By Bill G., Resource Curator at RfR —
It has always been the mission of Recovering from Religion to help those struggling with doubt, seeking answers, and moving away from religion and a religious lifestyle. In the 10 years we’ve been helping people, what has become abundantly clear is that getting through this transition and asking these questions isn’t enough. There has to be some light at the end of the tunnel. There has to be joy, community, and fulfillment for people on the other side of doubt and uncertainty.
I’m not sure who at Recovering from Religion (RfR) penned those words, but I end all of my RfR emails with them. They say a lot about our mission to help people.
My little part in this mission is to help people find the resources they need. In fact, I just ended an international phone call with some other RfR volunteers about how to improve the resource section of the RfR website. We hashed over some ideas for how to make it easier, both for our volunteers and the people who visit our website, to find the incredible resources we have available. It got me thinking. It took me all the way back to 1988.
I was almost 19, and a relative sat me down for an intervention. She spent hours explaining why my religion was false. She wanted me to know the real God of her religion, not the false God I worshiped. She had no intention of getting me to leave God altogether; what she really did was raise a great deal of doubt that God existed at all. This brought up tremendous amounts of angst, guilt, and worries deep inside me.
After she left, the questions remained. For weeks they disturbed me. I pondered who I could talk to about them, but I actually didn’t know anyone I could confide my blasphemous thoughts to. At the time I was a teenager and living in an area where literally all of my friends were members of the same religion I was. We spoke of religion all the time, but only to repeat the dogma we were taught every day, not to question it.
I remember driving through town, past every house of everyone I knew, but rejecting each one in turn as confidants. The only possible atheist I knew was a teacher whose lawn I mowed, but she wasn’t approachable. She literally chased some kids off who were toilet papering her house by firing a shotgun into the air; hardly someone I considered having deep discussions with. In short, as a teenager I was totally isolated, and couldn’t figure out how to access any resources. Eventually, I buried my doubts under apologetics, scriptures, and prayer. They stayed buried for decades.
Decades later, I became an atheist, and my relative left her “one true church” for a truer one; one without the rock music. She’s a dedicated church goer and would likely never speak to me again if she knew I was an atheist.
I’ve often wondered how different my life would have been If I’d only had access to a skeptical friend, or a chatline like RfR provides.
Today, the world is a very different place. Information overwhelms us; it’s available almost anywhere. Yet, finding good information, and the right information, is still difficult if you don’t know where to look. It’s really hard to believe that I got my first cell phone only 12 years ago, and have had a smart phone with data for only a few years. Today, I could easily explore every one of the questions and doubts that overwhelmed and crushed me 32 years ago, just by pulling out my phone, but at the time I didn’t have Recovering from Religion or anyone else to talk to.
Many people, when they find that they no longer believe in God, or believe differently from their spouse, family, friends, or communities, feel alone and isolated. Others are dealing with severe psychological stresses, shunning, loss of community, fear, shame, guilt, fear of hell, and/or are looking for community, understanding, and belonging. People call RfR to talk to someone about the forbidden questions, doubts, or disbelief they have, and our goal is to help them through these life transitions.
Another one of the key reasons people call us is so we can help them find third-party resources that will help them with the issues in their lives. To help them find counseling or a local support group, understand religious trauma, help with substance addictions, loss of a loved one, aloneness, purpose in life, comfort, consolation, or a just a non-judgmental listening ear.
A bit of history. After RfR’s formation 10 years ago, as people called in to RfR, volunteers realized that our callers needed to be able to connect to others, and to find answers to the taboo questions about religion. Volunteers started sharing links to sites, videos, authors, books, and groups that they had found helpful. Some of these links were saved, and a resource collection was started for RfR volunteers, but it was invisible and unavailable to everyone else. In 2017, the resource links were moved to the RfR website where anyone who visited the website could see them.
It is common for callers and chatters to look at resources while they are talking to an RfR volunteer. Sometimes they become so immersed in the resource that the agent suggests they check out, that they forget
they are chatting; sometimes coming back later to apologize. Many people visit RfR’s website, find a resource they need, and leave without ever calling or chatting with an RfR volunteer.
This makes RfR’s resource section an extremely valuable part of the mission to help people weather faith transitions, deal with religious trauma, find community, and improve their mental health. By 2018 the resources section was recognized as a valuable asset that is now promoted alongside RfR’s other offerings.
Currently resources are categorized into 4 main sections: Resources For People Who Are No Longer Religious, Overcoming Religious Issues, Resources For Seekers, and Mental Health & Crisis Resources. These sections then branch into 69 subsections. RfR welcomes resource suggestions from anyone, and we receive many. By the end of 2019 there were approximately 500 links to resources on topics including sex, cults, fear of hell, alcohol treatment, sites for specific religious or demographic groups, overcoming Religious Trauma Syndrome, and suicide hotlines. Our volunteers never know what a caller or chatter will need help with, so our resources are continually changing. It takes constant tweaking to keep up with the ever-changing world of the internet where sites appear and disappear and links are constantly changing. Thus in 2019 approximately 100 links were added or removed, with new subsections being considered and added as needed.
Today’s resource curators are faced with some major challenges: Finding resources, linking to the best resources, training new volunteers to help with resources, and making it easier for clients and volunteers alike to locate the resources RfR offers. After all, a resource that cannot be found while the client is speaking with a volunteer may never be of use; just as the person I probably knew as a teenager, who had doubts similar to mine, was of no use because I never found them.
Since RfR’s resources cover such a vast variety of topics, it is simply impossible for anyone to be an expert (or even look in depth) at all of the many subjects covered. Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) are needed on each subsection of the Resource pages, which is why resource curators often ask contributors to review the sections they are experts on to help improve them. In fact, if you are reading this, please take the time to go to our website and review any area of resources you are familiar with; then email your suggestions to us at email@example.com. I assure you we will listen and consider your suggestions.
If you need help, or just someone to talk to, please call or chat in, but please be patient if you don’t get an answer; and please try again later. Recovering from Religion is completely run by volunteers who donate their time and energy to make it all possible. We have been adding a great number of volunteers, but we still need more to keep up with demand.
A bit of caution: people in oppressive countries, families, communities, or situations should make sure to contact us via a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to maintain anonymity for their own safety and security. Unfortunately, there are still countries where blasphemy laws exist and people are tormented, hurt, or killed for doubts or questions. I wasn’t in physical danger had I openly expressed my doubts as a kid. I’d have been ridiculed, mocked, shamed, and isolated. My family would have grieved for my soul and been hurt and ashamed that they had failed as parents, but I wouldn’t have been physically attacked. This isn’t true for many people around the world, even today. Being a non-believer, or even a doubter can be dangerous for many.
Still, no one should feel as isolated, confused, and alone in a crowd as I did as a teenager. Recovering from Religion is here to help make sure they feel accepted, respected, and listened to. RfR’s resources are an
important part of that. Resources change lives every day. They could have changed mine.
Our helpline# is 1-84 (I DOUBT IT) or 1-844-368-2848
Our chatline @ https://www.recoveringfromreligion.org/