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 ….


A Christian’s Duty is to Procreate?

I can’t remember exactly who said it, what exactly was said, or even what the context was; but sometime in the late 1990’s something hit the news about it being the duty of all married Christians to procreate.

I know it was the late 1990’s because I remember where my wife and I were living at the time and we only lived in that flat for 3 years. I also remember raising this issue on a Christian newsgroup at the time, this was in the days before internet forums and blogs became the method by which opinions were discussed and recounted.

The source of this statement must have come from the Church of England, because it wouldn’t have hit theUKnews headlines if it had come from any other church demonization. A brief internet search has failed to find the source, but then searching for anything over ten years old on the internet is practically impossible these days.

At this time, my wife and I had been married for about 5 years, were childless through choice and were both very involved in our local church. I was involved in the youth work and my wife both the youth work and the worship group. Our commitments were to a level that would have been impossible if we had children.

Its unfortunate that I don’t remember exactly what was being reported on because that information would be helpful now in putting my reaction into context. What I do remember is not very much balance in the response of the Christian leadership that was interviewed on this story. They all seemed to make an effort downplay the potential offence of this dictum, while not actually saying it was a wrong thing to say. At least that’s my memory of the story, and it could by that my position at the time was slightly biased.

For me, the biggest issue was that it was not the message I had received from any of the churches I attended and no one I knew personally backed up this message. However, what was also clear, looking around me, was that my wife and I were most certainly in a minority, being married for so long and still being childless.

Offended, hurt and upset

I found the statements, as reported on the news, upsetting. How dare these religious leaders dictate how I should live my life when they know nothing of the context of my life. I also could not reconcile the instruction to procreate with any passage in the Bible. Yes there are passages about having children, but there was no insinuation that a marriage without children was an incomplete marriage.

I brought up my feelings on the Christian newsgroup I frequented, I remember it being a specificallyUKfocused one, but in reality I can’t be certain how many of the posters were actuallyUKbased orUKnationals.

In my post of complaint I recounted how my wife and I were devout and how we both enjoyed making ourselves available to the church and how we served it lovingly. The decision to have (or not have) children had not been made, we were simply enjoying the life we had as a couple and the available we had to our church, which would be much more limited if we’d had children.

The responses I got were even more hurtful. This is the only time I can honestly say that I have been hurt, upset and offended by the Christian community; the fact that it was over something so personal made it doubly worse. I think of the many people on that list, only two made a positive comment back to me, one describing our attitude and ‘lovely’, the rest backed up the premise that as married Christians, my wife and I had a duty to bring children into the world.

I have no idea if the on-line Christian culture at the time was mainly from the more is fundamental Christian or if this really was what the mainstream believed and I had simply missed it. Either way, it deepened my feelings of betrayal by those who I felt should have been understanding and supportive.


Still a dedicated Christian

In hindsight its easy to point to this event as a starting point in my move away from Christianity and in the narrative of this blog it probably gives that impression. The truth is, I don’t think that’s the case. That point was almost 10 years away still. What this event did do for me was form a distrust of entertaining on-line Christian discussions. It wouldn’t be long before I abandoned using that particular newsgroup altogether and I didn’t actively engage in any other Christian resources after that.