The Recovering from Religion: Ex-Communications (RfR) blog on the Patheos Nonreligious hub is worth a look to better understand how truly wrenching it is for many people voluntarily leaving particularly devout Christian sects for secular lives.
The organization is a one-stop care-giver for religious exiles who frequently face disgust, fear and suspicion from the faithful — often immediate family members — they painfully leave behind in their former Christian communities.
RfR’s blog posts are often self-told stories of people who have gone through the always uncharted and usually difficult deconversion process, and these stories often tell the same tale of abject confusion and rejection.
The confusion comes from finally coming to the realization that supernatural religious doctrines are not logically co-existent with the natural laws of material reality, yet the new exiles still harbor doctrines of purported divinity in their minds, deeply embedded from a life of Christian indoctrination.
The rejection is that of family and friends who must watch as the secular pilgrims depart for new lives viewed by the left-behinds as wrong, sinful and dangerous. Leavers also frequently say the left-behinds take the exits as a personal affront to their religious avocation and to themselves. Many a former Christian community member tells of shunning, ostracization and isolation from everything related to their former lives.
That is why RfR has an important purpose, to spread the word about the reasonableness of a nonreligious lifestyle, the common kindness among secular people, the irrationality of religion and stories about deconversion that might comfort spiritually unsteady people still on the fence. The promo for the organization above gives a good overview of what it’s about.
Secular Therapy Project
Supplementing the blog is the organization’s Secular Therapy Project, a mission that globally links emotionally traumatized deconverting clients with nontheist mental-health therapists, according to the website.
Finding nonreligous therapists is important, the organization contends, because “far too many therapists integrate or insert spiritual, religious or New Age ideas into therapy, even when they know their client is not religious.” The website notes that many private religious universities are graduating mental-health professionals who “have a religious agenda and all too often seek to steer people back to religion.”
The reason these secular resources are needed is because the pain in leaving religion can be overwhelmingly intense.
To get a sense of what this “pain” entails, read some of the blog’s autobiographical stories, starting with this one, titled “From Mormon to Agnostic: Becoming ‘Human Again.’” The anonymous narrator of this post recalls his former life in “a devout, ultra-conservative Mormon family” in California, which included three hours of church on Sunday, daily home scripture reading and prayer, and a flurry of other church activities weeklong.
“Beyond that,” he wrote, “religion was part of nearly every interaction and conversation in our home.”
But his thoughts became troubling over time.
“I started to … struggle with the cognitive dissonance in my faith — like believing the Bible to be ‘God’s word,’ yet knowing the book of Genesis was factually false.”
A load of guilt
It is a common fork in the road for believers on the road to nonbelief, where the superstitions they were raised with stumbled onto contradictory material reality. For this blogger, the result of all this dissonance and the spiritual unease it created was crushing guilt.
“As you might expect, this extreme culture of guilt is very damaging, and eventually disintegrates one’s sense of self,” he wrote. “In my case, it went even further, completely robbing me of my desire to live.”
RfR also posts articles presenting logical, factual arguments against supernatural faith, such as this post by Joe Omundson, titled “If the Scriptures are True (Part I): Morality Without God.” He fairly argues that people of faith make concrete claims about supernatural religious ideas even though there’s no way to prove or disprove them, “because they’re outside the realm of observation.”
If Scriptures are True is a new feature of the blog that examines “whether the claims of religious scriptures align with our observations of the real world.” It is a science-aligned mission that focuses on what is observable in reality.
“We can observe people,” Omundson writes. “Every day is a chance to make observations of the people around us. Behavior patterns can even be studied scientifically.”
Unlike the claims of godly religions.
This disconnect from apparent reality is what sends many one-time believers out into the real world, where they find very satisfying secular answers to age-old spiritual questions, such as “How can we be good without God?”
Indeed, many of us find we can be even better, happier without.