I recently said a few times that the invitation “into my heart” that I gave Jesus at age six still stands, and always will. I simply stopped waiting for him because he never kept any promises…and more importantly, never seemed to quite exist. Of course, this claim is met with skepticism from believers, as they tend to be devoted to a mental construction of apostates that has nothing to do with reality.
The gap between how they think of ex-Christians, and how we actually are, can be explained with the answers Bill Nye and Ken Ham gave to the question, “What would convince you to change your mind?” Ham said, in essence, “nothing”. He is as sure of his faith as I used to be, entirely convinced that he knows the truth and that no evidence could ever change his mind. What did Nye say? Evidence. Show me a legitimate humanoid fossil among trilobites, and I would be forced to conclude that something is very wrong with our current understanding of human evolution, if not the entire theory of evolution itself. All it takes is one piece of evidence to blow up a theory.
In a way, Ham and my past Christian self were right…it isn’t evidence that would change their minds. The process of leaving Christianity is rather fueled by the lack of evidence. I don’t need evidence to disprove a religion when there’s no evidence supporting it in the first place. Once you realize that your religion is nothing but unsubstantiated claims, like every other religion, it’s no longer possible to believe it’s the absolute truth even if you want to. And I did, I wanted to remain a Christian so desperately that I was an ex-Christian long before I realized it.
Deconversion is something that happens to you, not something you choose. The moment I left Christianity may have passed without my recognition, but there were some significant moments in the process that stand out clearly. Many of those were prayers which I believed had been answered, and then later learned that the answer was utter bullshit. In a way I put god to a test, but it was a test of basic reason. What kind of god is less reliable than basic reason? What kind of god rewards a faithful follower with bad advice that leads to years of pain, while the use of science and reason produces the opposite result? It’s as if he was trying to convince me that he does not exist or care about me at all.
I didn’t realize my loss of religion until science saved me. Being autistic, my mind is naturally more prone to entering panic mode, the fight-or-flight response associated with the amygdala. Due to bad decisions based on devout prayer and obedience to parents, as well as undiagnosed mental illness and some personal cluelessness, I ended up suffering greatly for years. I didn’t blame religion or hate god; in fact I remained devout through all of it. My deconversion only happened after I found a psychiatrist I could afford and got the medication I needed. After the cloud of pain cleared, I came out the other side praying, and then realized prayer had done absolutely nothing.
I prayed again recently, just to give it a serious try, to put my soul where my mouth is. I figured if an all-powerful omniscient god loves me and wants a relationship, he should know what I need to be convinced he’s real and be willing to provide it. So I asked, sincerely, fully expecting to return to Christianity if this god were to appear in some convincing way. Nothing happened. Well, I peed, but I didn’t find god in the bathroom. Didn’t find him in the computer. Certainly didn’t find him on Facebook, where I was chatting with other ex-Christian friends while waiting.
What I didn’t expect was for the endeavor to leave me shaking for half an hour. I think it’s the extreme and immoral threat of eternal suffering that makes approaching such a god so terrifying. I was actively considering the possibility of the existence of a deity that has the power to end all suffering, but instead allows and directly causes infinite suffering. It’s a disturbing thing to face, no matter what you believe. Having grown up knowing nothing else but Christianity with an eternal hell, it’s all the more personal for me.
The whole experiment passed without a peep from any god. What must I do to get their attention? I prayed my heart out for years while I suffered, and there was nothing. If you’ve ever wondered why ex-Christians are offended at the suggestion we chose to leave, or we’re mad at god, or anything of that nature, you might be starting to get it. I was all in. I fully expected my religion to hold up to basic reason. And then it didn’t; it failed, and I recognized my ability to conjure imaginary persons to talk to, and even feel emotions for them, and by then my faith was doomed no matter what I wanted to believe. My greatest mistake, as my friend Neil Carter wrote recently, was doing what I was told. I took it too seriously, expected my religion to hold up against any questioning, and then it evaporated at the slightest touch from reality. It was like expecting a cheap plastic shed to hold up in a tornado.
Asking me to return to Christianity is like asking an orphan to return to their parents’ house, and live there alone, pretending their father is still alive but incorporeal, invisible, and living in the attic. I was abandoned, with no choice but to realize that basic reason was more reliable than my god. My own ability for rational thought is more reliable than the Christian god I grew up with. Hell, I’ve correctly predicted bad outcomes of choices made by sincere Christians who claimed to be following god. I know that now, and I can’t unlearn it, and if god exists he seems entirely uninterested in clearing anything up.
I’ve prayed for the last time in the foreseeable future, I think. For years I lived by religion and prayer, and genuinely believed I was hearing from god, and it was like taking advice from a toddler. Maybe it’s because I’m autistic, maybe my subconscious mind is an autonomous sociopath who delights in tormenting me. Who knows? My mind can be a frightening place. Whatever the reason, I know the god of my childhood was a figment of my imagination, and everything I know about other Christians indicates that it’s the same for them. They try to describe what it’s like to have a relationship with god, and it sounds like my own experience.
I know what I experienced, and documented much of it on this blog and in other writings. I know where I’m going, at least in the short term, and if god wants me back he knows where to find me. As always, I remain open to evidence. I’m just beyond done with the dishonest mind games that Christians insist I must play in order to avoid being tortured for eternity. If the god of Christianity exists, he is a malevolently deceptive monster. If an all-powerful and loving god exists, he is not the Christian god. If my perception of reality is generally accurate, those are simply unavoidable facts.