Tag Archives: converts

Anger for the Converted

25 Dec

Nihil ex nihilo – nothing comes from nothing. When someone converts to a faith, they have to have left another, and that doesn’t matter if it’s secularism or atheism. When that moment happens, there’s a sense of betrayal by the “faith” you left behind.

I know–weird thing to choose for a Christmas Day post, huh? However, I was reading a lovely post by an ex-Mormon woman who shared her testimonial about leaving her faith, due to her sister’s being upset her previous post about the pagan origins of Christmas. The problem with leaving a fundamentalist group (and this is true, regardless of religion) is that on one hand that group provides a great strong community that you can count on, but the only way they maintain that community is by not veering from their ideals. And to talk about Christmas trees as a Germanic pagan practice, or the date being related to the Roman holiday of Saturnalia, is simply not done.

What this comes from is anger; this is not talked about as part of the convert experience. In missionary faiths, the convert is celebrated, and asked to share their testimony to when they came to the truth. However, they don’t talk about that moment when you realize, “My God, everything I thought was a lie!” That sense of betrayal doesn’t go away quickly or easily.

Contrary to popular belief, the convert leaves their home faith not because they have a lack of faith, but because they believed too deeply. Evangelical atheists (as I like to call them) will tell you all about how religion is the true sin of man, but they only got there because they were a firm Christian (it could be others, but it’s probably Christian) that believed strongly and wanted to know more. My friend who I define as “evangelical atheist” is the son of a seminary school dropout and a recalcitrant nun–you don’t get more Catholic than that.

They hit a point where the questions they were asking weren’t given good answers and came to the realization that there were no good answers. That’s rough. Penn Gillette (THE evangelical atheist) talks about growing up in the Congregational Church of Greenfield, Massachusetts and being asked to leave youth group because he kept pelting the leader with all these questions that he brought to each meeting.

For me, I did what most Americans do–hold two contradictory concepts in my head at the same time. Hanukkah is about celebrating the miracle of lights, even though 1 Maccabees or other contemporary accounts don’t mention it, and that only comes later in the Talmud. I believe the real miracle was the unexpected victory of Jews to win their independence. Christmas does fall at the same time as Saturnalia, but because that was a time when early Christians could celebrate openly, with fear of persecution. Bunnies and eggs are fertility symbols and used at the spring equinox which vaguely comes at Easter (your lunar calendar may vary with the solar one), but that doesn’t stop people from experiencing the resurrection of Christ.

I don’t have to defend my faith because the contradictions are not what I cling to. What I hold to is that God exists and He intercedes in our lives; what I believe follows from those two premises. Everything else is the tradition we choose to follow. Just like family, religion can be messy, and you don’t all get along, but we come together for the important stuff. And the pain goes away… eventually.

What do you think? What brought you to your principles? What kept you strong or made you leave your faith? Tell me in the comments below!

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