How Dan Fincke Deconverted

Dan Fincke of Camels with Hammers has been writing an ongoing series about his deconversion from evangelical Christianity to atheism. While it’s long, it’s quite good, because Dan takes the time to really analyze what challenged his faith, how he fought to keep it, and how and why he eventually found he could not hold onto it. Dan explains why he writes about his deconversion as follows:

As with other evangelicals, my story of deconversion is in part about proving the sincerity of my unbelief. I aim to make clear to Christians that I was one of them, that all my life was willingly committed to their God and that all my emotions were on the side of their God when my intellect was dissuaded against my will. I was not, as much as they want to assume, looking to leave Christianity, biased against Christianity, unable or unwilling to dutifully follow the rules of Christianity, disposed against the God of Christianity, unfamiliar with the most sophisticated philosophical or theological versions of Christianity, or unfamiliar with how how wonderful Christians or Christian community could be. I had been there, done that, and despite wanting nothing more than to believe, I had found that I could no longer believe–either rationally or ethically. The best arguments for the faith had failed. The best arguments against it were overwhelming. And as a matter of intellectual and moral conscience, I could no longer believe fantastic claims that had the preponderance of rational evidence stacked overwhelmingly against them. I deconverted against my will.

What’s most interesting about Dan’s story, I think, is just how devout and zealous he was as a child, teen, and young adult. He even created and ran a Christian newspaper in his public school at one point, and at another point he worked as a counselor at a Christian summer camp. He also went to an evangelical college, which is where his faith began to fall apart.

For more of Dan’s story, take a look at the links below. They can either be read separately or in order as a continuing story. If you don’t have time now, you can always bookmark this page and come back to it.

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

When I Deconverted: Some Anger Built Up

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

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 My Deconversion: I Refuse to Let Christians Judge Me

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

A Letter from Hell, and Self-Reinforcing Beliefs
Why I Take My Kids to the UU Church
On Orgies, Bisexuality, James Dobson, and Evangelicals
I Have Never Seen a Supernatural Entity Create a Universe
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Lana

    Funny how many intellectual people take dabs in calvinism for a while. I did too.

  • http://- GD

    If you are intellectual, you almost have to take a dab in it. There isn’t a simple way around the omniscience/free will paradox. Dan’s deconversion is more dramatic than my own, but otherwise very similar.

  • chris buchholz

    My wife has a theory that anyone who studies theology at a legitimate university* becomes agnostic, because of the overwhelming evidence against everything you’ve been taught growing up. (by legitimate i mean not a “bible college” like Liberty, Wheaton, Moody, etc) even many Catholic schools are quite legitimate centers of education first, religion second.

    So that could mean one of two things:
    1. the lies that churches and apologetics authors tell backfire when people really delve into it (this partly applies to me, I was incensed when I read books on biblical history from “the other side”) and they would not lose members if they just were more honest intead of being focused on winning converts

    2. none of it is true to begin with. that is certainly what I believe, since there are other reasons I became atheist when studying philosophy, not mere anger at being lied to.

    • Christine

      Does that theory apply to people who grew up with learning about the Bible as a historical work rather than as a magical hotline to God? (I had a friend who was shocked that the homilist would refer to Jonah as being a nice story, but of course we know it didn’t happen).

      • plutosdad

        that’s what i was wondering with “this means one of two things” #1 or #2, I’m sure if people did not grow up listening to lies then they wouldn’t be shocked into agnosticism or atheism when learning the truth

        of course, that doesn’t mean it’s true, it would at least mean we’re all honest though

    • Amelia

      That describes me – I converted in university, then after I left did a biblical studies paper from my original university as a distance study. It was definitely a key trigger point to giving up my faith again, rather than a trigger to get more deeply involved again like I had hoped.

  • Rosie

    Ahhh, Calvinism. The philosophy that all the evangelicals I knew didn’t want to espouse, but couldn’t seem to get away from, thanks to their “literal” interpretation of the Bible.

    • machintelligence

      For those not familiar with Calvinism, I like the quote from John Stuart Mill (1859)

      It is so, on the Calvinistic theory. According to that, the one great offence of man is Self-will. All the good of which humanity is capable, is comprised in Obedience. You have no choice; thus you must do, and no otherwise; “whatever is not a duty is a sin.” Human nature being radically corrupt, there is no redemption for any one until human nature is killed within him. To one holding this theory of life, crushing out any of the human faculties, capacities, and susceptibilities, is no evil: man needs no capacity, but that of surrendering himself to the will of God: and if he uses any of his faculties for any other purpose but to do that supposed will more effectually, he is better without them. That is the theory of Calvinism…

      It is amazing how much this sounds like Islam: submission to the will of Allah.

      • Rosie

        Yup. Is the theory of predestination part of Calvinism also? Seem to me that it is, but it’s been a very long time since I studied this stuff.

      • machintelligence

        Not an expert here either, but I think so. From Wikipedia:

        The Westminster Confession of Faith (1643) states:
        God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.
        By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death…

  • machintelligence

    While it’s long, it’s quite good,

    True and true. I love his writing, but I have not made it through all of the posts.

    My wife has a theory that anyone who studies theology at a legitimate university* becomes agnostic, because of the overwhelming evidence against everything you’ve been taught growing up.

    It certainly isn’t what you learned in Sunday school.
    I have also heard that, in spite of having in some cases to sign oaths that they believed that the Bible was the inerrant word of God, the professors still teach the most current views on textual criticism, even at the most conservative Bible colleges. See Daniel Dennett’s talk The Evolution of Confusion:
    17:20 to 23:30 or more if you like.

  • smrnda

    Something I realized is the ‘you were never really a Christian and you never had an *authentic personal relationship with Jesus (TM)*’ gets pulled out at anyone who de-converts. Part of this might be that the bar for this personal relationship gets set ridiculously high, as many Christians spend a massive amount of time repenting that they’re somehow lost in ‘legalism’ or ‘scholasticism’ and are missing out on the ‘personal relationship’ which is the hallmark of authentic faith. To me, it just seemed like a catch-22 that leaves open the disparagement of anyone’s sincerity of belief, but in Dan’s case, he’s done way to much for that to be called into question. You too, Libby Anne.