Looking back at Christmas

As a Christian I loved the Christmas story. With its singing angels and divine guidance; it’s a child-friendly story with an almost magical captivation.

I still enjoy Christmas, but in a very different way, I like the decoration filled house, and the cards from friends and seeing family and the extended days off work. But the Christmas story? Well it’s nonsense isn’t it?

I don’t think I ever critically analysed the Christmas story as a Christian. I accepted it as literally true because it was in the bible and I was a Christian so I had to believe it. Why should I ever question it? My exit from Christianity didn’t really involve that part of the bible so in my questioning of what I believed, those chapters and verses didn’t play a significant role.

What has intrigued me about the story in later years is that every Christmas, at least it seems that way, there is a fresh barrage of proposals for what might be the Christmas star, as if that’s the most serious objection to the narrative. Over the years I’m sure I’ve heard every single variation of celestial event being credited as a possibility. Nova, comet, conjunction, you name it, it’s been suggested. However, no one has ever answered how some travellers arriving at a town would be able to identify a specific property from a ‘star’ that is in the sky. If I step outside my house on a clear night and look up and pick a star that looks like it’s above my house and then go to the other end of town, that same ‘star’ will be above whichever house I choose to stand outside. I would also not be able to navigate back to my house using that star as my navigation aide. How on earth did those wise men manage it?

This is fatal to believing the guiding star element of the Christmas story. Well it should be. Yet every year a new swathe of Christian commentary proposes some natural event that could have been the ‘star’ and each one forgets to explain that last point. Is that bit not important? Of course it is, but it can only happen if there is some supernatural assistance of some description, in which case why even bother with the pretence of invoking a natural event? Just say God guided them using a supernatural light that only they could see. of course that doesn’t help the narrative because for something like God being born on earth, something big needs to accompany it, and you don’t get bigger or more glorious than a guiding star! So the modern day Christian is caught in a trap created by an ancient myth.

The problems don’t stop there either. The reported census doesn’t match the required time slot, it happened ten years after King Herod died, and there never was a requirement to travel to an ancestors’ town anyway. The narrative needs to get Jesus born in Bethlehem and so this is made up in order to get him there, nothing more. King Herod didn’t kill all those baby boys. Mary and Joseph didn’t travel to Egypt. One account says Jesus was presented at the temple in Jerusalem after Mary’s 40 days of uncleanliness, another says Jesus was a young child still in Bethlehem for the wise men to visit, what happened to the home they travelled from? The gaps and inconsistencies are more blatant than a Hollywood action flick.

Back to the wise men, does anyone else find it odd that the wise men came from an entirely different land? Why could it not be fellow Jews? No doubt there’s an apologetic that says it’s to show just that Jesus was King of the World not just King of the Jews, or something. This is what’s called retrospective interpretation, probably the least honest of the apologetics strategies.

The Christmas story makes no sense and it should not be believed as an historical event. It’s a myth, let’s keep it that way.

I love Christmas, and I love it even more without the unbelievable mishmash of nonsense that Christianity tries to turn it into.

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Telling Others I am an Atheist

Over the past 3 years I have told several people that I am a former Christian, now an atheist. Interestingly, but probably not surprisingly, I’ve found that telling strangers is much easier than telling those I already know. I’m talking about face to face conversations here.

In my former job, I spent a good deal of time on the train to and from London; a journey of over three hours. So it is inevitable that I’ll occasionally end up in conversation with my neighbour and sometimes that conversation will go on for most of the journey. As a result, there are times when the subject turns to science or religion. In these circumstances I found myself being very open about my religious status. In almost every case the person I’ve been talking to has been a fellow atheist or agnostic. On revealing that I’m a former Christian, very few of these fellow travellers took the subject further and showed any interest in why I changed my stance. Those that did found my ‘science convinced me’ explanation sufficient and acceptable.

Basically, those who already hold a view that the god concept is either questionable or false have accepted my change of religious state with a ‘Cool, good for you’ and moved on. Sometimes that can be a little deflating; this is a subject that dominates my life after all. I lived a Christian life for many years and the step away was difficult and challenging and the ripples do continue. Changing your stance on religion is not comparable to changing your preference of car. This has been a good experience for me because it has forced me to step outside of what dominates my life and engage with others on what is meaningful to them. Something I didn’t do often enough when I was a Christian.

On the flip side, telling Christians is, predictably, a whole other experience. Those that know me are understandably sad, this is because they know me and care for me. Their response is out of love for a friend and I fully get that, but it is still not an affirming response.

Last week I told a total stranger, who is a Christian, and the result almost comical. I say almost because her reaction was instinctive, she wasn’t faking it. Thinking about it after the event I wonder how my Cristian self would have responded in the same situation. My timing also sucked a bit too. I was on my way home after a week of work and happened to sit next to her, with a work colleague, she overheard us talking about my upbringing in Africa and how I was from missionary stock. This encouraged her, because she happened to be on her way home from a Christian event called David’s Tent. Not something I am familiar with, but from what she said it seems to include extended sessions of worship that last over 24 hours. Not something I’ve done myself and strikes me as a tad excessive. Anyway, this girl, is on her way home, tired and full of the effects of having spent a week with fellow Christians; something I most certainly can identify with, I’ve been there many times, as a leader on a summer camp and as one of thousands at a popular Christian festival. Probably not the best time to get faced with a former Christian.

When I told her I had turned my back on faith she actually winced and leaned away from me. It was as though I had caused her genuine and severe mental anguish, maybe I did. The trigger seemed to be the phrase “I just don’t believe anymore”. It was as though her brain was trying to shout back, “that’s not possible”. I changed the subject onto her job and she relaxed again. It turns out she takes the same train route to and from work so maybe I’ll bump into her again, who knows.

Breaking it all down into its simplest states, Christian responses to my atheism are understandably sad while non-religious responses are either indifferent or congratulatory. Which brings me to a very serious point; this balance of reactions only encourages me to seek out my atheist brethren and form friendship bonds with them. If Christians want to win atheists back, they need to develop a better response.

 

Its all Change Around Here

Life in the limey residence is going to be different from now on.

Firstly, it’s because I now have a job. It is a big relief, but it is not quite what I was hoping for. I find myself being slightly more junior and at a lower salary than I wanted. This was always going to be a risk when my wife and I made the decision to relocate three years ago. Being this far from London has an effect on the types of job available and the corresponding salaries. Still, there are some prospects and the role will give me some valuable experience so I will be focusing on that rather than the negatives. The true is, we can afford to live and there are many who are worse off.

What it also means is that I am now out of the house by 7am each morning and arrive back home again at a similar time. Gone are the days when I can work from home, I am now a regular commuter, something I have not done for several years. That will take some adjustment, I enjoyed being home when limey daughter got home from school. I also enjoyed doing the school run on occasions. Those too are now in the past and we’ll have to adjust. I think I will miss that the most.

 

There is other news from the Church.

A vote recently took place to change the rules of the Church. The proposal was that women should be allowed to preach. Until now, the rules stated they could not, I don’t know the exact wording or what the exact change is. This is a vote that has been expected and anticipated since the split of last year when a bunch left the church to set up on their own. The leaving group basically consisted of the more fundamental attitudes. That’s a bit of a simplification, but the effect is that those left are a more liberal bunch and that means a vote like this can actually be considered and discussed.

Unsurprisingly, the vote was overwhelmingly in favour and the rules have been changed. In anticipation of this change my wife was primed with date and a passage and is to become the first woman to preach in the church. She has put many hours into her preparation and with about three weeks to go has it completed.

Over the years she has preached a number of times, sometimes in our church at the time and sometimes as a guest preacher. Since our move, she has preached as a guest in a local church a few times and has another engagement in just a couple of weeks. In all that time I have not seen her put the effort into a sermon that she has for the one she has just completed.

I am sure she’ll have other sermons to preach now and I fully expect that there will be several a year. The pastor continues to be a good and supportive friend and I know that he will encourage my wife in her ministry.

There was a time when I enjoyed hearing her preach, I liked how she explained certain passages and she makes an effort to use clear and concise language. I never enjoyed a sermon that went into intellectual theology to such a level that it required mental gymnastics. My wife avoids this and I think that is why she is so often appreciated when she preaches.

However, I haven’t heard her preach for more than four years and when I asked if she wanted me to attend this landmark event, she deemed it not important that I attend. I would have gone had she wanted it, but I think for her it is better that I don’t sit there disbelieving most of what she has to say. It’s not a specific problem in our life, but there are still areas where we need to work things through. Hmmm, that sounds worse than it actually is, please read that last sentence as an over statement and certainly don’t assume there are marital issues as a result, there aren’t. It’s simply some areas haven’t been discussed into minute detail because we haven’t had the need to do so.

So, life is different and we’ll adjust to the newness of it and however we adjust we’ll make sure it’s for the better. One thing it does mean is that I’m spending a lot less time sat at my computer in my office reading blog and failing to write stuff. Whether that’s a good thing or not is a whole other issue.

Daddy, why don’t you come to church anymore?

I knew the question would come eventually. I have been kidding myself for ages that my daughter would accept the status quo and not question it until she was an argumentative teen. At that point we could discuss the issue properly. I don’t desire having a deep conversation with a pre-teen about how god is a lost concept and the combination of science and logic have reduced the chances of his existence to little more than highly improbable.

To be honest I have been afraid of this question. Afraid because I simply did not know how she would respond to the only answer I could give. That is, “Daddy doesn’t believe in god any more darling.”. I have pondered on what lies I could tell to divert the issue, but one thing that the limey daughter is good at (along with pretty much all children her age) is perpetually asking “why” until she gets the answer she is seeking. So the fear of being caught trying to lie my way out of that one has been there too.

So here I am, thinking back on the conversation we had had yesterday and my current situation. I am still out of work, life at home is occasionally stressful, the worry about how much longer we can manage before things get really serious is present and looming larger. The depression that I mentioned at the start of the year (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/good-riddance-2013/) is still lingering in the background ready to swallow me up at the slightest hint of trouble. If there is one thing I desire to avoid, it is to add the fate of my eternal soul to the imagination of my daughter, there are other more pressing matters that we face daily.

Until the point she asked the question, it had been a great day. We found a way to purchase a cheap Kinect for our XBOX 360 to replace the one that broke a mere 2 months outside of its warranty. This is a purchase guaranteed to add pleasure to the household; it also served to clear the unused Wii and Wii Fit Board from my office as they went in part exchange. In addition, daughter and daddy were on their way to a ski centre to have a ski lesson and toboggan session at a bargain offer price. These things need grasping when there simply isn’t the freedom to spend money on days out.

So, after a few seconds of utter panic, not helpful when driving, I answered with the truth, that I no longer believe in god. She asked why I don’t believe. I knew that would be the next question, I panicked for longer and said that I don’t think it makes sense for there to be a god. I could have gone on about how I think the science of evolution makes the god hypothesis impossible. I could have explained how I used to believe in a literal creation. I could have said lots, but I wanted a short conversation because the subject of the limey daughter’s own beliefs is still a subject that Mr and Mrs limey are processing. Making our daughter the battleground for our conflicting worldviews is not somewhere either of us wants to go.

The limey daughter does get evolution though, science is something she has great interest in and recently she has been hovering up the Horrible Science series of books in the school library. These are her bedtime reading of choice. It is not unknown for her to come out of her bedroom and call me from the top of the stairs so that she can share a science fact she has just read. I can get cross with her she does that at a time when she is supposed to be settling down to sleep. I want to encourage excitement in nature and the workings of the world around us. If I use her thirst for scientific knowledge to explain how my faith was undermined, who knows what the result will be? If only I could tell the future.

Daughter accepted my explanation and the conversation moved on, we continued to talk about the upcoming ski lesson. We had a wonderful two hours together, getting very hot and tired. Afterwards we came home and enjoyed some more XBOX time, using the new Kinect of course, since mummy limey had and evening at work. All in it was a great day we had together, but I am wondering what she thinks of my non-belief and when she will raise it again. I fully expect her to and more than anything, I want it to be something that she feels she can raise. The worst result will be if it is seen as a taboo subject.

As I type this on Sunday morning, a time normally reserved for me to have my alone time at home, to write, or study or read or whatever, daughter is in the living room playing. She decided this morning that she didn’t want to go to church. Mrs limey thinks it is because she is still tired from yesterday, that’s possible, but I can’t help wonder if there is another reason.
So, the question I have been fearing came, yet the world didn’t end and life has not changed. If only all my fears could turn out to be so harmless.

Good Riddance 2013

2013 was a monumentally shit year for the family limey. Frankly, the sooner it’s relegated to little more than a distant historical memory, the better.

The crap actually started with uncertainty about my job and my employer struggled to find interesting work for me. Over the summer there was precious little for me to do and finally in November an interesting project came up but that wasn’t enough and I was made redundant the week before Christmas. Christmas was also marked by Mrs Limey having a foot in plaster following a dog related ditch incident. She’s on the mend now and has celebrated by being able to drive again over the weekend. Most of the last two months I have learned exactly how much she does around the house every day.

As I type this I am still out of work, there is a question mark over the insurance coverage for the mortgage and I am waiting to hear if I have a job interview later this week. The interview was supposed to be last week, but was postponed at the last minute. I’m trying hard not to fear that it’s going to be called off completely.

At the beginning of the year a couple of friendships exploded in deeply hurtful circumstances. The actual events were in late 2012, but the ripples and effects echoed throughout 2013.

During the summer, a good friend died suddenly from a long existing but unknown heart condition. She left a daughter the same age as my own and a son a couple of years older. It was devastating and hit Mrs Limey very hard.

These are just the things I am prepared to put down.

The result for me is that I sailed into the dark fog of depression and it affected everything, including our marriage.

Previously blogging has been a good way for me to get frustration out of my system, either by reading other people’s posts, or by writing my own. Unfortunately my mood was way too low for that to be effective for much of the year. Outside of blogging I have other writing projects I try to work on, I have ideas for a handful of novels and short stories and I try to work on them when I can. Progress is way slower than I would like and, while it has proved to be very effective at getting my mind off the bad stuff, I have found it increasingly difficult to actually sit there do something about it. Since Easter, the most effective distraction for me has been Minecraft! Effective it may be, but it’s not really the most healthy and I need to get back into more productive habits so I have reclaimed the kindle and I am now reading again and this is the start of me writing again. I need to do it for my own sanity.

Today is a major breakthrough for me because it’s the first time in a very long time I have actually voiced that I wanted to write a blog post. Hopefully this is the much needed indication that 2014 will be a major improvement and more positives will follow.

Thinking back to one of my more recent blog posts (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2013/10/02/the-atheist-prayer-experiment/), this would have been a very good opportunity for a caring deity who wants me back in the fold to make himself known.

First Time Back at Church for a Year

Recently I attended a Church service. I can’t remember when I last attended one but I am fairly sure it was about a year ago. It may have been a service over the Christmas period last year. I can’t recall for certain when the last service I actually attended was but a year seems about right.

The last time I attended I do recall having issues with worship. I didn’t like singing the songs that I know so well because of what they represent. Standing there not singing them made me feel conspicuous and uncomfortable. What I chose to do then was to sing quietly, I didn’t enjoy it and it framed much of my desire to stop attending church completely. My wife understood and agreed that she would rather I didn’t attend if it made me feel that way.

So when our pastor friend asked if I would take photos at an upcoming baptism service, I surprised myself by readily accepting the invitation.

Historically, baptism services have tended to be emotional services. They remind me of my own baptism as a youngster, the same age that my daughter is now as it happens. As a Christian, baptisms were a good reminder of the promises I made and served as a focus point. This service would hold none of that for me and I was interested to see how I would respond to this one. Of course the primary reason I was there was to record the moment of immersion of the two adults being baptised and as far as I was concerned, any personal misgivings would be second place.

As it happens the service brought up nothing for me at all. There were no negative emotions, no uncomfortable memories and no feelings of discomfort. I even found myself signing the songs, which I still know by heart, in a manner that I haven’t for a very long time. That is I sang them as enthusiastically as one can without actually entering into a spirit of worship. The singing desire just came and I went along with it, I deny any suggestion that I was actually worshiping though.

My wife led the service, which she does regularly at the church and I did realise one thing, I miss hearing her sing, it is probably the single biggest loss I feel about no longer attending church. Even as an atheist I recognise that she sings well and leads sensitively, she is good at it, gifted even. I don’t have to engage with the spiritual content to appreciate and enjoy the good voice at the front. Other than that realisation, the service passed without event for me, the two getting baptised said their pieces and I took my place to capture their moments.

Talking with my wife about it later in the day I expressed my thoughts as mentioned above, that joining in the singing came naturally, in return she expressed surprise that she saw me singing at all. I guess the break from church caused me to calm down somewhat and my reaction to worship is less harsh than it once was. I don’t really think there is much to unpack here, other than to recognise the continued evolution of my own thought processes.

I don’t think it means that I’ll be returning to attending church regularly, I think my attitude will harden again if I go too often. It is nice to know that I can now attend a service and sing heartily without the associated baggage I had last year. That in itself should be considered positive progress.

Childhood Conversations

There was one thing that happened on the day which touched on something that may well rear its head at a point in the future, though for now it is not an issue. That is of talking Christianity with our daughter. She and I travelled to church together because my wife had gone earlier to prepare for the service. Knowing it was a baptism service, my daughter asked questions about why someone would get baptised and what it means to be baptised. I answered truthfully from the Christian perspective and even told her I was her age when I made my decision to be baptised.

If I’m honest, I didn’t especially enjoy answering like that but my daughter deserved a truthful answer and I believe I gave her that. She didn’t lead on to ask me why I no longer attend church; I would have told her the truth if she had. If my daughter is going to ask questions of the Christian life then I should answer those questions without bias. She attends church each Sunday morning with my wife and she has a child’s acceptance of what goes on there. If I were to take every opportunity to push and counter with my own feelings I could cause upset, yet at the same time, I struggle with letting her continue to believe something that I utterly reject. I struggle with her being indoctrinated each week, yet I don’t want to cause upset by being the bad daddy that hates church, because at root that is not what I am.

For now it does not need to be made into an issue and I see no point in escalating it to that status. I accept that while I continue to live a life that is tightly bound to Christianity these things will always be there. For now I’ll celebrate the progress and not make an issue of things that don’t yet deserve it.

 

 

Featured on Why Evolution is True

Well, yesterday didn’t turn out as I expected.

I’ve been following Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True blog for a couple of years, so I know he likes to receive reader input on occasion. He had recently posted a link to a video on a child interacting with a gorilla at a zoo (http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/so-human-in-aspect/) so I decided to send him this photo of me as a child interacting with a monkey in Zambia. Jerry responded very quickly and asked if I knew the species, I didn’t, but a quick search seemed to identify it as a Blue Monkey.

34 - Matthew with Bungy

I also gave Jerry a little detail about the circumstances of my family being in Zambia and why I was following his blog. Jerry immediately showed an interest in my story and asked for more detail. The result was a rapid brain dump of my experience of leaving my faith and a post on his blog (http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/leaving-faith-behind-a-readers-story/).

I am touched that Jerry thought my story worth telling and I fear that I have not given the it justice. There is much to tell and it is impossible to make it succinct.

One thing that did become clear to me during my exchange with Jerry is that it has been far more emotional than I normally acknowledge. Not because of leaving the faith but because of the change in dynamics between those I love and call friends. It’s not that I am judged (at least I am not aware that I am) and it’s not that I am rejected (I’m not), it’s simply that on a basic level all my emotional interactions have changed and not always in an obvious way. Mostly it is in deeply subtle ways and it takes a long time to notice.

As I hint in my piece for Jerry, I waver constantly in my attitude towards Christianity and over the years this has taken its toll too. This is stuff I need to process to make sense of. I’ve made the intellectual journey, that was easy; the harder part is now sifting through the results and I’m clearly not done there yet.

That said; I’d like to thank Jerry for his interest and his kind offer to tell my story, it is appreciated. I’d also like to thank those who have come here from Jerry’s blog, the spike in visits has eclipsed my previous best day by a significant factor. I predicted 100x but I think it’s actually more like 50x. I have also gained some new subscribers, so thank you to you too.

I am now off to read the comments on Jerry’s post, I suspect I’m in for some serious limey loving.

I’ve been working with a Creationist

I must confess I find this amusing.

In my work for an IT consultancy I tend to work at a variety of customers and not always with the same colleagues. The past few weeks I have been working with a chap who I first met about a year ago on another project and during the three short weeks we were working together we got on well.

This time round we it is nearer 3 month and we’ve had the chance to get talking on various subjects, including personal things and it came out that he was a Christian. I told him my wife was and I used to be. There wasn’t time to continue that conversation at the time but he did indicate that he would be interested in the story of why I left the faith.

Well, last month that chance came, by coincidence it was the last day I was on the project and so I don’t know when we’ll next work together.

I told him that I used to be a creationist (this piqued his interest) and that as I gained a better understanding of science the realisation that I could no longer trust early Genesis to be true caused problems and as that realisation spread through other parts of the bible I eventually realised that no Adam meant no original sin and therefore there was no point in Jesus; at which point it was game over.

Of course he disagreed with my conclusion and during the conversation it became clear that he was sympathetic to creationism, even though he didn’t out himself as one specifically. When he said that the flood was global in his mind and that carbon dating was shown to be flawed I knew his creationist credentials were there.

I tried to counter his claims with the standard scientific explanation and he came back with the same creationist stuff I was saying 20 years ago. It was a very bizarre form of déjà vu.

He also came out with the classic claim that scientists are always changing (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/06/07/oh-science-why-do-you-change-so-much/) their minds while the apologists stick to the same message. The explanation that mind changing is good because scientists follow the evidence simply didn’t wash, much the same as with my 20 year younger self.

It also became apparent in the conversation that he was swayed more by good rhetorical argument then he was by good scientific explanation. I guess the same would have been true of me once too, though I am not conscious of it.

It was sad to experience, maybe my conversation will help to challenge him to look at science more, we’ll see. He probably equally hopes he has helped me back onto the right path and may even pray for his witness to me and for my eventual conversion.

Maybe there will be an update when we cross paths on the next project, who knows.

 

Is it deconversion or just another conversion?

Since the great admission to my wife, almost two years ago, that I had rejected my Christianity and considered myself an atheist, we’ve had a number of discussions on the subject of faith and our opposing attitudes to it. On the whole these have been positive discussions, in the sense that we’ve mostly been able to have them without unhelpful emotional extras. This is how I had always hoped we’d be able to converse about faith, it’s a source of sadness that I spent several years alone in my journey afraid that we’d discuss my loss of faith in a negative or hurtful way, only for that fear to turn out to be unfounded.

It has not always been a smooth ride, we have had difficult discussions and there have been moments when one or other of us has got angry or upset. Those times have been the minority though and it is to my shame that I must admit I did not give her enough credit, having known her for all those years, I should have been able to predict her reaction better.

We’ve discussed many aspects of faith, getting braver with the depth of subject as time has moved on. We’ve probably discussed faith in greater detail in the past eighteen months than we had in the previous ten years of marriage, maybe even our whole marriage, though I’m less certain to place a bet on the latter. We’ve challenged each other and answered deep questions. We clearly disagree on the value of faith but we’ve been able to display to each other that it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker and that disagreeing with dignity is possible.

One of the lighter discussions we’ve had is over the semantics of how to describe my loss of faith. I refer to it as a deconversion, and all across the internet, where people of former faith hang out, the same word comes up. It makes sense to use conversion with the ‘de’ prefix because it signifies a step away from and in the opposite direction to the original conversion.

My wife does not like the deconversion word and prefers to describe it as another conversion, because it is a second conversion from one form of faith position or worldview to another. I have a bit of a problem with her logic, which is that I associate conversion directly with religion. I had a conversion to religion and now I have deconverted away from it. Her definition is not as narrow as mine, she takes the broader definition that conversion does not have to mean a religious conversion, it could mean a significant change in world view. In this case, my world view was one of a religious bent and now I have converted to an atheistic world view. Using that logic deconverted doesn’t make any sense and my experience is in fact, just another conversion. That makes sense semantically, to change world view is to convert from one to another, you don’t deconvert or unconvert, it’s a nonsense word to use.

Further complication arises when I see Microsoft Word underlining deconversion with a squiggly red line, clearly my computer thinks that no such words exists. If the word does not exist in Her Majesty’s beautiful language, then clearly it is not a word I can use to describe my position. So what is the best word to use? Does it matter?

Like many former Christians on the internet, I embrace deconverted as a description of my current faith state. The word has a great benefit because it immediately gets across the fact that the person to whom the word is being applied has not just moved away from religion but moved towards atheism. No further explanation is required. Try to get across the same meaning using ‘conversion’ instead and suddenly a whole sentence of supporting explanation is required. ‘Deconversion’ gets the meaning across far more efficiently; that it may not be a real word is irrelevant. However, I do accept that there is a negative connotation associated with the ‘de’ prefix and I do not consider my atheism as being negative at all.

Does that mean I should call myself an atheist convert?

I need to think about that one. I don’t like that description because saying convert tends to imply a position of faith and I absolutely reject any notion that that is where I am. I want it to be clear that I do not subscribe to a faith position. For now I’ll settle for no I would not call myself an atheist convert, maybe this is just a side effect of my rejection of faith and I’ll soften in my attitude to this word we’ll see. It is an interesting thought and I am sure we’ll return to it again at some point in the future, after all it does help to unpackage the thought processes of the past few years.

I’m now wondering what other semantic discussion are possible within this situation.

Answers on a postcard ….

 

I told my Dad I am an Atheist

That was interesting and not entirely how I expected it to go either.

First some background.

As a Christian, I was always unembarrassed by my Christianity and in my family I was among the most committed. Of my siblings, if there was one who was not going to die a Christian, it was me. As it is I was the last to leave the faith, however, if you asked them, no one in the family would have predicted I would turn away from my childhood faith.

My father, on the other hand, is what I would have described as a nominal Christian with a very liberal faith. As a child we would always have meal time prayers and he played the piano in church for many years, however, I don’t recall him ever expounding the gospel or leading studies. As a young adult I actively involved in various parts of the church organisation including study groups and youth groups. These are areas I never recall my father being involved in, and certainly not with the enthusiasm that I displayed.

I remember one discussion we had many years ago where he described me as a zealot. I’d say that was a pretty accurate description of my Christianity.

I hadn’t told my father about my move from faith mainly because the subject hadn’t come up, and to be honest, I’ve not been sure of his level of faith. He’s effectively not lived a Christian life for several years. I imagined that he’d done what one of my brothers has done, which was to quietly quit living a Christian life, while not making a formal rejection of faith.

It turns out I was wrong and he still holds onto the basic concepts of a Christian god. I don’t know how strong they are, but they are clearly stronger than I realised. Our relationship has been a bit shaky for most of the past thirty years, though in the last five years, since my Mum’s death, it is the best it has been in all that time. However, there are still subjects that we are cautious about and it seems that this is now one of them.

He’s spoken about my atheism with my youngest brother, with whom I have a very close relationship, and through that I know that at some point he wants to bring me back round again. Not at all what I wanted or expected to hear. I know from past experience that this would be a conversation that runs a very high risk of us falling out again. Thankfully we’re both at a stage where neither of us really wants to risk that and so sensitive conversations are now avoided, whereas in the past we would both have gone in guns blazing and stubbornly blamed the other for the resulting fallout. He didn’t see his young granddaughter for three years the last time that happened; the cost isn’t worth it.

The wider context is that there is more to the conversation that we had. He suggested I might wish to seek advice from the church minister. I explained that he was also a close friend and I wasn’t sure I wanted to cross the friend boundary, so dad suggested another minister. I was very surprised that his port of call for advice was a man of the cloth, so I killed the idea by saying I wasn’t interested in doing that because I was an atheist. The conversation was already emotionally charged and for one of very few times in my life I managed to utterly stump him. To be honest I think I sent him reeling. It was the last thing he expected me to say and when he spoke to my brother a short time later he expressed how shocked he was.

This was six weeks ago and we’ve still not returned to the subject. I think he’s scared of raising the subject with me. To be fair, my brother did warn him that he already knew and that it had been a long journey for me and turning me back wasn’t going to happen. It is nice to know that he has paid attention to direct advice from one of his sons.

On my part, I’m surprised by how strong his commitment still is, we’ve not conversed about Christianity for so mnay years I just assumed he’d be cool about my deconversion, as he appears to be about my brother’s. Why should my faith be more special?

For the first time since Mum died and we tentatively reconnected and started building a new father-son relationship, I am finding myself a little concerned. It would be a great shame this causes a rift between us, there have been too many of those in the past. On the other hand I have hope because we both clearly have different agendas and motivations now and the neither wishes to repeat the past.