Of all the essays I’ve written for Ebon Musings, one of my favorites is “Into the Clear Air“: a chronicle of the stages of deconversion, as told by people who were going through them.
What shines through from these testimonies again and again is the pure relief, the freedom experienced by people who left behind their oppressive, confining religious beliefs and found exhilaration and joy in finally taking control of their own lives. Closely intertwined with this feeling is a newly arisen sense of awe and wonder at life, an atheist spirituality that is rooted in the grandeur of the cosmos, the intricacy and diversity of nature, and the poignancy and fragility of our conscious existence. Many newly deconverted atheists have found out, to their amazement, that this feeling equals or surpasses anything to be found in religion.
As one of my favorite deconversion stories puts it:
“Due to my total change of world view I also had some very weird experiences that were not like anything I had expected. I was struck enormously by what I called ‘existential shock.’ I was completely amazed at the mere fact of existence. Not in a ‘wow that’s impressive’ manner but in a feeling that I only had religious words for. It was being struck by the amazing ‘sacrament’ of life – or the utter shock and opportunity of existence over its alternative. It was totally numinous and an almost disturbing feeling that existence is the case. I felt transformed, awed, excited – the whole world seemed more special than can ever be said. Life was far more poignant without Christianity than it had ever been with it. I was not expecting this to happen to me. I thought these experiences were what converted people to religion, not what you got when you left!”
I think testimonies like this are immensely helpful to our cause, demonstrating that atheism is a positive worldview in a more eloquent and compelling way than any merely academic argument ever could. That’s why I’ve collected as many as I could find for Ebon Musings, but we can always use more.
With that in mind, I’m creating this open thread for what I hope will become an ongoing post series, chronicling the stories of people who’ve broken free of religion and found happiness and fulfillment by becoming an atheist or humanist. If you have such a story, I invite you to tell it here. You can also e-mail me with your story, if you’re more comfortable with that. The best stories will ultimately be featured either here on Daylight Atheism or on Ebon Musings.