I enjoy hearing deconversion stories -- how people changed from being religious believers into atheists or agnostics.
But "conversion" and "deconversion" are two sides of the same coin. Everybody who is converted to a faith, such as Christianity, was simultaneously deconverted from some other philosophy, belief system, religion, or point of view.
Our lives are ever-changing. When change stops, we're dead. So it's natural to convert, deconvert, convert, deconvert... for as long as we're alive.
I converted to mueslix for a while, then deconverted to granola. Now I've converted to raisin bran. (Leaving out many other earlier cereal choices, such as Kix and Wheaties.)
However, religious conversions and deconversions are considerably more meaningful to most people than other sorts of changes from one kind of like to another.
I'm not particularly interested in why someone alters their breakfast habit, but a thoughtful You Tube video about deconverting from Christianity held my interest for nine minutes and thirty-two seconds.
The guy's central point is his realization that everything he ascribed to God made just as much sense (more, really) if there simply is no God.
What happens, in my personal experience, is an encrustation process. Years of believing in a religious teaching form a mental drip, drip, drip akin to how water flowing through mineral deposits slowly creates stalactites and stalagmites in a cave.
Thoughts build upon thoughts, concepts build upon concepts, emotions build upon emotions, devotion builds upon devotion, experiences build upon experiences.
My guru, Charan Singh, was fond of saying "We are unable to look upon simple things in a simple way." But he really didn't practice what he preached, because the Sant Mat philosophy and cosmology that he taught is quite complex.
Complexity isn't undesirable if it reflects reality.
However, if notions are added on to a situation that doesn't require them -- like assuming that the sun rises every morning because a god decrees this should happen -- then we're running afoul of Occam's Razor.
Which is basically the KISS adage: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
I'm not sure whether I'm wiser now than I used to be. For sure, though, I'm different. A friend recently shared with me some photos he'd taken of a thirty-something Brian (more like 29, probably, since I know two of the photos were taken in 1977).
Here I am with my first wife, Sue, shortly after we moved to Salem, Oregon. She's looking at me thoughtfully with a smile that says... I don't know what it says. Regardless, whatever I was saying undoubtedly deserved bemusement (and amusement).
This 1977 photo was taken in India at the headquarters ("Dera") of the spiritual group, Radha Soami Satsang Beas, that I belonged to for over thirty years. I'm the guy in a white shirt with my chin on my hand -- at the one o'clock position in the circle.
I was listening to one of the old-timers at the Dera. I recall how much sense he made. That was then, this is now. Change happens.
I'm the white-shirted guy on the right side of the group. It was nice to be so close to the guru, just a few feet away. And at his feet, literally.
Looking back, I really can't say that I consciously and willfully decided to convert to Sant Mat in 1970. Nor can I say that I consciously and willfully decided to deconvert after 2000.
I simply changed. Naturally. Uncontrollably.
This morning I was reading Jay Michaelson's "Everything is God" and came across this passage.
Naturally, since spiritual practice takes a lot of time and effort, and since it gets sneered at by many smart people, those of us who do it spend a lot of time explaining why it's so important.
Not just something we want to do, and not just something which helps life be a little juicier, a little more meaningful -- but really Important. Thus one hears all the time that "the purpose of our being here is to awaken to who we are," or that people who aren't "awake" aren't truly happy.
Nonsense. That's just the New Age version of Jews thinking they're the only Chosen People, or Christians thinking that only Christ can save you.
Spiritual practice is about letting go, and that includes forgoing justification, specialness, pleasure, power, particularism, ego. At some point, it might be better to just admit that we are doing what we want to do, because any holding on to a sense of purpose is going to be counter-productive.
...Admit it all, and say so what. Let Being simply be what it is, whatever it is, without label or ascription, without looking for God, labeling an experience as God, or in any way claiming something is or isn't God.
And then, what might you notice? Perhaps a tone of relaxation, a quieting in the mind. The sound of the breeze, the feel of the air, ordinary sights of trees and sky. In other words -- whether God is delusion or not, your experience would be the same.
Conversion. Deconversion. No big deal.
We're simply doing what we want to do, without really understanding why or how we're doing it.