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So the book is advancing rather well. For various reasons that I won’t bother expounding upon, I had set the editing of my second draft on hold for a good several months. And then, after finally picking it up again at the turn of the new year, I finally finished the revision last week.
But as excited as I was and as boiling over with accomplishment, I knew right away that something was missing. Something Big.
You see, that original draft ended with events in the fall of 2012. The final chapter featured my long-awaited acceptance of disbelief. I had finally come to the point where I could accept and embrace my atheism. And with that acceptance, the curtain of my deconversion story closed. And the book was finished.
Until I realized that it wasn’t.
What I’m trying to say is that my deconversion story didn’t really end in the fall of 2012.
It’s taken me all the way until now to realize this, but in reality, my deconversion story continued for almost another two years.
How is this possible? you might wonder. Isn’t one’s deconversion simply the point at which they stop believing and their initial conversion reverses? And if this was finalized in the fall of 2012, then how could it continue for another 18 or 20 months???
Well, what I would now suggest is that the full process of deconversion may be a bit more complex than simple mental ascent. I would suggest that my deconversion actually includes several months of painful and hard-won emotional recovery. It includes months of trying to reconstruct all that I thought I had lost because of my faith. It includes a period where, believe it or not, I was convinced I no longer had anything worth living for, where I simply endured each day by looking forward to one binge of excessive indulgence after another. It was the very real need I felt to completely reconstruct my understanding of morality & ethics and purpose & meaning. It was me trying to discover who I was apart from my intense commitment to Jesus, trying to decipher the Real Me from everything else that had fallen away. It was my attempt to reignite my passions and dedications in the midst of a dearth of suffocated emotions.
These are not things that resulted from my deconversion. No, I think these are elements of the actual deconversion itself. Leaving religion behind is rarely as quick and easy as a post-Christmas department store return. And for some, it’s more like waking up to discover you’ve been in a decades-long coma that has stolen the majority of your now-much-older life. And it seems that in reality, the full deconversion experience is the process or realigning one’s entire life apart from religious belief. And in case it hasn’t been made clear yet, this is never as easy as we all wish it was.
Now, thankfully not all deconversion stories are as turbulent as mine. But wherever one finds herself along this continuum, it may be helpful to realize that the journey can take awhile. And my theory is that the more strongly one allows her own sense of personal identity to become intertwined with religious faith, the further her process of deconversion will extend beyond a simple acknowledgement of non-theism. It’s also the more sticky, turbulent, and chaotic it can all become. And the more it benefits from the voice of others who have likewise traveled such pathways.
Maybe the exact length of my deconversion matters. Or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe I’m just playing games with semantics and it doesn’t matter what we call it.
But one thing is clear. I have some more chapters to add.
I’ve already added two. They feature the full and gritty extent of those uneasy years that followed. But I’m not stopping there. I’m now adding a bit more on the beauty that has followed, on the freedom of thought, on the overflow of joy, and on the refreshing downpour of community that I’ve found in The Clergy Project.
And these may be the most important chapters yet. What began as a project on my own deconversion has now developed into a celebration of a Story Much Bigger Than My Own.
It’s also turned into one I’m that much more excited to share with everyone.
So until then, Tchau!