I have often thought about how closely my de-conversion followed the stages of grief described by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Wondering if I was alone, I googled stages of grief in atheist deconversion. It turns out that many atheists go through a similar experience. At the top of my search, I found a wonderfully written post over at de-conversion.com that comes very close to mirroring my experience with the stages of grief. In the post, “the Chaplain” takes us through denial, anger, shock and acceptance. I think her thoughts on the anger section were particularly interesting:
Then, I went through the anger stage. The most intense moments of this phase came when I learned that the “virgin birth” verse in Matthew is mistranslated. Translating the Hebrew text as “young woman” rather than “virgin” makes a huge difference doctrinally (regardless of NT Wright’s assertion to the contrary). The standard Christian apologists’ assurances that all of the Bible’s translation errors are minor (simple numerical discrepancies, etc.) and have no bearing on doctrine is flat-out wrong! And when I read, in several sources (Including his own writings), that St. Jerome knew that the translation was wrong, but offered some twisted logic for preserving the error, I was furious. I read about how an early Church father (perhaps it was Eusebius?) doctored the writings of Josephus so that they would appear to confirm more explicitly the life and ministry of Jesus. And I read much more that confirmed by non-belief. Even though I was furious with Christian preachers and teachers, much of my anger was directed at myself. How could I have been so stupid? Why didn’t I see through this stuff before? I’m a well-educated woman living in the 21st century. How could I have gone decades without recognizing that religious doctrine is all speculation? That none is any more correct than any other? None of the biblical writers really knew what they were writing about. None of the Church fathers or reformers through the ages knew what they were teaching to be factual. And contemporary Christian scholars don’t actually know what they’re talking and writing about either. It’s all guesswork, wishful thinking and ready acceptance of the traditions of our forebears. Every bit of it.
As in the Chaplain’s experience, I moved beyond anger and into the other stages – the most notable difference being that I also experienced a bit of depression over the loss of my (and my loved one’s) mortality.
That was over a year ago and, like with many losses, I moved on and put it behind me. I’m definitely going through more “stages” – but they are much less about atheism than they are about figuring out what I want for my life and how I want to contribute to life on planet earth – the really fun part!