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Literally Almost Everyone I Know And Love Is A Christian.


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I grew up in a Christian home, accepted Christ at the age of 5, and was homeschooled for most of my school years. I am now a junior in highschool, and almost all my friends are either from church or from the very Christian local homeschool community I am involved in. I've been having doubts about my faith for the better part of my teen years, off and on. I'm not ready to completely denounce Christianity, but I'm getting closer and closer to that point. How do I break this to the people I love? Every time I try to talk about my doubts with my friends, they try to give me advice and "answers" and reassurances that "God is there for me and will help me through my spiritual crisis." It seems as if I am always convinced to go back to the faith, but no matter how hard to I try to believe, I can't shake these doubts. I feel as if everything I have ever known and believed is crumbling from me. I know my true friends won't turn their backs on me if I leave the faith, but there will be a distance between us and I'll be known to them as "the unbeliever." My parents are supportive of me and I know they would never turn their backs on me either, but I can't stand the thought of the hurt I would bring to them if I left the faith. They have tried so hard to get me to believe. We have poured over book after book of Christian apologetics together, and they have had me talk to so many people (pastors, friends, etc) who they believed would answer my burning questions. The only one who can understand where I'm coming from is my sister. For most of her life she has wanted to be a missionary, but recently she admitted to me that she's been having doubts too. This is shattering both of us, and leaving us feeling so lost. I feel like the bottom of my life is being ripped away.

 

This has probably been discussed on here already, but I would like to know how you broke the news to your Christian loved ones, and how did you deal with their reactions? I'm not angry in any way at my Christian loved ones, nor am I angry at Christianity. I just can't continue to lie to myself about what I really believe.

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Do you feel that in your circumstances you *have* to tell people you don't believe?

 

I realized about 7 years or so ago that christianity isn't true, and I haven't made it a point to make an issue of it to others. It has come out to a couple people, simply because they brought the issue up, but otherwise I just go on my merry way and try not to worry about it.

 

I don't pretend to be a believer, I just don't raise the issue and risk rocking the boat. I don't know how much longer I'll be able to ride this wave. I'm sure it will leak out more eventually, but for now I just let it go.

 

Maybe your sister and you could work through this stuff together.

 

I'm no expert and maybe that's not the best advice, but it's my 2¢....

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This is always a difficult place to be in, especially when your family are dedicated believers. There is always the possibility that some of them are questioning also, but it can be like kicking a hornets nest if your family if "fundamentalist" (takes it very seriously and literally). I think it eventually comes down to what you want to do with your life, and being willing to become more independent. We always have people that we want to get along with and fit in with, but when those people become controlling and manipulative it become more necessary to draw boundaries that define who you are as an individual.

 

I think the problem in your situation is your fear of what might be, i.e. their reactions and possible rejection. But since you have already shared your doubts with them, it probably wouldn't be that big of a shock, though they will still probably feel some hurt. But it is maddening to be held by fear in a place where you must lie about your foundational beliefs. But if you are willing to pursue it, it might be an opportunity to ask them why your important questions about the faith are not important to them. They may not want to face anything that could change their security blanket of faith. Your sister is also someone to spend more time talking with. It would be a shame to invest in becoming a missionary (a hard life for most of them) and then decide that her heart isn't in it.

 

I have been out of the faith for about 1.5 years, but haven't told some family members that are fundamentalist believers. Then again, I don't have to live with them either. Since you are still fairly young, your freedom and options are a bit more limited than an adult.

 

On the positive side, there is a whole world of goodness awaiting your exploration. Leaving the church can feel traumatic, since it helped define reality for your formative years. But now you are figuring out that it wasn't truthful, and are itching to know what is real and resolve the dissonant feeling you have about church and the faith. So your seeking isn't a bad thing, nor is what you are discovering. It is only disconcerting since the authority figures in your life still cling to it. I encourage you to be true to yourself and the drive you have to know the truth and to be at peace within. There really is a lot of peace when you finally resolve it. And for most of us here, it takes a year or two (or longer) to lose the fears that were drummed into us over most of our lives. Be of good courage, you are asking the right questions and have a bright future. But yes, you will have to be willing to face the emotional conflicts and disappointment of others in the short term.

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I never did tell my mother or my father. I have no brothers or sisters. My friends may know, but we don't talk about religion.

 

Religion is just something I don't do. It isn't a calling to tell others what I don't believe.

 

I'm not saying that's right for you, and you may well have pressures to tell that I don't have, like people inviting you to church social functions. I found that life changed my circumstances, and my friends, many times, but then I'm getting old. I can look back though and say I didn't miss out by not telling everyone that there is no god.

 

I do that here.

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At some point you have to come out. If you continue to go alone with something you dont believe eventually one day you will walk away and will regret giving all those years to a something you dont believe. Trust me I did it for 12 years...

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You can be really gentle about it. Most Christians expect children to wander, and all teenagers go through a period where they (rightly)assert their independence, so your parents will likely assume this is part of that. If you are uncomfortable, you could stop going to church and if they ask simply say you are 'searching' or 'own your own path'. Hopefully you will go on to college and there you will likely meet other people who are more apt to ask 'why should I?'. Also, as your friends age they may also become skeptical. Who I was at 16 and who I was at 18 was very different.

 

You don't want to suffer for them, but neither do you want to cause unnecessary wounds. Find the balance that gives you the freedom you deserve but does not cut your friends and family too deeply.

 

Simply be confident in knowing that the path to truth may be painful, but is ultimately better than the bliss of ignorance.

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Thanks for all your responses, everyone. It is so good to know I'm not alone in this! I have felt so alone for so many years. At this point I feel like I will be miserable whatever I do. If I tell my family and friends that I renounce my faith, this next year and a half will be consumed with people praying over me, crying over me, trying to talk me back into Christianity at every moment. I don't think I could stand that. But on the other hand, I don't know how I can continue to pretend to believe. The truth will eventually come out, but I hate the fact that I feel like I have to deceive people until I'm strong enough to come out with it. When I go off to college I'm planning to start my life fresh, find like minded people, and try to find out what I really believe without feeling the constant guilt hanging over me. I am afraid that I will always have the guilt in some ways. I've been so sheltered that I can't have a conversation with a nonchristian without feeling like there is a barrier between us.

My sister has not questioned as long as I have, and she says she's not ready to give up Christianity. But I think that somewhere along the road she will reach that point. My mom says she sometimes has doubts too, but I don't think she will ever leave Christianity. She hates change, and she couldn't rip her faith away from her life after it has been there for so long. We grow more stable in our beliefs as we grow older, and it becomes harder and harder to discount them. My parents are very serious Christians but they are Christians in the best way possible. They have showed me all the good aspects of Christianity, unconditional love, forgiveness, etc, and none of the judgementalism that seems so common among Christian parents. But it would break their hearts if I left the faith.

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Most of my friends and relatives are also Christian. They are finally coming to the conclusion that preaching to me is like kicking a dead horse. We have peace in our lifetime at last. They do not preach to me and i do not remind them the sins of Christian history and current events. Most of the family is just getting too old to argue with anyway and last thing I want to do is be remembered as the relative who caused Aunt Mavis to have a stroke arguing over religion.

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But it would break their hearts if I left the faith.

You can't let that kind of manipulation define your life.

 

Parents' 'hearts are broken' when their kids are gay, date the wrong person, align with the wrong political party, join the army - or don't join the army.

 

Just gotta live your life on your terms. The sooner you start, the easier it is.

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Sigh. I realize that I will have to tell them someday, and that day may come sooner and later. I feel as if I can't live a lie. But I don't believe I am quite ready yet. After going back and forth between belief and doubt for years and years, I feel as if I have finally come to a point of no return. I don't think I'll be going back to religion, but I still have so many ties to it. There are still so many things I enjoy about it; the wonderful people I've met through church and youth group, the bond of love and trust between the people in my church and Christian community, the feeling of belonging to something bigger than yourself, playing keyboard on the church worship team... These things have become a part of me and I can't just drop them like that.

 

But I've been horrified reading some of the testimonies on here. Though I was definitely aware of a lot of hypocrisy going on in the church, I had no idea at the abuse, emotional torment, and rejection so many people have gone through at the hands of others in the church. I was lucky to grow up in a church and a home where I was very loved.

 

The funny thing is that I don't feel the deep sense of loss I thought I would feel when I rejected my faith. I feel almost relieved. There is a lot of pain, but I don't feel like my life is over. In fact, I almost feel like I'm beginning it anew.

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Sigh. I realize that I will have to tell them someday

 

I do have a suggestion. If you do get around to telling people that you no longer believe, I'd recommend that you stress that you have not chosen to reject christianity. Your conclusions are based on your reasonable assessment of the evidence before you, NOT some choice to "walk away from god." The reason for this suggestion is because it seems that most christians just assume that those who leave have simply chosen to leave because they don't want to submit to god. They see it as rebellion, when in reality for most of us it is a realization.

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I say wait it out til you leave home. Yes, there will be arguing and pain and praying, but you won't be around to deal with it 24/7. Try not to focus so much energy on it. Enjoy your last year and a half of high school with normal high school stuff. It will fly by before you know it.

 

Once you are out of the house, being your own person is much easier

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Citsonga, I totally agree with you on that. I have spent my whole life hearing Christians talk about people 'rejecting God', and I have always wanted to tell them that no, people do not reject God, they just weigh the evidence and realize there is no basis for believing in him.

 

Kyle, that's what I'm trying to do for now. But it is just so hard to lie and pretend I still believe. It would be easier if I was in a public high school, but I am surrounded by a community of people who base their entire lives around God. My best friend is a missionaries' kid and I've been involved with their ministry to Middle Eastern kids for many years. At every single activity or social setting I am in, a prayer is said and some mention is made of God. At youth group and Sunday school I've always been known as a person who "delved deep" into their faith. (What they didn't know was that the reason I was delving deep was because I had so unanswered questions.)

 

And despite the fact that I'm becoming more and more sure that I'm no longer a Christian, I still feel incredibly guilty when I'm around my Christian friends. I feel like the "sinful" outsider. They all think these doubts are just a phase, and though they don't say it out loud, I can tell they think I'm weak for not having a steady faith. It's been such a relief to find this site and see that I'm not alone in these feelings!

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If you can read and study the writings of Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens et al., and become more confident in your understanding of the god concept and why it is irrational, your confidence will bring you comfort. You will not feel guilt so much as pity. You have not betrayed them, but you yourself were betrayed from a young age, and your friends and family were too, and are still trapped.

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I've been wanting to get my hands on some atheist literature, but I'm worried that my parents will discover what I'm reading. Once they caught me looking at atheist websites and it really upset them. They say that I have a right to question my belief to "strengthen it", but that looking at too much of the other viewpoints is "not healthy". They are still convinced this is just a phase I'm going through. Our house doesn't have much privacy and my family members will come in and out of my room without knocking, so they'd surely discover if I was trying to sneak atheist literature into the house. Maybe I will have to wait until I go away for college.

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Once they caught me looking at atheist websites and it really upset them. They say that I have a right to question my belief to "strengthen it", but that looking at too much of the other viewpoints is "not healthy".

 

If they make that an issue again, perhaps you could ask them why they don't believe that the "truth of christianity" is strong enough to withstand honest scrutiny.

 

And wouldn't they want people of other faiths (Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, etc) to consider alternate perspectives, such as christianity? If they think that others should keep an open mind about alternate perspectives, isn't it hypocritical for they themselves to refuse to do so?

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Mine is pretty cut and dry. As I was doubting, I didn't tell a soul, friends, family, nobody. Eventually, I decided I was sick of xtianity, so I left the faith of my own accord, and became an atheist. I had lost all confidence or faith that there was a god. So, for awhile after, I still didn't tell anyone, I kept my atheism hidden for months. But for me, it was very very hard, I felt like I was dying inside because I wanted to stop putting on the charade of being a xtian, I was tired of attending church, and praying after my meals. One day I went downstairs and just flat out told my parents that I wasn't a xtian anymore, of course them being crazy they did not take it well, but they did not do anything extreme to me, such as kick me out of the house, because they thought they could win me back to christ. They never have, I was like F em', I moved in with my sister and I have never been happier.

 

I know in your case though, from what you said that your parents are pretty straight forward and cool with anything you pursue. My feeble advice is, just sit them down and talk to them about it, for your own well being, it is so hard to keep it bottled up.

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Perhaps there is a public library or bookstore where you can you go and feel safe to read other viewpoints. Learn how to clear your browser history if you need too. You can even 'skin' other books by gluing different covers onto them if you are afraid of people seeing you open your mind.

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Last night my mom and I were talking about religion, and I finally told her the truth; I don't believe anymore. She took it better than I thought she would. Then again, she's known that I've had doubts for years.

 

I can see she has a lot of cognitive dissonance herself about the faith, but I don't think she'll ever leave it. She says that she has "chosen this path in life", and despite the fact that she often doubts the truth of what she believes, she is just too far into the system to leave now. I asked her a lot of the hard questions. Each time her answer boiled down to "God's ways are mysterious, you just have to have faith." I told her that was not enough for me and would never be enough. Her own cognitive dissonance with what she believed was very clear to me. I asked her straight out if she believed I was going to hell. She kind of squirmed in her seat and said, "well, uh" I told her to answer yes or no. She said yes, probably. But then she rationalized that maybe, just maybe, God would have mercy on me because I tried so hard to believe.

 

I don't think I'll ever change her mind about religion, but that's not really what I'm out to do anyway. I just want her to accept for who I am and not try to win me back constantly. I told her that the only way I would return to the faith is if I got a direct sign from God. I think she believes me, and she's not the type to proselytize people anyway. (But some of my friends are another story).

 

I told her that I wanted to read atheist literature, and she said she'd think about it. But honestly she really can't stop me, I'm 17 years old and I can drive myself to the bookstore... I think she still has an idea in her mind that I might return to the faith one day...

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Though I can't say that my family is any sort of what I would consider, fundamental or more conservative Christian (father was catholic, now is some kind of diest accepting things that make him feel good, mother is kinda universalist/enlightenment diesm that accepts parts she likes about the bible, but rejects jesus = god)

 

Honestly when I told my parents, my mother was very relieved, and my father was fine with it and agreed with me, didn't really congratulate me or anything. I say my mother was relieved because I became very fundamentalism, after going through lukewarm/moderate Christianity.

 

So: my family wasn't really an issue. My friends however are/were almost exclusively christian. I was very involved in a new fundy church that formed here and didn't really have any good friends outside of the church. In general I am not going around declaring my unbelief to all of my friends, but more often than not, it does come up in conversation. Because I try to be honest, I do not skirt the question and ususally tell them straight up that I don't believe anymore. Mind you, I recently deconverted/left/accepted unbelief just a couple weeks ago.

 

I talked to a good friend of mine who came in to town recently. He was sort of just visiting, as he's doing a lot of traveling now, but we had coffee and he wanted to know about how my life was going etc. I basically told him I had to preface everything with the fact that I no longer believe in Christianity, of course the discussion never really moved beyond that point. In some respects it was kind of like a debate, but for the most part he was good at just listening and not trying to offer correction. He now is expressing a great deal of interest in speaking more to me obviously trying to convert me back (he asked about if I was "open" to discussing it... as if I'm somehow more close minded now).

 

I had to tell one of the high ranking staff members at my former church who deals with membership, because I needed to revoke my membership. Membership was big deal there, you can't just sign up, had to go through bootcamp type stuff. I needed to get away from the church, I couldn't attend regularly anymore, and as such I would not be fufilling my commitment to membership so with all respect I had to leave. He of course wanted to meet with me to understand why I'm leaving etc. That turned more into a somewhat heated debate than anything. Our conversation was more about him trying to convert me than just listening and saying "cool, I'll pray for you etc." That one was hard. Of course he said that he'll be sending me resources etc about reasons for believing.

 

And out of my own will, I went out of my way to tell my very good friend (whom I consider a mentor to me, he got me involved initially and was there for me in times of heartache during freshman yeah) that I was leaving the church. That discussion went well, he basically told me that he believed because of IHOP (international house of prayer) miracles and other unexplainable things in his life. While I do not feel that it was a debate, there was still some air of judgement or correction (though minute). He subsequently set me up with a lunch date with one of his cousins who is supposedly an ex-atheist. My friend thought that his cousin could better explain the logical reasons and evidence for christianity. So tomorrow I will entertain his cousin's arguments, because I fully expect him to bring some heavy apologetics. In reality though I think my friend really copped out on this one. Basically he was too intellectually weak so we he pointed me to someone else to explain his faith.. go figure. (yeah I see it all the time from xians)

 

And though I am not a prophet, I forsee having to deal with a number of members in the church, for example I was regularly taking a chinese guy to the church to convert him. I had an american friend in the church kinda as the backup. He will no doubt be asking me questions soon about why I haven't been bringing the chinese guy etc. I also have some books from other members. I had to tell them that I'm leaving the church but still want to read their book and gave them my contact info. (Apolgoetics books by the way) Of course the people whom I tell I am leaving the church seem to ask "is your mind made up or are you open to discussion?" Ludicrous.

 

So yeah. Haven't had to deal with family members, but am certainly dealing with all of my connections to the church.

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If I tell my family and friends that I renounce my faith, this next year and a half will be consumed with people praying over me, crying over me, trying to talk me back into Christianity at every moment. I don't think I could stand that. But on the other hand, I don't know how I can continue to pretend to believe. The truth will eventually come out, but I hate the fact that I feel like I have to deceive people until I'm strong enough to come out with it.

 

For me, I found it ultimately better to deny that I am a Christian if asked, but not to offer this information if it's not brought up. Basically I won't deny myself in front of people, but I will not bring up the fact that I don't believe what they believe.

 

It's hard because I feel like all interactions I am having with xian people who know I do not believe, revolve around them trying to get me to believe. I think it's just something that's going to happen. You can't really get around it. Their life and identity is based on Christianity. For you not to believe it is a personal insult to them, because it IS them. They must try to get people they care about to convert to their beliefs for them to feel that they are right. I know, because I was there. I've oversimplified what I'm talking about, but I digress anyway. Another topic, another time.

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She says that she has "chosen this path in life"

 

If she brings up the topic again and makes this statement, you could ask her if she realizes that choosing a belief system is essentially saying that there are other equally viable belief systems.

 

After all, if one is fully convinced that something is absolutely true, then he/she isn't really choosing to believe it, he/she basically just accepts the evidence as he/she perceives it to be.

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It's hard because I feel like all interactions I am having with xian people who know I do not believe, revolve around them trying to get me to believe. I think it's just something that's going to happen. You can't really get around it. Their life and identity is based on Christianity. For you not to believe it is a personal insult to them, because it IS them. They must try to get people they care about to convert to their beliefs for them to feel that they are right. I know, because I was there. I've oversimplified what I'm talking about, but I digress anyway. Another topic, another time.

On another thread Shyone made a brilliant point in this regard. It struck me that Christians genuinely see us as evil, in the same way they may view a person who is a criminal. To them it is their moral and righteously justified duty to try and win us over.

 

I think most of us on the forum have been there and can empathize with their calling - but it is still friggen annoying.

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Yeah, it's a part of their whole belief system, so I can't really blame them for that. People see what they want to see in others. Another thing that has come up a lot in the past few days with my family is the issue of meaning. They seem convinced that life without God would be meaningless. I used to think that too, which was one of the reasons I was so desperate to cling to my faith. But I was surprised to find that when I stopped believing, my life still had meaning. They can't seem to understand that, and perhaps it's something that you can never really understand unless you experience it.

 

I told my dad as well, and he seemed pretty accepting. He told me about how when he was a kid a family member was extremely manipulating toward him, and he promised himself that when he had kids, he would not be raising a couple of brainwashed robots. He wants me to think for myself. I also told one of my friends, and we argued apologetics for about 2 hours.

 

I tried to bring up the contradictions of religion, but it was like we were just on totally separate pages.They saw the contradictions, they admitted the validity of my reasons for not believing, they even admitted that I had argued them into a corner. But in the end, they just said that what God required was faith. The faith of a little child. My sister is still clinging to her faith, but I think she may end up leaving it someday as well.

 

I think they will respect my decision, but they will never understand. They also still want me to go to church, and I agreed. I still have friends at church that I don't want to give up.

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They also still want me to go to church, and I agreed. I still have friends at church that I don't want to give up.

 

 

It's sad to think that you would lose those friends without going to the church. I'm not sure how your church is, but I'm suprised you'd be able to go back. I couldn't go back to my church, at least not on a regular basis.

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