The High Cost of Fleeing Fundamentalism

Editor’s Note: Read this fascinating summary of recent research on fundamentalists who consider leaving religion but stay (like clergy whose beliefs change, perhaps?) Bottom Line:  They’re depressed.  This is reposted with permission from Bruce Gerencer’s blog and quotes an article  written for Religious Dispatches,by Andreea Nica.  I have also secured her permission to repost it here.  This is clearly a hot topic, because The Daily Beast recently published another article about this research that was written by Clergy Project member and Rational Doubt blog contributor, Brandon Withrow.  The original study, conducted by Matthew May appreared in the journal Society and Mental Health.  //Linda LaScola, Editor

======================

By Andreea Nica

According to a recent study, those who have a stable religious or secular identity generally report greater wellbeing; however, those who consider leaving religion but stay, tend to experience poorer mental health over time, compared to those who are more consistent in their religious and nonreligious identities. Which begs the question of how leaving impacts wellbeing—particularly for those raised in a religion.

By now many of us are familiar with the data on the “nones.” Nearly four in ten (39%) young adults (18-29) are religiously unaffiliated, and they’re nearly four times as likely as young adults a generation ago to identify as religiously unaffiliated. The primary reasons are skepticism in the teachings of religion (60%), a less religious upbringing (32%), or issues with religious teachings about or treatment of gay and lesbian people (29%).

But a subset of these growing religious nones has lacked examination—those who have left fundamentalist religions. Underexplored is how disaffiliation from fundamentalist groups impact family relations and friendships, as well as the stressors involved in ‘coming out’ as a nonbeliever.

Important to clarify, is that strict, fundamentalist, or “high-cost” religious groups have distinct characteristics of absolutism, fanaticism, and conformity. Absolutism means that religious individuals have a high commitment to and willingness to sacrifice on behalf of the religious group’s goals or beliefs; Conformity entails obedience and discipline of religious members; and Fanaticism is conceived of as one-way communication versus a dialogue between leadership and members.

Leaving fundamentalist, strict religions can have negative health consequences, both perceived and actual, that manifest in the body and mind. Research shows that individuals who come out to family members, specifically as an atheist—a strongly stigmatized identity in the U.S., only slightly more popular than Muslims—report that families often react with anger and rejection, as communication deteriorates and distrust grows. While research is somewhat limited on individuals’ experiences leaving religion more broadly, and coming out to family and friends, it’s generally assumed that there are significant stressors involved that impact wellbeing.

I interviewed individuals who left fundamentalist religious groups, or, what I call, ‘exiters,’ and found that they all have complex stories of ‘exiting’ and ‘coming out’ out to their families. These individuals left religion for different reasons, but some common themes included pursuit of personal freedom not found in the religion, shifts in ideological values that put them at odds with religion, and lack of acceptance for who they were or who they wanted to become in their religious communities.

Religious immersion

The ‘exiters’ I interviewed described their experience in religion as immersive, consisting of a significant time commitment, a high degree of participation, and intense involvement.

Heather, a 29-year-old female exiter of evangelical Christianity, explains her religious experience as deeply connected to family and friends in the community:

I was raised in the church, attending services as far back as I can remember. As a child, we would attend Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and mid-week services. As a teenager, I became highly involved in the youth ministry and served on the leadership team, where I continued to attend Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and mid-week services. The church was a significant part of my family’s identity. It was our primary form of community and where I built many lasting friendships.

Lena, a 29-year-old, female, and exiter of The Church Universal and Triumphant, a new age religious cult, echoes:

There were three weekly important Church services of about 2-3 hours each that I attended with my parents. My school was run by the Church so every day was started with a 30-minute services. I took Holy Communion classes every Sunday afternoon for 2 months one summer when I was 8 or 9. There were four major holy events—“Conferences”—when everyone would gather on the main Church campus and spend a week purely in Church praying and listening to the Church leader. On my own, I prayed every night before bed, blessed my food, prayed whenever I was driving in a car, and did rosaries every night for a good 6 or 7 years. I listened to the Church leader on audiotape in the background when doing homework or falling asleep after about 10 years old and the sound of prayer was constant.

Katie, a 34-year-old, female, exiter of a charismatic, non-denominational Christian religious group highlights:

The church services were known for extreme emotional highs. Worship would last several hours and would be used to work the church members into an emotional frenzy. Often people would dance while waving large flags, some would kneel, some would openly cry, some would be seized with uncontrollable laughter. These behaviors were thought to be the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Losing family and friends

A 30-year-old male, former devout member of an evangelical Christian community, as well as former music leader and church staff member, shares his experience leaving religion and coming out as gay. Ted expressed that although most of his family members are no longer religious, his friendships were deeply effected.

I experienced a certain degree of shunning from several very close friends. We still communicate, but they have definitely put a wall between our relationship. They no longer include me as one of their own. I’m familiar with that guarding because I used to put similar walls up with people who were not part of my religious community as well, so I recognized it right away.

Lena described for me coming out as a nonbeliever to family and friends as a gradual process:

I still haven’t come out to my mother though I imagine she suspects or knows…We used to be close and talked every day into my twenties. Now I call her maybe every three months and talk to her for less than 30 minutes. I find that talking to her and hearing the language of the Church in all her sentences produces a great deal of anxiety. I talk to my sister even less. Whenever I speak with my mother at any length she tells me I am on the wrong path…Lots of microaggressions that often devolve into crying. My sister has let me know that she’s given up on me and she hopes someday I wake up. I think she pities me… I told my father never to speak to me again when I was 24 and have had no contact with him since then, though every few years or so I Google his name to see what he is doing.

Lena’s experience coming out to friends shared a similar sentiment with Ted’s narrative:

I have lost contact with an entire friend group of 10 years. I simply stopped contacting them and not a single one of them has reached out to me either by phone or Facebook to see how I am. There were a good 5 people in that friend group that I thought I was very close to, but since I stopped attending Church events, none of them have contacted me though I know they are all still involved in the Church.

Heather describes her coming out as a nonbeliever to family as “difficult and still a work-in-progress” and further explains:

During my several years [in] transition from religious to nonreligious, I didn’t feel comfortable talking about my beliefs with family and friends. Since discussing matters of faith had been a focal point of these relationships (i.e., praying for each other, encouraging each other with scriptures, etc.), my silence created feelings of distance among family members where strong connections used to exist. My mother expressed disappointment that she could no longer pray with me and longingly recalled the days when I would share scriptures and words of encouragement with her.

Katie shares her departure from a charismatic, non-denominational Christian religious group:

In the last two years that I was a Christian, I struggled with depression and panic attacks. I often received prayer and anointing of oil for my depression and panic. I found myself crying at church, not because I was feeling the ecstasy of God, but because I was overwhelmed with the fact that God would not heal me. I tried everything, including paying hundreds of dollars to have one-on-one healing sessions to expel demons and cut demonic ties from and my family’s past sins. These things still didn’t work and I began to have suicidal thoughts, which I eventually admitted to my primary doctor. I was started on anti-depressants, and for the first time in years, I felt happy. My faith was shaken. God didn’t heal me but these pills did. I quit going to church.

Katie’s relational losses echoes others’ narratives:

The majority of my friend network was from my church and when I stopped going to church, my Christian friendships stopped. I just stopped hearing from them, and it was as if I did not exist at all. I lost most of my friends, and that was extremely painful. I realized that the friendships, based on deep spiritual experiences together, had no foundation like a normal friendship did…I was able to come out to friends who had also left their faith, and we were able to create an actual friendship based on our mutual experiences.

==================

Bio:Andreea Nica is a writer, instructor, and PhD sociology candidate. Her research examines individuals who leave fundamentalist religions and wellbeing. Prior to her doctoral studies, Andreea’s work as a journalist/public sociologist appeared in outlets, such as Huffington Post, Fox News Radio, Salon, and Ms. Magazine.  This is reposted with her permission.

>>>Photo Credits: By Michael Tracey from Ashevillle, NC, USA – Street Preaching at Bele Chere 2007, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3957171

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  • Erik1986

    Wha….? The Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT)? Did they steal that from S. M. Stirling’s Emberverse, or did he steal it from them?

  • David Hughett

    Well, I have been lucky, so far. No real emotional damage from being an apostate. But it is always interesting to hear about other people’s experiences.

  • See Noevo

    “By now many of us are familiar with the data on the “nones.”
    Nearly four in ten (39%) young adults (18-29) are religiously unaffiliated…”

    But also that

    nearly three-quarters of religious “nones” (72%) believe in a higher power of some kind…
    Majorities in all adult age groups say they believe in God
    or some other higher power, ranging from 83% of those ages 18 to 29…

    http://www.pewforum.org/2018/04/25/when-americans-say-they-believe-in-god-what-do-they-mean/

    • mason

      Belief in a God or a higher power and being unaffiliated with any of the organized religion scams is an excellent move in the social evolution of thought and beliefs, and very helpful to producing a more rational, critical thinking society. This also takes social & political power away from the priests and clergy Jefferson despised.

      That “higher power” can be a myriad of things including the Universe, the law of quantum https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bca76327591da5f49a7466fdb8a91ae37dbb87e38573c6d14418010dcfee8022.jpg physics, or whatever suits their fancy.

      • Chari McCauley

        There is also this, (Rev 18:4). I did what it said.

        • mason

          Revelation 18: 4
          And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.

          So what did you do? What were the “sins” and plagues? Sounds fascinating.

          • Chari McCauley

            You must treat all of the children Father made as you want to be treated. I left church. When I was young I was TOLD not going to church was a sin.

            The Lord told us in many parables that it will be worse for unhealthy believers than healthy unbelievers.

            When separating the healthy spirits from the unhealthy happens; Nature won’t care which church you attented, what color you skin was; what country you live in…if you cause pain that cannot be remedied; your chemistry will be disinfected. Since we know our brains are full of chemicals.

            There will be no eternal torture chamber, there is no value in that.

          • Chari McCauley

            One thing, you can tell who runs the church by the amount of vicious pride that comes out of it.

    • Nick G

      But if experience in comparable societies further along in the secularization process is replicated in the USA, this

      “fuzzy fidelity” is just a phase, although quite a long one.

      And I note that you carefully ended your quote just before the comparisons with older people:

      …to 96% of those ages 50 to 64. But young adults are far less likely than
      their older counterparts to say they believe in God as described in the
      Bible. Whereas roughly two-thirds of adults ages 50 and older say they
      believe in the biblical God, just 49% of those in their 30s and 40s and
      just 43% of adults under 30 say the same.

      Just keep up that whistling in the dark, See Noevo!

      • See Noevo

        “I note that you carefully ended your quote just before the comparisons with older people…”

        I note that I kept the focus on the 18-29 group, just as Linda Lascola did in her OP here.

  • mason

    Like many happy apostates I know, I also look back at the Evangelical experience and although there were some good times and good people it was all within the delusional mental state framework of group belief about a completely absurd ancient myth about a very genocidal God Jehovah, who birthed himself and then had himself killed as a blood sacrifice for the humans he screwed up when he created them. Getting free and deprogrammed from that mental derangement https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c6ca1fd5423554469e3536d84505ee53510da4ca926464689abc8c50586ce19f.jpg can be a daunting task and require much emotional fortitude.

    • ElizabetB.

      Mason, I am reading a book that I think you would love and hate. You would love Catholic theologian Daniel Maguire’s scholarly and witty takedown of literal christianity — but probably write him a letter challenging the evolving good he finds in the tradition. It might be worth the Kindle price to have him to quote : )

      For example, a while back you posted a meme about Horus which I questioned https://disqus.com/home/discussion/rationaldoubt/question_about_eyewitnesses_and_the_gospels/#comment-3720742357 — but yesterday, lo & behold, I learn from Maguire that some of the surprising elements of the meme did describe an ancient god — it was just not Horus but Mithra, who I’ve heard about for a long time —

      “Robin R. Meyers highlights them: ‘Mithra was a traveling teacher with twelve companions who was called the “good shepherd,” “the way, the truth, and the life,” and “redeemer,” “savior, and ‘messiah.” He was buried in a tomb and after three days he rose again. His resurrection was celebrated every year. Mithra ascended into heaven where he offered immortality to those who had been initiated into his mysteries—by baptism … and the use of bread, water, and wine consecrated by priests, called “fathers.” ’17 The similarities to Christianity so troubled Tertullian that he came up with a devil ex machina solution. ‘He tried to explain them by supposing that the devil had inspired a deliberate parody of the Christian sacraments.’18 The myth of a dying god was found in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Syria….” [Maguire, Daniel C.. “Christianity without God: Moving beyond the Dogmas and Retrieving the Epic Moral Narrative” (p. 80). State University of New York Press. Kindle Edition.]

      Maguire might save you from fielding questions from nitpickers like me! — but you’d have to hold your nose through the places he is seeing some good in religion : )

      Maguire shares your take on the split-personalitied, sociopathic side of YHWH, and one aspect I was reading about this morning may bear on today’s fundamentalists’ relationships with people who no longer share the theology —

      “In a fearsome chapter chapter of Torah, Deuteronomy 13, Yahweh takes a sociopathic turn. One minute he is into love-talk, though in a self-centered sort of way, demanding that the people love ‘the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.’ He then descends into sick fury, jealousy, and violence. If any member of your family dares to get a little ecumenical and flirts with other gods, you must stone to death that son or daughter or relative of yours. And if you conquer a city that is aligned with other gods, you must kill all its inhabitants, gather all its goods into the square, and burn both the city and everything in it ‘as a complete offering to the Lord your God.’ (This is an interesting admission that the people make the gods; eliminate the people and the gods are toast.) If you do all that holy mayhem, God will increase your numbers and lead you on to happy times. Not nice.

      “So, is God brutal? Or is God egalitarian and progressive? It all depends on the society’s shifting needs. For Tacitus, the gods were with the mighty. That made good imperial sense to the Romans. When the early tribes of Yahweh pioneered an egalitarian society that favored the poor over the rich (more on that in Part IV), their god became a ‘God of justice’ (Isa. 30:18), described by Judith as a ‘God of the humble … the poor … the weak … the desperate … and the helpless’ (Jud. 9:11). Strange credentials indeed for a god, but perfectly reflective of the revolutionary mood of early Israel.” (p. 94)

      Compared with Deuteronomy 13, I guess you have to say that today’s fundamentalists have come a long way — though it for sure does not make the changes in relationships less painful. Thanks always for the conversations!!

      • mason

        “you’d have to hold your nose through the places he is seeing some good in religion : )”

        Holding my nose and seeing some good is easy, but that can be said regarding Maoism, Nazi Germany, The brutal British Empire, and any society or social religious system. So “some good” isn’t a very good white wash.

        “So, is God brutal? Or is God egalitarian and progressive?”
        You might as well ask do female unicorns have horns or just males? Or did Mohamed’s fly horse really need wings to fly or were they just for dramatic effect?
        All the Gods of all the mythologies have a myriad of qualities, usually contradictory, but always anthropomorphic.

        If I ever commit a homicide I will seek your help to clean up the evidence at the scene Elizabet. 🙂

        • ElizabetB.

          I haven’t finished the book yet, so I’ll just say for now, I am sure you would be indubitably justified : )

    • Chari McCauley

      Except that, to bake a loaf of bread or to make a vat of wine takes math and chemistry to get it right. A chef does not have the same ingredients or measurements as a doctor, but both mix chemistry that go into your body. Both occupations can either help or hurt you, if the chemistry is wrong.

      We know, because we are meant to learn and be creative, that you cannot transfer, just any, blood type or organ into a human body, because Nature (The foundations of health, chemistry and math) will reject an unhealthy union.

      If we get the chemistry wrong; now, we have to go back to admitting mistakes so that we don’t blow our own feet off.

    • wildmonk

      Another argument from emotion.

  • Brian Curtis

    It’s tempting to conclude that they were never ‘close friends’ to begin with, if everything hinged on going to the same church. “I love you, but only if you believe the same things I do.” That can lead to some dark revelations about human nature.

    • mason

      “I love you, but only if you believe the same things I do.” As an Evangelical, I remember that ugly wall we were brainwashed to construct. It’s one of my greatest regrets about being raised as an Evangelical; believing really good and fine people were going to burn forever in a fire because they had no, or a different, belief. That is so mentally, emotionally, and socially twisted and evil.
      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4c9c6efa1be186e2bd0dbb06a50f5c164c896357055fb6b6a6af1ba9dd2cae92.jpg

      • wildmonk

        But logically sound and reasonable.

    • Chari McCauley

      That is kind of what the kids , who don’t believe are saying; if you do charity BECAUSE you fear hell, then your charity is false (a smoke screen).

      Pretty darn certain both The Lord and Father have been trying to say the same thing. It should be written in your heart, and on your very soul not to treat another in any way You Yourself do not want to be treated.

      And, let’s go back to when we are kids, and making a mistake meant being made fun of, so that why would a kid EVER want to admit to a mistake ever again?
      Doesn’t even have to be your mistake, especially if you are born with a “physical disability”. Being born left handed was considered a disability, my mother (And others) were forced to learn right-handed writing.

      Do you think those left-handed kids were made fun of by their classmates, and only their classmates? How about kids who had to wear glasses? How were they made to feel?

      • mason

        “Pretty darn certain both The Lord and Father have been trying to say the same thing.”

        What? Lord and Father ….?

        • Chari McCauley

          They are individuals; Father and Mother raised Their Son. They are after the same goal; They are one; but, they are as individual as they made sure each of us are. (Romans 1:20, Genesis 1:26, John 1:1) The Son was immortal before He came here. The blind don’t see a family or a team in cooperation. Jesus told us that what He does and know, He LEARNED from His Father, He told us that. Father is pa-rental; jealous gods (anybody can be a jealous/envious; anyone could sit on that chair) are govern-mental.

          He was not forced; but, He did need Father and Mother’s permission and preparation, they all knew He would be murdered, all those who came before were murdered. If He came back today THE SAME faction of people would have Him murdered, now.

          BTW I’ve been told I side with Satan, so you can call me whatever.
          It’s never been about hocus pocus; it has always been about health.

    • mason

      All the fundamentalist sects, whether Evangelical Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, are held together by the malignant cult glue of “only if you believe the same things I do.”

    • tatortotcassie

      In some cases anyway. But one of the stories told here made it sound more like religion was what the narrator had in common with their friends. And when that disappeared, they didn’t have much in common anymore so they drifted apart. (The same thing happened to a really good friend of mine in middle school, when she started getting into grunge music and pop fashion and dating, whereas I was just uninterested by all of it. We still tried to hang out but the attempts became fewer and fewer until we just stopped communicating.)

  • bill wald

    Sounds like a great sales pitch for the LDS, JW, Seventh Day Adventists . . . . “We must be God’s people because ‘the world’ hates us. Return to us and we we will return to and support you.”

  • Brianna LaPoint

    Its about being true to yourself. People seek approval from others. I heard about this, and im sure it goes on frequently in the bible belt. Ive ended friendships over this sort of thing. I grew up christian, and i understand why people would stay in it even if they dont believe it. But, for me thats a bad decision, because i know that i would be lying to myself about what i truly believe, I am the one that is accountable to myself. Any family or friends that want to ditch you because you no longer sing praises to Jesus, is probably not a good family or friend to begin with! My mother was faced with this decision, she stayed christian until she died. I am not her, and i hope i dont make the same mistakes she did.

    • mason

      I think all humans except sociopath con artists long to be authentic, and not to be authentic comes with a huge emotional and hence physical price. I’m glad for you that you chose authenticity.

  • Kyllein MacKellerann “

    Those people who are considering leaving a religion are probably already depressed by that religion’s hypocrisy, bigotry and greed; thus the observation that they are depressed is an oxymoron.
    This is most obvious in the Theatrical versions of Christianity, wherein the Pastor is a millionaire and members of his (always HIS) congregation have to skip meals to make ends meet.

    • sg

      The average pastor is very poor. You gotta wonder about folks drawn to a church with a bling pastor.

  • soter phile

    you have highlighted “absolutism, fanaticism, and conformity” as distinctives of these religious groups.

    with the possible exception of the way you have “conceived” of fanaticism (i.e., instead of letting its definition stand on its own, you seem to have replaced it with authoritarianism?), it seems your objection is with Jesus rather than his adherents.

    Was Jesus absolutist? Clearly.
    Did Jesus call for conformity? Why else were they called “disciples” or “followers”?
    And as for fanatical? “If any man come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me…”

    If you are pursuing a degree in sociology, you need to let your thesis here come under appropriate scrutiny (“peer” review?).
    your objections appear to be:
    a) theological – which begs the larger question, not to mention biases
    b) authoritarianism – which is NOT the same as being fanatical (as a “fan” of any team can tell you).

    I think you have something if you press the authoritarian angle. (Leaders are not without sin; there should be checks & balances.)
    If you continue in the vain of this article, you conflate theological debates with a potentially more effective sociological point.

    • mason

      Not sure if you mean vain or vein? Having taken several college courses in sociology I like your comments regarding the sociological look at the Jesus character, but I think I poses the similar challenges of doing a sociological study of any mythical character that lacks real historical evidence and whose legend was formed around verbal story telling over 40-90 years before anything was put in written form. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/48b0bc97f35ecf366ab690bc5c0336cdc9d2a1a6aa271c41ab6bebf2f4283853.jpg

      • soter phile

        yes, i meant “vein.” good catch.

        FYI: Ehrman is definitely (by his own admission) on the far-left fringe of biblical scholarship. Even if you “like” his opinions, it might be helpful to hear the response of other scholars (especially in light of the evidences they are debating). Here’s a brief primer on the reliability of the NT manuscripts that highlights a few of the concerns Ehrman tends to gloss over…
        https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/an-interview-with-daniel-b-wallace-on-the-new-testament-manuscripts/

        (Case in point, the contention that Jesus’ name is never found in a piece of private correspondence utterly ignores all the letters of the NT, such as Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, dated circa early 50s AD by virtually all biblical scholars. NB: that’s within the lifetime of supposed eyewitnesses, and he names individuals in 1 Cor.15:3-8, inviting fact-checking from his readers.)

        And if you like a deep dive, I’d recommend Richard Bauckham’s “Jesus & the Eyewitnesses” (or even a good book review of his primary contentions). He does a good job of examining the evidences available and weighing the implications.

      • sg

        This is patently not true. Jesus is attested by several first century Romans and Jews.

    • Statistics Palin

      No Jesus was not absolutist. What part of “the sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath” don’t you understand?

      You gone so far in making a god in your own image that he has your own personality disorder.

      • soter phile

        Not an absolutist? Go read the rest of that sentence about the Sabbath… “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Do you not see the absolute authority he’s claiming for himself?

        Even your example here misses the point: Jesus – if he wasn’t God – was a serious megalomaniac. A nut case. And even then, he was still making an absolute statement.

        On the other hand, if he was God (as he claimed), then how could one not also call that absolutist?

        No, *I* am not the one re-making Jesus in my own image.
        Go back & read the claims Jesus makes about himself (“I Am”, forgiving sins, I am the Way, all of the OT is about me, etc.).
        Jesus said: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Mt.28:18)

        Whether Jesus was a nutcase or God in the flesh, one can debate.
        But to claim he wasn’t absolutist requires ignoring the repeated, consistent content of what he said about himself.

      • mason

        all the deities Allah, Jehovah, Jesus, Zeus, are anthropomorphic and possess ample representation of human personality disorders like megalomania, narcissism https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6085278f8cd932b30abb0b598b5679d20de1af7eaecfe2f96d722481b37460c8.jpg , genocidal traits etc.

        • sg

          Well, not exactly. Rather, it is a way to get mercy for one’s own kids instead of having them fall under the kill them all wrath.

  • sg

    “Which begs the question of how leaving impacts wellbeing”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question

    “begging the question” does not mean “makes one ask”

    It means using a premise as a conclusion.

    • ElizabetB.

      THANK YOU for pointing this out!!!!!! but using it as “makes one ask” is ubiquitous
      I’ve given up saying anything. Happy you haven’t!!!!!!

  • Mark Rutledge

    My word for the day:
    Theists take God too literally.

    Atheists take theists too seriously.

    • ElizabetB.

      So what’s the Goldilocks take, Mark? : )

      • Machintelligence

        A healthy dose of skepticism?

  • Allen T Coffey

    I can tell you briefly what happened to me. I realized I no longer believed in god in 2010-11–I don’t remember the exact date or day. I continued to pastor my fundamentalist church as an undercover atheist until I was outed because I wouldn’t get on the Trump train in 2016. Over the period of time between my deconversion and being outed, I became increasingly depressed, and found my job harder and harder to do–because I knew I was aiding, abetting and promoting delusional thinking. I hung in as long as I could, because I have a 95 year old Alzheimer’s afflicted mother in a nursing home and I was pretty sure that as an man in 50’s I was going to have a hard time finding a new job that paid well enough to get by. Which I found after I was fired, I found to be absolutely true. I am now living below the poverty line and my job such is an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer which pays me a stipend of around $1045 per month. Getting old, having no retirement money left after spending it on parents and now having a job that looks like will not replenish any of that makes life bleak.

    • ElizabetB.

      Wow, Allen! Thanks for sharing your story! I hope you are a member of the Clergy Project? http://clergyproject.org/ — a great confidential support group that has helped many find ways to put their talents as pastors to use in other vocations….

      On the theological side of things — I am nonplussed that the litmus test in your congregation was — support for Trump???!!!!!!!! probably the most non-Jesus person on the planet who isn’t actually murdering people?!! It’s like, how toppsy turvey can things get!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      I surely wish you well caring for your mother, through this devastating disease, and applaud your spirit of service, finding work with VISTA. May sustainable work appear soon!!!

      • Allen T Coffey

        Thanks for your kind words Elizabeth. I have been a member of TCP since 2011. Darrell Ray pointed me to Dan Barker who got me hooked up. A lot of my problem is that I live deep in the heart of Jesus country. South Texas is very evangelical, but even more so it is catholic. Conservative catholic. The biggest churches in town are all catholic the next in line is the local Joel Osteen franchise run by his sister and brother-in-law. Then come the two largest baptist Churches. So finding employment as an atheist is almost a non-starter. Oh, and did I mention Elizabeth, that Victoria County Texas where I live went 76% for Trump.

        • ElizabetB.

          Yikes!!!!!! does South Texas have the little “Thank you Jesus” yard signs that are all over our little town in NC? We can see your challenge!!! & very glad you’re in TCP loop!!!

          Caring for your mother is making me think of a little essay I read years ago while serving as chaplain in long term care… I don’t know whether it would resonate with you, but on the off chance —

          “One day, while I was lying on a massage table in a dark, quiet room waiting for an appointment, a wave of longing swept over me. I checked to make sure I was awake and not dreaming, and I saw that I was as far removed from a dreamy state as one could possibly be. Each thought I had was like a drop of water disturbing a still pond, and I marveled at the peacefulness of each passing moment.

          “Suddenly my mother’s face appeared — my mother, as she had been before Alzheimer’s disease had stripped her of her mind, her humanity, and 50 pounds. Her magnificent silver hair crowned her sweet face. She was so real and so close I felt I could reach out and touch her. I even smelled the fragrance of Joy, her favorite perfume. She seemed to be waiting and did not speak. I said, ‘Oh, Mother, I’m so sorry that you had to suffer with that horrible disease.’ She tipped her head slightly to one side, as though to acknowledge what I had said about her suffering. Then she smiled-a beautiful smile-and said very distinctly, ‘But all I remember is love.’ And she disappeared.

          “I began to shiver in a room gone suddenly cold, and I knew in my bones that the love we give and receive is all that matters and is all that is remembered. Suffering disappears; love remains. Her words are the most important I have ever heard, and that moment is forever engraved on my heart.” Bobbie Probstein

          Wishing you well in this most difficult challenge!!!!! Thanks again for sharing your experience