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Hard For Me To Be Ex-Christian


directionless
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Here are some random things I've noticed:

 

(1) Whenever I make a decision I always think: what am I supposed to do? - and implicitly I ask that question to God. I don't mean to exaggerate, but I sometimes worry about silly choices like chocolate or vanilla.

 

(2) I think about God and unconsciously pray quite a lot - especially when I go for walks.

 

(3) Believing in God feels very natural to me. Not believing in God is like trying to learn to walk a new way and feeling clumsy. Sometimes I would prefer to walk the way I have always walked, because I'm too old to learn a new way.

 

(4) When I enjoy nature, believing in God seems to enhance the experience.

 

I should emphasize that I have never been a bible-believing, "authentic" Christian. I was very religious and superstitious briefly a few years ago, but most of my life I have simply had a vague faith that God and Jesus love us all and keeping an eye on us. (I subconsciously believed this even when I considered myself to be an atheist.)

 

I have wondered if this is similar to neo-Pagans. It seems like neo-Pagans allow their minds to imagine their gods and magic exist even though they know intellectually that it isn't possible, because it enhances their life? So why not apply this approach to Christianity?

 

Of course, I know Christianity doesn't work intellectually.

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Here are some random things I've noticed:

 

(1) Whenever I make a decision I always think: what am I supposed to do? - and implicitly I ask that question to God. I don't mean to exaggerate, but I sometimes worry about silly choices like chocolate or vanilla.

 

(2) I think about God and unconsciously pray quite a lot - especially when I go for walks.

 

(3) Believing in God feels very natural to me. Not believing in God is like trying to learn to walk a new way and feeling clumsy. Sometimes I would prefer to walk the way I have always walked, because I'm too old to learn a new way.

 

(4) When I enjoy nature, believing in God seems to enhance the experience.

 

 

Sounds like indoctrination to me.  How young were you when it started?  It also sounds like me a few years ago.  All four of those describe me for most of my life.  The thing about asking God for guidance on trivial issues has to do with Christianity enslaving Christians.  You are not suppose to think for yourself.  You are trained to be dependent upon the theology.  If that is no way to live then too bad because it is required in order to keep the tithes rolling in.

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Directionless, many people associate being an ExChristian with atheism. While it is true that many ExChristians on ExC are atheists, one can reject Christianity but not reject the notion of a deity of one sort or another. What I am saying to you is that there are choices other than Christianity or atheism.

 

Try taking this one step at a time.

 

Step 1: Are you a Christian? If your answer is no, then go to step 2.

Step 2: Do you believe there is a deity of some kind? Your answer to this question is very personal and needs no one else's approval.

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It's hard for me, too. I've found that Pantheism gives my mind a place for spiritual feelings.

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Sounds like indoctrination to me.  How young were you when it started?  It also sounds like me a few years ago.  All four of those describe me for most of my life.  The thing about asking God for guidance on trivial issues has to do with Christianity enslaving Christians.  You are not suppose to think for yourself.  You are trained to be dependent upon the theology.  If that is no way to live then too bad because it is required in order to keep the tithes rolling in.

It's always been hard for me to make decisions. I'm sure that is part of it. I can't make up my mind, so I instinctively ask God to help me know what's best.

 

It was worse during the short period a few years ago when I thought the Holy Spirit and demons were trying to guide me. I would really really worry about every little decision and wait for some sign from God. I remember going to McDonald's drive through and thinking that a crow was scolding me for breaking the fast. I found myself angrily telling the crow to leave me alone. smile.png More often I would interpret a sudden twinge in my stomach to be the Holy Spirit telling me I was making the wrong choice. That was ridiculous.

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Directionless, many people associate being an ExChristian with atheism. While it is true that many ExChristians on ExC are atheists, one can reject Christianity but not reject the notion of a deity of one sort or another. What I am saying to you is that there are choices other than Christianity or atheism.

 

Try taking this one step at a time.

 

Step 1: Are you a Christian? If your answer is no, then go to step 2.

Step 2: Do you believe there is a deity of some kind? Your answer to this question is very personal and needs no one else's approval.

The problem with Step 1 is the 40,000 variations of Christianity. Also it's like my brain is a layering of different personalities:

- the topic layer is a sensible atheist

- the next layer down believes emotionally (joy, love) in some type of God that it visualizes through Christianity without believing Christianity

- the lowest layer is even more emotional (fear, suspicion, panic, confusion), and this layer is superstitious and paranoid about all religions

 

Mostly the top two layers run my life, but once in a while the lower layer comes to the surface.

 

Alternative religions always make the lowest layer upset, so I vary between atheism and a warm-fuzzy type of Christian sentimentality.

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Here are some random things I've noticed:

 

(1) Whenever I make a decision I always think: what am I supposed to do? - and implicitly I ask that question to God. I don't mean to exaggerate, but I sometimes worry about silly choices like chocolate or vanilla.

This is how your mind is accustomed, trained, to think. I recall that when I was a Christian, I believed that God was concerned about every minute detail of my life -- or that I was supposed to be concerned about what God would think about my every thought. Your mind has been conditioned to believe in a type of supernatural being who is behind it all. You can allow yourself to make your own decisions without there being a "God" to answer to.

 

(2) I think about God and unconsciously pray quite a lot - especially when I go for walks.

This may be a habit. You can consciously retrain your mind. It does take time and effort. You need to allow yourself the time it takes, without getting discouraged and giving up. Are you still thinking in terms of the Judeo-Christian god, or is your concept of "God" perhaps evolving? Is your praying becoming more like meditation?

 

(3) Believing in God feels very natural to me. Not believing in God is like trying to learn to walk a new way and feeling clumsy. Sometimes I would prefer to walk the way I have always walked, because I'm too old to learn a new way.

I understand that feeling. But see, you've answered yourself: "Sometimes I would prefer to walk the way I have always walked, because I'm too old to learn a new way." Learning to think in a new way is a process. You might have some individual moments of enlightenment, those "aha!" moments, that are indicators of the process of change. But the change is a transition. At first it does feel strange, but gradually it feels more familiar, more natural to your authentic self. Change is a challenge, but you can do it.

 

The temptation is to stay with the old preference. When you say "God feels very natural" to you, maybe you really mean that God feels familiar, because that's how you were used to thinking.

 

(4) When I enjoy nature, believing in God seems to enhance the experience.

Maybe it's because you associate the meaning of nature with the idea of God as creator. Enjoyment and enhancement of the experience have to do with 'meaning.' When I look back on when I used to believe in that type of supernatural being, I now see how overly simplified my belief was. Over time, my views changed. My concept of "God" changed. My understanding of spirituality changed. My enjoyment of Nature, and the meaning of life, were enhanced.

 

Maybe what you're sensing is a transitional belief away from the Christian religion's views, to something 'spiritual' beyond religion. And maybe you will find that this spiritual sense of existence is something that comes from your very own human nature. If you haven't yet considered Humanism, you might find it appealing. You might find a type of spiritual Humanism appealing. I'll be interested to know your impressions of it, if you decide to look into it. However your views evolve, and whatever direction you go, I'll be interested in reading about it.

 

Best wishes to you, directionless, in your continuing search for truth and meaning.

 

Thanks.

 

On the question about my prayers, they are not turning into meditation. They are the same old prayers - maybe the Lord's Prayer. Saying the Lord's Prayer is probably a subconscious expression of various emotions? Sometimes I say the Lord's Prayer or the Jesus Prayer in a repetitive way to calm myself, but usually I'm just walking along and find myself saying them for some reason.

 

On the question of understanding God in a more sophisticated way, I don't think so. My understanding of God seems about the same as it has seemed throughout my life. I never paid much attention to what the Bible and theology said about God; God's always been the invisible all-powerful good father for creation (the "sky daddy" I guess). It's a habit of thinking that God exists that is very hard to change. Even when I claimed to be an atheist, it was only skin deep.

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It's hard for me, too. I've found that Pantheism gives my mind a place for spiritual feelings.

Sometimes I find some inspiration from pantheism - like that I am a part of the universe observing the whole universe. Lately I haven't felt inclined in that direction for some reason.

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The problem with Step 1 is the 40,000 variations of Christianity. Also it's like my brain is a layering of different personalities:- the topic layer is a sensible atheist- the next layer down believes emotionally (joy, love) in some type of God that it visualizes through Christianity without believing Christianity- the lowest layer is even more emotional (fear, suspicion, panic, confusion), and this layer is superstitious and paranoid about all religionsMostly the top two layers run my life, but once in a while the lower layer comes to the surface.Alternative religions always make the lowest layer upset, so I vary between atheism and a warm-fuzzy type of Christian sentimentality.

It sounds like Christianity is more cultural than a religion for you to follow. I say that because though you say you do not believe Christianity, the religion is the lens through which you visualize God.

 

I will tell you that I am definitely not a Christian, having rejected the religion in its totality. Notwithstanding my rejection of Christianity, even after seven years out of the religion, I know that I am still influenced by it and probably will be to some degree for the rest of my life. But I can tell you that the more time that passes, the less I am influenced by the Christian tenets I learned beginning in childhood.

 

You, too, will likely be less influenced by Christian tenets as time goes by. This includes the concerns you expressed in the OP.

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Thanks, everybody.

 

Sometimes I try to find ways of proving God wrong to myself, but it is very tricky. Other times I wonder if I'm better off maintaining a vague hope in God instead of trying to kill it off.

 

Yesterday I was depressed while walking. Then I sat down and watched the birds scrambling around for food on the beach and felt some empathy for them. I felt encouraged by the sense that God cares about all of us animals as we struggle to live and there is some beauty and purpose. Atheism usually leaves me feeling depressed.

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Atheism usually leaves me feeling depressed.

 

Atheism can't be as depressing as believing in a god who acts like a prick.

 

You either find evidence to believe an untestable supernatural claim or you don't. It really is that simple and can be no other way. The problem is social habit and indoctrination/brainwashing while in the cult. Sometimes that's just hard to shake and some need professional counseling to get past the old emotional patterns.

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I think you're being honest with yourself, which is the best thing, really. I will offer just this one thing, though. Departing from Christianity isn't really a choice that you wake up ''to do'' one day, because it all becomes crystal clear that it's bs. It's sort of a long, winding path, and you just ''arrive'' at it one day, not out of the blue, but there comes a day that stands out among the others as to when you finally are 'done' with it all. If you wish to remain a believer, just do so for the right reasons. Because I've been exactly where you are with it all, what kept me locked in it was fear. Fear of the unknown, mainly. I hope whatever you choose, you find a peace about it.

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Directionless, many people associate being an ExChristian with atheism. While it is true that many ExChristians on ExC are atheists, one can reject Christianity but not reject the notion of a deity of one sort or another. What I am saying to you is that there are choices other than Christianity or atheism.

 

Try taking this one step at a time.

 

Step 1: Are you a Christian? If your answer is no, then go to step 2.

Step 2: Do you believe there is a deity of some kind? Your answer to this question is very personal and needs no one else's approval.

The problem with Step 1 is the 40,000 variations of Christianity. Also it's like my brain is a layering of different personalities:

- the topic layer is a sensible atheist

- the next layer down believes emotionally (joy, love) in some type of God that it visualizes through Christianity without believing Christianity

- the lowest layer is even more emotional (fear, suspicion, panic, confusion), and this layer is superstitious and paranoid about all religions

 

Mostly the top two layers run my life, but once in a while the lower layer comes to the surface.

 

Alternative religions always make the lowest layer upset, so I vary between atheism and a warm-fuzzy type of Christian sentimentality.

 

These three layers remind me of Transactional Analysis, which is a type of Psychotherapy practice.

 

TA works with three aspects of the personality:

 

The Adult - who make the sensible decisions 

The Parent - who can be a critical inner voice

The Child - who longs to be nurtured and pacified.

 

In our interactions with other people we can act out of one of these parts and communicate with the other person's adult, parent or child part.  This is how a lot of negative communication can happen.

 

In therapy, the person works at using the positive, nurturing aspects of the parent part to soothe the anxiety of the child, this allowing the adult to get on with running the person's life without distractions coming from the parent or child.

 

I am massively oversimplifying a complex system but I hope it makes some sense to you.  Your description of three layers of your personality reminded me of TA.  If you can find a psychotherapist trained in TA, if might be an interesting kind of therapy to try.

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Atheism usually leaves me feeling depressed.

Atheism can't be as depressing as believing in a god who acts like a prick.

 

You either find evidence to believe an untestable supernatural claim or you don't. It really is that simple and can be no other way. The problem is social habit and indoctrination/brainwashing while in the cult. Sometimes that's just hard to shake and some need professional counseling to get past the old emotional patterns.

 

This reminds me of somebody who described God as a "deadbeat dad".

 

As I was watching the birds one came close enough that I could see that it was skinny and its feathers were all rumpled.

 

Sometimes I think humans need to become like God and make this planet a Garden of Eden.

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I think you're being honest with yourself, which is the best thing, really. I will offer just this one thing, though. Departing from Christianity isn't really a choice that you wake up ''to do'' one day, because it all becomes crystal clear that it's bs. It's sort of a long, winding path, and you just ''arrive'' at it one day, not out of the blue, but there comes a day that stands out among the others as to when you finally are 'done' with it all. If you wish to remain a believer, just do so for the right reasons. Because I've been exactly where you are with it all, what kept me locked in it was fear. Fear of the unknown, mainly. I hope whatever you choose, you find a peace about it.

Thanks. I'm not sure if I am making any progress at all. I have tried to read and educate myself, but it doesn't seem to sink-in very deep.

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These three layers remind me of Transactional Analysis, which is a type of Psychotherapy practice.

 

TA works with three aspects of the personality:

 

The Adult - who make the sensible decisions 

The Parent - who can be a critical inner voice

The Child - who longs to be nurtured and pacified.

 

In our interactions with other people we can act out of one of these parts and communicate with the other person's adult, parent or child part.  This is how a lot of negative communication can happen.

 

In therapy, the person works at using the positive, nurturing aspects of the parent part to soothe the anxiety of the child, this allowing the adult to get on with running the person's life without distractions coming from the parent or child.

 

I am massively oversimplifying a complex system but I hope it makes some sense to you.  Your description of three layers of your personality reminded me of TA.  If you can find a psychotherapist trained in TA, if might be an interesting kind of therapy to try.

Thanks, I was just looking at clinical psychologists in my town that accept my insurance. There are only four choices, but I'm not sure how to select. I suppose I will find out who is accepting new patients first. I will ask about transactional analysis. It does seem like a useful way of thinking about the problem.

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Psychotherapists do TA. Clinical psychologists do others therapies, including cognitive behavioural therapy, which has the best evidence for effectiveness.  Based on what you've said in various threads, I think a psychologist would be more appropriate for your needs than a psychotherapist at the moment.  You might want to speak with them by phone first to see if they are secular or not.  A psychologist who allows their religious beliefs to affect their work would not be helpful for you at the moment, IMO.

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Undoing the indoctrination you experienced during your time in xtianity is gonna be hard, especially if you were either really young or between a rock and a hard place when they got you, and it takes time. There is no law that says you HAVE to come to atheism as your conclusion in your post-religion life. This isn't a pissing contest. Some people here grew up in other religions, then came to christendom, and have since gone back to what they grew up with. Others decided that a general form of spirituality is for them, and some like me have decided to write it off altogether. 

 

It sounds like you're going through the stages of grief, which is part of the healing process. Now that church is no longer a part of your life, you get to decide whether or not spirituality is an avenue you wish to continue with, and you get to define it for yourself. This is your journey, not mine or anyone else's. If atheism is the conclusion you come to, then great. If it's not, and you still decide on a belief in a higher power of some kind, then that's great too. 

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Psychotherapists do TA. Clinical psychologists do others therapies, including cognitive behavioural therapy, which has the best evidence for effectiveness.  Based on what you've said in various threads, I think a psychologist would be more appropriate for your needs than a psychotherapist at the moment.  You might want to speak with them by phone first to see if they are secular or not.  A psychologist who allows their religious beliefs to affect their work would not be helpful for you at the moment, IMO.

I actually had an idea just now that maybe I would feel more comfortable with an openly devout Christian psychologist. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but there might be two advantages:

 

(1) If a Christian tells me that my experiences were psychosis and not some weird experience of Christianity, then that might be more persuasive.

 

(2) I might trust a Christian more. At times I worried that my last therapist was part of the conspiracy that I sometimes imagined to be stalking me. This is part of the reason I could not trust her to hypnotize me. The sensible atheist layer of my personality knows these worries are ridiculous, but the lower layers do not.

 

Obviously I do not want a psychologist who would actually agree with my delusions, but I think any licensed person would not bring religion into the discussion - especially if I explained that I'm an atheist.

 

I don't know, maybe this is a silly idea? I have no idea how to find an openly religious psychologist. I know many priests also practice psychology, so maybe the Catholics have a website.

 

I also feel comfortable with atheists as long as they do not bring any of the woo woo into the session. Woo woo seems to be very fashionable in psychology right now.

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Undoing the indoctrination you experienced during your time in xtianity is gonna be hard, especially if you were either really young or between a rock and a hard place when they got you, and it takes time. There is no law that says you HAVE to come to atheism as your conclusion in your post-religion life. This isn't a pissing contest. Some people here grew up in other religions, then came to christendom, and have since gone back to what they grew up with. Others decided that a general form of spirituality is for them, and some like me have decided to write it off altogether. 

 

It sounds like you're going through the stages of grief, which is part of the healing process. Now that church is no longer a part of your life, you get to decide whether or not spirituality is an avenue you wish to continue with, and you get to define it for yourself. This is your journey, not mine or anyone else's. If atheism is the conclusion you come to, then great. If it's not, and you still decide on a belief in a higher power of some kind, then that's great too.

Thanks, I was a cradle Christian, and I was never around anybody who was openly non-Christian until I went to college. I remember how surprised I was that anybody would seriously not believe in any kind of God at all. smile.png

 

The only religions that are options for me are Christianity and atheism. I can't see myself ever feeling comfortable with any form of spirituality except Christianity. Also atheism or agnosticism is the only sensible choice when there is no compelling evidence for any religion. Maybe some religions are not blatantly absurd, but that is only a small improvement.

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If you are in a majority Xtian country, chances are your therapist will be Xtian anyway.

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Undoing the indoctrination you experienced during your time in xtianity is gonna be hard, especially if you were either really young or between a rock and a hard place when they got you, and it takes time. There is no law that says you HAVE to come to atheism as your conclusion in your post-religion life. This isn't a pissing contest. Some people here grew up in other religions, then came to christendom, and have since gone back to what they grew up with. Others decided that a general form of spirituality is for them, and some like me have decided to write it off altogether. 

 

It sounds like you're going through the stages of grief, which is part of the healing process. Now that church is no longer a part of your life, you get to decide whether or not spirituality is an avenue you wish to continue with, and you get to define it for yourself. This is your journey, not mine or anyone else's. If atheism is the conclusion you come to, then great. If it's not, and you still decide on a belief in a higher power of some kind, then that's great too.

Thanks, I was a cradle Christian, and I was never around anybody who was openly non-Christian until I went to college. I remember how surprised I was that anybody would seriously not believe in any kind of God at all. smile.png

 

The only religions that are options for me are Christianity and atheism. I can't see myself ever feeling comfortable with any form of spirituality except Christianity. Also atheism or agnosticism is the only sensible choice when there is no compelling evidence for any religion. Maybe some religions are not blatantly absurd, but that is only a small improvement.

 

 

It doesn't have to be that way. With xtianity, it's always all or nothing, now or never, when in reality it isn't like that. The reason why you feel the only option is xtianity is b/c you were raised in it, and despite what it's caused for you, and what it continues to cause, it's familiar to you. Xtianity isn't the only option besides nothing, it's just one option out of the many religions that are out there. Your world's basically been turned upside down when you left it behind. Nobody's making you come to a decision right this second, and if anyone asks you, you can maybe say you're seeking and leave it at that.

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Never mind on the Christian psychologist idea. There are none in my area.

I think the most important thing is to see a psychologist, whether they are xian or not.  I think they would be able to help you develop a sound strategy for living with your symptoms.

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I certainly understand the comfort that comes from believing there is an all loving god up there watching over us and taking care of us.  From the moment we are born, we are utterly dependent on our parents for sustinence and protection.  It makes sense that we still desire this, even in adult hood, an external source of sustinence and protection that gives peace of mind.  However, the tendancy to want such a thing does not make it a true thing.  A major break through for me is when I realized that all the comforting feelings that I used to get from praying to god really came from within myself.  I realized then that if I acheived that level of peace before, and god never existed, then there is no reason I can't still acheive that same level of peace.  My peace is not dependent on god if he does not exist.  It came from within me, my own self assurance.  Exactly how you acheive peace depends on what works for you.  I'm as happy now as I ever was as a Christian, and more so in some ways.  I think Deidre is right.  Fear is a big part of it.  Now that I'm past the fear, I can sit in nature and wonder at whether or not there is an ultimate purpose or god behind it all.  If there is, and said god really loves us like the bible says, then we have nothing to fear.  If said god does not exist, then we still have nothing to fear.  It's a win-win.

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