It’s been nearly 4 years since I left the beliefs of my childhood behind. The dust has settled for the most part. I have long since developed a new perspective, a new philosophy, a new moral foundation. In many ways, arguably the most important ways, I am still the same person as I always was. I act on my convictions wherever they might lead me. When I was 16 they led me to choose to become baptized in my community’s church. When I was 20 they led me away from everything I had ever known.
The settling of the dust that coloured the long and arduous transition phase revealed something that would not fade away into distant memories. It was a new structure, a product of the transition of my beliefs. It was a structure of sadness. The sadness of loss.
The bright new world that I saw through my brand new perspective was lacking something that I had become accustomed to having, so accustomed that I had taken it completely for granted. I had always had the support of my family and the religious community I grew up in. I belonged there. I was related to nearly everyone in the community in one way or another, but more significantly I shared something with them that bonded us all together. Shared belief is social glue. Shared religious belief is home. It is belonging.
It’s an odd feeling of homelessness, not having a supportive community of family and friends to rely on in hard times. While it may be true that I can still go “home” and be with these people, my home is gone. Home is where you are loved and accepted for who you are. Home is where you can relax, because nobody is going to come up to you and remind you that they fundamentally reject the person that you are and the life choices you’ve made. My “home” is home in name only. “Home” is where I feel that I am surrounded by a pack of hungry lions, eager to show off how superior their beliefs are to mine in one way or another, by being annoyingly nice or by pretending that their “relationship with Jesus” makes them more happy than the average human being. There is an agenda in every interaction and the agenda is to change me. Some are more subtle and more clever than others, but it all boils down to the same thing.
I don’t go “home” anymore. I can’t. Before the dust had settled I could because I believed in words. I believed that I could communicate to these people that I was still the same person as before and they could continue going about their business and not concern themselves with my change in philosophy. I thought I could communicate that I wasn’t interested in “converting” them to my new beliefs, that I still respected them and only wished for the same in return. At times I even thought I could explain the details of my transition in such a way that they’d approve of my decision. Thousands upon thousands of words were spilled, attempts at explanation, attempts at patient understanding.
The era of words is over. Everything that can be said has been said. It is clear where I stand and it is clear where they stand. We are at an impasse. It’s over. The contract of insurmountable differences has been signed. In the absence of words only sadness remains.
The structure of sadness holds a place in the landscape of my mind among a myriad of other things. It is often hidden by other structures–confidence, excitement, contentment, happiness–but it holds its place in my mind, and visits me on occasion. It is never a pleasant visit but I do not resent it. I lost something all those years ago and sadness is a natural response. Fortunately the visits are shorter and less frequent than they used to be, but the sadness is still very real.
I am building a new home now. A network of people who are accepting, people that I can relax around and not feel a need to defend myself to, a new family. Won’t you join us?
To view my full deconversion story click here.