In case you’re new here, this blog is the product of volunteers and employees of Recovering from Religion (hereafter RR), an organization that seeks to help individuals who have left religion. RR does this in a variety of ways: local support groups, a peer support helpline called the Hotline Project (which you can call at 1-84-I-DOUBT-IT), and the writings on this very blog, among other methods.
The “recovery” part of that is sometimes tricky, though. What does it mean to “recover from religion”? At what point can you be said to have “recovered”? How do you go about recovering?
This often gets posed to us and to others who are writing post-deconversion as permutations of this question: “Why do you keep talking about the beliefs you no longer hold?” And this is frankly a good question, although it has plenty of answers. (In fact, I highly recommend my colleague Neil Carter’s answer to this question at Godless in Dixie.)
I won’t be answering the question directly for the purposes of this piece, but I think there is something worth recognizing here:
We are all recovering from religion by different paths, and we are each at different points on our own paths.
This probably sounds obvious, and maybe to a degree it is. Still, it’s worth remembering – and I try to remind myself periodically – because it is all too easy to get caught up in our own recovery and what we need for our progress.
For some people, recovery is a long process, and it requires a lot of deconstructing all of the ways that religion shaped the way they see the world.
Consider it like an extremely tangled knot:
Religion is a thread running through the ethos of a religious person. For some people, it is merely a strand running alongside a variety of other ones. For others, that thread is so pervasive that disentangling it is no easy feat – it makes up that much of the structure and substance itself. Replacing that structure and substance sometimes takes time and thought and pain and work.
Some of us also have more time invested in our path out of religion than others. My personal journey was slow: I started to really dig into questioning what I believed, adjusting beliefs as I found them wanting for evidence or argument, about ten years ago, and I left religion nearly four years ago. Others have had still longer journeys, and still others have only just begun.
So for many of those people who are still trying to unravel religion’s influence on their life and replace it with healthier attitudes of their own self-worth, of sexuality, of love and friendship, of purpose and meaning, of life itself – we have to talk about religion. Talk of “moving on” is cheap; what many people need is closure, validation, a clear understanding of these effects. And yes, that sometimes means that we end up spending a lot of time tearing apart what we see in religion in order to get at these underlying truths that can then inform our efforts to recover from them. We have to recognize what was done to us – and what we sometimes did to ourselves – in order to grow beyond those implications.
I think that a significant proportion of the people who read this blog or interact with RR in various ways fit into this group, whether they are long past religion or newly non-believing. But I would be lying if I didn’t also recognize that there are people who have largely done all of these things. Does that mean that RR or this blog has nothing left to offer them?
No, I don’t think that’s necessarily true (although it might be for some people – in which case, go in reason and truth, my friend). But it does mean that we – and here I will speak only for myself, not for RR or for my co-bloggers – need to do more to talk not just about how bad or wrong or unhealthy those formerly held religious ideas are. There will still be a place for that because, in my experience, there is a desire to have those conversations, but there is more than that to be said. There is new thread to be spun which can then be used to replace the rotten and rejected cord of religion.
We’re not just here to help you close the door on religion – we’re also here to help you open new doors, ones to a world that is brighter, clearer, and sometimes even more transcendent.
Look for more of that in the days and weeks to come.