Introducing The Healthy Deconversion Project
You were curious about your faith so you began to examine it more closely. Doubts gave way to basic questions which led you on a quest for knowledge. Before you knew it, you began to ask the big questions and to follow the evidence wherever it led. You tried your best to to keep your faith intact as you discovered new information and you created space for uncertainty but despite your best effort…
…your faith failed you.
Initially you thought there must be something wrong with you, but you came to understand it wasn’t so much a personal crisis of faith as it was your religion’s crisis of truth.
“I hate to use the term ‘crisis of faith’ because it’s disempowering—I like to say, ‘awakening to the church’s truth crisis.’” —Jeremy Runnells
Like so many others, you found the deconversion process to be both disorienting and full of potential. You’re not sure you would choose this path again if it were a choice, and yet you can’t imagine living any other way. Some days you mourn the loss of innocence, other days you celebrate this new awareness.
Deconversions are messy.
The lost years weigh heavy on you as you orient towards a new life beyond belief. It’s not just the time you spent promoting ideas you no longer hold – it’s the education you didn’t pursue, the unexplored career path, and the dreams you didn’t allow yourself to dream. You realize just how much of your life was spent in the service of someone else’s values, living out an imposed morality, doing what was expected. It’s heavier still as you come to terms with the reality that this life is the only one you get…
This. One. Life.
You’re intimately familiar with the anger cresting on waves of disappointment, disillusionment, and betrayal. Anger has served you well in clarifying what matters to you underneath the pain—now you’re ready to move towards these values you’ve identified.
You’ve done all the bargaining you’re willing to do and still maintain your integrity. It’s not an easy conclusion to reach, but you’re okay with not knowing what you don’t know.
It takes more courage than faith to look your mortality in the eye without turning away—it’s a humbling experience and one that infuses life with meaning.
Deconversions are deeply personal and yet you notice yours rippling out into your relationships and social networks. You’re aware of the social and relational risk that go along with living out your values in ways that are congruent with the person you want to be in the world.
Social groups have been an important part of the human experience, and evolutionarily speaking, have played a central role in our survival which is why being rejected often feels like a life-and-death prospect. While losing the support of your social network can be devastating in today’s world, your survival instinct is screaming, “we’re going to die!”
Setting aside the visceral experience of your threat-detecting brain, you still value community and wonder if it’s possible to cross the us-versus-them divide. Will you transform into a dehumanizing stereotype once you venture away from your in-group? Is there room in the secular community for you and your post-theist baggage? Can one exist in the space in between?
You didn’t have any idea it would be this difficult.
You’ve seen the sleight of hand behind the magic and there’s no unseeing the illusion now. What will replace the wonder you once felt and will being with what is ever feel as comforting as praying away your uncertainty? On a cognitive level you’ve accepted this new reality but viscerally it’s difficult to be with your experience.
You’ve lost things that were never there and can’t help but grieve their absence.
Who was that believing version of you? Who is this person now standing here in the harsh light of reality looking unflinchingly at your humanity in the mirror?
Does this feel familiar?
You’ve joined online support groups and found connection in the stories of others. You realize you’re not alone and it’s healing to have your experience validated by a community of post-theists.
And yet you still feel stuck.
You wonder…are you just being impatient with yourself? Does it have to be this difficult? Is there a better way?
I’ve been there…and some days I’m still there. Since my own deconversion I’ve been asking these questions and exploring ways to reduce the suffering around deconversions and navigate this transition more effectively. This work has become a personal and professional passion of mine and inspired what I’m calling…
The Healthy Deconversion Project.
I’ll be sharing more in the coming weeks and would love to keep you updated as this project develops. At its core, the Healthy Deconversion Project is forward focused and interested in the, “…and then what?” question. If this is the one life we have, let’s find ways to be present with our experience while moving in the direction of what matters to us.
It’s easy to get stuck in relationship to beliefs we no longer hold or find useful.
Several years after the “intellectual stage” of my deconversion I realized I was stuck. I no longer believed the dogma of my religious upbringing but I continued to struggle with former beliefs and the impact of fundamentalism persisted in my life in unworkable ways.
In graduate school I was introduced to psychological processes that functioned as an antidote to fundamentalism. Applying these principles to my life marked the beginning of significant progress in my deconversion process. Over the past 6 years I’ve continued to embrace openness and curiosity as I explore new ways of being human after religion. This past year I opened my private practice so I could devote more time and energy to serving others who are navigating deconversions.
The Healthy Deconversion Project draws from my personal and clinical experience and is informed by evidence-based principles I’ve adapted to the unique challenges of deconversions. This work has become my passion and I’m excited to share it with you!
Here are a few of the things in the works:
LIVE Online Workshops
- A Podcast
- A Proactive Support Community
- Deconversion Coaching
- Online Courses
- Resources for Clinicians
- So much more…
-Brian Peck, LCSW