I'm less than convinced

My line of work affords me the opportunity to convince a variety of people to do various actions. I am acutely aware of motivating factors, and how they impact situations. We realize that we must interact with these motivations, because ignoring them will only bring doom.

It is fascinating to me, communicating with so many different people on so many different levels, as to what one person finds extremely significant, another finds completely irrelevant.

As deconversion stories abound, we see people, due to the variety available in humanity, question their long-held belief for various reasons. This should not surprise us, given the make-up of humanity.

I find it even more intriguing how others will criticize the deconvert for doing it “incorrectly.” As if there is only one proper way in which one can deconvert!

So what is that proper way? What steps must I follow to deconvert? Why is it that the way in which you are convinced; I must be convinced?

This is a deviation from my normal blog entry. No Bible verses. Only little cry for methodology. No hermeneutics. Never fear—I will be back in full form and function.

As I said, I am actively involved in convincing other people.

I convince clients. Perhaps they want to pursue a course of action that is not beneficial to their case. Perhaps they do not fully understand the implication or costs involved in a certain action. Perhaps they believe the practice of law is similar to what is on TV.

And in our discussion, we talk about motives. One of the first questions asked in a new divorce matter is whether there is a new love interest on the part of a spouse. Such a factor will have a huge motivating force. (Those with love interests tend to want to resolve the divorce quickly, even to the point of financial detriment.) Mothers tend to be motivated by maternal instincts; Fathers by finance. The most common tactic in the book is the man fighting for custody to scare the mother, and the female fighting for higher child support to scare the father.

I have seen clients motivated by greed, jealousy, revenge, money, principle, fear, anger, business direction, spouses, friends, parents, children and just about every facet in-between. And each must be deal with at their motivating factor. If a person is motivated by principle, there is no sense convincing them of the unnecessary cost of a matter.

I convince judges. Here’s a great feeling—going into court prepared to the hilt to argue a legal issue. And hear the Judge say, “I don’t find that very important. What I would like to see is some argument on this other legal issue.” One that frankly my position is not nearly as strong. What can I do? Argue with the judge as to what is more important? Or convince him that I will prevail on both the weaker issue, and then attempt to persuade him that the legal issue I originally wanted to argue is clearly the crux of the matter.

And each judge is different. Some follow the letter of the law, some the spirit. Some want the case to go away, regardless of how it is done. Some favor oral argument, some despise it. As we practice, we learn what the judge desires, and what persuades him or her.

I convince jurors. At times, the most difficult of all. We are presented with a mixed cross-section of the community, and are given only a morning to question them. Within that morning, we attempt to learn what they will find important, and what they will ignore. Then, with that little information, we spend the next few days using that data in the hopes to gain or prevent millions of dollars, or decades in prison.

Talking to jurors after a trial is always enlightening. Very often they will say, “You spent way too much time on this point” or “We were surprised you did not talk about this point.”

We think to ourselves, “I have been a trial lawyer for 15 years. My opponent has as well. We have each done 100’s of trials. The Judge has seen 100’s more. Clearly we thought these points were important, or those were not based upon our experience. Had we anticipated the jury would think completely differently, obviously we would have focused our attention otherwise.”

See, at that moment, with those few people, what all our experience(s) informed us was meaningless. To them certain items were persuasive and others were irrelevant. Because each jury has a different make-up; a different motivation.

If each of us look in our lives, we use different methods, different words to persuade different people—based upon our relationship, or their personality, or what they are interested in at that moment.

Why should deconversion be any different?

I read deconversion stories. I read them as a Christian (upon learning such a thing existed!) wondering what would make a person want to stop believing in something as obvious as a God. I read them while deconverting, to attempt to understand what I was going through, what to expect and what to avoid. I read them now because I find the story of the human race continues to enthrall me.

One concept that sticks out, almost universally, is the desire to investigate alternative forms of information. Either we were always reading Christian books, and discovered scholars in fields other than our particular form of Christianity, or creationists discovering scientific fields or historians reading secular history. Does this always lead to deconversion? Of course not! But I cannot think of a single deconvert that does not mention graduated levels of study of a broader spectrum during the process.

But what led a person to investigate originally? Perhaps for some, it was an incident or a tragedy that made them begin to question how God works. Or, for others, a personal struggle that brought them to the point of looking for answers. Perhaps a purely academic endeavor or an interest in debating the topic.

In every other aspect of our lives, humanity’s motivations are too varied to contain in a limited number of boxes—so, too, with deconversion.

Which brings me to the odd question: What makes a deconversion legitimate? Is a deconvert more justified in her action because she decided to engage in a study of the origin of Christianity, as compared to a homosexual that decided to investigate why God made him that way? Or is a scientist that discovers the viability of evolution a more suitable deconvert than a questioning parent who loses a child to disease?

There are two items that strike me as particularly humorous in this regard. First, for a religion that prides itself on faith, it certainly has a fascination and worshipful awe for intellectualism. “Thinking” one’s way out of Christianity is demanded, but “believing” one’s way into it is required. Second, since all deconverts have an equal degree of heathenicity, does it really matter by what method we started or traveled this path? “You were never saved in the first place” is equally tattooed to the homosexual deconvert, the scholarly deconvert, the scientific deconvert, or the {fill in the blank} convert.

So…you tell me. What is the “proper” way in which one becomes a deconvert?

What is disappointing about this discussion is how small the Christian God becomes. Even as humans we figured out that people are different. That their needs, wants and desires are different. Consequently, and certainly not surprisingly, what persuades them is different. To some, a series of books that is complied over the course of few centuries which contain amazing stories is enough. For others, in observing the world about them, they need more.

We are often told “Who are you to ask ‘Why?’ of God?” (“Often.” Heh heh. There’s an understatement!) Who am I? I am a person with different motives than you. I am a person that cannot sleep with “ultimate purpose” as a response to the Problem of Evil. I am a person that is not convinced a series of books with possible, not plausible, resolutions to contradictions qualifies as spectacular. I, like numerous other humans, am looking for more evidence that convinces me.

You, as a human, can figure it out. If you were selling me a car, or trying to date me, or persuade me to not see a Movie, you would understand that you must first learn what motives me. What persuades me. What is convincing to me. And your God cannot figure that out?

So many times we are told, “THIS is what God claims must convince you. THIS is what is persuasive.” And yet it turns out the “THIS” is exactly what persuades the person making the claim. Can’t God do better? Can’t God actually persuade someone else with evidence that convinces them and does NOT convince you?

Because we see that happen in life all the time.

If my deconversion does not meet your standard, if it was deficient and ineffective in some way, please; I ask you. Provide me with the “proper” way in which one can be a legitimate deconvert.