Another Reflection on Emergence

It’s popular in secular circles to share stories of “deconstruction.”  I’ve written on this before, but when I heard the word again today in a conversation between two scholars who left their faith over a period of time, I realized once again that I would not use that term for myself.

“Deconstructing” or “dismantling” one’s religious views sounds too solid and impersonal to me.  As if our lives are “built,” constructed with hammers and nails, with concrete foundations.  That feels too material to me, though our flesh, blood and brain is surely material.  Yet, we are living beings who don’t dismantle our bodies, but we do change our minds, our beliefs.  I get the image, but it doesn’t work for me.

I prefer the term “emergence”–an evolution, a more organic growth from one stage of life to another.  Consider these rhododendron flowers I saw today:

Stages of emerging, from protective shell of leaves, to pushing out into the light (light of reason, freedom).  I find this natural image more creative and human than describing life as a structure, or faith as a “thing” to take apart or discard (I fully understand the intellectual need to “tear down” theologies when they’ve been “built into” us over a period of years … especially when they are rotted and dangerous to remain inside).

With each individual’s unique emergence, there is both an emergency and an urgency.  Difficult decisions are made; restrictive mindsets or lifestyles are pushed aside or drop like dead leaves.  It’s not so much a structure, a building of beliefs, that is taken apart (though I can see some value in the analogy), as a liberation to a fresh flowering of our humanity, mind and body.

Those are today’s thoughts.

What are yours?

Categories: AtheismTags: , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Yes, you make an excellent case for the technical importance of your term of “emergence” over “deconstruction.”

  2. I like the word emergence, Chris although I first heard of the term in Grad School associated with “consciousness emerging” from all of our wiring and mental collections. I will think on using the word which will replace “deconversion” or sometimes I say in Seminary reading Honest to God by Bishop Robinson, “the damn dam finally broke and I flowed out into a free flowing river”. Maybe to stay with the metaphor I might consider “I flowed over the spillway but my faith stayed behind”. That is a flowing type of emergence wouldn’t you say? It was many years in developing, with many cracks forming before, but the kicker was sitting in the Fuller Seminary Chapel and remembering Joshua, so I put out my faith fleece and asked for a sign….nothing happened after several hours and I started to get sleepy. I guess the scripture that says ask and you shall receive only is relevant for filling the dam, not emptying it. Jacob wrestled with god and I would have considered that but never recognized Jahweh at any matches or on the mat.

    I am now emerging from my writing and headed off to the bed, to lay my head down and drift into sleep. Cheers,

    • Love the river analogy, Marty, much more organic and freethinker-like! Another may be the old Plato story of the cave.

      • Personally Chris, I prefer the river of life, as the cave to me seems isolated and listening to only your cave people sycophants. I have used the cave metaphor not platonically as what has happened on the internet and social media over listening and talking the public sphere which is pluralistic and relational face to face. One can actually see physically whom you are addressing. Anonymity breeds non-empathetic responses. The polarization in the US to me is a form of “caving in” to Fox news or Woke meetings on-line hearing over and over “we have the truth”, so ignore or fight any contrary opinions. We all do this naturally with confirmation bias, but caving eliminates any challenge to your self-serving beliefs. So a river it is, it has trout and keeps moving until it floods then, you best be on land.

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