Deconstruction vs. Deconversion

In recent years you may have seen buzz words like “deconstruction” and/or “deconversion” pop up online in regards to religious faith (usually Evangelical Christian faith). At first glance, these two terms may appear to mean the same thing. But they are actually quite different.

In a religious context, “deconstruction” refers to the process in which a person takes apart and re-evaluates the specific components of the faith they were raised in. A believer who is “deconstructing” is critically analyzing and questioning the beliefs that they formerly took for granted, and then deciding if there are any parts that they would like to discard (or modify) based on their life experience to this point, or what seems most true to them now.

“Deconversion”, on the other hand, refers to a person’s choice to no longer identify or affiliate with a specific religion at all (i.e. no longer identify as a Christian). Essentially, deconstruction is a process, and deconversion is one possible end-result of that process. But not all people who deconstruct choose to then deconvert. Many people choose only to discard or reframe the parts of their belief system that they find harmful or untrue but continue to remain in their faith or religion.

My personal deconstruction process took me all the way to deconversion, and beyond! What started as simply some doubts led me on a truth-seeking mission that I assumed would result in me becoming a stronger Christian. To my surprise, this journey led me further away from my belief system instead. I became skeptical of organized religion as a whole, then lost my belief in any kind of afterlife, then became brave enough to no longer identify as a Christian (deconversion), and eventually decided that the label “agnostic atheist” feels the most fitting for how I identify today. (Side note: Using a label feels right for me, but you should feel absolutely no pressure to label yourself as ANYTHING if you don’t want to!)

If you are on (or have been through) your own deconstruction journey, I’m so proud of you! These journeys can be hard, sad and scary while you’re in the midst of them. But I absolutely commend you for listening to your gut, trusting yourself, and thinking critically! The beauty of the deconstruction process is that you can’t do it wrong! You get to end up wherever you personally end up, and you always reserve the right to change your mind as you gain more life experience and learn new information! The most important part of the deconstruction journey is that you tune into your own inner wisdom and follow your own personal intuition, no matter how scary that can feel or how much others might not understand what feels true to you.

I’d like to leave you with a quote from one of my favorite atheist orators/authors, the late Christopher Hitchens. (One of the final stages of my own deconstruction journey was going down a rabbit hole of his recorded public debates on YouTube. His knowledge, intelligence, articulateness and courage to identify publicly as an atheist was incredibly validating, healing, and empowering for me.) The following is actually the closing statement he made at a debate on religion at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Dallas, Texas, in 2010, as he was dying of cancer:

"Take the risk of thinking for yourself. Much more happiness, truth, beauty and wisdom will come to you that way."