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Exit Letters


smellincoffee
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Back in early September, I was lying in bed late at night (early in the morning, rather, since it was around 2 a.m.) and thought I should write my parents letter to explain to them why I was leaving their faith. I got up and started writing. I wrote for several hours, until daylight, when I finally got off to catch a few hours of sleep before I had wake for the next day's duties. I found writing the letter to be an emotional experience, and very therapeutic as I worked out the details of my life, showing them each step along the way that led me to make this decision. I didn't finish the letter, but I found that writing the letter had helped me immensely; I was able to make sense of my thoughts. So I wrote a letter to my "best friend" in the church, who I feel will disown me when I tell him that my worldview is nontheistic. Then I wrote one to the pastor I'm being forced to sit under.

 

I have re-written the lettters several times -- at first, I did this to make the letter more succint, to eliminate drama or too much emotion. But now I find that every time I write a new one, or try a new approach to showing them, that I discover something else about myself. I have two of them as finished as they're going to get, but since I enjoy writing them I have extended the number of people to whom I'm writing letters. I don't plan to distribute the letters until I can leave.

 

Did anyone else do something like this?

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STC,

 

I've never done this over deconversion but I find that writing up how you feel can really help organize your thoughts.

 

I admire your organization however I would advise against expecting anyone to understand.

 

If I were to write letters to anyone, it would only be for the purpose of letting them know that leaving fundyism is fine and they’d be OK if they did the same.

 

If however, you are planning or hoping that other would come to understand your reasons and pat you on the back and say… “I understand”, then you might get disappointed.

 

From what you write, you really seem to have your head on straight, know your direction and your reasons for doing things.

 

Certainly, letters to people you plan to have ongoing relationships with make sense to write. Very close friends and your parents, siblings et cetera.

 

The letter to your pastor baffles me. Unless he is Buddhist he won’t understand and may actually take this as you throwing down the philosophical gauntlet. A read on another site about a guy who left his church and wanted to explain in writing. The whole thing became one giant pissing match with phone calls to friends and family, nasty letters back and forth and pointless grief. It was a hell of a read.

 

Unless you plan for your life to move outside of the pastor’s sphere of influence (does he talk to your folks?), I would ignore the guy for a long time (1-3 years) before sending a letter.

 

Just a thought…

 

Mongo

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Letter writing is a common theraputic exercise. I use that technique a lot myself, usually when I'm very angry with someone and want them to know exactly what I think.

 

However, I do not usually send the letters. It's just an outlet to make ME feel better, and often sending them in reality would serve no point but to bring a lot of grief down on my head (like what Mongo was referring to.) They wouldn't make the other person understand.

 

It's up to you if you want to send them, but letter writing is a GREAT way to get your thoughts in order, so I say keep it up whether you send them or not!

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I admire your organization however I would advise against expecting anyone to understand.

 

Not at all -- to quote from one of my letters, the current one to my former pastor:

 

I’m writing this letter to tie up loose ends, to answer questions that may arise after I leave. I am as a matter of course a private individual; there are very few people in whom I confide. I don’t like people questioning my motives, so writing this and other letters is a preemptive action. [...] And I doubt very seriously that these letters will lead to understanding. I desire understanding, but I no longer expect it.

 

 

 

The letters have a lot of uses; the ones I distribute will be to take charge of the situation. If there's one thing I despise, it's idle gossip. At my parents' church, it runs wild.

 

The letter to your pastor baffles me. Unless he is Buddhist he won’t understand and may actually take this as you throwing down the philosophical gauntlet.

 

Currently I have a function within the church -- printing a bulletin, running the soundroom, doing various adminstrative duties -- and if I told him now, he would certainly remove me. Can't have a heathen unlocking the doors. I feel a little guilty about misleading them, even as their close-minded reactions is the cause of my having to mislead them. It's an employee/employer thing.

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Yo 'coffee..

 

Remember this from every cop show ever televised?

 

"You have the Right to remain Silent, ANYTHING you say can and will be used against you... "

 

Anything you put to print is gonna be the concrete foundation of all assorted ills and bullshittings laid on you from moment they get letter to well after you die.

 

You write to them, it empowers them, it gives them reason to continue to try and keep hold and sway over you.

 

Write as you need to do so, but daFatman advises that you hold those letters close, and IF you 'just gotta lay paper' on someone, hand it to them in person and have them read it in your presence.

Have opportunity to hear from them first hand what they think and react to.

 

Otherwise family and friends get involved, and the whole affair of your business and life blows up and makes a mess.

 

k, BTDT, FL

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Yo 'coffee..

 

Remember this from every cop show ever televised?

 

"You have the Right to remain Silent, ANYTHING you say can and will be used against you... "

 

Anything you put to print is gonna be the concrete foundation of all assorted ills and bullshittings laid on you from moment they get letter to well after you die.

 

 

k, BTDT, FL

 

You raise a very valid point, and one I've thought about in how I phrase the letters -- and so I eliminated ambigious statements, or things they could twist against me. The letters are supposed to be a one-time thing: this is what I am, I'm sorry that it was necessary that I mislead you. But I am starting to think it might be more effective to just let them think I drifted away.

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When I deconverted, I was a lay reader at an Episcopal church (a member of the congregation who volunteeered to be assigned to read scripture during the Sunday mass). I wrote a note to the lady who ran this program to tell her I wished to no longer do this and that my spiritual path was currently leading away from the church. I didn't tell her where it was going! She wrote a very nice note back wishing me well. I don't know if she showed the note to anyone.

 

Writing has always helped me figure things out, as sometimes I'm too upset about a situation to talk. It helps me get the shapeless mass of thoughts and fears swirling in my mind down on paper, where my rational mind can take a look at it and deal with it.

 

Whether or not you deliver those letters is up to you and your situation. You've learned a lot writing them though, haven't you? Good luck!

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I told my parents in person. They have not rejected me, though they do not agree with my reasons for leaving.

 

I haven't told anyone else in my family and don't plan to for a long while. I'm not really that close to anyone else in my family anyway. I am an only child, so there were no siblings to tell.

 

I simply just left my old church and didn't bother to tell them why. I figured it was none of their business.

 

I definitely use writing as a means of stress relief. I journal a lot, both online and on paper.

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  • 8 months later...

I found this thread, smellingcoffee, because you linked it from your most recent update. I'm not sure if it's decent responding here but my guess is there are others at the stage you were last fall. Seems people like us who hang out on forums are the kind of people who work through our problems via writing so maybe it will do others good to know that writing it out in the form of letters is a valid way, but that you are glad that you took the advice in this thread not to distribute the letters.

For myself, the advice given here assures me that I took the right route. About the same time you were deconverting, or maybe it was several months earlier, I was in the same stage. I had a strong feeling that I should write letters for my sisters just to explain to them what I believe. I was never sure I wanted to do that--I was never sure I had "arrived." I did write a few letters that I never sent. Knowing what I do now, I would probably not have told them even yet about my deconversion.

 

It's not something they need to know. But I spilled the beans without realizing what I was doing to myself. I did write something sometime since then, around the time of our mother's death and funeral, I think. I sent it because I kept feeling convinced that I needed to. Several weeks later, my little brother called me to ask what I do believe if I no longer believe in God. I told him about the letter I had sent and suggested he ask them to see it. He was happy with that and I have never heard back from him.

 

As I write out my thoughts and feelings on this (right here in this post) it becomes clear to me that life is probably easier in the long run if they know where I stand. They have rejected me on a formal level like never before and it has been extremely painful. However, I no longer have to pretend to be something I'm not. I can be open about my beliefs for perhaps the first time in my life. All my life I have had very serious questions about key tenets of the Christian faith but I was not free to express my questions. I would have risked severe repercussions before I was emotionally strong enough to handle it.

 

I would still like to discuss it with them but I know it is foolhardy to try. I am apostate. I have no credibility in their eyes. Quietly walking away seems to be a decent way to handle it. Thanks for sharing these things, SmellingCoffee, on this thread and your most recent one. Maybe I should add that there have been no bad repercussions from this one letter that I did send. So there must be a place for letters.

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Thanks for your thoughts. :) My family already knows; I told my parents in person a few months ago, and my sister before that. My sister doesn't particularly care. I've been thinking about this for a number of months, and I know that no one at my church needs to get a letter. In a few months I'll return to college and the people at church who think about me can figure out where I stand from my MySpace/.Facebook profiles. Right now I keep them censored, but not in a month or so. It'll be an interesting experience when I finally am able to be 100% frank!

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You know yourself and the people you are writing to better than I do, so if you feel that this is the course you need to take then run with it. However I agree with Mongo that you should not expect the letter recipients to understand how you are feeling and the reasons you have for leaving. Letter writing can be therapeutic and can help organize your thoughts, so it may prove to be a lot more useful to you then it is to the recipients of your letters. It is good that you have carefully thought out what to say and how to say it. I wish you luck and hope that your decision is met with acceptance, if not understanding.

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