I have noticed something about myself and am curious how much of this holds true for other atheists. I was a very deeply religious person before my atheism, and a vocal defender of it in many places, both online and in real life.
But since my rejection of what I finally could no longer deny was nonsense, I have felt very guilty, not about following what is evidently true and rejecting what is self-evidently false, but because I have abandoned all the people of my abandoned faith: In short, I have abandoned my tribe.
In communities where I have been active both before and after this rejection, I've lately been seeing a small amount of backlash from this, which makes me very curious: Is this a normal thing? This seems to indicate that religion, besides being the fantastically illogical farce it is on an individual level, might have some evolutionary basis on a group level, but I need more data to make any kind of guesses about this.
Has anybody had a similar experience to mine? has anybody had a radically different reaction from the people of their abandoned faith, or no reaction at all? I'm not interested so much in family reactions (which are separate from religious groups, normally), but I'm very curious about the reactions from members of a church, religious leaders, etc. Were you or are you branded as an 'outsider' at the first mention of heresy? Has anybody else felt guilt for abandoning the people in their religion, or in some way had to overcome their guilt about potentially abandoning anybody in order to reject their religion?
I stopped going to church a few years before I openly became an atheist...but I noticed isolation and other negative reactions based solely on my life choices. At a breakfast for the church's graduates (myself from college, everyone else from high school), I sat next to my long-time Sunday School teacher and summer job boss and we were having a great conversation, until he asked if I would be moving back with my parents until I found a job. I said, no, I'll be moving in with my boyfriend. He immediately turned his back on me and without another word, joined another conversation.
I have also been "unfriended" on social media by many former close friends without notice once I became vocal about my lack of belief. It hurts, but I have so much good in my life in the form of my husband (the aforementioned in-sin-living boyfriend) and a very close group of friends (atheist and Christian alike). You make your own tribe.