Experiences of an Apostate

Apostasy and deconversion refer to related but distinct concepts in changing one's religion. They differ not only in denotation, but also in connotation and in regular usage. Apostasy is the willful, external and often public act of leaving a religion, especially a religious organization such as a church. It often suggests betrayl and even treachery by those who reject their former religion, and it is less commonly used by those who do it themselves. Deconversion, in contrast, is the unwillful, internal and usually private process of losing one's belief in the claims of religion, often over the course of many months or even years. It carries no negative connotation, and it is almost exclusively used by former believers who are now non-theists. (People who leave one religion in order to adopt another simply refer to their conversion to their new religion, and their experiences are very different from those who label themselves deconverts.)

Through discussions with other deconverts, I have discovered that my experiences in the aftermath of my deconversion and apostasy are rather dissimilar to those of many others. In particular, it seems that many believers enjoyed a considerable amount of comfort and consolation from their belief in gods and from their religious communities, and that leaving their religion resulted in a feeling of true loss. For my own part, I never felt close to God in any of his personas, nor to the saints to whom I often prayed, nor to the people with whom I worshiped every week. Deconversion was a difficult process, though certainly no more difficult than my nightmarish experiences as a scrupulant, and resulted ultimately in a feeling of freedom and peace. Apostasy was mostly uneventful, consisting only in the decision not to attend Mass, go to confession, or pray anymore, and was pleasant in that I no longer felt that I had any religious obligations which would consume my free time and interfere with my plans. At no point did I ever feel like I had lost something.

I have never been a spiritual person, even when I was a devout Catholic. My approach to religion was rationalistic and legalistic. I believed that logical argumentation proved that God exists and that miracles proved that the Catholic faith was the true religion. I never really felt faith like many do and almost never felt the spirit of God. I certainly never developed a relationship with God and never truly loved him. Then and now it appears that one is only interacting with one's own imagination and intellect. My primary emotions toward God were fear and resentment. I was deathly afraid of eternal torture and I resented him for threatening me and for simultaneously demanding that I love him. In this regard, my deconversion can be likened to finding out that a bully who has tormented you during your entire life has suddenly moved to the other side of the world, never to bother you again. God was never my friend and I didn't mourn his passing.

I have also never been a particularly social person. Although I attended Mass every week for twenty-five years, I cannot recall making a single friend from this activity by meeting people before, during, or after the service. I did make some friends from a couple other activities at church, but I was never very involved in my parish outside of my volunteering teaching a language class during my college years. (I continued to teach at the parish and help people despite my apostasy until it conflicted with my work schedule.) Church was never a real social network for me and when I stopped attending Mass, my life did not suffer in that manner either.

I consider myself fortunate not to have suffered any sense of loss upon my deconversion and apostasy. For me, they were positive experiences and the best of my life.


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