Creating a New Identity

#9

[SB – I hope you find that imitation is the highest form of flattery. Your format is so much better.]

 

Hate the judgment, not the judgers.                                                                                                                           We’re familiar with the Christian phrase, “Hate the sin, not the sinner.” That we’re labeled “sinners” is somewhat offensive. There’s an essence of negative judgment, even in their attempt to be tolerant. However, I’ve noticed a similar trend among former Christians. It’s not uncommon to see terms thrown around like, Xtian, fundies and GAWD, apparent put downs of the Christians and faith we find abusive. My aim in this post is not to minimize the atrocities deconverts have suffered from the Christian faith, but to encourage deconverts not to replace the deficient identity we have escaped with a one that ties us to the old and inhibits our progress in recovery. I’m hoping you will see the connection as you read further.

A word of validation.                                                                                                                                                      Though I do not endorse disrespect of anyone, I’m not throwing any rocks, either. Sometimes deconversion is excruciating and anger is a normal step toward healing. Deconverts have suffered a ton of cruel brainwashing – feeling corrupt for having natural questions and doubts about their faith; experiencing rejection and criticism from church leaders, so-called friends and even family; and fearing themselves so deplorable to God they’re deserving of an eternity in the horrors of hell (I lack adequate words to describe the mental torture of that). It sometimes takes years to deprogram all the lies, so ingrained they become. Recovery is a process of going through the painful stages of loss, finding a new identity, purpose and new coping skills. Resentment is certainly understandable, even natural.

However, what is natural is not always healthy, productive or responsible.                                       Yes, responsible. If we carry a torch for the church, the faith, whatever – we’re looking back and not forward. I’m not talking of speaking out against the abuses of the church, the inaccuracies of the Bible or the absurd doctrines promoted. There is a way to assert one’s self with mutual respect. What I’m wanting to convey is that, regardless of what injustices we have suffered, ultimately each of us is responsible for our own well-being. If we tangle ourselves in petty arguments, condescension and mockery, have we moved from the stage of anger to recovery? Are we not still looking back? Do we dispense the type of judgment we’ve come to despise? Do we define ourselves by the pain we’ve suffered?

We are more than deconverts.                                                                                                                                                   At least, I am. I’m moving forward. I have a life, an identity and interests outside of my deconversion from Christianity. Yes, it was a big deal. I’m still dealing with the aftermath. However, I will not let it consume me or inhibit my current and future happiness, my wholeness anymore. My blog is about healing and moving forward. I invite others to join me. What have been the greatest challenges for you? What has helped you? How can we help each other heal and build our lives by our own design and values instead of having it molded for us into the image of an impossible standard? As we seek to recover, let us take the high road. Honor our truth. Honor our pain. And do it without getting stuck there, getting lost in it, making another dysfunctional identity of it. Let’s take responsibility for making recovery happen.

 

I’d love to hear your perspective in the comments.

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The Pain of Deconversion, Part III: The Terrors of Hell

 

 

#6 pic of hell

For most of those who’ve been fully immersed in, then left the Christian faith, the process of deconversion is not over when he/she comes to believe the biblical God does not exist or that the Bible is not inerrantly true. There are residual effects of the deep programming of Christian doctrine – or brainwashing as some call it – that result in a great deal of distress for the deconvert, and that is to put it lightly. Not the least of these are the terrors of hell.

If the church’s teachings on the doctrines of hell are not disturbing enough, there are plenty of scriptures in the Bible for the scrupulous to refer that foretell the danger awaiting the unbelieving, the cowardly and the rebellious. For one who had long believed in the Bible as being the inerrant Word of God – regardless of how illogical one has come to believe the Bible is – these warnings sting and bite at the mind. It often goes something like this:

After a believer has resolved through logic, reason and experience that the biblical God does not exist, she then embarks the process of rebuilding her life – establishing a new identity, developing new coping skills and finding new meaning and purpose. However, biblical warnings of God’s wrath for the unbelieving tend to spring up from the ashes of the faith he left and raise questions of whether, in abandoning the God he once loved, he is destined now to be thrown… “into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”[1] Thoughts like, “Oh, no – this is happening just like the Bible foretold it would in the end times when, if possible, even the elect will be deceived,” and biblical passages like the following come to mind.

“For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than, having known it, to turn back from the holy commandment that had been delivered to them.” [2] And “For if we deliberately keep on sinning [not believing in and following Christ, for example] after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins is left for us, but only a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fury  of fire that will consume God’s enemies. Someone who rejected the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much greater punishment do you think that person deserves who has contempt for the Son of God, and profanes the blood of the covenant that made him holy, and insults the Spirit of grace? For we know the one who said, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”[3]

Terrifying indeed. The horror of fearing you are destined for eternal torment of the worst kind. It’s been well said: Hell is a place on Earth.

Actually, it’s a natural response to the programming. Spiritual experiences are moving, emotionally charged and impactful on the brain. The doctrines of hell are associated with the experiences, which go deeper than an intellectual level of acknowledging the problems with faith. They’re unconscious. It takes time… and reprogramming.

There are many great resources out there for the deconvert in looking critically at the Christian doctrine of hell. They’ve helped me a lot. I hope others will list some in the comments and I will too (as soon as I can relocate my favorites). For now I’d like to reference Amusing Nonsense’s “Never Good Enough” post. Something that has helped me is remembering what I went through in trying to maintain my faith and how the God I thought I knew didn’t do anything to assist me. I clung to Him to the end of my strength because grace was nowhere to be found. I had never, as a Christian, believed He would allow that to happen. As a result the existence of the biblical God is disproven for me. And so has been his hell.

[1] Matthew 13:42

[2] 2 Peter 2:21

[3] Hebrews 10:26-31

JOHN PAVLOVITZ has some good perspective at http://johnpavlovitz.com/2016/03/07/no-christian-we-dont-deserve-hell-and-we-probably-neednt-worry-about-it/.

Please share your thoughts.