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INTERVIEW WITH AN EX-EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN: A Deconversion Story from Canada

By Brandr Rasmussen ~

Thanks for coming to this interview. We’re all curious to hear about your journey.

Thanks for having me.

So let’s just jump right in. Did you have any Christian background before you “joined the tribe” so to speak?

I grew up in a suburb of Vancouver, Canada. Basically in the countryside. Where I lived, our only choices were to be “secular”, or to adopt Evangelical Christianity. A few became Jehovah’s Witnesses. My own family was not religious, although my parents brought me and my siblings to Sunday School at various churches. That was common practice in those days. Just to give kids a foundation of morality, or so the parents thought. Really it was about arts and crafts, a few fantasy-like Bible stories and silly songs. My generation of kids didn’t take it all very seriously.

If I grew up in Saudi Arabia, I’m pretty sure I’d be a Muslim. If in Thailand, I’d be a Buddhist. Or in India, a Hindu. I think the planet’s citizens are most often tied to their religion by geography than anything else.

Did any person, or book, or something else, win you over to Christianity?

Our elementary school allowed the Gideons, an Evangelical ministry, to give out free New Testaments to Grade 6 children. So I got one, and read some. I also found a Good News Bible kicking around our house. That was easier to understand, so I read it more. My neighbours were typical apple pie, goody-two-shoes Christians, the whole Pat Boone, freshly-scrubbed look and all. So they had a bit of influence on me. I used to argue about the “End Times” with one of their boys, who later became a good friend. When I did convert, I ended up going to church with them.

Any epiphany that led you to embrace the faith?

Funny you say that. The day I “prayed the prayer” to follow Christianity was one where I woke up in the morning after having an embarrassing sexual dream about some girl in my 8th Grade class. I wanted to puke. After cleaning up and getting a fresh pair of underwear, I felt so guilty, so . . . dirty. I walked upstairs in my grandparents home, where my mom and sisters were staying for a weekend, and read part of the Sermon on the Mount in the book of Matthew. It said there that if I look at a woman in lust, it was counted as adultery. Cursing someone was equal to murder and would be lead to punishment in Hell. At the time, I and my high school buddies were listening to AC/DC, the Australian rock band, as they were just getting super popular. They had a song called Highway to Hell that freaked me out. I had a strong aversion to going to any eternal place of fire and brimstone.

So fear was a factor in my conversion. Fear of God’s punishment. Also, the desire to be cleansed from all the wearying “filth” of secular culture, especially all the pornography magazines I had been reading for the past few years. Also, my parents had divorced a couple years earlier. I and my two younger sisters lived with our dad in a “broken” home. The Christians advertised about “God’s love” a lot. The promo worked; I was attracted. Who wouldn’t want a hug from a huge, invisible god? ; )

Were there any other factors that pushed you to convert?

Well, I also think that I was rebelling . . . rebelling against my father, who was quite an angry man in those days, and very, very anti-religion.

My revolt was also a response to the culture, the Americanised commercial hustler-like culture that we young Canadians were exposed to. We were only 17 minutes by car to the U.S. border!

Ironically, I also embraced another pillar of American society, its Evangelical Christianity. During my teen years, it was a time when American-style fundamentalism was gaining ground both in the US and Canada. It was on an upswing. And the bandwagon swept me aboard.

What were some of the changes that happened upon conversion?

For one, I took my pop records and porno mags and set fire to them all in our back yard burning barrel. I began reading the Bible more, and other Christian books. As I mentioned before, I started attending an Evangelical church with my neighbours, joined its youth group. I stopped cussing and focusing on attracting girls. And I have had a lot of wonderful friends over the years. So there has been some positive effects.

But in a lot of ways, it’s been a tough road. My family wasn’t particularly supportive, although I don’t blame them. I was often way over the top. And they didn’t appreciate me preaching at them all the time.

So it was quite an independent road I traveled for many years. I thought I had the truth. I faithfully attended church, but often felt that the rank-and-file of believers weren’t “spiritual” enough. I sought refuge in many kinds of “revival movements” and Christian subcultures over the years: King James Bible Only, Word-of-Faith charismatic, the Pensacola Revival, cell church, house church, the 10/40 Window missions movement, etc. From fad to fad. It was wearying.

My worldview isolated me from a lot of people. We were taught by preachers not to get too close to unbelievers. They were headed for Hell, so our only motive for befriending them was to “share the Good News”. It’s a repulsive way to view humanity, if you ask me. And although there was a lot of talk about loving our neighbours, I’d say a lot of us weren’t so keen on that. You could even say we hated our neighbours.

I became very judgmental and preachy. This put a lot of strain on my relationship with family and classmates. I disliked science classes. I was taught that the world was only six thousand years old, and that scientists were lying to us about evolution. So I went into the Arts in university and avoided learning much about Science, which I now regret. I would have benefited more by finding out how the world REALLY works.

And what seeds were sown over time to promote your deconversion?

First of all, Evangelicals would argue that there is no such thing as deconversion. No one who is a true believer leaves. It’s impossible.

Those who do leave were never the real thing. They were either legalistic, just following a bunch of rules to make it into Heaven. Or they were relying on feelings. But no genuine relationship with Jesus.

Now, of course, I believe that’s total bunk. I had a relationship that was as warm and vibrant as any of the Evangelicals had. I was “saved by grace through faith”. I believed it all. I sought to reflect Jesus in my character, to obey him in all my ways. I was as sincere as any of them. Of course, because it’s all imaginary. I could rouse my feelings just as well as any of them. It’s a feelings-based religion.

I was so passionate, that I let the faith dictate my career. I spent years in seminary studying a Master of Cross Cultural Ministries in order to serve as a missionary overseas, which I did for several years. I put all my eggs in the Christian basket. “Christ” was my all in all, as one praise song says.

The problem was, over time, that I slowly understood that this was a failed religion. Sure, there’s all the rhetoric in the Bible, about people’s lives being changed. And it said that the world, at least where there were lots of Christians, would be a better place. But things didn’t get better. On average, I’d say people got worse.

This myth of liberation and life-change is strongly propagated by the Christian Bible. In the Old Testament, Yahweh was constantly getting on the case of a wayward and disobedient Israel. It looks like they couldn’t get it right until Jesus came.

So, in the New Testament, especially in the Book of Acts, you have this marketing tool that shows us a victorious, dynamic young Church where people were changed and made a difference. But that never happened. What did happen, was that a movement developed where recruits were won over with a lot of fancy PR, with a glamorous spin on the real historical Jesus and Church.

Over time, you finally figure out that this was simply one huge failed experiment. The faith grew, was co-opted by the Roman Empire, and morphed a million times over the centuries, in different geographical areas.

But instead of bringing new life to people and communities, it often brought division and intolerance. And this faith, with human sacrifice at its core, demanding strict obedience to a wrathful god masquerading as a friendly deity, has brought untold suffering to millions.

Think about all those Jews who refused to convert to a bastardized, co-opted version of their own ethnic religion. Think of all the tribal peoples who were forced into it simply because the European Christians had invented gun boats or Gattling guns before anyone else. Think about the Scandinavian King getting all his fellow Vikings to convert at the edge of the sword. Those were my ancestors!

I’m convinced: Christianity is one big historical failure. It brings no liberation, as it promises. Just a lot of glitz. Like a cake that’s all icing.

Did you realize all this at one time, or . . . ?

Well, one of the cracks in the dam came when I returned from my attempts to do missionary work in China around 2008. While living in Vancouver, I got to know several indigenous people, the ones who inhabited Canada long before any European settlers came. I began to hear many stories about what white Canadians, especially Christians, had done to them: spreading of deadly European diseases, theft of land, forced relocation, taking away of the resources and means to make a living, kidnapping of children, re-education in the white man’s ways in Christian schools, etc. It was not a pretty picture. And it was all caused by a people – the Europeans – who had Christianity at the root of their worldview.

When I mentioned this and other issues to Christians, most of the time all I got in response were lame excuses and justifications. Oh, those Europeans weren’t REAL Christians - always a favourite line. Oh, this is the result of natives refusing Christianity and preferring their pagan ways. Etc. Etc. At the heart of all this, I found out that we European-Canadian Christians were simply a bunch of bigots, wielding the tools of Empire in the name of Christ, to grab land and resources from people who had a less powerful army than ours.

Wow. Anything else get you questioning?

Yeah: basically I found out that this is an imperial religion. It’s perfect for controlling the masses. That’s why Constantine adopted it in the early 4th Century. As long as the Empire gives you freedom of religion, you obey your earthly rulers who were appointed by God. It’s every ruler’s dream.

I abandoned church-going for a year, since I figured that these Evangelicals weren’t true Jesus-followers who promoted loving God and neighbour.

Then one day, it dawned on me. The Roman Emperor Constantine was responsible for “co-opting” the Christian faith and turning it into a system of control. Yes, but he also organized the adoption of the Christian Bible. The religious leaders he worked with shaped the “canon”, or “standard”, of the Old and New Testament Bible books. Many books were rejected, and the documents that supported Constantine’s brand of imperial Christianity, were adopted.

So the Bible too, which I had always thought to be 100% true, was actually assembled as a tool of control. The freedom it promises is simply good PR. It sucked me in as a 14 year old teenager, because that is what I wanted to see in it. But after three decades of following this Book, I finally realized that it was a lie, a weak piece of fiction that got me no closer to God than staring at a leaf would.

This realisation was the proverbial “piece of straw that broke the camel’s back”.

So what did you do then?

I said, I’m leaving this crap. I mean, if there’s any god, it certainly can’t be this Christian god.

I drifted to officially become an agnostic, then finally an atheist, with a strong emphasis on Nature as the Ground Zero of all truth.

In regards to the possibility of their being an all-loving, all-powerful god, I said to myself: “If Batman or Superman would do anything within their power to save people, why would this stingy, moody, supposedly all-loving and all-powerful Christian god not intervene in human suffering?

“Oh, we have free choice. Oh, it’s a mystery.” Well, that’s pure propaganda. Lame excuses. Trying to cover up the flaws of a failed system. It’s like medicine that never works, making the patient even sicker. Fake. Snake oil.

You sound like you did a complete 180 turn. What kind of changes took place in your life after that?

It’s been over a year since I decided to abandon Christianity. It was both a relief and a challenge.

I was happy to have finally escaped such a cloying, overpowering system of thought. And to be away from church, churches. I had more time. I didn’t have to pay 10% of my income to snake oil salesmen. I could think for myself.

But there was, and still is, a lot of deprogramming. I mean, this is like a mind control cult. Really. Your thoughts are not your own. It’s a tribe controlled with Group Think.

For the first while, I had to get used to not praying. For decades, I was praying to God under my breath most of my waking hours. And I’d spend a relaxing time early in the mornings, reading the Bible, praying, singing, etc. I had to pinch myself and say, “There’s no one to pray to. You’ve been talking to your alter ego all these years.”

It was hard at first, but I took a lot of nature walks and tried to re-centre myself around just experiencing life for what it is, minus all the fantasy attached to it.

My relationships did take a hit. Three decades of Christian friendships withered. That was hard. In some part, I think my Christian friends gave up on contacting me after hearing about my deconversion. Too bothersome to discuss someone knocking your beloved religion. Also, on my part, I lost interest in connecting with Christian friends, simply because the basis of our friendship, the Christian faith, was gone. I’m sure that they felt the same.

So I’m in the process of developing new friendships. It’s been lonely at times, but things are starting to pick up. My neighbourhood is quite religious. There are churches everywhere, especially with Filipinos, Koreans and Chinese, who are the majority here, and most of whom are Christian. I suppose many other people base their friendships on hobbies, so I have to also look at this as a way to meet new friends.

What’s your assessment of deconversion? Would you recommend it to Christians?

Overall, I could say it’s worth it. It’s not easy. But to know and follow the truth is such a relief. That is, truth based on reality, on verifiable facts. Not on mythological stories written by those wishing to build and sustain an Empire.

Ha ha, recommend it? Sure. But as far as I could see, deconversion is rare among adults. It happens more often among teens and young adults who are getting away from the influence of religious parents.

But for older folks: yes, it can happen, and I would encourage people to really study the facts. Do your research. Most Christians don’t. They got pulled into the faith by family and friends, especially at a young and impressionable age. They didn’t have the tools to do a good, thorough job of researching. I sure didn’t when I was 14.

Many others convert because of friends who invite them to church, a potluck or a Bible study. They just drift along into it.

Don’t be a drifter. Be someone who does their homework. For example, try studying all the times a New Testament Gospel such as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John quotes an Old Testament verse trying to prove that Jesus is the long-awaited Jewish Messiah and Savior. You’ll find that most Messianic quotes are taken out of context.

And many other things in the Bible don’t make sense. The stories are interesting, but hardly believable as a work of historical fact.

I remember hearing one comedian say, “No adult goes into a bookstore, pulls a Bible off the shelf, reads it for the first time and says, ‘Wow. This is the religion for me. I’m going to sacrifice my whole life for this!’ No, Christians get you when you’re young, a kid, when you can’t argue back, when your brain is soft and mushy.”

And I think that’s true. Most of us are not really taught to question things when we are children. We are taught to obey.

Or else the evangelizers will get you when you’re having a crisis: a death among family or friends, a divorce, a health concern, etc. They prey on you when you’re weak and vulnerable, with a pretense of bringing comfort and relief.

So there you have it: kids and adults in crisis. They’re at the top of your list of easy targets. And that’s how Christianity grows.

Thanks a lot for participating in this interview. Any final comments?

I thank you also for giving me the chance to share my story.

One final thought I can say is: people, think for yourselves. Stop being sheeple, following the herd. Be independent. Do what’s right. Keep seeking for truth!

Thank you and have a great day!

Thank you very much. It sounds like quite an adventure!


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