Many people come to moments in their life when they are faced with a choice that can have life altering consequences. Whether it is a decision to move away and leave friends and family behind for a job opportunity or to decide to have a surgery that could correct a dangerous health condition or cost your life if it doesn’t work out. It seems when you are faced with these types of decisions the road ahead can appear the most unstable or treacherous while remaining in your current state can provide some type of brief but temporal relief or security. The temptation to stay put or not at for the temporal security is very strong.
I went through a critical health crisis in 2012 when at 40 years old I had been informed by the doctor that the leaky heart valve that had plagued me for years had finally deteriorated enough that it was life threatening. My heart has working harder to pump the blood and causing it to enlarge and was becoming more problematic. The first reaction is panic and fear of the journey ahead. If I chose to ignore my cardiologist’s recommendation, I was risking my life. Now without the surgery I could live another year or longer but by putting the surgery off I would eventually lose the battle. On the other hand, if I scheduled the surgery in the next 30 days as the doctor recommended, I could be risking shortening my life if I didn’t make it through the surgery. This event to me was a stark reminder of the mortality we all will face.
I ended up choosing to have the surgery because the risk and reward of correcting the condition and having the surgery greatly outweighed the more certain fate without it. Looking back six years later I know it was the right choice. As time led up to the surgery I was faced with many philosophical and spiritual questions that would continue after the surgery. Even though I had been a Christian since age 15 I had the immediate thought arise around the “security of my salvation”. I desperately believed and had done since I had been “saved” with some occasional backsliding periods. Included throughout the years were “multiple rededications to Christ” and I was also prayed to be “saved” on a few different occasions “just to make sure”. I always enjoyed spirited worship music and services, I wanted to feel my faith, the energy and emotional high of knowing I was connected to my lord.
Ultimately as time raced towards the surgery I never once prayed that God would heal my heart condition. I didn’t even pray that “if it’s your will” prayer, you know the one that as Christians we learned to pray so if it wasn’t answered we could say it wasn’t his will. Looking back, I knew there was one person who I was placing my trust in with my heart and that was the surgeon. You see in the early years of my faith, I truly believed in miracles as well as answered prayers but as life went on through the years, I realized the ones I thought were answered could have happened without any involvement from a god.
My focus quickly shifted from even considering god could heal my heart valve to just trying to make sure my “heart was right with god”. You know, prepare to meet your maker which included reviewing my life and asking forgiveness for my failures, shortcomings and sins. I also just started telling myself that Jesus was giving me the peace I needed to make it through this challenge. I told others that “I was with peace with whatever god had in store for me”. In reality I was fearful, and to skip all the doctrinal stances on salvation I was fearful because the bible gave me reason to be fearful even as a Christian.
Matthew 7:22-23 states “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore, whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And everyone that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand.
I had studied the bible for many years and there were many difficult saying of Christ that I had not lived my life by. One example, while we don’t follow the Levitical Laws any more Jesus very clearly states I should be living by the old laws.
Matthew 5:18 “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”
Jesus was referring to the 613 Levitical laws that god had given man. Now Christians will tell you we are no longer under the law or the old covenant, we are under grace. Paul the apostle writes in Romans 6:14-15 that we are no longer under the law:
“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”
All this said to make the point that even as a believer for 25 years at that point I still was addressing my fear of rejection by Christ and the fear of being sent to hell for eternity. The time for the surgery came and as it drew closer, I tried to find religious songs that would stir my emotions and give me a sort of peace I needed. Songs that spoke about heaven and Jesus eternal love and the ecstasy of finally seeing the savior. Why did I turn to music to deal with this challenge in my life, couldn’t god just give me the peace and assurance I needed? As a guitarist and fan of music all my life I know that certain chord tones elicit certain emotional responses. Most Christian music uses major chord voicings that tied with spiritual texts or themes paired together deliver the emotional punch to make you feel you are experiencing gods spirit. I found a couple of songs that “hit the mark” but eventually settled on “Revelation Song” by Phillips Craig & Dean as the song that was “meant for me”.
I eventually had the surgery, made it through it but I honestly knew that it was not because of god but because I made the right choice and put my trust in the surgeon to correct the heart valve issue. I remained a Christian after the surgery and would try and soldier on for the next few years, but it was another step in the deconversion process I was beginning to go through.
The deconversion process really started to gain traction three years ago for me and in Sept 2017 after going through Hurricane Harvey I realized I had fully deconverted from Christianity and I walked out of the church and belief. The process was heartbreaking to say the least and was not a road I chose but one that I found myself in nonetheless. It caused great strains on my marriage and also caused great fear that those around me would not understand and that I could be ostracized. What would my wife think about me, my children, my friends and extended family? I chose to keep quiet and under the radar as much as possible to avoid the conflict.
Time has passed over the last year and my wife has come to begrudgingly accept my deconversion. She still holds out hope I will talk to others who can help me with my “problem”. Of course, I don’t see it as a problem and I feel the burden of fear I had before of hell has all but vanished. I recently admitted to my youngest son who is set to graduate next year of my agnosticism/skepticism and atheism and it was ok. He still loved me and was understanding of why I have come to the place I have. I have a new freedom and love for life and humanity. But there has still lingered one remaining piece I have yet to deal with and that is “coming out” to my father. My father is very conservative and religious in his worldview and raised me in the church. It is almost like I have not told him yet to avoid the conflict but also because maybe just maybe I would change my mind and go back to that temporal comfort zone of being considered a believer just like everyone else around me.
Recently my grandmother has fallen ill and has congestive heart failure issues and my father has asked me to “keep her in my prayers”. My response was “I am hoping she will be ok” and to quickly move on to another topic. He has asked me to pray at when we have gone out to eat and I quickly responded, “why don’t you go ahead and say it this time”. I have realized I truly am at another cross roads. I genuinely don’t want to hurt or upset him, but I now know this is the final piece in my deconversion process.
A line in the sand has been drawn………………Do I continue to try and keep my deconversion from him and stay in the comfortable zone a little longer or be honest about who I have become…….and I have decided this is the week I will tell him. I am nervous about the reaction, but I know it is needed for me to finally become at peace with who I am. While I don’t necessary like labels it is time to take that final step and admit I am a no longer a Christian, I am a conservative libertarian, I am a skeptic, a humanist, an agnostic and yes I am an atheist and I am at peace with who I am.