I'm wondering something...

So for those of you who have previously believed (I mean really believed) in God, how long does the guilt last after you no longer do? You know what I mean right? That guilt feeling that the decisions you are making are suddenly "against God's will..."

I have an example in my own life that I'm willing to share as a jumping off point but don't let this derail the thread into something else...I want to know about "GUILT" specifically...there are TONS of other examples but this one is perhaps the one that's driving me nuts the most...

My example: I got a divorce. I left my marriage that was already broken. I'm moving on with my life...

I have a lot of internal thoughts about things like, "God hates divorce..." or "If he decides he wants to reconcile it is God's will to do so." or "marriage is a commitment before God."

These guilty feelings have not prevented me from starting a new life. I am attending a support group, and I'm taking really really good care of myself for a change instead of catering to the needs of a person who does not respect me. Now that he sees how well I'm doing by myself I can see that HIS abusive tactics are changing and he's trying to reel me in to go back to him. I'm not stupid. If I were stupid enough to go back to his ass he would be "nice" for about a week until the next abusive go-around. So NO I'm not going back to my ex-husband. But I feel guilty because of the internal conflict that I've recently figured out goes back to my former views on marriage, commitment, and how the Bible says that if a spouse wants to reconcile you should do so...when research clearly indicates that an abusive person doesn't change overnight if ever at all unless there is professional and intense intervention. So I'm choosing between the research, vs. the Bible...the research wins. But my guilty conscience is driving me fucking NUTS!!! Those crazy voices inside my head are not going away and I want it to just STOP already!! It's frustrating!!!!! Not to mention confusing.

I think I'm doing everything right to be able to move on. My heart has moved on and I am no longer the same person I was when I was married to him. But the guilt I have towards "God" for becoming a divorcee is driving me fucking crazy. 

When does it get better? How long? 

Make it stop please!!!! I wish somebody could.

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Could it be that the pillars of your beliefs were founded upon the emotional relationship you had built up with God over the years? Getting divorced is a very emotional experience and you no longer have your faith to support you. Moving from a position of zealous faith to Atheism is a process. It takes time to learn to look at the world without seeing the agency of a god playing a hand in it. It is one thing to no longer belief in god but it is another to come to admit that he does not or never did exist. It takes time to rebuild new pillars to support you new worldview. It takes time to learn to think critically as it is a skill that needs to be sharpened.

The guilt machine is powerful .  So much of the teachings by male preachers are based on the idea of human worthlessness without God. Christian and Islamic dogma ends up ticking people into believing this rubbish. It is powerful though because it becomes so interwoven with one psyche that it becomes almost impossible to get free of it. They are constantly reinforced. To be able to recognize that it is guilt and not a god that does not exist trying to pull you back is part of the recovery process. Religions do not empower women towards independence.

You have to recover from the emotional bruising of getting divorced and from the emotional upheaval of discarding your faith. Your recovery can also be hindered if religious people you know play on this in an attempt to bring you back into the fold. You made the right choices and deep down you know that. So don’t dwell too much on any doubts or internal conflicts about the past. Those shadows will soon disappear as your new found freedoms brighten up your life.

"Am I sure?" I feel that way all the time, especially if I read the bible again. I'm glad you asked the original question, because I've been wondering that myself.

Another question is when do you start having confidence? For much of my life, I was not confident in myself, I never trusted myself. I always worried that God was trying to tell me something and I wasn't listening, or that my sin would cause me to stumble, or etc. Then I got into a very affirming brand of Christianity and was surrounded by very affirming people who taught me that God had created me well, and created me smart. I was filled with the Holy Spirit, even if I didn't feel like it. I could act and behave with confidence because I knew God was with me. Now, I don't think God's with me because there is probably no god, but I'm not sure of that, and I feel terribly nervous a lot of hte time that I'm doing something horribly wrong.

"learn to love yourself, you have low self-esteem, you have no confidence in yourself, love your self, self self self...."

I'd found a way to love myself as a child of God. Now that I don't know God anymore, I'm still trying to figure that out. I lost a lot of my support system, and didn't gain much in return.

I didn't need atheism to escape a church that was driving me absolutely nuts, or abusing me, or anything like that. So now I have this freedom but what can I do about it? I don't feel conflicted anymore about whether or not god allows me to drink alcohol--but drinking doesn't automatically make me happy, and I'm smart enough not to drink a lot. I no longer feel guilty about having sexual thoughts, but that doesn't mean I've suddenly found fulfillment or happiness that way. It hasn't made it any easier for a quiet, average-looking, nerdy guy to meet women.

So yeah, I guess I'm still trying to find that support, and build up the courage to truly live.

I agree with Reg's idea - this sounds like an emotional situation, rather than a "logical" one, and perhaps there are many reasons why you "have a lot of internal thoughts about things like, "God hates divorce..." or "If he decides he wants to reconcile it is God's will to do so." or "marriage is a commitment before God."

There may be many entrenched reasons why you would feel that way - do you know the psychological theory of the elephant (90% of our brain, intuition) and the rider (10%, conscious thought).  I believe that this is a good model if you think of an elephant being guided by a little person on top. 

The issue is, there are many good reasons for believing that you have the right to be happy, healthy and unconditionally respected, too; and the right not to be plagued and drained by an abusive person who gets through life by abusing other people, like some kind of vampire. 

Belle - surely it's a combination of the controlling, abusive aspect of the Christian religion (which may be exploited by some people in some circumstances) and a controlling, abusive history.  Religion is often interpreted very narrowly and selectively.  Perhaps, this is how it's been presented to you.  I personally like the fundamentalists - the evangelists, and the Sufis.  They don't give a fuck what they're told to think - they think for themselves, and apply the religion in their own way, and consequently, tend to be very nice people in my experience whom you would let baby sit your kids.  I have a friend who is a life-long evangelist, and who enjoys an enthusiastic before-marriage sex-life - like any sensible person.  If they wanted to get divorced - they are a practical person who wants to be happy in a responsible way - I'm pretty sure they would get divorced and see it as God's grace or whatever. 

The theory of the elephant and the rider is simply that most of our conscious thoughts and decisions are not driven by rationality - pure rationality is a myth - but arise from our subconscious and intuition.  These are then processed, organized and even justified by our conscious mind. 

It is perfectly possible to have religion without God - I do.  My neighbours say it's like living next door to Jesus, and I have more fun than them on my own, and they're swingers.  It's true - they're miserable compared to me.  Maybe they're miserable because of me.  Who can tell.  Nah.  They just can't face Jesus.  One of them anyway. 

The challenge now is to take an abstract principle - which I understand perfectly, and forms the basis for morality and religion - and make it relevant to everyone.  I'm thinking of taking it to Alain de Botton's School of Life in London and trying to get up a working group. 

"pure rationality is a myth" - I think that that in itself is a myth. 

Belle I suspect this sort of question is deeply personal. The length of piece of string is twice half its length. How long do you suffer this guilt? until you can shake it off.

The good news is you don't believe God is real anymore. So you are feeling guilt toward a fictional character.

I don't know if that will help or not because I have never been through what you're going through. Take care.

I was going to say similar.

God and Bible were both invented, written, and glorified by men with agendas to make people subservient. Guilt was (and still is) one of the most effective feelings to exploit. Many of them had (or thought they had) good intentions, but much of what they produced is heavily skewed to the right, i.e. to control others.

For me, I don't think I ever really 'believed', but got all hung-up on 'decidability issues'. Being surrounded by believers, wana believers, and opportunistic-neo-believers, etc, just teasing all the crap out to find a signal was my lifetime quest. At some point I just seemed to wander out of the 'fog of belief', got a breath of fresh air and noticed that the horizon was a little further away. A little like, 'Ok, its Christ's birthday, so what!' 

Belle, in many ways your brain is like a computer. Things you delete may still be around until they are finally overwritten by new information or experiences.

A new relationship, or great hardship, or if you are lucky and have great fortune, will change your brain state so that your guilt is less and less an issue.

When I spend too much time in my own head, I make sure that part of my week includes activity that requires my FULL attention. (Climbing is my favorite). When survival depends on your moment by moment decisions, your thoughts inevitably come clear.


Unfortunately it is not like flipping a lite switch on and off. You now have the necessary foundation to move forward with your new reasoned perspective on life. The nagging feelings of guilt WILL eventually subside. Your transformation is analogous to the Colorado River cutting it's way into the surrounding rock cliffs of the Grand Canyon. Little by little the water washes away minute particles each day, week, month, year, decade, on and on.  Time will be your friend, trust me. 

You're doing well adjusting to your new lifestyle so hang in there. Peace.

Hi Belle,

I have a question for you.  Imagine someone came to you, perhaps in your imaginary professional capacity, and asked you this very question.  What would you say to them?  How would you provide comfort?


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