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Thinking Of Rejoining The Fold


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I lost my faith almost a year ago (and stopped attending church about 10 months ago). During that time, I felt I had a decision to make. I was reasonably happy as a Christian. I had believed my whole life. To no longer be a Christian would mean stepping out into the unknown.

 

As I thought about my choices, I started thinking what remaining a "Christian" who no longer believed would look like. I realized it would mean no longer being real to my friends. I realized it would mean never getting involved in a relationship (I could never start such a thing on a lie much less carry on with it).

 

Meanwhile, I started to think more positively of the unknown. I live in one of the least Christian cities in the US. Many other people lead happy lives without Christianity. Why can't I?

 

I stopped going to church. I followed some of the advice on this forum and joined a local atheist group as well as some meetups that catered to my interest. I made an effort to keep in touch with my Christian friends, but since I'm no longer going to church or involved in any related activities, there's the inevitable drifting apart since I don't see them as much as I used to.

 

Unfortunately, things seem to have hit rock bottom for me on the social front. During the summer, I did a lot of hiking meetups and met a lot of people. I failed to turn those into any real friendships and so as summer turned to winter, I found myself without those meetups or people. I haven't really found any other types of meetups that I enjoy attending although I've tried various ones. I do need to find a good winter hobby.

 

I found myself not being able to stand the local atheist group. When I first joined, I thought they'd be kind of like this forum - a support network for those who have walked away from their faith. In reality, all the conversations are about how stupid religions and religious people are. I feel like they talk about Jesus more than my Christian friends do. I just wanted to move on.

 

I went to church a couple times during the summer for various reasons (not the one I had been attending while I was a Christian). After the service, random people I didn't know would invite me to their house for a barbecue or somewhere to play volleyball. I remember being so frustrated at the time because I was making so much effort and failing to forge a social life outside the church and just by walking inside a church, I was having a the seeds of a social life thrust upon me.

 

I didn't take any of these people up on their offers because I still felt I could make something of my life outside of the church. However, now I feel it's time to give up. I ventured out into the unknown and I failed. I think it might be time for me to head back to the place where I get friends just for showing up. Of course, then I have to become something I'm not. I can see it making making me happy in the short term, but frustrated and unhappy in the long term. Maybe I'm just predisposed to never be happy.

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Guest Furball

Hello anonymous. You are not alone. Since i have deconverted i literally have no friends. When i was a christian, i had a lot of friends and a great social life, when i left, none. I too from time to time get the urge to "go back." But why would i go back into a lie? I was an alcoholic in my twenties. To this day i still get the urge to go back and have a few beers or wine, but i know that it would be harmful for me to do that. Going with that same thought, it would, at least for me, be very harmful to go back into the fold. As for going out into the unknown, here is a favorite quote of mine....

 

 

  “Come to the edge, he said.
We are afraid, they said.
Come to the edge, he said.
They came to the edge,
He pushed them and they flew.
Come to the edge, Life said.
They said: We are afraid.
Come to the edge, Life said.
They came. It pushed them...
And they flew.”
― Guilliame Apollinaire French Poet

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Going to meetups is a good start.

 

Did you invite any of the participants to anything? You sound kind of cerebral and serious--which is a good thing in many situations--but people can misinterpret that as lack of social interest. 

 

I started a coffee and conversation meetup for introverts in Denver, which meets every other week, and all the spots fill up. I can't say I've made any close friendships, but I do have a good time and I've learned a lot about some of the other members: life in Libya, surgery in Romania, teaching at a college, and so on. I mention this because I think your good qualities might be more apparent in such an environment, and people wouldn't be like, "Oh, you're leaving? You just got here two hours ago! Why are you so quiet?"

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Truthfully, I can understand where you're coming from.  You were raised Christian, and that means your culture has a basis in Christianity.  Perhaps one might go so far as to say that Christianity is your tribe.  I was raised Hindu, and what brought me back there from Christianity wasn't belief in one set of doctrines over another, but culture.  I realized I was a fish out of water in Christianity, since it is a Western European religion which is only suitable for people who belong to that sort of culture.  I don't know if that reflects how you feel, per se.  But it is clear from your post that your affinity for Christianity stems not from any respect for Jesus, but for your prior associations with it.

 

Regarding fake friends: in many religions (probably most), belief is not a prerequisite for membership.  Jews, for example, are well known for being very secular.  And Buddhism is unified by a unity of practice rather than a unity of doctrine.  I don't personally "believe" in much of anything.  In fact my family has quite a diversity of belief.  My mom believes that God may not exist, and that even if he does he's evil.  My dad is a hardcore God-devotee who thinks atheists are a bunch of arrogant bastards, but this is mitigated by my brother who thinks the same of people who believe in the supernatural.  And then there's me; I wish I had some belief in my religion, but I don't.  And I'm happy that I can be part of the community anyway.  My wife seems to not really care what I believe so long as I follow all the rules.  So here I am, a disbeliever who is reunited with his religious community after being exiled to the tyranny of Jesus for six years.

 

You didn't mention what brand of Christianity you come from.  If your family or friends were evangelical Christians, then the sort of life I lead would be something that wouldn't work for you.  But if your former religious community is of a more liberal bent, would it not be possible to be honest about your lack of belief, and maintain your association with that community?  This would obviate the problem of your feeling that your friendships aren't based on truth.  I know it's not popular around this forum to commend Christianity to anyone, and I promise I don't do it lightly.  But the hesitation you feel at having abandoned the religion you grew up with is something I can relate to, since it's precisely what I felt when I was a Christian.

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When you leave college or move to a new job or city you have to make new friends. Just saying.

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I recently moved to a new city and have had to start from scratch making new friends, in my 40s.  It has not been easy but with persistence and goodwill, I am slowly making friends.  There's a lot I don't have in common with these people, and I miss my old friends who fit me like a glove, but I am choosing to see the positives and enjoy them.

 

I know what its like to feel tempted back to xianity when things are tough.  It's a scam designed to pull you in for emotional reasons when you are feeling low.  These days the thing I care about most is whether my beliefs are true or not.

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AC: I know exactly how you feel. Indeed, if you were to get into a xtian church that was not fundamentalist or charismatic, but full of ordinary people who have just stuck to the religion they were brought up in without going nuts like so many do, you might just enjoy it. There are such churches. The thing so bad about so many Xtians is that they arrogantly think that they and only they (and others who believe like them) are god's favorites and that they know the truth about god that no one else knows. So you can't have a normal conversation with them. They are always in the mode of a salesperson who are never "real" when they are selling. I'm not against Xtians. I'm against Xtians who try to live their fantasy. Those people, I drop immediately. If you keep your head using reason rather than faith you can et along well with the realistic Xtian. But remember the phony "friend" is worse than no friend at all. And Xtianity is full of phony friends. Rip

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Thanks everybody for the replies.

 

@CeilingCat

 

sad.png That's sad. I can't say my situation is quite that dire. I still maintain Christian friends (although the relationships are dropping off more and more) and I still keep in touch with friends I've made in the various cities I've live before this one (although none of them know I've walked away). I can't say anything would keep me from running into a church in your situation, but I'm happy for whatever gives you strength. I hope things turn around soon. Good luck with your move!

 

@Sheerbliss

 

"You sound kind of cerebral and serious--which is a good thing in many situations--but people can misinterpret that as lack of social interest."

 

I think you nailed it. In terms of inviting others to things, I've never really felt I had things to invite people to (always felt I needed a social life in the first place to do that, but then catch-22). In terms of dancing, I did it a couple times at some parachurch functions when I was a Christian, but I was never very good at it. I haven't done it since I accidentally clubbed a girl in the head.

 

 

 

@Bhim

 

My background is evangelical. Church services and midweek small groups were very Jesus-focused. Jesus rarely came up at any other social events other than grace before a meal (not sure if that is a different case in other parts of the country). Unfortunately, it seems I need to be involved in the services and small groups to be included in the other things.

 

@florduh

 


"When you leave college or move to a new job or city you have to make new friends. Just saying."


I've done that multiple times in my life. Every time, my strategy's been the same:

 

1. Join as many Christian groups and functions as possible.

2. ???

3. Profit Make new friends!

 

Unfortunately, without (1), (3) hasn't been following.

 

@FreeThinkerNZ

 

 

 

There's a lot I don't have in common with these people, and I miss my old friends who fit me like a glove, but I am choosing to see the positives and enjoy them.

 

That's how I felt after moving here from college. I felt I had less in common with the friends I had here than the friends I made in college. I made it work though. It does seem that Christianity needs to be a necessary thing to have in common with most of my friends.

 

@RipVanWinkle

 

As an evangelical, I always looked down on liberal Christianity. I'm not sure if it's rational or not, but I still do. It might be something worth exploring, but I have a feeling it will just end up being something where I have to check my brain at the door and it will still be unfamiliar territory for me.

 

 

 

But remember the phony "friend" is worse than no friend at all.

 

I'm not sure I agree with that.

 

@Human

 

I'll try to answer your questions. My testimony (at least as I wrote it some time ago) is at http://www.ex-christian.net/topic/62218-looking-at-the-world-without-bias/ if you're interested.

 

 

 

How many years has your "whole life" been so far? Did you grow up in Christianity, or did you join as an adult? And did you believe in the lifestyle primarily, or moreso in having a deep relationship with Jesus Christ?

 

If you're asking about my age, I'm in my mid-twenties. I grew up in Christianity. I was baptized as an infant and remember giving my life to Jesus when I was six years old. I believed in the deep relationship with Jesus, but it always seemed to elude me. Eventually I just came up with lamer and lamer definitions of what it meant until I settled on whatever passage of scripture I was reading was what Jesus was telling me. It was out of a lack of a personal relationship that my deconversion occurred.

 

 

 

Have you ever sought or considered counseling?

 

I did counselling back in college when I was feeling depressed (I was still a Christian at the time). I kept meaning to do some after my deconversion, but I keep putting it off. I feel like it might be helpful, but at the same time, I feel uncomfortable with the whole thing.

 

 

 

Have you figured out what you are now?

 

Well I don't believe in God anymore, so I suppose that makes me an atheist. I don't like being labelled by what I don't believe. I don't think figuring out what I do/don't believe is necessary for having a social life. I've never been to a function outside of church where I'm asked what I believe.

 

 

 

then maybe all you need is help learning how to make friends

 

I did buy a book on the subject, but I've been reading it on and off over the last year and haven't made much progress in it. I wish there were hands-on classes for this sort of thing.

 

 

 

And as for the atheist group you described, it sounds like some of them still have unresolved issues. Was it a support group primarily? Then it would be understandable that they would talk a lot about Jesus and their former beliefs.

 

No, it's not a support group. It's meant to be a social group. Most people are not talking about their former beliefs, but more mocking the beliefs of others. I don't see its purpose in such a secular city.

 

 

 

I would recommend the UU Church. You can be socially plugged in but you don't have to believe anything in particular. You can be yourself.

 

I've heard that from a few people. The concept seems strange to me. It's worth a try though. I've avoided it before because I feel like conversations will be all about beliefs and I really don't care about beliefs.

 

 

 

However, if your Christian experience was more than just social, and you had some deeper beliefs and felt some sort of connection with Jesus Christ, then attending any church environment might put you back into the trance.

 

At this point, I think it would take a lot for me to believe again. Although, if someone were to offer me a pill that would make me believe again, at this point, I'd probably take it.

 

 

 

But if your main concern is simply figuring out how to make new friends, and if you have the financial means, you might want to consider hiring a life coach to help you develop the social skills for making friends.

 

Life coaching is something I hadn't heard of before. It might be worth looking into.

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Bottom line, you must do as your needs dictate.

 

My concern would be that, having turned my back on Christian belief, I found it impossible to regain that (I did try) and now find Christian associations in the absence of shared belief annoying at best.

 

It is possible to be very lonely in a crowd.

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Forgive me for not reading entire thread this AM but I say brace yourself if you do this.

When I moved to a new city, my apt was next to a nice couple with young kids who were in seminary.

They were very friendly and open although we made it clear from the start that we were never going back to a church or really even believed as we were deconverting during that time. "Oh no problem"... Bullshit. They were nice for two years having meals etc from time to time until it sunk in that we really weren't ever going to come around religiously. Then they were more cold than strangers and acted like we were contagious to their kids etc. Church people are ALWAYS trying to woo people to god. They can't help it and don't even see it sometimes.

They're brainwashed to do so. Just be careful with yourself and really find the good ones mixed in with the assholes. There are a bunch of unbelievers mixed in who may accept you as you really are.

But I'm not bitter.

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"When you leave college or move to a new job or city you have to make new friends. Just saying."

 

I've done that multiple times in my life. Every time, my strategy's been the same:

 

1. Join as many Christian groups and functions as possible.

2. ???

3. Profit Make new friends!

 

Unfortunately, without (1), (3) hasn't been following.

 

As long as you're willing to play along so you have the illusion of friendship, you will be heartily welcomed by church groups, Amway gatherings, Neo-Nazi rallies and free timeshare dinners because they all have something they want to sell you. Get a clue. Real friends respect you as an equal with a right to your own opinions.

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@Sheerbliss

 

"You sound kind of cerebral and serious--which is a good thing in many situations--but people can misinterpret that as lack of social interest."

 

I think you nailed it. In terms of inviting others to things, I've never really felt I had things to invite people to (always felt I needed a social life in the first place to do that, but then catch-22). In terms of dancing, I did it a couple times at some parachurch functions when I was a Christian, but I was never very good at it. I haven't done it since I accidentally clubbed a girl in the head.

 

There are no coffee shops, bars, theaters, restaurants or events in your city? ;) If people aren't taking the initiative with you, then you need to either take it with them or enjoy your solitude. Besides, what about meeting girls? If you go back to a church, you'll meet a lot of girls your age who are excited to get married--to a Christian, not a poser. You'll have no end of problems with them. Ask around here.

 

Accidents happen in dancing, especially if you've only been dancing a couple of times. I was a serious amateur lindy hopper for 12 years. Getting stepped on and having my hair clip bumped were normal, and I had a few far worse accidents in that time--but even turf toe didn't stop me. Like most other skills, you have to take classes and practice often to be any good at dancing and have fun at it. I think the best dancers in the scene--which included national champions--were nerds by day. If you want to pursue this, find a night club where they give lessons before the band or DJ comes on. You'll save a ton of money over the studios and get a lot more practice if you stick around after class.

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Hang in there!  Having been raised much like you in a conservative Christian setting, liberal Christianity is a hard to embrace.  Our upbringing makes it nearly impossible to enjoy or partake in any other form of Christianity.  I've thought about attending a liberal church but most liberal churches are full of people who haven't read their Bible's much and so embrace God with great freedom and think the Bible speaks of love only.  There would be a whole other level of frustration in attending these meetings I'm afraid.

 

Making good friends takes time and requires that you initiate and invest in other people.  Church is a great place for forming friendships b/c they are constantly providing opportunities for meet ups and everyone attending usually shares similar points of view.  It also leads to a false sense of real community though b/c as soon as these events are no longer being coordinated and put on no one is meeting and relationships fall apart.  It is better to have friendships based on directly seeking contact with each other (not relying on others to gather you together) and natural get togethers based on common interests.  

 

Do you play tennis?  Do you like hikes?  Do you enjoy good food and wine?  Just take the initiative and ask people "hey, want to meet up and play a match of tennis and grab drinks afterwards?"  Anyway, I'm not preaching to you.  I've moved so many times and know how painful it is to start forms scratch and now on top of it I have deconverted which made it 10x harder to make friends.  There are GREAT friends to be made though so don't loose heart and don't cave into going back to church just because they make it easy to congregate with people.  It will leave you feeling empty and frustrated in the end--nothing worse than being in a room full of people and feeling lonely b/c you don't have some of the most fundamental thoughts on life in common.  Best wishes to you!

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AC: I'm not referring to liberal Christianity. I'm referring to churches that don't have radical views. A church where the doctrine is not the perpetual subject of conversation of its members except when in church or Sunday School. A church where the primary function is socialization. If you are looking for a church that is really trying to seriously teach its version of Xtianity, you are not looking for friends, but co-conspirators. So, maybe I misunderstood your purpose. Rip

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Yeah, pretend to be a Christian to rebuild a stable of friends.  That makes perfect sense.

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Think about why you left christendom in the first place. You saw the man behind the curtain somehow, and you can't unsee it. You can't go back to the not-knowing. Do you really wanna go back to the intellectual dishonesty if intellectual reasons were the driving force behind your deconversion? Do you really wanna go back to the cattiness and the cliquishness that make up church congregations if the behavior of other xtians was the catalyst? My guess is you probably don't. 

 

All the friends and acquaintances I thought I made during my sojourn in xtianity are now long gone from my life. Every man jack of them vanished into thin air. Not a single one reached out to me out of the goodness of their hearts or legitimate concern when I left the last church I visited. I saw one of them at the store last year, and they acted like I wasn't even there, looking at me like I didn't even deserve to breathe the same air as they do. This was someone who called me their 'friend!' I learned the hard way that they weren't friends to begin with. It upset me a lot at first, but now I understand that losing them was no loss for me. It was a gain.  

 

On the other hand, church does the dirty work for you in creating some kind of social club or in-group. It gives you a sense of instant camaraderie, fast friendship, and other niceties without you having to go out and find these things for yourself. However, church relationships tend to be very shallow, since there isn't much effort put into them. You rarely see these people beyond the confines of the church, and if that's really the only place you see them, you don't know much about them in the scheme of things. You deserve better. You deserve authentic friendship and camaraderie, and you're not gonna find that in a church. 

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....the place where I get friends just for showing up.

 

Really, does anything else need to be said?

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Guest Furball

 

....the place where I get friends just for showing up.

 

Really, does anything else need to be said?

 

Jesus and his church comes with a ready made built in family. Too bad their all nuts....

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Real friends respect you as an equal with a right to your own opinions.

Re-quoted for truth.

 

Also, it is hard to go to a liberal church if you have experience of other more "conservative" type churches. It can be done, and I did it for awhile, but ultimately nothing came of it.

 

Christians always think they are right and have the only right way. You may get along with such friends for awhile, but there is a basic incompatibility that eventually shows up.

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Thanks everybody for the advice. I can see now that I'm not being logical. I think the truth is that I just miss it. I found myself listening to worship music all day today. I'm not sure if it's nostalgia or "the grass is always greener" effect but I find myself just longing to go back. I'm not sure if it's better to fight my feelings or just to go and hope that a long, boring sermon about how I'm going to Hell will end all desires I have of going back.

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It's normal to miss it. Missing something is a part of moving on, and it's how you deal with those feelings that matters. You know logically that church has nothing new to offer you. The friendships are conditional on the basis of what you do or don't believe, and whether or not you think like they do. You deserve so much better than that. 

 

For what it's worth, there were some people at the last church that I missed terribly in the few months following my departure. A lot of them treated me like shit and disrespected me, but I missed them anyway. I owed it to myself to stay out of there, and I did. 

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"Happiness" isn't an end game. It's not something that you "find" and it isn't something that you get and keep until you mess up and let it slip through your fingers again. Every moment is exactly like this one here and it doesn't end until you die. Happiness isn't something that you either have or don't have. It's being OK with how you live your life and who you are every day, which you can control through your choices. You will make many bad choices even knowing that they are bad, but that's being human and we all deal with it. If you've never heard of David Cain I suggest you check him out www.raptitude.com 

 

As for the social life.... good luck, making friends and even doing things as friends in busy adult lives is hard :( you just gotta be the one to reach out and not expect others to do it!

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I briefly toyed with the idea of joining a church for the social life but gave up the idea after thinking it through. I would have to pretend to be a believer, and that would be way more stress than the social life was worth. Instead I started hanging out at my neighborhood bar, where I met agnostics and accepting Christians who didn't care if I believed or not. Friendships developed from there, and now I'm quite happy.

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