I deconverted years ago, dahling, before it was fashionable…

gjm11 is someone I’ve known for years, initially through the uk.religion.christian newsgroup, and then through LiveWires. He’s a very clever man. Since my own loss of faith, I’ve sometimes wondered about the very clever people I know who are Christians (gjm11 among them), and how they manage to sustain their faith in the face of (what I see as) the serious intellectual flaws in Christianity.

Unbeknown to me, gjm11 had been thinking hard about it for a while, and recently announced that he is no longer a Christian. He has an essay on the web where he outlines some of the main reasons for his deconversion. The enormous thread on uk.religion.christian which followed his announcement is, I think, interesting to anyone who wonders about how people get, keep and lose faith.

A common argument from the uk.religion.christians is that the religion is about a personal relationship rather than purely about the truth of Christian doctrine (note that when they say that Christianity is about a relationship, Christians are using a special meaning of the word “relationship” of which you’d not previously been aware). gjm11 points out that although Christianity certainly isn’t just doctrine, if the doctrine cannot hold, the rest collapses. It’s clear that not everyone follows the chain of reasoning to its end in that way, though: some people say, if not in so many words, that even though they know it doesn’t make sense logically, they’re going with it because it feels right.

Wild theorising: I know a number of people who read sciences or mathematics, who came into Christianity through evangelicalism and then left Christianity later. These are people you’d expect to see reason as important. It seems to me that they reasoned themselves in and reasoned themselves out, in some sense: Cambridge’s evangelicalism is modernist in the same way that science is, so it is appealing and satisfying to scientist types. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stand up to logical analysis, so they later reject it for the same reason that they accepted it, and so evangelicalism is hoisted by its own petard.

And so to bed.

4 thoughts on “I deconverted years ago, dahling, before it was fashionable…”

  1. Thanks for that link. I appear to have spent my only free evening reading right the way through that thread and it is indeed interesting. The main conclusion I have come to is that gjm11 seems like a really great guy. But yeah, there’s some chewy stuff in there (speaking as someone who basically doesn’t get faith as a motivation for religion anyway).

    1. I appear to have spent my only free evening reading

      Heh. uk.religion.christian was one of the reasons I got a 2:2 in my final year (the other being ballroom dancing).

      The main conclusion I have come to is that gjm11 seems like a really great guy.

      He’s pretty hoopy.

      Speaking as someone who basically doesn’t get faith as a motivation for religion anyway.

      I’m not sure which meaning of faith you’re using here. Some people take it to simply mean belief, but in Gareth’s essay he also mentions the theological virtue of faith, which means something more like perseverance because of prior trust or commitment, as far as I can tell (perhaps “faithfulness”, in other words). Do you mean that you yourself don’t have much in the way of beliefs, or something else?

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