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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My old church was beautiful. I was a huge brick building that didn't have any stain-glass windows but had huge two-story colonial style ones in the sanctuary that were positioned so that the sun would come through them in just the right way during morning services. 

@ Skycomet - that is one of my problems with leaving religion - the Architecture. So many absolutely stunning buildings - the lead light, vaulted ceilings etc. etc.  Even the local churches, beautiful. Same with religious paintings, just stunning. The thing I can't tolerate, is any religious music. Puts a knot in my stomach.

With Skycomet's building, the sun coming through the sanctuary, just makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy. It's all a small part of of why people like going to church.

But can you imagine, Simon, what could have been accomplished if all of the money that went into the construction of these admittedly beautiful churches and cathedrals, had been used instead for social services, re-education for the unskilled, food and shelter for them and their families, as they learn, and all of the other possible social programs that could have been implemented with that money? Who gives to an invisible sky fairy, while ignoring their fellow man?

Possibly. But who's to say that the church buildings might not do more good as a whole? They can stand for 1000 years.

After all, most church buildings get used for "social services, re-education for the unskilled, food and shelter for them and their families, as they learn, and all of the other possible social programs".

RE: "They can stand for 1000 years."

But people, as one species or another, have been around for 3 million years --

Certainly some of the smaller building are being sold off, and used for other things like night clubs. But it is the huge buildings - how many families could that money have saved- and it is not just the buildings - it is the gold, especially the catholic church has. There is a church in Brisbane - St. John's Cathedral, being refurbished at a cost of 23 million. If the church did have other uses, maybe but it does not serve the community, except for the handful of people who go there. They also lost 60 million in the Global Financial Fiasco. George Pell, a Bishop in Sydney, has just spent 23 million on an apartment at the Vatican for 'Pilgrims'. And that is a disgrace. Scientology has just bought a Nunnery - huge place, at a cost of $20 million. Maybe scientology will buy all the cathedrals, just give them time.

Just think how much good that money could do, with job training, and other health and welfare programs. What does an invisible entity need with cash? I mean, his gates are made of pearls, and his streets paved with gold - if he sold off just a fraction of that, he'd never have to worry about Social Security, and the money the churches raise could go to REAL people - I'm just sayin' --

Yes, but the buildings are useful too

First of all, there may or may not be hidden meanings in dreams, and I sure wouldn't say that one interpretation fits all. My experience is that most of my dreams--even a lot of the very obscure ones--do connect somehow with reality, or some kind of reality that I am recently feeling is significant.

Arche came closest to what I was thinking about your dream. The biggest clue (unless I'm just wrong!) is that you say you're going through a hard time, and wish you could find a way out of your pain. I'm guessing that there was a time in your religious past when you felt that you could find someone to talk to and have a deeper level of empathy and understanding than you've been able to find recently in the people you know.

In other words, maybe you wish you had someone you could feel more comfortable talking with, right now, or at least someone who you feel could give you more hope of some kind. Being an atheist does reduce the number of people I feel I can communicate emotionally with, and I wouldn't want to have to be an atheist apologist every time I wanted to talk with a theist.

One more thing (for me) is that I wouldn't want to take anyone else's faith away, if it seemed to me that they really need it. I have had friends I didn't want to talk to about my atheism because I didn't want to put them into doubt about their life's beliefs. Meanwhile (at least symbolically), some atheists seem to be partying up a storm, as theists go through their phase of losing a faith that once consoled them.

Yes, there are all kinds of levels of symbolism in a dream like that which we can go on unpacking for a long time - like a Shakespeare play or a brilliant poem.

  Coming from a country where the idea of having any social stigma attached to non belief in imaginary deities is perceived as backward in the extreme, I am prone to viewing the bizarre antics of the outwardly modern United states with a bemused incredulity. This difficulty to accept that this bizarre behaviour is real  makes me forget that peoples lives have genuine attempts at social vandalism directed towards them from these little emotional tyrants.  The good thing though is they can only ever be attempts because the most genuinely valuable parts of your social environment will always be immune to attack from these people.

    On that note I suspect you are experiencing the end of a mental digestive process whereby the goodness has been extracted and that which is not registered as nutritious is being expelled. As I explained to my teenage niece when she was becoming enamoured with the idea that her dreams held a deep meaning during a major transition in her life, ........ "Dreams are your brain having a shit".     

omg! I like that! That's my new catch phrase: Dreams are your brain having a shit!



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