On the De-conversions of “True believers”

I read a lot of blogs. Shocking, I know. However, you may be surprised to find a section on my reading list that is quite unlike the rest. This section I have labeled “Anti-theology” (yes, it comes right after the “Theology” section) and it’s filled with sites like exChristian.net, De-Conversion.com, and What God Has Made Crooked.

Why? Because I learned a long time ago that the people worth listening to the most are generally your harshest critics because their criticisms usually contain some bit of truth worth pondering.

However, one of the most recurring themes I’ve run across when listening to and reading “de-conversion testimonies” has been the notion that the person who “de-converted” was, at one time, a “true believer”.

I’ve heard this more times than I can count so, in an effort to consolidate an answer to this oft-used phrase I want to spend some time on the whole notion that someone could be a “true” or “devout” believer in Christ one day (after years, decades in some cases. I’ve even read many testimonies from former deacons, pastors, even apologists!) and a “died again” heathen the next.

So here’s my simple response to those who claim to have been true believers:

No you weren’t.

Lets back up a second and examine why you claim to have been a “true believer” in the first place.

My guess is that your beliefs weren’t based on intellectual conviction of facts. My guess is that they were shaped more by your environment and the influence of those around you more than they were by your sincere efforts to study and understand what Christianity teaches and what the alternatives are (such as the paradox of infinite regression).

Whatever it was, your beliefs probably weren’t based on facts, since facts are required for a belief to have warrant (among a few other factors). In short, this is simply an epistemological issue, not a theological one in the vein of the “no true Scotsman fallacy“.

Oh you can choose to accept or reject Christ all you want. You can even claim to have been a Christian at one point and not at another point. In fact, I claim to have been a proponent of several incompatible religious and philosophical systems at one point or another in my past. I am merely taking exception with your assertion that you were a “true believer” or that “true believers” require blind faith as opposed to evidence1.

For example, you are obviously a “true believer” now in the theory of Darwinian evolution2 and I imagine you base your belief on what you deem as credible facts and evidence, not blind faith.

Some people3 do base their beliefs on blind faith, however we wouldn’t call them “true believers” no matter what they claimed to believe. We may call them fanatics and passionate, but we all know that fanaticism and passion can only get you so far before you are forced to rationalize and harmonize your belief with the rest of your life.

“True belief” requires much more than intense feelings, a deep desire, encouragement from others, a conducive environment, etc. “True belief” can only come from evidence, argument, and clear reasoning on a subject. That’s why “true belief” endures even when everything else (environment, people, etc.) is against it.

Or, as John so eloquently put it:

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. -1 John 2:19

  1. now, whether that evidence is, itself, true is another story []
  2. Don’t get sidetracked with the mention of the topic of Darwinian evolution right now, I merely use it as an illustration. []
  3. Theist and atheist alike. []

30 responses to “On the De-conversions of “True believers”

  1. "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. -1 John 2:19"

    You call this eloquent?

    It sounds like a high school girl saying of a couple girls who left her particular clique…

    "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us."

    Don't you think your standards for eloquence need reevaluation?

  2. That's what my questions were meant to help me determine as I would like to know whether your faith in Christ was based upon historical facts that you held to be objectively true.

    I have read your story and you seem to equate faith with wishful thinking and not something that can be reconciled with rational thought so it makes me wonder how, if your faith was not based on historical and objective evidence, you could claim to have had an objectively "strong" (or even a "weak") faith.

    I have no doubt or trouble accepting that you at least thought your faith was genuine and strong, but the point I made in my initial article is that subjective and existential grounds for gauging faith simply isn't enough.

    To put it another way, a cult member could claim to have a "strong faith" in their cult's delusion and yet still lack "true faith" because "true" connotative an objective notion of absolute truth by which we can measure their beliefs so that (again, per Plantinga) while they may strongly believe a falsehood, the fact that their belief was formed in an environment that wasn't geared towards the production of true belief precludes their being able to claim to be a "true believer".

    Did you walk and talk and act like a Christian? Sure, that's not what I am arguing here (nor could I not having known you in person during the period you claim to have believed). However the real question is what you understood/understand faith to be and what your faith was built upon (which, according to your de-conversion, was later proved false).

    Finally, I have to ask: Why does it really matter to you so much? I mean, you claim to not be a believer now, correct? So why care whether you are denounced as never having believed in the first place? Is there something from your past "as a Christian" you think is worth holding on to? Why spend so much energy and get so upset when people like me fail to validate your claims of having been a Christian? What do you honestly expect people like me to believe especially given your present state?

    "Was I every bit the christian you are when I believed?"

    Depends, did you believe there were logical, scientific, philosophical, historical, biological, mathematical, etc. reasons that make belief in God far more reasonable than any other belief system in the world?

  3. Apply your reasoning to any other area of life, and no one can ever stop believing something that they really believed in. True belief PRECLUDES assimilating newly discovered evidence which causes re-evaluation of what you once would have given your life in defense of????

    So an Amazon tribal person who once believed that the sun revolves around the earth, who is shown through diagrams and scientific language he understands, then stops believing that and then believes that the earth revolves around the sun, DIDN'T REALLY BELIEVE IN THE FIRST PLACE THAT THE SUN REVOLVES AROUND THE SUN????

    It's ridiculous isn't it? And yet that is the same faulty logic you are applying to us former christians (in my case, a Th.B. from Multnomah Bible College, several years as a missionary in Europe, and 46 years as a witnessing, praying, worshipping, fervently passionate evangelical.

    If you apply your logic to all of life, no held belief can ever change, and if it does, it was never a true belief. The only infallible test of true belief is DEATH. If you can make it to the grave without ever denying a belief, then that proves it was "true". There is NO OTHER WAY to prove whether the belief was geniune, according to your test of belief.

  4. Pingback: Was I ever saved in the first place? | Reason To Stand

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