Hello all. I'm a college grad and a former missionary who once was quite convinced God was real and was helping me. After I got back, as I thought about what I really believed and what I'd experienced, I saw that, while God could be there, I had never seen anything happen differently from what would happen if there was no God. Since then, I spent a lot of time keeping to myself, and not really researching the issue because I was afraid what I would find.
It's been a slow process of reading more atheist blogs, coming to terms with what I really believe, and now posting on a forum for the first time. I want so badly to talk to someone in real life, but everyone I know would try to help me back into the faith. I don't really have many friends and I'm very shy so it's hard to meet people.
I have all these reasons that I say I turned away from my faith -- I've never seen evidence of a god, the bible is illogical and inconsistent, religious people don't seem more moral or more happy than anyone else, prayer doesn't work, what about creationism and biblical anti-gay teaching? But I'm not necessarily happy at getting free, or angry at what I used to believe. I feel like other atheists I've read about who called their deconversion "like getting a painful divorce."I still don't know what I believe. I'm half afraid that if I come out to my real-life friends, all these good reasons will sound dumb when I say them out loud. Most of them really believe in miracles, you know. I'm just looking for some support. I'm in the middle of Iowa about two hours away from the nearest good atheist group, from what I can tell. I want to know that what I'm going through is normal and expected, or hear how others have made it through this same kind of issue.
I actually have a blog on Think Atheist that fairly well documents various stages, and plenty of back story. Sometimes I like to read through it so I can be reminded of where my mind was at different times. Here is a link <-- I hope that helps. Feel free to PM me or whatever if you have questions.
You might want to read either "Losing Faith in Faith" or "Godless" by Dan Barker. The two books have a lot of overlap (nevertheless I think it's worthwhile to read them both). A lot of the overlap is in the first few chapters where Dan Barker, a former fundamentalist minister, describes the process he went through when, over the course of a few years he lost his faith... and spent six months continuing his speaking/music tours (he still gets royalties for some of his Christian music!) being eaten alive by the hypocrisy.
You are not in nearly as bad a situation as that (unless you are clergy), but you might find his perspective interesting.
The books are loaded with "unapologetics," a lot of arguments against the existence of god and against Xianity in particular.
[Since you are new to this, I'll risk being inadvertently patronizing and explain that "Xian" and "Xianity" are abbreviations for Christian and Christianity just as Xmas is an abbreviation for Christmas. (Some people write "Xtian" but that's either wrong or we all need to write "Xtmas" from now on.) It's not even really disrespectful, X is a common abbreviation for Christ, being descended from Greek Chi (Χ) in χριστος (khristos). It's the second letter on the "Jesus Fish" ΙΧΘΥΣ.]
I've personally been atheist my entire life, so I really can't know what you are going through. But I'll close (for now) by invoking Obi Wan Kenobi and congratulate you on taking your first steps into a wider world.
I ordered "Godless," and another one by a former minister.
I understand Xianity just fine, but I'd much rather have a non-patronizing explanation than be lost in strange terms.
Funny how a world with NO supernatural, no answered prayer, no 'force' could be a wider world. Here's hoping I can find it successfully.
Let me assure you, Physeter: for everyone like you who manages to extricate himself or herself from the inanities of church dogma, there are a dozen within the institution struggling over the same issues you faced. The critical difference is that you had the courage to face it, and to allow yourself to be a rational human being, rather than a cog in a self-delusional morass of myth and superstition.
Everybody has doubts, they say. It's supposed to be normal. How is that supposed to make me feel better? Do I doubt that my mother exists? Or my car? Why is it normal for me to doubt someone I'm supposed to have a 'personal relationship' with?
Welcome, Physeter. Besides Think Atheist, consider getting in touch with that local atheist group that you're two hours away from. Maybe someone there would be willing to phone conference you in to some social event. Or maybe you can check out an audiobook (Richard Dawkins would be grand) from your local library to entertain yourself during the four hours it would take to drive there and back again. You may always be outnumbered, but if you reach out, you'll never be alone.
Welcome. I was going to leave you in the capable hands of the many, many thoughtful, intelligent, and eloquent people on TA, but then I read, "I've been sort of lazy in my beliefs" and I decided to chime in.
Deconverting doesn't have to be scary. It's easy. There is the natural universe and nothing else. There is NOTHING supernatural so nothing to be scary - except in your own mind.
The further I got from the supernatural, the freer and happier I became. This includes my own mortality. I'm sure I will die a happy man when the time comes.
There will be some who try to "save" you. Smile. Nothing pisses 'em off like a happy atheist. Stay away from this "Professor Robert" guy. He's the devil. (Just kidding. He's an intelligent theist and seemingly quite a good guy - full of shit, of course, but nice - for a theist. :-)
Join some groups - like Atheist Humor.
Relax! Have fun. You've found your way out of the dark cathedral and into the sunshine.
Eh. My cathedral wasn't that dark. There were some real musty, smelly corners, but all the people I've been around have done a good job of turning on the lights and sweeping up the place, so it doesn't really look so bad. And of course, they're good at painting over the awful parts and making them look good, and drawing my attention to the parts that really are good. That's why it can be so hard to get out.
But I'm going to keep seeking. I'm going to start posting here, or maybe start a blog. I think the worst thing you can do for your own personal growth is to never talk it over with anybody.
Eh, "dark" is a euphemism for unenLIGHTened and "sunshine", well, welcome and good luck.
"If there's no god, what goes on in my own head is my business alone."
"Since", not "if". Don't go getting all subjunctive on us.
Physeter is still in that subjunctive phase though. There's nothing wrong with that. It's a process for some people to change religions or leave a religion. S/he is just being intellectually honest from his/her current perspective.
Of course. Just giving him some Irish encouragement. Happy St. Pat's Day.