Adapted from this older post.
Deconversion is essential to the religious liberty of every man, woman and child. We must deconvert from every god that man has imagined. If humanity is to be free from the tyrannical rule of God: God must die. This is the most basic claim of orthodox Christianity.
Christopher Hitchens often made the following kinds of remarks about religion’s “permanent, unalterable dictatorship”:
An eternal North Korea is, he says, religion’s idea of heaven. But it’s Hitchens’ idea of hell (probably ours too!).
But which God is he imagining ruling over this kingdom of heaven? He’s imagining a greedy dictator, a cosmic leech, an almighty sink-hole of need. Of course, if that were true, eternity would feel like a drain! Our lives on earth would be bad enough.
I was a “doer of the word and not a hearer only.” I went to a Christian college, majored in Religion/Philosophy, became ordained and served in a pastoral capacity in three California churches. I personally led many people to Jesus Christ, and encouraged many young people to consider full-time Christian service.
But one day he de-converted to find liberation from this Almighty Surveillance System:
“For my whole life there had been this giant eyeball looking at me, this god, this holy spirit, this church history, and this Bible. And not only everything I did but everything I thought was being judged: Was God pleased? I realized that that wasn’t there anymore. It occurred to me, ‘I own these thoughts. Nobody knows what I’m thinking right now. There’s no fear of hell, no fear of judgment, I don’t have to be right or wrong, I can just be me.’” (Source)
Once God was dead, Barker was free. It was “exhilarating”, he said. You can imagine it was something of a Hallelujah moment. The death of God always is! Mischievously, I wonder whether Barker wishes such exultation could go on forever…
It’s interesting that Barker had this revelation while out in the beauty of nature and looking up at the ‘heavens’. I mention his location because it’s very similar to John Bunyan’s de-conversion experience, three centuries earlier.
He too was labouring under the feeling that heaven was a spiritual North Korea. He felt the “giant eyeball” very keenly and it was a heavy oppression. But one day he also de-converted from his old religion…
“As I was passing in the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience . . . suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, “Thy righteousness is in heaven”; and, methought withal, I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God’s right hand, there, I say, is my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was a-doing, God could not say of me, He wants [lacks] my righteousness, for that was just before him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, the same yesterday and today for ever (Heb. 13:8).”
“Now did my chains fall from my legs indeed, I was loosed from my affliction and irons, my temptations also fled away, so that from that time, those dreadful scriptures of God left off to trouble me; now also went I home rejoicing for the grace and love of God.”
Notice the exhilarating effect of the death of God! When Bunyan grasps the implications of God the Lamb he finds instant freedom from religious afflictions and even from “those dreadful scriptures of God.” Even Bunyan’s language mirrors the de-conversion experiences related so often on today’s atheist websites.
I’ve met many an atheists on the internet – especially those from the kinds of religious environments that Bunyan experienced in the 17th century. Countless times I’ve heard de-conversion stories about finding release from a greedy god, from judgementalism, from hypocrisy, from the guilt, shame and fear of their religious upbringing. I feel their pain. I also grew up in church. I also laboured under the tyranny of an imagined god. I also felt the eye-ball in the sky. I also found release in de-conversion.
But there’s two kinds of de-conversion. There are two kinds of death-of-God experience.
Bunyan de-converts from a God-of-Demand and finds a God-Who-Is-Giver. The death of God means, for Bunyan, looking to the cross. There He sees the LORD Jesus giving Himself utterly – pouring out His life for the world. There He sees that God is not greedy – God is Giver. This is the vision that changes him.
Barker de-converts from a God-of-Demand and finds, what? Only other powers. Selfish powers. Uncaring powers. What lies ‘at bottom’ in this universe in the atheist vision? ’Blind, pitiless indifference’ if you ask Dawkins. Barker is de-converted towards powers that will only judge and crush us in the end.
His exhilaration can only be short-lived. He’s only traded one tyranny for another. But with Jesus, the death of God is our salvation. And it might just make you want to sing “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain.” (Revelation 5:12). That’s the song of heaven – because heaven is a celebration of the grace, not the greed, of God.