People leave their faith because their needs are not met. Most of the reasons I offered for why people join a religion are the exact same reasons they leave their faith. Those who deconvert may mock their former religion’s doctrines, tell others how hypocritical the members were, explain how they saw through the cult-like indoctrination and social manipulations, but in the end, most simply leave because their needs were not met. They are either disillusioned by unmet needs they sought or new unmet needs arose. In either case, the noble reasons they offer for why they left their religion are often just protective, sterile wrappings around basic motivations — no matter how true.
Multi-level Marketers (MLM) leave their dreams of becoming millionaires when MLM doesn’t work for them. They leave because they fail. Their needs are not met. Their minds protect their pride from this embarrassing simple truth by making excuses like:
- “I hate selling and convincing people of what they don’t need.”
- “I don’t believe in the product”
- “I saw through the scam.”
Years after leaving a faith, if she remembers, a believer may feel safer to confess her actual motivations. But often we are partially or totally blind to our actual motivations. Our minds package things neatly for us to preserve a consistent view of self, and a story where we are the heroes.
Christians often claim that Atheists deconvert in order to sin? Sure, that does happen. That may indeed be one of their many motivations – they desire sex-outside-of-marriage, want to drink alcohol, don’t want to go to church each Sunday or don’t want praying five-times-a-day. Leaving will help them escape the sneakily hiding their infringements, the guilt or the condemnation of others. But many leave their religion for ‘non-sinful’ reasons too: for better answers, for a more solid identity, for access to a wider social circles or others on the list. But for whatever reason, our minds often blind us from our raw, embarrassing motiviations and give us noble excuses. We often don’t see our simple needs nor how our minds create ideologies and excuses to make us comfortable or successful in obtaining them.
Rationalizing is a normal function of mind and not limited to the domain of religion. But I don’t think any habit of mind is limited to religion’s domain.
Question to readers: Is this your experience? Please share a story.