Why Rhett & Link’s Deconversion Feels So Right
Popular YouTubers Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal have publicly announced that they have left Christianity and landed in agnosticism.
Their deconversions are especially noteworthy given how publicly the two had once been with their Christian faith (e.g., missionaries for CRU, featured in Phil Vischer’s What’s in the Bible?). It’s also noteworthy that Rhett and Link have over 15 million subscribers on YouTube, so their apologetic for agnosticism is having significant influence on young minds.
Although atheism says there is no God, agnosticism means not knowing whether or not there is a God. It’s an admission that a person hasn’t been able to come to solid answers for life’s biggest questions. A person’s view of God affects how he answers all sorts of questions:
- What is life’s ultimate purpose?
- What is humanity?
- Who decides what’s right and wrong?
- Is there an afterlife?
It would seem, therefore, that agnostics should see their agnosticism as something of a sheepish transition—kind of like the time between exiting the shower and putting on one’s clothes for the day. If you’re not solid on life’s biggest questions, you’re lost in the woods without a compass. Even more disconcerting is to learn from both Rhett and Link that they have led their wives and children along with them into the confusion.
Here’s what is strange: Rhett and Link are admittedly confused about life’s biggest questions. Yet it appears that they are more at peace than ever.
It’s almost as if they have found themselves in a place of comfort, not confusion.
Now on the other side of the deconversion process, Rhett and Link aren’t experiencing sheepishness about their agnosticism, so much as relief. Here’s how Rhett described his feeling after coming out as someone who no longer knows the answers to life’s big questions:
“Man, I just feel like this giant weight has been lifted off of me.”
Although open to following truth wherever it leads, Rhett has pitched his tent in what he calls a “hopeful agnosticism.” In other words, he is in the dark when it comes to answering life’s biggest questions, yet somehow he finds himself optimistic and hopeful about ultimate reality.
Doesn’t it seem weird that Rhett and Link can take comfort in their confusion?
Yet, when you read through the comments under their deconversion videos, you find a surprising resonance with their audience. Apparently, there are multiple people who, like Rhett and Link, have discovered the comfort of home in a tangle of intellectual lostness:
- “I wish all people could be as rational as Rhett is.”
- “‘Hopeful agnostic’ is such a lovely phrase and it perfectly describes how I feel.”
- “‘I’m going to follow truth without fear.’ Amazing statement, absolutely beautiful.”
- “How strong and brave he was to follow what he believed to be right.”
- “I just find it comforting that there’s someone out there who’s just as or if not more confused and curious as me and is okay with it.”
- “This. Was. Beautiful.”
- “This was so inspiring to listen to.”
- “Wicked brave and super well articulated.”
Why congratulate someone for getting lost in the woods? Why find it inspiring and beautiful? And yet when you listen to Rhett and Link’s stories, you find that there is indeed something homey about these woods.
You find as you listen to their deconversion stories that their agnosticism doesn’t come without some bedrock beliefs.
They might be agnostic about life’s biggest questions, but there are some definite things they have become convinced of. See if you recognize any of these:
- The God of the Old Testament is too wrathful.
- Christianity is too legalistic in the area of sexual ethics.
- No one religion should be seen as the true one.
- There is nothing immoral about LGBTQ+ lifestyles.
- The doctrine of hell is immoral.
- Humans evolved from animals.
And now to the point I’m getting at: Isn’t it strange that Rhett and Link can feel so at peace in their admitted tangle of confusion?
Not at all.
Here’s why Rhett and Link can feel at home in a dark wood of intellectual lostness: Their “brave,” new worldview is an exact copy of contemporary Western progressivism. Once having a worldview that chafed against their culture, they now find themselves in symmetry with it.
No wonder they feel relief!
Sadly, a hopeful agnosticism can’t match the hopefulness of a faithful faith, no matter the relief it brings.
(Unfortunately, it has become unsurprising to watch people walk away from Christianity for the worldview of progressivism. For more on cultural and theological trends which feed progressivism–as well as for advice on fueling an intelligent and faithful faith–check out David Young’s A Grand Illusion.)