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The Short Testimony of a Recovering Fundamentalist

By JB ~

My journey to deconversion began about 6 years ago when I first entered the working world. Prior to that, I was as deeply devout and fundamentalist as one could possibly be, at heart if not by my actions. I was raised in church, am the stepson of a fundamentalist church pastor, and I even attended an extremely conservative Christian college. I even have a minor in theology! And despite a deep mental and emotional commitment to Christianity, I've always been a questioner. Not necessarily a skeptic. That would come later. But even during my formal education, I enjoyed raising difficult questions in my theology and philosophy classes.

I think the thing that lead me to start seriously questioning my own faith was an emotional divorce from it. Basically, once I got a job and a place of my own and I wasn't surrounded and inundated by religion, I lost the emotional connection to religion that I had always had as a teenager and very young adult. For me, it is sort of like looking back on one's significant other years after a breakup: oftentimes, our reaction is something like, "I can't believe I ever felt that was about her." That's very similar to how I feel about my ex-faith now that I've removed myself from it. Once the emotional aspect was removed, it became so much clearer to me that the hard questions (or unanswerable questions) I was so fond of asking were perhaps really my way of expressing a deep-seated skepticism or doubt, or at the very least, dissatisfaction with the status quo answers I received day in and day out.

The funny thing is that I have always felt this way about some religions. Islam, Mormonism, and various others have always been laughable to me. It was always so easy to dismiss them as having no intellectual credibility, all while making claims that my own particular brand of faith was not only soundly defensible, but ultimately the most logical choice of belief systems. However, the view from 40,000 feet has changed all that. Now I treat my old creeds with the same disdain with which I treated all the others, and my main struggle now, one that I take very seriously, is resisting the urge to treat believers with the same disdain that I treat their religions.

What is interesting to me is that I take morality much more seriously now than I ever did when I was a believer. I know that I am not alone in this as many others who have shucked off the faith have undoubtedly been forced to choose for themselves, for the first time, what morality looks like, how it is defined, and what to do about it. Taking responsibility for one's own morality means that one must be serious about it in its conception and execution. "Because the Bible tells me so" is no longer valid. I have to defend my choices, and, by extension, my own identity as a moral being.

I look forward to the next journey: one that involves doing good out of the love of humanity and reason.There are a few people in my immediate sphere that know I'm an atheist. Mainly, they are limited to people I don't know extremely well, or people who I've know for a short time. None of my family and none of my closest friends know about my choice to leave the flock. I feel somewhat like a coward because of this. My motivation for joining this forum is to find a sense of camaraderie and acceptance, and perhaps encouragement. While I will neither lie about my beliefs if asked, nor participate in the religion of my friends and parents, I also do not wish to be the cause of pain and devastation to my parents who stake so much on religion.

I say that I am still recovering because it's true. It's extremely difficult to throw off 25 years of indoctrination. Even though I've been doubting, questioning, rejecting and eventually disavowing my old religious beliefs for the last 5 or 6 years, It's only been in the last year or so that I've finally reached the point of honesty with myself to admit that I do NOT believe and that, furthermore, there is nothing to be ashamed of. I am proud of having reached the end of that journey, even though I regret the shame, misery, self-loathing, guilt, mania, self-righteousness, bigotry, misogyny, lack of intellectual rigor, missed chances for growth and life experience, wasted money and time and everything else that arose because of my beliefs.

I look forward to the next journey: one that involves doing good out of the love of humanity and reason. I've found that I'm much more excited about my lack of faith that I ever was about having faith. This is evidenced by the fact that I read more, think more, give more, and generally feel more at peace now that I ever did as a believer. Not that I am some sort of hero or anything. I just personally find deep satisfaction in having arrived at the place where I am, and I look forward to growing as a person, a citizen of a godless world, and a proponent of a hopefully inevitable revolution that results in the utter, final rejection of living life based on the guidance of an immoral superstition.