So many friends have lost their faith that ‘deconversion’ is an issue of existential importance to me. I came across this interesting (unfinished?) series on it by Bradley Wright et al. These scholars examined fifty deconversion stories on a website of ex-Christians, and looked for patterns and convergences in the self-descriptions of why people had left their faith.
They found a lot of the subjects emphasising intellectual problems with Christianity – from the genocide of Noah’s flood to the unfairness of hell. (I suspect that this would not hold true for a more representative and less computer-savvy, wordy sample.) Another common theme was God failing them – not answering prayers, not being true to his promises, not being apparent in any real way. The third main theme was other Christians responding tritely to their doubts. That makes me angry – I can imagine what they’re talking about. Believers who cannot appreciate the problems with Christianity have no business being unsympathetic or dismissive of their brothers and sisters who can. Ironically, so many evangelicals, particularly, would be dismissive of doubt in their zeal to not allow in a sliver of unbelief – and yet this response has only pushed doubters further out of the fold.
The academic article is available free from the Journal of Religion and Society.
It’s my theory that this study misses the silent majority of deconverters, who would not be able to articulate their drift from Christianity so clearly and for whom social factors are just as important: teenagers not fitting into their church youth group; adults finding churches to be uniformly disappointing.