to do. I read my Bible to find peace and reconnect to its author…only to find the same manipulation and intolerance for humanity in pages once beloved. I explored other denominations…until I realized every doctrinal creed I came across contained the same toxic threads of the fundamentalism I was trying to leave behind. There was the ever-looming figure of an all-loving God who was somehow both near to the broken hearted but working in mysterious ways we weren’t allowed to question. Such an absolute authority, above reproach and not subject to the morality He imposed upon His creation, was not a safe, good, or reliable person. Unsure where to turn, plagued with implications I couldn’t quite reconcile, I began meditating on my personal experiences, my observations about both Christianity and the world beyond, allowing myself to really address questions I’d been suppressing for years. I came to realize that…

My experiences and observations didn’t line up with the “basic truths” of my faith.

I’ll never forget a college instructor of mine that I really liked and respected. He created exactly the kind of learning environment in which I thrive. He was kind, compassionate, patient. Everything about his character and behavior said to me that he was a Christian.

Except he was an atheist.

I wrestled for years with how to match the genuinely good character of this man (and other atheists I met along the way) with my worldview. After all, the Bible declares only the fool says there is no God. There is no good man, apart from the grace of God. In fact, morality and goodness can’t even exist without God! Right?

I began to see, time and time and time again, that the absence of belief in or obedience to God did not in any way lead to evil or detract from good. Combined with my experience at BJU, where I saw belief in God inextricably tied to manipulation and abuse, I was forced to conclude that morality clearly exists and even thrives without divine influence, while evil clearly exists and thrives among “God’s people.” Dan Fincke, of Camels with Hammers, has written a really fantastic post about God and Goodness that’s simply a must-read for those who insist God has a monopoly on goodness.

I swear to you, Tangled is a great big giant metaphor for deconverting from Christianity.

It was this realization that made me realize there was probably no going back for me. Observing morality without God called into question the definition and purpose of sin (which freed me from false guilt I’d carried for that consensual sexual relationship). Even the need for a deity in the first place was no longer a given, or even something that made sense. In fact, the more I learned about science and philosophy and history from actual experts, not untrained preachers in my denomination or unaccredited unfounded assertions from the clearly biased authors of my BJU Press school books, the more I realized that the world simply wasn’t the place I was taught it was. It wasn’t dark and selfish and cruel. Christianity, like Mother Gothel, was wrong about the world. And, like Rapunzel, I was unwilling to continue to hide myself and be used to support something that was increasingly demonstrably false.

I couldn’t intellectually honestly engage with a non-fundamentalist Christianity.

As I said earlier, I tried for a few years to delve into a friendlier, more loving and accepting Christianity that focused on doing good in the world rather than separating from it. But the same toxic threads from fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity kept popping up in those better Christianities. The same deity who was supposedly goodness and mercy and love personified, even identifying with the oppressed, was still a deity unable or unwilling to interfere in global or personal atrocities. He was still unable to make Himself known in a quantifiable or clearly identifiable way, still insisting on obeisance and loyalty without showing receipts that these things are even owed Him. Certainly, the Christians who adhere to this form of Christianity are intelligent and sincere. But the claims they were still making about their deity, their holy book, and the world at large weren’t claims that could be proven in a concrete way to me. And at the end of the day, my faith comes down to whether there is evidence enough to convince me.

Despite all that, I did try to immerse myself in progressive Christianity. I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the desperation I felt to remain in some form of Christianity. But I had giant roadblock: I’ve been taught so well how to engage in fundamentalist apologetics. I’ve tried to read the Bible from any other standpoint, to understand passages and see patterns I wasn’t taught to interpret through a Plymouth Brethren lens. I just can’t. I wanted to so badly. I tried to for years. But with the biblical training I received, I simply couldn’t justify being part of a Christianity that wasn’t the Christianity of my youth. And so, with the addition of the previous two points in the mix…I couldn’t justify belief in any deity whatsoever.

These things swirled in my mind for the better part of my mid-20’s as I battled with my desperation to believe in God anyway. But when push came to shove, leaving the faith just wasn’t a deliberate choice. Captain Cassidy once again demonstrates this better than I think I would be able to, in her post “Choices that Aren’t Actually Choices” while also demonstrating why continuing to live a lie was no option for me:

I couldn’t choose to believe again in Christianity any more than someone over the age of ten could choose to believe again in Santa Claus, or start believing in the gods Cthulhu or Hionhurn the Executioner. I know too much; I’ve seen too much. At best, I’d just be forcing myself to say the right words and behave the right way. I suspect that’d be perfectly peachy with the Christians who say this stuff to me; even I used to think, when I was starting to doubt, that by going through the motions I’d brainwash myself into sort-of-believing again. Living that kind of a lie is a misery I would not inflict on my very worst enemy, and it obviously didn’t work anyway. I couldn’t force myself to un-learn what I’d learned or to un-see what I’d seen. It’s hard to imagine a more dishonest way to win a convert than telling someone to “fake it till you make it.”

Belief isn’t something that can be forced. Belief happens when enough evidence has piled up to warrant belief. Growing up in a Christian environment as I did, I was taught to interpret the evidence around me in a specific way that supported belief in the Western Christian fundamentalist God — I had no reason to doubt so long as those explanations held up. But when evidence began piling up that didn’t support my concept of God (or any concept of any deity), doubt was inevitable. It wasn’t a choice made to garner attention. It wasn’t that I was never a true believer. It’s not that I just want free license to sin, or that bad Christians turned me off, or that I just have a grudge against God. So when the evidence became such that I could no longer ignore it or explain it away without having to lie to myself and others…my faith naturally fell away, changing my life forever.


Related reading:

The journey in and out. “There had always been a disconnect between what I was taught and what I observed and experienced, between blind faith in invisible things and repeatably testable evidence. But as a child, as a teen, even into early adulthood, I wasn’t given the words to recognize the disconnect, or even the tools to inspect or deconstruct my beliefs to see if there was any merit to them outside of wanting them to be true.”

 

  • Thank you so much, Dani, for your honesty and courage. I needed to read this. I don’t think any of my deconverted friends have ever told me so clearly and openly about their journey away from faith. Hugs to you.

  • This was amazing. Thank you for writing it. Gorgeous. Hope it helps a lot of folks. And it didn’t even feel long. ;)

  • Volkai

    Welp, it’s a bummer that your faith fell away.

    But it’s okay. From what I read, I think you’re probably doing okay without that faith.

    And, really, that’s what matters.

  • I am still a Christian but could still relate to much of this. It’s hard to remain active in a faith that’s filled with some of the most insensitive, un-Christlike people. Best wishes to you in life and stuff :)

  • Ken_From_Chicago

    First, I believe as long as free will exists, no one can make you believe that which you don’t choose to believe. The best I or anyone can do is show you evidence of what we believe and it’s up to you to decide if we have shown you sufficient evidence to be “proof”.

    That said, a lot of people have claimed to be Christian without being Christ-like. A lot of people claim to be “men of God” or “Godly people” yet act contrary to what Jehovah God has actually said in the Bible. And many people have cherry-picked Scriptures of the Bible to support their own interpretation of subjects while ignoring other Scriptures that reveal that their interpretations are at best flawed if not completely wrong.

    The Bible reveals that a lot of popular beliefs about it and about God are wrong, while answering–with actual satisfying answers–a lot of Big Questions people deeply want answered yet have given up on: Why are we here? Why do we die? What’s the point in life? What happens after death? And of course, one of the knottiest: If God is truly all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful and always fair, then is so does pure Evil run rampant around the Earth throughout all human history?

    Let’s put a pin in that question and come back to it, while addressing a simpler question:

    — Is it okay to question God?

    To question God is disrespectful if not outright heresy, at least that’s what some people believe. Yet the Bible records Job questioning God, asking: Why do the wicked live long and prosper? (Job 21:7) While I’m pretty sure Job was not a Trekker, much less cribbing from Mr. Spock, the question itself has been asked in many variation throughout history. The prophet, Habakkuk, questioned God, asking why God looked on silently while wicked people deal treacherously and even conquering righteous people (Habakkuk 1:13). And Jesus Christ asked God, why he had forsaken him (Matthew 27:46).

    Many people would be shocked or even offended at hearing those questions yet if we read the surrounding verses of those Scripture, there’s no evidence that God was offended by those sincere questions. Often people have confused sincere questions with challenging questions, where someone is making an accusation or trying to undermine another (Numbers 16:1-3; Genesis 3:1-5; Exodus 15:11). Yet for sincere questions, Jesus said to his disciples, to keep on asking (Matthew 7:7; compare Philippians 4:6,7).

    — Can atheists be moral? and can “God’s people” be evil?

    How can atheists be moral? Actually, the Bible shows that entire nations can develop a moral code without being followers of God because we all have a conscience (Romans 2:14,15). Being imperfect, our conscience would be imperfect also, not to mention, we are also influenced by our own figurative heart, which can mislead us (Jeremiah 17:9)

    Can evil exist among “God’s people”? Yes. Mere weeks after being delivered from Egypt by the parting of the Red Sea, the Israelites betrayed God to worship a golden calf (Exodus 32:1-6). Despite years of association with Jesus Christ even being chosen as one of the 12 apostles, Judas Iscariot betrayed him (Matthew 26:14-16). Satan and his demons were originally angels who were literally in God’s direct presence yet they rejected him (Job 1:6; 2:1; Revelation 12:9; Genesis 6:1-4; Jude 6; 1 Peter 3:1,20).

    Believing God exists does not necessarily make someone a follower of God or even a good person. Many have said that if I could just be show incontrovertible proof of God’s existence then I would always follow him–but that’s not how free will works. Seeing is not always believing and believing is not always doing. People can have faith and not have works. Or worse, Jesus even foretold that an apostasy so great would occur among his followers that for a long time you wouldn’t be able to tell his true disciples from false ones who merely claimed to be his followers (Matthew 13:24-30). However Jesus did note that his true followers would be known by love, for God, for each other, for their neighbors and even for their enemies (John 13:35; Luke 10:25-37; Matthew 5:44; 7:12).

    — Why does God allow evil to exist?

    Lastly, why does God allow evil to exist? Doesn’t he care? Yes, he cares about our suffering (Proverbs 6:16-19; 1 Peter 5:7). The answer is found at that at the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis 3:1-5. There, Satan’s challenge to God was that humans can rule themselves independently of God and do as well as under God’s rule. How do you counter a challenge like that? God has allowed humans self-rule for thousands of years to show how flawed it would be.

    Meanwhile God has not just sat back idly while this has gone on. He has worked to undo the damage Satan caused that resulted in Adam and Eve choosing to sin. As God had warned them, the wages of sin was death (Genesis 2:17; Romans 6:23). While Eve was deceived, Adam was not fooled, but chose to sin anyway (1 Timothy 2:14). Through the sin of Adam all his descendants inherited our sinful, imperfect condition (Romans 5:12). Adam sinned, as a perfect man, but died as an imperfect man (Genesis 5:5). He was not able to completely pay the debt and none of his offspring could because we were all imperfect (Psalm 49:7,8). However right after Adam sinned (and tried to lamely blame Eve and even God for his sin, (Genesis 3:12), God arranged for a “Seed” to be humanity’s salvation (Genesis 3:15), “Deliverer” of humanity from sin and death, in Hebrew, a “Messiah”, and in Greek, a “Christ”.

    God’s first-born son, Jesus Christ, who helped create all things in heaven and earth (Colossians 1:13-16), would be the one who would undo the works of the Devil (1 John 3:8) when Jesus would die as a perfect man and balance out Adam’s sinning as a perfect man. That is what John 3:16 means when it says God loved the world so much he sent his son to die for us, and if we exercise faith in Jesus, we can have the benefit of this sacrifice applied toward cancelling out our sin and gain everlasting life. It’s as if humanity had been kidnapped by sin and the ransom paid by Jesus’ sacrifice (Romans 3:23,24).

    Okay, but if that is true, it’s been 2,000 years since Jesus’ death, why does evil still exist? Jesus said the meek would inherit the Earth (Matthew 5:5), and yet there’s a lot of wicked people large and in charge. Jesus was quoting Psalm 37:9-11, which says that evil-doers will be wiped out–then the meek shall inherit the Earth. Having arranged for this ransom sacrifice, God has arranged through his son, for this good news to be told around the Earth and then would come the end of a world filled with wickedness (Matthew 24:14).

    Jesus foretold the last days of this world would be like in the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37-39). Often times people say that the first time God destroyed the world with water and this time with fire (2 Peter 3:5-7)–yet fail to note an important point: The actual planet, Earth, survived. The “world” that was destroyed was people, and not people. Those who chose to heed God’s warning survived. Those who did not heed the warning, did not survive.

    Ultimately, while the future in broadstrokes is foretold, we, as individuals, have the free will to choose our own futures (Deuteronomy 30:19; Joshua 24:15).

    The reason for so many Scriptural citations, Dani, was to dispell the notion that I was some big know-it-all guru, but to direct attention to the Bible itself and to demonstrated how the Bible answers so many of our questions. While you said that the Bible was a source of comfort for you but that you were seeing the same toxic themes you were seeing manipulation and intolerance of humanity in its pages. Perhaps a different consideration of the Bible on your terms might shed a new light on it for you.

    http://www.jw.org/en/video-bible-study/

  • I honestly don’t know how to respond to this. For one, this comment is literally the length of a blog post. I really can’t adequately explain how overwhelming waking up to a 1300-word comment is.

    For another, your comment is chock full of assumptions, some of which I covered in this very post, like I was just the wrong kind of Christian, or an insincere one. After all, maybe I just need to read the Bible your way, try your flavor of Jesus. Surely the problem is with me!

    You assume that belief is a choice, which it fundamentally is not. Can you choose to believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Santa Claus? Odin? Why not? What would it take for you to believe in those things? Maybe evidence?

    You assume that the Bible is evidence of your particular God without showing any receipts whatsoever. Appealing to the Bible as an authority without proving its validity is utterly meaningless to me. Essentially you’re saying, “The God of the Bible is real because the Bible says so!”

    You’re blithely unaware of the entire point of my post: people attribute reasons for my atheism all the time, and so I’m finally explaining why. I’m not content to let others tell my story. Yet you decided to use my story and my space as both a platform for your unfounded assumptions and an opportunity to implore me to reconsider a conclusion that I came to through years of meditation and study after being firmly on your side in the first place. It’s frustrating at best and utterly disrespectful, and I can’t help but think of this image that perfectly illustrates your comment.

  • Ken_From_Chicago

    First, I am truly sorry that I offended you and caused you harm. It was not my intention. Nor was it my intention to blame you as a “wrong” kind of Christian. I apologize for not making that clear in my comment.

    My intention was to show a different perspective on subjects, especially the three factors you attributed to your de-conversion in the hope you might see things in a different way. Clearly you disagreed with that perspective–which you have the right.to.

    I felt like I was hearing someone complain about years of pizza that they ate for years from a food court mall as a child but as an adult, suddenly noticing, how stiff and cardboard the crust, how watery the tomato sauce, how dreary the cheese, and just wanted to offer one of Chicago’s best pizza to reconsider.

    Again, I’m sorry for the disruption on my part and wish you well.

  • You’re still assuming and asserting that I just need to try your pizza — and totally ignoring that living on nothing but pizza isn’t healthy at all, even if it is really good pizza. Using your analogy, I grew up on crappy cafeteria pizzas, thinking that was all there was, then suddenly discovered an entire world of food that didn’t make me sick the way pizza does, and now I’m going to make sure people know there are other sometimes healthier options than pizza.

  • Well-written. Congrats on your journey, and props to you for seeking truth, and living honestly.

  • Dani – as an agnostic theist – a believer who has many doubts about the
    details, I wrote the following on a Facebook group that I am a member of
    (TLS) without reading the comments:
    “This has to be one of the best articles of its kind that I have ever read.
    I’m going to consider how best to include a link on my blog”.

    Only
    afterwards did I read the comments from Ken and found myself wondering
    how you would react. To me he was just showing that he has no
    understanding of the reality of people who reject that sort of bullying,
    and those who describe themselves as Spiritual But Not Religious who
    just cannot accept the inerrancy of the Bible.

    I’ve recently been
    updating my blog telling something of the story of how I have been
    questioning the teachings of the Christian RELIGION ever since I was 13 –
    and that was more than 65 years ago.

    I hope you don’t mind but
    I’ve added a link to your post towards the end of “My Story” –
    https://outsidethegoldfishbowl.wordpress.com/my-story/

  • Ashley Bockstanz

    Hello! I just recently came to the conclusion that I too cannot put my faith in Christianity. I know how I feel about the subject, but to describe how I feel and what I’ve come to believe to many of my friends and family causes me to get tongue tied and frustrated. Thank you so much for putting words to the feelings that I’ve been having on the subject!

    I have a meeting with one of my closest friends this coming Friday. She is confused and hurt at my disappearance from church and I want her to know what’s going on and that I don’t intend to return to church. I know that she’s going to be sad and that she’s going to try to convince me to return to church and seek God, You know, the sad thing is that it would be so easy to go back to the old hum-drum trying to ‘fake it till I make it’ and pray nobody finds out what unChrist-like activities I’ve been up to. It would be easy, yes, but it would be a lie. I’ve been faking it, going through the motions, and being a general crappy ‘Christian’ for a year now. I don’t regret any of the decisions or life choices I’ve made except for the fact that I’ve been playing the role of a hypocrite because it’s easier to lie about maintaining faith than it is to be honest about how I’ve come to be an atheist.

    This post has been helpful in giving me words to my thoughts and feelings and I feel much more comfortable knowing that others have and are going through the same problems and ‘guilt traps’ as me. It makes it easier to stand by my convictions and be able to explain myself easier to others who ask about it.

  • Charlie Johnson

    Thanks for your post. I think we went to BJU together and might even have some mutual friends, but I found you through CC’s blog. Love your writing.

  • whitpoitevint

    thank you for putting words to many of my inward battles. It is so confusing to go from “inner circle leader-Christian” to outsider agnostic. This deconversion has been the most freeing thing I’ve ever experienced. After a huge (public) life shattering event a year and a half ago, I was finally free to weigh and ponder the questions that have always ruffled my supposed peace.
    Figuring out how to explain the process to those I love? Exceptionally difficult. You helped clear the fog. :)

  • Jill

    FYI I’m an ex-fundamentalist progressive christianity lurker, and I love Captain Cassidy’s– and now your– posts. Thanks for the honesty.

  • Jill

    Another FYI– Ken from Chicago is promoting Jehovah’s Witness doctrine. That was my childhood flavor of literalist belief.

    I always advise people uninterested in their dogma to tell them to take you off their proseltyzing list. Witnesses are supposed to honor your request.

  • Pingback: So Why Did I Deconvert…? | Absit Invidia: No Offense Intended()

  • Thank you so much for this article. I feel like crying tonight just trying to explain to an old friend why I no longer believe. And it’s impossible, he is just shutting down any possibility of sincere and compassionate conversation.

  • I know this feeling, and it’s an awful feeling. You don’t owe people an explanation, just so you know. You’re not obligated to explain anything you don’t actually want to explain, and it’s totally okay to say, “You’re being rude and unkind. This conversation is over.”

  • Pingback: Observations about relationships in Christianity. - Dani Kelley()

  • Arturo Gutierrez

    Really good post. It reminds me of this user on Youtube called Evid3nc3. He has a series of videos were he explains in amazing detail his process of deconversion. He explains it all in a really thoughtful, honest, and many times fun manner. I recommend it if you want to experience a similar journey from another person.

  • free

    Hi Dani. I also went to BJU but I have the scars from all 4 years. While our backstories are different, I’ve had a lot of the same questions and experiences as you when it come to faith. I’ve read this post several times now and it all rings so true with me. The one paragraph that really resonates with me is, “The same deity who was supposedly goodness and mercy and love personified, even identifying with the oppressed, was still a deity unable or unwilling to interfere in global or personal atrocities. He was still unable to make Himself known in a quantifiable or clearly identifiable way, still insisting on obeisance and loyalty without showing receipts that these things are even owed Him. ” I’ve had trouble with this thought process for a long time and you put it into words so well. It’s hard for me to admit that I don’t believe anymore. More often than not, I just shrug my shoulders and say, “Who knows?” Thanks for writing about your journey out of faith in God. Those of us who are on the same path need to know we’re not alone.

  • You’re very welcome. It’s such a difficult road to navigate, and I’m glad we don’t have to do it alone.

%d bloggers like this: