Are you an ex?

As an ex-evangelical Christian, I'm fascinated by other people's stories of de-conversion. I'm particularly fascinated by former preachers who have de-converted such as Dan Barker and fellow bloggers John Loftus,  Bud Uzoras, and the anonymous gentleman over at Going Apostate.

Daniel Dennet did a fantastic lecture about closet atheists in the clergy, which you can view below; I suspect the phenomenon is far more prevalent than one might imagine. But I also suspect that closet agnostics and atheists are similarly prevalent in the pews, as leaving one's religious institution can be, as the Mormon fellows remarked in Religulous, "social suicide".

The interesting thing about us ex-believers is that we tend to be a lot more passionate about our agnosticism or atheism than people who were simply raised in predominately secular societies. That's because we've experienced first hand the pervasive, destructive influence that religion has, and we know what it's like to be freed from that delusional trap. It's odd to look back on beliefs I once cherished, and simply see them as absurd, divisive, and destructive. It's also somewhat ironic that just as I once wished to convert non-believers to my faith, I want to persuade others to reject their beliefs. But it's not quite the same; I don't want to win them over; I simply want them to think for themselves.

If you're an ex-believer and you have a few minutes, tell me a little bit about how you got there. What was it that pushed you over the edge from doubt into non-belief? How has your de-conversion affected your personal life? If you have a blog, I'd love to see it. 

Daniel Dennett on closet atheists in the clergy:


  1. Since you've fixed the comment system, I'll humour you.

    I was a Lutheran Christian well into my teens. I had even tried my hand in blogging about it, I was quite into it. Then a chain of events led to my suffering from depression, and I didn't come out the same. I had to conclude that my all-forgiving, all-loving god couldn't be if he subjected his people to something as horrible as I went through. This and my continued self-exposure to existential musings, alongside other theological contradictions, didn't help my depression, but started to paint a clearer picture. Throughout the recovery process I went from Lutheran to deist to agnostic to atheist.

    I believe that there probably aren't any supernatural forces at work in our lives, and I couldn't be any prouder.

  2. Wow, that's remarkably similar to my own experience. Out of curiosity, do you still have that old blog up? I'd be curious to read your pro-faith arguments.

  3. Nah, I deleted it out of shame. I probably shouldn't have though, it would have been an interesting recollection.

  4. Mike, I'm a native Tulsan, I ended up at Tulsa University. We had to take one religion course, (state law). I took New Testament Survey and was exposed to historical and textual criticism for the first time. It took me about two weeks to become an agnostic -- I just didn't think it made any difference.

    Fast forward many years and after 9/11 I was reading about religion and in particular Islam. Somehow I ran across Sam Harris' "End Of Faith" (The first chapter). I suddenly realized that faith has consequences, and realized that atheist was my real label.

    Hitchen's anti-theist label does have some appeal, not sure I'll use that yet.

  5. I grew up with no religion....and no direction, no sense of right or wrong. I didn't think lying was bad, or cheating....sleeping around was fine, taking your stuff was fine if you left it out you were asking for it. What did it mater? If it felt good, why not? no wrong, no right....
    and then one day I woke up and realized there must be something better...and I changed.

  6. ^ See, that's the kind of stupidity that just blows my mind. Really? You thought you could do whatever you want until Jesus set you straight? Give me a fucking break. Guess what? You're not morally autonomous. You depend on other people for every aspect of your social, emotional, and physical well-being. You do the right thing because we have shared needs, interests and responsibilities – not because some made-up deity told you so.

    The irony is that, as religious nutcases prove every day, it's really the opposite of what religious kooks like you delude yourselves into thinking – the truth is that with God, anything is permissible because God is whatever the fuck you want him to be, and you know it.


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