My Pathetic Deconversion: Failed Christian Exceptionalism


This post was inspired after I read some brave deconversion stories of ex-Christians. I am ashamed to admit that unlike them my deconversion from Christianity was both unscholarly and cowardly.  Below, then, is the my confession of a pathetic deconversion — well, a few bits, anyway.  I thought I’d share this because, it is important to realize the variety of dec0nversions that can occur (from any religion).

Not a Theological deconversion

I’ve read the deconversion stories of very bright people who had decades of deep Bible study and commitment to Jesus before giving up the ghost (Holy Ghost, that is).  Compared to these folks my Christian days were short and shallow.  Some of these folks were pastors and others were scholars. Reading their criticisms of Christianity are enlightening. But my deconversion was pathetically simple. I was never sucked into the anti-science type of Christianity, so learning science was not why I left.  I also was never was a systematic theologian type, so seeing the problems in any given theology was not why I left.  Though I had a year of theology and read a lot, my Christianity was not one of my head.

My I-am-not-special deconversion

Instead, I left because I didn’t see Christians (myself included) as being special or different from non-believers in ways that the propaganda of my Christianity professed. I left to rejoin the rest of humanity, declaring myself to again be one with them. With my departure from Christianity, my world quickly broadened as I dropped the burden of Christian exceptionalism.

My downfall began several years after my born-again experience, when I hitchhiked to India and met lots really fine non-Christians: Hindus, Muslims, atheists and more.  Those experiences and others on the trip destroyed my Christian exceptionalism. See my post – Hinduism was my Undoing.

Deconversion feelings but no thoughts yet (pre-thought: Meta-thought)

On returning from India, I finished up my last semester at my Christian college (Wheaton). As many ex-pats agree, it is strange coming back to your mother country and pretending that you haven’t changed. To everyone else I looked the same even if I had a few interesting stories. Not only did I feel different about America after exposures to people who loved their country and had naive patriotism like mine,  but I also met sincere believers in many faiths and so likewise I knew my opinion about Christianity had changed radically. 

Yet, though I knew my feelings had changed, they had not formed into thoughts yet (see my post on Meta-Thoughts).  So with out words or clarity, I could neither fully admit it to myself nor even discuss it with my Christian friends.  

My three roommates were all Christians (all three actually born and raised Evangelicals). Heck, my girlfriend was Christian (a missionary kid from India) while I had been raised in a nominal Christian home.  So inside I knew that deconverting would cause me great trouble with these totally enculturated friends. That may be part of the reason my deconversion took a couple of years.

First step: Cowardly Partial Confessions

But even though I was not outright in my doubts, I was no longer enthusiastic about Christian things and my friends noted my change of behavior. No longer was I spending hours in the basement praying — as I had earlier. I barely cracked the Bible and I didn’t use stock Christian phrases any more.  The deconversion came in stages.

The first step took place when one of my friends (probably put up to it by the others) finally asked me, “Sabio, are you still a Christian.” It was then that I took the next big step and partially confessed: “Well,” I said “I certainly am no longer a Christian in a way you guys are Christians.” And then there was silence. They did not want to push it.  They would rather hope I was just temporarily doubting than admit I wasn’t Christian. And I was grateful too, I didn’t want understand myself any further either.  Too much was at stake.

Running Away makes Deconversion Easier

Eight months after my return to Wheaton,  I graduated (my undergrad took 5 1/2 years).  Wheaton is near Chicago, Illinois.  After graduating, I needed a job and new home and so took the opportunity to move two hours north to Madison, Wisconsin.

I no longer fit in that Evangelical-soaked culture — I knew I was escaping.  But ironically, I jumped out of the skillet, into the fire.  I had friends connect me with a Christian communal household of men where I had a room.  But that was uncomfortable after six months, so I moved out and lived on my own.

It was only then, after casting off all my close connections to Christians, was I finally able to admit to myself and then others that I wasn’t a Christian. My “coming-out” was much less painful that way. Even though I still considered myself mystically religious, I was OK saying I was not a Christian.  Only much later did I leave the mystical theology behind too.


Many Christians leave their Christianity after decades of commitment. Many leave while they are still in their community of friends and family. Unlike these folks, my exit was pathetic.  And unlike many ex-Christians, my deconversion wasn’t so much about the Bible and intellectual concerns, it was simply about people. I had no more felt need to be exceptional — and I certainly wasn’t!

Sure, some Christianities are not as into exceptionalism as mine was, some are far less magical and exclusive, but my God-switch is off and I am much more knowledgeable about the Bible and the many varieties of Christianity than I was in my Christian days. I am also far less cowardly. So it is unlikely that any twisted knots in theology can make the Christian flock and their various Christianities look enticing again.

It is nice out here!

Questions to Readers: If you are an ex-Christian, share some factors in your deconversion. If you are a Christian, play a thought experiment with us: imagine you realized Christianity was false, what things in your life could you see obstructing you from admitting it.  And for you atheists who have never been an adult believer, you can just listen because you probably can’t even begin to understand some of our feelings and experiences. 🙂


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

17 responses to “My Pathetic Deconversion: Failed Christian Exceptionalism

  1. Execptionalism is something that I haven’t heard much in the deconversion stories I’ve read, that was interesting. It makes a lot of sense, my husband would bluntly say that it (Christianity) “didn’t work”. I guess that’s kind of the same thing.

    The main factors in my deconversion were hell, the confusing mess of the bible, and the fact that Christendom couldn’t agree on who’s version of truth was right.

  2. I don’t see your deconversion as pathetic. Yes, I guess it was relatively easy. But that doesn’t make it pathetic.

    Or perhaps I am making excuses for the fact that my deconversion was relatively easy.

  3. This was a GREAT post!!!

    I enjoy reading peoples deconversions.

    I’m not sure if I have deconvered as much as I have embraced a different form of my faith. It’s a struggle because I don’t believe the evangelical or fundamentalist view I did growing up.

    I don’t believe in hell, that God killed Jesus for our sins, or that people are inherently evil.

    I have for sure deconverted from the Christianity I grew up believing but I have not totally left God behind.

    I’m not sure where I am at really. A vagabond maybe. Wanderer? I will say that I enjoy my life more now then I did then.

    I guess I believe that God and truth are a journey not a destination and I enjoy learning all I can along the way.

    Enjoyed this my friend.

    Much love to you.

  4. William Bell

    I have a very anti-climactic story personally as well, I had been super interested in science as a kid, and I began to thinking ‘you know what I don’t think christianity really fits with the science’, I left christianity when I discovered an atheist blog for the first time, it just sort of felt like I had discovered a tangible sign that atheists existed, I knew about Richard Dawkins and the God Delusion, etc but those always just seemed like stuff people talked about that I couldn’t really feel anything about – as opposed to a blog I could read for free online.

  5. @ Alice,
    What “deconversion” are you speaking of?

    @ Neil Rickert,
    Well, it was sort of a literary too. But seriously, I know lots of folks that spend decades in their faiths before coming out. And during that time, lots of studying. It was their world. What sect did you leave? and at what age? Got a link?

    @ shawnwilson,
    Thanx — glad you enjoyed. I know folks that left their conservative Christianity and moved to Liberal and for whom that “deconverstion” was huge also.
    Are you in a CHurch now? What denomination did you leave?

    @ William Bell,
    What age was your “deconversion” — What sect did you leave?

  6. My deconversion from Christianity. I am still figuring out the rest (supernatural wise).

  7. I don’t even know how to respond! I share your journey & sentiment. Bishop John Shelby Spong uses the language of RE-CLAIMING: God, Jesus, The Bible – from “Traditional Christianity”. This is what I’m on a mission for right HERE & NOW. The first 500 years of Early Church Father’s Christianity was UNIVERSAL (genuine TRADITIONAL). I really think we need to RE-CLAIM this Christianity from “Traditional Christianity”.

  8. @Sabio: Around 11 years old and the United Church of Canada, an extremely moderate sect of Christianity.

  9. TWF

    My own deconversion was fairly quiet as well; largely a private affair… the result of not hearing anything from “God” for my entire life, and a reading of the Bible. My rise and fall in the faith can be traced in the posts I’ve laid out on my bio page.

  10. It was their world. What sect did you leave? and at what age? Got a link?

    No, nothing written up. Age around 23. I was in Churches of Christ (Australia), but by that time I has move to US for grad study.

  11. Hi Sabio, great post here! That point when your friend asked if you were still a Christian, and you didnt want to go there yet, and hoped he didn’t press, I can very much relate with.

    I found you on Tim Chastains blog and can see we have similarities, even to the point of pushing people too hard sometimes when their definitions are loose or end up in the arena of “faith.”

    Personally when people ask me if I’m a Christian I say I dont know, mainly beause I am sure I am NOT in their definition of it, or hardly anyones for that matter. In some ways I say I am christian like I will probably always say im American, even if I moved to England… its just part of who I am but that doesnt mean I agree with all or any of the creeds.

    I blogged a post titled “am I a Christian” once to help my blog readers know where I stood, but also to help myself sort it out. It’s here if you want to check it out,

    Nice to meet you.

  12. @sabio I am sorry I am just seeing this. I am no longer in any church. I was a youth pastor for several years and was almost a pastor with a large organization but couldn’t go through with it.

    I was non denominational when I left but grew up Southern Baptist and Assembly of God. Went to a very conservative christian college. My deconversion I think is still taking place.

    I don’t think I will ever not belief just that I am learning more that changes the story.

    Much love my friend

  13. Marc

    My crisis in the Christian faith led me back in time to the early Church. I found that as an Orthodox Christian I could appreciate the good news of the Gospel, while not having to judge others or reject current scientific observation. Orthodox Christians do not worship the Bible, but rather the God revealed in the Bible and Creation. We are all exceptional creatures because we all have the potential to live forever in communion with God.

  14. As a Christian Atheist, I can’t really relate to those who struggle with things like truth and ultimate knowledge. True knowledge begins when you understand nonsensical factuality and are mystified by the absolutism of nothing.

  15. Crap, I didn’t read the posting rules about honesty before posting. Okay, well in that case, I struggle with this stuff all the time. I’ve been drifting away from established organized doctrine and seeking a rational, enlightened, tangible understanding which merges science with metaphysics (metascience?).

    I accept all scientific knowledge as true, though I realize some interpretations and understandings will change with time. Concurrently, I accept the Bible as true, though like science I realize some interpretations and understandings will change with time. Believing that divine inspiration is not limited, I also accept the Vedas and a host of other ancient sacred texts as “words of the Divine.” Naturally these will contradict at times, but the purpose is to find a greater understanding than any one of these can provide by itself. The Holy Spirit, Cosmic Stream, Divine Consciousness, The Buddha, and Bruce Lee — will serve as my guides.

  16. @Quack,
    Yeah, thanx for realizing that only invite honest comments. I really enjoy joking with close friends who I understand, but on-line throwing out bizarre comments without any clue how sincere they are — no time for that.

    So I guess I am suppose to ignore your first comment — so I will.

    I have no idea what “I accept the Bible as true” means. I know it is something Christians use to reassure themselves and others that they are Christians, but short of using it as a banner, it seems like a meaningless statement.

    The Vedas, the Qur’an, the Bible, Mein Kampf and the Illiad are all works of men — in my book. They contradict each other because people wrote them. I guess your last sentence drifted back into fiction. Thanx for the visit, Quack.

  17. You’re welcome, Sabio. I enjoyed reading. Sorry about my previous comments. Should’ve read the rules before posting.

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