Please excuse the novel here... I tend to try to explain myself so clearly that I go overboard, so sorry about that. Also, sorry if this is in the wrong category; I wasn't sure where to put it.
I grew up in a pentecostal Christian household, Assemblies of God to be exact (extremely evangelical believe-every-word-in-the-Bible-exactly group, for those who aren't familiar with it). I remember being told things specifically like "You don't have a conscience; that's the Holy Spirit telling you you're sinning." I remember thinking, "Yeah, because I'm incapable of figuring out when I'm doing something wrong on my own... Riiight."
I knew what hell and demons and Satan were even in early elementary school. I have vague memories of speaking with my school guidance counselor about a ("real," as in not from a movie or a show but documentary style) exorcism I had witnessed. I remember being told horror stories from a youth leader about her experience with demons, which included physical assault on her. I still fear the idea of hell and I've always had a very strong fear of demons (which hasn't gone away).
Anyway, during my journey away from religion entirely I began to be confused by my own thoughts. When I no longer really believed that a God existed and I wondered, "What if I'm wrong? What if I go to hell because of this?" I've had a lot of fear even about just coming to terms with even using the word "agnostic" to describe myself.
Something similar is when I think of things like the fact that I'm going to make sure I have a wedding ceremony with absolutely no mention of God or religion of any sort, something in my head sort of mocks me by saying, "You're just trying to be difficult and defiant." I know that's not true; why would I risk eternity in hell if I really thought it existed? I don't know what that voice is though, or where it's coming from.
Those thoughts aren't always in the front of my mind by they are, and I just keep wondering if they're "God is trying to tell me I'm wrong" or if it's a totally normal human response because leaving a religion can be a scary experience on its own and my brain just needs to relearn things.
I'm not sure if anyone else has this problem, but in a way I'm hoping so because maybe someone could help me understand my "own" thoughts/why I'm having them. Is it normal? I don't really even know if this will make sense to anyone else.
No problem, hon!
I wish both you and your fiance the best. :)
Aw, thank you! <3 :D
Hi dizzyduckie, I didn't see this post until now but wanted to share for support with what you're going through. We have had similar upbringings and experiences it sounds like. What you're saying makes *complete* sense. Saying this after writing out my post, sorry in advance for the length.
When I was young, I remember internally questioning a lot of the things I heard from my parents and their religious social circle. I remember distinctly having doubting thoughts as early as 6. Even though I was in highly religious circles until my mid twenties, I never regarded myself as highly religious. I feel that with the thoughts I had even as a child, I probably just wasn't wired to swallow religious ideas at face value 100%. However I did my best to try. It does have a serious effect on you, even if there is an internal struggle the entire time.
As for social aspects, my parents and my entire extended family are extremely religious (with the exception of some of my relatives that live in New York). And of course I grew up in a highly religious social environment. With meetings, services, picnics etc.
And so I feel for you feeling isolated. Don't let it get to you. And I say that knowing quite what you mean and feel. I've dealt with the same problems. Socially and internally. It's something I have dealt with for years in varying degrees.
To explain further, in my mid-twenties I permanently abandoned religion socially. I stopped going to church, and began a period of time, which I'm still not entirely over at 32 years old, of feeling somewhat isolated. Honestly I didn't take the time to sort everything out internally until a few years ago. I was certainly agnostic, but mainly in an apathetic way. So I was like a fish out of water until then, of sorts.
This all changed when I went on vacation with my then girlfriend and stayed for a few weeks at her mom's beach house. I had a lot of time to just relax and started poking around her library of books she let me look through. I began reading quite a few books while I was there and it became a critical point of my life, like my own personal Galapagos Island experience. I read many books from Dawkins, Shermer, and Hitchens.
Suddenly so many lights turned on my head. Not that they were off to begin with, but just not all the way on. However it was in many a ways a shock to my system. So many thought patterns that had been on autopilot in my mind suddenly made no sense. It was a rush, almost in a scary way, of different ways of looking at literally everything.
I distinctly remember for example looking at people around me and realizing, after conscientiously accepting evolution after intense honest study of it, that we weren't special progeny of some divine being and rather evolved primates. I swear to you that for a brief time (about a day or two) that people looked bizarrely different to me, like I was in the movie Planet of the Apes. I can't explain this exactly.
But the point is that the difference between the though patterns of someone religious, say a Christian, and someone who is not, viz. an Atheist, are so fundamentally and radically different, and they run so deeply, that it's no surprise you're feeling the way you do. And after going through this, I can tell you it just takes time. For a good while, I would encounter a situation that would trigger a thought process in the way I used to believe, and suddenly think, "Wow, that is completely invalid." They can pop up regularly over time, but slowly your mind changes. This sort of thing doesn't really happen to me anymore, but it's taken a few years of just time and experience.
I can relate to your fear of demons as well. When I used to believe they were real, I would have night terrors on a regular basis. I would lie awake in my bedroom and be expecting that any second one would physically appear, or I would just lay there in sheer terror. Not thinking of them even, but really feeling complete irrational fear, like a presence of fear in my room. All due to religion. Since I have consciously rejected the belief of these, I have not once since experienced this at all, even as an afterthought. Christians may say, "Well Satan has you now, he has no need to scare you." Don't let these self looping mental prisons distract you.
And on that note, getting back to the social realm, it also has a huge impact. Especially when leaving a religion, but not quite refortifying your mind with a solid foundation of reality. I was there, and it was a tough time period to be in. All I can say is it's good these thoughts are dropping off. And over time, as you educate yourself concerning, for example, discussions with other people about religion, you'll be more confident addressing it. After my epiphany I avoided talking to my mother for some time, and it hurt, because I adore my mother and we have always been close. Once I felt comfortable enough to just explain to her how I felt and my thoughts, I did so and it was freeing because I felt reconnected to her and she was obviously upset but accepting as well.
By the way, don't feel discouraged if you don't feel equipped enough to address your conclusions with people around you. I don't know if you do, but just remember that just because you don't know something concretely or understand it confidently doesn't automatically mean the religious person is right. It's a common tactic with religious to exploit an argument by inferring they are right because they can make de-facto statements without thinking. You don't have to know thoroughly why you are correct to know they are clearly wrong.
Anyway, sorry for the ridiculously long post, I just sincerely hope that my sharing is an encouragement to you. Feel free to message me or discuss more in your post. It's refreshing for me to see when anyone can relate to what I have been through as well.
Wow, Cliff Notes please. LOL I'm kidding of course, most of your posts I've seen I relate to on a lot of levels.
I've thought about coming out to my family in a "testimony" style. Something like when I was 4 and being baptized I had no idea what was going on. I remember thinking, why do I have to do this, is there something in the water? When I was 8 I remember wondering how the hell dinosaurs could have been alive with mankind. Noahs ark had every animal? How did he feed them? There's always apologist propaganda like that footprint in the dinosaur footprint thing. How could stars come into play with them being billions of years old how come they weren't considered "the light" spoken about in the bible. On and on all the clues along the way I noticed and then folded them up neatly and put them in the back of the mind closet.
If I had just taken an extra step and started reading about the time that bible was written I probably would have realized so much sooner. Instead my dumbass went on 35 years, probably closer to 25 but it took a LONG time for me to address god on a logical level and mostly just regurgitated misquoted scripture and stuff I learned growing up rather than investigate whether or not it was real. All better now though. Thanks for sharing Dennis that was some good reading for me.
Haha yeah I didn't want to unleash a Reply of Doom here. I really try to keep them to a minimum.
And I know what you mean. I feel like I wasted so many years, and with poor decisions along the way. I don't regret it, but it would have been nice to have the opportunity to have material out there today to learn from and, like you, wish I had sort things out much earlier in my life.
@ dizzyduckie: You're fortunate to be where you are, at your point in life. This may be some encouragement to you as well.
Hey, I appreciate the "Reply of Doom," haha! I could definitely use it.
To the few people I've expressed my beliefs to I've said that I feel proud of the point of clarity I've reached in my life and that I've never been so excited to learn about the universe around me. I don't have to stop at the answer "Because God did it," I can actually learn how things work and it feels awesome! The truth really does "set you free."
Sounds like you think about this pretty similarly to me! I remember having tons of questions that were generally waved off or answered with the "I don't know" of Christianity: "Because God made/wanted it that way." :/ They were all relatively small questions but all put together it just made my entire religious upbringing look like a worn-out, ratty blanket with tons of holes ripped in it that no one had bothered to sew up.
I do appreciate that I reached this point early(ish) though... I would hate to have gone my entire life believing a lie instead of questioning it.
Thanks for your reply!
Wow! Thank you so much for your long reply; it definitely makes me feel a lot less alone and like I'm starting to find the support group I've so desperately been needing!
I'm pretty tired at the moment so I can't quite formulate the thoughts to reply to everything, but you added me so I'm sure we'll have the time to talk at some point! Did you come from a Pentecostal background as well or was it just overall similar?
Again, thank you so much for your reply! :D This advice will definitely come in handy and I'm sure I'll keep coming back to it for reminders and encouragement. And I've got a whole slew of books in my Amazon wishlist right now (lots of Dawkins, hehe) that I can't wait to get a start on!
Well, when I was a kid, my parents went to a Presbyterian church. It was so dry and boring. And my extended family are hardcore fundamentalist Calvinists and I went to their cult church as well. Watching paint dry was sheer excitement compared. So in one sense, that is quite different than an experience in a Pentecostal environment. In another, it's all insanity. :-P Anyway, when I was older, I went to a Charismatic Episcopal church. It was much more like a Pentecostal church, with speaking in tongues and faith healings etc. No snake handling or quite to that level.
About your wishlist: GO FOR IT. I can't tell you how much it helps with the thoughts etc. to replenish your mind with solidifying truths. To share just a few of the things I read or watched: Dawkins (The Greatest Show on Earth, The God Delusion), Hitchens (God is Not Great, The Portable Atheist which was compiled by him), Sam Harris (mostly watched lectures and debates), Bart Ehrman (all of his books on textual criticism are great), and then any debates and lectures you can find on youtube. Youtube has a lot of stupid junk, but if you follow some of the well known authors and debaters, it's good for reinforcing your thought processes.You may even find you disagree with some things or points with all of this material. I certainly do. But that is for you to discern for yourself and yourself alone. And THAT is the key. But don't ever stop re-questioning.
Jerry Coyne's book "Why Evolution Is True" is a great book about evolution as well. He also has a site by the same name. Awesome site. onegoodmove.org is another site, but I'm not sure if the author blogs as much anymore.
All of this is really the tip of the iceberg of things I think you might enjoy, from my little experience. Even all this is just for starters, and I can easily produce tons of other things you may find informative, as many others can on this site also.
The main point is that the more you piece everything together, the more the thoughts you struggle with will turn more and more into the ridiculous. Everything I have searched out... well, as you do too, you'll begin to see how ridonculous those programmed hesitations are for yourself on your own terms. I can't stress how much clarity, as much as you may feel now, you will have gaining a comprehensive understanding of your conclusions. It turns into a mountain and it makes the alternative seem all the much more petty and insane.
Don't forget, the bible *just by itself* is plenty.
Sorry again for the length. Just want to help as much as I can.
I appreciate the length of your posts! I love that someone's taking so much time to help me in my journey because I sure felt like I needed some guidance, lol.
I put all of those on my wishlist and I do spend a lot of time searching out different articles/videos/what have you. I really can't wait to get to reading though! Dawkins is what I'm most excited about although I'm not sure why.
"Never stop questioning" is something I chose to live by the instant I decided to fully question my faith, and I won't! Falling into that kind of trap again is something I just can't let happen.
I always feel so strange not having a long comment in reply... I hope it doesn't make you think I'm not listening and I don't appreciate your help, because I genuinely do! :)
There's a lot of people in your position, more than I've even met on 4 forums, 8 podcasts, 200 twitter friends and growing. Your brain is just trying to rebuild the foundation of your mind that was shoved out when you realized there was no god. Reading books has helped me to rebuild that, reading the forums is probably the single most therapeutic thing you can do - matter of fact I bet after reading the responses above mine you are already starting to feel better about it.
I'm going through some of the same feelings and as you read through the new member section you'll get a kick out of seeing that you are completely normal. I'm just glad that you get to think rationally now, sans the creepy dogma stuff you're going to be fine and those thoughts will start to fade or you'll be in a better place to handle them after time. Welcome aboard!
That's pretty much what I thought... It's like I have to rebuild myself. At least I have to do it while I'm still young and probably able to at least mostly "bounce back."
I'm sorry to hear that you're going through the same thing but I'm glad to know I'm not alone! I'll definitely have to go through the new members forum. Thank you! <3