Tomorrow morning will mark the first anniversary of my deconversion, which is oddly fitting given that today celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Free at last, free at last – thank…well, you get the point. I think that moment was a liberating one for me in a lot of ways, so the notion of freedom resonates with me right now.
It feels like I should take an opportunity to note the occasion, which has had a significant impact on my life. I’m a bit apprehensive about making this anything big – it’s sort of a remnant of “born-agains” who commemorate their “second birthday,” i.e. the day they got “saved” – but I think having an opportunity to reflect is a worthwhile thing in its own right.
I’m not going to go into detail about the last year for me; that was largely done in my year-in-review post. But I do think there’s something I’ve missed along the way that I need to admit to myself.
When I first came out to my wife and saw her beginning to react negatively, I told her what I hoped would be reassuring: “I’m still the same person you married. I’m not different now; I just believe something different now. It shouldn’t be a big deal.”
I think there’s a white lie in this statement. On that day a year ago, I did change. Granted, I think it was a change for the better, and my wife probably isn’t so confident about that, but it would be false to say that I am that same person in the fullest sense of the term.
I don’t think I was wrong to underscore to my wife that my deconversion needn’t change the nature of our relationship, but it has – not irrevocably or irreconcilably, but it has changed the way we interact with each other. We have a new understanding, and there have been – still are and will be – adjustments made. But that is a different question of who I am now.
I don’t like to say that I “lost my faith.” I don’t even like to say that I lost my religion. And I didn’t “find reason” that day; I had been acquainted with logical reasoning before this, even in a more systematic and analytical way.
What happened is that my compartments broke down. Reason was in my brain, and it demanded access to every chamber. My defenses, long cultivated from a lifetime of religious upbringing, finally gave in, and I was able to apply my skeptical attitude to my religious views. And what do you know? They couldn’t pass muster. So here I am.
And I’m a different person in at least one meaningful sense: I can now say that I am a more rational person than I was a year ago. I didn’t suddenly become rational, nor am I entirely rational all of the time, but on the average, what I do, believe, value is more rational, more comprehensible, and more intellectually honest.
Part of me is irritated that it took me so long, but I’ve come to the conclusion that that can’t be helped. No one in life gets to determine what they are met with, and people have more difficult situations, stronger shackles to bind them to their religion.
So as I commemorate my Day of Epiphany (so to speak), I do so with the thought of those who are trying to be rational and honest but have had obstacles erected in their way, whether indoctrination or ignorance or other factors (or a combination). Reality isn’t perfect, but it is what exists. Hopefully, there is someone else out there who’s been presented with a situation where they can break free of those things that hold them back from a more rational view of the world.
But if you’re a person in that situation, let me just say: Abandoning religion hasn’t made me a happier person. It hasn’t transformed my life in unequivocally positive ways, but I can honestly say that I think about my thoughts with less conflict and tension than I ever did as a Christian, even when I held pretty much orthodox beliefs. It’s not a panacea; it’s simply a reward in its own right.