Saturday, May 05, 2007

The road to deconversion is gradual & incremental

Debunking christianity blog reminds us that attitude change occurs incrementally, ever so softly-softly.

reposted from: Debunking christianity
my: highlights / emphasis / key points / comments

Remember change occurs gradually. You can’t lambaste someone into changing their beliefs; it only makes them more defensive. The harder you try, the more they resist. The more they resist, the more firmly they dig in their heals against change.

I remember when I became a Christian and I bet a lot of you do, too (if you weren’t lucky enough to be born into a non-religious home). The first time I heard about being a born-again Christian I scoffed at the idea. After all, I was a good Catholic girl. What on earth did I need that for? But every once in awhile I would be confronted with that idea again, I heard more about it, I heard some Catholics were doing it, one of my friends did it, I became more open to it and sought out more examples that it might be true. And then eventually I tentatively did it myself. Then I looked for even more examples that I was doing the right thing. The more I looked the more convinced I became and soon my whole world view was changed around to look for God and Christianity everywhere. And I found the wonders of God wherever I looked. And I blocked out contradictions and the things that didn’t make sense.

My deconversion story is much the same. I scoffed at unbelievers. How could they not believe? How could they not see God at work everywhere? How could they not know that Jesus was the only way to heaven? How could they not see and hear the beauty of God’s word and experience the same fear I felt if I were not to believe in it?

My deconversion was a slow and imperfect process. At first I heard about some more liberal Christians and I couldn’t believe it. How could they even claim to still be Christians? But then I met some and saw that they were genuine, just not as strict as I was. And so I loosened up a little. And then a little more.

I heard how some people were saying that maybe Jesus wasn’t the only way to God, just one way. I scoffed at that, too. Of course Jesus was the only way; it said so right in the Bible. But the door was opened a crack and I was open to hearing more examples.

I don’t want to go through each stage of my deconversion, but I think you get the idea. It happened gradually as I heard bits and pieces, closed my mind to it, heard some more, opened my mind a crack, looked for more examples, tentatively explored some thoughts in my journal and with a few close friends, took a step or two back, looked some more, opened some more, explored some more.

It wasn’t arguments, persuasive or otherwise, that got me to either one of the extremes. It wasn’t proofs and reports. It wasn’t people railing against what I believed. It was hearing and listening, little bits at a time. It was done in my own time. It was opening doors, just a crack here and there, testing things out. It was seeking out confirmation other peoples’ experience, through books and websites. It was two steps forward and one step back.

You can’t whack people over the head and expect them to change immediately. You can’t try to argue them out of a corner they have painted themselves into. You can’t force the truth onto them. It takes awhile to change a mindset. I had to overcome internal resistance to the fact that I might be wrong. This is never easy. To admit I might be wrong takes courage, even if I am just admitting it to myself.

So don’t lambaste, don’t rail, don’t argue. Don’t try to force the door open because what will happen is that those Christians, with their integrity at stake, with their whole belief system and world view in jeopardy will lock that door with multiple locks, they will jam a chair up under the doorknob, they will alert the authorities that someone is trying to force their way in and they will close themselves off even more.

Instead, try some compassion. Remember that a lot of us were there at one time, too. Make suggestions. Offer different ways of looking at things. Be an example. Share your story. Instead of trying to force the door open, slip a little note under the door. Maybe they will read it, if not now, then later.

Here is my note for now:

Dear Christian,

Things are so much simpler when you look at life from a natural point of view instead of a spiritual one. Here is my world view:

  • There are no supernatural beings – not Gods, not angels, not demons
  • There are no miracles, no mystical elements, no revelations
  • Natural phenomena is… natural, things happen because they do
  • Humanity is beautiful - there is more good in the world than bad
  • We live, we die, we create our own meaning in life

Try walking around one day with that view of life and see what happens.

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