You will know them by their fruit…

I will keep this short, I don’t wanna rant whilst I am pissed off.

I am slowly coming out to those around me, as they begin to ask why I no longer lead or preach at church. It’s a strange feeling, I mean I don’t think I ever asked people ‘how is your faith’ or ‘where are you at with God’ on a semi-regular basis. I tended to just assume people are doing well unless they tell me otherwise.

This opens up a whole host of questions around surface-level conversations within the community of believers that you worship with or used to worship with if you ever did. We don’t seem to deep dive in the culture that we live in, we don’t ask the honest and quiet often hard questions of those we are in life with. But that’s where we need to live because we need to engage with those that we are doing life with, in meaningful ways.

Not only is there rarely the space to do this, but neither is there the appetite. I’ve noticed the opposite since leaving the fold. Sadly.

I have seen every leader within my church and the family of churches my church belongs to withdraw from me. None of them are talking about how I have left the faith, asking how I am doing and coming alongside me. My wife, who still believes and goes to church, hasn’t been supported by anyone and I can’t help by feel like we have been left shell shocked by how unloving and un-supporting people have been. It should be noted that this is all my opinion of the situation, and I don’t speak for her, rather I observe.

I didn’t imagine that my loss of faith would affect my wife in the way it has. She has no one to turn to for support and comfort in the community of believers that she still sits within. Not only this, but it turns out that my loss of faith is going down the grapevine to other churches. My wife met up with a good friend of hers a few days ago, they belong to another church in the same family of churches I was leading within. This person just blurted out, ‘So I hear that Sam no longer goes to church’. When she told me that this had happened, I was shocked. I do still go to church with my wife when she wants to go; I want to support her, so I will walk life with her. But clearly, my church leader has told the wider church family, and these other church leaders have told this person about me when they said they were meeting up with my wife. It’s enraging.

My wife and I are still people. We have pains, struggles, emotions and vulnerabilities. Surely you would go out of your way to wrap your arms around someone who was hurting. I’ve had nothing. My wife, who still goes to the Wednesday evening meetings and is involved in the church has also had nothing. I can understand why I might have been rejected, but why has she been left on the fringes all alone?

What the fuck has happened? I feel as though if I found someone had struggled as I did and then left the faith, I would want to at least remind them that I love them and think they are still an amazing person, regardless of what they believe. I would doubly make sure that their partner was supported as they tried to navigate a massive life change such as their spouse losing their faith.

I guess another way of looking at it is to ask: What did I really expect people to do?

I recently started a non-Christian job, and as I interact with people who hold either different faiths or no faiths, I am beginning to see more and more that people are just people. Being a Christian doesn’t tick a special box which means you are different.

Do we really believe that by praying (to what by the way?) and attending church, by experiencing emotions, claiming a relationship with the risen Jesus and changing our Facebook bio to ‘Christian’, we are now going to heaven? That we ‘become’ different because we think we are different? Sure, we can act differently when we believe we are different, but that doesn’t mean we are different, just that our mental state has changed.

You can be an asshole as a Christian or a nonbeliever. You can love and support people as a Christian or a nonbeliever. Faith doesn’t seem to change anything, rather it’s what we allow ourselves to think about ourselves and others around us that allows us to change our mental states and our outlook on the world around us.

I can’t help but think that the ‘Fruit of the Spirit’ is nothing more than the fruit of a healthy outlook on the world, an outlook where you don’t place yourself as the most important thing in your life, but rather realise that life is about living in relationship with those around us. We evolved in a community; we are blindly engineered by evolution to be within a community.

You’re not fucking special just because you call yourself a Christian.

You could at least try to love and support a stay-at-home mother of two little boys by regularly checking in with her and making sure she is doing ok in a town she barely knows, which she moved to support her husband and your fucking church.

_End of Blog Blurb_

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. It has taken me a few years to get to a place where I am able to share my loss of faith and to start writing about the journey that I am still on for you all. I hope you find it useful.

Support: The podcast and blog will always be advertisement-free, and your generous support on Patreon will enable us to continue doing this effectively and to a higher standard over the years to come. Please consider supporting the work we do.

Podcast: If you like what you read then you could always check out the podcast ‘When Belief Dies’, it is available on all major podcasting platforms or you can listen via YouTube. I upload and publish via Anchor FM each Wednesday at 7 am. For early access, support me on Patreon.

Grammar, spelling, capitalisation and punctuation: I am massively dyslexic. It has taken me years to get to the level I am currently at with writing and I have done this mainly through reading. I want to be better and ask you, reader, to please forgive any errors in my writing. I hope you notice improvement upon improvement over the coming years.

Time Frame: This blog is roughly twelve months behind where I currently am at in my journey out of religion. It’s important to remember that when reading and commenting.

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I’ll see you back here at the same time next week 🙂

-Sam

When Belief Dies #46 – 'Evil and Postmen' with Stephen Law When Belief Dies

The video version of this conversation can be found here. This week Sam is joined by Stephen Law. We talk about God, belief, Plato and the 'Evil God Challenge'. Stephen is retired, formerly Reader in philosophy at Heythrop College,  University of London. He is editor of the Royal Institute of Philosophy journal THINK, and has published several books. You can find/follow Stephen: Website Twitter The resources mentioned in this episode are: The Complete Philosophy Files Humanism: A Very Short Introduction Believing Bullshit: How Not to Get Sucked into an Intellectual Black Hole Critical Thinking Udemy Course An Introduction to Western Philosophy: Ideas and Argument from Plato to Popper We hope you enjoy our show. When Belief Dies aims to honestly reflect on faith, religion and life. We blog and podcast.  Your support on Patreon enables us to cover the costs of running this show and look to the future to make things even better as we build upon what we already have in the works. Please take a look and consider giving. Alternatively, you can support the show with a one-off gift via PayPal. Use this link to navigate to the website, to find us on social media and anywhere else we might be present online. #Podcast #Deconstruction #God #Agnostic #Christian #Atheism #Apologetics #Audio #Question #Exvangelical #Deconversion #SecularGrace #Exchristian
  1. When Belief Dies #46 – 'Evil and Postmen' with Stephen Law
  2. When Belief Dies #45 – 'Theoretical Bullshit' with Scott Clifton
  3. When Belief Dies #44 – 'A Humility to Life' with Julian Baggini
  4. When Belief Dies #43 – 'Will Truth Win Out?' with Randal Rauser
  5. When Belief Dies #42 – 'An Honest Pursuit of Truth' with Barrett Evans

12 thoughts on “You will know them by their fruit…

  1. I’m glad you’re so open about the various hurdles that come with leaving the faith, because I think it can help people going through similar to feel less alone.

    I was surprised, when I told my then Christian friends (nearly 10 years ago!) that I was really not sure about the things in which I was “supposed” to believe – I always had trouble with the Trinity, and could never understand how people understood it – that they largely blanked me. I thought they’d have answers, that they’d show concern at my faltering.

    It made me realise that a lot of people hold a faith (or world view) of sorts, but don’t really scrutinise it very much. I think that’s why what we expect of Christians – compassion, Christ-like behaviour etc. – is often missing. Because a lot of people go through the motions without really thinking about what they’re actually doing.

    Also, I loved your episode with Graham Oppy. I think it was nice to have a layman interview him in some depth. I love Oppy, he’s a really humble and insightful guy, but a lot of the interviews I’ve seen featuring him involve another philosopher, and it can become really easy to become lost in a swamp of jargon!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Aaron! 🙂

    I really enjoyed that episode of the podcast and I agree. I love having people on to talk 121 first to get ‘them’ out there and shared. Though I will be having Dr Oppy back on in the future 121 and in a debate form when the podcast has grown a bit more 🙂

    Like

  3. Hey man, I’m sorry you’re both going through this.

    I can’t say I’m surprised at how you yourself are being shunned. When people have such fundamentalist Christian beliefs, somebody like you is going to be treated as a danger to them at best (what happened to you could happen to them) or an agent of Satan at worst, leading people to Hell.

    I find it harder to understand how your wife is being treated. I would have expected people to rally to her side, offering her support and presumably praying with her for you.

    I’m starting to think your former church is more extreme and cultish than I had realized. Maybe in time this experience will undermine her faith and cause her to see that you are more right than wrong. Meanwhile though, why would she stay in a church like that? There are plenty of churches – maybe mainstream denominations or other liberal churches – where you as an unbeliever would be welcome and she as your believing wife would not be treated as a pariah.

    I hate you’ve both been going through this. How about I give you a manly hug and then let’s go for a beer, OK?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’ve always remembered that “by their fruit …”.

    I could have continued as a Christian, even though I came to doubt the core theology. The teachings of Jesus were still good. But “by their fruit” I could see that the church was mostly a society of pious hypocrites. They did not practice what Jesus had taught.

    I’m sorry to hear that you are going through this. Unfortunately, too much of Christianity has devolved into a crude tribalism.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Sam, I hear you loud and clear. The nagging sense that the “kingdom of god” and the spiritual world may had all along been a weaved fiction is something I relate with deeply. I am a forty-year old who had an established career as a political scientist before life turned up-side down. I live in a country where Christians are a minority, yet it does not make them better people either. I had been plagued by clinical depression on top having to care for a father with rapidly deteriorating health (Parkinsons, small-strokes, falling down). I considered and tried leaving the faith multiple times. It may be due to myself being weak that I decided to stay in faith.

    Am I clinching to faith as my fix or opiate…? I don’t know… but this quote from Philip Yancey’s “Reaching to the Invisible God” articulates my current decision well: my faith may be a crutch… but “for a crippled person there is one thing worse than a crutch, after all — no crutch.”

    Anyway, even from an opposite end of the earth I feel a kindred spirit with your disappointment, disillusionment, and perhaps subsequent enlightenment in seeing how the “kingdom of god” is filled with “nonsense” and “non-sensical” people. Maybe I am still clinging to a delusion that there is still the real Kingdom of God behind the “kingdom of god” we can see with our eyes and experience. I just want to acknowledge and appreciate you articulating your honest struggles here. One day I plan to write my own struggles as my own therapy.

    It is nice to engage fellow sojourners where we may feel less lonely in such an uncertain odyssey.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so delighted to have you on this journey with me.

      Thank you for listening to my story, sharing your own and being honest with where you are right now.

      I talk about this strange idea we love to cling to on the most recent Unbelievable? episode, the idea about ‘landing’ somewhere.

      Life is a journey and it sounds like you’ve had a fascinating and hard journey so far. When you are ready to share I would love to read about it.

      I hope you find honest thoughts on this blog, always.
      Sam 🙂

      Like

  6. I’m really sorry that you are having this experience Sam. It’s frustrating to read how many of the Christians in your previous church aren’t empathetic or compassionate enough to realize the strain of all this.

    I think they probably just don’t know how to react to you… most people, whatever their worldview, don’t seem to really like entertaining the idea that they might be wrong. They are probably afraid that you’ll infect them with atheism… in my experience, many Christians can’t give good reasons for what they believe. But that applies to most groups of people too.

    Our experiences are not too dissimilar… I grew up in the Charismatic/Pentecostal world. I converted to Catholicism last year for reasons that would take me too long to say… in a nut-shell, I just didn’t find good answers to some pressing questions in that tradition.

    I 100% get the awkwardness that big transitions can create. My wife is still a Protestant and sometimes quite anti-Catholic, and it’s made family life difficult at times. But I had to be honest with where my journey was taking me. And that’s exactly what you are doing–being honest. I think Jesus considers an honest pursuit of truth to be a moral virtue within itself, wherever it takes you (Matt 7:7… seek and you will find).

    I too have faced rejection from people I used to agree with… but it’s probably not as bad because I’m still Christian… well, some hard-core Protestants wouldn’t think I am!

    We don’t know each other Sam, but please let me be one Christian voice telling you that I support you and appreciate the journey you are on.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for this Jack.

    I’ve been really impressed with some of the honest Christian reflections on my journey to date, I feel that even though I haven’t landed where you have, you still appreciate and respect me – something I really haven’t felt in a very very long time.

    TY for the comment and I hope you continue to follow along 🙂

    Sam

    Like

  8. Sam, I just saw you on Unbelievable. One of the things I like about the programme and apologetics generally is the respect that people with opposing beliefs have for each other.
    Your honesty and your quest for truth are great to see. What is unbelievable to me is the way you seem to have been treated by the people in your church and I totally understand why you might feel very hurt.
    The evidence for the resurrection is definitely a good reason but we as the church (I’m a Christian) should be at least as compelling a reason to believe in a loving and forgiving saviour. I’m just so sorry that that hasn’t been your experience.
    I’m reminded of a story. A police officer was volunteering to steward and be the safeguarding person at a Christian festival. On one occasion he made a request that was not popular with a particular delegate. The response he got was an angry “Call yourself a Christian?”, to which his response was “No, I’m not. Are you?”. He was there supporting his wife but he’s not a Christian.
    I feel so sad for you and your family. I think the church often has a lot to learn about kindness and respect. I do hope that there are some in the church who will talk with you over a pint.
    Very best wishes and keep asking the questions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ty for the message David – it’s amazing to know people like you are out there who have taken the time to share their love and respect.

      I will continue on the journey and I hope you enjoy engaging with the blog & podcast 😊👍

      Like

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