Conversations With You
Questions, Answers, Observations, and a few Kudos
I consider this series of pages to be the heart of this site – a collection of conversations between myself and those who have found The Joy of Disillusionment over the years and emailed their comments or questions. One of the prime reasons for creating this site was to provide an opportunity to communicate for those of us who have been or are currently going through the difficult and often emotionally wrenching transition from traditional religion to rational thought. People from all walks of life - all over the globe - have made comments and critiques as they have connected to at least this one person (myself) who has been through something like what they are going through now. I have been privileged to be in the position to respond to these letters.
In fact, when I began to review these emails for their inclusion here, I was amazed at how much material had been received since January, 2002, when I established the site. For the purpose of sharing our stories, our problems, and our different approaches to the transition out of religion, I present these messages here.
These emails are mostly from between 2002 and 2004. After this time, the once open WebRing system (sites linked together by subject matter) was changed and people stopped "surfing" the web as much. That caused the number of visitors to this site to almost completely cease. I have kept it up on the web because I feel it may be useful to others even though it is much less visible these days.
I think the content of these conversations is important to keep and to present here for any visitor interested in the transitional process from traditional religion to something outside of that. If you are in that process, you may find a viewpoint, a consideration, or even an answer to some issue or problem that you are dealing with. It may also may be even more helpful to know that you are not the only one dealing with it.
Note: All conversations were by email and I have listed the names of each person only by initials to protect privacy. All emails here are posted with permission. If you would like to email me, please do. I will do my best to give you my honest response and I will be glad to publish the conversation, or not, at your preference.
There are quite a few convesations to see, so I'll put them in chronological order in a series of pages. These range over many topics and are not organized except by date.
I hope you enjoy these and find them useful.
Converesation Page Links:
Conversations With You
[NOTE: Since this first email is from the public Ringmaster of one of the Webrings this site was a member of, I have included it with indentifiers.] -DC
Date: Sat, 26 Jan 2002 Subject: Welcome to the Recovering from Religion Web Ring It's wonderful to have your site as part of our ring. I enjoyed my visit, often nodding in agreement with the feelings you expressed so well. Your site is a great resource, and I'm sure a helpful, healing place for many.
Hi, and thank you for your supportive words about "The Joy of Disillusionment". All positive feedback at this point is very helpful as I and my wife have been operating in a vacuum so far and have already been attacked harshly by one former Christian correspondent.
Best Regards, David
Date: Mon, 4 Feb 2002
Thank you so much for telling me about your site. I read it all through yesterday evening and despite 15 years of "ex-Christianity" I was riveted, experiencing all the old visceral thoughts and feelings vividly bought back with your well written descriptions.
Although currently a short site (no bad thing ;-) ) I was very impressed with the way you have identified and discussed some of the most poignant issues that confront a new ex-Christian, or those in the process of this awakening. I found your writings not only warm, humane and even "spiritual" but also purveying the real heat of the thoughts and emotions that so many of us have gone through. This is something I would have liked to have done more of on my own site, but I think you have done it far better than I had sketched out!.... Like you say, it really can hit you in the gut and I have found from discussion lists that many new ex-Christians are desperate to talk about this magnitude of feeling and discovery. As you probably know, after Blaise Pascal died a friend found sewn into Pascal's jacket a note entitled "FIRE!" describing the enormity of the spiritual feeling he once experienced. I wonder what Christians would think if they could catch a glimmer of what it is really like to experience the fire of coming out the other side. Like you I was astonished at the raw power that waking up out of Christianity brought - even though I perceived my Christian time as a deep and spiritual thing whilst a Christian.
Although some leave Christianity without much fuss, for many deconversion is a tough call indeed. I was interested in your description of deconversion as a "divorce." I have heard others talk about it as a bereavement and having to go through a mourning process. As you discuss, there is an extra poignancy though, to realise that the beloved not only does not and never did love you, but is, always was, and always will be, a fantasy. Nothing compares to that! But once the dust settles frequently people describe deconversion very positively. Many "oceanic" moments wondering at nature, the raw moment and the magnitude and poignancy of life indeed! Hardly the nihilism churches lead the flock to expect for an apostate.
In a perverse way it made me glad I had been a Christian, in that the shock of discovery is presumably lost on those who have not had to have their whole world rewritten. However, before I felt too smug I was discussing this with a friend, only to learn that he too, without having been religious, had gone through an awakening and transforming stage in life when the magnitude of reality struck him. Maybe once again Christianity had led me astray and I came late to realise that being hit in the face by the world, our finitude, the glory, shock (or even Nausea a la Sartre) of naked existence and the astonishment of consciousness (I read Jung shortly after my deconversion) is all part of gaining an adult appreciation of life.
Thanks again for your writings, and for the obvious care you've taken in giving us something of quality....
I look forward to future musings you may upload to your site!
Your letter made my day! Thanks so much for what you said. With the publication of my site, I have put myself out on the line in a way I have not done since exiting my Christian belief structure, and I was a bit apprehensive about it. About ten years ago, I wrote a book (that took me about ten years to write) presenting the "Preterist" interpretation of Christianity and the New Testament. I finally published it in 1994 and, although a small print run, it has been sold and distributed around the world. It was from that kind of deep committment to the Bible that I emerged into freethought and rationalism. The phrase "paradigm shift" is overused, but this qualifies as a true paradigm shift if there ever was one, as I am sure you know from your own experience.
I like your phrase, "oceanic moments" -- that's very true. Who would have thought that such feelings could happen in a universe with no Jehovah God in it! But, it is when the floor is pulled out from under one that things get really interesting!....
I once believed that anyone "losing their faith" would lead wretched and angry lives or else would drift into "make up your own religion" New Age ideas that I assumed were totally meaningless. Now I know that both ideas are false. I live an exuberant and invigorating life, and I have even found that, aside from the obvious fluff, many of the so-called New Age ideas have much truth and depth to them. I am continually having my mind prodded by the terrific array of published thought - things I had no clue about before my big shift. Now I'm paying attention and it is very enlightening. For instance, if you really want to challenge your understandings of the origins of religion, you might entertain some of the ideas about "entheogens" or psychoactive plants and their relationship to the earliest of religions that we know of in Vedic India and Siberia. Very interesting, as it leads to discussions of whether "spiritual" realms and mystical experiences are real or just in our brain chemistry. I am very much undecided and am having some interesting discussions with my wife and friends about these things....
Date: Mon, 4 Feb 2002
I have tears of joy, as I sit here reading your words. There are others like me, who have had virtually the same feelings and experiences that I have had, I am not alone! I too have mourned the death of my god. My life was my religion, being born and raised in a Morman household, (fifth generation). I have gone from complete submission to the teachings of my church to outright hearesy opening a "new age" shop.... Going back to school was the biggy though, taking Philosophy and coming to the conclustion that I will never know if a god exists. I have come to accept my agnosticism as well as to realize that this is my only life, my only chance to "be" and life is short, so I try to make the best of every moment. It does not take fear or religion to make some people want to be "good," those who live a ethical life because they choose, are more honorable than those who are motivated by the fear of punishment. It is lonely here, in this space of mine. I do not know many who share my thoughts and feelings. I will enjoy reading the rest of your site and the recommended sites.
I am so happy to have received your email. It is for people such as yourself (and myself, too) that I created the site.
You are correct in that it can be very lonely to pursue truth when it takes us beyond our accepted culture. One of the most wonderful things about our modern world is this ability to connect with people of like mind instantly, no matter where they are in the world. There is quite a large community of folks who have trod this particular path, and the internet is where to find them. I hope you will continue to look around and discover the many resources that are available....
I very much agree with your point about the relative value of ethics in a person who has chosen an ethical lifestyle on purpose and for its own sake, as opposed to one who has been forced into a semblance of one through fear, coersion, or desire of a fantasy life after death. I see that rational person who decides to be ethical as far more noble and deserving of our respect and admiration. We humans have a lot to be proud of, and I hope we can begin to acknowledge our strengths in the name of Humanity instead of in the name of a non-present god.
I was conversing with someone earlier about how we were both surprised at the powerful and positive emotional rewards we experienced after "de-converting" from our religious structures, and how unexpected that was. I hope you have also been able to perceive the exuberance and power of freethought in pursuit of Truth! There is much for us to learn out there - more than ever was apparent before. Check out my book list when you have a chance. There is much there that will open new doors. I am sure you learned much in your Philosophy courses, too....
Thank you so much for returning my e-mail. I enjoyed your site, and am impressed at your articulate manner of communicating and your talent in writing. You have passion.
My analytical nature has often tormented me, as I seem to never stop thinking about my life, the human condition, and those so frequent questions concerning our origins, purpose and future destiny. I was taking my morning walk today, the sun was out, and the first signs of spring were all around me. I often wonder how all this could have come to be, and yes my mind always wanders into the contemplation of a god. It is a comforting thought and I can see how it has given many the security they need to go on with their lives. But, I am not such a person. I have always wanted answers, answers that make sense, answers that do not leave more questions unanswered. I know that there are certain questions that cannot be answered, but the anwers that I accept must be logical. I cannot function on faith. Yes, I can have hope, but faith, that is another matter. I cannot blindly follow a belief without some sort of confirmation of it's truth. I hope that some part of me will survive death, that maybe my consciousness will remain in some form, this innate desire I cannot squealch, but to undeniably know that it is so, I cannot. Those that live with the comfort of faith I think are lucky in a way that they are not tormented with the constant questioning that I have lived with. They are content to believe. That is fine, for them. But there are others of us who, even though we live in a sea of uncertainty, we thrive on our desire to discover and learn all that we can about our existence and take nothing for granted, not even our hopeful infinite natures. I dare to ask how, why, what, where, and I dare to live with the answers that I find, and the ones I do not.
"A philosopher--is a human being who constantly experiences, sees, hears, suspects, hopes, and dreams extraordinary things; who is struck by his own thoughts as from outside, as from above and below, as by his type of experiences and lightning bolts; who is perhaps himself a storm pregnant with new lightnings; a fatal human being around whom there are constant rumblings and growlings, crevices, and uncanny doings. A philosopher--alas, a being that often runs away from itself, often is afraid of itself--but too inquisitive not to "come to" again--always back to himself." --Nietzche
Date: Wed, 06 Mar 2002
Subject: Thoughts on your Website
. . . I stumbled onto your site recently while surfing the "Losing My Religion" website. I have read many of the articles on your site, and found your insights and experiences very interesting. I have been a Christian for almost 30 years, and just after New Year's this year I began to shed my beliefs and come to terms with who I am, and what I really am capable of understanding. I was especially surprised by your reading list, for many of the books you list are books that I have (almost voraciously!) read in the past two months. I guess you could call my recent experiences something of a "spiritual mid-life crisis", although I don't feel it's a negative experience, rather one of self-discovery.
It really started on Sept. 11, when everyone watched in horror as the towers came down. I was in awe and shock from the destruction that man could do in the name of their "God" and, although it took getting through the Christmas season to do it, I began to start thinking about what I truly believed vs. what I've been taught, and kept asking myself if Christians could ever be capable of the same arguments, pressure, and destruction as the Al-Queda forces, claiming superiority via association with a Diety. The answer that came back to me was a sad, really horrifying "yes". And I wondered why. And how. And I felt there had to be more to understand in this life than believing in a system of religion that is capable of that type of serious tragedy.
I also spent the last six years not thinking much about religion at all, due to being a member of a destructive Bible-based cult for a year and then getting out of that. Again, it almost tore my wife and I apart, and I was left wondering how the Bible and God really could have this kind of an effect on people! Because of the very personal nature of that series of events, I just couldn't deal with religion any more. I didn't give up my Christian beliefs during the past six years, but I did stop going to ANY church, as my wife and I have slowly healed.
Anyway, to put this all in-perspective, I'm now a firm believer - in myself. And I do hold the belief that there is a much greater natural power in the universe - although I don't believe it is capable of being known or understood. I don't have to feel pressure to perform for it, I don't feel I even need to justify it, because I came to my beliefs now only through a very long incubation period and a very deep personal search for knowledge, as I see you have travelled also. I also realize that I could not have come to these realizations if it had not been for the lifelong experience of Christianity, so in that respect I can look upon my old beliefs as a "training ground". As the Bible says... I have put away childish things.
One thing I never expected tho, is how thirsty I became for knowledge after coming to my realizations about traditional Christianity. It is almost like my soul has been starved for the past 30+ years, and only now am I able to start filling it with history, philosophy, and studies of other cultures and religions that I would have just ignored previously. There were two reasons I would have ignored this information before - one was because I felt that I had the right answer before (self-righteous creature that I was!) and two, that "butterflies in the stomach" feeling when I would go to bookstores or libraries with large occult/religion/philosophy sections. I was told that books like that were "bad" or "spiritual pornography". Anyway, since the beginning of this year I have totally reversed my position on that - it's hard to get me OUT of those sections in the store now! But - I am just taking in all this new information, not trying to find salvation. I believe we create our own salvation - put more bluntly, no man or god will salvage my life for me, that is MY job. I feel a renewed responsibility to my life, family, and community, because I realize that I'll never know if there truly is more "out there" in the afterlife while I'm a part of humanity as a human. So, in light of that truth, I want to live THIS life as if it is my only walk on the stage. If there IS another existance after this one, then all I can say is I gave this life my all.
David, thank you for a very beautiful and informative site, and thanks for your bits of wisdom you've elected to pass along to the world. Hopefully more people will choose to ignore the advice by the Great OZ - "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!!" and start to pull back that curtain and examine their beliefs in a clear light.
Best wishes to you and your family....
Date: Tue, 12 Mar 2002
Subject: You took the words right out of my life
Thank you for the time you spend creating and maintaining this website. I would say god bless you, but....
I am currently experiencing this situation as you described below. After 4 years of pondering what just happened to me. I have decided that my
devotion to the religion of christianity was misguided. I have just now started NOT to FEAR any longer! and am SLOWLY starting to rebuild
Thanks for listening,
46 years old (42 as a christian)
Thanks so much for taking the time to email me about my site. I was hoping that it would in some way serve those who are travelling that path out of Christianity. It can be quite a jolt, especially if you have spent much of your life inside the belief structure, as you did and as I did (44 years for me), but it does get better - much better! That happens, I think, when we realize that what we have left behind us - as big as that once seemed - is actually insignificant compared to the scope and bounty of what we have arrived at!
I'm encouraged to hear you say you are conquering fear. The way I did that was to realize for the first time my own real value in relationship to the universe. Christianity insists that we "humble" ourselves. Once we leave the religion, that becomes truly senseless self-deprecation and leads us to unreasonable fear! Life is certainly more mysterious outside of the Christian structure, and to me that is not so much fearful as exciting and intriguing.
One thing I have found in common with other "travellers" is that now that we are out from under the censorship ethic of Christian culture, we are devouring information that we never knew existed - information about the true history of humankind, the true origins of religions, and the immense bounty of philosophical thought that we once ignored, denied, or avoided out of fear. I wonder if that has been true for you, as well? Whether you have begun that journey or not, I invite you to check out my book list for some powerful suggestions. If nothing else, don't miss Ishmael and The Story of B, by Daniel Quinn, if you haven't read them already. Those are a great place to begin, and there is much beyond those ideas to explore, as well. That is what is so joyful about the intellectual life I've gained since leaving the small box called Christianity.
Quite frankly, it's joyous, exciting, and fun being the master of our own fate and the craftsman of our own life, thoughts, and heart. That's what it's all about, here in this perfect moment called RIGHT NOW!
Thanks so much for writing, ...and please feel free to write again, anytime.
I won't wish you "God Bless" either, but I'll give you this blessing from one traveller to another: I wish you peace and real joy in your continuing real-life journey!
The present moment is not mundane. It is, in essence, extraordinary. -DC
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