My name is Vince and my biggest life’s regret is having ever hit my children because a hateful and primitive book said to. If that doesn’t make sense to you, nothing else I have to say will either.
I’m a lifelong entrepreneur and embarrassed to say a former pastor/theologian. I spent a decade demolishing other people’s gods (“in the name of God,” mind you), until I finally realized that mine was just as ridiculous and demolished it, too.
The worst part about speaking frankly about deconversion is that it necessarily involves coming to a clarity of thought and self awareness that “proves” to the Christian we were never True Christians.
I don't write for those Christians. I write for the Christians wondering like I did, “What the hell am I doing?” And I write for the deconverted Christians that are trying to assimilate reason, reality and responsibility into their lives.
Hopefully to those people this all resonates as does regretting the “faithfulness” of hitting my kids.
I was once asked how someone like me remained a Christian and dealt with the sheer cognitive dissonance.
Short answer: I don’t know. It’s baffling and it’s embarrassing. Jade (my wife) and I have discussed that very question often and cannot figure it out. How I proceeded as I did in Christianity makes some sense, but why I started the procession is a puzzle. Somewhere the answer lies in ego. Somewhere else it lies in need.
I’m not going into the personal psychology and private history behind those things, but I will expand the short answer some.
The church where I grew up filled a lot of needs when I was tired of being a college hedonist. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it provided relationships and a sense of family that I’d simply never had before in my life.
That church was also interested in my leadership and contributions and I began to discover that I had very good leadership, people, and oratory skills. Ultimately I conflated the pleasure and satisfaction I derived from church involvement with something more serious—“a call from God,” and decided to enter seminary.
Of course, my pastor and the congregation were delighted. And that his retirement happened to coincide with my training seemed a nice divine symmetry and made everyone all the happier.
I enrolled in Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, whose notable alumni include Fred Rogers (yes, Mr. Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister) and R.C. Sproul.
Seminary is where I encountered “enemies of the faith” that ironically told me the truth about Christianity. Unfortunately, at the time I wanted to hear none of that and took to “defending the faith” against the apostasy.
I was installed as a supply pastor as a first year student, which was almost unheard of and became known on campus as a brilliant and polarizing polemicist. I was compared to former PTS professor John Gerstner and enjoyed the celebrity immensely.
Ultimately, I left the denomination about half way through seminary because I was forbidden to renounce my resurrection and incarnation-denying professors and the denomination’s resurrection and incarnation-denying ministers as false believers. Thus, I had to renounce the denomination.
So, I started a foundation to expose the “apostasy” of liberal Protestantism and parlayed that into preaching.
I’d been speaking to and standing in front of groups since I was thirteen years old and could do it pretty well. Add to that logical and philosophical training and the ability to make complicated metaphysical ideas clear to Joe and Jane Pew Sitters with the fact that I was a reasonably good looking young guy and it all made people love to listen.
During seminary, I’d met the late John Robbins and forged something of a mentor-student friendship with him that would become pivotal in my religious life.
John was an apologist for the late Gordon Clark’s unique brand of presuppositionalism that rejects the common presuppositional concept of “apparent contradictions” blaming the errors on human failure rather than a faulty revelation. It appealed to me because it appeared to be a logical system.
By becoming a Clarkian presuppositionalist, I was able to avoid the rudimentary problems of bible belief that I’d been shown in seminary and, again ironically, became the impetus of my deconversion years later.
Instead, I was able to construct a complicated Christian philosophical system that hinged on the absolute sovereignty and self-glorification of God. I was just as likely then as now to reduce to rubbish irrational Christian arguments—except my own, which I stupidly called logical.
I spent the next several years preaching at a couple of small churches and on the fringes of some micro-Reformed (that is, the classically orthodox Protestantism of the Westminster and Helvetic Confessions) denominations writing polemics and debating the “apostate” reformed denominations.
Ultimately, when religion grew to the point that I started going against my own instincts, the disconnect between who I am and what I was doing bothered me. And, the more I ignored my instincts, the less I enjoyed life and the more it bothered me. That was the real catalyst of my deconversion: I no longer wanted to be a Christian.
I believed by willpower for a while, but became increasingly annoyed by religious people, religious services, and the Bible.
Here are a few in particular:
1. The insane verbosity of Jeremiah the prophet really annoyed me;
2. Paul’s (or people pretending to be Paul) obvious psychological manipulation of people and refusing certain widows charity;
3. That the bible excluded me from true faith because I knew that I’d never hate my wife and kids for anybody’s sake, including Jesus’. That really made me angry.
During that time I became friends with a guy that turned out to be an atheist. (If I’d been still been religious-minded, I’d have called it providence.) He wasn’t a militant atheist, but in a ‘religion is ridiculous sort of way,’ more likely to laugh at Christians than debate them. We were very similar guys and got along from the get go.
Another part of the disconnect between who I was and what I was doing revolved around relationships. I had already ended some relationships I wish I’d kept and started or maintained others I didn’t enjoy.
I had to decide: Do I bring religion into this and ruin another relationship or do I keep the friend? I kept the friend, which was the effective end of my Christianity.
Then reading John 1 as a de facto atheist with my family it hit me squarely between the eyes that what I’d just read would never square with the synoptic accounts of Jesus being baptized. I called b.s. and the floodgates opened.
I actually paced around with the bible pointing out nonsense to Jade. It was like a stream of rational consciousness. It was awesome.
That was that. I began to really think, instead of thinking about my little system of religious philosophy. Turns out that my god was as easy to demolish as anyone else’s.
I told you it was embarrassing, didn’t I? All in all it’s good, though, because I know that when making a serious inquiry into the Bible and doing all possible to understand the “Truth,” Truth just doesn’t hold together.
I’m happy beyond words that I came to the point of rational action while my children were still quite young and before they were ruined by the rigors of Biblical Christianity.
Considering your god belief allows everything else to be considered. That allows growth and insight and freedom. They’ll never be deprived those things and I’ll never deprive myself of them again.
I’m back to enjoying life.