You were never a real christian
If you claimed to be a Christian, and now claim that you are not, you were never a Christian to begin with. There is no such thing as a deconvert.
How many times have we heard these words? How many times has it stung? With the wave of a hand a TrueBeliever™ dismisses the very idea. It devalues and belittles the experiences that former Christians have faced. The audacity!
When you’ve been a Christian, though, you know why these Christians dismiss you. The first reason is because the Bible tells them so:
“They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” 1 John 2:19-23
So, my fellow deconverts, we are liars and antichrists. You can clearly see why questioning your faith becomes problematic.
it takes faith to please god
Secondly, the TrueBeliever™ truly believes. They believe that Yahweh is the one true God and that Jesus is his divinely conceived son. They believe that he was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, hung and died on a cross, was buried, and raised on the third day. Sure, there are some Christians who don’t subscribe to all of these things, but this is the basis of Christianity and not to do so is heretical at best. There is no value in Christianity any of this is not true. A TrueBeliever™ cannot fathom how or why anyone who truly believes would change their mind. No matter how much a Christian might like to believe they are taking the intellectual position and no matter how much “evidence” they think they have Christianity boils down to simple faith:
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6
“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” Mark 10:15
Anyone requiring evidence to believe is misguided. In the times in which the Bible was written it was easier to blindly believe. We didn’t know what we know now. Many of our Christian friends see the evidence that is in conflict with their beloved scripture and attempt to reconcile it and intellectualize it. They choose to believe that this passage or that is metaphor or allegory or hyperbole because in our times it doesn’t make sense to believe it literally. That belief, too, is faith. The authors themselves never mention that they are using metaphors for these passages. When Jesus speaks in parables the authors tells us he is doing so.
everybody receives an education
“Indoctrination” carries a negative connotation of undue coercion. Maybe what you are referring to is plain old “education”. Every human being, unless he was raised by wolves, is educated: by word and example he is taught a language, a set of values, a notion of the meaning of life…..If you got a typical cultural education and not some sort of high-pressure indoctrination, then your experience is probably not different from the rest of humanity: accepting some values, rejecting others, and muddling along as best you can.
Everybody is taught something. If you were just taught what your parents were taught you probably weren’t indoctrinated; it was just an education. This implies that indoctrination is somehow your own fault; that it’s an intellectual weakness. By the time most of us reached an age where we might consider critically questioning our faith we were quite convinced that God existed, that Jesus was his son, that heaven was nice and that hell was really hot. We received an education by indoctrination.
- cause to believe something: to teach somebody a belief, doctrine, or ideology thoroughly and systematically, especially with the goal of discouraging independent thought or the acceptance of other opinions
In the area in which I live this is especially true. Baptists are the largest religious group in the Bible Belt. They indoctrinate children into their faith by teaching them that the Bible should be read literally, that it is inerrant, contains no errors, and that Jesus died, was buried, and literally was raised from the dead after three days, and that hell is a literal place. Studying and repetition solidify these beliefs from an early age. Studying materials that are not approved by the Southern Baptist Convention is highly discouraged, and never encouraged. Studying critically is referred to most often as a slippery slope. Just accept what is in the Bible. The TrueBeliever™ needs no other book to learn all he or she needs to know about the nature of the world around us. Baptists are taught to reject out-of-hand any worldly wisdom that conflicts with or contradicts the literal reading of scripture. It is suspect – a temptation of Satan.
Deconverts from Christianity find themselves in an awkward space. That space between remembering what it was like to be a TrueBeliever™ and knowing what it means to have left their faith behind. We are often dismissed by Christians saying we never were real Christians. We are often challenged to reassess our positions as agnostics or atheists because we just believed the wrong way. Our theology was either too strict or too liberal. We are invited to seek out a theology that is just right.
If only we’d been taught that hell was hyperbole. Or wait, maybe hell is real. If only we’d been taught that the resurrection wasn’t a real event but a metaphor for our own spiritual revival. Oh, no, that’s wrong. If only we’d known Jesus really did physically raise himself from the dead. If only we’d known that the Genesis account of creation was allegory; a fictional story used to explain a very real truth. No, others say, you must know that Yahweh spoke everything we see into being in six literal days.
This belief is too hot, that one is too cold, but my belief is just right. How do we know that this theology is just right? It’s the one that keeps the believer believing.
On the face of it being dismissed as not having ever been a TrueBeliever™ might feel like a slap in the face. With the wave of a hand and the turn of a phrase the former believer’s entire experience, whether they believed for one year or fifty, is seemingly negated. Only seemingly, though. What a Christian has to say about a former Christian doesn’t change what they’ve been through.
As much as Christians would like to believe that we never were one of them, whatever their reasons, it doesn’t change the reality that we were. We don’t believe that the Bible is inerrant. We don’t believe the Bible is infallible We don’t believe it is even divinely inspired with just a few human errors. We don’t believe there is any evidence of Jesus’ divinity nor his supernatural resurrection. There are some of us who don’t even believe Jesus existed at all.
Just as easily as we are dismissed as having never been a real Christian we could dismiss the religious as having been indoctrinated, or being naïve, or uneducated, or delusional. We can, and sometimes do, dismiss the dismissive.