Some Advice To Those Who Leave Christianity

Today I received this email: "John I finished reading your book this week and am now no longer a Christian...."

I have been heading strongly in that direction for about a month. I was wondering if you could give some advice on what to do next. How do I minimise the damage to relationships with my wife, my son, my relatives and friends as I tell them about my new world view?

My biggest concern is my son, who attends a private Christian school. I know hardly anything about child psychology and am not sure how my decision not to be Christian any more will affect him. As much as possible I want to avoid causing my son any long-term confusion, animosity towards me or any real difficulty at school, being the kid with the dad who doesn't believe in God. My wife will be very unsettled to find that I no longer believe.

Do you have any advice on how I should go about it, or can you recommend any kind of book?

Because my family and relatives currently believe I am still a Christian, I feel I must do something very soon, because my normal life is to go to church, answer my son's questions about God at home, pray with him at bed time, pray with my wife and mother-in-law at times, and say grace at dinner.

I look forward to hearing from you and would appreciate the opportunity to remain anonymous, at least for now.
Yours sincerely

Here's what I wrote to him:

It's nice to know my book has helped you. For your next book I highly recommend this one by Dr. Winell.

Your questions are painful ones, situational ones, that I would need to know more about you and your family and your son to offer you specific advice. That's why you should get Dr. Winell's book. She also does seminars.

Yours is a troubling case. I know I wouldn't want to damage my relationships with my family. Some atheists in the past just keep quiet about their doubts because that's all they could do, to not talk about them. Wow, that's something I couldn't do, especially now in this era.

What I did as I was becoming an unbeliever was to express questions that would be considered on the fringes of that which wouldn't alert people to the fact that I took these questions seriously. I would ask, "what would you say if someone said this....?" And I would then ask a tough question, but accept their answer as if that settles it. Then I would do it again, and again, and again. Christian people thought of me as playing the "Devil's Advocate," and they actually liked my questions since it gave them a challenge. [Actually, I didn't really deceive people by doing this. I merely expressed the questions I was wrestling with as I was questioning these things myself].

If I were you I would express my doubts to your wife by slowly introducing the subject with several "Devil's Advocate" type questions when reading the Bible. How long I'd do this (days, weeks, or months) would depend upon factors I don't know about your situation. After planting these seeds I would simply tell her that I was struggling with doubt. She'd probably recommend a book or tell you to talk to the preacher, and I would do this. I would ask the preacher some of my questions and tell him I'm struggling with doubt. He'd likely offer you some advice and some books to read. Then when the time is right I'd tell my wife I no longer believe. This doesn't mean you should tell everyone at that point, just her. Explain to her why you don't believe. Have her read my book. Then see where things go from there. At some point you'd have to play it by ear after that.

I just learned from someone that when a Campus Crusade for Christ minister told his wife he no longer believed, she told him in turn that she didn't either! This is the exception rather than the rule, but interesting nonetheless.


I wish you well. There are no pat answers.