As a recent de-convert from Christianity, I've really come to appreciate the community at Think Atheist. I may not post much, but I find that reading through the discussions makes me feel like there is sanity in the world.
When I was a Christian, I was leading 4 separate weekly Bible studies. One popular topic was 'testimonies' as the Book of Revelation states, "They overcame him (the evil one) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony." A person's testimony is their personal story, their eyewitness account. We all have probably experienced discussions with theists who, when they are at a loss for facts, drop back and say they know there is a God because of what this God did in their lives, personally.
This makes me wonder if we Atheists have the right to use the same reasoning. I'm not nearly as educated on the facts as a lot of people on this website, which keeps me out of a lot of the discussions. But I do have my personal testimony.
When I became an Atheist, my life changed dramatically. I suddenly became absolutely allowed to treat my wife as an equal, something I've always wanted to do, but religion didn't allow. Our relationship improved in many ways.
I became a better father. I no longer had to 'pretend' certain issues and inconsistencies didn't exist in Christianity and the world in general. I earned a higher degree of respect from my kids, and our relationships became stronger. I could also treat them with a higher level of respect.
My wife and I lost nearly all our friends when we de-converted, and that sucks. We were left with a few really good friends, however, and these friendships have made up the difference in a lot of ways. I know I'm a better friend, too. I'm free to be nonjudgmental on issues that really don't matter, and I'm free to be much more loyal to my friends than I was as a Christian.
My parents have pretty much disowned me and my family, which is sad but is probably for the better, for now, anyway.
As a Christian I used to get regular migraines, and they've stopped since my de-conversion. I believe this has to do with the fact that I live a more congruent lifestyle now. I've served on the board of several non-profit organizations before, and none of them would have me anymore because of my Atheism, but if I was able to start a similar organization that didn't have a religious requirement, I believe I could serve more people in more meaningful ways than the previous organizations ever could. Hopefully one day I'll get to try.
It's not all wine and roses. I'm currently taking an anti-depressant. I have a familial predisposition to depression, and being rejected by my friends and family doesn't help. I expect that some day, through science and logic, I'll be able to beat depression once and for all.
So there's my testimony. What's your testimony?
Great question, and great 'testimony'! I almost have trouble using that word, because of the almost ironic quality it aquired after hearing it abused so often in my church-going days. I would be very interested to hear everyone's personal story of de-conversion or equivalent.
I was raised in Utah in a strongly mormon part of Salt Lake City, so much so that I was pretty convinced as a child that the majority of the world's population was LDS, and told people as much. It was kind of jarring to my worldview to have my cousins from California contradict me on that particular point.
Anyways, I have thought a lot about what may have contributed to my falling away from the church into such unshakable atheism while most of my peers continued attending, developed 'testimonies', served missions, held chuch authority positions, and got married and starting having kids who are repeating the process. One probable factor is that my father, raised unitarian, was not a churchgoer at all. He mostly kept quiet on religious issues, except to say that eight years old was too young for me to decide if I wanted to be baptized. Believing what I did about the religiosity of the world, I thought this was ridiculous and got baptized, but now will tell anyone who will listen that no one should be allowed to hear preaching of any sort until they're 18. I dropped out of church for good at age 15, but it took two years for my father to venture to ask if I might someday go back (as my mother did, in college) or if I was done with the LDS church for good.
One other thing that I feel contributed to me becoming a heathen was the sort of outsider status I had among kids in my church. My best friend was not LDS, I didn't much like football or basketball, I played the piano instead of videogames, and I didn't like boyscouts. I knew firsthand what pricks the other kids were, and got to see them invested with more and more serious responsibilities as we grew older. Age fifteen was probably about the time most of them started trying seriously to believe the stuff we had parroted all our lives. (As I said, the word 'testimony' was strongly abused in LDS congregations; a not-uncommon occurence in the special 'testimony meetings' was for a pre-literate child to ascend the podium and repeat the words, whispered by his mother, 'I want to bear my testimony, I know the church is true, I know Joseph Smith was a prophet' etc.) I think that my unique position on the social fringe of kids going though the process of indoctrination allowed me to see how they slowly and hypocritically adopted the attitues of their elders while trying to retain as much of their (essentially nihilistic) child-personalities as possible. The next couple of years, I was plagued by visits from my childhood bullies and enemies, stuffed into suits, saying they wish I'd come back to church. I don't think anyone who has experienced this can be anything but cynical about religion. At the urging of my relatives, I read the entire Bible, and the whole of the Book of Mormon, an activity designed to help me 'find my testimony', but I never felt a flicker of inspiration from either text. When I discovered George Carlin, and then Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkinds, it was game over for religion.
One final thing that I think may have contributed to my de-conversion is my love for music, which I believe gave me something to hold on to during the transition. Whereas many people losing their faith may feel like they've lost the one thing that had the promise of giving meaning to their life, I had fixated so strongly on becoming a musician that I never felt adrift during my 'intellectual awakening'. I now feel that, even without music acting as a life-raft, I would have found purpose in something else, perhaps even in the cause of atheism itself, which I 'believe in' strongly.
It is unclear if you will get the 'love' you need here, but you might get understanding, which could be a close second.
I have given my testimony elsewhere on this site. Troubling you with the colorful details will come out in small bites, since I would rather not load anyone up on excess reading material(s) concerning my weird trip into 'excape from christianity'.
I expect that each person's 'excape' will be a little different. Some families range from 'torturing their own', to 'NIMEF(not in my educated family)'. The energy needed to excape, I expect, ranges from a 'excape velocity from a blackhole, or death' to 'a walk in the park'. Mine was 'death, alcohol crazyness, and nerdyness'.
Most of the religious people in my family are either dead, too old to debate, or did their own private excape years before. I take no validation for my excape, because I am nearly the last person standing. I do not want to use people I have loved, or deeply tolerated, it seems unfair.