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Pangs Of Guilt


garrisonjj
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It has been a year and a half since my deconversion of over 40 years as a catholic. With all this christmas crap I begin to feel guilty about leaving and the "sinner" feeling comes back. How do you best deal with it? I never truly believed in the church for all those years, yet there is this feeling of remorse I have.

Hell, blasphemy and the inevitible attending xmas mass (HAS TO BE DONE) and probaly receiving without confession and "mortal sins" on my soul troubles me. I have done this the last 3 holidays.

I desire so to be an atheist but 40 years of brainwashing just doesn't disappear. Any suggestions?

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I've become more of a Scrooge this time of year. It's just an utter pain in the ass. I won't be going to church (anyone who doesn't like it can suck it) and that's about it. Not feeling any guilt from baby jesus or anything like that. If anyone asks I might tell them I'm celebrating Saturnalia if I get the chance but I'm not putting any effort into anything. Technically it happens the week before xmas but I'm lazy and do it late.

 

Here's the basics (from Wikipedia):

 

"The celebrations included a school holiday, the making and giving of small presents (saturnalia et sigillaricia) and a special market (sigillaria). Gambling was allowed for all, even slaves; although it was only officially condoned during this period, one should not assume that it was rare or much remarked upon during the rest of the year. It was a time to eat, drink, and be merry. The toga was not worn, but the pilleus (freedman's hat) was worn by everyone. Slaves were exempt from punishment, and treated their masters with disrespect. The slaves celebrated a banquet: before, with, or served by the masters."

 

So, a holiday, presents, maybe some gambling and food. "Eat, drink and be merry." I don't wear the hat. ;) I can't convince my masters not to punish me but screw them. :)

 

"The customary greeting for the occasion is a "Io, Saturnalia!" — io (pronounced "yo")" - Praise to Saturn.

 

Io, Saturnalia! :woohoo:

 

mwc

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It has been a year and a half since my deconversion of over 40 years as a catholic. With all this christmas crap I begin to feel guilty about leaving and the "sinner" feeling comes back. How do you best deal with it? I never truly believed in the church for all those years, yet there is this feeling of remorse I have.

Hell, blasphemy and the inevitible attending xmas mass (HAS TO BE DONE) and probaly receiving without confession and "mortal sins" on my soul troubles me. I have done this the last 3 holidays.

I desire so to be an atheist but 40 years of brainwashing just doesn't disappear. Any suggestions?

 

Warning: I'm Christian, so ignore my advice if you want.

 

I'd recommend that if you are acting in good conscience by being atheist you should feel no pangs of guilt of any kind and you should not attend religious services or partake of the ritual unless you want to do so as a cultural or family experience. One must not violate one's conscience. (While I very rarely attend any religious service, I absolutely make it a point not to do so on Easter or Christmas.)

 

-CC

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I felt the same way for a while. I liked certain things about Mass, too. Part of my reason for not leaving sooner was I didn't want to upset my then girlfriend, etc. Garrison, maybe it's time for you to declare yourself to your family and not keep up the pretense of faith you don't hold anymore. You can always say something like "I don't believe in God but I believe in ritual" and go with them if you want. I know a Russian Orthodox mom who told me that and who thinks it's important her children have the church experience, even if she doesn't teach them God exists. So you might try something like that. A thought, anyway.

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It has been a year and a half since my deconversion of over 40 years as a catholic. With all this christmas crap I begin to feel guilty about leaving and the "sinner" feeling comes back. How do you best deal with it? I never truly believed in the church for all those years, yet there is this feeling of remorse I have.

Hell, blasphemy and the inevitible attending xmas mass (HAS TO BE DONE) and probaly receiving without confession and "mortal sins" on my soul troubles me. I have done this the last 3 holidays.

I desire so to be an atheist but 40 years of brainwashing just doesn't disappear. Any suggestions?

 

Garrison, I feel for you. I agree with CC that you should not violate your conscience. I don't know enough about Catholic practices or your family traditions to understand why you are obligated to attend mass. I wonder if perhaps what you are feeling is grief at the loss of your faith community. In other words, is it possible to confuse grief for guilt?

 

I don't feel like I know what really is going on in you psychologically. For a professional analysis you would have to see a professional counselor and I am not saying this is needed but some of us do require counseling to work through the issues. LosingMyReligion has posted about the issues his counselor helped him work through. I wish I knew where he posted it. Maybe he will see this and respond.

 

But I know what you're talking about regarding "40 years of brainwashing." All I know to say to that is the Bible is right: Train a child in the way he should go [read: in the way his parents think he should go] and when he is old he will not depart from it [read: it will be practically impossible to discard it]. With time, however, it is possible to retrain the brain and emotions. I would say the year and a half mark for a person your age is still early in the process. I was that age, too, when I broke with a very strict church. Give yourself time. Do what your brain (or your heart or gut--whatever is the most reliable decision-making process for you) tells you is right. With time, the rift inside of you will heal; the other parts of your psyche will adjust to your new way of being.

 

It's been seven and a half years for me since I formally broke with the church, though I continued living in the same place for a few more years. To this day, even though I have been physically removed from that geographical area for four and a half years, my unconscious mind will still pick up certain sounds that resemble the sound of a horse's clip-clop in the distance. It was a horse and buggy farming community where I lived more than forty years. The other day I thought I heard a cow's moo in the distance. I am in the city now and there is no cow for many miles around. It was the distant whine of a truck or some engine/motor. Thus, it seems there are sights, sounds, and smells of the old community that are still as sharp in my unconscious as if I had never left.

 

I don't know what those sights and sounds and smells will be for you. If they are religious items I can well see why they would evoke feelings of guilt. That is what they were designed to do and your unconscious will hold onto them for a very long time. There are ways to retrain the unconscious mind. One way is to over-ride its promptings continually and consistently for a prolonged period of time, and to consciously give it something else to focus on instead. Staying away from church and doing something you enjoy might be a suggestion. But if attending mass is an obligation you need to do then that won't work. Hopefully someone else will have better ideas.

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RubySera makes a very good point about trying to distinquish between guilt and grief.

 

Your story reminds me of a colleague. He's atheist. He was raised very traditional Massachusetts-style Irish Catholic. At a funeral mass for another colleague's husband, I noticed that he went along with all the ritual--the kneeling, the sign of the cross, even receiving the Eucharist. To me, it was actually bizarre for an avowed atheist to partake in the ritual. I asked him about it later. He said that the ritual just feels right to him even if he doesn't believe what the ritual stands for. That's the lingering effect of early training.

 

-CC

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CC, that story reminds me of a man I met on another forum who used to be Roman Catholic and is now atheist. He says he sometimes goes to mass and does all the things because it feels right, it's a family tradition thing for him. He really misses the Latin Mass.

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Same here. BTW, I'm mostly a lurker here, so hello to everybody.

 

I walked away a few years ago...but I miss something. Community? Maybe. Ritual? Well...yeah. Friends....they're still friends if they're really friends.

 

I miss the possibility, however silly, that there is some spiritual existence that might manifest itself in the church, the ritual, the participation. It is painful to think, "It's all hooey...no more substance than a beer and popcorn fart." But when the chips are down, it certainly seems there's no one there. I never saw or felt a "presence" in church.

 

I find fascinating the reports in NDEs which imply..but do not prove...a continued existence of awareness...and maybe that God does exist and is not juvenilely malevolent. Meantime, when I stand at the door and knock....

 

It is a sad state.

 

Boz

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Although it was from the clutches of the fundy Protestant cult I deconverted, I was raised Catholic until I was around 12 years old. Now, on the rare occasions I attend church (about once every two or three years) it is the Catholic church. For me, it is a 100% ceremonial/social act, with no residual tugs from my legacy.

 

I might suggest that the feelings you are experiencing are simply a reflection of your stage in the deconversion process. I think that 40 years of brainwashing can disappear, but no necessarily overnight, and not necessarily at the same rate and in the same way for everybody. If you know that you've been brainwashed, I think that any feelings of guilt will fade over time with the recognition that the guilt without basis.

 

Even if you want to, or for some reason feel the need to and decide to attend Christmas mass, have you considered abstaining from communion? I think of communion as an active affirmation of faith, and would abstain for the same reason I'd stand quietly in an "at ease" position rather than bowing my head and folding my hands at a public prayer. That's just me, of course, but still, I don't see any reason to participate in an optional ritual that you'd normally do only because you were a practicing Catholic (or more generically, christian). Besides, it's a common practice to sit out communion, even more so among those who only attend mass on Christmas and maybe Easter.

 

As for dealing with any residual fears (guilt, etc. as the case may be) in the early stages after deconversion (and a year and a half isn't all that long) I found that big chunk of gray matter, so instrumental in the entire process, to be the best ally. I'm betting you've already put that to good use in your deconversion and given the matter of the improbability of all that stuff you were brainwashed with a great deal of thought. Logic and Reason is a great way to dispel fear and guilt.

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