QotD: What do you tell them?

So you’ve made it through the long, dark night of the soul, and you come out of it an atheist. After soul-searching, prayer, research and reflection, you’ve shed your old beliefs like the threadbare set of clothes they had become.

That was the easy part.

You may have left religion, but you still have ties to your old church and its community. What do you tell them?

D’Ma at Gullible’s Travels tells the story of getting that dreaded call from the old Sunday School teacher, “Why don’t you come to Sunday School anymore?” D’Ma manged to get out of the conversation with some tact and grace, but DagoodS at Thoughts from a Sandwich talks about how wearing this becomes.

I got lucky, kinda. My church closed down about the time I was leaving the fold. (Not the it would matter much for an Episcopal church, where the motto is “You’re an atheist, but we’ve got doughnuts.”)

How did you cut ties to your old church?

  • Josh Stewart

    I told everyone. Everything. Even while I was still going to church. It started when I was having some issues with my marriage and I went to my pastor for counseling. He started asking me questions and I blurted out that I didn’t think I believed anymore. I wasn’t even aware of it myself until he began to press down on some sensitive issues. Soon I was vomiting up my problems with Christianity at an alarming rate. The problem of evil, inconsistencies with the bible, science vs religion ect… after this I went out and bought a dozen books on evolutionary biology, philosophy and biblical studies. Over the next six months I blew my brains out with new ideas and finally let God go.

    I grew up in a very fundamentalist family and everything pretty much went to hell when I broke the news. My dad (a pastor) threatened suicide and then stopped speaking to me. My wife and I divorced and most of my friends stopped wanting to hang out. I still tell people I’m an atheist but only if they ask. I have been surprised at the responses ( mostly good) and continue to be honest about my unbelief.

    • FO

      This feels harsh…
      If I can ask, how did you rebuild your life afterwards?

      • Josh Stewart

        I’m still figuring that out. Six months ago I left my whole family with what I could pack in my car and moved to another the state. The environment I was in was not a home, it was torture. I don’t talk to anyone now except my former spouse and sister. My sister and I get along but don’t agree on much. The other relationship is much more complicated. I

        have found a few friends and a job. That’s all I can ask for right now. I do miss church and the community however. Just not the guilt and the fairytales. Not looking for pity, really.
        A lot of what happened was my fault. I still can’t even begin to express the feeling a freedom I had as I realized my faith didn’t have a leg to stand on. 20 years of guilt and shame for not being good enough for God was lifted from me. And I’ll never go back to that kind of mind trap again.

        • Alexander86

          I recently told my fiancee that I’m an athiest. My fiancee and her entire family are Catholics. I’m an atheist. I felt relieved after I told her the truth. I was lying to myself all this time because I would attend mass, read the bible with her family, and pray with her. Deep down I didn’t believe in any of that crap. I did all those things for her. She wants me to start believing in god, which I refuse to. I don’t think I’ll accept those archaic beliefs. I told her I would have accepted her regardless of her religion but she told me she wouldn’t marry a man that wasn’t catholic. She was brainwashed by her parents and I know it’s not her fault for thinking this way. Anyways, we are getting married in one year and her family still doesn’t know that I’m an atheist. That’s next on my to-do list.

  • JT

    I also lucked out. I moved about that time. Not a distance that would make it horribly inconvenient, but it became more than a half hour drive each way and I used that excuse. I’m sure they all assumed I found another UMC closer to where I lived. My trouble is here in the south where I’ve moved recently. A common ice-breaker conversation starter is, “where do you go to church?” Since being an atheist could get me fired, I deflect.

    • http://ohmatron.wordpress.com/ Custador

      If being an atheist got you fired, it could make you a stack of bank with a good lawyer :-p

      • Meanie

        there are many ways one could get fired for being an atheist without actually getting fired for being an atheist, if you catch my drift. My boss is a fundamentalist, keeps a bible on her desk, and I’m very careful not to bring up my non-belief with her. When she drops christianease into the conversation I let it slide. Why? Because I’m confident that if I were as open with my atheism as she is with her christianity, those glowing reviews I’ve been getting would stop, my flexible schedule would become less so, my opinion would become less valued, and other subtle changes would happen. The last person who held my position was openly gay and atheist. He didn’t last long. During my interview my boss told me he “just didn’t fit with the culture here.” He wasn’t fired for being gay or atheist, but word on the street is that it was miserable for him so he moved on to greener pastures.
        While it would be wonderful to be able to come out at work, get fired for being an atheist, and then retire on the lawsuit money, that scenario just doesn’t line up with reality.

        • FO

          That’s mobbing.

  • http://www.deconstructingmyselfdma.blogspot.com D’Ma

    Wow! Thanks for the link and the encouragement. I wish I had the kind of hutzpah that Josh Stewart has. I’m sorry about your dad, Josh. Where I live here in the deep south it’s pretty much political, social, and financial suicide to admit such things. That sounds melodramatic, but at JT can attest, that kind of talk can get you fired or not hired, It can also get you shunned by family and friends. I’m not ready for that. It’s really hard to know just exactly how to handle it.

  • Atron Seige

    I lucked out, but the other way around. When I was a child I read too many books so I ended up with questions that pastors don’t like. I often confronted the pastor in sunday school class, which lead to a very irritated pastor approaching my mom and telling her that I am no longer required to attend class, as I am disruptive and I do not show respect.

    The disrespectful and disruptive question that broke the camel’s back came after spending the night on the phone with a friend who wanted to commit suicide as she had just been raped. I asked the pastor why god allows his children to get raped…

    So there ended my official connection with the largest pyramid scheme in the world, 18 years ago.

    • FO

      WTF!!!
      Hope your friend is good now.

      But I do wonder, did the pastor try to answer your question, or just got angry?

  • Nerrin

    I managed to avoid it by getting out fairly young. I’d never enjoyed going to church and the whole “Christianity” thing never turned into anything more than a bunch of stories to me as I approached adolescence.

    It also helped a lot that my mother had problems with the gossipy nature of the congregation (and small town life in general) so she she didn’t push much at all when her kids no longer wanted to go. We moved a few years later and while it wasn’t a very great distance (only about 30 miles), it was enough to have no reason to deal with the old congregation or anyone from that town if we didn’t want to.

  • blotonthelandscape

    I got lucky as well, really, I broke the news to my wife, then parents, and I just kind of stopped going to church on Sunday. I was at an ecumenical church at the time, so they were pretty nice when I told a few of them about why I left. My wife was very sad about it, but considering in the weeks prior I had been very distant and distracted, I think she was just glad I wasn’t having an affair! My dad was devastated, but they’ve continued to love me regardless. Living in secular Britain means I don’t face the economic problems you lot do.

    I’m dreading going to see my dads folks out in SA next year; I have a feeling it will be a bit of heavy guilt-tripping…

  • Francesco

    I am always been an unbeliver, and I’m often shocked to see how atheism is viewed in USa..I mean, Rome is one of the key point of Christianity, but here being atheist is viewed as a perfectly normal thing.

  • nptphoto

    The church I left when I de-converted is Presbyterian in a village in the northeast United States. I was fairly active and my wife and I were on the more conservative side of theology than the average member. And in our area, you bump into members all the time shopping and whatnot. I stopped going to church for some time but my wife was still going. At this point I had not told her of my disbelief. And the last bit of background is that there was a 90 year old gentleman who was a retired pastor for 60 years as a member and he is the nicest, kindest, caring human you would ever meet. Deep faith in God. I truly like him to this day.

    Typically, no one ever asked me or my wife why was not in church anymore, except Rev. Bill. He called me one day and asked me over to his home for a chat. I dreaded it because I had not come out to anyone and I certainly did not want to hurt him in any way. My wife was insistent that I see him, I think in hopes that I would get back on track.

    I had a long conversation with Rev. Bill and he really wanted to know how I was doing. I finally told him I had lost my faith and told him the reasons why (mostly theological). Can you imagine that the first person I come out to is the former head of the regional Presbytery? It really was a good discussion which ended with him saying that he always considered me a friend and still does and I could come see him anytime and talk about anything. He was even thoughtful enough to refrain from praying at the end.

    The good that came out of this was that my wife wanted to know how it went after I got home and I used the conversation with Rev. Bill as a springboard to come out to my wife. Fast forward two years and my wife left the faith too. She then wrote a heartfelt letter to the current pastor asking that our names be removed from the membership rolls. He responded kindly and said he understood.

    I consider our leaving the church almost painless.

  • Noelle

    I stopped attending worship services when I married the atheist husband. He’s a pastor’s kid who never exactly told his parents. Knowing his dad, the retired minister, I doubt he’d care or be surprised. We live far enough away we see them maybe once a year. They don’t pray at dinner or have devotional times or anything you’d expect of a pastor. His mom might care, but too far away to pester us about it.

    But even when I married him, I still believed. I was way too busy with school and I never liked church all that much anyway. So I never went back. Though, much like vorjack’s episcopalians, my Lutheran folk would be fine with an atheist showing up for donuts.

    • Josh Stewart

      I’d still show up for donuts. :)

      • Noelle

        Which begs the question: without fundamentalists, would the world have fewer atheists? Or would it have the same number, but with more diabetes?

        • blotonthelandscape

          I’ll see your doughnuts, and raise you a hamburger and ice-cream sundaes!

          • Sunny Day

            Where is this church? I’ll attend!

            • Francesco

              The FSM church is much better. We have PASTA!

  • http://messiestobjects.typepad.com/ messiestobjects

    My road to atheism was drawn out for several years so it was really more a matter of coming out one long step at a time, relatively painless. I traveled around a lot in my 20s, so I kind of disassociated myself with my town and family anyway. By the time I was blogging about hating the church and being outright atheist on facebook, a lot of other people I’d known felt the same way, while others who were not religious when I was had now started praising God for providing such a wonderful fucking breakfast.
    My family I can tell are unhappy that I’ve “turned my back on God”, but I avoid conversations with them about it. There is definitely a distance now between them and I, and it makes me sad but on the other hand I really can’t tolerate all of the Religious catchphrases and attitudes and honestly when I do hang around them when they’re in a religious mood I’m wanting to go buy a cave with some lions to feed my family to within half an hour anyway.

  • http://foxholeatheism.com Mike Gage

    I lucked out. I had been doubting for a while, but I really became a full-fledged atheist when I was away at college. Plus, I grew up in the Assemblies of God denomination, where something like 85% of boys leave the church when they’re older. So, maybe it would have been weirder if I’d actually returned. My parents and friends know, but a lot of my family doesn’t unless my parents told them. I would talk abotu it if they asked, but they’re very fundamentalist, so I just don’t go looking for that conversation.

  • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com Michael Mock

    Not the it would matter much for an Episcopal church, where the motto is “You’re an atheist, but we’ve got doughnuts.”

    This was precisely my experience. I basically made the break by graduating and going away to college, but (for somewhat complex reasons) my boys attend that same church with my parents, and I drop them off. Nobody has so much as looked at me funny about it; they mainly tell me what wonderful, well-behaved children I have.

  • Stony

    My moderately religious husband and his family attend church less than I do, so church attendance is not an issue. None of my family of origin attend church with the exception of my formerly atheist brother who has become a born-again –I still hold out hope for him — and a couple of fundamentalist stepsisters who understand that not everyone wants that type of experience (bless their hearts). When any of my Methodist church “family” ask, I simply answer “I don’t know”. (That was my feeling before Penn’s book, btw. but I appreciate how he expounded on that thought.)

    It rarely if ever comes up at work. Even this deep in the south we have highly diverse companies and to most it would come across as gauche to discuss at work.

    I told my Methodist pastor that I had serious doubts and felt that I should go over to the Unitarians and start wearing a question mark necklace instead of a cross. He was pretty cool about it. I don’t know if that was because he has a large church and one less wouldn’t make that much difference, or he knew I was keeping my membership and $$s with his church, or because he actually appreciated people who put some thought into what they believed rather than just mouthing the words. I like to think it’s the latter, but am not so naive.

  • http://www.zeekeekee.wordpress.com isnessie

    I met up with my closest friends as I normally would i.e. go out for a drink or watch a dvd together – and told them that I was no longer a Christian. It surprised and upset them of course (in varying degrees) but I gambled on our friendship because I knew that being true to myself was the best thing to do for myself AND for them. And I believed that the friends who mattered would make the effort to cross any bridges we came across in that journey – and many have! They are still very close to me. The rest of the church I didn’t give two cents about. Some people found out via the grapevine, and there were some pretty uncomfortable situations (still are) where I bumped into people I last saw in church who don’t know that I’m not only no longer a Christian, but also an atheist.
    People who called me up to try and talk me into staying/inviting me out to ‘keep the channel open’ I ignored or cut off.

  • UrsaMinor

    Dutch Reformed Protestants don’t serve donuts, and the cookies aren’t very good. ‘Nuff said.

    But seriously, my attendance petered out gradually during high school. My mother was always the driving force behind church attendance- she never took us to the sermons, but made sure that my brother and I were in Sunday school classes every week after the sermon ended. I went through confirmation (or the motions thereof) at the age of 14, and after that there was no more pressure to attend. So I went less and less, and just stopped going altogether when I hit college. It was completely painless.

  • Sajanas

    I just stopped going, except when I went to visit my parents. But I went to a boarding magnet school around the age of 16, so I pretty much left all of my church friends behind going there and then to college. My parents would casually suggest churches, but that’s really all I’ve ever heard from it. My parents have since quit their church, and I made it known I had no real interest in their new one. But it is kind of funny how much people champion the church as a community, and yet, it is shockingly easy to just walk out on it and have no one bat an eye that you’re not there anymore, particularly if you’re not one of the movers and shakers.

  • http://www.masksbyjen.com Shrubber

    I got lucky. I was taken to church and Sunday School, but my mother had already quit going. I asked her about it and was told that since she was divorced, that she would then go to Hell, Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200. When I heard that (at age 13), I knew I had to get out. And THEN they began the “Rock Records have evil messages hidden in them,” bullshit and I left.

    Where did I see reason? or “lose the faith” as they say?

    I read the bible. It is full of fables completely at odds with scientific fact. Even in chapter one, before you get off the first page, one is expected to swallow bullshit, smile and say “thanks jesus”.

    No thanks.

    • http://www.masksbyjen.com Shrubber

      For the record, I keep it to myself until and unless provoked by some Jeebus-wielding A-Hole.

  • Sundog

    Man, clearly I’ve had it easy. My father (who raised me) was more or less a Deist, and never went to church; he had no problem with my Atheism. I think my sister does, but she’s very polite about it (and we live on opposite sides of the Pacific, so we talk face to face maybe once a decade). Having never been in a church, I don’t have any problems not being in one now.

  • Jim Charlotte

    When I finally deconverted I posted on Facebook. Slowly all my former church friends started to defriend me. They didn’t talk to me any more. I felt shunned like I caught some nasty communicable disease. I had one or two offer to take me out for coffee or lunch but they were obvious in their attempts to reconvert me so I passed on their offers.

    • RebeccaESF

      Jim, that must have been really tough! I’ve wanted to post about my nonbelief on Facebook, and sometimes I “share” or “like” a link. For the most part, however, I don’t say anything about my nonbelief. I have too many believing friends and family; I value these relationships. It’s sad… they all get to post about how much they love Jesus, and I end up keeping my feelings to myself. I stop being silent when someone lamely attempts to “debunk” evolution, though!

      • claidheamh mor

        It’s sad… they all get to post about how much they love Jesus, and I end up keeping my feelings to myself.

        I think I understand, even not growing up in a church environment that was only a few years, because peer pressure is not confined to that situation. But how do you keep your lunch down?

        • RebeccaESF

          It’s not *too* hard… I just look at a post and think “Would I rather be happy and continue to have a relationship with this person, or would I rather be right?” I usually pick the former, unless I really don’t care about the other person’s feelings, or unless they’ve attacked me personally about my lack of belief.

          For example, someone posted this as their status today on FB after the earthquake hit: “If your worried about the world ending you better get right with god…he’s the only one that knows when the world will end and if the world ends and your still here looks like your s.o.l bc you must have missed the rapture….I know I wont!”.

          My first thought was to comment “I’m glad I’m not worried that the world will end.” But even this can potentially open a whole can of worms. I just shake my head, move on to the next post, and perhaps have another rum and coke. :)

  • Daniel Dingeldein

    Every church I joined I jumped right in an became active. Whether it was singing in the choir or helping out with maintenance, I was there a lot and everyone knew me. As I would leave a church for what ever reason there would be no phone call, email or letter telling me that they missed me and they hoped everything was okay. Which showed to me how superficial, conceited and narcissistic they actually are.

    I was long gone from the church before I came to my senses. I see people that were my “friends” but they don’t see me or they choose not to.

    It really is sad how people can ruin themselves with false hope and call it truth.

  • sarah

    I never left a church (never had to go as a child) but I’m curious about how things tend to go with athiest/christian relationships? Any advice?

    • blotonthelandscape

      If you wanna make it work, it can work. It’s rocky, and you face challenges that like-minded couples don’t, but if you decide you love and respect the person, and still enjoy their company, then it’s still a happy and satisfying relationship. I say this from an atheist-with-a-christian-wife’s perspective.

      I found it tough to tell her at first, and she was heart-broken (she had told me before we got married that she could only love a man who loved Jesus more than her), but she got over it pretty quickly.

  • Malvond

    My experience is slightly different, as I’ve never been religious and neither are my parents, but when I lived in rural Indiana for a while I noticed an interesting difference from my home (very liberal college town). At home, if I said I wasn’t religious, people seemed to take it to mean just that, and there wasn’t necessarily any probing—it seemed understood that it could either mean I just was a little apathetic or I that I actually considered myself an athiest. Where we lived in Indiana, saying that I wasn’t religious was met the an assumption that it simply meant I didn’t go to church that often. Further clarification seemed to make people a little perplexed.

  • RJT

    My deconversion took place over a lengthy period of time. I had been in the Christian ministry my entire adult life, almost 40 years, but had struggled with doubts and questions almost the whole time. As many of you know, there’s a strategy built in to evangelicalism that combats such doubt and questioning. Besides needing to strengthen your spirit (the “White Dog”) through more attention to the Spiritual Disciplines, you need to starve the “flesh” (the “Black Dog”) through various forms of abstinence–from giving up potentially compromising friendships out in “the world”, to swearing off anything but overtly Christian media, giving up distracting hobbies, etc. Jesus said it best, “If it offends you (hinders your spirituality?), CUT IT OFF!” Another element of the strategy is to recognize that the doubts and questions are from The Enemy, the devil! He can’t steal your salvation, of course, but he can steal your joy and your assurance, greatly reducing your usefulness to God as a witness. So, bring all those questions and doubts to the foot of the cross and leave them there. Memorize Bible verses and think on that every time a question or doubt comes up. Don’t encourage it by thinking about it. Think about JESUS!! I eventually saw that for what it is: a self-inflicted lobotomy. DON’T THINK! JUST BELIEVE!

    During the last 10 or so years of my ministry I gave myself permission to think, to actually ask those questions that had been haunting me and look for answers. I committed myself to look for the truth, no matter where it led or what the consequences to my faith. After all those years as a minister and missionary (in Europe), my life was entangled with many, many other people, not the least of whom being my dear wife, my kids and the church we had helped start and that I pastored. The desire to not unnecessarily hurt any of them resulted in me prolonging the deconversion process itself and any public acknowledgement of it once I saw that I no longer believed enough Christian orthodoxy to continue as a representative of evangelical Christianity. But, the day finally came when I had to choose between integrity and self-respect or hypocrisy. For me, there was no choice. I informed my wife, our church and our mission agency that I was leaving the ministry as of a given date in the near future, and we began closing down our ministry. In less than a year I was living back in the USA and working as a carpenter.

    During that year of closing down our ministry, I was frequently asked, “But, why are you leaving?” Not wanting to create confusion and hurt where it wasn’t necessary, I simply gave people explanations that were totally valid, even though not the primary reason for leaving. I told them that I felt it could very likely be good for the church if I moved along to create room for others to take over leadership roles and, therefore, be constrained to grow. Then there were our kids living back Stateside who were starting to give us grandchildren who were growing up without really knowing us at all. And we also felt we needed to start building a financial base for our retirement (a bit late for that!) So, I had things I could say in response to that question.

    I left the missionfield probably considering myself to be still a Christian, albeit what we called a “liberal” one. But, now I had total freedom to explore fully what I believed and what I didn’t. I basically stopped going to church. After 40 years of being there numerous times a week, and usually doing the preaching & teaching, I felt I could live off the fat of the land for a good long while! I maintained my Quiet Time (daily reading & meditation time), but as often as not I was reading Brian McLaren, Karen Armstrong, Bart Ehrmann, John Loftus, David Mills, Kenneth Daniels, Dawkins, Harris, and the like. Over the first four years after leaving the ministry, my pendulum of belief swung from liberal Christian to general theist, to deist, to agnostic, and finally to atheist. It has since swung back to agnosticism.

    All during this time, I had many Christians from my ministry years–colleagues, parishioners and former students–who would write me, talking to me as if I were still the Christian leader they had known all those years. I grew increasingly uncomfortable with trying to reply to their correspondence from what they believed to be a position as a believer. I wrestled with how best to get the word out that I was no longer a Christian. I settled on a short statement on my Facebook page, figuring that this way no one could accuse me of being deceptive, since I had taken a public stand as a nonbeliever. I invited anyone who had any questions about it to write me at my personal email. Also, given the speed at which such news travels through the Christian grave vine, I could count on it disseminating rapidly, both Stateside and on the Continent. And it did. I began getting emails of inquiry that filled my evenings for some time with interesting email conversations. At one point, the new pastor of our church in Europe asked me to write a letter of explanation to the congregation, as many were upset by the “rumors” that were proliferating over there. Despite knowing that it would hurt a lot of people, I welcomed the opportunity to be open and honest with these dear friends. That letter, which was read in church one Sunday morning and then made the rounds to a large portion of the national evangelical community, pretty much brought me fully and officially “out of the closet”. No more need to hum, hem or hedge in my communications. And what a relief it is to be finally and fully free to live openly and honestly before everyone, with humility, but no apologies!

    It’s not easy for the average evangelical to accept the deconversion of someone they know, and I’ve gotten the whole gamut of reactions, from, “I’m sure you’ll return to the fold!”, to “You must never have been saved in the first place!”, and everything in between. Some of my friends were very angry, feeling I had deceived them. When I face this, I assure the person that I would LOVE to believe, even now! If I could honestly believe that doctrine I would still have the untarnished love and respect of my wife and former colleagues. I’d still have my career…not to mention my health insurance and pension! I’d still be enjoying that degree of respect and esteem that was mine in my little circle of influence. Oh yes! I WISH I could still believe…but I can’t. My choice was between honesty and hypocrisy. I assure them that they are welcome to pray for me, that I’d return to faith, but, in the meantime, try to find at least a modicum of respect for someone who put integrity ahead of convenience.

    As I said at the start here, my deconversion was a rather long process, but now that I’m fully “out there” and enjoying being an honest man, I can testify to the joy that comes from that honesty, and from the freedom to be true to myself (as tacky as that may sound to some of you!) It’s trite but true that life is a journey, and it’s not over until…well, until it is. Where will I end up? I can’t say. But it’s exhilarating to know that now I can walk there with an honest heart and eyes wide open, and that I can truly BE 100% wherever I am, as an honest man.

    Sorry to have been so long-winded. But then, no one made you read this, right!? :)

    • Malvond

      RJT: Thank you for sharing! I think it’s encouraging for people to see accounts of continual thinking, learning, and questioning throughout the life course, and to see evidence that you needn’t be stuck even later in life. I’m curious, though, about the consequences, if any, within your marriage and family?

      • RJT

        Malvond, thanks for your expressed interest in my little saga. You ask about consequences. As for my children, they’re okay with where I am. In fact, three of the four were probably somewhere similar before I was, overtly. My oldest son expressed surprise that it took me so long to get where he was already. Know that I never talked openly with my kids about my struggle or doubts. I didn’t want MY struggle to become theirs, if you take my meaning. But they all testify that my example in the home with them contributed to them feeling free to think about what they were taught, and to decide on their own what they could believe. My oldest daughter is still a Christian, but a VERY iconoclastic one. As for my wife, she’s a good woman and a thinking Christian…but still very much a Christian. She was raised in a fundamentalistic family and seems able to live with the cognitive dissonance that her good mind kicks up. I respect her, even though I simply can’t follow her logic in believing. My own family is a mix of believers and nonbelievers and I haven’t had to get into this much with them as they live at a distance from us. My wife’s family all live in our general area and, interesting enough, all patently ignore my defection from the faith. Well, that’s not entirely true. One sister-in-law and her husband try, on occasion, to “minister” to me. But, everyone treats me kindly. I find it interesting that the children of my wife’s family members, for the most part, seem to respect me in a noticable way. It makes me wonder if they aren’t finding themselves believing similar to me, but without the chutzpah to come out and admit it to their family. I try to be available to them, without pushing in any way. We’ll see where it goes. Be well, Malvond, and have a great day! La Chaim!! RJT

  • claidheamh mor

    Some of these stories are painful to read, of the pain people went through. I did get a laugh that still tickles me, reading Stony’s remark about considering going Unitarian and wearing a question mark necklace. Ahhhhhhahahahahahahahahahaha!

    • RJT

      I missed that post…but it’s a great idea!! :)

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  • http://edwardjedmonds.com Edward J. Edmonds

    I grew up going to the Church of Christ. I remember at a very young age asking my Dad who grew up in a secular home (though they attended services on Holiday, he converted before I was born with the aid of his sister) how he knew God existed? It was storming out and I remember him saying something profound at the time but now that I don’t remember what he said–maybe due to the better part of my brain blocking it out–but I do remember not being satisfied. But it was enough to get me to shut up which was profound in an of itself. After high school I studied religion at a small school down south, eventually I got expelled for not attending class.

    After joining the military I maintained my Christian title but my actions were not that of a devout Christian, lots of sex, lots of drinking and smoking, etc. but no drugs. I’ve always been the type to ask questions and I’ve always been the type who could convince anybody of almost anything or at least provide arguments to give an ignorant atheist pause. But eventually I became displeased with the fact that deep down inside that’s all it was–it was for arguments sake–I don’t think that I ever truly believed God existed except for some brief emotional moments which looking back were pretty silly. I don’t discount that I had those experiences but I do discount my interpretations of them. After leaving home I never regularly attended Church except in pursuit of girls. Yeah, I was a regular douche bag in hindsight.

    But the real trouble I came to was that eventually I felt dishonest. Dishonest with myself and dishonest with those around me. And if God did exist I felt dishonest with him. In the meantime while I was working things out I still argued as if I was trying to convince myself, but the more I argued the more I realized that arguing for the sake of controversy doesn’t lead to enlightenment or do anybody good. So I faced up to the fact that I really I was just holding on to something that didn’t want to be held onto. As George Carlin said once in so many words “…the brain is too big for God…”

    Once I let go, it was easy, it was learning to enjoy the things I once thought of as “bad” which was difficult. But eventually I was able to shake those things out. I made one last ditch effort to resurrect my faith just to double check myself–I attended a small Church were I was stationed in Germany–I walked in with my free mind and immediately I felt like I was in a cult, it brought a deep sense of nausea to my stomach, I finished the service out, brook bread and sang praises, all the while confirming to myself why I left in the first place. I left that building feeling like I had a bad case of the fleas and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way but I really felt “dirty”.

    My mom and the rest of my siblings and friends know that I’m an atheist, not sure if my father knows or not, I think he probably does, but he doesn’t bring it up anymore, honestly I think he’s just happy that I’ve found my place. He’s pretty traditional and I think there is some part of him that hopes one day I’ll return to my faith and I don’t think he brings it up so that he doesn’t spoil me. Clever man. I love his “wise” and idle silence. He remarked to me once that the best “wisdom” is knowing when not to interfere. There is something profoundly irritating about that, but he always knew how to press my buttons, and it was at that point that I realized that in some sense he is doing the same thing I used to do, except in a very passive way. Of course if he knew that would irritate me it’s not so passive. Talk about a wolf in sheep’s clothing. LOL.

    Anyway, rebuilding my life has been easy. I’ve always been free in my head but my reactions have always been a bit late to catch up. Of course living in Europe and seeing some chick spread eagle centerfold in the daily newspaper always helps to relax a chap.

    I don’t argue anymore on the subject, and I don’t go out of my way to argue with Christians passively or aggressively, I am fine as long as we can respect each other. I grew up in that environment and I know fully well how hard it is to let go. Ironically the process of letting go has been a very beautiful thing and more importantly a testament to how brilliant our species is at being able to reason our way out of very strong emotions and experiences. To experience that process has been a very wonderful thing.

  • Rebecca

    Hey, I’m crazy late to the discussion. But, you leaving would have mattered to this Episcopalian. :)

    I think TEC is one that doesn’t want to make people who are questioning, and struggling with issues of faith, unwelcome. I mean we’re known for a church that doesn’t expect people to check their mind at the door, or who conducts litmus tests for orthodoxy before folks can feel accepted.

    But, perhaps, this can come across as spiritual lukewarmness, or not caring enough. It can be difficult to find that wise balance.