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.
When I first started losing my faith it felt like Yahweh/Jesus was dying. It was rather frightening. In point of fact, I imagined Yahweh behind me, to the right, waaaaay up, like a big grandpa in a chair cheering me on and he seemed as real to me as any grandpa that cheers you on when you play and stuff. Realizing he wasn't there really was like dealing with a death in the family. I believe that loss of faith requires conscious mourning for healing to occur.
I totally agree. I definitely grieved. And, sometimes, I still do because it's like my family has that dead loved one stuffed and sitting in his old chair in the living room. They can't accept he's gone! lol
For me it was frightening because part of my deconversion process involved temporarily suspecting Jesus himself was the anti-Christ... but believing that, if I was wrong, was like tempting God to strike me dead with lightening. HA!
When I began reading 'Who Wrote the Bible' I actually hid in the back of the library, fearing someone might see me with it. I got this sick feeling as I realized the bible was a book, that it had been edited, and also that no one I knew ever questioned whence it came. A few times I felt like I was being transported to another earth, and maybe when I walked out of the back of the library everyone would be gone and I would find my curse was to be left completely alone.
<hugs to both of you>
" I believe that loss of faith requires conscious mourning for healing to occur."
While not universally true, this seems to be the case most of the time. I was devout. Honest!! So I don't know why I never went through any mourning. My deconversion was gradual. I couldn't even say when I definitively accepted that God was a delusion.
But I'm realizing that I need to be more sensitive to people like Physeter. My glib, "it's easy", while it was meant to minimize pain, may not be particularly helpful.
I remember when I checked "God is not Great" out of the library. I held the book upside down so no one could see the title.
Why is it that we think and feal this way? Is it because we have been so conditioned to belief that anything you do that goes against others religion is something to be ashamed of. Is it because of the fear of what others are going to think of us? Is it the fear of being ridiculed? Is all these things so deeply ingrained in our lives? I know that for the first 3 years I told nobody, now my family know and one of the things I had to deal with in comming from a conservative small town is that I would actually loos bussiness if people had to know what I belief or not belief in. At home I get the comments from time to time, my man just told me that I should tell the guys on the blog to start praying and stop talkin sh@t. What is it with the fear of knowledge!
For me it was because I was 15 years old and everyone I knew thought the bible was 'the word of Gawd'. I had no idea that there were people who viewed it as a book and critiqued it as a book.
When I finally stopped believing the god of the Bible was real, I was excited that I'd get to leave behind the notion of an impending apocalypse. It was such a relief to not have to worry about the Tribulation, or the Rapture, or the Second coming, or my friends burning in Hell forever... and what's been disappointing is how shitty things are even without all that nonsense. I thought I was walking out into the sunshine after a really bad, long nightmare, but now we have to deal with all these people who are still sleep-walking and think all of the above is true; who deny climate-change, women's rights, evolution, vaccine's, and personal responsibility.
Sure, I don't have to worry about seven years of natural disasters that destroy 1/3 of the world... just people overfishing the ocean and killing 80% of its sea life, or killing elephants within an inch of extinction because they think their tusks are magic, or refusing Africans access to condoms to reduce the spread of HIV & AIDs, or giant super-hurricanes caused by climate change. Wow. So much better! O_o
I don't know exactly what it was that triggered your change of mind about religion, and what I have to say may not be relevant to your life, but I identify greatly with the idea of going abroad providing clarity.
I was raised in the church and was very active all through high-school, going to church every week and such. Though I was never super into it, I accepted it because it was all I knew.
Once I spent a year abroad, I was surrounded by "christians" yet I realized how different something that was supposed to be the same religion actually was, and that it really only depended on where you were. The religion you follow is directly related to where you grow up, nothing else. This made me realize that there was no way there was any truth to religion: that it was all created by man.
This fits well with one of my favorite books: Shogun. The idea of going abroad and experiencing a different culture. To me, the book is all about finding connections and truths that remain true for all humanity, while learning to filter out the cultural truths that keep us apart. Religious truths, like cultural truths, will be different with every person you meet, and you have to be able to let go of these in order to truly understand people from other backgrounds. The most exciting part of these experiences however is when you discover those human truths: the things that will be true for all people, no matter their religion or culture...like compassion, laughter, love, etc.
I love learning more and more about different cultures and customs, and I want to have the knowledge of as many of them as I can, yet ironically, by doing so, culture loses its power over me and cultural truths are replaced by human truths.
I hope this all makes sense and isn't just me blabbering away, and you may be wondering what this has to do with your post, but I wanted to share with you because this part of my own journey is what has allowed me personally to not struggle with the things you talk about having a hard time with. I am at peace with my rejection of everything I once so genuinely believed because accepting atheism has been a rational discovery. The more I learned, the less compelling religion became.
The ultimate way to discover what life is really all about: immerse yourself in as many different cultures as possible and you will see the patterns...these patterns will make it clear to you why things have become the way they are, and you will clearly see that religion, like culture, is man-made. When it becomes so clear to you in this way, you have all the closure you need because it has been a logical and experimental discovery.
Many of us often say atheism is embracing realism, and this is what happened with me. If your experience has been anything like mine, it is likely at the core of your own transformation, and the more knowledge you obtain, the more at peace with atheism you will be, and it will hopefully start to feel less like a "painful divorce' and more like an exciting discovery.
Thanks. I don't know if going abroad made me doubt, if anything I saw God at work there. I miss that feeling. I really thought I saw that God was working in the world, however subtly, that he was speaking to me, and that the biggest doubts I had could never cover up faith.
I went through an intense training program where we prayed and talked about God every day with limited alone time, access to internet/news, and even freedom. Then I went to a country very far from where I grew up, with no outside contact, where people believe in spirits and stuff. Once I got back home into familiar settings, I started to see all the problems we'd had on our trip, how they could be explained without god just as well as with god. I started to read all these atheist blogs and ways of thinking, and not liking how much I agreed with it.
As I write this part of me still wonders if I just let my faith die out. Maybe if I hadn't gone into my old "familiar" habits. Maybe if I had kept reading the bible regularly (I gave it up). Maybe if I prayed more (I still pray, but it's usually 'God let me know if your real' or 'God forgive me if I'm wrong here'). Maybe if I had immediately sought out a group of my peers that I could worship with and talk about faith (it's hard to find a good Christian group and even harder to find an atheist group now that I want that). Part of me still says Chstianity is true, I just walked away from it.
I want to embrace realism. I want to become fully assured of what's true, without constantly worrying or looking back. I hope I can find my way.
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.