Journal Article Researching Deconversion

A friend pointed me to a journal article by Heinz Streib studying deconversion experiences:

"The Variety of Deconversion Experiences - Contours of a Concept in Respect to Empirical Research" (co-author: Keller, Barbara), in: Archive for the Psychology of Religion / Archiv für Religionspsychologie 26: 181-200 (2004) (.pdf)

My comments will be placed below the fold.

The author reflects the lack of research done on deconversions, and I like his outline for clarifying the concept itself:
It may however be important for understanding the process of deconversion to attend to the loss of specific religious experiences which deconverts talk about in their interviews. The loss of religious experiences, or the attraction to a new kind of religious experience, may be an element of deconversion which occurs as early in the deconversion process and are as important for this process as intellectual doubt and denial or moral criticism.

Thus we may add this to our list of elements in our conceptualization of deconversion.

We conclude the interindividual commonalities of deconversion with an extended list of definition elements.

Deconversion consists in:

1. Loss of specific religious experiences (Experiential Dimension); this means the loss of finding meaning and purpose in life; the loss of the experience of God; of trust and of fear;
2. Intellectual doubt, denial or disagreement with specific beliefs (Ideological Dimension); heresy (sensu Berger) is an element of deconversion;
3. Moral criticism (Ritualistic Dimension) which means a rejection of specific prescriptions and/or the application of a new level of moral judgement;
4. Emotional suffering (Consequential Dimension); this can consist in a loss of embeddedness/social support/sense of stability and safety;
5. Disaffiliation from the community which can consist of a retreat from participation in meetings or from observance of religious practices; finally, the termination of membership which eventually follows.

These interindividual commonalities of deconversion can be used to structure empirical research, and as criteria of what characterizes biographical accounts as deconversion stories.
I just find #1 rather problematic if it is not taken as an "interindividual commonality" - something which may not be shared coequally amongst deconvert groups. After all, many of us would argue that the phrase, "God has purpose for my life" is meaningless and inspired much confusion as a believer, and that self-ownership follows from, and is necessary for, one to evaluate the value/meaning/purpose of ones own life.

The implicit association here is between deconversion and ultimate loss, rather than temporary transition, in values and purposes. That is fallacious. All of us go through changes in the way we view our purposes and meaning whether we apostasize, remain Christian, or never become one. Life and its experiences bring us new perspectives, and it is rare for people to exist in an existential vacuum.

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