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.
Thanks for the reply.
As I said before, going abroad gave me the closure and confidence in being atheist, but I also had moments of doubt as you describe, probably during my senior year, the months leading up to my year abroad. I often said to myself 'no matter how much I want to believe, I can't anymore', and I hoped it was a phase one moment, the next moment ready to embrace it, and back and forth. This was because I had let those doubts creep just deep enough that I couldn't shake them. I didn't spend too much time dwelling on it, because religion had never been more to me than an hour or two once a week, but I see now that this is the phase you are in and I agree this is a difficult place to be.
Especially with the large part of your life you have dedicated to Christianity I can imagine your struggle is much more significant than my own. I was lucky that my trip abroad took me from the confusing setting and placed me somewhere where I could evaluate things with fresh eyes. You are doing just the right thing by seeking support, advice, and knowledge, because one day you will have your aha moment like I did by going abroad!
I know that everyone is different, but I'll try once again to share part of my own journey in hopes of helping you with yours: the one thing that really started to plant the seeds of doubt in my own faith when I was growing up was when I learned about other religions, or hearing about the history of Christianity, roman and Greek gods, and such in history class. I remember the first time I had ever come across the idea of religions being man made in 6th grade learning about ancient cultures and it blew my mind. It made so much sense and I immediately began applying it to all religions I knew of...I got to Christianity and just kind of got confused and backed off because it was..."true?" I didn't notice anything at the time, but looking back, it was the first time I really had a reason to question what everyone had always taught me my whole life.
Maybe you are already very learned when it comes to other religions, but if you aren't, it could be a great place to research...maybe you will see the patterns that helped me to place Christianity into the same category as all other religions. If you can understand what it is about other religions that allows you to truly believe they are false, then you may find your way to believe one religion further.
On a separate note, the one thing that kept me connected to religion for so long was the people I was around. Once I went to any other church, it became clear that church hadn't been such a good experience because of the religion, but because of the people there. Look back at those religious experiences that you continue to hold on to...that make it the hardest for you to let go...figure out what about that experience was so powerful, but in a non-religious context, and you may find your closure.
@Physeter - Welcome - I think you could feel 'obliged' to come out, because you find it difficult to keep things hidden, because you are basically a 'good' person, and not because you were a 'christian'.
You don't 'have' to tell anybody. Sort stuff out in your own mind, ask any questions you want here, no question is too silly, read other peoples 'journey' to get rid of the 'fear' of hell, it could take a while, don't rush it, and you too will see the light :)
Everybody has a different reason for leaving religion behind, and they come from all parts of the world - that in itself is an education. My reason for leaving catholicism, was first , hypocrisy of organised religion, then I just couldn't believe that a god made everything, the universe, stars, planets, suns, then, humans born with sin, and then, concerns himself with who is begetting who, and then, perpetrates some of the most evil acts. The more one reads, the more the bible doesn't make sense. The bible is actually what finally convinced me, it wasn't' true. It could well be a very enjoyable journey getting rid of the yoke you have around your neck, to be a good person, just because you are :)
If you have the time or the inclination, have a look at this - http://www.clergyproject.org/