Good Sunday Morning,
Life is busy and I'm not very good at this "facebook" culture thing, however, I am in need of some guidance and you all seem most eager to engage.
Thank you for the warm reception Atheist Nexus has extended to me. I suspect I have never felt this alone in my life, and it is scaring the hell out of me. I've not yet devoted enough time to pursue any group involvement, until today. Still a bit skittish, I guess.
Though I am certain /confident about my decision to abandon "The Faith", I am very UN-certain about the way forward and what I suspect for me is "Atheist-by-Default". I am truly concerned about just replacing one faith for another, that is, to operate under ANY paradigm using the same principles of faith I have exercised for the past 30 years . I am reading voraciously, but I am sinking into a black pit faster than I know how to dig. I wake up with terrible bouts of anxiety most mornings and terrible bouts of guilt as I sent my family off to church without me. My christian friends are hammering hard (in Love, of course!) to see me back within the fold. I cannot go back, but I can't afford to go crazy, either!
I was "born again" at age 16 in 1978 at the explosion of the Charismatic Movement. Not quiet as hardcore as what Rich Lyons came out of, but very fundamentalist. I helped start New Life Church in the '80s and watched 14000 people revile and reject Ted Haggard when he "fell" in 2006. I continued as a fully committed, invested member of "The Body of Christ" until last November, 2011 when, after 5 years of reflection and struggle, I announced to my family that I have abandoned my faith. My family has been downright supportive, though not understanding. They remain believers and I'm fine with that.
Certainly, at first, I felt like I had slipped unnoticed through a hole in the fence surrounding my "Christian Ghetto" .
I felt exhilarated, dancing unashamed in the sunlight! I knew at once I have chosen to never go back. However, as night began to fall... over this past year I see my efforts in the past 30 years at "thinking Christian" have been thorough and effective and I find myself ill equipped to manage my own destiny, The full force of my conclusion that god does not exist (and all which that implies!) has me shaken to the very core! I am terrified by the permanence of death, Crushed by the prospect that my 19 yr. old son, who died in 2010, did not survive the grave, struggling mightily to redefine meaning in a universe that does not endow us with meaning.
My head feels empty like a very large house from which the long overdue departure of once invited relatives has finally come! My head and my heart are my own, the transition has been as natural as... waking up, refreshed and excited about a new day! I don't wish to go back, NOR do I wish to simply replace faith in the "Word of God" for faith in the Words of Darwin or Dawkins or Dennett. I'm wandering about in this big, beautiful house, excited by the possibilities, but fairly overwhelmed by the scope of the task to tear down the parts of my old world view that are rotten and untrustworthy and to rebuild or to start afresh somehow.
Look, I could go on for pages here... (it's been refreshing! I've no one to really talk to), but I think you get it!
Gosh Mark, I feel your pain. I was about 32 when I quit believing and went through some withdrawals at the time. I'm 66 now and still haven't come out to my family. My father was a preacher. Maybe when Mom moves on to the next adventure, I'll finally tell everyone. Wish you were in southeast Indiana because I am very alone in this area and could use some freethinkers to talk with here.
What is it that you crave the most? I needed books to read and I'm still doing Bible study just to be prepared if anyone confronts me. A good book along those lines is "Misquoting Jesus" by Bart Ehrman. There are lots of books to read and they are very helpful.
The only people I've "come out" to is my immediate family. However, when asked directly OR indirectly (So, how's your walk with the Lord, Brother?), I am honest and forthright. I hope, in the New Year, to start telling my friends and relations actively, purely from a spirit that we claim to love each other. I do not wish to convert people to non-theism nor do I seek negative attention, but my silence is a mild form of deception. Besides, I'm as excited by my new perspective as when I was "born again" minus the need to proselytize.
"What is it that you crave the most?"
Roy, I crave fellowship with like minded people. I crave a deeper understanding and confidence in this new world view I've adopted
That's my feelings exactly.
I have to second the reading of books as a way of coping. Here's a list of books I read that I really liked:
Ehrman - Misquoting Jesus, Jesus Interrupted, God's Problem, Lost Christianities
Elaine Pagels - Beyond Belief, Adam Eve and the Serpent, The Gnostic Gospels
John Dominic Crossan - The Power of Parable
Richard Elliot Friedman - Who Wrote the Bible
Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman - The Bible Unearthed
It does get better and life suddenly seems more important. I can relate with the fear of death but I would equate it with going to sleep. Does it upset you that you lost several hours while sleeping. The problem is people think they're more important than they really are. I just came to terms with the fact that in the grand scheme of things I'm just a blip and I should just focus on enjoying the life I have while I have it.
I have tossed around such thoughts without much support for 27 years and until recently had few resources to rely upon. Suddenly, there is a multitude of resources that have become available on the Internet, but they still feel rather impersonal.
It is most difficult because we were not given the tools to solve personal issues outside a church setting. Religions do not equip us to function without them as our guide. Very slowly now, I have begun to realize that I must become acclimated to the sensations that self-direction brings. This means setting my own goals (though first I must find them) and follow them to the extent that I feel satisfied in the level of achievement I have attained. Having attained these goals, it is not always something we are able to share with others in our immediate neighborhood, since most people are of the religious variety.
Thankfully, there are some religions which have secular goals and ethics and downplay the supernatural aspects, if any. We need not always be doing things to attain the end of being "to the glory of God."
Most therapies, whether done by oneself or by a therapist, suggest becoming slowly accustomed through use, little by little, to the sensations of your new chosen lifestyle. Sometimes it feels empowering, sometimes it feels like we are adrift without an anchor or blowing in the wind.
Really, it sounds to me like you are well on your way. I don't think you are going to have too many problems. My main worry is losing my old friends. I haven't lost any yet, but then I only of the closet door slightly ajar. It would be helpful if I didn't live so far out in the country.
Thanks for your encouragement! I really appreciate your perspective and struggle and indeed wish we could meet up face to face as that is a very important part of being human. I have yet to find the time and courage to go to a meeting of freethinkers/atheists and I have plenty to choose from between Colorado Springs and Denver! I've no excuse.
"I have begun to realize that I must become acclimated to the sensations that self-direction brings."
This is F'ing brilliant! This directly speaks to what I have been experiencing and guessing at! When I'm certain I can't go on like this, I realize I MUST give it time and "acclimate". And to pinpoint it as "sensations" is so insightful as it mirrors my struggle. This has such a visceral component that is often easy to discount in favor of the intellectual aspect, but you have helped me see that I neglect the "whole man" to my peril!
As with the other 2 gentlemen who have responded to my post, I am SO Thankful to be the beneficiary of your trials and experience! I feel a bit embarrassed being such a "whiner" after only a year! I do not think, however, I have the endurance or patience that you all seem to exhibit. As you so rightly point out , "Knowing that this life is the only one I'll ever get to have makes me want to This exactly mirrors my thinking and experience! I am very anxious to "get it right" and get on with it!
I have yet to view your video suggestion, but I will let you know what I think
I have no idea what you are going through, since I have never been in the grips of religion of any sort (regardless of being surrounded by it in my formative years), but I wonder if a harmless transitional phase would help. Perhaps try reading about Spinoza (good info on wiki), or search out some other patheistic writings to acclimate yourself to a world that appears to have order without having eternal judgement and all the other negatives that probably led you to your current position. I don't think it would be like trading one ideology for another - it's just a safe place to think about your transition out of mental enslavement.
Mark in some of my darkest hours these two videos have brought me a lot of comfort and reassurance, I keep them bookmarked to return to again and again when I find myself lonely or angry and in need of calm. I hope they'll be of some benefit to you. The first one is from one of my all time heroes Carl Sagan:
Pale Blue Dot
I have pretty much worn out all my Sagan books too!
The second is from philhellenes on Youtube, I highly recommend all his videos, this one in particular is beautiful, absolutely stunning actually and he makes the case quite well:
Roy mentioned a writer I quite enjoy as well, Bart Ehrman, all his books are fabulous. Also having come from a more fundamentalist background, I enjoy listening to this guy - Jerry DeWitt - he just makes you feel better about everything and anything you can get your hands on by Dan Barker I would highly recommend, for those of us coming from the fundamentalist background it doesn't get much better than Dan and Jerry, they were both preachers and were there with us in the quagmire of that madness and now they are part of the Clergy Project, helping other Clergy members break free from the madness and find a new place in the world, so what they have to say will probably resonate with you, as it did with me! Found this and edited it back in, this may be a better DeWitt piece for this purpose Jerry De Witt on Hope after Faith at Reason in the Rock 2012
We're here Dan, a lot of us are hiding in this corner of the web. I'm one of those that is out with the family but I don't feel exactly safe being out to the larger community down here, it's a RED STATE! I don't get over to the Nexus as often as I'd like to these days, I used to read it every day but lately I'm working a lot and don't have time, but I do check every few days to see what's new here in the neighborhood. I just happened to see your post and wanted to help a fellow former prisoner out!
Can you tell me more about your "darkest hours"? I'm pretty sure I won't go crazy, but it helps me greatly to hear of the struggles of those who have gone before!
I will try to watch the vids you suggested and let you know what I think.
Great input from all! I'm eating it up and digesting. Heavy stuff. Keep it coming!