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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.

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    Heather Spoonheim

    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.

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    Lisa Lark

    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.

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      Suzanne Olson-Hyde

      @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/