When I Deconverted: I Was Not The Only One

When I deconverted, I was at one of the most seriously Christian of all reputable colleges in the country, and so nearly all of the friends I was living with there were Christians. And so I was constantly having the experience of telling people with whom I was close that I was abandoning the identity and the beliefs that most essentially bonded us up until that point. In this post I want to talk about how that went over with two of my close philosopher friends.

My padawan (1997-2004) 

One of my closest friends in college came to Grove City two years after I did. Quite coincidentally and fortuitously he had happened to stay with my suite mates when he visited the campus and we met at that time. (One of those suite mates was Dave Smith, who would go on to become our Camels With Hammers webmaster.) When he showed up the next year for school we met again almost immediately, during freshman orientation (which I was on campus for because I was an RD). He spotted me and remembered me and it turned out that he was going to be a philosophy major (despite insulting me for being one the day we had met a year prior).

And thus several years of intense philosophical and personal friendship began. Though we always debated vigorously and he clearly had particular knowledge bases that I did not and a very independent mind and very particular viewpoints that I did not share, I was a very strong influence on him nonetheless. And when I decided I couldn’t continue being a Christian, he followed suit remarkably quickly, like a week or so later. It was not like he had not thought about the issues before and was mindlessly following me. But it was that our shared philosophical understanding and shared dialogue made it that I did not have to work very hard to persuade him once I decisively started pushing him in the atheistic direction.

But just a year or two later, after I had graduated and moved on, he somewhat quickly reverted back to believing, for reasons I never wholly understood nor respected. I took his reasons to be much more based in aesthetics and an inability to ultimately shake his Christian sense of identity. It was not like he had come up with any arguments that could undermine any of the reasoning we had both agreed on when we deconverted virtually together. In our last couple of visits before we lost track of each other eight years ago (besides the occasional Facebook message) I treated his belief somewhat contemptuously. I was flat out disappointed and irritated with his failure of intellectual conscience. And on a more selfish level, I probably did not like him spurning both my influence and our shared bond as apostates who defected together in such a flagrantly irrational way. I especially did not like it as I felt he of all people should have known better since he had so clearly known better.

The closeted atheist who was a prominent Christian leader on campus and a close friend of mine (November 1999-Spring 2001)

Another of my philosopher friends was an influential Christian leader on campus and a brilliant guy. In many ways he was one of the smartest people I have ever known. He came to college an unbeliever and a lifelong loner and was overwhelmed and enthused by the camaraderie he experienced on his freshman hall. He had never been so welcomed into such a tight social group before. And, this being Grove City, one of the implicit, unstated preconditions of full acceptance meant being a Christian. So he tried hard to believe. And I think he may have for a short time. But, as I found out only after I became an atheist, he certainly did not believe during his last couple years at the school while he was leading a prominent Christian organization on campus. He had had me, and everyone else it seemed, duped into believing that he really was a Christian.

And so at some point in the weeks or months right after I deconverted he revealed to me that he was secretly an atheist and we had the first of a year and a half’s worth of furious arguments over my outspoken atheism and his closeted atheism. He thought I was being reckless with other people’s minds by being so blunt and forthcoming about my deconversion. He treated me like a disturbingly powerful bad influence on my “padawan” for so quickly getting him to identify as an atheist. He saw me as being careless with my abilities to persuade and to spread ideas people could not properly deal with. I saw myself as ultimately no one particularly special and certainly not one in a position to decide what truths other people were or were not capable of confronting. I was going to treat people like equals and it was not my responsibility what they did with the arguments I made. And I was appalled at him for being a hypocrite and for looking at and treating the Christians around him as incapable of being dealt with straightforwardly. I hated that he condescended to them so deceptively. Through vigorously arguing over our differences the following year, after we had graduated, we actually became quite close friends who understood each other deeply. But our days at Grove City ended on hostile terms.

Your Thoughts?

Read posts in my ongoing “deconversion series” in order to learn more about my experience as a Christian, how I deconverted, what it was like for me when I deconverted, and where my life and my thoughts went after I deconverted.

Before I Deconverted:

Before I Deconverted: My Christian Childhood

Before I Deconverted: Ministers As Powerful Role Models

My Fundamentalist Preacher Brother, His Kids, And Me (And “What To Do About One’s Religiously Raised Nieces and Nephews”)

Before I Deconverted: I Was A Teenage Christian Contrarian

Before I Deconverted, I Already Believed in Equality Between the Sexes

Love Virginity

Before I Deconverted: I Dabbled with Calvinism in College (Everyone Was Doing It)

How Evangelicals Can Be Very Hurtful Without Being Very Hateful

Before I Deconverted: My Grandfather’s Contempt

How I Deconverted:

How I Deconverted, It Started With Humean Skepticism

How I Deconverted, I Became A Christian Relativist

How I Deconverted: December 8, 1997

How I Deconverted: I Made A Kierkegaardian Leap of Faith

How I Deconverted: My Closest, and Seemingly “Holiest”, Friend Came Out As Gay

How I Deconverted: My Closeted Best Friend Became A Nihilist and Turned Suicidal

How I Deconverted: Nietzsche Caused A Gestalt Shift For Me (But Didn’t Inspire “Faith”)

As I Deconverted: I Spent A Summer As A Christian Camp Counselor Fighting Back Doubts

How I Deconverted: I Ultimately Failed to Find Reality In Abstractions

A Postmortem on my Deconversion: Was it that I just didn’t love Jesus enough?

When I Deconverted:

When I Deconverted: I Was Reading Nietzsche’s “Anti-Christ”, Section 50

When I Deconverted: I Had Been Devout And Was Surrounded By The Devout

When I Deconverted: Some People Felt Betrayed

When I Deconverted: My Closest Christian Philosopher Friends Remained My Closest Philosophical Brothers

When I Deconverted: I Was Not Alone

The Philosophical Key To My Deconversion:

Apostasy As A Religious Act (Or “Why A Camel Hammers the Idols of Faith”)

When I Deconverted: Some Anger Built Up

After I Deconverted:

After I Deconverted: I Was A Radical Skeptic, Irrationalist, And Nihilist—But Felt Liberated

After My Deconversion: I Refuse to Let Christians Judge Me

After My Deconversion: My Nietzschean Lion Stage of Liberating Indignant Rage

Before I Deconverted:

Before I Deconverted: My Christian Childhood

Before I Deconverted: Ministers As Powerful Role Models

My Fundamentalist Preacher Brother, His Kids, And Me (And “What To Do About One’s Religiously Raised Nieces and Nephews”)

Before I Deconverted: I Was A Teenage Christian Contrarian

Before I Deconverted, I Already Believed in Equality Between the Sexes

Love Virginity

Before I Deconverted: I Dabbled with Calvinism in College (Everyone Was Doing It)

How Evangelicals Can Be Very Hurtful Without Being Very Hateful

Before I Deconverted: My Grandfather’s Contempt

How I Deconverted:

How I Deconverted, It Started With Humean Skepticism

How I Deconverted, I Became A Christian Relativist

How I Deconverted: December 8, 1997

How I Deconverted: I Made A Kierkegaardian Leap of Faith

How I Deconverted: My Closest, and Seemingly “Holiest”, Friend Came Out As Gay

How I Deconverted: My Closeted Best Friend Became A Nihilist and Turned Suicidal

How I Deconverted: Nietzsche Caused A Gestalt Shift For Me (But Didn’t Inspire “Faith”)

As I Deconverted: I Spent A Summer As A Christian Camp Counselor Fighting Back Doubts

How I Deconverted: I Ultimately Failed to Find Reality In Abstractions

A Postmortem on my Deconversion: Was it that I just didn’t love Jesus enough?

When I Deconverted:

When I Deconverted: I Was Reading Nietzsche’s “Anti-Christ”, Section 50

When I Deconverted: I Had Been Devout And Was Surrounded By The Devout

When I Deconverted: Some People Felt Betrayed

When I Deconverted: My Closest Christian Philosopher Friends Remained My Closest Philosophical Brothers

When I Deconverted: I Was Not Alone

The Philosophical Key To My Deconversion:

Apostasy As A Religious Act (Or “Why A Camel Hammers the Idols of Faith”)

When I Deconverted: Some Anger Built Up

After I Deconverted:

After I Deconverted: I Was A Radical Skeptic, Irrationalist, And Nihilist—But Felt Liberated

After My Deconversion: I Refuse to Let Christians Judge Me

After My Deconversion: My Nietzschean Lion Stage of Liberating Indignant Rage

  • steveschulers

    Totally enjoying this series, Dan!

    If I didn’t tell you, you wouldn’t know…

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Thanks Steve!