I saw that Brian Auten of Apologetics 315 tweeted a post from Right Reason by philosopher Glenn Peoples about Rachael Slick, the daughter of CARM president Matt Slick. Rachael recently announced her departure from Christianity for atheism.
Here is the passage where she explains why she left Christianity:
This changed one day during a conversation with my friend Alex. I had a habit of bouncing theological questions off him, and one particular day, I asked him this: If God was absolutely moral, because morality was absolute, and if the nature of “right” and “wrong” surpassed space, time, and existence, and if it was as much a fundamental property of reality as math, then why were some things a sin in the Old Testament but not a sin in the New Testament?
Now this is not necessarily basic apologetics, but it is fairly easy to respond to, and I posted something about it earlier in the week. I just want to point out that I don’t really view these sorts of objections as serious objections, since the core of Christianity is about the existence of God and the resurrection of Jesus. Peripheral issues like Bible difficulties don’t really matter if the core is sound. The main focus in Christian apologetics isn’t on fine points of inerrancy or doctrine, it’s on God’s existence and the resurrection, which authenticates Jesus as the Messiah. More on that later.
I wanted to quote from the post that Brian found though, because I think this really explains some very important things that Christians need to understand in order to avoid these sorts of Bart Ehrman / Dan Barker de-conversion stories.
And here it is:
To a Christian who up until now has taken the faith seriously an an intellectual level, holding a view that this faith is robust enough to withstand a bit of light prodding such as this, the solution would have been a bit of light (yes, actually very light) reading on the subject – and there is plenty to be done. This is to say nothing about the rather idiosyncratic view of morality expressed here (comparing moral truths to mathematical truths does not bode well!). And yet this moment of dorm room theology banter lead headlong to this:
I still remember sitting there in my dorm room bunk bed, staring at the cheap plywood desk, and feeling something horrible shift inside me, a vast chasm opening up beneath my identity, and I could only sit there and watch it fall away into darkness.The Bible is not infallible, logic whispered from the depths, and I had no defense against it. If it’s not infallible, you’ve been basing your life’s beliefs on the oral traditions of a Middle Eastern tribe. The Bible lied to you.Everything I was, everything I knew, the structure of my reality, my society, and my sense of self suddenly crumbled away, and I was left naked. I was no longer a Christian. That thought was a punch to the gut, a wave of nausea and terror. Who was I, now, when all this had gone away? What did I know? What did I have to cling to? Where was my comfort? ??I didn’t know it, but I was free.
Dramatise much? You couldn’t answer a much discussed question in theological ethics. You could have added a bit of learning at this point, but instead you make out that you intellectual world has been nuked. The closing statement sums it up better, I think: “I was free.” And that was really the point of this. Here’s my pick for the real culprit, in the next breath:
For a long time I couldn’t have sex with my boyfriend (of over a year by this point) without crippling guilt. I had anxiety that I was going to Hell. I felt like I was standing upon glass, and, though I knew it was safe, every time I glanced down I saw death.
But over time – thanks to the deconversion, that changed. It’s telling that she chose to draw attention to this. Numerous times I have seen people turn away from the faith, not because they became aware of new intellectual reasons to reject it, but because the appeal of remaining in the faith became dulled by the drive to live a life that was not compatible with it (and that number includes “apologists” for atheism). You see something, you want it. But you have this belief that you shouldn’t do it. So, as is human nature, you rationalise. You re-create the world of truth around you and what you want. “Maybe this Christianity thing isn’t true after all…” What changed? The evidence? Nope.
The arguments are as good as ever. Your will is what has changed. This is confirmed by the celebratory comment that “Freedom is my God now.” No doubt, and that is what you were pursuing. Christianity hindered you, so bye bye Christianity. As was shown in the study Losing my Religion, and as I commented in a recent podcast about why some reject Christianity, there is a correlation between having sex outside of marriage and giving up one’s religion (usually Christian, in the American context in which the study was carried out). Other factors that correlate with abandoning the faith include drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders and get this – lacking a higher education. But that’s another matter, and of course does not answer questions about the truth or otherwise of atheistic or religious claims. It also makes sense that the time when a young person leaves their parents’ home and out into an environment where a smorgasbord of choices are now available to them is the most likely time that they will walk away. The comments thread at the blog where this story is told is full of the usual and can be paraphrased thus: “Oh, you taught her to THINK? Big mistake Dad, of course she was going to walk away!” Not even close to the mark. It was not critical thinking that sunk this faith. It was desire, as it so often is. The intellectual reason offered is absolutely flimsy, and certainly not offered an intellectually respectable presentation.
I think that’s very well said, and my experience with other decoverted fundamentalists has always been that they often had non-cognitive issues driving the deconversion:
◦boyfriend and girlfriend issues
◦sexual activity / sexual orientation issues
◦unrealistic expectations of a pain-free life
◦unrealistic expectations of God providing financially
◦unrealistic expectations of God making their foolish decisions “work out”
So here’s my advice to parents who want to avoid this sort of rebellion.