John Marriott: A Recipe For Disaster

20 Questions With a Believer, Atheism, Authors, Critique of Apologetics, Deconversion, Podcast
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My guest this week is John Marriott. We are talking about deconversion from the Christian perspective. John is the Director of Global Learning and teaches in the department of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Biola University. John did his PhD dissertation focused on deconversion from Christianity to atheism. He has written a book on deconversion called “A Recipe For Disaster,” which is directed to the Church on the ways they are setting up believers to lose their faith.

I define [faith] as having enough reasons for a hope worth acting on.
I think there enough reasons for me to act on this [faith].

I first came across John’s work in an interview he did with Randal Rauser. I was struck by the honesty and clarity that he had in describing deconversion. In particular this quote:

Something similar underwrites a significant percentage of deconversions. The biblical narrative that once easily fit within their childlike understanding of reality began to get squeezed out as they matured in their understanding of reality. The stories in the Bible about miracles, witches, giants, demons, etc. began to feel as out of place as Santa. To resolve the problems they may seek answers that will allow them to continue to believe in such things as adults in the 21st century. This is the experience not just of those who deconvert but all educated, reflective Christians today. I suspect that even for those that do remain Christians, the cognitive dissonance never completely goes away, it just has been reduced to a level that allows them to continue to believe. For deconverts however, the cognitive dissonance is not sufficiently assuaged by apologetics. It grows despite their efforts and reaches a tipping point. As in the case with Santa, the only way to resolve the tension is to admit what they know is true. God does not exist.

John proved to be as honest in person as he is in his writing. He met me in an honesty contest and we found points of agreement on what it is like to deconvert. Even though we disagree on the conclusions we were able to have a vital conversation.

The reason why I believe it is there is enough evidence for me that I find it persuasive. I don’t find the counter-arguments conclusive so there is sufficient and adequate reason for me.
But why do I find it sufficient and adequate? That is the real question.
And to answer that question it is so complicated:
there are personal reasons
there are sociological reasons
there are emotional reasons
of course there are some rational reasons
but at the end of the day we’re are so much more than mere Cartesian thinking machines.
To be able to say well “I am a Christian because its the truth and it is true because the evidence points in that direction so clearly and I have reasoned it out this way.” Is I think naive in how we actually go about forming our beliefs.

This is a 20 Questions with a Believer episode. John and I take turns asking each other questions and then crucially allowing the other person to answer.



Randal Rauser interview



Deconversion and How to Deconvert

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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

2 thoughts on “John Marriott: A Recipe For Disaster

  1. Really good conversation, David, thanks for having John on.

    It was refreshing to have you both provide thoughtful critique toward your respective “own sides”.

    One point that would have been interesting to pursue is: if John thinks one can be reasonable in deconverting, what does that say about what god wants from us or at least, is willing to tolerate of us? Surely if deconverting is an unforgiveable sin, so many people wouldn’t be allowed to slide out over time without a fight? But if it is forgiveable, then there’s no need to be a Christian under false pretense.

    Thanks again, Bryan


    1. Bryan,

      Sorry it has taken so long for me to respond. This is an astute observation and a great question I hope to pose to John in any future encounter. I am currently reading his new book he referenced, “Anatomy of Deconversion,” and I hope to have him back on to discuss it. I am compiling similar questions while I am reading John’s book. “If reasonable people deconvert and leave reluctantly, but subsequently experience freedom and joy, what does that tell us about Christianity?”

      But ultimately you have discovered my secret which is this: When I have on believers and particularly apologists, I let them explain their perspective without trying to poke holes in it at the time, and then observant listeners, like yourself, notice the holes that are inherent in the apologetic argument.

      But as apologists go, John seems to be an honest and sincere one. He genuinely cares for the deconverts he has interviewed and he is not interested in blaming them. For that I am grateful.

      Liked by 1 person

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