It took someone asking me about my deconversion recently for it to really register with me that I don’t talk about my deconversion much these days.
(Fair warning: This post is going to get confessional and probably into some sort of meta territory.)
I’m about a month away from the five-year anniversary of my deconversion¹, and because round numbers make notable events seem even more like a BFD, it’s got me thinking about how much has changed in that time. And boy howdy, is it a lot.
But five years is also a long time to process the changes that my life has undergone, from losing my faith to inadvertently creating a mixed-belief marriage to losing my music and gaining it back to unlearning a lot of lessons to becoming a secular celebrant and activist. And I’ve found that I’ve started to repeat myself.
Conversion and deconversion stories fascinate us because they are by their nature dynamic and they are a way for us to examine the debate between religion and irreligion (although they shouldn’t reflect that debate because they are almost always emotional in nature). They interest me as well because I’m interested in process as well as the end result (and I really enjoy personal narratives in general).
But the more I read them and the more I talk about what I went through, the more I find my own deconversion almost entirely unremarkable.
Here’s my deconversion story literally in 140 characters:
Guy argues with atheists online and finds reason to doubt. He takes several years to study but ends up having epiphany in a worship service.
I can guaran-freaking-tee you that I could put out a call on social media and find a dozen people whose deconversions match this description without even switching the gender.
Of course, having a common story doesn’t mean that the story is worthless to tell. In fact, my experience has been that talking about my deconversion and how I’ve adapted to a post-deconversion life has been helpful for me and for others because we could see elements of our stories in the other’s. It helps you realize that your experience wasn’t totally out there.
For that reason, I’ve been willing to engage in deeply introspective and confessional writing, especially what I wrote for the Ex-Communications blog before it went belly-up last year. And I’ve mostly been content with the risks I’ve taken in talking about these intensely personal subjects.
But to be totally honest, I wrote these things mostly for me. They were a way of working out issues that I’ve had trying to cope with the remnants of a religious mindset, the left-over relationships of former friends and ever-present family, and the task of seeing anew the world we always had. When they helped other people, that was a happy accident.
I still write selfishly like that, with my own satisfaction and realization in mind first and the enjoyment and edification of others second. I’ll cop to it. (Hell, I’m doing it right now.) Sometimes I’ll advocate for positions I think others should take, even over such trivialities as noun capitalization, but my personal writing has a primary audience of one.
So why am I not writing these confessional pieces about my deconversion anymore? Well, because I just don’t feel like I need to.
I’m not going to pretend that I’m completely “rehabilitated” of what religion did to my thinking, and in some ways, I don’t care for that goal at all. And sometimes I need the catharsis of sending up a middle finger to the long shadow cast by religion or the clarity from repudiating an ugly religious doctrine.
I’m not going to say that my wife and I have successfully navigated all of the rough waters of being a mixed-faith couple, even though I think we’ve learned how to appreciate our love across the lines.
I’m not even going to suggest that I’ve found a satisfactory equilibrium with my family or work or anything.
But for the most part, I’m pretty content with this one aspect of my life.
I mean, 2016 has been the worst, and I’ve been challenged by the election of a bigoted walking System 1 error, so I’m not going to say that everything is coming up roses. Still, I’m not personally at a point where I need this kind of outlet to deal with my own personal post-deconversion struggles.
I do think that having conversations about deconversions is useful, though. There are always people who are going through that initial struggle, and knowing that they’re not alone is crucial. But I’m passing that torch to other people for the time being.
I don’t plan to move on entirely, but right now, I think there might be more important things to reflect on in the present and in our not-so-distant future than in the past.
Image via Pixabay
¹ I believe five years is the wood anniversary if you’re looking for an appropriate present. ^