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Thread: Why is deconversion a long-term process, but conversions (sometimes) are quick?

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    Veteran Member Brian63's Avatar
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    Why is deconversion a long-term process, but conversions (sometimes) are quick?

    In either case, of a religious believer deconverting into a more secular view or a secularist converting into a religious view, the process is very difficult. It means having to rewrite how to think about the world, how to reinterpret past experiences and what they imply, how to reinterpret current and future experiences that we have, it all carries intense emotional pressure and strain on our minds. Existing relationships may become strained or lost, without any guarantee that new relationships with others can be formed. We can think we are alone. Our minds are simply stubborn and resist those risks and dangers. It requires a lot of emotional and psychological endurance in order to overcome it. The process takes a lot of time. In the years I have been in atheist circles, I cannot recall anyone describing how they went rapidly from becoming a theist (especially of fundamentalist varieties) to a nontheist practically overnight or in any similar short time frame. It is always a long struggle, grueling internal fight, and extended process. There may be significant moments which stick in a person's mind that propels them forward especially, but only temporarily. The process as a whole would not be completed in that one single swoop.

    In contrast, lots of Christians (I would say a significant minority of the converted) tell of how their life was at some psychological and emotional low point, and then they had a particular "finding Jesus" moment. They may recall the exact date even (which may be helped because some other notable event occurred). The actual full blown conversion and complete immersion into the Christian view may take months or years, but still, people can often point to a single event on a single day that not only that convinced them that God and Jesus were real, but they also adapted their lives around those notions in a very short time. They may fall to the floor and hold their hands to the sky and cry out to God for forgiveness, when just 24 hours earlier they did not give a shit about God and religion.

    Have you had encountered the same or other? What do you think would account for the asymmetry in how quickly our brains can change from one worldview to the other? The content of the worldview itself, the degree to which religious beliefs are integrated into the culture?
    Last edited by Brian63; 06-17-2019 at 02:57 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian63 View Post
    Have you had encountered the same or other? What do you think would account for the asymmetry in how quickly our brains can change from one worldview to the other? The content of the worldview itself, the degree to which religious beliefs are integrated into the culture?
    I think the main appeal of religion is emotional. The decision to hew to emotions at the cost of rational evaluation is made in a part of our brain we don't have much control over.

    The guy in Wernke's joke. Atheist in boot camp, bumped into him again a few months into Viet Nam. He was wearing a cross, a crucifix, a Star of David, talismans and symbols of a dozen different religions. "Dude, what happened?"
    "I... I BELIEVE!"
    "Believe in what, man, I can't tell."
    "I... I can't afford to take any chances!"

    Whatever the emotion, fear or love or hope or there's this really cute chick going into the Bible Studies class... The decision is made and presented as a fait accompli.

    In the other direction, there's resistance to dropping an emotionally satisfying belief, but the rational mind keeps finding problems. Chips away at the belief a tiny bit at a time.

    Although sometimes it's emotional in that direction, too.
    Mom died, God didn't save her, God's a dick, I am going to withhold belief to punish Him. We'll call it atheism, because there's no term for angry belief suspension reflex.

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    Veteran Member James Brown's Avatar
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    Pascal's Wager, isn't it? The old, "What if I'm wrong?" argument. The risks are greater in shedding supernatural belief--particularly if said beliefs promise eternal punishments for error.

    People feel the pain of loss greater than the equivalent gain, even in ordinary circumstances such as small monetary bets. When my eternal soul is at stake, I'll take more time to make absolutely sure.

    On the other hand, in my case, my conversion wasn't a quick process. I had been raised in a church, so I had seven years of message reinforcement before the trigger event that prompted me to pray the sinner's prayer. But my deconversion occurred in about a year.

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    Mazzie Daius fromderinside's Avatar
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    Looking back across four church memberships I realize I never was a believer. So 'conversion' was never in the cards.

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    Are religious conversions all really that sudden? Most sudden conversions that i know of seem to bappen to two types of people. 1. Drug addicts-we've all heard of this. 2. Someone who has gone to church 3 times a week forever and then suddenly the preacherman puts it in their heads that theyre not reeeeeallllllyyyyy saaaaaavvvvvveeeeeeeedddddd!.

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    Veteran Member Brian63's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by masterpeastheater View Post
    Are religious conversions all really that sudden?
    No.

    The OP and even thread title emphasized that it was not an all-encompassing declaration, but moreso a generalization. I have no statistical data to back it up, only anecdotal observations of some religious Christians describing their conversion that way (as being a very quick event, on a particular date). In contrast, I cannot recall any secularist describing their deconversion as being that similarly quick.

    Has anyone else encountered deconversions with that quality, or even experienced it themselves?

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    Has anyone else encountered deconversions with that quality, or even experienced it themselves?
    A former neighbor of mine deconverted instantly when his young son died during a sudden, short illness. The man was very religious, and prayed for his child, but his child died anyway. The man instantly realized that he had been fooled into believing in something that didn't exist.

    The grandmother of the child remains religious. So different experiences affect individuals in different ways.

    I guess it's more common for it to take longer to change if you've been heavily indoctrinated. While I didn't go from conservative Christian to atheist overnight. I did go from conservative Christian to agnostic Christian literally over night. Then I took a long, and interesting look at other religions before I realized my atheism. I enjoyed my journey very much, so I think of it as a very positive experience.

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    Don't discount the toxic connotation of 'atheist'. I've never believed in any religious orthodoxy whatever, but, living in the Midwest, I never self-identified (aloud) as atheist until I was in my forties. To a large mass of my countrymen, it is a hateful label, and to another, more liberal bunch, it has a harsh and radical sound -- I'm speaking of the folks who much prefer agnostic and who are quick to put forth hacky statements about atheism being arrogant. Atheists are most likely undercounted and true believers overcounted, because it is too easy to tell pollsters a comfortable lie. Hence the misty and near-meaningless concept of the 'nones' in religious polling. They sure are 'nones'!! The nones range from 'I'm very spiritual, but don't find what I need in any church' to the stone cold atheists.

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    Why is alcohol/nicotine/caffeine addiction such a quick and easy process but rehab and getting clean such a long difficult process?

    Sometimes people get a "fix" from religion. Usually an emotional fix. Reconciling the emotional high with the irrational inconsistencies isn't easy. Recognizing that "feeling good" isn't always good for us is a challenge. Deliberately choosing to ditch the "high" in pursuit of better "health" takes a great deal of effort.

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    Formerly Joedad
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    I think the reason is as simple as understanding why kids stop believing in Santa.

    Think about it for a second. When a kid hears that maybe Santa isn't real what does he do? He talks about it and asks questions of other people. Maybe he googles Santa on the internet. What does he find out? He finds that lots of other people that don't believe Santa is real, and that makes it okay to forget about Santa belief.

    That doesn't happen with religious belief in the US. In some countries deciding that religion isn't worth the time or that gods aren't real or that there's a better more truthful version of god can get you punished, excluded, killed, etc. Even questioning it is taboo and most often met with ridicule and rejection.

    So I think it's pretty easy to understand.

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