Please Help! Confusion, Disturbing Nightmare, and Still Trying to Adjust to Life as an Atheist

I know that what I am about to talk about may not be pleasant to hear about, and I sincerely hope I don't make any of you angry (although I don't know why I should). But recent events have brought about an upsetting problem that I can't shake, and for reasons that will soon become obvious - but I will outline them below anyway - I can't confide in my theist family about this problem... they would not understand and would most likely gain false hope of me "returning to the fold" - I most certainly will not!

Let me begin this way:

I would have thought that after 7 years after I lost my faith, and after 3 years of being an admitted atheist, that I would have settled all the "adjusting period" emotional and social problems that I had... you know... dealing with the confusion of having the thing that you based your life on (devotion to God) disappear, dealing with confusion and uncertainty about what being an atheist would mean for me and my life (besides lacking belief in God - although that may be the most basic definition - we all know that being an atheist in the United States of America has far more practical issues and implications and hard choices about how you will go forward with your life), dealing with anxiety about who to "come out" to and when (if at all), dealing with confusion and new difficulties over how to live in a society that makes no room for non-believers and - even worse - rejects them and sometimes demonizes them, dealing with the friends and family that don't understand, may try to "win you back", may ask you (with that inevitable look of concern and worry) "What happened? Do you hate god? Did you stop coming to church/ stop believing in God because something bad happened? Are you depressed/ angry? Was it something I did? I REALLY want to know if I did something to hurt you so much that you took out your anger at me on God! Do you need someone to talk to, because I know a pastor/ priest/ rabbi/ etc. that I think you should talk to! He/she can REALLY help you in your time of darkness." (What I was thinking at the time: Ummm... my "time of darkness" is for an entirely different reason than you think! It's not something that anyone did! My faith just collapsed and my world is falling apart around me!), also... you have to deal with the friends and family that reject you because they can't deal with your atheism.

I thought I was through all that... now I'm not so sure.

You see... I have been going through a hard time... and sometimes I desperately wish that God was real and prayer worked so that I could have some relief from my pain... even though I am fully aware that all that is a fantasy.

But something happened last night that really got me to wondering whether I am REALLY over my period of darkness and confusion and made me desperate for some advice from fellow non-theists who wouldn't try to do what my theist friends and family would inevitably do - interpret it as a sign that I wanted/ needed God back.

You see, I had a rather disturbing nightmare that I can't shake. When my Christian mother asked what the dream was about, I couldn't tell her... so I lied and said that I didn't remember. In reality... how could I forget?

The nightmare took place at my old church that I grew up in. I haven't been there in a very long time although, the other day, I passed one of my old friends, a youth pastor, as I was driving down the road. She and her husband both smiled and waved at me.

In the dream, I remember that the old church that I had loved so much was decrepit. It was falling apart at the seams bricks missing, the steeple was gone, and the floors inside were dusty and bare. The main pastor and the rest of the staff was leaving the building through the back entrance with grim, pale, sad faces. Some were crying. The reverend told me that the church had gone bankrupt and that it had been sold to a local atheist group. - I didn't know what to make of that - As soon as they were gone, a group of atheists I had never met before - but that seemed to know me - entered the building and started partying, putting up anti-theistic signs and banners all over the church and leaving popped balloons and confetti on the floor. The place was a mess. Everyone was smiling and laughing and inviting me to join in. But I didn't want to. I remember that I sat on the floor of the sanctuary and cried. I was not crying about God, I was remembering all the friends I had made there, all the various fun activities I had participated in over the years, and all the broken, forlorn faces of my friends that had left in silence after emptying their offices. I felt like a piece of my childhood that I kept close to my heart had been destroyed. I wasn't angry at the atheists, I felt confused and sad. I had no desire to join in on the anti-theist party... I just wanted to cry. 

I woke up from the dream feeling disturbed and not knowing what it meant. Can any of you help me figure out what is going on? Have you had similar experiences? How have you dealt with them?

This was just a dream, but it also made me wonder why I would have a dream like that.

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Dreams may not mean anything...but the fact that they disturb you might.

Lost innocence and youth and the inability to go back to that state...may create a sense of loss.   People you don't know coming in and 'trouncing' on those special memories may also be disturbing.

There's a lack of compassion and empathy in the world today and it goes all the way around.   For the most part, people want to live their lives, raise their kids and be happy.  Religious people and non-religious people are no different in this respect.  The fact that we don't have the best tools or live in the best social political climate to acheive those things doesn't help.  That fact that we have some tools that are absolutely detrimental (religious fundamentalism for one) to acheiving those things makes it worse.  They put us at odds with each other.

What is needed are better tools for getting along and working together.  (damn, that was a sermon...LOL...see I haven't entirely escaped my past either)

they are seldom happy and pleasant

Not true for me. You're claiming to know what my dreams are like?

My dreams are always fantastic and interesting, but I know for a fact, that a bad dream can set one's mood after one wakes up, it is that potent.

Mine are mostly pleasant, but it depends on the stress I'm under in the day. I often get "aha" experiences with them, e.g. connecting some significant ideas that I had been thinking about recently.

Unlike some people who say they can experience the same "aha" from just stubbing their toe, and so on. (I don't experience those kinds of stubbing-aha incidents, but I might as well believe people when they report them, right?)


If it is any consolation, I would probably never come to such a party. I know how important 'belief' can be, when it dies, it seems that a celebration should the least likely event.

Churches do lose membership, buildings, and money.

You could consider the dream as a lose of past innocence, family, connections, certainty, etc. For me, it is unclear if atheism can compensate for these loses.


Stop living in the past. Apparently, the majority of people you have known previously are religious. This is undoubtedly the source of your problems and dreams. Develop new friends and environments. Are you interested in politics? If, so become active in the NAP (National Atheist Party). Are social things of more importance to you, then attend one of the Amazing Meetings hosted by the amazing Randi. If you do attend an Amazing Meeting, you will be surrounded by thousands of kindred spirits. Surely by simply attending you will develop positive contacts. A simple search of the net will reveal dozens of atheist organizations with different agendas, some of which will be of interest to you, which if joined will help you, and diminish and perhaps completely eliminate the disturbing dreams you have described

A word about religious folks. The simple truth is that so-called deeply religious folks have abdicated their humanity, dignity, and sanity. If the people that are the majority of the people you are in contact with in the future are religious, you will never solve your problems.

The problems you describe are not unique. Many have had the same problems and managed to solve these problems by looking forward, not backward.

You sound sincere, and so, I wish you best of luck.


Seems like a pretty straight forward "guilt" dream. I don't know what else to tell you.

I'm glad I can look back on my "church-going childhood days" as something I am more than happy to be past in my life. All the kids I met at church when I was young were a bunch of assholes.

Well, I have commented on occasion that the social aspect of church life is probably a bigger attraction for many people than the church's articles of faith. Your example shows how much you miss that. It's time to develop a social life apart from the church. Not necessarily with other atheists, though that'd be nice if you're in an area where there's an atheist association. You can join a local environmental group, a bicycling group, a group organized around some craft you enjoy. Some areas have clubs where people go out to movies and then gather over coffee or dinner to discuss them. Friendships will form. Give it a try. If there isn't such a group, form one.

Note: Prayer does work though. Just has adverse effects

@ Doug

I am inclined to agree with you that they are not messages. What would be the criteria used to analyze an individual's dream to the extent you could explain the significance of the dream? It would seem a very hit or miss proposition. A dream could be interpreted as many ways as theists have interpreted religious texts. 

See if your interpretation matches up with reality, and then you know. 


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