Calling All Apostates December 4, 2010

Calling All Apostates

Christianity Today recently published a promising-but-ultimately-disappointing article called “The Leavers” about why young people are leaving the church.

One of the reason we leave? Our morals:

A teenage girl goes off to college and starts to party. A young man moves in with his girlfriend. Soon the conflict between belief and behavior becomes unbearable. Tired of dealing with a guilty conscience and unwilling to abandon their sinful lifestyles, they drop their Christian commitment.

In other words, people leave Christianity because they really, really want to sin.

Right…

I know a hell of a lot of atheists. I’ve never heard a single person cite that as the reason they left the faith. People leave for a variety of reasons, two of the bigger ones being that the most crucial beliefs in Christianity don’t hold any intellectual weight and because they want nothing to do with Christianity when its beliefs guide millions of Christians (especially evangelical ones) to be anti-gay, anti-women, and anti-church/state separation.

The article only briefly mentions those things. So it basically misses the point.

Maybe they need someone who is an actual “leaver” to write the article for them…

Coincidentally, a former Christian (and one-time “Assistant Editor of an international Christian magazine”) is working on an article about “How Not to Talk to Apostates.” It basically a guide on what Christians should avoid saying around ex-Christians so that they can relate more effectively with us. It will also give Christians an “honest, apostate’s-eye-view of the Christian faith” and offer real explanations for why people walk away from it.

I know about this because the reporter is interested in talking with apostates who stopped believing in middle age, were deeply involved in ministry and/or had a fervent believing background — and she figured a lot of you read this site.

If you’d be willing to help her out, please contact her directly at larennaise@gmail.com. With your input, maybe Christians can get a more accurate understanding of why you left the religion.


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  • Jeanette

    Sounds like a useful project, and I’d write in except there was never one moment when I “left” the church, I just kind of slowly dropped out and knew it wasn’t for me from around age 10. But I look forward to hearing other people’s stories! 🙂

  • Steve

    Do yourself a favor and don’t read any comments on that website. The sheer amount of stupidity and ignorance is mind-boggling.

  • Troglodyke

    Well, I guess I can’t help. I left the church at 14, though I stopped believing at around 10.

  • Miko

    “Leavers” and atheists aren’t necessarily the same group. It’s possible that those who go on to call themselves atheists have different reasons for leaving the church than those that just leave and then never think about it again.

  • Secular Stu

    I know a hell of a lot of atheists.

    Well, I’ve known a fair amount of “leavers” who left the Christian faith only to return later. People who match this description to a tee:

    “A bit later in life when they have married, and especially after children arrive, they become more regular [church] attendees.”

    Many people are just apatheists. They don’t put much thought into it, and they leave the church because of various inconveniences involved. But that childhood indoctrination is still there, waiting to resurface.

    In the article they even ask people why they left. One described himself outright as an atheist and empiricist. But then there’s this guy:

    When his father learned of his decision to leave the faith, he rushed his son a copy of Mere Christianity, hoping the book would bring him back. But C. S. Lewis’s logical style left him cold. “All that rationality comes from the Western philosophical tradition,” he told me. “I don’t think that’s the only way to find truth.”

    I know a hell of a lot of atheists, too, and that doesn’t sound like anything a typical atheist would say.

    As an aside, this passage stood out to me:

    Another unsettling pattern emerged during my interviews. Almost to a person, the leavers with whom I spoke recalled that, before leaving the faith, they were regularly shut down when they expressed doubts. Some were ridiculed in front of peers for asking “insolent questions.” Others reported receiving trite answers to vexing questions and being scolded for not accepting them. One was slapped across the face, literally.

  • Greg

    Here’s a thought… maybe some of the people who leave, leave because they don’t believe god exists any more.

    I find it amusing that the simplest possibility isn’t even suggested. It’s always that something else has replaced it – even when ‘The New Atheists’ are mentioned, it seems implied that the person has adopted some kind of New Atheism mindset.

    Of course, the extremely common, and even more stupid idea that people who leave Christianity just want to sin comes up, too. If such a person exists that have decided to do a couple of sins now, knowing that they’re going to be tortured eternally after they die, then I’ll be very surprised. Anyone who does that is just… well, dumb.

    Infinitely more likely that these people consider the church’s teachings immoral, and leave the church as a result than that people want to be immoral and so leave the church.

    Anyway – not in a position to help the reporter I’m afraid, was never in all that deeply, and not yet middle aged… ;).

  • Flawedprefect

    “This means viewing their skepticism for what it often is: the tortured language of spiritual longing. And once we’ve listened long and hard to their stories, and built bridges of trust, we will be ready to light the way back home.”

    Yeah. The first step is to get the meaning of their skepticism wrong. It’s seriously as addictive as watching a car accident. *facepalm*

    I really hope apostates answer this call and tell more positive stories about was was gained by leaving.

  • “I’ve never heard a single person cite that as the reason they left the faith.”

    Really? I’ll be your first then. It certainly wasn’t the reason I (or many of my friends) left Christianity, but it definitely was one of many reasons. Of course, the formulation in the article is biased to the church-goers’ perspective, making it sound like atheists (who, yes, are a narrow subset of those who leave Christianity — definitely excluding the Wiccan quoted in the article!) simply change their beliefs to fit whatever they want to do. I’m sure some people do that, but probably not the ones who were very serious about their faith to begin with. However, I think temptation — which given many churches’ insistence on sex as the most important indicator of morality, often comes in sexual forms — played a role in my own deconversion, and likely plays a role in many others’ as well. I think the most sympathetic way of looking at this is to say that atheists are driven by the same biological desires as everyone else, but maybe we’re more troubled by the disconnect between what we want (and what seems natural and reasonable) and the morality presented in ancient scriptures.

    When we tell our personal narratives of deconversion after the fact, it’s easy to play up the elements that make us sound good — intellectualism, integrity, ethics, politics — and leave out or play down other factors that contributed to what is often a long and painful decision to leave. I think a lot of ex-Christians are afraid to ever mention the role that “temptation” (and disagreeing with notions of what “sin” is) played in their deconversion because they used to be Christians and they know exactly what all their friends and family are thinking. But when we swing too far in the other direction and say it’s not even a contributing factor, I think we sound less human and less believable.

    Hemant, I have more thoughts on this and will consider writing more in depth. Thanks for the link to the Christianity Today article though; they get a lot wrong, but reading their longer essay pieces is a greater reminder of what some Christians are thinking.

  • cbob

    Why yes, it is because of our morals. We’re tired of belonging to a group that pretends to minister to the poor, when over 50% of tithes go to producing weekly two-hour entertainment for bored people in pews in a building that sits mostly empty the rest of the week. We’re sick of associating with a group that treats people like dirt and uses scare tactics so they’ll come to Christ. We’re running away from a place that abuses children and tries to cover it up. Yes, we do want to sin. We want to give full civil rights to gays and lesbians.

  • In other words, people leave Christianity because they really, really want to sin.

    It’s too bad I’m a lifelong atheist. I almost wish I were an apostate so I could prove them wrong. I often joke that I would make a really good fundamentalist because I haven’t got any vices to give up, LOL.

  • Hemant, the article doesn’t miss the point, it directly denies the point. The part you quoted, about the teenage girl dropping her religion so she can sin freely? You interestingly left out the last bit of that paragraph:

    … they drop their Christian commitment. They may cite intellectual skepticism or disappointments with the church, but these are smokescreens designed to hide the reason. “They change their creed to match their deeds,”

    They know about those reasons that you cited for why atheists leave the church, but they deny that those are the actual reasons.

  • Jeff

    It’s the same among Orthodox Jews. People supposedly leave because they want to “sin”, or because someone was mean to them, or because they had lousy role models. No one ever considers the possibility that those who leave have reasons based upon may have good, sound arguments.

    A few years ago, an Orthodox woman actually set up a website and had people who’d left fill out a questionnaire. Her conclusion was the latter – they left because of the hypocrisy of their authority figures. I don’t believe she cited anyone as having left because they simply didn’t believe.

  • mj

    While it’s true I’ve never met anyoe who left the faith because they wanted to sin more, I have met many of the faithful who stopped attending church because they felt church members treated them badly because they party or live with a partner or some other thing the churchies don’t like.

    While those people remain believers, they are still considered “leavers” because they no longer attend church.

  • Tom

    It is telling that the first thing these Christians think is wrong with Leavers is that they have guilty consciences, rather than a sinful nature and a disobedience of God. It adds to the notion that they really believe the most moral thing to do is what you believe is right by keeping a clean conscience, first and foremost, rather than do what God asks of you in the Bible to get a ticket to heaven.

    Because there are so many people out there who decide what is right and wrong by their conscience rather than by scripture, it is not surprising that even these righteous Christians can’t hold to their own standards. It just shows that human beings (generally) trust their innate sense of right and wrong granted to them thru their own biology, rather than what somebody’s book dictates as morality.

  • S-Y

    But… but… you fail to realize that ALL atheists are all denying God to satisfy their sinful needs and desires; teh EV1LZ OF TEH WORLDZ!1!1 No God = excuse to be no good lolol amirite? It’s not because the Christian belief system calls anything they merely dislike a sin, it’s because you, heathen atheist, lack the character and humility to repent of ur evilz!

    That’s basically what most of them say anyway. They’re mostly indistinguishable from those who say that all atheists are immoral.

    Speaking of which, next time believers toss the word “atheist” around like a basketball, I will simply call them monotheists or polytheists. =)

  • Roger

    I became an atheist after studying the Bible and deciding that it’s all a load of bollocks.

  • Ms. Crazy Pants

    I first left the church, because of all the evils things I saw self-proclaimed Christians doing and getting away with it, and even being declared as righteous upstanding citizens of the community. Rapes, sexual assault, attacks, gossiping, belittling others, stealing, and only caring about money. Kids aren’t supposed to worry about this stuff when they go to a Christian school or a church. It was never the safe place it was supposed to be.

    I’m not talking about the priest here. The first one I grew up around was wonderful, and the second one only cared about money.

    I didn’t become a full atheist until later.

  • Richard Wade

    Christians who write nonsense like this are constantly tipping their hands. They give us no insight into atheists, but unintentionally they give us very candid looks into their own character.

    Those who speculate about the mayhem, marauding and murder that people would do if they didn’t believe in gods are simply describing what they would do. Thanks for the warning! Those who speculate about why atheists become atheists are similarly projecting their own thoughts and feelings onto their imaginary “atheist.” Okay, thanks for sharing about yourself.

    The fatal error that cynics make is to assume that everyone else is secretly cynical too. The fatal error that shallow people make is to assume that everyone else is secretly shallow too. The fatal error that self-suppressed lechers, libertines and lushes make is is to assume that everyone else is secretly eager to be that way too.

    To describe the inner workings of people in general when you’ve only used yourself as a model is to nakedly reveal only your own inner workings.

  • ACN

    Those who speculate about the mayhem, marauding and murder that people would do if they didn’t believe in gods are simply describing what they would do

    And we have a word or words for people who lack empathy and human solidarity to the degree to which this is true.

    Psychopaths.

  • One thing that stuck out at me was the claim that people are leaving because they haven’t been given enough doctrine.

    It’s a non-sequitur to say that, if Christians today aren’t particularly orthodox, this must be the reason for the decline in Christianity.

    Rather, I think most people are no longer able to swallow Christianity’s scarier doctrines. Shedding them to a large extent necessary for survival.

  • I think an article in a Christian magazine probably can’t afford to acknowledge the actual reasons people leave the church (like lack of belief or disgust with the hypocrisy of religion). If they did, readers might start to wonder whether those views are valid. Whereas if they write “these are smoke screens to hide the real reason,” then readers can be satisfied that the “leavers” still believe in God and what the church teaches but simply don’t want to adhere to it.

    It’s along the same lines of the “atheists are just mad at God.” You can’t be mad at God if God doesn’t exist.

  • Victor

    Actually, the part about leaving the church to sin bears some truth to it. Except that these so called leave-to-sinners usually end up in a different church where they have a certain cover of annonymity to avoid peer condemnation

    Of course, to us who’ve left Christianity behind, that’s not really leaving THE church at all, but to the administrators of that church, it still counts

  • Lady Copper

    Those who speculate about the mayhem, marauding and murder that people would do if they didn’t believe in gods are simply describing what they would do

    And we have a word or words for people who lack empathy and human solidarity to the degree to which this is true.

    Psychopaths

    I get what you guys are saying, but I’m not sure it’s really true that the majority of people who use this argument are really reflecting their own character. I would have used all of those arguments a few years ago, (saying that lots, but not all, people would start behaving worse and worse over a couple generations) but I never thought that I would do that sort of thing. I just thought that I would have no particular reason to act the way I *knew* was right and thought that that would bother me a LOT.

  • MH

    I read the article and it didn’t seem like it was written to inform the faithful about why people leave. It seemed like it was written to confirm the decision of those who stay.

  • gwen

    I was a voracious reader as a child. When I was about 10 or 11…and bored, I read the bible from cover to cover…every word…and realized it was a book of fairy tales.

  • microbiologychick

    I think a lot of atheists are afraid to admit any role for sex in a deconversion because of the “just wanting to sin” thing.

    I admit that sex was a very important factor in my deconversion.

    Many churches treat sex as the absolute barometer of all morality and the main sin anyone can commit. When this begins to clash with a burgeoning sex drive, you begin to ask questions.

    If there were evidence for a god who made a big deal about my sex life, I would accept it. I accept the reality of things I don’t like all the time!

    If I just wanted an excuse to “sin”, there are other religions that don’t have a problem with sex.

    The sex problem in Christianity got me started asking questions and researching. It didn’t make me an atheist, but no one specific thing did.

  • Bleak_Infinitive

    I grew up around conservative theology. Around high school, I had been growing politically liberal and couldn’t stomach the church’s teachings on sexuality or its disregard for social justice. I looked into liberal theology and realized that apologists and theologians could use the same verses to make entirely opposing arguments. About this time, I started asking my religious peers questions. Those went unanswered. I floated with loose spiritualism/hyperliberal Christianity for a while, but that soon developed into atheism.

  • cat

    Neither of the ‘sinful’ things listed are actually immoral. Maybe that’s their problem, that people are figuring out the foolish Christian notion of ‘sin’ is a terrible moral guide.

    “they want nothing to do with Christianity when its beliefs guide millions of Christians (especially evangelical ones) to be anti-gay, anti-women, and anti-church/state separation” Well, they see being gay, being a disobedient or sexual woman, or being politically dissident as sins, so I think this fits my point, that their notion of ‘sin’ is an absurd ethical view.

  • Steve

    The whole concept of sin is pretty much meaningless if you’re an atheist. A sin is a violation of divine law or god’s will. We don’t acknowledge the existence of god(s), so there can’t be any divine law. Therefor, there can’t be sin.

    It’s only when you go a step lower and define sin is a violation of church law or doctrine, that it retains some meaning.

    Of course, if you’re still in the deconversion process, you won’t think that way.

  • “Cat” reached my point before I got here. Maybe one of the factors in deconversion isn’t sin, but a disagreement about what a sin is. Take, for instance, the common example of premarital sex: most people do it, including people who believe it is a sin. Maybe leavers decide that it can’t be a sin.

    And a Christian who does believe it’s a sin concludes that they left because they wanted to sin, not because they no longer believe that act is sinful anymore.

    So perhaps it’s a matter of perspective on the magazine’s part.

  • Ian

    I actually heard this article you talk about being talked about on the radio. Every so often I tune into the religious stations just to see what they are talking about. I actually recently wrote a post about discrimination of atheists from theists and how, in a way, atheists are more godly than theists.
    http://iantimberlake.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/the-un-society-of-atheism-why-theists-are-more-unholy-than-atheists/

  • ACN

    @ Lady Copper

    I get what you guys are saying, but I’m not sure it’s really true that the majority of people who use this argument are really reflecting their own character.

    I hear you, maybe the ridiculousness doesn’t come out well over the internet medium though. Of course I don’t think most christians are psychopaths; I was using hyperbole to make a point here, if these people REALLY believe what they’re saying, and the only thing keeping them moral is threats from their skyfairy, then they aren’t really moral at all. To be making real moral decisions, you have to be making them because they are the right thing to do, not because you seek reward, not because you fear punishment, and not because the boss fairy said so.

    The fact of the matter is that most people make good moral/ethical decisions more of the time than they don’t. That includes christians. That includes atheists. I STRONGLY doubt the claim of anyone who says that if it weren’t for god they’d be running about murdering, raping, pillaging because I know that most people aren’t psychopaths and I make the “psychopath” remarks from above to point out the absurdity of their position.

  • I wrote that Christianity Today writer:

    Christianity Today,

    I understand you’re looking to hear from apostates from Christianity. Ok! Here we go.

    When I was a Christian, it was not my choice. I was a child. No one ever provided me with a real reason to believe in a god, but it was still a requirement, so I obeyed. For several years, I had to pretend I believed all that, and I also had to help my church push those ideas onto other people.

    Then when I graduated from Christian school, 8 grade, it was all suddenly over. And not one fellow Christian tried to produce that god, or validate any of the beliefs we had to accept. They just said “Congratulations, good luck,” and that was it! WE never got to meet God.

    When I became free to hold, and express my REAL beliefs, I looked back at Christianity, and it scared me. It scared me to think that I was once inside Christianity. A captive.

    I became an apostate from Christianity on the outside in 1983. I don’t remember exactly when I stopped believing in God though, apart from the fact that it was much earlier than 1983, and it’s a bit of a haze because…I was a child. Adult Christians took advantage.

    Now I am free! I am also free to use my oversized USA style free speech to tell the world exactly what’s wrong with Christianity and religion in general. But for sure, unlike any other religions alive today, only Christianity is forced on me, as a part of my society, my neighborhood, my family, and my taxes.

    There’s a big church marquee down the road: “Obey God, not man.” Well when I was a Christian, I really wanted to meet God, but that wasn’t possible. I had only fellow humans to obey on this issue, and they really seemed to enjoy that fact.

    Religion is a scam, and Christianity is at the top of that pile.

    Joe Zamecki

    Austin, Texas

  • Anonymous

    Dah, this is another inconvenience of being free from Islam rather than Christianity. I don’t get to answer things like these.

    I do get to call myself “Kafir” though.

  • Clytia

    Like Brett Keller, I also left christianity for “sin”.
    I won’t say I became an atheist, but that’s certainly why I stopped being christian.
    I used to be a hard nut fundie, especially in my teens, I told my older (bisexual) sister that I was praying for her (because she was going to hell), I swore to wait until my wedding day for my first kiss, let alone anything else… And never, ever would I have gone out with a non-christian boy.

    But then, not long after I turned 18, a mere two weeks after swearing (very sincerely) to my mother that I would never consider going out with that (non christian) boy I liked from my theatre class, I was going out with that very boy. I even promised him I’d never try to drag him to church, provided he never pressured me for sex. And he didn’t. But three weeks later we’d fucked.
    Not long after, my (non christian) older sister pointed out how inconsistent my actions were with my beliefs, so really, one or the other ought to change. I dropped the beliefs.

    It wasn’t for well over a year after that that I had a more firm idea of what I may or may not believe and started delving into the atheist blogosphere. For a while, I just thought fuck it. I figured god probably was out there, but I wasn’t interested. And eventually the god idea became dimmer and dimmer till I figured it might not have been that great an idea in the first place.

    Now, I realise that most of the (especially sexual) things that are called “sins” by christians… I tend to have an opposite view on. I am very firm in my (non) belief(s). I’ve thought things through, I think I know where I stand, and I now have thoroughly reasoned, intellectual reasons for my lack of belief and for my views.
    But that was not why I left the church, or why I initially stopped believing.

    TLDR: I very much agree with, and again want to highlight the importance of seeing the difference between
    1) leaving a faith and
    2) becoming an atheist.
    For some people they are one and the same. For me, and surely others, they weren’t.

    Incidentally, I am now happily civilly united to my wife of over two years.

  • MelissaF

    I was raised in a Christian (Baptist) family, both immediate and extended. We went to church every week, my bedtime stories were always christian fables with moral lessons – religion was central to my family. Strangely though, despite all the brainwashing, I don’t recall EVER believing in the christian god. At points throughout my childhood, I desperately wanted to believe…but I never did. It just didn’t seem real or true to me. Then after reading the Bible thoroughly, I realised that not only was it not true, it was also repugnant. But anyway, yeah, raised christian but it always seemed made-up. I’ve been an atheist since birth, I guess, despite the attempted brainwashing 😀

  • So in order to expunge a guilty conscience all you have to do is drop belief in a god? Awesome! There are so many gods that I could go through an entire lifetime without any guilt whatsoever.

    Or you know, put up with making the odd mistake and use that guilt to correct or make amends for the errors that I do make.

    Hmm, which is best?

  • Brian

    I was atheist by age ten, and shortly thereafter figured out that pussy’s better’n prayer.

  • Jeff

    @ACN:

    Of course I don’t think most christians are psychopaths

    I disagree; I have no problem characterizing fundies as psychopaths. They believe the vast majority of human beings will be tortured forever. Many (I think most) believe that the large part of their heavenly reward will consist of being allowed to watch. If this isn’t a manifestation of psychopathology, I don’t know what is.

    As for this:

    I STRONGLY doubt the claim of anyone who says that if it weren’t for god they’d be running about murdering, raping, pillaging

    Take them at their word. I think they’re utterly capable of it.

  • Carlie

    For me there were a lot of factors, but the main one is quite simple. Due to some family issues I was unable to go to church for a couple of years straight. When I went back after the hiatus, my perspective had changed to more one of an outsider and I thought “Wow, this stuff makes no sense!” It really does take constant reinforcement for the irrationality of it not to be evident.

  • Claudia

    It’s a very curious insight into the mind of a believer who seems to really want to solve the problem, but is inevitably hobbled by their faith.

    Tired of dealing with a guilty conscience and unwilling to abandon their sinful lifestyles, they drop their Christian commitment. They may cite intellectual skepticism or disappointments with the church, but these are smokescreens designed to hide the reason.

    This is a little truth and a lot of self-denial. There is a little truth; I don’t doubt that many people live in conflict with their stated faith and this may help them on the road to doubting their faith. The VAST majority of Americans are not virgins on their wedding nights and the VAST majority of Americans claim to be Christian. I’m sure that the thought “I’m not hurting anyone by sleeping with my girlfriend/being gay/going out dancing” can lead to questions about why this is such a sin and based on whose authority.
    On the other hand the author is hobbled by his faith. He cannot really acknowledge that there are legitimate intellectual objections that can lead someone out of faith, because that would challenge his own faith.

    This problem comes up in other parts of the article, like when he offers the advice for winning back “leavers”:

    This means viewing their skepticism for what it often is: the tortured language of spiritual longing.

    This is something that could only come out of a non-skeptic with no understanding of the skeptical worldview. He cannot, due to his faith, admit that we can be truly happy and content without his religion. This refusal to admit to the reality will damage any attempt to win people back to his side. Or at least it will limit it to those who left just the church, and not faith. If you’ve still got the faith glasses on and simply are disillusioned and alienated, you can be wooed back in. One you’ve taken the faith glasses off however, it take a lot more than “I know you’re just spiritually lost” to get you back.

    I will admit he makes one very good point however:

    There’s nothing wrong with pizza and video games, nor with seeker-sensitive services, nor with low-commitment small groups that introduce people to the Christian faith. But these cannot replace serious programs of discipleship and catechism.

    Studies have shown that the churches best at retaining members are the ones that are most involved and demand the most committment from the faithful, not the other way around. At first glance, making church less cumbersome, less obviously in total conflict with modern life, seems like a good way to keep folks and gain new ones. However faith that is a light load is an easy load to cast off. A faith that involves itself in every aspect of your life, such that a loss of faith would mean a loss of not just comfort, but family, community, a job, etc. is very hard to get rid of. Someone very deeply involved in their church has an emotional investment and a very real practical motivation to squelch their own doubts before they threaten their entire lives.

  • Laura

    Well, I’m pretty sure I left so I could sin more.

    Sure, a factor was that I couldn’t attend my parents’ special brand of Christian church in college so the constant brainwashing eased up. Sure, I met a couple of atheist role models (a boss and a scout leader) who I respected and admired for their intellectual curiosity. Sure, I read dozens of books from Common Sense to God a Biography to The Selfish Gene and came to the conclusion that Christianity is internally inconsistent and intellectually bankrupt.

    But really, I think I just wanted to have sex with my boyfriend, and I felt like I had to make a choice between that and belief in God. Although maybe if God had a little more evidence on his side, that choice would have been different. No regrets.

  • Can’t help (not that I would anyway) because I may be middle-aged but lost my faith in Christ at 17 and god altogether at 23.

    I became an atheist after studying the Bible and deciding that it’s all a load of bollocks.

    Same here and it seems to be the case for a lot of nonbelievers. The irony is that I read it to get closer to god and understand him better.

    I can, however, be accused of feeling free to “sin” now, per what I previously conceived as sin:

    1. I am not here to be a helpmate or to be submissive to a man. Period. Point blank. End of discussion.

    2. Of course, I’ve had sex outside of marriage.

    3. I lived with my ex-husband before marrying him.

    4. I divorced his sorry ass.

    5. I cannot honor my father and my mother though honestly this was something I couldn’t live up to even when I believed and troubled me greatly then.

    6. I hung around and made friends with gay people. Gasp!

    7. I actually strive not to judge others. (Admittedly don’t always achieve this, being human.) I kind of hesitate to include this one because Jesus said to leave this to god so one would think that it would be a sin to not leave judging to god. However, I’ll throw it in there since it seems that believers — this article included — always, always, always judge others.

    8. I definitely motherfucking blaspheme that cocksucker god.

    9. I take the lord’s name in vain. Er, however since he is no longer the lord my god and imaginary friend, can this be considered a sin?

    10. I sleep in on Sundays.

    11. I don’t tithe.

    I asked my daughter how else and she said, “How much time do you have?”

  • Here the letter I sent her. Its a bit long so only read it if you are interested.

    I saw on the Friendly Atheist blog that you are looking for testimonials from middle-aged people who have left their church. Here is mine. You can use all or part of it as you wish.

    I’m a happily married 48 year-old father of 2 children (8 and 13) who was formally actively involved in church ministry who has recently left the church.

    I wasn’t raised Christian but grow up in a heavily evangelical environment within the bible-belt. Many of the social opportunities in my community were religion based and I was always a bit of an outsider since I didn’t belong to a church. Although I self-identified as an atheist, I was always curious about and a bit envious of the close social bonds and gatherings of all my classmates. The couple of times I went to church as an adolescent happened to be at very conservative fundamentalist churches with sermons full of hell-fire damnation warnings. That was my view of Christianity. I thought it was completely crazy. Fast forward a decade and I was living as a “none” without being part of any religious or non-religious community. I eventually married (in my early thirties) a moderate Christian who although didn’t have fervent fundamentalist beliefs, was raised as a churchgoer and thought that is what good people should be doing. She was, though, at a time in her life were she didn’t belong to a church and was content to not go after we got married. When we had kid’s, though, she wanted to raise them in a church setting and not belonging to a church was causing her some internal dissonance. One of her friends convinced her to start taking the kids to her church which was a somewhat moderate evangelical non-Southern-Baptist-convention affiliated Baptist church with a large commitment to outreaching to the “unchurched”. The church patterned itself after Rick Warren’s Saddle-back church. For sake of marriage and family harmony (and because my wife lived my unchurched lifestyle for a number of years after we got married) I decided to accompany her to church. The carefully crafted sermons (tailored to the unchurched) broke a number of stereotypes I had of evangelical Christian churches. I was genuinely curious about Christianity and decided to let down my defenses and give it a try. I really enjoyed the Wednesday night pastor-led bible studies when he devoted several nights to going through the Old Testament and explaining the stories. I was discovering the bible for the first time at age 43. I had the frame of mind that I wanted to find positive useful things in the sermons and downplayed or tuned out the supernaturalism. I volunteered at the church in ministry. I was a dish-washer after the big Wednesday-night meal and ran the projector during the sermons on Sundays. They had two big screens set up that displayed the words to the worship songs and bullet-points and other visual aids to the sermons themselves. I would need to carefully advance the slides to stay in synch with the church band playing the music as well as the pastor during his sermon. Sometimes I would also perform other duties like be a greeter, do security during sermons, or run the collection plate. My wife volunteered in the children’s ministry although she often complained of disciplinary problems among the children. I went through the adult baptism ceremony and was truly happy at that time. The church offered courses in “Being a Christian” and I took them eagerly. We also participated in adult small group bible study over at another person’s house. The participating families in our group would bring their kids and the kids would go off somewhere else in the house to quietly play while the adults went through bible-study exercises. I enjoyed these very much and really viewed this as what Christianity should really be all about. We kept up the pace of going to church-related activities three-times a week for about two years but the sermons were starting to repeat. I wasn’t hearing anything new. I was always disappointed in the hard-sell at church pressuring everybody to tithe at 10%. We were tithing at perhaps 3-5%. I had gone through the transition of learning all about this new world-view (Christianity) to just working to maintain the propaganda machine of getting new converts. It was expected that a person who had been going there a while would have happily made that transition – would have left the “seeking” stage, become a committed believer, and would be willing to work solely to convert others to the faith. That just wasn’t the way I saw religion. I saw it as a perpetual seeking stage where you never “get there” and always have questions. I started to become dissatisfied with the sermons and slowly started to pay attention to the parts of the sermons and small group discussions that re-enforced what I thought was wrong with evangelical Christianity. I started to hear (between the lines) just what I remembered from my childhood with the hell-fire damnation sermons. On one occasion when I received an email asking if they could count on me for tithing at 10%, I used that as an excuse to say I wasn’t going any more. The Pastor requested an “exit interview” and although we had a pleasant talk, I basically told him I didn’t believe that the bible was the inspired word of God or even in an afterlife. Once he realized this, he didn’t really have anything else he could say to me. My wife tried to keep going with the kids for a couple of weeks but the kids were so jealous that I wasn’t going and complained so much that my wife finally gave up on going herself. We haven’t been to church for about two years now. We kind-of miss the community but the beliefs themselves were just too crazy. Its hard to say what the future will bring, but I am happy that we are not going to church right now. I am now a participant in the on-line atheist movement. Church turned me from a “none” back into an atheist.

  • beckster

    I drank some beer and realized the world didn’t fall down around me. Then I had sex and I didn’t feel dirty and horrible. Then I smoked a little weed and everything was fine. Now I am a responsible mother of three children in a loving and stable marriage. I have a college degree. I turned out fine even though I “sinned”. I left because I realized most of their silly rules were just plain silly and that no one actually follows them in real life (except the mormons). Oh and because it is obvious that god isn’t real.

  • I found it interesting that others stopped believing at age 10, because that was my age too. Except for premarital sex, I’ve lived a chaste life–no alcohol, never tried drugs, and have no desire to do a lot of things that are considered vices. That is just who I am. I left because we discussed hypocrisy a lot, and so staying would have been hypocritical. I have no interest in going back because they sing crappy songs now–Christian rock and Christian perversions of decent rock songs–singing was my main reason for attending in my teens (I was in 3 choirs, including a family choir), so without that motivation there’s no reason to attend. Besides, I didn’t want to raise my sons in a blatantly patriarchal organization where, if they actually believed the party line, they’d learn that men have all the power.

  • Sheila

    I am the exact person this author claims she is looking for, because I was raised a member of the ‘nondenominational’ religion, the Church of Christ, that publishes her magazine. It was mailed to my home for decades, in fact.

    It took my over 40 years to stop ignoring anything that refuted my beliefs and finally think critically. Better late than never; I left and never went back and never will. Full time non-theist freethinking humanist here.

    I’m not going to bother to write this woman because it won’t make any difference. She will print the letters that support her position and nothing more. That publication would never encourage critical thinking or questioning amongst its readership.

    The board members/editors of the publication would never approve publishing the truth, either. We non-believers (and that includes ANYONE who isn’t a member of the Church of Christ in good standing) are all going to burn in hayull.

    This group believes in a literal translation of the Bible; Noah & the Ark were real, evolution is a hoax perpetrated by the scientists, God really did commit genocide in the old and new testaments but that is because the wicked people deserved it, The Bible Says It And That Settles It.

    Don’t waste your time.

  • Nick Andrew

    Tortured language?

    Anybody who has heard the Hitch speak knows that he is extremely articulate and to the point.

    There’s a line between the articulate and the inarticulate, and if you think Hitch uses tortured language, you’re on the wrong side of it.

    To quote from David Silverman’s recent panel discussion:

    Silverman: “The ‘You Know it’s a Myth’ campaign, is all about reaching out to people who deep down, know that they’re praying to air.”

    Panel moderator quoting CS Lewis: “Man himself must undergo some sort of death if he would truly live’, talking about the similarities of the idea of agriculture, of the death of a seed and then life, um, of other, you know, the the the the the idea winter to spring, you know, these are very similar kinds of metaphors that exist in the world and says ‘there is already a likeness permitted by god to that truth on which all depends’ so he is saying there is a truth in the world that points to an ultimate truth of death and resurrection.”

    Who is torturing language to get their point across? What on earth does that CS Lewis quote and the moderator’s word salad actually mean?

  • ButchKitties

    I think Cat and Microbiologygirl nailed it. I didn’t abandon my religion because I wanted to be able to sin. Rather, I slowly came to see a distinction between sinfulness and immorality. I think sex is the jumping off point for a lot of people because it’s where the arbitrary nature of Christian morality starts to become apparent.

    The Church taught me it was wrong to steal or hurt people, on the grounds that God doesn’t like those things. I never really questioned those teachings. It was easy to see why God would tell us not to steal – theft causes immediate and obvious harm to others. Hitting a person causes immediate and obvious harm. God was like a parent telling me not to do something because someone would get hurt, and I didn’t want to hurt anybody, so obedience was easy.

    Having premarital sex does not (necessarily) cause immediate and obvious harm – which is why it was one of the first things I started to question. Premarital sex is more like driving a car, there is some risk but that risk can be managed if you use your head a little. It’s hard to admit that sex was a factor because Christians immediately jump to “Gotcha! You just want to sin!” The real answer is that I don’t want to sin or not sin – I think the concept itself is worthless. Rather than decide what is good or bad based on what a supposedly impervious deity likes, I want to base my morality on observation. I want to base my morality on what causes myself and others the greatest benefit/least amount of harm. Relative morality, judging the rightness or wrongness of an action based on its circumstances and potential outcomes, is the only kind of morality that isn’t arbitrary.

    If I was going to pick a religious belief based on what I want to be true, I wouldn’t be an atheist. I’d be a Wiccan. I like the Wiccan concept of the divine, and the rule of “If it harm none, do what you will” is exactly the kind of morality I can get behind. I could have all the sex I want and still have a Goddess that loved me. The reason I’m not a Wiccan, or any other kind of theist, is that there’s just no evidence that a god exists.

  • Nordog

    I was an agnostic and very close to being atheist.

    Then I wasn’t.

    Though I don’t think this is the kind of apostacy for which you are looking.

  • Beautifulblackatheist

    Well, after I screwed my then bf ‘s brains out immediately after watching the premiere of Passion of the Christ and the ground didn’t open up and swallow me lol I knew I’d be ok

  • Strange but i read the article somewhat differently than you.
    It indeed states what you quote above but i wouldn’t agree with the idea that concerning other things it only mentions them briefly.
    On page three there are 2 paragraphs for the sinners, and the rest is about totally different things including abuse.