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Do You Mourn The Loss Or Embrace The Freedom?


MsPragmatic
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Hello,

 

I hope I have the appropriate board.

 

I am not really sure in which direction I am taking this but want to ask, for those who have a past history in the church and whose views have changed substantially to the other side of that faith, how has the transformation, for lack of a better word, changed you? For me personally that change came much later in my life beginning, if I can put a time frame to it, around the age of 32, when I noticed I no longer felt a 'fit' within the confines of fundamental Christianity and 'floated' about trying to make sense of what I thought I knew and in actuality, didn't really know at all. The change affected me more profoundly after losing a very close loved one, namely, my father, at the age of 42, that truly pushed me forward into facing and trying to figure out what I once believed and how it fit or did not fit in to what I actually believed to be a personal truth for me.

It was a process, a 'coming out' if you will, quite honestly I have only 'come out' to myself and the one person closest to me, we are both in different places and although I often say I'm a work in progress, he stands at peace in the place in which he has chosen and respects me completely for my own taking a stand. I am still exploring what that means to and for me as I realize nothing is certain yet I feel religion and Christianity is no longer something I can pr want to, 'accept' on blind faith.

 

I am still reeling with the impact of those changes and realizations and what they mean to me personally. Those 'changes' have affected my thinking and understanding over time quite profoundly.

 

In a sense I very much mourn the loss of the security religion/Christianity once gave me and on the other hand, I embrace my new found sense of what is real to me personally, enabling me to feel a freedom I've never felt. My beliefs and thoughts on the matter of religion vs. whatever 'category' I can now place myself into have caused some personal distress and I find it difficult not to mourn the passing of what I once took security in for all that I learned and accepted on that once 'blind faith'. It just no longer works for me if I am to be true to myself. It has left me quite bitter though for trying to 'shed' the false realities I once embraced because it leaves me bare and feeling quite alone.

 

I would welcome others of you who have been through a similar experience to share and how you have dealt with or are dealing with this. With all due respect to others who are in different places, there can be no better place than that place which feels right and good to our understanding.

 

Thank you for your time.

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MsPragmatic.

 

The transition in my personal experience, started at the age of 50. It indeed included a feeling of aloneness filled with uncertainties and forsaken / rejected by what i had considered good friends. Friends who no longer wished to be friends with what they considered the lost and and overtaken by 'Satan'. It was surely a most painful time for me.

 

To me deconstruction was absolutely necessary although it left me empty of the security i had previously accepted. In time there arose by grace a new freedom that filled me with personal experiences and allowed those experiences to transform me or build so to speak, a new building not made with other men hands like the one built through a concept of blind faith and doctrine dictated by a church system of men that was destined to crumble.

 

Now i have found a deep peace even in uncertainty. I no longer feel alone or deserted. God to me (not as defined by the church as a person) is an ever-present reality, inseparable from Life itself, that is both seen as within and without and no longer distant... I accept each person as they are in their journey. No hard feelings remain for those who turned against me as i myself was once trapped in the same mire.

 

May the grace of God continue to enlighten you as i am sure it will on the journey for Truth that you have been set upon.

Sincerely,

Joseph

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My 'leaving the fold' occurred when I was about 19 when I joined the police force and saw a world I had no idea existed, having been raised in a fairly closeted, fundamental Christian family and church.

 

Part of my leaving was simply rebellion through gaining exposure to people and a world that I hadn't known. But a big part was the questioning I also undertook at that time concerning this apparent 'plan' of God's to save all of us poor people whom by no choice of our own were born unto sin and were eternally doomed unless we chose to believe that we needed to ask Jesus for forgiveness for being born worthless. I started questioning the justice in that logic.

 

My leaving was painful in many ways - friends no longer really wanted to socialise with me because I was a 'backslider' and their friendship turned into a 'mission' to bring me back to the fold. I pretty much lost my community and circle of friends of 19 years. That left a gap that was filled with less than healthy exploits.

 

For a long time, and to some extent these days, I miss that security I had and even now at 45 I still find myself signing hymns to myself sometimes because it feels comfortable. I can't go back because I simply don't believe what I used to when I was involved with Christianity. That said, I have now been involved through this site and elsewhere with many other types of Christians than I had grown up with and have a different understanding of the bible.

 

For me the jury is still out on whether God exists in some way, shape or form, but I'm happy to continue to ponder this and go along for the ride!

Edited by PaulS
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Thank you both so much for taking the time to share. I can see some of myself in your words and know I am not alone although I do feel in a very small minority compared to the rest of the world claiming Christianity. My worry is if I were to be open about the way I felt I surely would lose some of the people close to me that I've considered friends & family most of my life so I have kept it to myself and continue to explore those changes and how they can and do affect me. Like you Paul, I feel like some would think it their job to convince or 'fix' me, others might see me altogether as a threat not realizing my desire is not to change them or their beliefs. I am not any different than I ever was except that I allow myself to see and try to understand and make sense of the world around me without the 'help' of others or through their eyes if it means deciding for me. I also can not see myself going back to what once gave me that sense of security because it no longer does.

 

Like you seem to word so well Joseph, I too would love to find that deep peace and new understanding that agrees with me hoping that doesn't sound selfish or self serving but brings back at least some sense of comfort blind faith once seemed to give and can no longer. As to 'God' I can't say for me whether or not the journey is still out as I no longer know what if anything that means to me personally or if I even consider God a believable option any longer.

 

Again, thank you for sharing, we aren't a whole lot different it seems.

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I would welcome others of you who have been through a similar experience to share and how you have dealt with or are dealing with this. With all due respect to others who are in different places, there can be no better place than that place which feels right and good to our understanding.

 

 

 

First, allow me to use this opportunity to welcome you to the PC forum. I read your post in the Introduction section, and much of what you said parallels my own experience. In fact, I think you will find many among us who can relate to your journey.

 

My devolution from theism was gradual, but punctuated by three major "events."

 

The first major event was discovering that I am of Jewish ancestry on my mother's side. When my grandfather passed away, we discovered that he had hidden the fact that his parents were Jewish (he was orphaned when both parents were killed in a horse carriage accident in New York city). Curiosity drove me to begin reading the Talmud and learning Hebrew from a local Rabbi. I am impressed with modern Judaism's emphasis on the world as it is and can be, rather than an apocalyptic vision of "heaven and hell" to replace this world. I am equally impressed that it is quite possible to embrace Jewish thinking and philosophy while remaining a non-theist. In fact, I've met plenty of Jewish Atheists.

 

The second event was the reading of a book called Constantine's Sword by James Carroll. At the time, I was a practicing Christian attending a moderately progressive, mainline denomination (Swedish Lutheran) church. Someone who I respect very much suggested I read it and keep an open mind. After the first few chapters, I threw the book in the garbage because it was just too much for me to accept. Eventually, I dug it out of the trash and finished it. Determined to debunk the book, I set about to research the footnotes and bibliography from which Mr. Carroll derived his theories. The research panned out, so it left me with serious doubts about the "bloody-cross path to salvation" taught in most of the Christian churches I've attended.

 

The third, and probably most influential experience, was the death of my mother. She was a very devout Christian all of her life and had such blind faith, it was inspiring. At the age of 69, she was diagnosed with stage 4 Lymphoma cancer. She had three years to live. An accident by the Hospice that was taking care of her in her last days left her suffering horribly the final days of her life. We had to watch her die a slow, painful death - wishing, no; PRAYING for death to release her.

 

I recall very vividly crying out to G-d: "Why would you let one of your most devoted followers suffer such a stupidly, unnecessarily, painful death!" I can understand cancer, but needless suffering? Why would a "just, loving and INVOLVED deity allow this?

 

Of course, there are plenty of acceptable justifications, but none that would indemnify the type of deity I'd been sold over these many years.

 

Currently, I still embrace the philosophy of Judaism, but am thoroughly non-theistic. Most of my Christian friends cannot discuss any of this with me without trying to reconvert me, or worse; condemning me. There are none who can understand the concept of a non-theistic worldview that is moral in nature. It is an anomaly that doesn't fit within the realm of possibility to their way of thinking. I am resolved to simply let it be. Live and let live!

 

I no longer attend any type of religious assembly, save for the occasional festival at the local Synagogue.

 

I hope you can find peace of mind in your theological adventure. You won't find much in the way of condemnation within the confines of this happy, little Forum.

 

NORM

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Thank you for sharing Norm,

 

It helps to understand others in a similar place, more than I can tell you. My lineage goes back to Ashkenazim which I learned only in the last couple of years as being somewhere in our very distant ancestral past, on our paternal side, surprisingly because my mother's side are European and her family remains there today I thought that is where it would have been found. I am very interested in family history and one of these days might look in to that more closely for my own interests.

 

I no longer attend a church, the last was the Episcopal church. When my father died I never seemed to find my way back. Prior to that time I mentioned my attendance being sporadic throughout my life. I'd like to backtrack, it helps me to better understand the bigger picture when I do that. My first exposure was as a young girl, we attended a small as I recall, Catholic church on an army base in Europe. I only recall going a couple two or three times if that much, even then I'm not sure why, good question for my mom I suppose. I didn't think too much about it at the time, it remains a nice memory. Later prior to my early teens we joined a Grace Brethren Church, dad never went except for a very special occasion or occasional picnics where he enjoyed preparing foods or hot chocolate. I loved those times we went as a family. I do recall trying to get him to go on other occasions, it was always the same answer, 'you will never change my religion, once a Catholic, always a Catholic,' but, he was non practicing so I truly don't know how important it even was to him. We attended there about 3 years pretty regularly. Aside from the fun of Sunday school and engaging with friends and being close to do many activities together which I always enjoyed, I don't recall coming away with anything more than being saved in the church because big brother chose to be saved one day, so too did middle and little brother so somehow I felt 'duty' call. I really did not realize what it was all about but it 'felt right'. Our baptisms were each unique too, it was a time of innocence and security is the best I can describe it. Moving from this place we no longer sought out a church and our family life went on. The two older siblings had their own lives and cars while me and my younger remained in the home and often looking for things to fill our time. Friends introduced us to their church experience, we chose to attend VBS a couple of summers, but outside of that time in our lives church was not really a focus. Later, when I had my own children I was encouraged by other young mothers to attend a place of worship. Being a 'dutiful' mother I felt that the option was a good one so that my own children would be 'guided' if you will by my choice of 'doing the right' thing. So, we chose a Baptist church, pretty fundamental although I did not focus on church politics until one day I was asked to run a children's Sunday school. I thought, 'I really don't have the biblical knowledge to teach anyone else,' but I allowed myself to be talked in to doing so. I never enjoyed it although I gave it my best. Nothing to go wrong with if I took lessons right from the Bible right?! :rolleyes: I suppose thinking back on it, I only served to add my own ideas on what that was to mean to then small children and if it shaped their thinking down the road. My oldest son surprisingly called the preacher on something he'd said one Sunday, not being 12-13 years old himself at the time. The preacher was preaching about animals not having a soul or something about their not getting into heaven and that did not sit right with my son so he asked him why he thought that and told him he disagreed. Pow! An eye opener to the realm of questioning! Thanks son! I guess that's where I gained my future courage, my sound encouraged it no doubt! I respected his need to better understand and with a little time and looking back today, that might just be where my own questioning began to come in. I sure wasn't happy with teaching a Sunday school class but again, felt it my 'duty' in a sense. The more time went on, the more I didn't want to be there. I would say in that same year we left that little church. People, including the pastor weren't too pleased with us but I felt fine! I think the kids didn't care one way or other. I was in spiritual limbo for a time after that, enjoying my Sunday's where I didn't have to get dressed and head out the door any longer. I still felt a sense of god during that time yet I sought a better understanding. I muddled through different speakers, authors, etc.., for a few years, met another friend, joined the Episcopal Church, loved their service for about 6 years, up until my father's passing. Prior to that, even their rituals seemed repetitive and without much substance, I felt more and more distanced from the church. I loved the people there and the different type of service it offered, I suppose if I were to go back (which I don't believe I would for the sake of worshiping 'god') it would be solely for the community experience, thus causing me to suppress my own understanding for fear of rejection.

 

I treasure the people in my life, old friends and new, Christian, non Christian or whatever direction they choose in life, AND I respect their right to choose just as my own yet I feel if I truly exposed myself I would lose many people dear to me so I muddle on without the need to share that deepest part of myself yet find it sometimes harder and harder not to want to share my thoughts because holding them in just seems to suppress much of what I would love to be able to openly discuss. So... that is where this forum seems to come in handy and at the moment, I am most grateful!

 

Being in this 'place' I currently am and adhering to no particular faith, nor total atheism or secular humanism or anything that has a label, I feel like a floater for lack of a better word! I guess I could put myself into the 'non-theistic' category. But, I feel good and right and true to myself and for me personally, I think it is as it should be. Anything else as I shared would be for someone else, superficial, not who I am. We are all entitled to learn about the world in which we live, none the exception, it is a freedom I invite and want to live out although having answers would be the ultimate yet whether good or bad, who knows how it would leave one to feel, this 'knowing', for now I'll just continue my journey and absorb all I can along the way, maybe to 'Never-land'...

 

Thank you for sharing Constantine's Sword Norm, I will certainly be curious to look into it! Sorry if I've bored anyone to death with my rambling, it helps me to look back and see more clearly that world in which I lived and how and why things have and continue to change with my place in it.

 

~Peace

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MsPrag,

 

I would encourage you to visit your local synagogue. They are more than eager to embrace those who have fallen away from Christianity.

 

In a way, since Christianity was a rejection of Judaism, you could say that we are the Prodigal sons and daughters that Jesus taught about in one of his parables.

 

NORM

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Thanks Norm,

 

Not sure I have interest at this time although it has often intrigued me and I have had a curiosity about their teachings. Interestingly I live in a part of the country and rural small town that there are none listed within 50 miles of my home. Wow, what does that say I wonder?

 

Enjoy your weekend!

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Thanks Norm,

 

Not sure I have interest at this time although it has often intrigued me and I have had a curiosity about their teachings. Interestingly I live in a part of the country and rural small town that there are none listed within 50 miles of my home. Wow, what does that say I wonder?

 

Enjoy your weekend!

 

The description; "rural small town" says it all. We are a very small minority in the US, and tend to gravitate to more urban areas. The Orthodox are required to live within walking distance of Shul, since they don't drive during Shabbat. That has a lot to do with location.

 

NORM

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Am thoroughly enjoying this thread. Many similar thoughts and feelings. Having been raised with a pro-forma presbyterianism which was not really discussed at home, it never resonated with me. As a young man, I got involved with a fairly "liberal" presbyterian church which presented many new (to me) ideas and attitudes that were, at first, very compelling. As time went on I began to feel alienated even from this for reasons I have yet to explain to myself. Been wandering in the wilderness ever since having no real desire to embrace religion. About 17 years ago I met (and married) a wonderful Jewish woman. Through stories of her experiences I began to pay a little more attention to Judaism. One of the most compelling ideas is the notion that we are not even to utter or spell the name, much less define it in human terms. And the notion that the emphasis of the faith is on the here and now and not the sweet by and by. I am looking forward to reading more of your posts and possibly getting more involved in the discussions.

 

Cheers to all and thank you for letting me share

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