My story is not one of becoming an atheist or turning away from religion as a recent event. From a very early age, I smelled a rat but was unsure of what exactly was going on. I was sure that my parents, and all the other adults, wouldn’t lie to me. That was nonsense; it had to be. Why would there be this huge conspiracy to confuse one little kid? So I worked arduously over the next several years attempting to convince myself that I had surely made a mistake and there was some reason I was simply not getting it. This is not uncommon; many people face this same quandary as they struggle not to feel different than their friends and family. So even though I became sure of incredulity of theistic claims, I continued to go along with the scheme. Worse than that, as I grew up I found that I had a particular skill for convincing people to see things the way I wanted them to.

This is where my story goes south.

I spent several years easing the doubts of people and bringing them back to the faith. Despite the fact that I felt strongly that it was all BS, I guess it somehow made me feel like less of an outcast. It’s despicable and not the proudest time in my life, but I was scared and confused so I clung to familiarity.

So now, here I sit, firm and open in my beliefs or lack of beliefs and I have the guilt that religious people typically harbor because they have angered their sky god. Where do I go from here?

Tags: my, story

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I hope this is a wound that time will heal for you as it did for me. I felt that guilt as well. When loved ones reacted poorly to my "coming out", I felt like I had hurt them perhaps unnecessarily.

One point that a fellow atheist pointed out to me then that I am now passing to you:

Their belief and all the feelings that spring from having that belief is not your burden to bear. They must own that in its entirety. You shouldn't need to feel like you have to hide from who you are and how you think and feel.

Have you ever heard the Latin phrase "Memento mori"? It means "remember your mortality" or "remember that one day you will die". Don't hold onto this guilt any longer than you have to; don't you think you've given religion more than enough of your only guarantee? Read literature by atheists. Follow the news (there is plenty there to erase a bit of guilt you feel---religion truly is a nasty virus). Allow alittle room for any anger that you might feel due to being pressured all your life to pretend to be something that you never were.

If your family and friends had been totally accepting of atheists or skeptics, you wouldn't be facing this guilt today. Have sympathy for them, of course; however, never completely excuse them of their unacceptance by saying that they couldn't help it. You helped it! You faked a religion that you did not believe for years...not only because you needed to belong, but because you were accepting---of them. You just never allowed yourself to accept you. Congratulations on finally doing so.

In a year, when you are reflecting on your coming out experience, you will close your eyes, take a deep breath, almost feel the freedom, and sense no more guilt. This is my experience, and I hope it will be true for you as well.
I think you should forgive yourself. It's hard to do but it's so rewarding.

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