Friendly Atheist, fellow Patheoser, recently posted the details of Christian rocker (from band Hawk Nelson) Jon Steingard’s loss of faith as announced in a 2,200 word Instagram post. His preamble stated:
I’ve been terrified to post this for a while – but it feels like it’s time for me to be honest. I hope this is not the end of the conversation, but the beginning. I hope this is encouraging to people who might feel the same but are as afraid to speak as I am. I want to be open. I want to be transparent with you all – and also open to having my heart changed in the future. I am not looking for a debate at all – just a chance to share my story in the hopes some good can come from it. I love you all.
As far as debating the big issues, the good ole Problem of Evil maintained its thorny presence:
If God is all loving, and all powerful, why is there evil in the world? Can he not do anything about it? Does he choose not to? Is the evil in the world a result of his desire to give us free will? OK then, what about famine and disease and floods and all the suffering that isn’t caused by humans and our free will? …
Consulting and discussing the Bible didn’t answer my questions, it only amplified them.
He made the classic move of also taking advice to question modern translations of the original Greek biblical text as being human and flawed, to looking at the original Greek and thinking, well, surely this is human and flawed, too.
But what struck me as most interesting was his comment concerning friends and peers:
Secondly, I’ve had private conversations with trusted friends about my doubts, and discovered to my absolute shock that they are shared by nearly every close friend my age who also grew up in the church. I am stunned by the number of people in visible positions within Christian circles who feel the same way as I do. Like me, they fear losing everything if they’re open about it.
This, to me, is the most crucial part of the admission. We generally know the range of things that lead to questioning the Bible, and the veracity and theology of Christianity. Often, this requires simply reading the Bible itself. It was also a case of dealing with depression in light of a strong Christian faith that also helped lead to deconversion.
And everyone must surely have their doubts at some point. What this keys into is how widespread these doubts and doubters are.
Reading the comments on his post express the full range of people in the debate. First, the typical Christian response:
I’ll be praying for you. You were never saved to begin with but rather were the soil that was choked out by the weeds. I hope you take the time to read the Bible and find the answers to the questions you have. The answers are all there. You just haven’t taken the time to learn them. It’s sad that you just used christianity as something to profit off of. I hope and pray that you come back to the truth.
But then the person who has experienced the same sort of deconversion:
I just found your account through someone posting this on reddit. I have to comment because this is all too familiar. My parents aren’t pastors, but I grew up very similar. I was a youth group leader, I was a worship team leader, singer, guitarist, pianist, I went to the conferences, workshops, I witnessed in the neighborhoods and dutifully recounted my testimony. I even spent $25k on student loans to go to a private Christian college. My sweater began to unravel on high school. Going to this Christian college was torture for me. Everything, everyone sounded and felt so absolutely fake. The prayers, the language around Christianity, the worshiping. Every question I had was always responded with a same/similar stick answer. “Go back to the Greek, sin is what causes death not god, without freewill we wouldn’t need god, if we’re evolved from monkeys why are there still monkeys!?” There’s so much more of course and my unraveling process is different than yours, but I’ve been without my sweater for about 15 years now and it’s amazing. It’s finally become easy for me to say I don’t believe in god. It took a while, but you will also become more comfortable without your sweater. ❤️❤️
The old maxim comes to mind: You can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.
Dropped into your profile to follow, support, and welcome you to life after Christianity � My story reads a lot like yours, and it took me until about four years ago at age 29 to figure out that my mind had really just been lovingly placed into a trap from birth. What I found was that my faith was based on a deep emotional desire to believe, and not based on anything substantive that could save it once I started peeling back the layers. I was a true believer, tithing thousands every year, looking to serve God every single day and with the total trajectory of my life, but it was all a delusion. I sought the truth, and the truth set me free from faith, and I am still so joyful about that when I take the time to reflect on it. Also, funny side story—when I was 18 (this was probably 2004) I job shadowed Aaron Sprinkle for a day at The Compound, and we just talked about music and recording all day, while he ate sunflower seeds and tuned your vocals, haha. I never would have thought at that point that someday I wouldn’t be a Christian, or that I’d be reaching out to you on Instagram to offer my sincere support and congratulations. I know I’m just a random internet nobody, but if you ever want to chat about anything or need encouragement, you can always reach out! Also, r/exchristian kicks ass—don’t sleep on that community. Cheers �
But you can sow seeds and allow them to reason themselves out of it.
This one surprised me:
Seeing the overwhelming majority of white evangelicals unapologetically support a President who exemplifies the opposite of the teachings of Christ has made me abandon my former identity as an evangelical Christian as well. Thank you for being so brave (from a former super fan of Hawk Nelson :) )
Back to his friends also sharing these doubts; this really reminds me of Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola’s project in confidentially interviewing clergy for his book Caught in the Pulpit, A.C Grayling’s endorsement for which reads:
“The new edition of Caught in the Pulpit extends and reinforces the message of the first: that many who preach religion do not themselves believe what they preach, for the good reason that they have more insight into its vacuity than those to whom they preach. Some are tragically trapped in this hypocrisy, some choose to keep living the lie: but knowing this adds to our sense of the lie that is religion itself. This is an important book, because it reveals an important truth.”
I would love to know the number of “believers” who, um, don’t believe: the number of people who carry on the front due to the overwhelming challenges (financial, social, familial) involved in publicly admitting their doubts or their deconversion.
These days, America is a changing landscape even if it hasn’t fully changed. I co-edited a book called Beyond an Absence of Faith that documented the conversion accounts of my such people, and the internet provides a soft landing for people who have had their security blankets, their security parachutes, ripped away. It’s a soft adding that simply wasn’t there some two decades or so ago.
- Real Deconversion Story #18 – Manfred
- Real Deconversion Story #17 – ephemerol
- Real Deconversion Story #16 – Me
Do any of you readers have experience of people who are in religious networks who themselves don’t believe?
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