I got a physical letter the other day. I spoke to a good friend and told them that I had deconstructed my faith. They had a really good conversation with me and following our chat they went away and read through my first ten or so blog posts. I wanted to share my response to their letter with you, after taking out any names and places. Their letter is beautiful, and it hit me really hard. I think it’s important to know that they wanted to encourage me, after reading some of my most raw and early posts, they want me to remember to enjoy life. Anyway, here you go:
Thank you for your letter, it was lovely to get it through and to hear your thoughts expressed so lovingly. I was really surprised to get a physical letter through, hasn’t this medium died?!? 😉
Anyway, I wanted to respond to a couple of things, just to set your mind at ease, more than anything. Also, to encourage you with what you said, as I found a good deal of it a helpful reminder of things I try to think of and focus on.
The biggest thing I took away from your letter was the need to be able to enjoy life first and to allow faith or lack of it, to come in after that if it needs to. I think this is one of the biggest things I am struggling with currently but is something I am also very aware of.
I look at my children and my wife, I ask myself ‘with what fondness will they reflect on this season of their lives, what is my part and how can I be better for them today’.
Having lost the foundation upon which I believed my purpose, marriage, destiny, reason and life was built, in general, has meant everything has been spilt upon the floor and I have been left to pick up the pieces as best I can, a day at a time.
There isn’t any great atheist course or support group for this kind of stuff. So, I have found comfort in other people’s stories, which is why I am sharing mine as openly and as candidly as I can do. I am currently going through the ‘evangelism’ phase with my deconversion. Where I am extremely tempted to post on social media or force people to hear about my blog posts. Instead, what I am trying to realise is that I don’t need to convince people what to believe, rather I need to believe what I believe and enjoy the journey of discovery as I navigate it a book, blog or conversation at a time.
All my life I have been told that I need to share my faith and encourage people to believe the same things as me. It’s been SO hard to not share everything I am going through with everyone, but it has been very rewarding to realise this before it was too late and hold back.
Life is fairly hard. We moved to this town for the church. Our friendship groups here are based around the church, though my wife is doing a great job with some of the mums on the street and at our eldest’s school. But we are starting to make our lives our own, not being controlled by the call to church planting, or folding into a New Frontiers model of eldership/leadership/acting.
I was on a podcast recently, where I talk a little more about my journey than the blog has yet hit upon. It isn’t out as I write this, but I do have a raw audio cut of it. I have listened to it through twice and as I reflect upon it, I can see that there is an honest part reflected where I am brutally realistic with how hard it was for me to deconvert. But I also see the glimmers of my life now, post deconversion. I know it is going to take a good few years to get myself back to a place of being able to just live and enjoy the journey. It was so hard to do that within Christianity, and trying to do that outside Christianity feels even harder – there are fewer rules and more space to move and breathe here – so which way is the right way? That’s now for me to decide.
The scope of my blog is very narrow, it really is just looking at my story, what convinced or didn’t convince me and then where that led me over time. It isn’t trying to convince others, rather it is trying to be a single voice in a multitude of voices out there explaining that a lot of people deconstruct their faith, not from choice, but because they can’t say what does and does not convince them is true/real/right.
You mention in your letter that I said I am fearful of people’s reaction to my loss of faith. It all boils down to the reality that I don’t like letting people down. But I have done just that. People in my life are starting to find out, as it naturally comes up in conversation, this includes a chat I had with my parents this weekend about the reality that I no longer believe. You should see people’s faces, hear people’s responses and watch how people respond to me afterwards.
When I stepped down from Church leadership in December 2019, I expected a regular catch up with the lead elder and other leaders of the church. But no one has spoken to me about my deconversion or asked how I am doing since then. That was a quarter of a year ago.
I think I am scared that people will reject me, based on what I believe, and the evidence seems to suggest that although they don’t mean to, they don’t know how to respond and how to continue a relationship with me after they find out.
Now, this isn’t always the case. My parents responded out of love, but I know it hurts them. I have a couple of great friends in the church who still love me and the family, we meet up regularly to work out and that has made a difference. But we don’t agree with each other about the reality of the world around us. Which for some people, is strange.
This whole process has helped me see some of my blind spots. I struggle to just enjoy life. I think what someone believes is more important than who they are. I think my voice has worth, to the extent that I almost shared the podcast and my deconversion with all my social media contacts – just so that I knew people knew where I am.
I don’t think I am sinful – I don’t think sin exists, but I would very readily admit that I have flaws and that I need to work on these, with friends and family.
The blog is just the story, but it won’t go into the whole me because words can’t do that, not when I don’t think I even know myself fully most of the time. I shock myself with how I respond to things, what I think but don’t say, how I respond to situations and what I think when people tell me what they think. I have a lot of growing and learning to do.
I think a lot of people, not you, but others, have a strong sense that when someone deconstructs their faith they just want to live in ‘sin’ or within the desires of ‘the flesh’. But this isn’t true, I don’t think people want to live their way most of the time. They want to live a life that makes a difference to those they love around them, and that is very hard to do whilst trying to be the most self-obsessed one can possibly be.
I also think a lot of people worry that if there isn’t a God, then people will be fornicating in the street and stealing everyone’s stuff. If people need a deity to stop them from doing hurtful things, then I need to keep my family clear of them. We don’t need a God to stop us from doing these things, I hope stories like mine can show that to the world.
Anyway, I don’t want this letter to become too long, so I will finish with a quote I have found very helpful. I stumbled across George Eliot the other day whilst reading ‘The Portable Atheist’ by Christopher Hitchens. George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) had a lot to say about God, having grown up as a devout Christian and deconstructing during the Victorian era. There is a great essay you can read either in ‘The Portable Atheist’ or online, just search for ‘George Eliot – Evangelical Teaching’. What I like about her is that she has a clear love and enjoyment for the world, and is happy with her understanding about God, in a time when most people readily attended church and believed because everyone else did. I think she might become a role model for me.
‘It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses, we must plant more roses.’ – George Eliot
Love ya bro,
_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.
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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.
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