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Have You Tried To Visit Your Former Congregation Since Deconverting?


Sheldon
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I did this past weekend. Only 3 people from that congreagation know about me being in the atheist/agnostic closet, and so far they have kept my confidence I had some vacation time, and had nothing to do, so partly out of wanting to see how the old congregation was doing since their senior pastor and assistant pastor have left in the last year, and partly out of nostalgia and trying to keep my cover, I went to visit.

 

Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, I don't know, or maybe I'm a coward for staying closeted. Anyway, I went, and it felt so familiar, but so foreign to me. I remember beleiving it in all and the experiences that I had there (mostly good, a lot of my religious trauma, if you will, was due to family not the congregation). I had this feeling that I didn't belong in there, that I was practically tresspassing where I didn't belong. No one rejected me when I came in, and most assumed I was gone due to a combination of my unusual work schedule and the pastor suddenly retiring last year (it was concidence that I left at about the same time, though my deconversion happened about a year earlier). Many welcomed me as I came in, and I had a long talk with 2 of the people who know my secret after the service and at an annual concert held afterwards at a local park by the church. One of these two, I'll call her "Rose", I had told about my feelings of not belonging when I walked in, she said at times over the last 2 years, she had felt the same off and on. I took that as an encouraging sign that she might be drifting away from the faith, but she denied that. Oh well, I did what I could, I told her never to feel guilt about doubting or questioning, she agreed with that. She's still a fundie, as well as her boyfriend, but they have mellowed a bit over the last few years, and aren't quite as extreme.

 

I would like to think that it's because of my being open about my doubts with them about 2 years ago, and finally coming out to them last summer, but that might be a little arrogant of me ;) Maybe it did have an effect, because I was just as extreme as them, if not more so, and if someone like me can leave the faith and still be a good person, maybe it's changed their perceptions a bit.

 

I'm wondering if my reaction to entering the building is a sign of recovery, my rational mind telling me I shouldn't expose myself to that kind of nonsense anymore, or if I'm not as far into my recovery as I would like to be at this point, after 2 years. Is it a sign that the old beliefs are still trying to work on me?

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For me, while my parents are still Christian we haven't been going to church since I deconverted. Kind of happened at the same time, however I have gone to church (my parents friends) like three or four times and it is soooooooooooooo awkward.

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A couple of years ago my wife wanted to stop by the old church's yard sale. I stayed in the vehicle and smoked while she visited and shopped. Several people, including the pastor, came over to visit with me. I must say they were very well behaved. They are all likable people. The closest I came to being witnessed to was when upon leaving, the pastor said, "Remember, we're still open every Sunday." Hell, he HAD to say at least that!

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I haven't yet, and hope I won't ever have to for some reason. I have seen a couple people from the church, but it was in a neutral setting where religious speak wasn't very appropriate, so it didn't come up.

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I saw a good number of people from my childhood church that my parents still attend at my father's retirement party. They were all very nice and there was very little talk of anything explicitly religious. However, I know that most of them have no idea that I'm an atheist or even that I'm not religiously involved where I'm living now. A friend of my mother's sent me a Bible for my birthday (yuck), but the letter she wrote made it clear that she believed I would appreciate it as a Christian rather than it being an attempt to reconvert someone she knew had left the church. I don't blame my mother for not telling people, but I'm not going to lie to cover her ass if it comes up.

 

I don't have any desire to go to a service at their church or any other, but I have no ill will toward most of those people (and the few who I have a problem with aren't the most influential or powerful at the church, so my dislike of them isn't directly tied to religion).

 

But I will NEVER visit the last church I was at before deconverting. I had been a regular member and a part of a small group, and while my ex-H and I were divorcing, not a single person in the small group that I'd gone to weekly for two years contacted me in any way, even though everyone in the group had my personal cell phone number. I did not deconvert with any drama or ugliness - all that the group members knew about was that my ex-H and I had separated, and that was enough to make me dead to them. For a while, while I was going through the anger stage, I really wanted to email the group leader and tell him how cowardly and useless he and his wife were, but since then I have decided that having them completely out of my life is the best result.

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I go to church with my mother on holidays because she likes having her family together at Christmas and Easter. It's as much a part of our family tradition as trees and turkeys and communal meals, and I figure if she carried me for 9 months and raised me for 18 years, it's the least I can do. It doesn't bother me in the slightest. I enjoy seeing people I grew up with, old youth pastors, and I have a great time observing Catholic rituals now that I understand their origin, history, and proper context. It gives me a weird feeling to think that there are people in the congregation that truly believe everything that's being said and/or performed, although I suspect that the amount of people present in the pews every day outnumber those who really buy into what's going on.

 

Former church acquaintances now know better than to try to witness to me, but Catholics aren't big on that sort of thing anyway. They knew my dad and know very well that there isn't a doctrine or argument they can cite that I can't thoroughly refute. It's a smiling, laughing, "good-to-see-you" truce, and I have no problem with it.

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No, nor do I necessarily miss them either. Church was an annoyance that interfered with my relaxation on my day off. We made some friends who were very nice people but I had enough going on at home with wife and kids I didnt really feel the need to hang out with these people. Upon divorce I never went back.

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No I have not, since I used to belong to a pentecostal church whose beliefs is quite radical compared to most of the mainstream Christian churches out there. Their worship services (which consists of loud music and "drunken reveling in the Holy Ghost") would make me very uncomfortable very quickly should I return. Just occasionally running into individual members make me uncomfortable, let alone revisiting the entire church.

 

Unfortunately I owe one person from that church a considerable sum of money from 7 years ago, and I'm now in a position to repay him. I doubt he even remembers the debt, but my conscience won't let me rest easy until I repay him. But since I don't know where precisely he lives, I face the prospect of having to go back to the church one final time in order to repay him.

 

It's a scary thought. unsure.png

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Unfortunately I owe one person from that church a considerable sum of money from 7 years ago, and I'm now in a position to repay him. I doubt he even remembers the debt, but my conscience won't let me rest easy until I repay him. But since I don't know where precisely he lives, I face the prospect of having to go back to the church one final time in order to repay him.

 

I am in no way encouraging you to default on a debt, but I wonder if the congregant to whom you owe money is aware of Deuteronomy 15:1, which states:

 

"At the end of every seventh year, you shall cancel the debt of anyone who owes you money."

 

Just a playful thought.

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I "visit" once a week. I still go with my fundie wife, but most people don't know. I just play on my iPhone during the sermon and smile as I pass the collection plate, empty.

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I continued as an active participant for at least a year after full deconversion. I even tithed. I did it for my family. I used the opportunity to point things out to my wife.

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I am in no way encouraging you to default on a debt, but I wonder if the congregant to whom you owe money is aware of Deuteronomy 15:1, which states:

 

"At the end of every seventh year, you shall cancel the debt of anyone who owes you money."

 

Just a playful thought.

 

LOL, that got a good laugh out of me! laugh.png I doubt it though. IIRC, he's one of those members that mostly study the New Testament when he does read his Bible, and otherwise just agrees with the pastor's sermons. He wasn't one for memorizing or studying the Bible indepth.

 

Wouldn't mind having my debt canceled though... tongue.png

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Don't feel like a coward for being closeted.

 

We all have very good reasons why we stay hidden... (young children, client base, Bible Belt town are a few of mine)

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No, can't say that I have. I attended a number of different churches over the years due to frequent moves. Now I don't live near any of them. I have an idea of what it might be like though....I went to my grandma's church a few times before deconverting and was always aware of how dead and hypocritical it was. The few services I attended, I was there as an observer. It was hard to engage when it wasn't the brand of crazy I believed in. Anyway, I imagine if I went back to any of my old churches it would be something like that.

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Sheldon, interesting question.

 

My old, old church that my parents took me to, no. They have moved away from that one anyway.

The fundamentalist college group, no, I'm too old.

I have gone with my parents very occasionally to different church services that they've attended since I've deconverted. It's just not my thing now and I prefer not to go.

 

 

 

Sometimes when I drive past I have a cry, sometimes I feel angry. If I tried to go there my PTSD would kick in before I got out of the car.

 

There are a few certain issues that religion gets mixed up with that can still provoke strong reactions like that in me. Sometimes the agitation gets so bad that I have to just step back and carefully sort things out for myself mentally like I used to have to do in the old days when I was more newly deconverted. The strong emotions are normal but they can really be tough to deal with.

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I'm not even sure the church I went to growing up exists anymore. Most of the congregation had one foot in the grave when I was there anyway. Seriously, I think a couple of them helped build the damn church (before electricity got out to that part of the woods).

 

I went back to the fundie school once right after deconverting, though I told no one. I was already dead to them, because I went to a "nerd boarding school" with heathen teachers that taught evilution and such blasphemies. When the *band nerds* pretended I didn't exist, I just walked out and never looked back.

 

Now in the age of facebook, I sometimes wonder if I've been looked up, and I leave my religious views public just in case. It says "Vodou Kemetic Witch." zDuivel2.gif No one has tried to contact me, bwaha.

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I still have contact with maybe 1 or 2 people tops I used to go to church with. I have no desire to ever show up there or attend another service. there's really no point to it. there are a couple of past pastors I might be interested in seeing again. but nobody in town currently.

 

I don't want to waste 1 more second of my life in church if I can avoid it.

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If my wife asks me to go for a special service, such as Christmas or Easter, I'll go. I'll also go for any family weddings or funerals. Other than that, I have no desire to go back.

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I'm wondering if my reaction to entering the building is a sign of recovery, my rational mind telling me I shouldn't expose myself to that kind of nonsense anymore, or if I'm not as far into my recovery as I would like to be at this point, after 2 years. Is it a sign that the old beliefs are still trying to work on me?

What, that you felt like you didn't belong there? That you shouldn't be there? So what if you're not as far along, or even as far along as you think you should be. There's the old rule of thumb I've heard about relationships (not sure how scientific this is), that it typically takes half as long as the relationship was to really get over it. If you were in it for 6 years, it takes 3 years to really move past it. But when it comes to one's religious home, that really depends. It really depends on how much of yourself was vested within it, for one thing. I see it going a lot deeper than just a love relationship. You can tie your entire self-identity into the systems of belief. So it can take a whole lot longer, IMO. For me it took a great deal longer to begin to truly find myself than amount of the time I spent within it. You are exactly where you need to be for yourself, and don't judge that as one thing or the other.

 

I can't really go visit my home church since it is no longer there, although my Bible College church is still there. Personally, I really couldn't go visit them since I am in such a radically different place in how I understand things now that it would feel like a postgraduate student going to sit with students in an early elementary school classroom for the afternoon. It's one thing to visit with them as individuals and perhaps attempt some discussion, but to attend the service they offer is somewhat pointless to me, other than as some personal anthropological study, to observe them from an outside objective position. which of course has some value. But I think they would wonder why I was sitting there taking notes about them as I looked around the room at them rather than paying attention to the sermon. :)

 

I did talk with one of my original church home friends awhile back after all those years ago, but I never attempted to go into where I was at specifically. I could tell where he was still at and it seemed very unlikely he could understand it without some personal context of his own to relate to it.

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