The Value of Conversion/Deconversion Stories

We here at DC tell why we rejected Christianity in both personal deconversion stories, and with our arguments. Regarding our deconversion stories, it's disheartening when Christians on the web tell me I was never saved in the first place, or that deep inside I still believe. The equivalent for the Christian conversion story would be if naysayers argued that such a person never truly converted at all! Think how THAT would frustrate you! I take Christian claims of faith at face value. Why won't all Christians take our claims of unbelief at face value?

Let me comment on Dave Armstrong's recent evaluation of my deconversion story. In the first place, I want to thank him for thinking my story was worth reading and spending 4 hours on. I guess my story was worthy of a look (even if he won't bother to read the whole story until he can get my book for 25 cents at a bargain bookstore)!

When he criticized my deconversion story it was the last straw for my emotions that day. I think I've been treated like this for far too long, and I have been patient at worse attacks on me and my integrity. I think my problem was that I had hoped for better from Dave, that's all, which is a compliment to him that I thought this of him. I guess I will never hope for a better treatment again from any Christian apologist about my deconversion story, even if they read the whole story.

The argument that people convert to Christianity or deconvert away from it for less than justifiable reasons, is the natural reaction for someone who disagrees with that particular story, depending on which side of the fence one changes to. It's what we all do, depending on the particular story. When Anthony Flew claimed he was a Deist, many atheists said he did so for less than adequate reasons, for instance. This is natural. But these stories are also personal ones, so it's hard to see criticisms of them in a non-personal, objective way.

Personal reasons for converting or deconverting are just that, personal reasons. They only explain why someone changed, even if others don't see those stories as having any logical force at all. To the observant, these stories only make a rational case for the change when the person states the reasons for changing, even if no one can comprehensively articulate all of the reasons why he changed. Those reasons are left to be completely fleshed out later, and we do that here on a daily basis.

Carry on then. Let's stick to the issues.

3 comments:

Matthew said...

John,

I agree with you. I think that when we read a deconversion story of some side, it's natural human nature to look through it to determine "what went wrong". The fact of the matter is that both Christians and ahteists have been known to impugn on the motives of others.

I won't deny that when I read stories of atheists or agnostics who become Christians, my first reaction is to find the weak link(s)in the chain and see what went wrong. I look at Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, A.S.A. Jones, and Ralph Muncaster with an eye of suspicion. I even plan to write critiques of such conversion stories.

Believers can grow frustrated this, thinking "Oh come on! Why cannot you admit that someone finally saw legitimate reasons for believing and finally saw the light?" Some Christians have even suggested that we Skeptics read these conversion stories in a tone of "Hey! This person saw the light and converted. Why can't you?"

The fact of the matter is that I expect Christians to look through deconversion stories to find out "what went wrong" just as I look through the stories with a skeptical eye. I have read stories from McDowell, Stroble, Muncaster, and A.S.A. Jones. I can tell exactly what I think went wrong and why.

Matthew

RubySera Martin said...

John, I think Matthew is right. Just now I took a quick look at what Dave Armstrong said about your book. My gut reaction is that we need not concern ourselves with the likes of him. Fundy to the core. Everything has to fit his view of the Bible. That which does not fit, such as your deconversion, is twisted to fit. Distorted. Ripped totally out of context if there is no other alternative.

If he sees any of what I'm saying here he will rip it to shreds in no time. What he doesn't realize is that he's just chewing someone else's already been chewed cud.

I know none of this takes away the pain. We put so much of ourselves into these stories. I think we cherish the illusion in the back of our minds that surely if we tell our story good enough, make things real enough, surely they will have no choice but to accept it.

The conclusion I've arrived at is that this is all it is--an illusion. "They"--whoever "they" are--will never accept what we say. Never.

There's a finality in that word that smacks of doom. Black, ominous doom. In a way, I think it's just the period (as at the end of a sentence) indicating that our deconversion is complete.

It is time to move on. We must find another purpose in life. This approach is not working so we must find another.

That is what attracts me to this project "Debunking Christianity." Christianity must be debunked; at least fundnamentalist Christianity. HOW?

I have no idea. But for every approach that doesn't work we know that much more. We know not to try that again.

I am not suggesting we stop writing our deconversion stories. We just stop expecting our stories to topple fundamentalism with one blow.

Believe me, I am speaking of painful personal disillusionment. At the moment I'm feeling strong. Next I will be the one needing support. Just want you to know you're not in this alone.

Ruby

Dave Armstrong said...

it's disheartening when Christians on the web tell me I was never saved in the first place, or that deep inside I still believe. The equivalent for the Christian conversion story would be if naysayers argued that such a person never truly converted at all! Think how THAT would frustrate you! I take Christian claims of faith at face value. Why won't all Christians take our claims of unbelief at face value?


Just to clarify for those whom might incorrectly attribute these attitudes to me (since I am the one mentioned by name in this post):

1. I NEVER claimed, nor do I believe that John "was never saved in the first place" (allowing for differences in Protestant and Catholic soteriology; I know what he means). I'm not now, and never was a Calvinist. They are the ones who tend to say this.

2. I NEVER claimed, nor do I believe that John, "deep inside" . . . "still believe[s]". I said I thought he had the knowledge of God down deep, but that is different, of course, from being a Christian.

3. I never questioned the sincerity of John's conversion to atheism, or refused to take his claim "at face value."

========================

That said, it remains true that no one here will take a serious look at my critique of his deconversion, save for Daniel Morgan, who did so partially, mixed in with other points he wished to make.

Y'all can moan and groan and complain all you like. Serious thinkers want to see you INTERACT with my critique, which actually INTERACTED with the deconversion story. I understand that such philosophical interaction is hard work, but hey, life is tough. Serious thinking takes work and reflection.

But serious thinking isn't just saying, "yeah, Dave's critique is sheer nonsense," or "we need not concern ourselves with the likes of [Dave]. Fundy to the core."

Nice ad hominem touch there. And of course I'm not a "fundy." I'm a Catholic. I wasn't even a fundamentalist as a Protestant. I was an orthodox evangelical Protestant and am now an orthodox Catholic.

But false labels work real well when one has no argument to bring to bear.

You guys keep calling names (i.e., those of you who do that; not all here). I'll keep making arguments. And I'll be more than happy to return the favor of ignoring the ones who want to simply call names and avoid serious intellectual interaction (except if they write something so outrageous that I must respond).

Blogs are somewhat like talk radio. If an ideological opponent is making an ass of himself, you get out of the way and let him do it.

Dave Armstrong