When I Deconverted: I Experienced Something Like A Spiritual Break Up

1996-2000:

At Grove City College, the evangelical Christian college where I was an undergraduate, it was common to the point of utterly mundane to meet spiritually intense people who had one degree of interest or experience with missionary work. But even at Grove City, this one classmate of mine stood out to me as exuding a preternatural spiritual intensity and love for the mission field. Without any signs of arrogance or condescension, she struck me as being as dorkily pure and holy a do-gooder as one would come across. Were you to tell me there was someone on campus who had not only never sinned but had never even been tempted, I probably would have guessed her. She just gave the vibe of being up for anything that involved revolving her life around sacrificing for Jesus.

One day I was at an event on campus wherein we were all split into small groups and had to discuss with one another our answers to various questions. One of the questions was about who we admired most. Some time afterwards, I was talking with a mutual friend of my missionary minded friend, and he told me that at that event, he was in the same small group with her when they asked the most admired person question. I immediately speculated in my mind that her most admired person was probably some missionary who was martyred just trying to spread the love of Jesus somewhere where the people were hostile to Jesus. That’s when he told me that she had said mewas the person she most admired. The reason she gave was that I was the person she most believed would always do whatever he thought was the right thing, regardless of what it was. This was, and is, a bit of an overestimation of my character–to say the least. I suspected it was possible she had a crush on me or something. I turned over the idea of dating her in my mind but just never was attracted enough to her to attempt it.

I also know she reciprocated my admiration for her spiritual passion. We worshiped together. We would both regularly attend a Thursday night worship service in the campus chapel called “Warriors”, which was usually a fairly intense experience at which occasionally I would get noticeably exuberant. There’s this song called “Shout to the Lord” that came out in 1993 and rapidly became an extremely popular staple of worship services during my high school and college years.

It’s a song that involves a lot of steady build up and increasing intensity and passion. It’s a song that just in the melody and rhythms conveys a ton of longing. And just as the singing is supposed to climax and triumphantly rise at the chorus starting with the word “shout”, I would leap in the air with my fist and unabashedly shout at near the top of my lungs each of the key lines of the chorus right as everyone else was singing them, “SHOUT!” “POWER!” “MAJESTY!” “PRAISE!” “BOW DOWN!” “ROAR!” “JOY!” “FOREVER!” “FOREVER!” “NOTHING!”

And that was the kind of spiritual intensity that we bonded over.

So she was fairly bewildered and hurt when I became an atheist. She really didn’t get how I could think so differently, seemingly all of a sudden. And she recalled my former fervor in worship to me in disbelief and I tried to assure her this change was me doing what I had discovered to be right, just like she would have expected of me. And then as our tense but muted confrontation went on, I became relatively assertive, maybe even a bit prickly in stressing how unequivocally absurd I found our formerly shared faith–her faith. I remember having this sense that I could take a more delicate and diplomatic approach to her nagging attempt to spiritually interrogate me, unwilling to take no for an answer. I remember feeling like in opting for bluntness and matter-of-factness, I took the crueler, less compassionate, and more alienating road. I made my rejection of her faith unequivocally clear so she wouldn’t be led on, so to speak, i.e., she wouldn’t hold out hope and still try to appeal to some Christian part of me that she might otherwise naïvely believe was still there and reachable.

She got the point. It was awkward. She struck me as confused, spurned, and disillusioned. I don’t ever remember talking to her again.

Your Thoughts?

This post was written as part of a blogathon I am doing 8am-8pm both Saturday and Sunday of this weekend in order to squeeze a lot of belated writing into a small window of time I have available to blog uninterruptedly. If you are a grateful fan of the blog and want to see me able to post more regularly, please consider donating to support my efforts. I work numerous jobs. The more money that I can make from blogging, the less other jobs I need, and the more I can write for you. Donations can be made via paypal to dfincke at aol dot com. All amounts are deeply appreciated. $100 earns you the right to pick a blog post topic for me (one that I could reasonably be expected to have something halfway intelligent to say about).

Before becoming an atheist I was a devout Evangelical Christian. I am slowly telling the story of my former life as a believer, how I came to deconvert and become an atheist, what it all meant and where I went from there personally and intellectually. Below are links to all the pieces I have written so far. While they all contribute to an overall narrative, each installment is self-contained and can valuably be read on its own without the others. So feel free to read starting anywhere, according to your interest.

Before I Deconverted:

Before I Deconverted: My Christian Childhood

Before I Deconverted: My Parents Divorced

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: I Saw An Agnostic Speak At A Christian Conference

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: I Experienced Something Like A Spiritual Break Up

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

When I Deconverted: I Was Not Alone

When I Deconverted: Some Anger Built Up

When I Deconverted: I Sure Could Have Used The Secular Student Alliance

When I Deconverted: I Came Out To My Family

The Philosophical Key To My Deconversion:

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

After I Deconverted:

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

After I Deconverted: I Was Deeply Ambivalent; What Was I to Make of Sex, Love, Alcohol, Bisexuality, Abortion, 9/11, Religious Violence, Marxism, or the Yankees?

After My Deconversion: I Refuse to Let Christians Judge Me

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

After I Deconverted: I Started Blogging

Meta:

Why I Write About My Deconversion

The Philosophical Key To My Deconversion:

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

Meta:

Why I Write About My Deconversion

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • WilliamLongfellow

    That’s so sad!

  • Pofarmer

    Dude. Was never as far in the weeds as you were, but I’ve done my share of church singing, revivals, etc. Imagine if that girl you came out to was your wife. Now imagine you have 3 kids, all in Catholic school, that she desperately wants to be uber Catholic, but you feel you need to be honest with your children, so you explain to them where the Church screws up. That’s what I’m about. It’s a fairly tricky road, laced with IED’s.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      Brutal, man. I can’t even begin to imagine what those of you in that situation have to go through.

    • Pofarmer

      What has amazed me, is how much some people invest in their religious ID’s . It’s like if you criticize this or that platform of the Church, you are criticizing them. I don’t really think that’s a healthy life outlook.

  • Palindrome

    Your deconversion series is probably one of my favorite series on your blog because I can really relate to your experiences.

    Do you still keep in touch with this girl? Is she still very, very religious?

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      Your deconversion series is probably one of my favorite series on your blog because I can really relate to your experiences.

      Thank you, I love knowing that.

      Do you still keep in touch with this girl? Is she still very, very religious?

      No, that’s my last memory of her. I looked for her once on Facebook before, and again this weekend before writing this, to no avail. There are a satisfying number of my religious friends from Grove City who are also now atheists and I feel an incredible bond with them over that.


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