Some Advice To Those Who Leave Christianity

Today I received this email: "John I finished reading your book this week and am now no longer a Christian...."

I have been heading strongly in that direction for about a month. I was wondering if you could give some advice on what to do next. How do I minimise the damage to relationships with my wife, my son, my relatives and friends as I tell them about my new world view?

My biggest concern is my son, who attends a private Christian school. I know hardly anything about child psychology and am not sure how my decision not to be Christian any more will affect him. As much as possible I want to avoid causing my son any long-term confusion, animosity towards me or any real difficulty at school, being the kid with the dad who doesn't believe in God. My wife will be very unsettled to find that I no longer believe.

Do you have any advice on how I should go about it, or can you recommend any kind of book?

Because my family and relatives currently believe I am still a Christian, I feel I must do something very soon, because my normal life is to go to church, answer my son's questions about God at home, pray with him at bed time, pray with my wife and mother-in-law at times, and say grace at dinner.

I look forward to hearing from you and would appreciate the opportunity to remain anonymous, at least for now.
Yours sincerely
"QA"

Here's what I wrote to him:

It's nice to know my book has helped you. For your next book I highly recommend this one by Dr. Winell.

Your questions are painful ones, situational ones, that I would need to know more about you and your family and your son to offer you specific advice. That's why you should get Dr. Winell's book. She also does seminars.

Yours is a troubling case. I know I wouldn't want to damage my relationships with my family. Some atheists in the past just keep quiet about their doubts because that's all they could do, to not talk about them. Wow, that's something I couldn't do, especially now in this era.

What I did as I was becoming an unbeliever was to express questions that would be considered on the fringes of that which wouldn't alert people to the fact that I took these questions seriously. I would ask, "what would you say if someone said this....?" And I would then ask a tough question, but accept their answer as if that settles it. Then I would do it again, and again, and again. Christian people thought of me as playing the "Devil's Advocate," and they actually liked my questions since it gave them a challenge. [Actually, I didn't really deceive people by doing this. I merely expressed the questions I was wrestling with as I was questioning these things myself].

If I were you I would express my doubts to your wife by slowly introducing the subject with several "Devil's Advocate" type questions when reading the Bible. How long I'd do this (days, weeks, or months) would depend upon factors I don't know about your situation. After planting these seeds I would simply tell her that I was struggling with doubt. She'd probably recommend a book or tell you to talk to the preacher, and I would do this. I would ask the preacher some of my questions and tell him I'm struggling with doubt. He'd likely offer you some advice and some books to read. Then when the time is right I'd tell my wife I no longer believe. This doesn't mean you should tell everyone at that point, just her. Explain to her why you don't believe. Have her read my book. Then see where things go from there. At some point you'd have to play it by ear after that.

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I just learned from someone that when a Campus Crusade for Christ minister told his wife he no longer believed, she told him in turn that she didn't either! This is the exception rather than the rule, but interesting nonetheless.

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I wish you well. There are no pat answers.

24 comments:

Reggie said...

John, this is getting old.

Your standard ploy now seems to be that you "know who someone is" and thus poison the well.

And if many couples don't survive all this, and you don't think god exists anyway, why bother throwing your family away for something that DOESN'T EXIST.

I feel sorry for the people you counseled, and the way you betray them by mentioning that they were Christians who had secrets and how you use that as an argument against them.

Given you as an example, there probably are a large number of pastors like you.

And you wonder why the church has problems.

Spirula said...

why bother throwing your family away for something that DOESN'T EXIST.

Sure, it's better to be dishonest with your spouse about your personal beliefs. That always works out.

By the way, I seem to recall some guy claimed he would be a 'divider' of families. Oh, what was his name?

Oh yeah, it was this guy

Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.

So why do care about fractured families? Jesus didn't.

Joseph said...

My heart goes out to this guy. I have found myself recently in a very similar situation, except no kids (which, admittedly makes this case a might tougher). It's not simply a matter of believing in God or not, as Reggie simplistically reduced the problem to. The belief in the CHRISTIAN God and all that implies, relationally and psychologically, is what's at issue here. I will say that I told my wife in stages. She has been very understanding so far, but she was completely in shock the first time I told her. I still haven't told my parents or my brother (who looks up to me), but all things in their due time. Don't let the Singh's and Reggie's of the world discourage you from making a honest choice about your belief system, nor let their guilt trips prompt you to make the transition in an unnatural or premature way. When you are as tied into the system as you are, "Lord knows" it isn't easy to get out.

Cadin said...

I concur with Joseph-- It's not just about pretending to believe in a god...You most show some kind of passion; pretend to run after what christianity deems is good, and reject many things and people because of sin or whatnot. I attempted to do just that to keep my fiance, and ultimately caused myself more hurt.

Besides isn't it the bible that says that liars will go to hell? why would you encourage someone towards hell..shame on you!

And if that's not enough the bible also clearly states that knowing the truth will free. would you rather bondage?

I just hope that everything works out for this guy...he is in a extremely undesirable position.

Steven Bently said...

I haven't read your book yet, but I am wondering how we, Americans as a whole, let ourselves get in these awkward positions?

Is it because we were set up as children to believe that Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy were in deed a fact? And then, as we get older do we not perceive beliefs as pure fact?

Why do we, as grown adults, need beliefs and myths to justify our own existance?

Is the bible the final lie that we are supposed to believe as being true?

I was watching a preacher in a pretty taylored suit on TV and other preachers in a pretty suit sitting around him was amening everything that he said, whether it made a lick of sense or not, so this in many people's minds verifies that everything a person in a pretty suit says is true.

One must investigate how the bible, and superstitious beliefs made it's way over here to this continent.

The American people presume that the Bible has always existed on this soil and have never gave it one thought to it as being written by Arabs, to whom most Americans would not give an Arab person the time of day.

Not only that, but they give no thought that names like Mary, John, James, Paul, Jesus, are not even of Arab origin, these are of English origin.

The American people have been deceived by the power of fear from pure greed of the preachers.

How can we put an end to that ignorant nonsense, that has put so many people in a defensive position to have to stoop to a level of insanity just to get along with their family and peers?

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Steven: If you are going to make this sort of ignorant, bigoted, and simply stupid -- not to mention ungrammatical --comments, go play for the other team, willya. We, or at least I, don't want you on this side.

Hey Dan, Dan Marvin, we finally have someone you can debate with and have a chance to come out on top!

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Prup,
my two cents.
Steven said
The American people presume that the Bible has always existed on this soil and have never gave it one thought to it as being written by Arabs, to whom most Americans would not give an Arab person the time of day.

I don't see any malice in there. I see 'otherizing' and an observation that could be viewed as ironic, but I think an allegation of 'bigoted' is unwarranted and contentious.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Lee: having checked out Steven's blogs, I admit that I did see nothing bigoted there, merely angry.
Steven, I apologize for that part of my post. It is a serious charge, and one I shouldn't have made without doing a bit of research. (Saying it was late is a slight explanation, but not an excuse.)
However, Lee, you and John have both -- rightly -- criticized Darren and others for the 'childishness' of their arguments. Don't we have an equal duty to make the same criticism against someone on 'our side'? Because we know that our opponents will seize on any weakness to use against us.
Steven's blogs show potential, yes, and at least one of them shows brilliance -- his list of 143 contradictions in the Bible on "Biblical fallacies" is worth being linked to in the FAQ
http://biblicalfallacies.blogspot.com/

But the tone and anger -- and youth -- that is evident both here and on his blogs is valuable -- but not for here. (But then this is the dispute that caused me to be bounced from membership. I believe we must hold both sides to a high standard, and to challenge weak arguments from either direction. Because we can be sure that our more sophisticated opponents will and hold them against us.)

So let me rephrase my original comments. Steven, welcome, but please see the sort of arguments we have here. There are plenty of 'angry atheist' blogs, but this isn't one.

Lee Randolph said...

hi prup,
you have the right to do anything you want to
but you were characteristically contentious.
and you are minimizing your role.
If you are going to make this sort of ignorant, bigoted, and simply stupid -- not to mention ungrammatical --comments,
thats a little more than criticism for childish behavior don't you think? Thems fightin words where I come from.
Thats all i got to say 'bout that.

LevBronstein said...

Actually, what do atheists care about families.

If you think it more important to be "honest" about you atheism than keeping your family intact and keeping your kids with you there you are a fool.

After all, Loftus already tossed his family away, what makes you think he has your interest at heart.

What the hell does he care?

Misery loves company.

Joseph said...

Lev, where do you get off equating atheism with passionless indifference? Also, are you saying that it's not possible to have a good marriage or raise good children apart from the church?

Steven Bently said...

I was just wondering what happened to my assumed privilege of freedom of speech, even if a word happens to be spelled wrong?

" Steven: If you are going to make this sort of ignorant, bigoted, and simply stupid -- not to mention ungrammatical --comments, go play for the other team, willya. We, or at least I, don't want you on this side."

Could you just point out my ignorant, bigoted and simply stupid comments, without first having to go to my blog and critquing it before you can assume a position of hostility?

And then you come back and make the asinine comment that the only worthy post I have made on my blog was pasted from another website and then make grammatical errors yourself.

I wonder if you completely read and fully comprehended what was written?

I resent being put in a class with Dan Marvin.

Perhaps my comments have become a threat to your intelligence.

I await your humble reply?

If I and my comments are not welcomed here, then who's comments are welcomed here?

Just yours I suppose, it must be lonely living your own tiny little world.

Joseph said...

Can't we all just get along?

John W. Loftus said...

Steven Bentley, your comments are always welcome here. I've had run ins with Prup myself. He's his own person. He does not play well with others.

GordonBlood said...

If this site debunks one thing its that a world without religion will make everyone peaceful and agree with each other...

Reggie said...

You say Prup does not play well with others?

And YOU do?

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Reggie:
Don't you EVER use me to score points against John again! John and I do have disagreements, and he, for reasons he felt sufficient, removed me from membership here, but it by no means lessened my respect for John that he did so -- and I believe from personal coments that he retains his respect for me. I am not even sure he was wrong in removing me.

In fact, one thing I have been trying to argue for is the idea that we don't have to have agreement on everything to agree on overall goals.

(Oh, and Steven, yes I did overreact -- partially because I had just been ready to turn off the browser and go to sleep, and partially -- I don't expect someone who defines himself as 'anti-baseball' on his profile -- because the current collapse of the Mets is putting me in a lousier and more cantankerous mood than usual.

Joseph said...

Reggie, what value are you bringing to ANY of the discussions here? For some reason the word "troll" keeps popping into my head.

John W. Loftus said...

Since Prup and Joseph commented about Reggie I won't delete what he said, but he's banned. Please don't feed the trolls once you recognize them. For the record, I do have a lot of respect for Prup.

Chris said...

John-
You should give up the time honored Christian practice of shunning. It is unbecoming a free thinking athiest.

John W. Loftus said...

Chris, without an enforced comment policy we wouldn't have a good discussion. It would degenerate to this. But in fact we do, as does Daylight Atheism.

Steven Bently said...

(Oh, and Steven, yes I did overreact -- partially because I had just been ready to turn off the browser and go to sleep, and partially -- I don't expect someone who defines himself as 'anti-baseball' on his profile -- because the current collapse of the Mets is putting me in a lousier and more cantankerous mood than usual.)

Well I'm glad you didn't stub your big toe on the bed post.

Alot of times a person's knee-jerk response tells more about the writer than the person they are trying to intimidate.

I'm just wondering what the Mets could possibly owe you? I can see children getting upset or excited, but a grown man? Hardly!

Joseph said...

In fairness to Prup, I had to read your comments twice to understand that you weren't actually preaching an anti-Arab diatribe. Upon second reading, your comment was ironic and dully noted. Prup being sensitive to issues of cultural competency responded passionately, as I expected him to. His comment about Dan made me chuckle!--too bad Dan isn't browsing this blog anymore.

Shygetz said...

If this site debunks one thing its that a world without religion will make everyone peaceful and agree with each other...

Well, I would argue that it would be MORE peaceful, and until I see beheadings as a result of this thread, I will not hold it as evidence to the contrary.

I would agree that a lack of religion will not make people agree with each other. Trying to "lead freethinkers" is like herding cats.