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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No, it's akin to "show evidence for your assertion".

If you've got no evidence, then you've got no grounds to make that assertion.  The most you can say is "I don't know".

The way in which they are meaningful is that they can be full of symbols which represent our deepest feelings at the time of the dream. 

These often come as a surprise.  The subconscious doesn't bullshit in the way that the conscious mind does.  It speaks as it finds.  Although, it may be operating on faulty evidence about the outside world. 

It may also work in a quirky way that "rationally" doesn't make sense - it may come to a decision based on rules which we wish didn't apply.  In other words, it can be damaged in the same way that our physical body can be damaged. 

I think dreams are simply neurons misfiring while we sleep. Often dreams contain elements from the day before.

But Truth with a capital "T"? There can be no assertion of truth without proof, and that will forever elude us when it comes to dreams.

Dreams can have psychological meaning in the sense we can relate them to experiences we've had, and perhaps how those events affected us.

On the other hand, it's more likely they are nonsense.

As for Truth - yes, you're right, that's a troublesome concept outside of mathematics. It makes a good short-hand, but probably "accuracy of perception" is better.

"Dreams can have psychological meaning in the sense we can relate them to experiences we've had, and perhaps how those events affected us."

That's what I'm talking about.  

"On the other hand, it's more likely they are nonsense."

Evidence please. 

Most of us don't rely on them for guidance. And why should we? They need to be interpreted and the interpretation would tell us more about the interpreter than the dream.

Most of us don't rely on them for guidance. And why should we? They need to be interpreted and the interpretation would tell us more about the interpreter than the dream.

Since the dreamer can also interpret the dream, the dreamer can learn from the dreamer's own interpretation. I'm not sure "guidance" is the best word here. It's the dreamer who ultimately guides their own behavior, based on new personal insights. (btw, Even if you're right that "most" people can't gain insight this way, at least you're conceding that it's possible for some people.)

@Pope Paul

Since the dreamer can also interpret the dream, the dreamer can learn from the dreamer's own interpretation.

The interpretation of a dream might possibly spur one to think in a new direction, but no more so than stubbing one's toe or overhearing a conversation in a restaurant.

I did not say I had no evidence, I said I couldn't recall the citations, which is why I referred you to Google (I have no desire to do work for you).  If you wish to believe pseudoscience no one will hamper you 

But you're the one making the claim, the burden of proof is on you. If you wish to make assertions without providing evidence I won't hamper you. Sounds a lot like non-science though.

to try to interpret them as an unconscious message is futile

I don't understand how one can generalize this to all people. "Pre-conscious" is a term for cognition that can come to the conscious. Assuming that no dreaming is usefully interpretable is too extreme.

I've seen recent research that you might be referring too about memories (e.g. studying) being enhanced by sleep or even a nap. There are documented cases of people solving real problems with insight from a dream, and it's just not reasonable to preclude personal problems/insight from the same mechanism.

""Pre-conscious" is a term for cognition that can come to the conscious."

I would say that a dream as vivid and coherent as Skycomet's means that the subconscious is urgently screaming out to be heard, it's trying to attract the attention of the conscious, to pass on a message. 

Other dreams which are all bits and pieces are more trivial. 




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