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Can I talk about my feelings for a bit?

Ever since I've become an atheist, I feel... I don't know. Weird. And I can't talk about it with my mom because I know she'll just say I'm going through a crisis of faith and need to return to Jesus. This is really bothering me because I used to be able to tell her everything. Now I can't.

I also don't know what to do from here on out. I feel like I'm breaking up with God, and... I just don't know. On the one hand, I want to go running back. I have friends in church, I had good times there. My faith was such an important part of my life, and that was even how I discovered my love of theatre. The cross holds a special place in my heart, and I'll never forget how happy I was in there...

... Or how paranoid. You see, with the good always came the bad. I had friends, but I couldn't talk to them without getting passive-aggressively reprimanded. Christianity was a game of cat and mouse. I became afraid of my own mind. I thought things... And I immediately banished those thoughts from my brain. For so long, I thought I could go to hell if I so much as thought ' what if these people are wrong?'. So, I won't be going back. I have severed myself completely.

I just feel like I need something to fill the hole, y'know? Did anyone else ever go through this?

By imahermit5
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76 comments

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2

One thing I missed after I left church was the community. I was able to find a different community outside of church. It is easier in a large city, and the internet has made it easier also.

10

You're grieving your former self. I've recently learned that grieving is not saved for death. You need to identify that you've lost a part of your former self and accept and go through the steps of the grieving process. It may seem silly to consider it grieving, but try. Allow yourself the feelings and work though them. I whole heartedly believe you will come out better in the end.

6

Dear imahermit,
You are entitled to feel any way you feel, and yes, this is a great place to share. Smart young woman!

I never went through this, so I can't offer any personal advice, but I heard a podcast recently and there was an author 3/4 way through it who is a therapist for people who are leaving the faith. Her name is Marlene Winell. She has a website and books. She's awesome. What you're experiencing is called Religious Trauma Syndrome. It's very real, and entirely common.

Seth Andrews: Religious Trauma Syndrome -

Her website is journeyfree.org/rts. She says it's not that easy to unprogram, but it happens. I think you'll relate to her. This is a little from her site:

*Religious Trauma Syndrome has a very recognizable set of symptoms, a definitive set of causes, and a debilitating cycle of abuse. There are ways to stop the abuse and recover.

Symptoms of Religious Trauma Syndrome:

• Cognitive: Confusion, poor critical thinking ability, negative beliefs about self-ability & self-worth, black & white thinking, perfectionism, difficulty with decision-making

• Emotional: Depression, anxiety, anger, grief, loneliness, difficulty with pleasure, loss of meaning

• Social: Loss of social network, family rupture, social awkwardness, sexual difficulty, behind schedule on developmental tasks

• Cultural: Unfamiliarity with secular world; “fish out of water” feelings, difficulty belonging, information gaps (e.g. evolution, modern art, music)

Causes of Religious Trauma Syndrome:

Authoritarianism coupled with toxic theology which is received and reinforced at church, school, and home results in:

• Suppression of normal child development – cognitive, social, emotional, moral stages are arrested

• Damage to normal thinking and feeling abilities -information is limited and controlled; dysfunctional beliefs taught; independent thinking condemned; feelings condemned

• External locus of control – knowledge is revealed, not discovered; hierarchy of authority enforced; self not a reliable or good source

• Physical and sexual abuse – patriarchal power; unhealthy sexual views; punishment used as for discipline*

From Me: Kayakwoman

You're still young, so you have every chance to heal from this. I would recommend that wherever you go for college, there will be college therapists who specialize in the kind of adjustments all freshman make when leaving home. Don't hesitate to walk right in and ask for help. That's why they're there. They love to help young people because you have so much potential to heal and really become your best self!

One thing from me, personally: You can make your own promise to yourself to always be your best advocate, and trust your own instincts, and always do what's best for yourself. Part of the religious conditioning starts with undermining your own confidence in your own powers: So, I'll just say that I believe in you, not imaginary spooks in the sky. You should believe in yourself, too!!!

BIG HUG!!!

Religious Trauma Syndrome: wow! Never heard about it before but damn, it really makes sense!

6

I filled "my hole" with facts. I love reading and history and I basically devoured facts for years.

I did want a reliable, atheistic, intelligent friend, though. I wanted to sit down, one on one, and discuss things. I sort of understand.

I did eventually find a friend, but I'm so beyond the grasp of religion now, that we never end up talking about religion.

This site has been a good outlet for me. I hope you can somehow find a similar way to express your emotions and feel less alone.

Thanks for the advice!

6

Well, that's the entire point of this site. To provide a community for atheists who've been alienated from their local community and who need the company of their fellow "heathens". And to provide support for those who are going through a crisis, like you are.

Now... I've pretty much always been an atheist. I was impervious to the pressure I faced in primary school, I'd stopped reciting the Lord's Prayer by 6. So perhaps I'm not the best person to talk about this. But I can say that there are a lot of people who've been through the exact same things you have, and they'll always be here to help.

But for my tuppence, don't go back to religion for the sake of comfort. You'll never be rid of doubt, and it'll keep gnawing away at you. Intellectual honesty is more important.

Word

6

I am curious about this need (requirement) to fill a hole. When all four of my wisdom teeth were pulled (seemingly, against nature), nothing but gauze was given to me to fill those holes. Similarly, when we learn, perhaps for the first time, that Santa Claus was not a real person after all, and didn't ride in a flying sleigh, climb down chimneys, bring us presents, and didn't know what we were thinking, we may have been relieved, or, in some cases, left wanting. And yet, we know that there is no replacement for a wisdom tooth or Santa Claus. There is simply removal (elimination), and moving on.

It's perfectly alright to miss all that you found comforting in your life of faith. I too broke up with God, initially. After re-reading the Bible, I angrily demanded that Jehovah account for himself. No reply, of course. And then the Son didn't seem to answer me either, and so I began to wonder if I wasn't just praying to myself, much like talking to myself. It took years and the reading of many books (both critical and apologetic) for me to gradually emerge from the murkiness and gloom that was my brand of faith. And even then, there remained a tinge of nostalgia. In the words of Julian Barnes, "I don't believe in God, but I miss him."

But later, at some point, there was this "Aha moment." It's like, "Wait, you mean to tell me that ....?" To which I added, "Well, that makes no sense at all!" And from then on I felt 'cured' of this imposition on our minds that we call "Religion!" Logic and reason had won over credulity and tradition. Improved thinking acts as a vaccine against weaker thinking, and once you know a fact, or see a fraud, you can no longer 'un-learn' or 'un-see' what you have witnessed. I wish you the best, in deepest empathy, as you go about charting your own course. It was not easy for me, but in the end, rewarding. Do not give up on yourself. Peace.

5

You just keep hanging with us old heretics...you'll be fine!

5

A lot of people struggled with what you're going thru. Its really tough at first but the journey is worth it.
There's no such thing as "thought crime."

Hastur Level 8 Oct 12, 2018
5

You need support and some new friends but I never felt this way at all. Maybe that's because I am a loner.

DenoPenno Level 8 Oct 12, 2018
5

You are definitely in a transition period time of life. We are raised for 18 years being dependent on our parents, or some caregiver, then expected almost over night to throw the switch to independence. It just doesn't work that easily. Let your transition happen gradually and naturally. The "adaptive colorization" advice below is good advice. Adjust and get comfortable with your own thoughts and feelings first, over time, before sharing. I think you'll know when the time feels right to talk about this with your mother, and you maybe well into your 20's or 30's before it happens.

As far as the hole you feel that you want to fill, how about really embracing your love of the theatre? Study the history of theatre, the craft of acting, set design, costuming, lighting, sound, great directors, etc.

linxminx Level 7 Oct 12, 2018

Great idea! Thank you so much!

5

There is no shame in survival.

I knew I was an Atheist at the age of six but quickly discerned that was not an acceptable thing to voice.

I went on to win almost ALL the Bible Verse award BS.

Adaptive colorization is a thing.

4

If you get involved in some other effort that helps others, larger than yourself but non religious, that might help. Habitat for Humanity, adult literacy, mentoring at risk youngsters, canvassing for a good politician, volunteering at a soup kitchen, meals on wheels, your local pet shelter. And someone mentioned theater, I bet you can find a community theater group or even a high school that could use your help. You know god is a myth now, so we have to help each other ourselves. Good luck and let the guilt go!

zeuser Level 8 Oct 12, 2018
4

I was never bound to religion by family or culture so I can only imagine how difficult it must be for you. You're losing your tribe, a support system, as well as a big part of what was your identity.

As far as filling the hole – that comes with the territory. I'm always mystified that people find any answers in scripture. The story it offers is contradictory, inconsistent, and very sketchy on the specifics. (What's the afterlife like?)

I like what Bill Moyers said: Seminary is where I got my questions answered; life is where I had my answers questioned.

Deiter Level 8 Oct 12, 2018
4

Yes I had that empty spot for years, maybe decades, but as another commenter mentioned, you really can fill it with accurate information. It just takes time, but it definitely gets better. Best wishes.

skado Level 8 Oct 12, 2018
3

I'm not sure if this is something you would be interested in but I have a friend who is a non-believer but she's extremely active at her LGBT church for the sense of community. Church can mean different things to different people.

klang72 Level 5 Oct 19, 2018
3

I wish I could relate, since I was a doubter even as a small child, I never had to feel like I was breaking up with my beliefs. I just kind of shrugged what was left of them off easily once I felt ready to embrace my atheism entirely. It must be so hard for you when your sense of self, worth, and community has been tethered to a belief in Christianity. Christianity in the Bible Belt is particularly insidious, because you are surrounded by people who can't fathom not believing in and worshiping Jesus, and also feel they have been "called upon" to rescue you from your lack of belief. The atheists you can gain strength from in very Jesus-y areas of the country are scattered and hidden. So glad you have us to reach out to when you need bolstered. Feel free to message me if I can help.

Deb57 Level 8 Oct 17, 2018
3

I didn't as I never had a god but I think taking up a sport helps by turning a mental challenge into a physical one, like joining a running club etc. When my mind is at me, i sing if someone is droning on at me I sing silently in my head.and have learned not to care about what others think and feel about me- thats their problem not mine.

jacpod Level 8 Oct 16, 2018
3

I think you're grieving hon, for the life you had, and that is to be expected. How couragous you are. Be kind to yourself, be patient. It will get easier.

3

I went through this as well. I spent several years in the Assemblies of God church. I've always had questions about god, the bible, etc., but I really fell for it. Went to church three to four times a week, bible class, played in the church band, made friends, everything. But it seemed like the deeper I got into the bible, the less sense/logic it made.

I'm not exactly "out" with my atheist feelings, although my wife knows how I feel, but she claims to be Christian/Catholic.

We all have to decide whether or not to believe in a supreme being or whether we are here by simple biology. It gets easier.

Once the doubt set in, I discovered the evil bible [evilbible.com] website. Very thorough and mind-opening when you start reading the things in the bible that the churches don't usually teach...take a look!

3

I've been atheist for so long that I can't begin to imagine what you feel like, but perhaps an analogy might help. Through my lifetime I been through varied mental health counseling; ADD, anxiety, who knows what else, and the resulting depression. One therapist described to me the difference between understanding something intellectually, and understanding something emotionally: it's not the same thing. I get intellectually what's going on with me, but I'm not getting it emotionally. It's the same thing with you. You understand intellectually the fallacy in the belief in God, but you are still struggling emotionally with it. But I can assure you that time will take of this as it had with me.

godef Level 7 Oct 12, 2018
3

You do need new friends and new pursuits. It will take time, after all you were a practicing Christian for all long time. Good luck, and now you have all of us.

Jolanta Level 8 Oct 12, 2018
2

Hi Jennie. I've always been on the outside looking in when it comes to religion so I might not be the best person to comment. One of the things I've always respected about the religious community is exactly that, the community. But then, as you said, communities aren't always benign and if we don't conform we get pushed back into line. It sounds like you're a bit fed up with being pushed into line and you are looking for a non-judgmental, supportive community to replace the one you have left. You have made a great start here and reading through the comments this community is offering great support and advice. Well done on having the courage to be yourself.

SteveUK Level 4 Oct 30, 2018
2

It seems to be a good plan with replacing , take some classes to fill your void . It also takes time to overcome brainwashing

AmmaRE007 Level 7 Oct 23, 2018
2

Sure - went through all of that, though a little older than you: was early 30's for me. As I grew in the confidence of my new found freedom though, I found that I tolerated nonsense from theists better. For me social activism, my family, my business and general interests are more than enough to fill my life: I do not miss religion one jot.

Give it a little time and you will likely be just fine, comfortable in your skin, with a new network of rational friends. Family can of course remain difficult for years... we have to just struggle with that one. Good luck with it.

2

I kinda drifted away from faith and belief through high school and college. When my head finally cleared and I decided to get serious about my spirituality or lack - of, I realized that I actually didn't believe in the fairy tales. That part was easy for me because I'd already left and didn't really care for the social aspects.

I did deal with was a tremendous amount of doubt, guilt and fear. I was feeling very alone after a 20+ years of believing someone all-powerful gave a shit about me. It probably took 5 years to wean myself off of those feelings - I had to keep telling my emotional (irrational) self to yield to my rational self. Finally the good guy won. Beliefs developed in childhood are hard to break free from.

EricTX Level 5 Oct 16, 2018
2

Not really something I went through myself but I am (or was) definitely a loner at that time. I also always had a ton of unconventional ideas but that wasn't always easy growing up in the ultra-conservative area I did in Canada.
I moved a lot and explored the world, near and far to better understand all people not just the ones that I grew up around. I didn't find I had or needed an outlet to share much of what I believed. I partied and made friends, moved away made new friends and life was became very satisfying when I stopped focusing on what I didn't have.

I guess be thankful for what you do have. You didn't get to this point in life by accident. The choices you make are always the right ones for you. Remember that and remember you are the only one that can be the best version of you. Coming to terms with a relationship ending that is so deeply ingrained in us is a difficult process but like all obstacles you become a better you working through it.

Keep on you path and know this community is full of people who share this in common. Some will have similar paths to yours and may have some useful advice.

This is a big transition for you. The only advice I really can offer is don't be too hard on yourself, always be honest with yourself and trust that you know what is right for you.

maxhyde Level 7 Oct 15, 2018
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