Agnostic.com

25 9

What was hardest?

To those of you brought up with religion, where you truly believed it, what was hardest for you in giving up your faith?

For me, I was reared in a strictly Catholic household, with Satan and Hell and fire and brimstone taught from the time I was old enough to understand sentences. Teachings on sin and guilt and religious devotion had a big impact on who I was as a person. When I was about 20, attending a highly structured Catholic college, I was taking a course on Catholic doctrine, ethics, etc., and we were talking specifically about how the Catholic Church determines the morality of an action (e.g., terminating a pregnancy is never acceptable even if it would save the mother's life, so you're required to let them both die). I couldn't accept this deontological ethical model, and that started me on a quest for some other religion. But as soon as I started thinking about what I really believed and why I believed it, tugging that string caused the entire tapestry of faith to unravel and I found I didn't accept any of the religious claims being made. What was hardest, though, is that religion had made up such a huge part of who I was, so it left a wound that took time to heal. It was a severe form of growing pains, requiring me to develop part of my personality, find/form a new ethics foundation, etc. It was an open sore for years, but now it's healed and I don't even feel the need to pick at it.

So, how about it? What was hardest for you in giving up religion? Personal struggle? Family conflict? Friends turning their backs on you? Absence of a support structure? Something else? Inquiring minds want to know.

resserts 8 Feb 15
Share

Enjoy being online again!

Welcome to the community of good people who base their values on evidence and appreciate civil discourse - the social network you will enjoy.

Create your free account

25 comments

Feel free to reply to any comment by clicking the "Reply" button.

13

There were several negative side-effects (still are), such as some that you mentioned in your last paragraph. But the hardest part, I think, was coming to terms with the fact that I had been bamboozled, so much so that I believed most of the nonsense. It took me years (and a lot of research about the power of indoctrination) to get over the embarrassment and forgive myself for being so damn trusting and gullible.

Part of it for me was almost the reverse: the feeling that I had been bamboozled by the people I trusted in my life, that they should have known better and were either lying to me or stupid — and how could I respect them if either of those things were true? That was probably the second hardest part for me, because I couldn't wrap my head around how people who seemed intelligent in other ways had devoted a large portion of their lives to something that was so clearly a fairytale. That's still something of a puzzle for me, but I now feel a lot more comfortable with the idea that they were duped as well and that they just didn't have whatever moment of insight that led me away from faith-based claims. But it took me a couple of years to reconcile that.

Thank you well said. I am embarrassed by what I believed. I am angry at what I was taught. Not at any of those that taught me they were just as brainwashed.

@resserts The feeling of betrayal by those I trusted came later for me. That was part of the anger stage of grief as the fog cleared, and I did go through the 5 stages of grief during the deconversion process and afterward. I've always been curious and asked lots of questions. I sincerely wanted to honor and love God. This required a lot of studying and of course, prayer, and all the other trappings, as required in scriptures. No one in my family studied much less read the bible.

So it's no surprise that they still believe what's been spoon fed to them their entire lives. Like Bart Ehrman told his religious studies students, with most of them believing that the Bible was the inspired word of god although they had never read it: "If God wrote a book, wouldn't you want to know what he had to say?"

Fortunately for me, I was one of those who did want to know.

@AMGT "I had encouraged others to be more devout and disciplined in the relationship with god."

When eternal torture is at stake if they don't, your encouraging this is understandable. Having had a glimpse of your character, Amy, I think love and sincere concern were more of a driving factor than ego, arrogance, and self-righteousness.

@DavidLaDeau Indeed they were. Thank you for your comment, David.

8

What has been the hardest for me is to look now with new eyes at friends and relatives stuck in those old beliefs and realize what a fool I must have been.

7

Hell was drilled into my young brain by every adult around me. These were the adults I depended on to teach me everything the first 6 years Of my life. I had to trust that when they told me not to play in traffic, and not to touch a hot stove, they were being honest. When I tested most things they said, they were proven correct. That's why it made it so hard to give up the only thing that could save me from Hell. I feared Hell way more than I'm even comfortable admitting now. It wasn't until I saw what flimsy evidence there was for it all, that would let myself relax and be free.

I believed everything at a very young age, as most kids do. (Kids who don't tend to not reach adulthood.) However, I became really distrusting as I got a little older. I don't recall exactly how old I was, but I'll say around 7 or 8, I somehow touched the metal of a clock or lamp cord as I was plugging or unplugging it. And nothing happened. So, assuming I was lied to about the dangers of electricity, I did what any kid would do — obviously — and started tapping an old house key (that I'd found in a field somewhere) across the plug prongs, while it was plugged in. Nothing happened for the longest time. And then there was the cartoonish burst of blue light. I was shaken up, and when I saw the plug prongs there was a groove melted into the metal. Surprisingly, I wasn't injured and I didn't get in trouble. But my mother confiscated that key.

@resserts Dude!!!

I had a new roommate in college - the bulb in her lamp broke en route.
She was going to take the bulb base out with tweezers - and hadn't unplugged the lamp.
I told her not to.

Now I kind of wish I hadn't? rofl

6

For me it was the social structure of the church community. But when my wife-to-be came on the scene, these "friends" became jealous of her, and at the same time a church leader preached to me about living in sin (with my future wife) while they were having an affair, I waved goodbye to the whole scene and started a new life. My moral compass has remained the same, as I never let it depend on whatever church I was attending. I obviously wasn't steeped in it as deeply as yourself - sounds like that was a good thing!

Dealing with hypocrisy and supposed friends who turn their back on you when you don't believe exactly what they do is difficult. I haven't had too much of that in my life, but I've witnessed it elsewhere.

As for how steeped in religion I was, in a way it was beneficial because I went pretty far down the rabbit hole and saw that it led nowhere. If I'd been less devout, I'd maybe still be a wishy-washy theist. (I'm not sure, though, because I've always been so introspective that it might never have been something I could have kept on the periphery.)

@resserts - Now, all that said, I still had a lot of deprogramming to go through to shake off old beliefs like biblical teachings, and the concept of monotheism. So in re-thinking your original question, it seems that missing the social aspect of church was perhaps not as difficult to get over as was the deconversion process that took years. Not that it was an impediment to enjoying life or anything like that; it just took time to realign and refresh my perspective.

6

For me it was and still is the condescension from my family, things like I am wrong, and I will change my mind etc. but they do that about every aspect of my life, so it is not particularly due to my atheism.

Oh, my favorite is when someone a little older than I am told me, "You'll change your mind. I wasn't a believer either, but now that I'm older I see." What he meant by "I wasn't a believer" was only that he hadn't thought about religion much until after his parents and brother had died, and then he started thinking about life and death and God, etc. It was such a ludicrous statement, because I have spent decades now thinking deeply on these concepts, while one day he became aware of his own mortality and turned to a vague religiosity. Sure, clearly equivalent thought processes. Haha!

6

I went to a Baptist school for 4 years, involved in my churches youth group and choir, went to a church college. But once away from my family, I stopped attending church, still believed but didn't practice. Just not interested. Then over the last 5 or 6 years I've just gradually come to recognize that I didn't believe and started exploring that more. So for me, other than not having anyone to share or talk to about it, it hasn't been difficult.

6

It was the undoing of conditioning. The reshaping of a new perspective, and finding it. The process was uncomfortable as for a while the sense of "not belonging" was raw. I came to that point on my own.

5

Maybe disillusionment toward those I cherish that still believe. I've a hard time relating anymore. I sort of get jealous sometimes at their ability to just toss circumstances to some invisible force.

4

Well... only 2 family members know. It's just not something I need to flex my Muscles for. I'm new about being agnostic. I'm sure my neighbors would run me out of town...lol. I would loose all their friendships. Family too. This is a mortal sin...lol. I just can't believe how crazy they feel about their faith and religion. They would be calling me 666 and Satan and demon... geeze!

4

I was lucky not to have appreciable family conflict. My wife at the time remained a Methodist but was un-perturbed by my deconversion. Most of the rest of my family was far away and out of the "daily loop" of my life. Because of my wife's illness at the time, we weren't active at church and had no real friends. So the support structure was gone anyway.

So for me the hardest thing in giving up religion was (1) admitting what a raging fool I'd been for three decades, (2) accepting responsibility for all the foolish decisions I made under the influence of faith, (3) un-learning deeply ingrained habits and attitudes that had supported (2).

With respect to (3), the hardest thing was accepting that life didn't "owe" me anything. Despite not being a pentecostal or something like that, I had been taught that god made a TON of promises and he keeps them all. Things like blessing the righteous and confounding the wicked. Supporting and encouraging you, enlightening you. Giving you refuge from calmity. Meeting "all" your needs out of his own abundance. And on and on. Man, were my expectations sky-high!

I think those expectations can often lead to deconversion all on their own. My former employer was extremely devout (super conservative in her faith) and at some point things in her life seemed especially difficult and her church community wasn't providing her with the emotional support she expected. She made a serious break from her religion. I don't know whether she ever thought of herself in nontheistic terms, but she definitely changed her tune regarding some of her more fundamentalist views.

@resserts Yes unrealistic expectations are probably a major cause of deconversion -- and a major cause of disillusionment afterwards. After realizing god didn't have me in his back pocket, I felt like I was lowering my expectations of life into the metaphorical toilet, then into the septic tank.

3

I went to a Church of England school and feel much time was wasted in the teaching and brainwash of Christianity to be honest I didn't get it anyway. Little did I know until I was an adult that both my parents came from Catholic families so I had a lucky escape from that religion too. I refused to Christen my children when I was pressured by the in laws and both my ex and I decided that if our children wanted to be Christened for their own reasons and beliefs they could make their own minds up. My daughter did question me about why she was not Christened when she was around 9 and that was simply because her friends had. Both my children decided they were non believers and my daughter and son did not marry in the church purely their choices.

3

For me, it was being shunned by all my friends and most of my family.

JK666 Level 7 Feb 17, 2018
3

Mine was gradual and since I moved so frequently I did not have a church community or friends in the church. My birth family was not especially religious and there aren't many of them that I am close to, and the ones I am close to were really kinda relieved. Two of my three kids are atheist, and the third I think goes to church to keep daddy happy and it is her social outlet. She sings in the choir and plays piano.

3

The hardest part for me was the fact that there is a world out there in which I had to function, hopefully well, in order to survive. I had no idea how to separate myself from this world so I just did. I decided that since I was brought up in the faith I could function on the outskirts. I am a furniture maker/cabinet maker and needed to be able to function in a variety of situations. I found that I could basically become chamelion like. Worked well as I was able to make a living. Also helps if you know what you are doing as a skill and have the ability to network.

3

I did not give up religion. I simply realized that the gods proffered were not real. I do miss the since of community. It was very nice to think those people cared about me.
Many did. Most only pretended to.

Very true. The only true god is C'thulhu, Dark Lord of the Deep. May you feel the embrace of his tentacles and dream under the gaze of his black orbs.

@slayer1am What weird tales are you speaking of?[en.wikipedia.org] Yep, had to look that one up!

2

When I was young I went to the local Catholic school, it was better than the public school that was next door. When I got old enough to make the decision my mother let me. I decided not to go even though I still went to the school. Before long we moved to Indian Reservations and the point never was visited again. I d not think I have been in a church since with the exception of looking at architectural details. Oh, I worked in the Mormon Temple in Lake Oswego, Oregon, great job and learned a lot of why I do not want to be a Mormon, paid well and work was respected. The shop I work in has done many of the pieces in the Catholic Church in Seaside. Great fun work for people who really appreciate it.

2

I was already a misfit in my large Christian family..............now more so. Sometimes this saddens me.

Khmm Level 5 Feb 18, 2018
2

I never really followed my family's religion. They said they were Xians, but we rarely went to church. My family would pray over our meal. I let my mind wander. If I was asked to pray, I made shit up. I don't do well speaking in front of people. Even my family as a group. I'm easily embarrassed. We never talked about god or the bible. I broke away from it at an early age. I didn't tell my family I no longer believed. I kept it quiet. Last December I came out as an atheist.

2

there was nothing hard about it as my church was pretty soft as far a religion was concerned ie Protestant. So when I left home at 16 and I was no longer forced to attend I just stopped going to church and never looked back. The only thing I missed was singing as I used to be on the choir

What denomination of Protestant were you?

@resserts You know it's been so long since I've been to church that I really had no idea that there was different types of Protestant I had to look it up. We were Anglican whatever that means
[en.wikipedia.org]

@psycheworks Haha! Anglican is the same as the Church of England, right? It's not technically part of the Protestant Reformation. If memory serves, King Henry VIII couldn't get a divorce through the Catholic Church… so he created his own and made himself its head.

@resserts C of E sounds familiar. Henry VIII ...serial killer king!

1

The internal struggle. I started to question my faith in the sixth grade. I was 12. I'm 45 now, and I am still finding myself wrestling with leftover ideas that were planted in my brain as a child.

Catholicism taught me that I would never be good enough because I was born a woman. As if original sin wasn't enough of a burden to carry, I also knew it was somehow my fault that it even existed.

I am, and forever shall be, a work in progress.

1

I don't think i was ever a true believer, even though I attended church regularly and had positions of leadership in the congregation. The hardest part was breaking the ties with family who remain in their theist delusions. It still has ramifications for me.

1

it was the worst time of my live, i often said i left the faith kicking and screaming...
it ws so hard to have believed something and invested in something that was fake all along, so many life decisions were based on my faith. I'm not sure what hurt the most ..Loosing a friend, or feeling stupid for believing such stupidity, loosing purpose in life...all I can see it caused the deepest wounds I ever experienced. My life was in total shambles. It took me one night to get into the faith and it took me many many years to get free of it. The last years and the final bit caused me the most hurt, finally breaking with belief and loosing it all...i think I lost all ground under my feet. Nowadays i can stil feel the emotion when I look back, but I have made it through...
I realize how many can't get out of it....and in the end it's all meaningless, whether you believe or not..it's all about perceiving , if you lived a happy live and with the people around you, believer or not. I rather have been an atheist all my live or a believer all my life...the change caused me a lot of pain and misery. Of course now I am back to the road of happiness but rather have not gone through it..like with any deadly sickness you have been cured off. And yes being socially amputated was and is a struggle until today...

1

My lack of faith has at times caused a moment of discomfort with a few relatives and friends, but I think I just got used to kind of compartmentalizing our differences from the rest of us. However, even though I no longer live in the Bible Belt, it's not that easy finding fellow atheists and non-believers. I'm so glad I found Agnostic.com.

1

Being alone amongst all the believers; thinking I must be crazy for not believing this stuff because everybody else does. Then disappointing people when I stopped going. It never occurred to them I could be disappointed in them for not being truthful.

jeffy Level 7 Feb 18, 2018
0

I found myself alone again.

Write Comment
You can include a link to this post in your posts and comments by including the text q:24779
Agnostic does not evaluate or guarantee the accuracy of any content. Read full disclaimer.