Hey guys. I'm a young adult going to college in Texas, and have zero people in my life who share my atheistic views. So it seems like I don't have anywhere else to voice my hurt except for this online community. Really all I need right now is a few words of encouragement or maybe some sharing of similar experiences. They would be really appreciated right now.

I was introduced to the wonderful world of non-theism about a year ago after growing up as a devout christian. That being the case, pretty much all my friends and family are Christians right now. The issue I'm having is this: they all think that I'm going to hell. But that's not the most hurtful part, what pains me the most is that they openly make it clear that I "deserve" it. That because I can't make myself believe in God, I'm rejecting him and therefore am deserving of eternal damnation. These people who I love and serve will in the same breath damn me for all of time, and they barely blink an eye at it; like it's nothing. In fact, it almost seems as if they feel they are doing the righteous thing. I just feel so very alone in all this, but venting it out has already made me feel a bit better. So thank you for that, and of course thank you for your time.

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We've all been there.  You're dealing with Christian bigotry in full force.  They probably don't even realize how truly nasty they are being.

Hey Roy and Welcome to Think Atheist!

There are many people on this forum who can identify with you and understand what you’re going through, so it’s a great place to vent unashamedly….

Love is tricky isn’t it? There is a big difference between loving someone and being able to communicate that love effectively in a way that the recipient understands and can embrace. We receive and perceive love differently, just like we show it differently. When a person has been taught to believe that “shunning” is an effective method of “tough love,” or even in cases where a person is taught to believe that shunning is appropriate behavior to avoid a perceived disobedience by their god, the feelings and perception of the recipient are disregarded completely. Whether or not it’s done out of so-called “love” or “obedience,” or “godliness,” the fact of the matter is that compassion and love become tainted. It becomes less about being nice, treating a person with dignity, and remaining open and communicative, and more about judgment, and trying to bend the will of a person back to conformity through fear. We of course as Atheists see through this nonsense for what it is – horrible, immature behavior that shouldn’t be demonstrated past kindergarten. It’s never acceptable to tell an adult that if they don’t believe what you believe that you are going to experience eternal pain and suffering. But because religion is so widespread and accepted as the cultural norm, many people don’t question it unless a catalyst intervenes to force them to re-evaluate seriously why they believe such quackery.

Your family probably believes they are doing what their god requires to deal with your apostasy. Whether or not they will come around and start treating you with dignity and respect is up to each individual person. I think a meme that’s repeated within the secular community that’s really cliché and kind of superficial – “Be still and know thyself,” – it’s something to ponder. It’s more than just learning your own likes and preferences. It’s about becoming comfortable in your own skin, and feeling like the “whole” you. It’s actually a very painful process. It may reveal things about yourself to yourself that you hadn’t dared ever face when you lives as a Christian. But eventually those weaknesses become great strengths, and you will have the courage to look anyone in the eye regardless of what they think about you, and feel self-assured that you have nothing to hide or be ashamed of, and that any person who dares judge you unfairly is simply going to have to build a bridge and get over themselves! Lol…

I know for myself personally this journey has taken a long time, so it’s not like I’ve “arrived.” Some people seem to get there quicker than others. It’s taken me longer than most people I think. I’m just now discovering things at 33 that I should have learned when I was 6. So I’m really behind, lol…but regardless it’s still a beautiful journey called life. You’re still young and have many years ahead of you. This pain will not last forever. You will eventually learn to live with their hateful ways, or they will eventually come to meet you somewhere in the middle if they expect to have you in their lives…Who knows, some of them may join you and be swayed by your demonstrable composure and compassion as you show them by your actions that you can be good and godless, that those two descriptors are not set apart from one another.

I wish you the best, and I hope that something I said helps if even a little bit. I’m admittedly not at my best right now. Hugs to you!  

@Belle - “Be still and know thyself

- that's a good quote about self-deception and self-honesty I think, I didn't know that one. 

Be still and know thyself"  - it's interesting, since I admitted to myself that I'm a deeply angry person, I've got my smile back and my blood sugar levels have dropped significantly.  It's known that stress pushes up the blood sugar levels.  I also agree with this statement:  "Hell is not knowing who you are.

Hang in there. Life is long with some ups and some downs and neither lasts forever. A simple strategy of life is to spend more time with people who lift you up and less time with people who tear you down. Your family is your family and that's not gonna change, but you can limit the time you spend with the ones who make you feel the worst.

Are you active in any groups on campus? Are there any atheist/agnostic groups you could join? Or maybe you could participate in activities where the topic of religion doesn't come up at all.

The point is to try to increase your social support system for a couple reasons. So that you don't feel isolated and don't feel you have to go home to be with people. And so that you can politely decline to attend uncomfortable family functions because you "already have plans". Good luck.

Smile!

I'm serious. People are trying to frighten you "for your own good". But, if you smile back at them, you communicate that they can't threaten you with hell because there IS no hell. But don't argue - just smile. When THEY are ready, they might engage you in a discussion. Then you've got 'em. You can show them that there are no rational reasons to believe in fairy tales.

Pretend they love you because they probably DO! It's just that they're suffering from a debilitating neural disorder called theism. Pity them. Their disease makes it so difficult to show their love.

And smile. Relax. Their words can't hurt you unless you let them.

I think a big part of what's going on is that you've left "the group", and it is human nature to feel that you've betrayed "the group" and are therefore the scum of the earth.  Especially where the group is tight and strongly structured, and has to compete against other groups, like atheists.  One advantage of Think Atheist is that as a group it's pretty loose and porous - we don't really feel betrayed when someone turns against us, we're just not that kind of group (hi Dan, you screwball).  That said, I think that theists often get an unnecessarily hard time here as they're demonised as "outsiders" or "the other".  It's human nature to think in this group-oriented way. 

They're probably also jealous - "who does he think he is?" to do without that giant apparatus and machinery of religion, and embrace a more simple view of life. 

So they're being human on the one hand, and nasty and small-minded on the other.  What about the parable of the Good Samaritan?  You know the message of that one.  We should love people of other groups.  The fact is, they know not what they do.  Use your experience of Christian forgiveness and forbearance to try and see through the human failings people are showing to you.  Ironic, huh? 

I think there's also the unfortunate idea that believing in God is tied up with morality, as Casey Dorman points out.  Morality comes from God, so if you don't believe in God you don't believe in morality.  You're anti-moral.  Saying you're an atheist is like saying "I'm a rapist and pedophile, and proud of it!"  Your friends need to get over their righteous indignation and have some human compassion and understanding of your valid and harmless life choice.  In the UK, the situation is much less religious and much easier for atheists. 

Try saying that you don't believe in God, but you believe in life.  That should make them pause for thought. 

Think about how you believe in promoting life: i.e. not at other people's expense but in the best way for each person concerned. 

Just tell them you find it difficult to believe that god created you broken and then had to sacrifice himself to save you from what he will do to you if you don't believe in him, and he knows all along what will happen. It's idiotic at best.

Just keep telling them that if they still believe in God, it's because they haven't really thought about it. 

As for your feelings, if you feel you need reinforcement for your atheism, get new friends. You'll better deal with your old friends if they aren't your only friends.

Roy.....Do Not Fear, You have a secret weapon.....As an atheist, you no longer believe in God,Satan,Heaven or Hell....So your religious family and friends can condemn you to an eternity in Hell, but you know better....As atheists, we know that when we die our brain dies with us, and we become part of Mother Earth, to nurture new life....So not to worry about meeting St Peter and living with Angels or going to Hell and living with Satan for your life will be over......Hopefully, you will have lived a fruitful life and left a reasonable legacy on which your descendants will remember you fondly....:-)

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