The Hidden Value Our Words


Jim Dells

In our world there are some words and phrases that I don’t like.  While I comprehend the pragmatic approach to creating and using words of a common understanding, there are a few words or phrases out there that are either not being correctly used or have been adopted into use in a manner inconsistent with their essence.


This is a simple rant about words that bother me, which you are free to disagree.  A common detractor may argue that it’s really no big deal or merely a matter of semantics.  Sure, you can go that route and simply dismiss my favor towards deliberate use of language if you wish.  But the hard truth is that our words matter.  When one opens up a conversation it is basically a waste of time to use words incorrectly, even if there is a common understanding of the definition.  Wrong words cause confusion and, more damningly, poor words leave an easily exploitable chink in one’s armor.

Without further ado, the most cringe worthy word that I hear over and over is “deconversion”.   That word is about the same as saying “dethought” or “demorph”.  In the context of religion or spirituality, transformation from an evil sinner into the clean pious person should never be considered the only “conversion” one may undertake.  To do so is to give undeserving credit to the pro-mysticism stance on religion.  In the same thread, to go from a spiritual or religious belief to agnostic or atheistic framework is simply another conversion, not an undoing of anything. In other words, once you have a thought you can still have another thought, and they most certainly may contradict.  And when you do have another thought it’s not necessary to unthink the old thought.  To say dethought or unthink is totally sloppy language.  Similarly, it is sloppy to say “deconvert” when talking about a change from one religion, political belief, viewpoint, etc., to another.

A change of attitude, emotion, or viewpoint from one of indifference, disbelief, or antagonism to one of acceptance, understanding, or enthusiastic support, especially such a change in a person’s religion is most appropriately described as a “conversion”.  There shall be no unspoken value to the word “conversion” as if it always or necessarily means converting from the naïve non-believer (most often case would be a child lacking the wherewithal to object) to one of faith in sky wizards or a miracle man.  To even imply such is self-deprecating when spoken by an atheist.  Conversion, in its most genuine form, means the act or process of change in character, form, or function.  Even if one were so inclined to define “conversion” so narrowly as only the act of going from the wicked to the righteous, I would rebut that the definition of who is wicked and who is righteous would correctly define the transition of a person from following the god of the bible to not – we were once wicked and now we are not.  In sum, the only word that truly and correctly describes the journey to atheism is conversion, not deconversion, and I am calling for the linguistic transition away from that.


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