Saturday, August 21, 2010

Moving beyond ex-Christianity

A Christian friend of mine asked me recently how my faith struggle was going. The question took me a little off guard because it's been a while since I've thought of myself as being in some sort of struggle. As I thought of an answer, I realised that I no longer think about 'ex-Christianity' as often as I used to; I've spent much less time thinking about religion in general.

This, I think, is a good sign.

It is a sign of the fact that during the last year or so, I've finally reached a place of peace and stability in a new worldview, realising that a person can indeed live a moral, philosophical, and fulfilling life without belief in the supernatural. The metaphysical storm that engulfed me since I lost my faith has now all but gone.

As a result, the entire theme of my blog is becoming more out of sink with my current thinking. The issue, you see, is that the title of my blog is all about what I am not, rather than what I currently am. When I was in a place of struggle, labels of 'atheist' or 'ex-Christian' suited me fine because at the time I did not know anything except that which I had left behind.

I am an atheist, yes; but I am more than that. I've started thinking about my values; exploring what I do believe, rather than what I disbelieve; discovering what I stand for, rather than defining myself by that which I disagree with. In other words, I no longer care that much for the label of 'ex-Christian';
I'm ready let this go.

What does this mean for my blog? I don’t really know, to be honest. I suspect that I will still think and write about religion, although not as often as I used to. After all, I still live in a predominantly religious culture, so the next leg of my journey will involve trying to find an answer to the following question: how can I live out my values as honestly as I can, but still live in harmony with others who might not share the same values as I do (as a result of their religious upbringing)?

Letting go of ex-Christianity sounds strange, I know. But it makes perfect sense when you think about it. When I was a Christian, it was a big deal that God existed. When I became an atheist, it was a big deal that God didn't exist. Now, I'm entering a new stage of my life where God doesn't matter.

Maybe this is what it means to become truly secular.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Kevin! I believe from here on out you will always see beauty, even finding the poetry in awful things. It is a truly peaceful feeling to know thyself.

Anonymous said...

Nice post Kevin. I agree, defining yourself by what you are not, and accepting the label, does not make a lot of sense in the long run.

" When I was a Christian, it was a big deal that God existed. When I became an atheist, it was a big deal that God didn't exist."

I guess when our beliefs are changing or new, the labels maybe make more sense? Also maybe a holdover from being a Christian, where claiming a particular identity is considered especially important?

I commend you on the freedom you have found and express in the post. I hope I get there too. It does seem that ex-Christian / deconversion blogs have a certain shelf life. Same on the message boards, people seem to be "old timers" after a couple of years. Maybe that is a typical time frame for how long it takes for the process to run its course.

Hope to see posts from time to time still. :^)

Jewish Atheist said...

I know exactly what you mean. :-)

BC500 said...

If ex-Christian does not apply then atheist (anti-theist) does not apply as well. Both define you by what you do not believe. On to what you do believe.

1. What is it that you do believe? (pick one thing, like a moral truth)

2. What is the basis for it? (a foundational element)

3. Then how do you know you are right?

Kevin Parry said...

Thank you everyone for all your comments.

BC 500 wrote
What is it that you do believe? (pick one thing, like a moral truth)

Why should I pick just one thing? I’ve realised that I believe in many things. My life is like a quilt made of many different patches and colours, some more prominent than others, others less so. I cannot point to one thing and say: “this is it!” Life, the universe and everything is extremely complex, intricate and beautiful, and I feel I cannot approach this incredible world in which we live with just one, definite, single answer for which I’m 100% sure.

But I’m not going to run away from your question. I’m planning to write a series of posts on what I do believe, in terms of politics, society, morality, etc. I’m still thinking these through, so it will take some time before I post them up, but I would love to enter into dialogue with you regarding my posts when I finally publish them.

CyberKitten said...

BC500 said: If ex-Christian does not apply then atheist (anti-theist) does not apply as well.

A-theist does not equal anti-theist.

A-theist simply mean not a theist. In other words we have people who believe in God (theists) and people who do not believe in God (atheists).

Cobus said...

I've been wondering about the term "atheist" myself. Although I think as a descriptor it will remain as long as you have a predominantly religious environment, as an identifier it might suck, since it always defines you in contrast to another. I'm just not sure what a better term would be. Secular might work, and that would also provide a connection point with those who find themselves in a point between a specific religious tradition and a secular worldview (secular Jews/Christians), but I'm not sure.

CyberKitten said...

I think that the word atheist is a good descriptor. A-theist = Non-theist.

Does exactly what it says on the tin.

Kevin Parry said...

Hi Cobus

I’ve also been thinking about a descriptor. I think I will stop calling myself an atheist and start calling myself ‘Kevin’. :-) Seriously, atheism is just one small part of who I am as an individual.

But yes, as long as I live in a religious culture, I will describe myself as an atheist if someone by chance just happens to ask me about my religious beliefs. But I was thinking that maybe describing myself as a ‘secular humanist’ would be better than ‘atheist’. Although this descriptor is still somewhat linked to religion, it begins to describe a little of what I do believe, rather than what I don’t believe.

Secularism in the sense that I believe that every individual in society has a right to choose their own religious beliefs (and a right to freely worship). And this freedom can only be realized if there is some sort of separation between church and state. Humanism in a sense that the general welfare of human beings is important, more important than obedience to a particular concept of a supernatural being or religious code.

Wesley said...

Don't leave behind your ex-christian story, though - it will always be relevant in your interactions with contemporary culture, which is thoroughly permeated with religion.

As a de-converted evangelical who spent 46 years as a christian and missionary, I have an unusual story which causes people to sit up and take notice. Not many people become non-theist at 60 years of age, after a lifetime as a christian. This story recently got me on Oregon Public Radio, and my guess is that tens of thousands of people heard this broadcast, and that in itself must imply that it gave not a few christians something to think about.

All I'm saying is, don't deliberately leave behind your leaving-religion story. It has relevance, and can be a useful part of fighting back against the stranglehold that religion has on South African and American cultures.

Anonymous said...

If not for religion, there would be no need for the word atheist. Coming to this realization only added to my resentment of religion.

I agree with the above comment about not leaving your story behind. When struggling through the de-conversion process, stories of those who have gone before offer comfort and encouragement. Everyone's story matters, and has the potential to change lives.

Anonymous said...

I know this is written 2 years ago but I would just like to say a huge THANK YOU. It's been about 6 months since my deconversion and I still occassionally feel a deep sense of loss even if I've generally moved past the need to identify as "ex-Christian" or "atheist". (Secular Humanist seems to express more of what I am rather than what I am not... :) )

Generally it is the lack of a supportive community which has caused me much lonely pain and most of the sense of loss.

There will come a point in time where I, perhaps too, will write something much like what you have written - your post like many others gives me the "faith" that I WILL reach that point. :)

Well wishes.

BC500 said...

Kevin, It has been several years now where are you at on your beliefs? I did not mean to limit you to one but was only suggesting that you start with one to begin the discussion.
Hope you are well.

Kevin Parry said...

Hi BC500. Good to hear from you! It has been a while. To answer your question about my beliefs: over the last few years other interests have taken over (eg, I completed a marketing diploma and in 2012 I read for my Masters), so there hasn't been much time - and no longer the same amount of interest - to explore the atheist/religion discussion. But most importantly, I came to a point where I realised that the burden to find the truth related to 'god' (whatever that means) is not my responsibility. Rather, if a god exists and wants to interact with me, then the burden is on her/he/it/them to make itself known to me in a way that I understand. I am an atheist, but I am no longer a seeker; life is too short give every religion a chance. But I won't abandon this blog entirely. I will still post very periodically if an interesting thought pops up. Thank you for checking up :-)