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A Decade Without God.


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It will be ten years in August since my deconversion from Catholicism. I’m looking back at the last decade and thinking a lot about what’s gotten me to this place. Not Ex-Christian.net, although it certainly played a part many years ago, but everything… I guess this is just a retrospective.

When I first deconverted, the most difficult transition for me was losing that rock-hard certainty. I had always been so very certain of my place in the universe and losing what I saw as my anchor was terrifying. I spent several weeks walking around in a dazed depression. I felt like I was adrift, all alone in the universe, completely at the mercy of random chance, and there was a very real sense of doom and dread that permeated my every thought. I was inconsolable and depressed; I immediately sought to regain my faith… without success. It was as if having seen behind the curtain, I could no longer enjoy the show. I was crushed, isolated, denying the reality of what I now knew to be true.

About two months in, the feeling of horror began to metamorphose into anger. How dare my family and friends lie to me all this time? I confronted my parents with my atheism in a harsh and ugly way. I railed against them for lying to me, I accused them of knowing the truth and hiding it from me, I lashed out in every way possible, and subsequently, ten years later, I’m still putting my relationship with them back together. With the benefit of hindsight, I would have handled this much differently. I know now that they did, in fact, believe what they were telling me.

As an aside - In the last year or so, my mother has confided in me that my crisis of faith in 2002 shook hers to the point of no return as well, since she was unable to get satisfactory answers to the questions I posed to her about her faith from anyone at the church she attended, up to and including a two-hour conversation with the bishop in this area. She no longer identifies as religious at all, but refuses to give up the concept of a wishy-washy, feel-good afterlife belief. She recognizes this as fear of non-existence, and readily admits that she will most likely simply cease to be, but still hopes and wishes for an afterlife. I guess I can’t blame her since she is almost seventy years old and she has to live with my dad, who she has not come out to about her loss of faith and who is still very, very religious.

The blind rage brought about by the loss of my faith lasted about two years. I destroyed a significant number of friendships during that time and isolated myself from the religious people in my life. I found someone else in that time that was in the same stage of deconversion that I was in and together, we managed to piss off the whole world (or so it seemed at that time… remember Muggy Knubber and Talking Donkey from the first iteration of these forums? Yeah, I was Talking Donkey) and shook our fists at everyone, even other atheists. Basically, we were the atheists that religious people pointed to as examples of “lives without god,” we did drugs, got in fights, lost jobs, drank to stupefaction, destroyed relationships, wrecked cars, and lived with wild abandon… because nothing means anything, right?

Yeah, well… after crashing and burning to the point of bottoming out, Muggy Knubber attempted suicide several times, only one of which I witnessed (tried to overdose on Ambien and the Glenlivet on my couch). He lived through it; but our relationship, which had been based on anger, hatred, and disgust, warped into something very unhealthy (as if what it was based on was a paragon of health). I bailed out and left him to his own devices when he didn’t want to listen to reason.

I was left with a severe drug addiction to opiates and benzodiazepines (Lortab and Ativan) as well as having gained almost 100 pounds in three years. I was melancholic for my faith and began asking god to make himself known to me if he was real… what a depressing sack of shit I was during this time in my life! I feel like I had to go through it to get where I’m at, but I don’t miss being mopey and stupid, crying for my imaginary friend and wanting to be a child again.

My bout with depression lasted until about two years ago. I was cautiously optimistic about my life and capable of going a whole day without either ranting about god not being real or starting a religious argument with someone who didn’t deserve the utter scorn I heaped upon them. It was once I decided not to be depressed about what I now see was an adult version of Santa Claus anymore that my relationship of seventeen years with my wife-like girlfriend imploded due to some drug-abuse issues on her part which propelled her into a psychotic break. She refused treatment and when I started fearing for my safety, I got the hell out of Dodge.

During the time my girlfriend was basically going completely crazy, I had been confiding in a good friend of mine who was (and still is) a moderate christian. After the relationship with my crazy ex was well and truly dead, my friend and I discussed religion, politics, current events, music, and had a really great time with each other. We started dating in January… I lost about fifty pounds, started eating healthier, weaned myself off Ativan first, and then Lortab (been clean from Ativan since February and my last Lortab was in May). She convinced me that not all christians are insane and stupid. We got married in April in the courthouse (although she wanted to get married in a church, she thinks my lack of faith is more important than any beliefs she has, as I’m an activist type atheist and she’s a non-practicing, generic, brought-up-that-way-and-never-really-thought-about-it christian) and we’ve been having a great time.

So there you have it, I was happy as a believer, and then went through what was basically the five stages of grief over the past decade. I’m sure some people do it faster, and some slower, the important part is recognizing that living by reason is ultimately more fulfilling. It makes me feel responsible for my life and the lives and happiness of those around me. I can’t place my problems on god anymore; I have to fix them myself. The responsibility feels good, honestly. I’m in control. I don’t know everything and I’m very rarely certain anymore, but my ignorance is easily remedied and doesn’t need a special set of rules to explain. I’m excited about living the one life I’m sure I have instead of hoping for paradise in one that will never come.

I still identify as a weak atheist, because, well… shit, I don’t know for sure. It’s not like I have evidence that god definitely doesn’t exist, but I wouldn’t worship the god of the bible even if I knew for sure that he did. Since there’s no evidence for any kind of personal deity at all, I’m happy just living my life and loving the people who love me. I enjoy sunsets, the beach, and nature without thinking of it as “creation.” I love looking at my wife and thinking about our how great our life together is without it being a “blessing.” I like smoking a cigarette and drinking rum without feeling like I should go to confession. I like sleeping in on Sundays and still getting seated at a nice restaurant before the church crowd gets there.

I still get angry at deliberate ignorance, but I’m getting better about keeping my emotions in check during arguments about religion or belief. I still lose the occasional friend who can’t handle the fact that I won’t let them make blanket, unsupported statements without calling them out on their bullshit, but it’s not just about religion anymore. I find myself a skeptic of just about everything now. Aliens, ghosts, homeopathy, whatever doesn’t have any evidence… I’ve found it is generally safe to disregard all such ridiculous things unless the belief is harmful.

For the record, I do believe religion is harmful. I’m very tired of religious morality being legislated in the United States of America, but I also believe it’s getting better lately. There are enough stories about people supporting the separation of Church and State that I’m hopeful about the coming generation. I am cautiously optimistic about religion losing its stranglehold on the nation in my lifetime, but even if it takes a hundred years… I truly do believe that rationality and reason will win in the long run.

If you're just going through your deconversion right now, or recently lost your faith, I hope this helps you in some way. It gets easier and eventually, you won't be able to imagine yourself any other way.

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Thanks for sharing, Josetheist. I had a really hard time deconverting as well. If not for a family that I was responsible for I would have probably done a lot of the same things. It drove me to drink and cynicism, but at least I managed to stay faithful to my wife and kids. I still haven't been able to be completely honest with my parents or extended family. Deconverting my wife was so hard on her that she thinks it best never to tell anyone about it. Hope to see you around as your new happy self!

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That was me, by the way.

 

<tard>I don't have access to the email address for this account anymore, but I realized I didn't need it if I just put in my username...</tard>

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Thanks for sharing Josetheist.

 

Most atheists I know would identify with the weak/agnostic atheistic label. We can't possibly know for sure. Compelling evidence could persuade us. But the burdon of proof for the Christian God claim has not been met. Hence we don't believe at the moment. What is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

 

Hope you enjoy the site.

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Welcome, i cant imagine being away for a full decade as ive only been away for a few years but it must be a good feeling.

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