When Christians Question Our Mental Capability to Change our Beliefs

I’ve noticed an interesting trend since my deconversion a few years ago: When we become Christians, we are commended for making a wise decision. Even if we were indoctrinated from an early age and were never shown alternative beliefs as viable options, people rarely question whether or not our decision to become a Christian was based on manipulation, coercion, social pressure, or whether it was used as a crutch during difficult times. However, when we stop believing and become atheists, the first thing some Christians do is question our mental capabilities and our ability to understand our decision.

Here are questions that atheists are regularly asked when they leave their religious faith and openly come out as a non-believer to their religious loved ones. If these same questions were asked of recently converted Christians, they would certainly (and understandably) be considered offensive.

  • “Did someone influence, manipulate, pressure, or coerce you to make that decision? Who in your life convinced you to believe that way?”
  • “Have you really thought it through?”
  • “What trauma or difficult life event caused you to believe this way?”

And then there are the equally offensive assumptions:

  • “You must be deceived by the devil. Your mind has been taken over by demonic influences.”
  • “It’s just a phase, you’ll come back when you’ve come to your senses.”
  • “You must never have been a Christian in the first place; you must have been mistaken about how sincere of a believer you actually were.”

Basically, if you choose to be a Christian, it’s automatically assumed that you’re mentally capable of making that decision without coercion or manipulation involved. If you choose to stop being a Christian, suddenly your mental capabilities, decision-making abilities, and the validity of your deconversion itself are called into question.

Smart, mentally capable people choose Christianity- mentally deficient, damaged, easily influenced people choose atheism. That’s the overwhelming message I received when I came out as an atheist. 

In the words of Adrian Black (see his blog here), another atheist I know who recently came out publicly and whose mental capability was immediately questioned right off the bat:

“Dismissing my decision as something I was coerced, tricked, or forced into is very much questioning my mental ability to decide for myself. It’s amazed me in the times I have been questioned about this how quickly people forget who they’re talking too. To think that I would flippantly justify or be misled on this of all things… If you are looking for the person who persuaded or coerced me, who broke the shackles of my belief, than look here. I am the one who challenged myself… as I always have.