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Christian or Atheist?: I Wish my Critics Would Make Up Their Minds

not an atheist

Bruce, you never were a Christian! Bruce, you are still a Christian! Bruce, I doubt that you are a “real” atheist! That’s right, now I have people questioning whether I am an atheist. Quoting Shakespeare, a Christian recently told me, “methinks the lady doth protest too much.” Evidently, because I write passionately about religion — particularly Evangelical Christianity — this proves that I still have some sort of latent religious belief. I wonder what I have to do to “prove” that I am an atheist? Sodomize Jesus on the communion table while pissing in the chalice and eating a ham sandwich? Use the Bible for toilet paper? Or how about seven years of writing about Christianity, Evangelicalism, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement, atheism, and humanism. I can’t think of one thing I have written that would lead anyone to conclude that I am a Christian or that I have some sort of religious hangover.

This has been a common problem for me since I deconverted. Instead of accepting at face value what I say about my life — past and present — critics comb through my life looking for inconsistencies or contradictions. Several years ago, one Christian wrote on a discussion forum that my story “didn’t ring true.” He went on to say that he had contacted several people who lived in an area that I “said” I once pastored in and none of them had heard of me. Conclusion? I was lying.

I have given up trying to “prove” my life to people. I am the one who lived my life. I know what I know. When my autobiography is published later this year, I am sure that I will face a new round of scrutiny and criticism. I suppose I should be used to this by now. If I am going to write first person articles and books — naming names, dates, and places — I should expect to have my writing scrutinized. This is the price I pay for playing in the middle of the freeway during rush hour traffic.

15 Comments

    • Avatar
      Karen the rock whisperer

      Everyone knows “real” atheists have no sense of empathy or compassion, let alone justice. Bruce is trying sooo hard to pretend he’s an atheist, but if you read his stuff, he obviously has all those qualities. Ergo, he’s just trying too hard to sound like an atheist, but his “true” nature leaks out. /snark

      I’ve been extraordinarily lucky; I’ve had very few people tell me that I wasn’t really an unbeliever. In all cases they were family members who were having serious trouble accepting that I could possibly be so misguided. Fortunately, in all cases the issue was dropped pretty quickly… though I have no doubt there’s been lots of praying for me. OTOH, I wasn’t a former pastor or some kind of church leader, and that makes a huge difference.

  1. Avatar
    Becky Wiren

    Huh. You’ve been exposing fundie Christianity for years, all its warts and all. Why people don’t believe you I can’t understand.

    Not too many people know my exact religious beliefs. I told my best friend I wasn’t a Christian anymore, a couple years ago…and she ditched me. I think that I was already an anomaly to her world, and me leaving Christianity was more than she could handle. Tant pis. (Too bad.)

  2. Avatar
    Geoff

    I actually find it quite hard to accept that there are still people who believe in God. I know it’s true, and many regulars here are themselves believers, yet somehow I struggle to accept it.

    I was speaking to my brother in law recently, who is a profound atheist, though he seldom discusses it. I asked him about his position on the subject and he simply said ‘it’s just so obvious to me that there isn’t a god’. That sums it up for me. Some of these folks you write about need to realise that.

    • Avatar
      Becky Wiren

      You know, I always had a sense of a presence. I understand that there is a place in the human brain that creates that feeling. Strange, huh? Anyway, I’ve shed the belief that God is a man sitting up in heaven wherever judging people. And I don’t want or expect anyone to believe in a personal deity. But I still have a sense of the divine, whatever that means. If I progress all the way to atheist/agnostic I’ll let people here know.

      The people Bruce writes about, who are fundies, have been largely indoctrinated since they were children, to believe in a god, a god who will reward them for faith, and punish them for lack of faith. And the Bible is right and if you disbelieve that you will go to hell! So they have a strong disposition to believe, especially since they are probably surrounded by people of like faith. They are in a bubble…it’s what they KNOW. Bruce is pretty special because, in spite of his indoctrination, he apparently had a strong drive to learn and understand. And he is very lucky, to have Polly also be willing to learn and understand. Plus his children left the fundie faith. Too many people in these small towns have to conform, and one way to conform is having the same belief system. And if a person leaves the Christian faith, he/she will feel alone, especially with family all still believing.

      A person who I thought of as a very close friend, didn’t take well to my disclosure that I was no longer a Christian. I should have just told her I was a universalist, because she didn’t take my disclosure well. She dropped me as a friend, because I didn’t fit into her neat little Christian world at all.

  3. Avatar
    Clay G

    Desperation. Bruce’s existence and his regular posts are a severe threat to fundamentalist Christianity, and believers are desperate to explain it away because it’s such a significant threat to their belief system. A pastor named Samuel Kee went as far as calling us former believers all “liars” (which I referenced in a blog post last year).

    Thanks for all you do Bruce!

  4. Avatar
    Troy

    Bruce, I hope you’re at the stage where you can laugh at your critics rather than be distressed by their ignorance.
    As for the “doth protest to much”, perhaps if your critics took the effort to discern your entire bio they’d see that you’ve metamorphosed through several different philosophies, and each time it was with a convert’s vigor and sincerity.

  5. Avatar
    przxqgl

    i wonder about the use of the word “deconverted”. there should be a word with fewer negative connotations to describe the process of going from “christian” to atheist. why is it that you “convert” from atheism to “christianity”, but you “deconvert” when you go the other direction?

    you can “convert” from christianty to islam, or from judaism to hinduism, why can you not also “convert” from a religion to a non-religion?

    just wondering… 😉

    • Avatar
      Brian

      The one movement involves further intake and digestion: For instance, the movement from Christianity to Islam involves digesting the Koran after the Bible…. But going from Christianity to a-theism or non-theism just involves a large and rather freeing movement such as is paralleled in the human bowels after a long and painful constipation. Does that help?

      • Avatar
        przxqgl

        for that matter, i have similar reservations about the use of the word “atheist”… the root is “a” meaning “not” and “theist” meaning “believer”.

        how many other words are there that describe a person based on what xe is not?

    • Avatar
      Michael Mock

      I think of it as the difference between changing the channel (conversion, for example Christian to Buddhist or Christian to Wiccan) and switching the TV off entirely (deconversion, any religious belief to no religious belief).

  6. Avatar
    Becky Wiren

    Did you publish your autobiography and I missed it? I mean I’ve noticed memory issues with my fibro but I would’ve thought I wouldn’t miss it.

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