Friday, February 09, 2007

Hobbesian Friday: Changing Beliefs Edition

Ed Brayton from "Dispatches From the Culture Wars", made the following comment on one of his posts regarding "The Blasphemy Challenge" (a very silly and pointless exercise by people on YouTube who proclaim they deny Christ and thus are eligible for eternal damnation):

Exactly my point, thank you (though I couldn't care less who's right about the interpretation of the "don't blaspheme the holy spirit" verse). As I said, I would find a bunch of videos, or better yet essays, on why people left Christianity or what they find unconvincing about it very interesting. That would be an argument. That would be communicating ideas. That would actually be something worth thinking about.

I was looking at the above "Calvin & Hobbes" strip and Ed's comment resonated with me. I think reading such stories would be very interesting for everyone, and so I issue you this challege -- write an essay, comment, video blog post, or e-mail message on the topic:

"Why I stopped believing what I believed before, and now believe this instead."

This isn't really intended to be a "Why I became an atheist" exercise, what I'm most interested in is the process people go through in the course of changing their fundamental beliefs. Maybe you were raised Baptist and turned away from that in favor of Catholicism. Maybe you were raised an atheist and eventually converted to be an Episcopalian. Maybe you were raised Christian and became a Muslim, or gave up on God altogether and settled on atheism.

What I'm interested in hearing is stories of how and why you came to the conclusion that the faith (or non faith) you were raised in no longer was satisfying, fulfilling, or convincing to you. There's already plenty out there about the end of the story, about why you decided that the new belief system was better, but there's not a lot about the first part of it, about how people decide that what they fervently believed before is no longer correct.

Again, this isn't so much a request for conversion stories as it is a request for "de-conversion" stories -- I want to know why you don't believe what you used to any more, not why you currently believe what you do, if that makes sense.

I look forward to hearing what people have to say about it. If I get any submissions (either in comments or via e-mail) I'll compile them and put them into a new category. You can contact me with at if you like, or you can leave a comment here with either your listing or a link to your blog / web page where I can read what you've got to say.


DuWayne Brayton said...

Looking forward to reading the stories you get, I will try to write my own. I grew up fundy, with an atheist for a dad. I beleived absolutely, that the Christian bible is the divine word of God. Among other things that the bible describes, I believed in the depiction of hell described therein.

Today I believe that the God that I worship, takes an active role in my life. I can even accept the divinity of Christ. But I absolutely reject the notion of hell (among many other things) and I reject the notion that the bible is the inspired word of God. And the story of how I got where I am, is all about why I reject what used to be a fundamental part of who I am.

Jeff Hebert said...

I look forward to reading it, thank you DuWayne.

Anonymous said...

Raised in a Christian home (father - Presbyterian minister). It never made much sense to me and I have no idea where the logic or questions came from since I grew up in a wholly incurious family. They themselves tried different churches and practices but none of it made sense. I asked questions they couldn't answer. They never pounded me over the head with belief or hell or fear or threats. My mother realized there was a problem when I would begin throwing up every Sunday on the way to church. She insisted they stop taking me with them (I think she didn't like the Pentecostals with whom we then associated). I tried to believe, really tried. But, I just couldn't do it. However, I was raised on the belief that a lack of belief meant it's Christian opposite - evil, devil worship, bad stuff all around. So, I kept trying to find a way until I made friends with two girls who were raised in homes that had no religious affiliations. They were the two most open, honest, and kind people I had ever met. I then realized that god had no monopoly on goodness and started chasing my doubts and skepticisms and, in the process, arrived at the multitude of logical reasonings for why there isn't a god. And, of course, having been raised in that home and coming across so many different sects of Christianity, I was well armed for the ensuing 25 years, or so, of philosophical and logical arguments.

C.L. Hanson said...

I've posted the story of what I used to believe and why I stopped believing it. This story fits your challenge pretty well since the question of what I switched to is just barely touched -- it's not the point:

My deconversion, part 1: background
My deconversion, part 2: the evidence
My deconversion, part 3: the tipping point.

Adam H said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam H said...

sorry, mine is way too long and twisted (sounds pretentious for someone my age, i know) to write. then again, i really want to do a book about it, so maybe at some point down the line...

GMWnKCMO said...

try to make this as brief as possible.
Grew up in Texas, Southern Baptist, in the 50s and 60s, being taught that blacks were evil, etc, and that Martin Luther King was a 'Communist' and Catholics were idol-worshippers.
There were some signs I recognized in the rear-view mirror: A sunday-school teacher who told me I read too much to get into heaven; a wednesday night visitation when I was a teen that devolved into a discussion with a parent about books in homes, and views they represented.
1962 - in a theater, watching South Pacific. I heard Joe Cable sing, You Have To Be Carefully Taught. I wanted to stand up and say, LISTEN!! truth being spoken here.
4 years later, I watched in the same theater a travelling troupe do 'Inherit The Wind' and when Drummond (Darrow) turns on Hornbeck (Mencken) after Brady (Bryan) dies and says hotly, He had the same right as you or me or anyone, the right to be wrong!
I had the same feeling, wanting to stand up and say -Hold it!! truth here.. listen!!

But, being married shortly after to someone to whom the preacher was next to god, I held my peace. It was how I grew up.
THe last straw, however, came when I overheard two deacons talking about something the pastor had done that upset them. Seems a family had been coming to church for some time and wanted to join, only to be told by the pastor that SHE and the CHILDREN could join, but HE could not, since he drove a truck for Budweiser.
I left, never been back.
Truly, I have no trouble with anyone believing any damn fool thing they want... but when they want to use MY tax dollars to teach religion in the public schools, look out.