by James Buckner
For 23 years I was taken in by the Christian delusion.* I took the Christian life seriously, and I took the Bible seriously -- and taking the Bible seriously was the undoing of the Delusion. Thorough and comprehensive study of the Bible opened my eyes to the falsehood of Christianity. So, in a sense, one could say the Bible set me free! More accurately, reason, applied to the Bible, set me free.
Following are letters and essays that open a window onto my departure from the Christian faith. Christians point with pride to the accusation by their enemies in Acts 17:6 (RSV) that "they have turned the world upside down." Well, when I was a Christian my world certainly was turned upside down. But when I finally admitted to myself that I knew Christianity was false, my world righted itself under my feet and sent me reeling.
My wish is that the material on this page will be of help to others who find their Christian worldview crumbling beneath their feet and no safety net in sight. It's a scary feeling when the Christian delusion finally gives way, and one finds oneself floating in the void without a way to make sense of the world any longer.
I have a word of hope for people who find themselves in this situation. There is a difficult transition period to navigate when one first leaves the faith, but there need not be a permanent fall into existential despair. Life without Christianity can be every bit as meaningful and fulfilling as life with Christianity -- many people, including myself, find life even better without Christianity, once the emotional wounds have healed over. Leaving the faith can plunge one into a sense of profound loss -- and there has indeed been a profound loss, akin the the death of a loved one in the emotional reactions it produces. But a new worldview can be built, and it can be built on a firmer foundation than the old one. It is hard work, and it takes a focused effort, but there is a fulfilling life to be reclaimed for those who are willing.
All the letters and essays here were written while I was in my transition from Christian to . . . something else, I knew not what. Perhaps by examining here the path that I took, you who are in the throes of losing your faith will be better able to discern your own path to a different life. I wish you all the best.
* Note to Liberal Christians About the Context of My Remarks:
At the time of the writings you see here, I knew only a little about the liberal Christian point of view, and that only through a conservative evangelical/fundamentalist lens. If you are a liberal Christian, and especially if you are without first-hand experience of conservative evangelicalism/fundamentalism, you will find that my remarks touch on Christian liberalism little or not at all, and that the issues I raise do not necessarily have relevance or even make sense from the liberal Christian point of view. When you see the word Christian in these writings, please understand that I am referring to conservative Christian evangelicalism/fundamentalism, which in many ways can be considered a distinctly different religion than liberal Christianity.
All readers, both liberal and conservative, should read these writings as a snapshot in time of my personal journey. These writings are a window into watershed events in my own personal journey, but they are past and done with, and my ideas continue to evolve and develop. Specifically, I have affiliated with a Unitarian Universalist church, where I enjoy the society of liberal religious people even though I consider myself irreligious. In particular, I agree with the Unitarian Universalist principle that each individual ought to be permitted a free and responsible search for meaning -- a search that may even lead other people to find genuine value in the belief system I personally have left behind. I find that I can now enjoy and appreciate the vitality of others' sincerely held beliefs without obsessing about whether they are true or not. My change of heart in this respect is due to the freedom I have to make my own way in matters of belief, a freedom made real by my breaking away from old beliefs. In this sense, my writings here can be interpreted as an adolescent-like turmoil of breaking away from the ties of dependence of a particular religious tradition. An adolescent who successfully asserts personal independence with a break from the past is free to then go forward with the development of a positive way of living, after having left the reactive rebellious period behind. Likewise with me. Maybe someday, when I understand my own experiences better, I'll feel a call to write out my new positive way of living and add it as a new chapter to this web site. -JLB, 3 March 2001
Hello, I Am a New Ex-Christian
The ex-tian mailing list is an on-line support group for ex-Christians. This is my letter of self-introduction to the list, briefly describing my loss of faith and the circumstances surrounding the writing of this letter.
The Anguish of Leaving the
Leaving the Christian faith is hard to do, and the insidious religion can turn the people closest to us into the ones who become the most hurtful. Here is an exchange of letters between myself and some close relatives at the time my loss of faith first became known to them. I'm not hanging out dirty laundry -- this exchange illustrates the divisiveness of religion and the turmoil it can create even among close and otherwise amicable relatives.
An Exchange with my Former
There is no such thing as exit counseling from the Christian church. Here is an exchange of letters with my former pastor, who tries to hang on to a sheep gone astray from his flock. His religion has left him unequal to the task, and entirely predictable in his strategy, to boot.
Losing Faith and Keeping
Leaving the family faith can be hard on personal relationships with close relatives. What is one to do when these relationships are thrown off balance by a fundamental change in religious belief? Here are the letters that show how I handled it.
Heat & Light: Reforging
Disrupted Relationships, Part 1
Learning that a family member has deconverted can come as a shock to relatives. But once the shock wears off, disrupted relationships must be reforged. A series of letters chronicles the process in my own case. This first set of letters lays the groundwork and the tone for an e-mail dialogue between me and one of my relatives.
Heat & Light: Reforging
Disrupted Relationships, Part 2
This second set of letters is meatier than the first, and the other relatives are brought up to date and invited to listen in to the ongoing conversation. The way in which the conversation ends will come as no surprise to unbelievers who have themselves insisted that Christians support their outrageous claims.
How to Relate to Old Friends
Leaving the faith definitely changes the character of relationships with old friends from church. I have no doubt that there must be many appropriate ways to handle these. In my own case, some particular circumstances (which shall remain unnamed) make it awkward for me to continue active relationships with old friends from church. Here is how I handled the situation.
Free at Last! (or, My Spiritual
Does one ever get over the trauma of losing faith? Perhaps not entirely, but there definitely can be healing. A time can come when one is able lay down the old emotional baggage associated with the former oppressive life and begin to genuinely enjoy the freedom of a new life without superstition and without guilt. This is the letter I wrote to the ex-tian e-mail list when that time came for me.
Tough Questions for the
The Christian church has a lot of explaining to do if it is to be taken seriously intellectually. Here are a few questions from a former insider that highlight some of the contradictions, absurdities, inconsistencies, and incoherencies of the Christian religion. Feel free to direct unwelcome proselytizers to this document. To get them off your back, tell them not to bring up the subject again until they have the answers to these questions.
"Answers" to Tough
Questions for the Christian Church
The best evidence of the intellectual bankruptcy of the Christian religion comes from the Christians themselves. Here are links to "answers" to my Tough Questions. If you are a believer, you can put your awakening intellect back to sleep by rehearsing the platitudes here. If you are a skeptic, you can look at them for chuckles. If you are a former Christian like myself, you can look at them and wonder in amazement how you ever could have believed such drivel. However, I have included a link on this page to one set of worthy answers that I find wholly satisfactory.
Christians Leaving the Faith
I receive many inquiries for advice from people who have left the faith or who are leaving the faith. Since I do not have time to answer all of them individually, here is a page covering the most common requests.
Yahweh Creates Evil
Here is a short essay I wrote during an e-mail exchange with a relative. The subject was whether or not Yahweh is a monster. I made a litany of accusations against Yahweh, and the relative asked for biblical chapter and verse. Here is the essay I wrote for the first accusation in the litany, namely, that Yahweh creates evil.
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