I was a Presbyterian [from the Protestant Branch of Christianity]. I became an atheist because my entire belief system just sort-of "fell apart." Suddenly, nothing about Christianity made sense any more. And when I would attend a worship service, I would feel "detached."
Thank you so much for joining! :) I'm still suffering the effects of mine, [it happened 4 years ago, but I didn't realize I was an atheist until May.] It's good to have some "veteran" atheists to help the "newbies" get through the process.
I was raised in the Lutheran church, and as a teenager got involved with Foursquare, Baptist, and Pentecostal groups through my friends. I went to India as a missionary with Youth With A Mission when I was 21. A few months after I got back, Hurricane Katrina hit the south and although I don't live there, what I saw on the news dumbfounded me. I guess the combination of seeing so much poverty and suffering in India and then seeing the disastrous effects of Katrina started me wondering about God. I left the church when I was 22 after a period of several months of question and "soul-searching". I totally understand what you mean by feeling "detached" in services, I felt that like too. Soon after leaving, I read The God Delusion and realized it was okay to call myself an atheist.
Thanks for joining Kristi! :D
Hmmm... now that you mention it... I think that my deconversion was influenced by a book as well... it was called "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism" and you can find it on amazon if you're interested.
I was a devoted Christian for the first fourteen years or so of my sentient life. I remained stalwartly devoted to my faith while my sister began to have doubts. Finally, hoping that she could get me to understand her position better, she showed me a document (which I have since been unable to locate) demonstrating Jesus' complete failure to fulfill any Messianic prophecies except one. Christians rely on a bunch of Biblical texts ripped out of context for use as makeshift prophecies, declare that Jesus will fulfill all the genuine ones at the Second Coming, and then get butthurt because the Jews won't accept him as the Messiah.
I suffered an extremely painful deconversion on the spot. I remember bawling, hyperventilating. I couldn't believe that the God I'd believed in and relied on my whole life was based on lies. I couldn't believe that I was allowing myself to believe that He was. I remember hearing a quote later that summed it up perfectly: "I felt like my best friend was dead, and I had killed him." I had based my entire life on my faith. I spent my teenage years hoping and praying that God would see fit to grand me the gift of eternal salvation. I relied on Him - or thought I did - for everything. It was as though I had been floating on a choppy sea with God as my life raft and suddenly it had been ripped away, leaving me tossing and turning in that strange and harsh reality that is the world. I didn't think I make it without God. And I didn't really care - my life was suddenly devoid of meaning. I remember contemplating the possibilities. For the first time, I could be anything I wanted to be, do anything I wanted to do. And I didn't care. I would have traded it all for an eternity in Heaven. The eternity I had been promised and now robbed of. I was heartbroken, but I was also furious. Furious that I had been tricked into following a lie by those I had trusted the most - my parents and my God.
All in all, it was a horrible time. I cried myself to sleep the first three nights. For days afterward I would burst into tears whenever I was alone. When I wasn't angry at other people for deceiving me, I was angry with myself for letting the illusion be broken. At least as a Christian I had something to live for. I had a church, a family, dreams of eternal salvation. And I had destroyed it all in an instant.
Gradually, though, things began to change. Now looking at Christianity from the perspective of a nonbeliever, I could see things that had been invisible or conveniently ignored before. I came to realize that my release was a blessing, not a curse, that the God of the Bible is a twisted and selfish creature who never really deserved my devotion. And I came to be grateful that I was released when I did - for I truly have my whole life ahead of me.
Most importantly I realized that I didn't need God to walk me through the world. I had fallen off my life raft, yes, and landed only knee-deep in water. Now I not only support myself, but I control my own future. I decide - within reason - what is to become of me. I will not waste my life on the silly things that as a Christian I assumed nonbelievers did. I will follow my lifelong dream and be the humanist I always wanted to be.
I understand your pain anonamouse. It's very similar to what I went through and am just now starting to come out. With the help of this site, especially, I'm learning to put my life back together after 4 years. My actual "waking up" took about a year to fully take place. Hang in there.
I very much connect with what you write here, Mouse! I'm still in the thick of the process, and what you say helps me find words to express some of the reasons I am leaving the faith of my youth. Thank you.
I really have been active in Christianity or the way of living most Christians follow for a better part of ten years. I have known for some time that I did not only not agree with the faith and the double standards it preaches, but also knew that I did not belong...
I used to be (born and raised) in the Dutch Reformed church (Protestant) which is still very much the major church under Afrikaans speaking South Africans. I even qualified as a Sunday school teacher and taught Sunday school class.
About three years ago I started my own research into religion and faith in general and the only logical, and sensible conclusion for me was atheism.
I have come to realize that this will have to be a process so will take it one day at a time and see what life throws at me. However I will at least be able to deal with these things rationally and with good sense.
Some of the latest issues include. Family praying before every meal and "thanking" God for the food. My kid that they feel should be Christened, and whom is attending a Christian pre-school. I dont mind the beliefs forming a part of his younger years as I know that I will teach him to be a free thinker however the family presure and feelings of me being "lost" is getting a bit much.
Chris, I've been "into" this deconversion thing about the same length of time as you. Still in transition, as mealtime prayers are also an issue for me (I am married and we have sons 8 and 10): so much of my "lifestyle" has been thoughtful and positive, and I don't want to tear it away from my children without having something just as positive with which to replace it. I still attend church with my family for the same reason, but find it more and more excruciating on several levels. It feels so strange, after being a zealous believer for so many years, to have become a "Sunday Christian", to half-heartedly sing the songs that still resonate with me emotionally, to pass on the communion tray without participating in the bread and wine. *Sigh!* Being married to a wife who is still a devout believer is complicated as well...
I grew up in a born-again home - mostly Baptist (about 5 different denominations including a home-church that turned Southern Baptist) and Evangelical Free. We attended a Mennonite church, Assembly of God (too pentecostal for my folks), and Covenant. I went to an Evangelical Lutheran College, attended non-denominational and mega-churches. At the end, my favorite church was a small, artsy-fartsy Emerging Church - which is a denomination to watch - growing by leaps and bounds - imo - a new Jesus Movement front. My Hot4Jesus blog is dedicated to explaining all the variables and how I left the faith and the deprogramming. My deconversion happened very quickly when I was 27.
I don't feel like I pursued atheism. If anything, I've avoided the label. I did come out atheist on my blog last year and tried to explain my reservations at the time. I used to describe myself as an agnostic atheist. Though I know that label isn't kosher among some atheists - it still fits a bit. Hard to explain. However, I do feel more and more comfortable with what atheism is/isn't - and though I am fascinated with paganism, humanism, mysticism, yoga- as a philosophy and as a science, I'm pretty okay with atheism. I don't believe in any deity. I describe myself now as an empathetic atheist - as someone who has been deep in the faith, knows what makes hard-core believers tick, and believe that often the only thing that will bring someone out of (or into - unfortunately) the faith is Timing. I know for a fact that for most hard-core believers, Logic is not going to change their minds.
In some ways I still consider myself a christian - as in Jesus had a great deal of influence on my life - and the good parts are worth keeping and exploring. I just don't believe that he was/is a god/God. I love studying about ancient Christians - including the Church of Thomas - and enjoy researching and speculating about Hindi/Buddhist influence on Jesus/christianity.
Love your term "empathetic atheist"! It's what I also aspire to become. The needs, longings and desires answered by faith are legitimate human responses to our existential void, and i believe we must confront them with understanding, gentleness and kindness.