Taken from a forum I now frequent. Content is mine except the comment I respond to:
Do you really believe that everyone lost their faith due to a personal decision? I never saw you answer Positivists rejection of this assertion by you. I will take it up with you if you stopped because of her limited time.
As far as my personal opinion, yes. But I admit that I could be wrong about that. Only the people who have been through this situation can answer this question honestly for themselves.
I “feel” ( this one’s for you Realist) that religion and faith are separate. This is the difference. if someone decides for them self that GOD does not exist and choose to live without faith in Him. That is a decision. Of course, this may be based upon their own observations and their conclusion of “lack of evidence.” But faith is not religion and religion is not faith.
I am fairly certain you are wrong about that, at least for a subset of ex-Christians. I never made the decision that God does not exist, anymore than I made the decision that the sky is blue. I wanted to believe in God. I was desperate to believe in God. I spent probably five of the last six years of my life first trying to keep my faith in God and then to subsequently regain it. I have spared very little in the way of time and mental effort towards this goal, including subjecting myself to constant emotionally painful stimuli. I have wept for God, begged for God, bargained for God, pleaded for God, strugggled for God, and shouted for God. I have been angry, grief stricken, and longing for God. At no point in all of this has the response deviated from a profound, and what I have now come to conclude to be a very telling silence.
Do you believe in Thor? Or Zeus? What about Shiva or the God that spoke to Mohammad? My result was the same as if I had been talking to one of these non-existent gods. Now, I blamed myself for a very long time, but you start to wonder, why am I getting these results? Why isn’t God demonstrating his goodness and helping me in my desperation to know him and be with him? And the doubts begin to peek in. You try to squash them as soon as they appear, but they are persistent, and as long as the cracks in the walls of your belief are their, they can get in and begin to multiply, whether you wish to entertain them or not. Soon enough, you can’t stamp them all out, they’re more numerous and stronger. It is all you can do to beat them back and keep them at bay. But the perimeter of your faith keeps shrinking and the doubts continue to encroach more and more. You start to grow weary of the constant battle, wondering how much longer you can keep it up without reinforcement, without help from this Good God from whom your only demand is that he let his presence be known. And even this, your demand isn’t selfish, it isn’t to enrich yourself, but merely to help you be faithful, to continue believing in this God, it is out of your love for this God. But it doesn’t come, and day by day you beat a slow and weary retreat until there is no more space behind you. The end isn’t grand. It isn’t noble. It is a sad, quiet death, fitting for the futile struggle you have been waging this whole time, waging and waging in the hopes that if you can just hold out long enough, God will come in and rescue you, restore you, and all will be set right. But he never comes, and perhaps the last thought you have in your Christian life is the realization that he will never come, and your heart breaks as your faith slips out of your tired grasp and the life you had dies with it.
Do you know how destructive it is, having who you are, your very identity, ripped away from you, torn out of your unwilling hands and crushed before your eyes? Perhaps you do, and if you do, then there should be no reason for you to entertain the notion that people would willingly do this to themselves. The path leading out from Christianity is not always like this, but it is true for many. I wasn’t angry at God. I wasn’t angry at Christians, or Christianity, or my church. I was happy with all of them. I wanted to keep my life of faith in Jesus Christ. I wasn’t bitter or rebellious. I didn’t have any secret sins I wanted to maintain but which Christianity wouldn’t allow. My whole family, friends, and associates were Christian. My whole life to that point had been Christian. What choice was I given? Where was God to keep things in balance so I could even make a choice? I was an unwilling participant in my own deconversion, and if there is anyone who did have a choice, it was God. So I guess you are right, I did have a choice. I could believe that God is an evil fuck who doesn’t give a shit about his pawns on Earth and only uses them for his own amusement (I’d have precedence considering the book of Job), or I could stop believing in God. I chose to stop believing. Do you think I made the right decision?