Showing posts with label "advice to people who leave the fold". Show all posts
Showing posts with label "advice to people who leave the fold". Show all posts

Joshua Harris and Marty Sampson On Losing One's Religion

A few weeks ago bestselling author Joshua Harris announced he's renounced his religion, saying "I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is 'deconstruction', the biblical phrase is 'falling away.' By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian." LINK. Then more recently Marty Sampson of the worship team Hillsong announced his religious faith "is on incredibly shaky ground." LINK. He names a few atheists he's been listening to. Guess who is one of them!

After Marty made his announcement I contacted him, and we're messaging a bit. I told him I know it's a struggle. I was there at one time. It's gut wrenching with lots of confusion and disappointment to consider my life was build on a delusion. I wept and prayed daily to god for months to help me and even send me a sign if he would. I received nothing in response.

People who wonder about the evidential weight of Conversion/Defection stories might be helped by reading what I've written previously.

For the record, in the years 1992-98 when I was in the throes of doubt myself, there was one song I played hundreds of times in hopes my god would reach out to me as I shouted out to him, "Shout to the Lord" (1994) by Hillsong:

Another One Comes Out to His Family and Finds it Okay!

I get emails from people who have left the Christian fold who fear coming out to tell the people they love. In one of them recently I was told by parents who raised several believing children, some of whom are in the ministry, it is "impossible" for them to tell their kids the truth. Bullshit! It's not impossible, although it may be hard, and there may be adverse consequences, and you may want to wait to do so in the future at a more appropriate time. But it's not impossible. Many of these kind of fears are simply unjustified. Here's one example of what I mean:

A friend of mine on Facebook named Luke Haugen was extremely fearful to tell his parents. They visited with him and he just couldn't tell them. But even though he expected the worse he called them after they visited him and then he told them. With his permission here's what he said:
I had a great week with my parents. They had an awesome vacation out here. I think my Dad didn't want to leave. They also fell in love with my girlfriend, which I knew they would just like I did. I talked it over with my sister at the beginning of the week and told her that I was going to do it and she got really worried that when I told them they would freak out and it would ruin their vacation. So I decided to wait until they got back home and got settled in for a few days to call my Dad. He was surprisingly much more understanding that I was anticipating. I gave him a few of my reasons and asked him a few questions that he had a really hard time answering with the most common answer being "I don't know." He even said that I should have told him while he was here, which, I wish I would've done now but either way, at least they know who I really am. Overall it went very smoothly and they still do love me and I love them. I am sure you can relate to how awesome it feels to get that huge weight off of your shoulders especially after it has been burdening you for a number of years and you have had to "fake it" in certain situations. I am much more comfortable and at peace with where I stand now that everyone knows who I really am.

It feels so great to finally have my family know who I really am!
To read some of my advice to people who leave the fold check this link out.

Advice to People Who Leave the Fold

People email me from time to time asking for advice now that they no longer believe. I've written a chapter in my companion book on that topic, but for people who don't have that book this is where I'll place links below about this problem.

I'll begin with an actual email that's typical of the ones I receive:
Greetings. I know you must get tons of email everyday, and thus cannot respond to each one. I’m hoping just writing this will help. I’ll keep my story short. It is similar to yours in many ways, although I confess I did not go as deeply into the intellectual end of Christianity as you did, however I consider myself a fairly intelligent person. Certainly, at least, a thoughtful one... I was converted to Pentecostal Christianity in my teen years following a rocky childhood…

I pursued a calling in full time ministry for 9 years after going to Bible college for 4 years and being credentialed with the Assemblies of God. I was later ordained as well. Recently, due to some relatively minor occurrences, a floodgate of doubts has opened up to me in my faith. I had come across a couple of books that peaked my interest, such as Dawkins book “The God Delusion”. I am currently working my way through it. I’ve always contended what good is your faith if it can’t stand up to scrutiny? Well, mine isn’t standing up very well. It is not the outside sources warring on me (such as Dawkins book, or the anti-christian bias of our culture), as much as my own struggle with my beliefs and being honest to myself. I find I am tortured going to church now.

I’ll be honest. I’m scared. No, petrified. I feel like I’ve murdered someone and am trying to keep it a secret. My wife literally has no idea, and would / will come unglued when I finally bring the subject up. I’m scared of the response of my wife/kids/family, but also of the prospect of life without God. Yet I feel a strange sense of exhilaration as well, like a great burden may be soon lifted off my shoulders. This is what I experienced when I left the ministry.

As I said, I can’t even believe I’m writing you this email. I’ve read through much of your blog. Yet there are a couple of questions that I didn’t see addressed (perhaps they are in your book) that I think would be great for the average “joe” like me, who is really struggling in their faith.

1) What do I do now? How do I weed through all of the questions / struggles / problems going on in my head? Where do I start? How do I tell my family? How do I explain (there is no one simple answer)?

2) What would you say to the “guy on the street”? What I mean is this. I consider myself to be of average or slightly above average intelligence, with a higher motivation than most for understanding things (I enjoyed school). But what about the average guy that needs it boiled down in USA today fashion? Is there hope for this person, or do we merely leave them to struggle along with their faith? I REALLY appreciate your approach (not angry, bitter, condescending), like many other people who are anti-Christian.

I purchased your book today (linked through your site so you should get some commission), and I do intend to support the site. I know this gets a bit tricky, probably not wanting to take the Church approach of asking for donations, but I’m glad you have the option there. I still believe a workman is worth his wage. You are performing a great service, and I hope you are able to support yourself at some point through the service you provide. I am finding many of the stories and posts simply fascinating, and I’ve only scratched the surface. As I said, I’m very early in this journey, and not at all sure where it is going to take me. Either way, I’m glad you’ve made this site available. It is a Godsend (sorry, I just had to say that. I’ve a bit of a warped sense of humor).

I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been in terms of the personal attacks you’ve had to endure. I am going to continue down this road, and your book seems to be the most “human” approach to the subject I’ve seen so far.

Best wishes to you, and thanks again.
Here is my typical response: 1) I don't know you or your family to be able to give specific advice on what to do now. But I know I would tell your family and friends when the time was right. I would break it to them slowly by asking questions or by telling them you are investigating into the new atheists and show them the books you're reading. After all, if your faith is true then it should withstand the arguments to the contrary. And I would ask them the questions that these books are asking whenever I could. [Actually for anyone who is secretly reading this Blog and/or these books I would tell my Christian friends up front about this, just in the slim case that you might actually lose your faith. I would inform people from the very beginning so they would not be that shocked if you do deconvert.]

2) To the "guy on the street" I’d say that Christianity doesn't make sense. That opens up the discussion. If they say you're not supposed to make sense of it but just believe, I say that advice doesn't make sense. ;-) Then I would tell them that if God exists he created us with our minds and if that's so we should use them. If God is a reasonable God then the truth should comport to reason. In fact, we are asked to love God with all of our minds (the greatest commandment). So if it doesn't make sense then there is a real problem for faith. I cannot do othewise but to use my mind. Such a faith should stand up to reason so by saying it's "not supposed to make sense" makes no sense. I cannot think otherwise.

Here are some similar links:

Some advice to those who leave Christianity.

Should I come out of the closet?.

I no longer believe: What do I tell my kids?.

Ed Owens' story.

Help me Convince my Brother, John!

Here's a link to a young man who feared the worse in telling his parent he no longer believed and found it to be just fine. They still love him--imagine that!