Tag Archives: Deconversion

Deconversion Twinges

Der_SpiegelIt’s been well over a year since I blogged about what it’s like to deconvert from Christianity. (New readers, click on the Deconversion tag on the righthand side of this page for the whole story. It’s a long one).

At first it was sort of like phantom limb syndrome. A part of me was gone. Sort of. I wanted to go back to the way things were, but at the same time I couldn’t fit into those boxes anymore.

It took years to settle into my new reality. Blogging helped. Reading how other people adjusted to their deconversions was soothing as well until it wasn’t anymore. After a while there’s not much else to say about the transition between Christian and Atheist/Agnostic/Apatheist (or however else they identify).

You can’t form a new habit overnight. It takes time to not only get used to this new thing but to begin to forget what life was like before such massive changes took place.

My blog has been getting a lot more hits for phrases like deconversion and depression than it did in the past.

Stuff like this makes me wish I knew who created the search terms I see in my analytics. I’d love to take all of the lonely apostates out for hot chocolate. There’s a big difference between reading a screen and sitting next to a living, breathing person who is a little further up the trail. I wish I’d had that kind of mentorship when my doubts first spilled over.

It’s peaceful here. Yes, there were twinges for a while, but they’ve steadily become more and more rare as I’ve made new friends who have no connection to the life I knew 10+ years ago. Things have changed so much that it really isn’t relevant anymore.

There might come a time when I don’t identify as anything at all. To be honest, this isn’t something I spend a lot of time thinking about until or unless someone else triggers that part of my brain. It’s just is what it is.

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My Meditation Confession

Copyright (C) 2001, 2004 Free Software Foundation, Inc., 51 Franklin St, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110, USA Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.

Copyright (C) 2001, 2004 Free Software Foundation, Inc., 51 Franklin St, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110, USA. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.

I’ve talked a lot about meditating on this blog over the years.

It’s something that appealed to me even back when I was a Christian and thought doing it might be spiritually dangerous. My mind has always been so full of thoughts that there was something wonderful about taking occasional breaks from them. It’s not that my thoughts were frightening or annoying. They were just always there.

My first attempts at meditation failed. The instructions were so simple, yet I just couldn’t sit and do nothing for more than a minute or two. The whirr of the air condition would suddenly become annoyingly loud. My left knee would itch. I’d wonder if I’d turned off the stove after making breakfast.

If my body couldn’t move, my mind would be sure find a way to make up for it. No sooner would one thought be pushed away than another one would take its place.

I tried again and again. The books I’d read about it said this was common, but I never discovered the benefits in it that everyone else seemed to find.

All I did was sit and notice things I’d never thought about before. Occasionally I’d complete a short session and actually clear my mind for a little while. Usually this didn’t happen though.

Two things shifted in my life that made meditation work better:

1) I downloaded a guided mediation app on my iPhone.

Yes, some of the guides say cheesy things. There are other programs that only focus on relaxation and calming your mind, though, and I’ve found a lot of benefit in paying attention to them. They work especially well when I’m sick or when it’s too hot (or cold) outside to do a lot of walking.

If I’m left to my own devices, my mind will wander all over the place. That’s just what minds do.

2) I started noticing what I wasn’t thinking when I took walks.

In a word, nothing at all.

Walking doesn’t require any thinking unless you’re checking to see if a street is safe to cross. Even then, the flow of other pedestrians can often guide me across busy roads.

My body is happier when it has something to do, even if that something is walking down a flat, even street where nothing exciting is taking place. Just the act of moving is enough to give me the motivation to clear my mind.

I used to think that the only proper way to meditate was by sitting cross-legged in silence. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing that, of course, but I’m happy to say that I’ve found better alternatives for myself.


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Why I’m an Apatheist

Longterm readers might remember how often I used to talk about my deconversion from Christianity when I first started this blog. Eventually I ran out of things to say about that topic, though, and I drifted to more interesting questions.

It wasn’t easy to shrug off something that had such a profound impact on my childhood and young adult experiences.  I was never an angry or confrontative non-theist. That’s never been my style regardless of what I believed. But while I was adjusting to my new life it was hard to completely disconnect from my old one.

For a while I followed half a dozen or so Atheist blogs in order to see how other people have handled certain situations that can be sticky to navigate. Seeing how much attention they paid to the dumb things Christian leaders said was surprising, though. I understand the urge to keep tabs on the small percentage of them that are unethical, especially in cases where religious leaders have been protected by their churches or communities for years on end even when multiple adults knew they were doing terrible things.

I slowly grew less and less interested in these sites as I realized that I have absolutely no interest in deconverting theists or arguing with people who find  hope and comfort in their religion.

If it works for them and it isn’t harming anyone else, I don’t care what other people believe.

There are so many other interesting things in this world to explore. I want to read about macroevolution, first aid, and physics. I want to learn how to make homemade freezer jam when you have to wash everything by hand and have a tiny freezer. One of these days I might even talk my husband into getting back into hiking regularly!

But arguing about religion? N0, thanks.

(I was originally planning to pepper this post with half a dozen gifs because I’m slightly obsessed with them at the moment, but I decided to pare it down to one so I don’t annoy my readers. 😉 )



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The Truth About Deconversion and Grief

412px-Beslan-monument-tree_of_griefI love my life now but deconverting wasn’t always an easy process. Because so many new visitors have discovered On the Other Hand by searching for terms like deconversion grief and depression and deconversion I thought I’d tell my story for them.

It started when I stopped attending church at seventeen. While I was relieved to no longer assume all of the social and emotional responsibilities that came with being a preacher’s kid I missed the automatic sense of community I’d found in the churches I knew as a child.

Soon after The Ooze  became my new home. One of the advantages of switching to an online church was that there was always someone around. Rather than waiting until Sunday or Wednesday night to ask tough questions I could start a thread and talk about it right away.

After several years, though, I realized that I was no longer Christian enough even for The Ooze. Sticking around when I no longer identified with even the most liberal idea of god seemed disingenuous but shedding that label (and even more so the emotional connections I’d made) wasn’t easy.

Posting this entry isn’t going to be easy because of the assumption some people make that everyone who deconverts is either full of rage or horribly depressed. I don’t want my words to be twisted, to be thrown into other people’s faces as an example of how horrible life is without belief. It isn’t.

I’m actually quite happy in my everyday existence…but that doesn’t mean the transition was without a few bumps in the road. There were days when I wondered if it would be better to fake even the faintest whisper of a reconversion so I could justify finding a new community. In the end I just couldn’t do it.

Instead I created a new circle of likeminded friends. If you click on the Recommended Reading list on the right hand side of this blog you’ll meet some of them. Not all of them are non-theists but every single person on that list is open to and invigorated by new ideas.

One day I hope I can gather all of them in the same room. We would have a wonderful time together.


What have been your experiences? Do you ever feel like you should self-censor in order to avoid reaffirming stereotypes about your group?


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Post Hoc and the Good Person Question

Lorena had a great question on her blog last week. For those of you who aren’t interested in following the link, she has a friend who said the following and she wanted to know how other non-theists would respond to it:

I had a classmate in high school. He was a pastor’s kid and did all the right things. He was courteous, loving, kind, friendly, etc. If religion can make a person like that, then I see nothing wrong with religion.

Here’s what I would say:

  1. That sounds post hoc. There are wonderful and terrible people in every religion. That doesn’t mean that one causes the other.
  2. Are some individuals influenced to become better human beings by their beliefs? Of course.
  3.  I’ve also seen some people’s beliefs lead them to act much less loving, kind and compassionate than they would otherwise behave.
  4. Is either phenomenon limited to Christianity? Heck no. Any group with more than one member is bound to include at least one jerk.
  5. What about people whose behaviour isn’t tied to what they believe? Some of us have (de)converted to other labels without growing horns or a halo.
  6. There’s nothing wrong with being religious. There’s also nothing wrong with not being religious. What matters is how you treat people. Everything else is neckbearding.
  7. The only time I get irritated with other belief systems is when they’re shoved into areas in which they don’t belong. See: every U.S. presidential election I can remember.
  8. Why is everyone arguing about this? Let’s all go out for lemonade and cookies instead. My treat. 🙂


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Mailbag #7

A reader asks:

What do non-theists think of religion?

I know people who love debating about it and others who never think about such things. So much depends on how that person was raised, the experiences they’ve had with theists and whether they’re actually interested in in the topic. Some love to debate/discuss this stuff, others don’t.

Personally I am losing interest in any kind of religious talk. I’m not offended if other people believe in it I just don’t find the topic engaging these days. There are so many other things in this world to explore.

Often when I do think about religion it’s been triggered by yet another scandal. For some reason we keep hearing news stories about people being abused (often sexually) or swindled by men and women who were considered pillars in their community. Those stories make me so sad because they’re the exact opposite of what any of the religions I’ve ever researched have taught about treating others. I wish we knew why this keeps happening.

But I do still love traditional Christmas carols. Maybe this is weird for someone who isn’t at all interested in the theology behind songs like “Silent Night,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” or “What Child Is This?”  but it remains the prettiest music I’ve ever heard.

Do you have a question for me? Submit it through the contact form or in the comment section of this post. 

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Mailbag #4

Anonymous asks:

How do you find other non-theists in your community?

Hello, Anonymous.

Here are a few ideas:

1. Grassroots Skeptics and Atheist Nexus.

2. Visit your local university, college or community college. They often host free or low cost events – plays, musical performances, art exhibits, lectures. I’ve noticed a correlation between intellectual curiosity and a willingness to listen to other points of view.

This does not mean that the people you meet there will share your (lack of) religious beliefs but it does seem to reduce the likelihood that you’ll be pressed on the issue.

3.  Talk openly about your non-theism if it is safe to do so. You might have friends, family members or acquaintances who quietly hold the same beliefs!

4. Visit your local library and take note of upcoming special events. My library has hosted experts on a wide variety of topics – history, physics, music, art. As with college and universities, libraries can be a wonderful place to exchange ideas. Or, if nothing else, you could always check out a few books while you’re there. 🙂

5. Still can’t find anything? Start your own site. It can be as simple as signing up for a free blog at WordPress.

Do you have a question for me? Submit it through the contact form or in the comment section of this post. 

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Mailbag #3

Anonymous asks:

How do you respond to a friend who is asking for prayers? 

Hi, Anonymous. Thank you for writing to me.

Say, “you’ll be in my thoughts” if it’s at all socially possible for you to skirt around the issue for the time being.

Most of time people don’t request prayers for happy, stress-free life events. As much as it sounds like you’d love to tell this friend the truth now is not the best time to do it.

It’s better to wait until the dust from whatever is going on in your friend’s life has settled down before you have the “I’m not [or no longer] a member of your religious group” talk.

If I’ve misread your message and you never intend to tell this person about your actual beliefs this gets trickier. It can be really difficult to compartmentalize one’s life like that. All it takes is one person who knows the truth to accidentally say something and your secret is no longer so secret.

No, I’m not saying that you have to tell them or that the only possible way to live a moral life is if you tell everyone everything about you. Sometimes it just isn’t safe to disclose certain things to certain people.  As a queer, child-free, non-theist I grok that 100%. 😉

There’s still the question of how one should respond to prayer requests without bringing (too much? any?) attention to what you actually believe.

If telling them that they’ll be in your thoughts is too vague, what about subtly shifting the conversation to something like this?

Oh, I’m so sorry to hear about that. Can I bring you some groceries/babysit your kids/shovel your driveway?

Do you have a question for me? Submit it through the contact form or in the comment section of this post. 

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The Deconversion Guide: Holidays

Welcome to part five of the deconversion guide. Click here for the last entry. 

Some of the biggest holidays of the year are just around the corner. Now is the best time to start preparing for them.

Once again I’m going to be assuming that your loved ones a) know about your deconversion and b) that there is at least the potential for weirdness over this issue.

Of course, some families are extremely comfortable relating to members who don’t share their religion.

And even families who are obviously uncomfortable at one celebration may have a very different reaction at the next gathering. I’ve had a wide range of experiences – from painfully awkward to not an issue at all – with the same exact group(s) of relatives.

So it’s entirely possible that this won’t be an issue at all. If it is, though, here are a few things to keep in mind.


If this is your first visit as a non-theist remember that, at least for some denominations, the feel of a Christmas/Thanksgiving/etc. service is completely different than it would be if you attended an ordinary service. You will almost certainly not be the only visitor there and it’s much less likely that you’ll be pressured into anything.

If you want to avoid church altogether, travel on the day(s) that your extended family typically attend church. For example, Christmas falls on a Sunday this year. There’s nothing wrong with arriving later in the day to sidestep the come to church with us! conversation.

(Incidentally, travelling in non-peak periods can lead to less expensive plane or bus tickets. If you’re driving, arriving a day before or after the crowds can cut down on your travel time, too.)


I don’t mind sitting quietly through a prayer but would be extremely uncomfortable reading the story of Jesus’ birth aloud (which is one of the Christmas traditions of my maternal grandparents).

Every non-theist sees this differently but it wouldn’t be polite or kind for me to participate so intimately in something in which I don’t actually believe whether we’re talking about the Bible, Koran or Bhagavad Gita. Even though I vehemently disagree with certain beliefs I deeply love and respect my theist friends and family members. Pretending to to share their faith, even if everyone knows it’s just lip service, would be incredibly inappropriate.

If you know a particular tradition will be an issue think about how you’ll handle it ahead of time. I, for example, might ask one of the Christians in the family to volunteer to read those verses.

If you want to change some of your traditions figure out what you prefer to do instead:

  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen?
  • Have everyone share favourite childhood memories?
  • Bake cookies?
  • Listen for Santa’s sleigh on the roof?

I can’t promise that everyone will go along with it but it’s generally better to have an alternative activity in mind when you’re attempting to change something that has been happening for years.

Awkward Conversations

Oh, you know the ones. One minute you’re slicing the turkey breast on your plate or taking a lingering sip of coffee, the next great-uncle so-and-so swoops down for a friendly post-dinner interrogation.

Good times. 😉

I have relatives and friend with whom I’m comfortable talking about anything and others who are politely redirected to less personal topics.

If you’re like me and can easily get caught off-guard it might help to practice a few stock phrases:

“I’m happy with my life.”

“Thanks for your concern.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

Or even outright conversational hijacks like:

“Can you believe how fast little William is growing? It seems like just yesterday he slept through dinner in his father’s arms. How are your kids/grandkids/pets doing these days?’

I’ve mentioned this here before but the message boards at Etiquette Hell are a fantastic resource for learning how to politely wiggle out of uncomfortable situations.


What are your favourite tricks and tips for getting through the holidays? Is there anything you wish you had known from the beginning?

(I’m leaving these questions a little vague on purpose. Please share your story in the comment section if you haven’t done so already.)

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Wild Card Wednesday: Rising Atheism in America

The US is increasingly portrayed as a hotbed of religious fervour. Yet in the homeland of ostentatiously religious politicians such as Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, agnostics and atheists are actually part of one of the fastest-growing demographics in the US: the godless. Far from being in thrall to its religious leaders, the US is in fact becoming a more secular country, some experts say. “It has never been better to be a free-thinker or an agnostic in America,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the FFRF.

The exact number of faithless is unclear. One study by the Pew Research Centre puts them at about 12% of the population, but another by the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College in Hartford puts that figure at around 20%.

Click here for the rest of the article.

This is one of those things that is heavily influenced by where you live.

Exceptions exist, of course, but someone in a small, rural, community usually lives under a different set of cultural mores than someone in, say, Los Angeles.

U.S. readers, how homogenous is your community? What percentage of your friends and family members share your (ir)religious beliefs? Have you noticed a change in that percentage over the last decade or two?

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