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Failing At Christianity


AnonymousCoward
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On my late night walk tonight, I think I finally discovered the source of my problem with telling my Christian friends that I've walked away. It's the same thing that kept me in the stupid religion for a ridiculous number of years - my fear of failure. I always felt that if I wasn't on fire for Jesus or if my personal relationship with Jesus was less than personal, then I was a failure. Sermons and Christian talks constantly reinforced this. I always thought people could see right through my act - see that I was a failure at Christianity and judging me for it. I wanted to grow stronger in my faith. I wanted to be like the others, but I failed.

 

Now that I've realized this whole thing's just a big frustrating lie, I still have it in the back of my mind that if I tell my Christian friends that I've walked away, they're going to be correct in thinking that I'm a failure. I constantly feel this way even though they are the ones following a lie. I can't get past craving their acceptance. Why does this religion still have a big hold on me? Why can't my brain just be logical for once?

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That acceptance is what keeps you going back, it's a way to make it harder to leave. Emotion often trumps logic, and they know this. Xtianity creates the problem to sell you the solution, and automatically sets you up for disaster down the road. You gave religion your best shot, and you have nothing to be ashamed of. Xtianity itself is a failure, and chances are that those people who are "on fire" may be that to drown out their own doubts. 

 

If those people from church are really your friends, they won't care. And if they do, then you know where you stand with them, and you know what your next step will be. Be glad you got out when you did. That's what matters. The only thing worse than being in xtianity for however long you were in it is being however long you were in it and a day.  

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I totally hear you -- I had the same trouble at first. Then I watched as people just fell away. For the first six months after I left my church (under ugly circumstances), there were about four people who stayed in contact with me. After a year it went down to two. And now, a year-and-a-half later, there is only one. So far, she is a keeper, although we do have to skirt some church / religious topics occasionally.

 

One of the biggest comforts I found here on ex-C is when other people told me repeatedly that this is normal -- it's not ME. Many kind souls here reiterated that they can count on one hand (or one finger!) the friends they still have from their church days. In some ways that angers me, because Christians are so club-oriented that once you're gone, you're gone to them. This appears to be universal. How pathetic! But this knowledge also soothes me because I understand now that I am not the problem, I am not un-lovable, I am not unworthy of friends -- I am a valuable person freed from a sick community.

 

I'm not going to tell you it doesn't hurt. It hurts. BAD. But it gets better, I promise!

 

Today I am able to look back at those people and feel sorry for them. They are trapped by their multiple weekly meetings/rehearsals/services and its scheduling monopoly on their lives. They are trapped by having to be a certain way and act a certain way to maintain their good standing in a politically-based, mean-spirited, back-stabbing organization. They are trapped by fear of hell and fear of what other Christians will think of them. I could go on and on.

 

But I am free.

 

The ugly truth is... you're going to have to find some other friends. I'm sorry to tell you this. I was able to rekindle some friendships with people I had fallen away from because of my silly over-burdening church schedule. One is a Buddhist; one is a confused agnostic/atheist; one is a church elder who does not believe and hates church but stays for political and business reasons (lol); one still "believes" but despises church and church people and lives a fulfilling life away from that nonsense.

 

The great thing about these non-religious people is that they were willing and able to compassionately listen to my rants in the early months, and understood the painful journey I was on away from religion. They are interested in my ideas, my work, my life, my struggles. As I have moved on to real life now, they give me advice (when I ask) on all kinds of things in my life, based on their experiences with the law, medicine, therapists they've seen or read, and all kinds of "real" stuff. They don't just tell me to pray about it, and they don't tell me they will pray for me (which means "good luck with that -- I'm not going to do anything else").

 

So... your assignment now (if I may be so bold) is to start looking outside your old box for new people. Again, I totally know that this hurts so very badly. I get that, oh so deeply. You really only need one or two or five, or whatever you can find. Give yourself time. Remember that you are a good person. You are interesting. You're on a fascinating life-changing journey. You have value. You deserve people who love you for who you are, where you are, and what you are becoming.

 

Church makes us feel like we have 150 (or whatever) people who "love" us and are happy to see us and care about us. It's not real. I'm sure you are figuring this out, and yes, it's a shock. It's easier for those people to stick with their church (club) friends, because meet-ups are built in -- they are too lazy or comfortable or even over-scheduled with church stuff to work on relationships outside of their ready-made structure. Well... if that's all they want, then let them have that. One day some of them will see that in a moment of need, their many "friends" will "pray for them" and not lift a finger to help (even if help would be easy for them). Seriously, church people, in my experience, are lazy. They are not good friends. You deserve better.

 

In my area there are several "meetups" (google it for your area) of skeptics, free thinkers, atheists, etc. The thought of finding another "organization" might scare you a bit, but these are not that. They just get together to talk about a topic of science at a local restaurant, or they go to ball games and such. Come or don't come. Very loose. Honestly, I have never been to one of these meetups in my area -- but I admit that just knowing they are there has been a big relief to me. As if I'm not alone, and there are other people in my community who also actively don't believe, and I can go hang with them if I ever feel the need.

 

Sorry to go so long here! Just know that you are not crazy. You are not the only one. You deserve friends who love you and include you as the person that you are. You will get there. It's slow and painful, and you might have some false starts, but you will figure out who and what works for you, and you will be fulfilled. You will fill that hole that you are feeling in your heart right now. That will heal. Be patient with yourself. This is no small endeavor. Your world is upside down right now, but you will get it righted and will be on firmer ground than you ever were before.

 

Keep us posted on your journey. People here have been there, and we really do care about the pain and struggles of others. Someone here will help if we can.

 

Peace to you!

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Acceptance is the key to your freedom, in my opinion.  You're just looking for it in the wrong place.  You need to accept yourself, as you are, for who you are.  Whether others accept you or not is their affair, not yours.  You don't need to be someone else's expectation.  Be your own.

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Totally understand.  Emotions can feel stronger than reasons.  In certain situations a feeling can still crop up that I have done something wrong by not believing the ridiculous.

 

Ironically, I love this from Thomas a Kempis.  Inordinate love of people's approval and groundless fear of a non-existent god have plagued me...

 

“Therefore, he who neither desires to please men nor fears to displease them will have great plenty of peace; for all disquiet of heart and restlessness of mind come from inordinate love and groundless fear.” 

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I totally hear you -- I had the same trouble at first. Then I watched as people just fell away. For the first six months after I left my church (under ugly circumstances), there were about four people who stayed in contact with me. After a year it went down to two. And now, a year-and-a-half later, there is only one. So far, she is a keeper, although we do have to skirt some church / religious topics occasionally.

 

One of the biggest comforts I found here on ex-C is when other people told me repeatedly that this is normal -- it's not ME. Many kind souls here reiterated that they can count on one hand (or one finger!) the friends they still have from their church days. In some ways that angers me, because Christians are so club-oriented that once you're gone, you're gone to them. This appears to be universal. How pathetic! But this knowledge also soothes me because I understand now that I am not the problem, I am not un-lovable, I am not unworthy of friends -- I am a valuable person freed from a sick community.

 

I'm not going to tell you it doesn't hurt. It hurts. BAD. But it gets better, I promise!

 

Today I am able to look back at those people and feel sorry for them. They are trapped by their multiple weekly meetings/rehearsals/services and its scheduling monopoly on their lives. They are trapped by having to be a certain way and act a certain way to maintain their good standing in a politically-based, mean-spirited, back-stabbing organization. They are trapped by fear of hell and fear of what other Christians will think of them. I could go on and on.

 

[...]

 

Church makes us feel like we have 150 (or whatever) people who "love" us and are happy to see us and care about us. It's not real. I'm sure you are figuring this out, and yes, it's a shock. It's easier for those people to stick with their church (club) friends, because meet-ups are built in -- they are too lazy or comfortable or even over-scheduled with church stuff to work on relationships outside of their ready-made structure. Well... if that's all they want, then let them have that. One day some of them will see that in a moment of need, their many "friends" will "pray for them" and not lift a finger to help (even if help would be easy for them). Seriously, church people, in my experience, are lazy. They are not good friends. You deserve better.

 

 

OP, hope for the best but prepare for the worst. I really hope for your sake that you're the exception and you're able to keep your church friends. All the friends I thought I made during my church days are long gone from my life. It really hurt at first, and I felt like there was something wrong with me when they all started backing away from me during those last few months. Then when I left, it was like I never existed to them. That tore me up inside, especially considering I invested so much time and energy in them. Then I realized that this was their doing, not mine, and that they were incapable of anything resembling authentic friendship. 

 

That feeling of having an entire congregation "love" you and "care" about you is love bombing. It's a trap to keep you going back, and the sad part of it is, it's all an illusion. They're not going to walk their talk when you're in need, they're simply too lazy or consumed with all things church all the time to do so. It's an ugly and painful lesson to learn when push comes to shove. It's those times of need that expose the phonies for what they are. I was searching for acceptance too, and I never found it in a church, because it was never there in the first place. As TRP said, acceptance is something you gotta do with yourself first. 

 

I would start searching for some friends now, OP. This way, if or when your church friends disappear, it'll be less painful. It's gonna be hard to go out there and find some new friends, now that you no longer have a social club to do the work for you, but in the long run, it'll be worth it. True friendship isn't about who you've known the longest, it's about who was there for you when you needed it and didn't walk away from you instead. 

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On my late night walk tonight, I think I finally discovered the source of my problem with telling my Christian friends that I've walked away. It's the same thing that kept me in the stupid religion for a ridiculous number of years - my fear of failure. I always felt that if I wasn't on fire for Jesus or if my personal relationship with Jesus was less than personal, then I was a failure. Sermons and Christian talks constantly reinforced this. I always thought people could see right through my act - see that I was a failure at Christianity and judging me for it. I wanted to grow stronger in my faith. I wanted to be like the others, but I failed.

 

Now that I've realized this whole thing's just a big frustrating lie, I still have it in the back of my mind that if I tell my Christian friends that I've walked away, they're going to be correct in thinking that I'm a failure. I constantly feel this way even though they are the ones following a lie. I can't get past craving their acceptance. Why does this religion still have a big hold on me? Why can't my brain just be logical for once?

 

Failure is best looked at in this way. Especially if you are actually trying to succeed and not just fail.

 

Maybe he never actually said this who knows...

 

“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”

Thomas A. Edison

 

 

See failure as learning experience not an end all of trying or success.

 

I have failed many times in life. I have never failed at the same thing twice once I learned why I failed.

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You specifically asked about craving acceptance, and I'd like to offer a theory about that.

 

Christianity is set up to make us feel like poor miserable sinners deserving of hell, but if you do the right things (believe in Jesus, live a good Christian life, etc.) you will be saved from yourself and from eternal damnation. But the rules are kind of vague. Your "good works are like filthy rags", but Jesus loves you, so you should do good works anyway. How do you know if your works are good enough or if you are doing enough, giving enough, grovelling to God enough, sacrificing enough? You have original sin and continue to be a worthless sinner, but Jesus will forgive you if you believe. How do you know if you believe enough? What if you have a single doubt -- are you going to be rejected by Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit and condemn yourself to hell? If you're like me, you spent a lot of time begging Jesus to accept you anyway. I never really knew if I was saved.

 

The church people play into this as well. What if you do some sin(s) and they notice -- will they forgive you and help you move on, or will they condemn the sin, secretly judge you, gossip about you (under the guise that others should "pray for you"), stop talking to you at services, look at you funny, or at worst, shun and/or ban you? (In my experience, expect the worst from them.) How much do you have to give (time, money, talent) to be in the good graces of the club? Have you done enough yet? Are you on the right committees? Have you joined the right study group? And if you're giving a lot and then run out of steam, will they not accept you any more? Should you sacrifice your life and health to give even more of yourself? When will it be enough? And what if you're not as "on fire for Jesus" as some of the other people around you? Will you be thought of as a dreaded "lukewarm" Christian? Even if you don't feel it, should you fake it to fit in, and hope you finally convince yourself to feel it? What should you do?

 

I could go on and on, but the whole point is that both God and his people have set us up to feel unacceptable, constantly dangling that carrot of love and acceptance out in front of us. The carrot constantly moves. The rules can be black and white at times, but arbitrary at other times. It's just a confusing and degrading mess.

 

You crave acceptance because you have been brainwashed that you need it and must do some mysterious things to get it. Any slip up and you're out of the club and possibly going straight to hell.

 

I hope this resonates with you. And I hope you can step back and look from the outside, and see what has been done to you in this regard. That is the first step toward conquering this nonsense.

 

Throw off those shackles of self-doubt. You are good enough. You are interesting enough. You are lovable enough. You have already given enough. You tried hard enough. You did not fail -- you succeeded in figuring out the mindf*ck sham that so many are still stuck in. Wow, that is a great accomplishment! You can now take charge of your life, your mind, your relationships, your money, your time. This gigantic success of seeing through the lies will lead you to more and more successes in your life. You are in control now. Move forward with the topics, work, pasttimes and people that interest and inspire you. Welcome to a whole new life.

 

Sounds like a huge success to me!

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Thanks everybody. I'm starting to think my theory on why I can't come out is wrong. I just had a ministry support raising call from someone I knew in college. Going into it, I wanted to just say, "actually I've walked away from Jesus," but I couldn't do it. Wanting to be accepted had nothing to do with it. Having not talked to this person in years, I didn't really care whether she was judging me or accepted me. The call started and she mentioned that she remembered my prayer requests from the last time we spoke before I moved away and I was touched.

 

I'm having trouble figuring out why I do the things I do (Romans 7, anyone?), but I think there were two things at play here:

 

1. I didn't want to just say to someone who is dedicating her life to being in ministry that I believed she was dedicating her life to a lie. I realize that it would be better for her to know that she was dedicating her life to a lie, but I just can't be that confrontational. I had the same problem when I was a Christian. Hundreds of people are going to Hell because I couldn't tell them about Jesus.

 

2. Explaining to a Christian how I came to no longer believe in God is hard. It wasn't like I just suddenly learned about evolution and realized God didn't exist. I had some doubts, decided to ask God about them, he didn't respond, and everything just suddenly made sense. This would be nonsensical to a Christian. Not to mention my deconversion was hard emotionally and still is hard to talk about especially to Christians who may be less than sympathetic.

 

Ironically, the few Christians I have told have been very supportive. They understand completely why I did what I did given what I told them and all of them specifically told me that whether I'm a Christian has no bearing on our friendship. I still meet with them often and talk about life and feel comfortable talking to them about my life outside of Christ just as they feel comfortable talking to me about things at church and how their relationships with God are going.

 

In terms of finding new friends, it just hasn't been going well. Church makes it so easy. You sign up for a small group and suddenly you're having fun and having deep conversations over at somebody's house with a group of close friends - not to mention the relationships built just grabbing lunch with random people after church.

 

I find there's no equivalent outside the church. I tried doing some meetups, but it just feels like I show up, do some activity under the guise of being with people, then go home. Go to the next meetup and it's all different people. Not to mention that I tend to have to travel at least 30 minutes plus traffic to get to them since there are very few in the suburb where I live and work. I've been heavily considering just giving in, going to a church, and signing up for a small group just to get that sense of community back.

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Thanks everybody. I'm starting to think my theory on why I can't come out is wrong. I just had a ministry support raising call from someone I knew in college. Going into it, I wanted to just say, "actually I've walked away from Jesus," but I couldn't do it. Wanting to be accepted had nothing to do with it. Having not talked to this person in years, I didn't really care whether she was judging me or accepted me. The call started and she mentioned that she remembered my prayer requests from the last time we spoke before I moved away and I was touched.

 

I'm having trouble figuring out why I do the things I do (Romans 7, anyone?), but I think there were two things at play here:

 

1. I didn't want to just say to someone who is dedicating her life to being in ministry that I believed she was dedicating her life to a lie. I realize that it would be better for her to know that she was dedicating her life to a lie, but I just can't be that confrontational. I had the same problem when I was a Christian. Hundreds of people are going to Hell because I couldn't tell them about Jesus.

 

2. Explaining to a Christian how I came to no longer believe in God is hard. It wasn't like I just suddenly learned about evolution and realized God didn't exist. I had some doubts, decided to ask God about them, he didn't respond, and everything just suddenly made sense. This would be nonsensical to a Christian. Not to mention my deconversion was hard emotionally and still is hard to talk about especially to Christians who may be less than sympathetic.

 

Ironically, the few Christians I have told have been very supportive. They understand completely why I did what I did given what I told them and all of them specifically told me that whether I'm a Christian has no bearing on our friendship. I still meet with them often and talk about life and feel comfortable talking to them about my life outside of Christ just as they feel comfortable talking to me about things at church and how their relationships with God are going.

 

In terms of finding new friends, it just hasn't been going well. Church makes it so easy. You sign up for a small group and suddenly you're having fun and having deep conversations over at somebody's house with a group of close friends - not to mention the relationships built just grabbing lunch with random people after church.

 

I find there's no equivalent outside the church. I tried doing some meetups, but it just feels like I show up, do some activity under the guise of being with people, then go home. Go to the next meetup and it's all different people. Not to mention that I tend to have to travel at least 30 minutes plus traffic to get to them since there are very few in the suburb where I live and work. I've been heavily considering just giving in, going to a church, and signing up for a small group just to get that sense of community back.

AC,

 

A lot of what you wrote resonates with me.  I miss many things about Christianity, think many Christians are wonderful people, and-- of course-- recognize that I have many flaws.  I also read a book early after my conversion that made me terrified that there would be numerous people who would be tortured forever because of my failures to evangelize.

 

You may want to try a Unitarian Universalist fellowship.  IMO, they try hard to recognize some of the good points in Christianities (small groups, fellowship, good-deeding, meaningful conversation) while still recognizing that there are many bad things about traditional Christianities (teaching very dubious dogmas as if they certainties, using manipulative fear-mongering, encouraging credulity and obscurantism, etc.).

 

Fully admit that some Catholics are wonderful people, while the Assumption of Mary and transubstantiation are most likely bogus.  Embrace all the good that evangelicals do, while recognizing that the infallibility of the Scriptures and the stories about Noah's Ark, Adam's fall, and Christ's Resurrection are extremely dubious.  I find this approach with Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists, pagans, Jews, Hindus...

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Thanks, Human! Took me a long time to figure that out, but it's so obvious now, isn't it?

 

Back to the OP: If I may, I'd like to address two things, friends and community.

 

Friends: Wow, sounds like you got lucky with the friends you have kept. Sweet! It has been pointed out here by several other kind folks that real friends can only be counted on one hand, and I would have to agree. If the guys you still have are real friends, then you are doing great. These are the people who would come pick you up on the side of the road if your car breaks down, would mow your grass if you're in the hospital, who come over just to come over, who invite you to go do things even if it's mundane, who call or text you on a somewhat regular basis just to share what they're doing or see what and how you're doing.

 

Community: Thanks for the report on the meetups. I can see where it would be frustrating that it's almost too loose, with different people every time. So scratch that as an option for finding community. But church is not the only other option. You did not say your age, marital status, whether you have kid(s), what you do for a living, etc., so I'll try to cover many bases. Instead of looking for something that is religious (church) or specifically non-religious (atheist meetups), try something more generic. Maybe look for something with a different interest in common, such as a sports league, art classes at your community center, or a volunteer organization that serves something that interests you. Even if you don't find new best friends, you will be hanging with the same people on a somewhat regular basis. If you have a kid, I can attest that as the child grows through school, there will be other parents (especially your kid's friends' parents) that will form a wider community for you, but maybe not best friend material. If you are 39 or younger, you could consider something like the Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), which will welcome you even if you're a blue collar guy and not a lawyer or businessman for example. (My husband is a car guy, and he was always welcome and well received.) The problem with some groups like Rotary is that they still have a religious bent, with prayers before meetings and mission-like service projects. The advantage to groups like this is that they have regular functions and basic membership expectations, so you will run into the same people every time -- giving you that constancy of community.

 

Well... sorry if this has been obvious stuff and feels like I'm talking down to you. That is not my intent! I realize that those of us who grew up dedicated to the church organization are often unaware of secular opportunities. (Why would I join Rotary when my church's head elder is the president of Rotary, and a bunch of people from my church are members -- so I'll just stick with the many activities already at my church since I have time for nothing else. Also, I don't have time for the pottery class because it's on the same night as choir practice.) See what I mean? We got comfortable and almost blinded to the outside world. That's not your fault or mine; it's just the world we grew to know.

 

Don't get down on yourself. This is a rough, lonely, and frustrating journey sometimes. You will figure out what works for you. Have faith in yourself -- you will figure it out.

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