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 ….

 

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10 Questions for Atheists

Over at http://bittersweetend.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/the-atheist-challenge/ thebiblereader has asked 10 questions for atheists to answer.

Rather than me repeat the questions here, it is probably best you go there to read them. I will post my responses as a reply to his blog as well as in this post. There are already a lot of responses there.

 

1)      That’s not true. No god does not mean no measurement for morality. Morality is consistent with evolution because as a group of individuals develop rules will have to develop increase the changes of the groups survival. Watch groups of animals in the wild and this becomes clear, it is not the anarchy those who believe this would have us believe. There is currently a lot of study in this area and some very interesting experiments and result are coming out of it.

2)      Again, this is also not true. Meaning is not placed on us from an external being based on whether or not we believe in him. Meaning is a much more personal thing and is a reasonable result in a species that has developed self-awareness.

3)      If New Atheism means the active opposition to religion on the understanding that it causes more harm than good and that accommodation of the religious is for the weak. Then no, I do not subscribe to that and nor do I support eugenics. I accept that there could be an extreme end of the spectrum that sees eugenics as not only acceptable but good. Just because that extreme might exist does not mean that atheism is rotten. Much the same as religious extremism does not in and of itself disprove religion.

4)      Transitional fossils exist and are documented. DNA evidence is however far more convincing and has enabled more accurate maps of how species have diverged and evolved. Gaps in the fossil record exist because not every species will leave fossils. For all the millions of animals that have existed, a tiny minority have survived to fossil form. DNA explains the relationships far better anyway.

5)      Yes. Even as a Christian the concept of Human Nature was never a problem for me. It is Human Nature to seek a greater purpose, for a long time that purpose was encapsulated in God. That doesn’t make him real.

6)      I won’t pretend to understand the beginning of the universe and how it came about. I consider it disingenuous for the religious who also don’t understand it to try and discredit it based on that simplistic misunderstanding. My challenge in response is that it is better to learn about something in order to better understand it, than it is to mock it out of fear for what it might do to our beliefs.

7)      Straw man alert! Atheists are not automatically immoral or self-destructing, this is an untruth believed by believers. I’ve been there before so I understand the mentality. Picking those countries as examples of a godless society are as helpful as picking Afghanistan and Iran as examples of a Godly Society. Picking an objectionable extreme to prove a point is never a good idea.

8)      I would image I would enter an initial state of panic. After that, I really don’t know. It is not something I worry about becoming true.

9)      Having already made the move from Christianity, having considered it right for many years. I would need absolute and undeniable proof. It would have to be a physical manifestation of God that could not be explained in any other way and it would have to happen more than once. Given some of the things I have already attributed to god in my Christian years, this proof would need to be something special.

10)   Basically, I was once a YEC and a better understanding of science made me realise how wrong I had been all those years. I tried to reconcile my Christianity with my new found acceptance of evolution but I failed. I now think that it is far more reasonable to say there is no god because that is what the evidence indicates.

 

 

Introduction

I guess this blog should really be called Confessions of a Former YEC, as I no longer identify myself as such. However, given that in this blog I shall be giving details of my journey into Fundamental YECism and on to atheism the title probably suits that context.

To clarify, YEC stands for Young Earth Creationist. That is, someone who believes that the 1st chapter of Genesis is a literal and accurate account of how the earth (and the universe) came into being about 6,000-10,000 years ago.

The journey into being a card carrying YEC is one of indoctrination, misguided teaching and a misunderstanding of science in a desire to prove prognosis. Its not all bad, it’s a path that is very definitely paved to good intentions and there is much from those formative years that I treasure still. Just because the science was wrong and the religion false, does not make the values invalid nor does it make the teaching incompetent.

The journey to atheism is the realisation of what science actually shows and the slow dismantling of all that was once held dear. This latter journey is still in progress and there is still much to learn and appreciate. Not everything that comes out of the mouth of an atheist is pleasant, I’ve witnessed more than my fair share of nasty atheistic rhetoric and it not at all becoming, if anything it slowed my journey down.

So that’s the introduction done. I have not yet mapped out any posts I want to make yet, but I have ideas I am forming so something will take shape over the next few weeks.

If anyone stops by here and deems it important enough to hang around or even has a specific question they’d like to raise on any aspect of the journey then I will do my best to be as honest as I possibly can. Maybe I’ll even make a post of the answer. Given the current climate of advancing scepticism and New Atheism (oh how I hate that term) I’d appreciate what comment people may have.