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Why Is Leaving Christianity Easier For Some Of Us?


Striving for Logic
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I'm struck by how easy it seems for some people to stop believing in the Christian faith, while others of us have a hard time letting go.

 

I left Catholocism years ago, I read a book that made it seem similar to leaving the belief in Santa Claus, but then I let myself get sucked in again over a period of time by evangelicals, and this time it's been so hard to let go. I think back to how easy it was to leave the first time, and wonder why my emotions are stronger than my rationality this time. This time I have so many more fears.

 

There were more psychological mind games this time. They made it sound so good to hook me in. Rationally I rebelled against it, but I had this emotional need, ingrained in me from a child, that I was doing the right thing to "come home" to the religion of my upbringing.

 

I've gone through a lot in my life after I initially left Catholocism, and sometimes I (irrationally) think that the bad things that have gone on were some sort of punishment from God for leaving, that if I were to go back to the faith that somehow my life would get better.

 

I wish to be free to follow my own ethics (which conflict with the faith), to make my own decisions, and know I can be a good person without God. Rationally, I know this is possible, even though I feel like such a bad person for leaving God behind. It seems I've made up my mind, I just wish I knew how to "make up my emotions."

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Hi Striving for logic,

 

I think our logic is usually 2 steps ahead of our emotions... it's kinda what makes us human. I left christianity 3 years ago, and yes at first it was hard...The rational part of me had totally let go of the faith, and I knew I didn't believe anymore... But emotionally I was scared...What if I'm wrong?... How can I just leave god like that?...How do I make friends if I don't go to church? What do I do with my life now? I think in some ways it's like a breakup..You know the guy is no good for you... but there are still emotional ties there.

 

It just takes time. I'm so happy and so free now. It did take a little while to get to this place, but was totally worth it. What helped me was reading these testimonies, reading other books, socialising with new people that don't give a crap about christianity etc....

 

Hope this helps! :)

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You ask a very important question. Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for you. It is true that some on this board say how relatively easy their deconversion was for them. They just come to a rational conclusion that the bible is untrue and that's about it for them. They move on with their lives. Others are polar opposites who have an extraordinarily tough time leaving the faith. They may be beset with longheld fears of such things as hell and have an extremely tough time moving beyond that. Others, perhaps the majority, are somewhere between the two extremes. I was one of those. It was very emotional for me and I shed more tears once I came to the conclusion that christianity was a false religion than I really care to remember. With much time and a lot of reading and writing, I was able to get past the emotionalism as I am today.

 

What you describe about the dichotomy between making up your mind and making up your emotions is often expressed by those leaving the faith. And it is emotional for many reasons, mainly, I think, because faith is in a large part an emotional thing and not rational. My advice is to give yourself time and don't be ashamed about the emotional aspect of your leaving the religion. As I said, it is very common and my tears that I described above is a testament about the emotions I had to overcome. Continue to read a lot of the testimonies on this forum because that greatly helped me and also continue reading the rational reasons why the religion is a false religion and that will help with your emotions as well. And don't be afraid to shed tears. That will actually help - it helped me.

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Hi Jackie,

You're right! I also like to use the analogy to a bad relationship. The Christian God is jealous, demanding, overreacts to minor infractions, and is violent and abusive. When he's not like that, he's loving, caring, full of promises of wonderful things so it's easy to get sucked back in.

I will have to think on that one more. Perhaps it can help me say no when it seems so enticing. Thank you.

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There were more psychological mind games this time. They made it sound so good to hook me in. Rationally I rebelled against it, but I had this emotional need, ingrained in me from a child, that I was doing the right thing to "come home" to the religion of my upbringing.

 

I don't think there is an across the board answer. I believe it comes down to the individual's own thought process or psychology. Speaking from my own experience I can say that as a child I always wanted to please my parents. I loved them and wanted to make them happy. I wanted to see them happy with me. That was important to me. They were fundamentalist Christians.

 

If I had not cared so much about making my parents happy, things might have been different. Also, I have always had a sort of seriousness about my thinking. I really deeply think about everything. I took "my" Christian beliefs seriously. I thought they were my beliefs but they were really just what I was raised with as -- this was the truth.

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Hi Jackie,

You're right! I also like to use the analogy to a bad relationship. The Christian God is jealous, demanding, overreacts to minor infractions, and is violent and abusive. When he's not like that, he's loving, caring, full of promises of wonderful things so it's easy to get sucked back in.

I will have to think on that one more. Perhaps it can help me say no when it seems so enticing. Thank you.

 

No worries, I'm glad you found my advice helpful. Another thing I wanted to add, at the time I was tempted to go back to church just for social reasons. I was feeling quite lonely at the time (I had just come back to Australia after living in Japan for 2 years). Instead of going back to church, I joined a salsa class! I've made so many friends through that, and in fact my best friend now is from salsa.

 

I think spending time with non-religious people gradually helped me let go of the emotional attachment to christianity.

 

Jackie :)

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  • Super Moderator

Jackie's assessment is balls-on accurate (it's an industry term).

 

Well done.

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You ask a very important question. Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for you. It is true that some on this board say how relatively easy their deconversion was for them. They just come to a rational conclusion that the bible is untrue and that's about it for them. They move on with their lives. Others are polar opposites who have an extraordinarily tough time leaving the faith. They may be beset with longheld fears of such things as hell and have an extremely tough time moving beyond that. Others, perhaps the majority, are somewhere between the two extremes. I was one of those. It was very emotional for me and I shed more tears once I came to the conclusion that christianity was a false religion than I really care to remember. With much time and a lot of reading and writing, I was able to get past the emotionalism as I am today.

 

What you describe about the dichotomy between making up your mind and making up your emotions is often expressed by those leaving the faith. And it is emotional for many reasons, mainly, I think, because faith is in a large part an emotional thing and not rational. My advice is to give yourself time and don't be ashamed about the emotional aspect of your leaving the religion. As I said, it is very common and my tears that I described above is a testament about the emotions I had to overcome. Continue to read a lot of the testimonies on this forum because that greatly helped me and also continue reading the rational reasons why the religion is a false religion and that will help with your emotions as well. And don't be afraid to shed tears. That will actually help - it helped me.

 

 

Thanks! I'm glad you were able to get through it. I will read more testimonies. It is definitely helpful to be able to talk about these topics with people instead of just struggling alone.

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Jackie's assessment is balls-on accurate (it's an industry term).

 

Well done.

 

 

Thanks Florduh :)

 

ps- How good is House!!

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I don't think there is an across the board answer. I believe it comes down to the individual's own thought process or psychology. Speaking from my own experience I can say that as a child I always wanted to please my parents. I loved them and wanted to make them happy. I wanted to see them happy with me. That was important to me. They were fundamentalist Christians.

 

If I had not cared so much about making my parents happy, things might have been different. Also, I have always had a sort of seriousness about my thinking. I really deeply think about everything. I took "my" Christian beliefs seriously. I thought they were my beliefs but they were really just what I was raised with as -- this was the truth.

 

That was pretty much my experience too. After I got away from home, I dropped religion pretty quickly and ideas of god not too many years thereafter, again, pretty easily. I think it corresponds loosely to rationality. The more rationally one thinks about the bible god, the less god-like he seems.

 

 

 

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Striving,

 

As well as agreeing with what's already been said here, I also think Catholicism may grip tighter in some ways than other denominations do. The insanity and illogic at the root is wrapped in such penetrating beauty of sight and sound, and there are so many repeated "meaningful" motions, so much implied intimacy that breaking free may often feel like one is renouncing the essence of life.

 

Ironic that we're taught that Satan is beautiful and seductive, too. :twitch:

 

In time, you can find your own beautiful life-affirming elements, which won't be rooted in life-destroying nuttiness.

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Guest wasachristian

ditto on the "no single answer" etc.

 

My own experience was like evil little seeds ... the deeper they drilled in when they were first sown the harder it seemed to uproot them when I started the journey out. It seemed there was so much stuff hidden beneath the surface.

 

Two things I found made things drill especially deep into my subconscious: emotion and belief.

 

Going in it was like "Joy and Wow, really!"

 

Coming out it was more like "Oh shit, now what?" No doubt in my mind, it's a religion based on fear. Big time. Checking my pulse rate became my best test for deep-seated beliefs.

 

Some things I believed hook, line and sinker (fishing rod too) but on other stuff I was (thankfully) a bit more skeptical. The more I bought the lie, the harder it was to let go.

 

About three years before I felt truly free of the legacy. But five years later and I'm still digging up crap from time to time.

 

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ditto on the "no single answer" etc.

 

My own experience was like evil little seeds ... the deeper they drilled in when they were first sown the harder it seemed to uproot them when I started the journey out. It seemed there was so much stuff hidden beneath the surface.

 

Two things I found made things drill especially deep into my subconscious: emotion and belief.

 

Going in it was like "Joy and Wow, really!"

 

Coming out it was more like "Oh shit, now what?" No doubt in my mind, it's a religion based on fear. Big time. Checking my pulse rate became my best test for deep-seated beliefs.

 

Some things I believed hook, line and sinker (fishing rod too) but on other stuff I was (thankfully) a bit more skeptical. The more I bought the lie, the harder it was to let go.

 

About three years before I felt truly free of the legacy. But five years later and I'm still digging up crap from time to time.

 

 

I am with you on this one "Was". There is no single answer. And this is a religion based on intilling fear. I have been thinking it is a process to get this Christian crapola out of my mind. It has become a lot better after the first year out and even easier the second year and now in the third year it is more like digging up the occasional relic.

 

I have gotten some really great things out of leaving Christianity and I am certainly happy for that despite the emotional aspects that had been very difficult at the time.

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Thank you. I realize now that the first time I "left" Christianity, I never really left, it just got stored deep in my subconscious. I didn't want to believe it, but the inner fear was still clinging to it. Even though I'd left the church, I didn't dare call myself "the A word" just in case God would punish me for it. So while I'm frustrated with myself on the one hand for letting myself get "led back" into this, I'm glad that I have the guts to finally read atheist books and admit that it's the mindset I am striving towards. I hope through enough research on disproving the religion, I can finally start to let go of the fear.

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That is sort of what happened to me. Striving. I left the Christian faith behind many years ago. Then, when we moved to the new house 5 years ago, some guy came around and Hubby wanted to get "saved". So, stupid me, I said "sure, why not". It ended up dredging up a lot of crapola for me including reigniting my fear of hell with a vengeance. I got back out of religion after a whole bunch of research and now I use the "A word". I am an atheist, a non-believer, a non theist. I dont' believe in God. And I am much assured of my own abilities to get through the tough emotional issues of life. That was one of the good things I got out of leaving Chrsitianity for a second harrowing time.

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I don't think there is an across the board answer. I believe it comes down to the individual's own thought process or psychology.

 

I agree, there's no single answer. Everyone has a different experience. We all have different levels of indoctrination, different versions of the religion, different thought processes, different IQ levels, different emotional makeups, different surroundings, etc.

 

There's simply no one-size-fits-all to this stuff.

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I think it depends on how deeply invested you are in your beliefs to being with.

 

I am one of the people for whom it was relatively easy to 'leave' (in my head at least, not so much as far as sharing my new-found (lack of) beliefs with others). I was raised in a Christian household, but it just never quite 'stuck' to me, so to speak. There were always little bits and pieces I found that didn't make sense to me, or that I didn't believe in when all the other people around me appeared to, even from my earliest memories. I did not believe most of the 'sins' I committed on a regular basis were all that bad; I did not believe that God would actually send anyone to suffer in Hell for all eternity; I did not find anything meaningful in worship services or prayer. So for me there was no emotional component to deciding that it was all a bunch of made up nonsense.

 

The only thing I ever really felt was a vague sense that someone was hovering over one of my shoulders all the time watching and judging every single thing I ever did or thought. I still sort of have that feeling, but I have attributed it to plain old self-conscious paranoia. ;)

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i think it will help if have a support group, someone/group to turn to when times get bad,,,,, like this one,,,,

 

not all suffer the same withdrawl effects like drug addiction,,,,,,, cold turkey/group support are needed......

 

hard to imagine what to do on sundays in the beginning other than meeting in church,,,,,

 

change of daily routines,,,, what to do when "ex-brothes and sisters" call, how to struggle with "what ifs" during emotionally vulnerable periods etc etc....

 

I had seen and counselled drug addict and the process is not pretty,,,,,,,

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I was never TOTALLY immersed in the religion, so leaving was pretty easy for me after I started reading stuff regularly on the internet. So I'd say reading is definitely a great help, which you said you've been doing, and talking to people with similar ideas helps A LOT. My own beliefs are based on what sense I can make of the stuff I learn and my own experiences, so just go with what makes sense to you! :3

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I made a clean break with christianity, but I wouldn't call it "easy." I had doubts for a bit, but it took some abuse by fellow "good christians" to wake me up. Then I read Genesis, chapter 3, and decided this god was a jerk anyway. So I decided then and there that I would not worship this god any longer. I was incredibly angry for a long time, and I still have fits of anger over the harm done by this religion, but I never had the "what if I'm wrong?" feeling. I guess I just don't give a shit if I am or not - I find the god of the bible far too evil to even be "right" about.

That's just my individual experience, however.

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Thanks again for your stories and suggestions! I guess my real question should be why is it so difficult for me, and what is it that the people who can make a clean break have that I don't have. I suppose it's true that it does have to do with the level of indoctrination and the individual psychology of the person involved and the other stressors in a persons life. I personally have dealt with a lot of trauma, so I think that may be why I have the fear in general. As far as my intelligence goes I have book smarts but not street smarts. So I can have all the facts against something but still get suckered in by a convincing argument. I think this goes back to my "vague sense that I'm going to be punished." That was a good suggestion, Maiandra, that perhaps the feeling is just paranoia plain and simple. That would certainly explain things from a scientific viewpoint. And it would answer the question why I keep having these fears. It's probable that our religion gives us this paranoia, or perhaps it's the opposite, perhaps the people who are genetically predisposed to having paranoia are the ones who perpetuate religious beliefs, they are so afraid that they indoctrinate their children and it gets passed on through the generations. Perhaps it is a symbiotic relationship whereby the two feed each other. If I am predisposed to fear, if someone tells me something outrageous, I am very eager to believe them, if this indoctriniation includes elements that create fear, then the fear grows, and if I encounter someone else who tells me something different that's even more outrageous, I will believe them, ad nausem. Haha!! I hope that knowing this helps me lessen the fear, and continued reading helps dispel the myth, and I can start on a cycle of feeling safe instead.

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Thanks again for your stories and suggestions! I guess my real question should be why is it so difficult for me, and what is it that the people who can make a clean break have that I don't have.

You know, we could analyze this, and you, and each other, but at the end of the day all that matters is how it happens to impact you and what you need to do. Because even if you figure out what you're missing or what thought structure is lodged between your ears that you need to pry loose, how you'll get traction with the ol' crowbar is still very individual to yourself.

 

That said, here's my take on if for what it's worth.

 

My own observation has been than often (though not always), members of mainline historic denominations have more room to (privately at least) not take their faith so literally / seriously. From an evangelical / fundamentalist perspective this lack of commitment and passion is what renders these denominations "dead" and spiritually sterile. Conservative evangelicals are interested in the faith permeating every aspect of their life and awareness, not just providing a framework for once a week gatherings. They want to transform every aspect of your life -- your relationships, your ethics, your worldview, your politics -- heck, how you organize your time (prayer, devotions, Bible study) and in general, direct access to 10 percent of your income for the local church alone. The theoretical motivation for this is admirable, but it's all misplaced; you can't be "real" by deciding in advance what's real and then browbeating your convictions and emotions into submission to something that is supposedly one-size-fits-all universal and immutable.

 

It's likely that the second time around, this invasive, joined-at-the-hip relationship you had with the faith became a much bigger part of your moment to moment awareness than Catholicism ever did. I then relate this to what I know about grief and loss: when someone you know dies, your sense of loss is directly proportional to how much a part of your day to day existence that person was. Hence, spouse or child, enormous grief; Uncle Fred on the other side of the continent that you haven't seen since six Christmases ago, mild sense of loss at best; but on the other hand if you were close to Uncle Fred during childhood, maybe that jacks it back up again for you. You get the idea. Now when you left evangelicalism you were leaving something that was literally sitting on your shoulder telling you what to do and think every minute of every day; I'm willing to bet that Catholicism was more background noise for you.

 

Everyone's mileage will vary, of course. Catholicism tends to attract people who find ritual and tradition very comforting, and losing that may be traumatic. If you're vulnerable to lots of guilt and shame, and it resonated with your Catholicism in a certain way, that may have elevated Catholic teaching into something every bit as pervasive for you as fundamentalism is for most other people -- and so it would have been equally hard to leave the Catholic church. I'm reminded of my first wife's Catholic father, who was stuck in horrible guilt over some incident in his youth, and spend the rest of his life compulsively reciting Hail Marys several times a day in a vain effort to free himself of that guilt.

 

Just as my ex wife's father would have to do all sorts of things to free himself of Catholicism that you apparently didn't have to, you may have to do all sorts of things to free yourself of fundamentalism that the next person might not have to. Just be patient with yourself, allow time to get distance and perspective, and expect your emotions to come and go on the topic. It's all natural, and no one can impose a schedule or methodology on you.

 

It took me about five years to completely disidentify with fundamentalist Christianity. I figure that's not bad, considering I spent a quarter century getting myself into it and another 15 years or so maintaining myself in it. Patience with yourself, patience with others. One step at a time. Stay the course. It'll be okay.

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I think for some they don't have to worry that much about family issues, especially if their immediate family is so wrapped up in Christianity that they will not give a second though to anything else. Its this issue with me that keeps me from telling anyone about the fact that I am not a follower of the Christian faith. To do so would bring up too much family drama for people who can only think one way and that's it.

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