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.
Or, Sky, it might be simpler to just go with what I said --
James - you're right, it's just a matter of learning the general symbolic approach that dreams use. The "flying dream" traditionally means that you want to escape from present circumstances, and a bike without wheels might indicate that you're not getting anywhere, you can't make progress. Although most dream dictionaries can be safely ignored, as they seem to be made up by charlatans. Losing your teeth is said to mean losing power, and this makes sense, as our teeth are our powerful cutting edge. Think about how something looks to the subconscious, which appears to express itself using symbolic images or puns.
No, they ARE nonsense because whatever they mean, if they mean anything at all, is something that can't be verified or in any way demonstrated to someone outside the dreamer's mind. Therefor, they are not facts in any sense of the word.
I quess I am not a perfect believer in 'verifiability'. I do hope for it.
I'm not just denying ACTUAL verifiability, but verifiability IN PRINCIPLE. Goings on in one's mind aren't even in principle verifiable. If one says "I'm seeing the color orange," not only can he not double-check his perception, neither can anyone else. Supposing we were able to meld with his mind such that we could see what he sees, we might find that the color orange is what we would call green.
This is the sense in which dreams are nonsense.
We can work as if reports of mental events and states are true, but we can't make them true. For example, you're a psychiatrist and your patient believes he is Napoleon Bonaparte. You can go along with that in terms of treating him (there's the "as if"), but all the while the real world of facts tells you that that can't possibly be true.
You're talking about the difference between science and art. Science deals with verifiable physical facts, art deals with (among other things) poetic imagery.
There's more to life than meters and dials. It is narrow-minded to dismiss creativity and art on the grounds that you can't see it or measure it with numbers.
"There are more things on heaven and earth, than are drempt of in your philosophy, Horatio."
You know how I hate to be picky, but it's "There are more things in (not "on") heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt (not drempt) of in your philosophy."
I've had dreams that seemed too abstract to be meaningful at first, but soon made perfect sense in light of what was happening in my life. I'm not claiming anything supernatural. I don't see how anyone can claim to know that it was ultimately nonsense just because I can't project my dream as a movie for you.
Just because it's nonsense in your head isn't a good enough reason to claim it's nonsense in others'.
You can call it a fact that a dream matches up in significant ways with your personal reality, but it's a different kind of fact to a scientific fact. Scientific facts are independently verifiable by everybody; dream correspondences are only verifiable by you, and other people just have to take your word for it. What may be verifiable by others is the process by which you arrive at your decision. I may say "this dream dictionary is junk" or "the way you read your dream makes sense to me".
Science is objective, while dreams are, by their very nature, entirely subjective.