I rejected Christianity almost 25 years ago. I felt that my reasons then for deconverting were both clear and undeniable. That said, over the years I’ve evolved in my understanding of religion generally and Christianity specifically. My reasons for continuing to reject Christianity have changed as well. Here are the reasons why I rejected it back then–and why I continue to reject it today.
First: It Is Not Real. (Also, the Faith Pool.)
First and foremost, I rejected Christianity because its historical and scientific claims aren’t true. In fact, nothing whatsoever that my religion’s leaders claimed was true! The Bible is more a jingoistic nationalistic fantasy than a true accounting of either the history of the world or the happenings and goings-on in Bronze/Iron Age and first-century Palestine.
But that lack of truth goes a lot further than just history and science. Petitionary prayer (that’s prayer for stuff to happen via magic) doesn’t work at all the way the Bible describes it. That was the first and biggest major drain on what I conceptualize as my faith pool.
The faith pool is a big pool of reasons to believe. We all have them about whatever we believe. If you believe that cats are really the masters in your household, that the sun rises each morning, that your car will start when you turn the key, or that vaccines are safe, you have many reasons backing up those beliefs. The same operates for beliefs that are categorically untrue. If you encounter something that contradicts your belief and does it in a way you can’t negate somehow, then that debunked reason for belief will drain away. You might still hold your belief, but it will be a little weaker until you find new water for the pool.
Once faith is drained away it doesn’t come back easily, but it can–if a Christian is given undisturbed time to reinforce the beliefs and perhaps find new reasons to add to the pool. If the pool is drained too quickly over too short a period of time, though, then faith can’t be poured back into it in time to avoid seeing the true bottom of the pool. Once that happens, I haven’t heard of someone being able to go back to believing. It’s like going back to a belief in Santa Claus, once a child knows why no supernatural sky-wizard is visiting every household in the world in one night. Some contradictions are just too devastating to recover from.
So on my last night as a Christian, when I came face-to-face with the knowledge that petitionary prayer didn’t operate like the Bible said it did, and that my religious leaders used the exact same strategies on me that anti-choice groups used on their vulnerable female clients, I knew well that I already had evidence for a lot of other claims being untrue. I’d just pushed that knowledge away through the shield of antiprocess. I’d thrown that stuff into the pool, where it sank without a trace.
All through my time as a Christian I’d added to this deal with it later pile. Some Christians die never dealing with theirs; the half-hearted attempts of Christian leaders and apologists to defang that pile deal effectively with relatively minor threats to belief. Mine, however, overwhelmed me eventually despite even those measures.
As the faith pool drains, that pile starts becoming more and more visible at the bottom of the pool. Now that there’s no water covering it up and no water coming in to re-cover everything, we see how big the pile is–and we no longer have faith to cover up and ignore its presence like we used to. Deconversion can feel like crashing into walls, into mountains, into oceans–just that sickening feeling of realizing that there’s a lot going on here that we just ignored and turned away from over many years.
I’d already encountered–and discarded–belief in literal Creationism. My church officially held that as a doctrine, but even my then-husband Biff and I knew better than to buy into that belief. I knew people believed it, and I was uncomfortable about that belief even as I preached to my various evangelism prospects about the Bible being literally and inerrantly true. I compartmentalized those two beliefs to keep them from jarring, but when I deconverted I had to set them both together for the first time–and saw for the first time how totally crazy it was that I had totally believed both of these two contradictory things.
And I knew better than anybody that my church’s claims of rebirth were totally untrue. Jesus did not magically make anybody better as a person–more honest, more loving, more compassionate, more trustworthy, none of it. People who were asshats and converted were asshats afterward; they just found more Jesus-y ways to express their asshattery. People who were dishonest still lied; they just found ways of lying that were acceptable to Christians.
Swift upon that knowledge was a stunning realization that miracles themselves were untrue–that there’d never been one verified and supported by any credible evidence.
It was important to me then–and now–to believe only what is actually true in reality. That means I only want to believe things I can support with credible objective evidence. And so I rejected Christianity, because nothing contained within it fits that demand.
Then: A Shift in Focus.
Over time, this outrage over untrue claims shifted a great deal, however.
See, there are flavors of Christianity that make fewer untrue claims than other flavors do. We’re used to criticizing fundagelicals, who hold the Bible as inerrant and literally true. But most Christians think that attitude is as bizarre, childish, and laughable as we do–even as they hold untrue beliefs themselves that they don’t dare to examine too closely. For that matter, pretty much every religion out there makes some untrue claims about the supernatural and its own ability to help people become better people. Untrue beliefs are just part and parcel of religions generally.
By insisting that their particular religion can magically do anything, whether it’s to give adherents peace, heal them, make them happy or wealthy, or keep them out of harm’s way, religious people of all stripes make a claim that can be tested–and thus found wanting. I discovered that there’s no credible reason to think that anything supernatural exists–much less that anything supernatural is giving any believer a leg up on life that non-believers in their religion simply can’t access.
I didn’t like that discovery at first, but I refused to turn away from it. Now I feel that this belief in magical aid is not only untrue but also quite possibly immoral.
Over time, thanks to my dabbling in other religions, I stopped holding as harshly against Christianity that the entire religion is based upon untrue supernatural and historical claims. It is a shortcoming, don’t mistake me, but it’s not the religion’s greatest shortcoming.
No, its greatest shortcoming is how believers themselves deal with that universal lack of veracity.
Unless you’re talking about Christian atheism (which is a thing), every single flavor of this religion makes untrue claims. The second any group declares that something untrue is actually true, that group untethers itself from reality–the first hallmark of a broken system. Untrue beliefs become a Hydra, because there is no way to fix a culture of dishonesty once one lie has taken root. There’s only one way to destroy that beast, and it’s the most painful way of all: we must eschew and disavow all untrue ideas.
For the majority of Christians, be they fundagelical or progressive or mainstream or quirky li’l homebrew, such a Christianity is unthinkable. It certainly was–and is–to me.
That is the lack of veracity that I hold against Christianity the most now. It’s not so much the untrue claims in its sourcebook; rather, it’s how Christians themselves engage with those untrue claims.
Second: It Is Undignified Narcissism Coupled With Indignities.My reasons for deconverting were like the hot, angry, throbbing tears most of us shed upon discovering that a lover has betrayed us. I was angry, hurt, in shock, even horrified to have discovered that what I had believed about Christianity was all untrue. Oh, yes, it was ALL. SO. DAMNED. DRAMATIC. I felt like a pawn on a vast chessboard, all surrounded by cosmic forces, and like what I thought about the supernatural actually totally mattered.
It did, subjectively at least, but in the long scheme of things it turns out that my opinion of the supernatural matters about as much as my opinion about the KFC Double Down. We’re all just people, and we can’t really help how we feel about much of anything. Our feelings matter most of all to ourselves, and that’s perfectly okay and valid on a subjective level. It’s what we can support and demonstrate that makes our opinions matter to other people.
Christians, having no truth to their claims, must compete to see who can express their feelings the most grandly when they want to persuade others to change their minds about a topic. Nobody can support or demonstrate anything because their beliefs aren’t true. Instead, we get endless attempts to mangle the original Greek and Hebrew, demands to do the research, and diagrams brandished like swords. I never once saw anybody change their mind this way, but Christians remain convinced that it totally works.
There is just something so hugely undignified about seeing two Christians arguing about which of two untrue points is actually the truest, like two little kids arguing about the color of Batman’s cloak.
But it gets worse.
Christianity is, at heart, a destroyer of dignity–it negates human rights, pushes servile self-abasement, and renders believers into little children begging a cosmic Daddy for their very food. This debasement is held up as an ideal for Christian adherents.
Little wonder that Christians develop such scorching cases of religious narcissism to compensate for the stripping-away of their essential human dignity everywhere else. And little wonder that toxic Christians are all so focused on the seizing of personal power over others! Power is the only real way to escape all the indignities that are visited upon the rank-and-file in the sheepfold. Christians thus become easy prey for any huckster telling them that they’re a force to reckon with both on a personal level and on a group level. They are so starved for human dignity–or so predatory–that they will leap at the promise of power.
Christians who don’t perceive that debasement might be the most deluded of ’em all–or possibly the most toxic. Remember that one Christian who sniffed at Neil Carter’s assertion that Christianity had required him to make himself into “scum?” This in particular made us larf:
I don’t know what church Carter went to that routinely taught him he was scum, but in 43 years of church-going all over the country I have never heard such a thing.
We knew–having seen the pile at the bottom of the pool, which this Christian clearly hasn’t yet–the cold truth of this matter. It’s one of the most painful realizations to have about Christianity–and so it is, after the lack of veracity regarding the religion’s claims, the one that believing Christians might fight the hardest against noticing.
Nor do I think I even need to reiterate how much worse these two messages become for women in the religion. Women get put up on a huge pedestal in Christian culture and men act like they are the tamers of men, the harbingers of civilized behavior and fonts of earthly compassion–as long as they dress, act, and talk exactly like men think women should be like, of course. At the same time they are stripped of all rights and autonomy, forced into cookie-cutter molds, and penalized for both tangible and imaginary transgressions against these standards. The sheer humiliation I often experienced as a Christian woman was something I could absorb into my faith pool for a while, but eventually that daily reality became completely incompatible with the claims my religion was making about a number of topics. I learned that it’s simply magical thinking to imagine that a group can strip rights and dignity from anybody and come out with anything but abuse, injustice, and unfairness.
Consequently, I’ve learned over the years to avoid any group that celebrates indignities–or that pushes an ideology that makes those members totally earth-shatteringly important somehow.
When both messages occur together, there is literally zero chance that the group won’t be completely toxic to its members.
THIS oughta raise the hair on the back o’ yer neck
Third: It Is Totally Superfluous, When It Isn’t Actively Harmful.
Something I didn’t know enough to formulate at the time of my deconversion, something which really only came after I’d rejected all religions, is that Christianity, like all other religions, is totally superfluous–when it isn’t actively harmful.
That’s the hardest part of deconversion. Ex-Christians often go through a period where they feel an acute absence in their lives once they’ve rejected Christianity. Often the religion took up a lot of time and resources, which translates to a lot of emotional room in our psyches. Once the religion is sucked away, there’s that impulse to seek something similar with which to fill that new empty space.
Nobody likes to think of something that once took up that much emotional room as being useless, pointless wastes of time.
So there’s a huge danger of the newly-minted ex-C (that’s short for ex-Christian) joining a new cult, or getting into a conspiracy theory, or signing up for an MLM scam.
The best advice I can give the newly-deconverted is to give yourself a little time. Find a healthy new routine to follow while you decide what you’re going to do next with yourself. You have time.
In time, you’ll look back and find, as every ex-C has before you, that there wasn’t a god-shaped hole; it was more of a god-shaped wound that filled all available space because that is what broken systems do. The scariest thing an ex-C will realize may well be just how truly superfluous their religion really was–and the most angering may well be the lies we got told about what life is like after leaving the religion.
And that’s for people who actually tolerated and even liked the many resource-sucking activities that go into Christianity. Many others deconverted with a laugh of joy and a sigh of relief because they didn’t really like any of that stuff anyway, but did it because it was required of them–either by parents who strong-armed them into attending when they didn’t want to, or by a dominating group that forced compliance from them through potent threats of various retaliatory measures.
On the global scale, too, Christianity is an actively harmful force. Christians are consistently, as a faith group, many decades behind the rest of society on any given social issue–and it’s been that way for centuries. That’s why Christians today have evolved what I’ve come to call atrocity apologetics to try to excuse themselves for holding deeply regressive and transgressive views, as well as utilizing historical revisionism to simply claim that they, rather than secular forces, have brought progress to humanity.
They are not members of a quaint but ultimately harmless little cult that keeps to itself. Power craves more power. Dysfunction craves control. People who see themselves as “more than conquerors” want, inevitably, to conquer and colonize. Members themselves can be quite harmless, and many are actually good people who are doing good things in the world (one of the few late-term abortion providers in America is one of them; I’d also categorize my mother-in-law this way).
But the leaders of their religion and their most fervent adherents, as a whole, look across the vast breadth of this beautiful world, and they weep to know that it is the only one they’ll ever have to grind under their heels.
Thanks to all of the forces I’ve named in this post, collectively Christians are a harmful group, not a benevolent one, and thus I reject their ideology with all the force I can muster.
Grand Finale: “Part of This Nutritious Breakfast.”
Christianity is like the sugary cereal that is billed in advertisements as being “part of this nutritious breakfast.” You know those ads that put bowls of sugar-sweetened dreck next to a full breakfast of whole-wheat toast, eggs, bacon, fresh-squeezed juice, and cut-up fruit and all that? In those ads, advertisers hope like blazes that nobody will notice that if the bowl of cereal were removed entirely, the nutritious breakfast would stand up just fine on its own. In fact it might be better to skip the cereal entirely, since our bodies’ resources won’t be taken up dealing with the insulin shock of all that refined crap and sugar hitting us like a big ol’ bowl of Gummi Bears.
Something about Christianity just seems to attract terrible people and breed dysfunctional groups and broken systems. I have too much respect for myself to put myself into harm’s way by joining any of their groups, consequently.
All of this is why I formulate my final rejection of Christianity thusly:
If a group cannot be based around true ideas, then it had better at least be improving humanity in some way–or at least be pleasant for members to be around. Christianity believes in things that are not real. It is actively harming humanity, when it is not actually completely useless. And it is a tedious waste of time for most people to engage with it, when it isn’t actively unpleasant to them.
You can do as you like, obviously, but for me, these are more than reason enough for me to reject Christianity.
But there are a lot of others–and as consumers in the religious marketplace, obviously we can reject a religion for any goddamned reason we like, even for no reason at all. No salesperson ever gets to police your reasons for rejecting their product. Remember your rights as consumers. As I said, we can’t really help what we do and don’t believe. Once the pool fills or empties, belief follows accordingly whether we like it or not.
Ultimately, I’m spending my one life in the best way I can possibly imagine. That is my desire for each and every person who sees my writing. Be well, friends, and we’ll see ya next time!
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This post is part of our Five-Year Anniversary Blowout, where we revisit some of the most popular ideas and posts from the blog’s first year or so of life. Thanks for being part of it.