In a lot of ways I think coming out of religion for me was the typical progression of curious and academically minded kids raised in a loving and reasonably permissive home. My parents are fundamentalists, creationists, tee-totallers and extremely active in their church, but I wasn’t completely sheltered as you might expect someone raised in that environment to be. They encouraged us to doubt, genuinely confident that Christianity is true and right and congruent with reality. They really seemed to expect that a reasonable person who earnestly seeks the truth will unavoidably end up believing exactly what they do, so to them Christianity was the one religion that could feel free to allow its followers to freely doubt their beliefs.
So I read. I read my bible, to be sure, and I read some apologetic literature, and I read tons of fiction. I loved reading, I loved learning, and I loved to think through and discuss what I found out through the world of books. I suspect that, in the internet age, a child like that is bound to at least escape fundamentalism, if not their religion entirely.
I was still thoroughly devout when I graduated high-school, and decided to do a year of bible-school while I considered my career options. At that point in my life, a bible school is the last place I would’ve expected to plant real seeds of cognitive dissonance, but knowing what I know now about biblical scholarship, it makes complete sense. It was quite a conservative and fundamentalist school, but even so, they presented the scholarly opinion on a number of issues, and even the more conservative scholars can’t respectably represent fundamentalism within academia.
Sometimes, we were even presented with certain (significantly de-fanged) atheist arguments in order to prepare us for when we would encounter them outside our little Christian bubble. Despite my eagerness to be convinced by the Christian responses, I couldn’t help being underwhelmed by many of them.
Then I went to University.
I did a broad Arts degree, and though it hasn’t really done much for me career-wise yet, I’m glad I made that choice and don’t hesitate to recommend it. I can point to a few courses that were particularly poignant in my deconversion process – anthropology, philosophy of mind, ethics – but at least as important as any of these was the general sharpening of my reasoning, research, and critical thinking skills. I learned how to properly make and analyze arguments, and how to get to real knowledge and assign appropriate confidence levels to my beliefs.
I look at my escape from religion as a triumph of curiosity and education. I am grateful to all of my teachers, including my parents, for encouraging my love of learning and pursuit of knowledge.
I’ve seen many people describe crises of faith and destabilizing moments or periods in their transition out of their childhood religion, but it wasn’t like that for me. It was a gradual erosion of particular beliefs thanks to an accumulation of new knowledge with a firm epistemic basis rather than faith.
I didn’t embrace the “atheist” label until after graduating with my degree from Grant MacEwan University. I came across r/atheism on reddit and began to dive into the information and discussions I found there. I’ve since become more anti-theist and unashamedly vocal about it in conversations online and in person. I never announced it to my family exactly, but it became clear to them all over the course of a number of conversations. My mother was particularly disappointed and we got into some spirited discussions, but I was never really concerned about my relationship with my family being badly impacted. It has been affected, no doubt, but I always knew we loved each other enough that they could look past even this difference of opinion.
My anti-theism is only a single facet of my life right now, mostly expressed through my Twitter account. You can find me @BlakeSeidler actively seeking out conversations with believers and fellow atheists about various philosophical, ethical, or political matters. My efforts are disproportionately directed at theists I encounter who seem to be at some stage of the journey I went through myself. I try to avoid being antagonistic, but I think there’s room for various approaches in the battle against the virus that is faith.
To all my fellow deconverts, I hope you take the pursuit of knowledge seriously, enjoy the freedom of living without a celestial overlord, and never forget…
you’re not alone.