Came across this site on Twitter somehow decided to join after reading a few posts and articles. Looks like a place that I could really enjoy and I'm looking forward to it.
I feel like telling my story so if you don't care about this part I won't be offended. It's more for me to open up a bit since I can't where I'm at now in my life.
I was raised strict Baptist from when I can remember. My grandparents were fundamentals to the inth degree, you know short hair boys, long hair and dresses for girls and so on. I've always sought out for answers in religion and felt like my faith was never there. I would pray for hours just for the faith to follow god's teaching and understand his greatest plan for my life. I must have prayed to be "saved" 3 or 4 times. God was the way, the truth, the light would fill the hole in my heart to make me a complete human.
But something was wrong. I didn't feel like singing hymns and worshiping god all day sounded that great. Streets of gold were kind of disappointing since, well they are streets, nothing should have to be explained on that one. This circle of failure to follow god and re-seeking his blessing goes on until I'm 35. Please don't laugh, I'm serious as hell about this (see what I did there?) - I saw the episode on Bullshit by Penn and Teller on the bible. You know the Jews are captured by the Romans who used to believe in many deities but the ruling Caesar at the time decided they only needed one god and mandated that they only have one. Then Jews free and return to their homeland and all of the sudden there is one god not 4 or 5.
A couple of other stories that I had read from the bible were brought up and one by one this light starts to get brighter and brighter in my head. As this is occurring I'm not excited by enlightenment, I'm horrified. My entire life is being turned upside down, I actually have a panic attack and have to deal with copious amounts of rage for the next 6 months. Six months I was alone, trying to sort it out but once the veil is lifted your screwed, there isn't any going back to the way it was, there's no convincing yourself that it's just a phase your going through. It's over. You simply try to cope with your entire psyche being erased and you have to start interpreting your life from scratch. It's not cool, until much later. I really think lifelong Atheists are missing the real fun, but I envy them.
I did tell my wife, I couldn't remain alone forever it was awful. She's still a somewhat believer, and I don't try to convert her. She's always hoping that I believe again but deep down she knows there's absolutely no way. I haven't told my family, on my fathers side we've recently started reconciling after a 10 year split and my grandfather who is 90, well I literally do not think he would be able to handle it. So I'm patient, and I want to come out to them but I don't feel comfortable with it now. Not yet, but each day as I hear them complain about injustices to the Christianity, how they are the downtrodden makes me grow angrier and angrier. I liken to feeling like a gay person in the 80's, overwhelming and dangerous. Especially here in Texas, I have 2 friends that are closet Atheists as well and both are from other countries. Go figure.
What exactly did you mean by 6 months of "rage" - how did that manifest for you? I'm curious. Was it just a feeling? Or did you actively do anything about it too? Were you mad at society/the church you were raised in or just in general? Also what "real fun" would a lifelong atheist be missing out on? I'm somewhere in between. I never was fully convinced despite being raised Catholic, I think I kind of believed in God but I never was sure. Never super devout. Most of my life and all of my views on morality and stuff was quite secular pretty much my whole life. My transition to atheism was much easier than someone like you and I feel grateful to have avoided such heartache. And to not be alone but to rather have my dad and brother come along for the ride with me - I basically introduced the concept to them after I personally had seen a little of this site and stuff - we all pretty much immediately agreed atheism made perfect sense and we should have realized it much sooner. ;)
So I'm lucky and I'm just so glad more and more people like you are managing to see the truth. So that maybe the next generation will be so much more secular. You don't by any chance have any kids, do you? Or plan to have any? If you do, them just knowing you don't believe would probably be enough to make them doubt. Kids of parents of two different faiths, even just different forms of Christianity, or with one parent of faith and one agnostic/atheist are more likely than most to become non-believers according to something I read somewhere... and I totally believe it. That's probably a big part of why I never bought Catholicism myself. Because my dad was a great guy and an agnostic ex-Jew or non-practicing, not very devout Jewish guy my whole life. And I had that constant fact there in my life since day one. ;)
Well welcome, Paul. :D We are a really awesome community, I love this site so much and you can feel at home here even if no one else understands you where you are. I also highly recommend The Thinking Atheist radio show/podcast - it's a live call-in show every Tuesday evening and it's really specifically for people like you more than me, although I enjoy it a ton too. I think you might get a lot out of it. You can listen to all the old episodes on iTunes or on YouTube or get the mp3s various ways. Just search "the thinking atheist podcast" in Google. ;)
Oh also, I must say I'm glad that at least you told your wife and to some extent she seems to be accepting and understand where you're coming from. Tell me if I'm way off base though because it's hard to say, if she's really trying to convert you back that can't be good.
If you ever do try to tell some of your other family members, I might recommend showing them Dan Barker's or Guy P. Harrison's books, they're supposed to be super good ways in for super religious people. The writers are both super understanding of where religious people are coming from and not offensive... yet they are atheists.
My rage was directed at myself for believing for so long and the religion for screwing with my brain. It's gone now.
Well, every day I learn something new. Or re-learn it really but in a new context like life on other planets, or the big bang, just the fact that we exist and get to participate in life.
No kids, we prefer to travel. But hopefully my brother takes the leap, he's questioning and that's a start.
My wife is actually pretty open about it, when I say she hopes she does that silently but with the understanding that it's a done deal on my end. It doesn't affect us much, and I'm able to share my feelings openly with her. She's pretty conservative on some issues and politics are much more dangerous. We can have a conversation about abortion and never get heated or escalated so I take that as a good sign.
Thanks everyone for the warm welcome.
Thank you for sharing! That is an important part of this journey. Coming out is hard but, to borrow a phrase from the gay movement, it gets better. My "conversion" was slow and gradual and I was always vocal about so I think my mom saw it coming. My dad wouldn't be happy but I haven't really spoken to him for years anyway on an unrelated manner. I have yet to say the word Atheist to my extended family as I know what there reactions would be. They are all born again Christians and my cousin converted to Mormonism, from crazy to crazier....I'm sure they all know because I don't hide it on Facebook or Twitter but I've never said the words. I still bow my head during holiday prayers although I'm usually thinking about how much food I'm about to eat or what would happen if I fell into a black hole or the beauty of evolution, haha. If I had any advice it would just be to take your time. Your family won't be happy at first but, if they love you, they will eventually learn to accept you. Good luck my friend and just know that there are more of us out there than you'd think!!
Also the whole Atheist Community of Austin is epic, what with the Atheist Experience TV show and blog and Non-Prophets and Godless Bitches podcasts... it makes me kind of wish I was in Texas lol so yeah even in the heart of a state like Texas there are way more atheists than you think I bet. ;)
Uhm, I need to look into these. I'm not in Austin and the culture doesn't travel south often. Thanks for the tip!
Wow. Thanks for sharing your story. As a "lifelong atheist" I find it very hard to imagine what it's like for someone who used to believe, but somewhere along the line made the choice not to believe any longer. I found your story very moving and I admire your bravery in sticking to your principles. I'm new to the group too, and share your hopes that normal service will be resumed as a result and there really is no need to panic!
And, I know just how you feel when all those poor, downtrodden and persecuted Christians start crying into their communion wine!
Hi Paul. Welcome.
Thank you for your post. I have a background in psychiatric nursing and an interest in how religion impacts on that mainly because it impacted on me. I was brought up in secular England by atheist parents so should have been safe but we still have Christian teaching in schools and my teacher converted me at the age of 7. I became as evangelical and devout as you can be and then read the bible - fear of plagues, floods and my parents going to hell then ruled my childhood. I became quite mentally ill - first anxiety attacks and then self harm and then OCD and eating disorders. When I finally lost my faith at 16 it was a relief more than anything and mental health came with my acceptance of atheism.
I know this is not the case for many many people and have recently spoken to an 18 year old, a 17 year old and a 12 year old who felt much as you do. People accuse me of being cruel to tell my daughter there is no heaven but when I see youngsters who have been led to believe they are immortal and that there is one solid purpose to their life and then realise this is nonsense I know that is cruelty. They are grieving just as someone would if they found out that they had a terminal illness and were let down by someone they loved and counted on all at the same time. I can only imagine what it must be like to come to this realisation in your 30s! Your whole understanding of life and purpose has been overturned and you are experiencing a typical deep grief and trauma reaction - anger, denial, bargaining etc etc. I get very annoyed when people discuss these feelings and long term atheists who have not experienced it respond as though they are overreacting and should not feel that way. I hope you have not felt ashamed of your feelings and have been good to yourself and I am glad you feel better now. I am finding people do adjust exactly the same way we adjust to grief - slowly but surely coming to terms with your loss and in our case, recognising your gain. May I use your last two paragraphs (but not your name) to show other new atheists that these feelings are normal and they are not overreacting and to show anyone I debate with how harmful psychologically the indoctrination of children can be?
I do feel for you, being surrounded by baptists. Harder when they are people you love - you don't want them to be afraid for you as they would be and so can't be yourself. I am glad your wife accepts your atheism even tho its reluctantly and you have a couple of friends on your wave length. l look forward to seeing you around. :)
Your welcome to share anything, if it helps in any way I'll be happy.
I forgot to mention that once I gave up god, that hole in my heart amazingly filled itself. I've enjoyed the liberation I've felt for the last 4 years. Every day I learn to appreciate something new that I've always attributed to god, and understand how effing lucky we are to even exist. Seriously, you can't top that!
Agreed - glad you got there so quickly - often takes longer. :)
As an Arkansan in your sister state to the north I welcome you to the collective. Living in a world of delusional fundamentalists can be a bit trying at times. Remember to keep a sense of humor about it all.
This forum is a welcome respite when one needs a drink from freethinking waters....
Welcome. I had similar experiences so I can understand what you are going through and may yet go through. I de-converted at an earlier age and my parents weren't as religious as yours--but only by degrees. I had to move away form the bible belt for my mental health, but that was probably a negative effect of leaving religion at a young age and not being able to deal with the religiosity around me. Also, I know that moving away may not be an option for you. You are lucky in that you can find others to talk to via the internet. Keep taking advantage of that. Also, I don't know if you are using your real name but I have stopped using identifying information on the internet because of past incidents of discrimination. Times are changing and that may not be as likely as it used to be, but it has been nearly 4 decades for me and I went through a lot.
Glad to have you here.