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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I don't know who that is... I didn't receive the "saint-sinner" email. Could you PM me and explain what was going on yesterday and what this troll was talking about?

I guess I should have been paying more attention. I and my wife don't stay up as late as we used to, we miss SNL. Atleast I can come here, read a little, post a little, chukkle and fume a little, and sometimes learn a little about stuff that would only be had from the 700 Club.

I missed Saint-Sinner, even before I learned anything from him/her. 

@James - I'm not at all sure I like this site's prohibition against proselytizing, as we are missing out on a lot of fun by not being allowed to shred them.

Not so much fun for the moderators when an all out forum war breaks out. 

@Dan - that strikes me as a good time for a moderator to pop a cold one and put his feet up --

Years ago, a retired prof. gave me his collection of rough drafts, papers, and letters, that he had received from past students. For him, these were his collection from graduate cranks.

The most memorable one was from a guy that seemed, by all indications, to be a cocane user. The one book had a recipe for time travel, lost books of the Bible, a position paper on 'forbiden fruit', and vegetarian diet recommendations. The time travel piece was an attempt to draw a parallel between time displacement and raping two pingpong balls with a modius strip. I and a friend played with the pingpong balls idea for a few moments, over a cold glass of water (one needs extream clarity when a time traveler), but could see no linkage that would generate a response, or if a response, no way to target a moment in time. We had to give the fellow credit though, it is still possible that we did travel in time, we just could not tell, it did fill about 20mins for the attempt. LOL

Our many dear folks that make an appearance here, seem to be more together than the aformentioned fellow. We should count ourselves lucky that they do not crank out 500 pages of material. Michael has come very close. LOL   

@ James Cox - I miss him too - I had some more "Advice" for him :)

Skycomet, stories like yours make me realize how lucky I was not to have grown up with the same type of religious upbringing many people seem to have had. I am only inferring from your post that you were raised in a somewhat stringent religious environment, so this may apply to you to a greater or lesser degree, but I've read so many deconversion stories that describe alienation, great sadness, and friends/relatives with an inability to understand and whose instinct is to argue with or shun the person. I experienced so very little of that through my loss of faith, and I'm always a bit surprised to find my own experience is less common than I assume. Maybe it was a combination of factors: I grew up in the open-minded Pacific NW, had faithful but not super-religious parents, went to a faithful but laid-back church, was allowed to enjoy whatever TV/books/movies I wanted that were age-appropriate, and was encouraged to get the best education possible. The attitude instilled in me was that being religious was the wise thing, the good thing, the best team to be on, and why wouldn't I want that? God loves you and he doesn't really like when you swear or masturbate, but the Big Guy will make sure everything works out all right in the end. It was comforting but not particularly satisfying. So when I went off to college and didn't bother to find a local church to attend, it was not an issue, and was in fact somewhat expected of a college student. When I graduated and didn't ever go to another church service, my family sort of assumed I'd eventually get settled down and rediscover the importance of faith. When I started being critical of religious thought, religion was just...not really discussed any more. No big deal; it's not like we talked about it in our free time anyway.

It's really sad to me to read about people that really struggle with atheism. Some people aren't religious, no big deal. 99% of the interactions I've ever had with people anyway (whether those people are religious or not, or whether they're my family, friends, or mere acquaintances) have been about our work/school, our likes/dislikes, our weekends -- secular, everyday concerns. Isn't that normal everywhere? That didn't change one iota when I stopped believing in God, so it's had a minimal impact on my life.

Sorry I can't offer you much advice, but from my experience, we all just need to stop taking it so seriously.

I seem to have little difficulty with atheism generally, if any unsettledness exists, it seems to come from my metaphysical committments that seem to have matured out of it. So much nuttyness now seems unimportant. When I see folks making a great deal about fitting reality into a theist world view, they seem very desparete and needy, seemingly willing to lie to fit it, round peg to square hole as it were.

Don't try explaining the unexplainable. There lies religion and superstition. Joseph (Genesis) was an interpreter of dreams; an interpreter of someone's psyche more like.

During REM sleep, the brain carries out some housekeeping, sifting through memories discarding some stuff relocating other stuff, a bit like defragging your computer's hard drive. With all this memory data flying around inside your head, some of it will affect your short term memory in one way or another. Being a tad jumbled up, your mind tries to organise the information into something it can cope with and a dream is born. It has no meaning at all. However depending upon your mental condition, the dreams can take on specific themes and directions. Because everyone's mind tends to work in it's unique way, Freud was able to use dreams to attempt analyse his patients. He wasn't interpreting dreams, but rather interpreting how his patient's minds were interpreting their jumbled up brain re-organization. So, don't worry about your dream. Its not them it's you.

When I became an atheist some years ago, after being a non-conformist christian for most of my fifty odd years, I was uncomfortable about the afterlife thing, or rather the lack of it. However, when I understood what this really meant, it was such a relief for me. A weight was taken off my shoulders. I had been saved (halleluja!). Not by an imaginary friend, but by my own intellect.

RE: "like defragging your computer's hard drive" - that's a great analogy!


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