Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I Was Never that Crazy Christian

Lately, whenever I spend extended time online reading atheist material and watching videos, I start to get a little bummed. I'm drinking more these days. And when I'm not drinking, I'm trolling for cupcakes.


I just feel kind of sad.

I'm adjusting to this whole new way of thinking, and I'm feeling a profound loss. A loss of a belief system, sure, but more than that, a loss of a culture. A way of thinking. A way of life. A way of organizing my thoughts.

Because here's the truth: When I was a Christian, I was never like all those crazies we see in the videos and on the blogs. I was never a "Christian nightmare" or a fundie. I've never been a literalist. I've never been into brainwashing. Never been into speaking in tongues. Never had anything against gays, or even sex outside of marriage.

I wasn't that person. That crazy Christian. I was always thoughtful. I always tried to use my intelligence. I asked a lot of questions. (Eventually my questioning led me right out of Christianity.)

But obviously I found value in the Christianity I was embracing and trying to live. It helped me. It gave me a focus. And now that I no longer see the value in it (sadly, I'm mostly only able to see the craziness) I really feel a loss.

Somebody get me a martini. Or a cupcake...

Has there been any depression or sadness in your journey as your own thinking has evolved?

18 comments:

  1. Yes. Christianity was a social crutch to me, it was where I met all my friends. When I was in the atheist closet, there was the extra strain of worrying someone would find out, and that someone would forsake me for my atheism. That was a major factor in my depression. However, I'm actually happier as an atheist, in general. Not to be plug my own bog, but I wrote an article on it about how atheism leads to a healthier view of death.

    As for purpose, focus, well...there are plenty of things we can shift our focus to. I think it's no coincidence that so many successful people aren't religious (Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, etc.) because we're forced to find something else to focus on. Careers, work in general, family, friends, political causes, you name it. Whatever floats your boat can give you focus to your life. Might sound simplistic, but I hope it helps nonetheless.

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  2. I went through a total spiritual breakdown and found myself walking completely away from Christianity... I wouldn't say I was depressed but more in mourning of my former lifestyle. Once I came out of that (it took about a year) I found myself doing things that I never would of done before (who ever knew drunk karaoke was a blast?)and the biggest being returning back to school.

    I missed the friendships and network that I had but have created a new one and this one is more real because these people know me and what I believe and accept me for that...

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  3. My husband and I went through the classic steps of grieving. Sadness, anger, denial etc. We were those crazy Christians (though never openly hurtful towards others).

    We are definitely on the other side now and it feels like breathing fresh air. Not completely out-of-the-closet yet. Still we will have to face some more of our once closest friends upset and thinking we are going to hell.

    The hardest thing is finding like minded friends. With a chruch there is an automatic structure to find those who believe what you believe. But now I also realise it's better to have a few close core friends then many aquaintences who stroke your ego.

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  4. Hi ExChristian Mom,

    I have been following you on twitter and now reading your blog. I really feel for you, you are obviously going through an isolating period. I have lost all contact with my family because of my atheism, but I am happy. There is less intolerance and bigotry here in Ireland, rather ironically, but I do appreciate what you are going through. Is there any way you could find atheists who live near you that you could establish links with and chat with? Unfortunately I live in Ireland. However, I would say I do have a very good phone service provider and I get free calls to America. If ever you needed a friendly ear, a sympathetic listener, someone to ask questions of, or just to chat about your journey with, I would be happy to help you through this. Or you can email me at cannon144@yahoo.co.uk to chat by email if you prefer. I hope that by now you are feeling less isolated and happier in your atheism. Take care and keep well.

    James.

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  5. I haven't read it yet, but I hear the book Leaving the Fold by Marlene Winell is good for helping people like us transition (available on Amazon). Also check out the Living After Faith podcast (Google it). The guy on the podcast was a pastor for over 20 years and talks about his story in some of the episodes, including his battle with depression as he was coming out of religion.

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  7. Oh, also check Godless Girl's blog to see some of her journey... she is a former xian too. There's lots of us, I'm gathering. And I agree many of us weren't crazy charicatures, just misguided.

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  8. I think with any journey there comes ups and downs...if the sailing were all smooth, there would be nothing to learn or gain.

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  9. I could have written this post myself, as far as painting a picture of who I was as a believer. I really do hope you can find a way to open up with your family and friends about your loss of faith. It's incredibly difficult and painful, but it has helped me finally move on.

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  10. I grew up in a mormon family, and they are all still mormon. It is definitely a culture unto itself, and once you turn your back on it - it can be weird. I knew I never really believed it, but I really liked the family aspect of the religion. If it weren't for the indoctrination, it would be a great place for families to get together and socialize. But that's the problem, once you leave & decide you don't believe, and come out publically, you are outcast. My family believes, literally, that I will be in the outter darkness of hell when I die, no matter how good I am, or how many people I help. My soul is eternally damned. Since I don't believe I have a soul, I don't care, but I don't like that my family, that I love very much, thinks that way about me. They should know better, and in some ways, though they don't admit it, I know they do. They see how I am still good, but have found better reasons to be good than fear or hope of reward. My morality is free from the constrains of religion & so I am better for it. It was hard at first, so I sympathize with your depression, but know that you are not alone and many have gone through, and are going through the same thing.

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  11. I was born into an atheist family, and while I went to a Christian school (I'm from the U.K., that's all we really had) I turned out an atheist as well.

    I have depression and it usually manifests when I am stressed, but it doesn't really sit around the atheism. Reading your story actually helped me when I was feeling very down. I am very convinced that the universe is a beautiful, wonderful and terrible thing and that we can only realise just how much that is the case when we look at it sceptically. Seeing someone coming to realise the complex simplicity and terrific wonder fills me with hope.

    I can't really advise you about the problems you have telling your friends, I'm from a more secular society: if I say 'I'm an atheist' most people, Christian, Muslim or anything, just say 'so what?' The only advice I feel I could legitimately give is "don't tell them yet." I know it seems lonely and hard, but you have to do what's safest for you. There are a lot of other atheists out here on the Intertubes, and we'll help as best we can.

    One thing that really helps me with my depression is Carl Sagan's Cosmos. That show is so beautiful it brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it.

    Keep blogging!

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  12. I am very convinced that the universe is a beautiful, wonderful and terrible thing and that we can only realise just how much that is the case when we look at it sceptically.

    I remember a line from L'Engle's "A Swiftly Tilting Planet", where Meg finds herself defending Earth to an alien unicorn : he points out our world is full of war, suffering, destruction. And she can't find anything more to say than "it's beautiful". Which she doggedly insists on even when it's clear the unicorn isn't buying it.

    And it's so strange because when it comes down to it I couldn't defend it better than she did. We have love, and music, and the Grand Canyon - but so did the unicorn's planet. But the world is beautiful, in so many ways, even as it's horrible. It's like a tsunami is a terrible, destructive thing that causes untold suffering - and it's a powerful, awesome force of nature - and it's one ripple in the marvelously complex system of fluid dynamics that is the ocean... I often feel as if the difference between "horrible" and "beautiful" lies in the tiniest shift in perspective. It's less a fact about the world you can defend and more the feelings it creates in you.

    And that's the nice thing about looking at the world scientifically - instead of relying on the world inside your own head, you go out and find out how things really are, learn new things that you don't know yet, and that multiplies the perspectives you can choose between when looking at the world.

    {{ExChristianMom}} I'm sorry you're feeling aimless and sad. I think it's likely it will pass as you get used to your new worldview. In the meantime, I wonder what you mean when you talk about the focus you had as a Christian ? What did you focus on ? The world hasn't changed; your view of it has. If what you used to focus on is still important you should still focus on it. If it turns out it wasn't important, then it wasn't important all along... but other things are important. Maybe you just need some time to figure out what those things are.

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  13. As another comment stated, you are going through the eight classic stages of grief. I went through them also because I was that "crazy Christian" prior to my deconversion.

    I found that a social networking site for those of us who left the fold was incredibly beneficial to me at the time. It's not just a community of atheists but former Christian atheists, agnostics, etc. You might want to check it out: exchristian.net. :-)

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  14. OH MY...you are so spot on. I actually did a search one day some months back: "ex christian mom" because I was on my way becoming one. And your blog popped up, verbatim. I soooo relate to your journey. I grew up in a very charismaniac church and was in a missionary organization just out of high school; had serious missionary career goals; Grandpa was Baptist minister, I married a PK (inlaws also pastor/pastor wife). I was that crazy Christian, but over a long period of time recognized the absurdity of much of my upbringing and young adult beliefs. As I grew older I had become kind of intellectual, wanting to understand more, delving deeper into history, being willing to consider the opposite side of a debate. One of the first things to go was worship music became repugnant to me, meeemeeemeee squishy stuff. At least old hymns had some bite and doctrine you could hang your hat on. As time went by, like one of the other posters stated it "the cognitive dissonance became too much."

    I had a manic episode about 4 years ago, I believe partly a result of much religious emotional stress, plus several other factors--huge emotional upset from talking with a "lost love" after many years; lack of sleep from an infection; and trying a strong antidepressant "supplement" Sam-E. Oh, didn't I become on fire for God again! Are you washed in the blood? Till I landed in the hospital. Things are stable in the mental health department and have been for years, but boy am I glad that's over with.

    Yes, my grief is real. It is only recently I have been able to admit to my husband that my honest assessment is that I do not have faith now. It's really difficult for him. I'm not trying to hurt anyone, just trying to be honest that I don't buy it anymore. My oldest daughter age 14, did know that I didn't take everything in the bible literally and finally told me that she doesn't know if God exists either. I explained the term agnostic and she tried it on. But recently she just exploded in conversations with Dad and grandparents (who were encouraging her to pray about something I think), "I don't even believe in God". She has a very hard time with him wanting to read a chapter in the Bible after dinner, and going to church. I have tried to explain that it's useful for her literary education if nothing else, just put up with it, it's important to him and he deserves her respect and ordinary politeness. It's so hard for her, she is in the instantly angry phase, doesn't want anyone to tell her what to do, what to believe. Fun being a teenager, huh?

    I remember crying when I realized people could be Christian and believe in evolution. I was so relieved. But the more I read and explored, the origins of the Bible and Christianity, and the teachings of the church itself, I think that's what finally did it, like the doctrine of atonement. It's a really uncomfortable place to be when the whole thing finally comes tumbling down. But for me it is getting easier having my brain move toward "I don't know and now I don't really care".

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I'm sure it's really difficult keeping all that to yourself.

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  15. I'm loving your blog and I find all your entries mirror much of my own experience. You will feel lost - Church was your social life, your spiritual existence and even your occupational identity. You have to mourn the loss of all those things.

    I still don't know what the meaning of life is for me, I still feel like I'm drifting a bit but I'm more comfortable with not knowing.

    In my case I was that crazy Christian so perhaps I just have a lot more to think quietly about.

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  16. Hello, I feel complete empathy with you,re plight. I too was one of those religious nut job,s until i could no longer stand the bs. speaking from experience, the 2 best day,s of my life is when i found this non-sensicle crap and when i left it. peace to you.

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  17. I feel your frustration. I'm a closet atheist, married to a devoted Christian man who teaches Christian values to our kids. My role is to quietly play along. I see no value in informing my husband otherwise. But I sit in church every Sunday watching the faces of others and thinking, I can't be the only one. But always realizing that my face is the only one lacking the awe and enthusiam of being in the presence of a imaginary being.

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  18. I wish you were still blogging.

    Of all the posts, this one really hits home. I've been a an Ex-christian now for 8 years. And while I feel stronger and stronger as time goes on, I have felt the loss as you've described in this post.

    I'm out with some people, never really bothered telling others, and don't care for the most part at this point if people know or not so I'm willing to spill it if someone inquires. Not such a big deal anymore. But there are losses. A sense of belonging to a community of like minded individuals is a big loss.

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