Hey there. I was a deeply religious Christian until age 20 or so, struggled for 3 or 4 years before being able to confidently call myself atheist. That was 4 or 5 years ago, I have rebuilt my identity and belief system and am happily living a richer, more loving life. I feel at peace with where I am, much more at peace with where I’ve been; couldn’t, but wouldn’t, go back... Maybe it’s just a personal problem, or life—but there’s one thing that I haven’t been able to and don’t know how to replace after giving up faith: Everything used to be okay, no matter what. I could pray, and not worry, for the most part, about things out of my control. I think it’s a positive that I can’t just be at peace, and cop out (leave it to “God”), when I do have choices to make and can take action. I am getting better at seeing multiple paths and possibilities and do have a wonderful support system of friends. I’m just not great with uncertainty, and I don’t know what to do with life’s bad, now that there’s not a larger purpose for it all, no reason to believe that things will culminate with good… I think practicing mindfulness may be the closest I’ve come, or the most promising help—to learn to focus consciousness and give attention to the present moment with acceptance. It’s definitely a practice that takes practice, but it provides some sense of calm, and control learning to have that focus. Still, I have a hard time. Any suggestions other than anxiety medication? What do you do with hard times and uncertainty without the belief that everything happens for a reason and there is a positive force in control?
I content myself with the fact that at least there is no malign influence out to get me. Honestly I have been very fortunate in life, with little in the way of true difficulty. When my grandpa was possibly going to die i could at least say he lived a good, full life. Cold, perhaps, but it helped me a little.
equanimity. Buddhists tell a great story about a man who was a farmer. This man was old and was dependent on his son to run the farm. One day their only horse, which they used to plow the land ran away. The neighbor tells the old man, "that's horrible, that was your only horse! What will you use now to plow your land?" To this, the old man replied "as to the question if this is a good thing or a bad thing? Maybe." The next day, the horse that escaped came home and led with it three other horses. To this, the neighbor said, "That's wonderful. Now you have three horses." To this, the old man said "maybe." Later that day, while his son was trying to break one of the horses, he broke his leg. To this, the neighbor said, "that's horrible, who will farm your land?". To this the old man replied, "maybe". Later that day an army was passing by. And its leader knocked on the old man's door to notify him that his son had been drafted into the army. The old man explained that his son had a broken leg. He was therefore spared from going into the military. Was this a good thing? Maybe.
Anyway, every situation presents its fair share of opportunities, its fair share of hardships, its fair share of pain, and its fair share of pleasure. Problems rarely exist with the situation itself, problems exist within the scope of our perceptions.
What do you do with hard times and uncertainty without the belief that everything happens for a reason and there is a positive force in control?
I cry. I worry. I fret. I doubt. I scream. I fuss. In essence, I feel bad... until I feel better.
The numbing effects of prayer in times of uncertainty are very much like the numbing effects of alcohol and drugs - the primary accomplishment is in allowing the individual to avoid painful feelings. Painful feelings aren't something you should try to avoid, however, they're a normal part of being human. Like any recovering addict, you need to learn how to live WITH those feelings, rather than trying to medicate or will them away. Eventually you should come to a place where you don't automatically try to eliminate that pain, but instead suffer through it with the help of your support system.
Have you checked out the resources available at Recovering From Religion?
This is a short piece of adcice, but I've found it to work ... 'Acceptance.'
Just accept that what is as what it is.
Also, now that you know this isn't about appeasng or pleasing a god, you could maybe allow yourself to be a bit more easy going about life (??) Afterall, it's only consciousness (isn't it ?)