Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Eric Bain-Selbo (Director), Aaron Wichman, Paul Markham

Degree Program

Department of Philosophy & Religion

Degree Type

Master of Arts


In this thesis, I explore the psychological and experiential aspects of the shift from a supernatural theistic worldview (specifically born-again Christianity) to a
philosophically naturalistic and atheistic worldview in the context of the religious
landscape in the U.S. I posit that certain features of this transition, which is known as "deconversion,” can be thought of as potentially analogous, both psychologically and subjectively, to the experience of another's death as an objective environmental change. I provide anthropological and psychological evidence that believers often experience the God of born-again Christianity as an independently existing and active agent in the world. The similarities between human relationships and God relationships provide the foundation for the claim that loss of these relationships potentially constitute similar experiences, respectively. Both shifts (deconversion and death) share a number of similarities. For example, they both feature a reduction in the number of entities that are believed perceived as having minds (i.e., theory of mind determinations). Also, both shifts require a re-understanding of purpose and meaning in the world (i.e., teleological reasoning). I explore each of these shifts in detail. Finally, I show that the interpretation of the deconversion experience as analogous to the experience of death has implications for the public dialogue between Christians and atheists.


Christianity | Philosophy | Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion