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Ok, so here's my journal entry from October, as promised. To give it context - for a few months leading up to this, I had been going back through my old journals and looking over my life as a believer. I was becoming more and more disillusioned as I read through all the things I'd written. Looking objectively at all of my experiences and beliefs caused a lot of turmoil. At first it made me feel even more abandoned by God. I dealt with depression a lot, but this led me (for the 2nd time in the past 3 years) to a very deep depression. For days I would feel like I was in a fog, unable to process things, and just so confused. So that's kind of where I was when I wrote this entry.

 

I hope this isn't just making people depressed! I'm not even sure why I'm sharing it. I guess it just helps to know people are reading this and aren't freaking out. I can't speak of this to anyone other than my husband right now (who is amazing btw!). I guess we all share a deep need for community and just need to be heard and "known". For awhile I thought people at church really knew me and I was finding out who I was there. But the more I paid attention to the real me and the questions and doubts I had, the more I realized I haven't been able to know myself for a very long time. If ever. So yeah, I guess that's why I'm sharing this. And my biggest hope is that someone will read it and see

themselves in my words and know they aren't alone. And I can say, thankfully, that it does get better. I am a lot better than I was when I wrote this just a month ago. It can only go up from here!

 

 

October 12, 2011

 

Over the past week and a half, I’ve just really allowed myself to deeply question my beliefs and look at things objectively…even to the point of questioning the existence of God, the reality of the Kingdom, and the accuracy/validity of the Bible. I am beginning to wonder if most of what I have suffered emotionally (and maybe physically) has been the result of this belief system. I am having trouble reconciling the God I’ve been told about and the God of the Bible with my experience and the experience of those around me. This is not the result of bitterness or anger at God for not "doing things the way I expected", it is simply the result of not being afraid to ask some tough questions.

 

I desperately WANT my faith to be true. But I don’t know if I can continue to go through the spiritual, mental and emotional gymnastics I must perform to hold on to it. Of course, my first thought in response to that is, “but it isn’t about performance, He gives us faith as a gift, all we do is abide in Him…” Those answers just don’t do it for me anymore. How do I “abide” in something that seems to produce more turmoil inside me than anything else?

 

Maybe this is a phase and I will move past it. What I keep coming back to is that if God is real and is good and is “in love with me”, He will chase me…He will do real and tangible things to show me that He is indeed real and concerned and an active part of my life. But at the same time, I am not simply running so he will come after me. I'm honestly seeking what is real. I'm realizing that a few years ago when I began really looking for "experiences with God" it was because I needed proof of his love for me and activity in my life. And also it was simply a normal response to loving someone - when you love someone you want to experience their love for you.

 

But when I look back over this time, I just see a desperate hurting girl who needs God to show her that He loves her. I see a girl who was hurt by her belief in God from an early age but who continued to love Him, to surrender to Him in spite of the lack of evidence of His intervention. I see a girl who believed that without God she was a mess – just a girl curled up in her bed crying and too depressed to be motivated to do the simplest of tasks. I see a girl with a "big destiny" if only she could "see things the way God does" and "trust God to do it”. I lived my entire adult life believing that without God I can’t function…and yet in 20 years I’ve never been able to attain the level of relationship with Him that has caused me to be consistently and fully functional.

 

I’ve cried out, hungered after Him, worshipped when I was too sick to even stand with my eyes closed (and not b/c I had to but b/c I wanted to!), asked for more revelation, studied, gone to church, meetings, and conferences. I’ve prophesied and prayed for the sick, I’ve been prophesied to and prayed for. I’ve given up, surrendered, trusted Him and His "finished work", and "rested in Him". But no matter what, I kept coming back to the same place:

 

Where is He? Where’s the evidence of Him in my life? If He doesn’t do miracles in my life then how is my life better than that of an unbeliever?

 

I can hear all the arguments and answers to my questions – the same ones I’ve told myself and even told others who were questioning. “The evidence of His love is everywhere!” “He intervenes all the time, you just might not know it!” “He does miracles all the time!”

 

Really? Is it? Does He?

 

This really isn’t about me being bitter or mad at God. I think for the first time in a very long time, I actually DON’T feel those emotions. In a strange way, the thought that my belief system has been wrong all my life is actually comforting. Why is that? If my belief in God has actually been great for me, caused me to grow and thrive and live a full life, then why in the world does the thought of letting it go give me a strange sense of peace? Does that mean that I am deceived?

 

Or does it in fact mean that I am on the verge of waking up?

 

Over the past week I’ve gone back over 7 years worth of journals. In them, there are countless entries where I am crying out to God, asking questions, wondering why I’m not seeing results or answers to prayer, etc. Then sandwiched in between are entries where I am trusting, surrendering, and thanking Him for what I believe He’s doing. But when I look back, the times I’ve laid in bed crying haven’t really been about the circumstances of my life. The circumstances of my life haven’t been that bad! In fact I’ve had a pretty good life! The truth is, those times of desperation were because of my belief in God. I felt abandoned. Any painful memory from childhood I had was

magnified by the feeling that God didn’t rescue me. And all my present painful circumstances (sickness, financial problems, relationship issues, etc) were magnified by the feeling that He wasn’t intervening.

 

So what happens if I remove God from the equation? Poof! Suddenly the tough circumstances of the past and present all become just hurtful things that happened as a result of interaction with fallible human beings, or poor personal choices, or just part of living in this world. There's no more agonizing over why this all-powerful person who loves me isn't acting like he loves me.

 

Another thing I've been thinking about is our kids. We've felt guilty for years because we haven't been good at sharing “the gospel” with them on a regular basis. But the thing is, anytime I thought of saying something "spiritual" to one of them, I just couldn’t figure out how to do it. How could I convince them that they needed God? When we did ever talk about that w/them I would feel uncomfortable and could tell they did, too. Why? It wasn’t that we were trying to teach them "law" either – it was all "grace". But in order to get them to trust God and interact with Him, we would have to convince them that they were depraved without him.

 

Yesterday at church (the pastor) said something that just really startled me – and it’s something I’ve believed my whole life (but have avoided the thought of!). He said in the OT that God had to give people the law so they’d behave in a righteous way. It was the only way that He could get near enough to them to interact with them without having to kill them (because of His holiness and their unrighteousness). It sounded shocking to me. I wrote in my notes, “So if I stop believing in God

and don’t follow the law to the letter, He will have to kill me?” Suddenly I couldn't reconcile that with the God I'd created in my mind...the one who was my best friend. Based on his word and on what I believed, the pastor's statement was the truth...God would have to kill me if I stopped believing, even though we were friends. And yet He is good and He is love?

 

I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to have these thoughts and feelings. I have so many questions. But what’s interesting is that I don’t feel that deep sense of loss and pain anymore. So has something actually changed inside me?

 

J and I have realized that in order to find truth, we can’t just limit our search to one room. We have to be willing to objectively look at what we believe, and actually look at the findings of others who don’t agree w/what we’ve always been taught. Really, we are on a spiritual quest. And we believe that if the God of the Bible is real, we will determine that for ourselves. It is the only way for there to be no more doubt about and for our spiritual life to be fulfilling.

 

But we have to be open to the idea that what we have believed is actually wrong.

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I desperately WANT my faith to be true. But I don’t know if I can continue to go through the spiritual, mental and emotional gymnastics I must perform to hold on to it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This really isn’t about me being bitter or mad at God. I think for the first time in a very long time, I actually DON’T feel those emotions. In a strange way, the thought that my belief system has been wrong all my life is actually comforting. Why is that? If my belief in God has actually been great for me, caused me to grow and thrive and live a full life, then why in the world does the thought of letting it go give me a strange sense of peace?

Hello again, 2H! Thank you for posting the second installment!

 

I too found the mental gymnastics and cognitive contortions to be exhausting.

 

And I too am feeling peace for the first time in a long time now that I have left the faith. I'm in a much better place psychologically and emotionally now that I am not in cognitive dissonance about how a loving God--who is supposedly a better parent than any of us could ever be--could just so callously let me suffer to such a great degree, despite pleading, begging, and fasting. I have peace knowing that physiologically I am mildly flawed--as opposed to my prior belief that God is putting the screws to me for some secret hidden sin.

 

I finally have the peace and strength to get on with my life.

 

It sounds like you have come a long ways. I am so glad your partner is on board with you! Our stories are remarkably similar, and I look forward to hearing more from you!

 

Peace.

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This was excellent, 2Honest. Your deconversion was a little different from mine (since I don't recall ever having a real crisis moment, but my faith just sort of slipped away), but I could identify with so many of the thoughts and feelings you have written about here.

 

And to reinforce what Positivist has said, be very glad your husband is with you in this. That will make your journey a lot easier than that of many here, including myself.

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J and I have realized that in order to find truth, we can’t just limit our search to one room. We have to be willing to objectively look at what we believe, and actually look at the findings of others who don’t agree w/what we’ve always been taught.

 

Hi 2Honest! What you say here is what opened up the world to me. Putting a fence around a mind that only opens its gate to approved thoughts and beliefs, is no way to be human. Cults cannot allow minds to be open or free to evaluate what the whole world has to offer. There are many people (past and present) who want sheep to fleece for their own benefit. That is how most religions begin. Have an enjoyable journey, wherever it may be.

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2honest, Your post was awesome. Thank you for taking the time to write it out. I relate to sooo many things you said. I will save this to my 'favorites'.

 

It brought so many memories back to when I even started to question all that you have questioned.The story is heartwrenching. I (like you) didn't ever want to lose my faith or my god..........but I did. Now for the last year, the gang have been helping me on a peaceful path - a path that does not include god anymore. Not the god of the bible anyway.

 

I'm not sure where I would be if I hadn't found ex-c. I know aproxemently 2 people in my city that feel the way I do - and this site. That's all the support I have.

 

In many, many, ways - life makes more sense to me without god in it. I can stop asking .''why, why''?? Why god this - why god that? It hasn't been fun, but it's definetely getting better.

 

I am so glad you are here with us. We're right here with ya. Hang in there - it does start to feel better.

Sincerely, Margee

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I can relate to your journey as well. The BIGGEST step for me was where you are, realizing that in seeking the truth you have to be willing to let that search take you wherever it will, and not put boundaries on it. As soon as I opened up to the concept that perhaps the bible and jesus were not true, I started seeing EVERYTHING in a new light, a new perspective.

 

This idea that god is so pure and so good that he cannot be good and compassionate to lesser, fallible beings also hit me hard in my search. Really? We all must die in his presence? Couldn't the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-LOVING god had made arrangements for this situation without the need for mass genocide again and again and again (not to mention the need to torment forever ALL people who simply didn't believe correctly or were ignorant of the name of Jesus (because BEHAVIOR doesn't matter!)? I always like how Jesus goes on about how his heavenly father is so much better than earthly fathers....pffff.

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Thanks everyone for your kind words. It really does mean a lot. I had a hard night last night. I watched prplfox's videos on YouTube - some of you probably know about them. His journey has been even more intense emotionally than mine and I really feel for him. Watching his videos brought up a lot of stuff in me and put some pieces together that weren't fitting before. And I realized how deeply wounded I still am and how much work I have to do to get better.

 

But later on last night I really started worrying that I am leaving one belief system and group of people for yet another one that will end up being the wrong one. And then I will just be hurt all over again. In my life this has been a pattern...get into a church, get excited, learn new things, then realize those things aren't true, feel stupid and confused, leave the church and find another, repeat the pattern. I started wondering why I was sharing w/people in this forum and thought that I needed to stop reading and listening to all this "atheist" stuff because how do I know who to trust?

 

So I'm working through the thought that this is just that all over again...just another roller coaster, ya know? I talked this through with J last night and realized I just have no decision making skills. I've never in my life made real decisions (about things in life, what I believe, etc) based on my own logic and reasoning. I've always relied on the "spirit", the bible or the teaching/advice of others. I've always felt that even if I get it wrong, or something bad happens, god will work it all out. So this is all kind of disorienting.

 

But at the same time, even in the midst of being in these groups...even when I was leading them myself, I knew something was wrong. I guess I've just spent years quieting that voice and stuffing those feelings. I've always discounted my own sense of what is right for me.

 

I find what is happening liberating and terrifying all at the same time.

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I find what is happening liberating and terrifying all at the same time.

 

And again 2honest - I just wanted you to know that you are not alone. I depended on god for everything, including asking him if a certain person should be in my life!! I thought I always got a sign for every prayer, but know I know I made it all up.

 

You have been making your own decisions all these years - you just thought that god or god's people were giving you the right direction. It is terrifying when you finally realize that it is truly YOU who will be directing your own life from now on. It is liberating, but scary.

 

It gets a little easier for me each day. Do I miss a 'real' god that guides me, directs me and will protect me? Damn tootin' I do!! Always will, I suspect......I'm not afraid to admit that. I just accept it now,that I'm probably on my own. Best wishes for you!

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But later on last night I really started worrying that I am leaving one belief system and group of people for yet another one that will end up being the wrong one. And then I will just be hurt all over again. In my life this has been a pattern...get into a church, get excited, learn new things, then realize those things aren't true, feel stupid and confused, leave the church and find another, repeat the pattern.

 

2Honest,

 

I can totally relate to this feeling. For me, searching for truth and leaving Christianity was not in a search to replace it with another belief system or community. If one thing is true about being an atheist or an agnostic is that it will be REALLY hard to find a community that is anything like your former church communities. This is an even scarier thing!

 

I would consider myself more of an agnostic than a firm atheist. I just KNOW that jesus is not god and christianity is not the one true faith it claims to be. This knowledge is the foundation of where i'm at. It's not a belief system in my mind, and I'm not looking for a belief system or a community. It's just an acknowledgment of obvious facts and historical facts. I'm open to a massive biblical-style revelation, but just accepting an ancient book's unverified claims and stories or a religious community on faith is not going to happen.

 

The hardest thing for me was the emotional aspect of losing my friends, family, and community. But my lack of belief is not based on emotion or jumping into something new and exciting. Becoming an athiest/agnostic is a bit like becoming gay. No one chooses it for the benefits you will receive. Most of us were dragged kicking and screaming away from the comfortable life we wanted to stay in!

 

The benefit was that once i came to the conclusion that christianity really had no merit, I was free from the struggle of searching for the "truth" in other branches of christianity and even religion as a whole. Now I can focus on me, focusing on living my life (this natural, earthly one), and getting the most out of it i can! The pattern of frustration you described ended for me.

 

I think you shouldn't jump into this because it feels or seems right. You should only take the step of unbelief because you simply CANNOT believe anymore.

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"The hardest thing for me was the emotional aspect of losing my friends, family, and community. But my lack of belief is not based on emotion or jumping into something new and exciting. Becoming an athiest/agnostic is a bit like becoming gay. No one chooses it for the benefits you will receive. Most of us were dragged kicking and screaming away from the comfortable life we wanted to stay in!"

 

"The benefit was that once i came to the conclusion that christianity really had no merit, I was free from the struggle of searching for the "truth" in other branches of christianity and even religion as a whole. Now I can focus on me, focusing on living my life (this natural, earthly one), and getting the most out of it i can! The pattern of frustration you described ended for me."

 

"I think you shouldn't jump into this because it feels or seems right. You should only take the step of unbelief because you simply CANNOT believe anymore."

 

Thanks for your comments. Yeah, this describes where I'm at, actually. The change in my beliefs isn't based on just finding some new thing (I must remind myself of that). It is based on what I've found as a result of a search for truth. I think I hit every Christian "branch" before realizing I was searching in the wrong tree!. I know I can't go back now. I think I just have a hard time separating my feelings for people from what my beliefs actually are. When I am at church or with church friends it brings back all those feelings of living in the "dream world". Even though that was a painful place for me to live, it was also kind of euphoric at times. It really is like a drug. I actually remember coming back from a conference once and telling my husband I felt like I'd had my first hit of cocaine (not that I'd really know what that felt like!) and I was hooked. At the time that seemed like a good thing - being hooked on Jesus, hooked on the feeling of his "presence". But it turned out to be the thing that nearly did me in.

 

So maybe this is like a former alcoholic hanging out with their old friends and going to bars with them...the addict knows what they believe now - knows that lifestyle isn't real or healthy and how much it hurt them. But they still miss it. I've had the thought lately that I really have to break ties and walk away to be able to move on. I guess it's still kind of hard for me to see our church and friends as damaging or unhealthy. They are good, sincere people. But I also know that when I'm away from it for awhile I feel better and less conflicted/confused.

 

I think I'm coming to a place of learning how to actually listen to myself. I've discounted my own "radar" for so long. I've learned to stuff that sense of knowing something isn't good for me. I've decided that this new year is all about healing for me. I'm just going to focus on getting better physically, emotionally and spiritually. I know that leaving church is a big part of that.

 

Our pastors are out of the country, but when they get back we'll be informing them that we are taking a "sabbatical" through the end of the year. We don't plan on ever going back, but we think this will be an easier transition and keep people from asking too many questions.

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I actually remember coming back from a conference once and telling my husband I felt like I'd had my first hit of cocaine (not that I'd really know what that felt like!) and I was hooked.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Our pastors are out of the country, but when they get back we'll be informing them that we are taking a "sabbatical" through the end of the year. We don't plan on ever going back, but we think this will be an easier transition and keep people from asking too many questions.

Actually, there is a name for the feelings you describe: neurotheology, or spiritual neuroscience. There are physiological explanations for the 'experiences' we have. As a former worship leader, I know how to make people have 'spiritual encounters' with God. At the time, I really thought I was rolling out the red carpet for God. However, I can pull this off in practically any setting, regardless of whether it's a spiritual event or not. (Clearly, it would not be ethical for me to do that now unsure.png .)

 

I'd like to read up more on the neuroscience of these experiences. Practically every religion has a buzz... But I agree with you that it is very difficult and painful to realize the buzz is not the Lord.

 

I applaud your decision to step back via a sabbatical. I think leaving on good terms is always a good thing. It may be traumatizing for others in the church if they knew you were having a meltdown--this happened to me (my pastor walked in to church and announced he was an atheist) and it was psychologically very jarring, even though I already had one foot out the door.

 

Keep us posted. You are a sweet and smart person!

 

Peace.

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Thanks everyone for your kind words. It really does mean a lot. I had a hard night last night. I watched prplfox's videos on YouTube - some of you probably know about them. His journey has been even more intense emotionally than mine and I really feel for him. Watching his videos brought up a lot of stuff in me and put some pieces together that weren't fitting before. And I realized how deeply wounded I still am and how much work I have to do to get better.

 

But later on last night I really started worrying that I am leaving one belief system and group of people for yet another one that will end up being the wrong one. And then I will just be hurt all over again. In my life this has been a pattern...get into a church, get excited, learn new things, then realize those things aren't true, feel stupid and confused, leave the church and find another, repeat the pattern. I started wondering why I was sharing w/people in this forum and thought that I needed to stop reading and listening to all this "atheist" stuff because how do I know who to trust?

 

So I'm working through the thought that this is just that all over again...just another roller coaster, ya know? I talked this through with J last night and realized I just have no decision making skills. I've never in my life made real decisions (about things in life, what I believe, etc) based on my own logic and reasoning. I've always relied on the "spirit", the bible or the teaching/advice of others. I've always felt that even if I get it wrong, or something bad happens, god will work it all out. So this is all kind of disorienting.

 

But at the same time, even in the midst of being in these groups...even when I was leading them myself, I knew something was wrong. I guess I've just spent years quieting that voice and stuffing those feelings. I've always discounted my own sense of what is right for me.

 

I find what is happening liberating and terrifying all at the same time.

 

2Honest, I can so relate to that last line (as well as being sucked back into the dream world)! Although I didn't necessarily "church hop" like you, as a musician I've played at enough churches over the years to get an idea of what you mean as far as the "maybe this one will be different" mentality. I believe that even though they're all under the Christian banner, every church is an island unto itself. In a way, that probably started the ball rolling to my own deconversion, as I would hear contradictory things from different preachers.

 

And I'm taking a "sabbactical" as well.

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  • 3 months later...

Hey 2Honest, thank you for pointing me to your threads. I read both of them and they certainly stirred up some strong emotions in me. Interesting to see that you used the same words I did to describe your relationship with God: the euphoria, it really is like a drug, your first hit of cocaine. Oh yeah I know what you are talking about. It's the best feeling ever and I still miss it up to this day and probably will for the rest of my life. Once you hit that high, you're sold! Nothing compares to it. And now it's painful to have to learn to live without it, like being in detox. No wonder we feel so depressed afterwards.

 

You made me laugh to tears, I have to tell you, let me find the quote. Ok here it is: "I can’t imagine watching my child suffer for a bunch of other children so they could have his inheritance. Then after he dies I tell the kids they get all he had coming to him now, but, well there’s this catch – it’s invisible. But don’t worry, if you believe it anyway one day you can see it. Oh, I’m so sorry you are hungry and sick right now. But remember – you have this inheritance! Yay! What, you can’t see it? Oh I know, I told you, it’s invisible! Yay!"

 

LOL that's so funny and true! I can't stop laughing, thank you.

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