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Coming Out To Life-Long Agnostics/atheists


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There are some agnostics/atheists in my life who completely deserve to know I'm Ex-C, due to the close, good relationship I have with them. So, I've recently began trying to tell them what happened.

 

I quickly learned a lesson about people who have never taken any religion very, very seriously, the kind of seriously that I think most people on this site have, including myself. I mean, I get the "What's the big deal, really? I believed in God as a small kid, then I discovered that my life had exactly the same problems no matter how much I prayed, and I was like "ok, blah, I don't need this" and stuck with that" kind of replies. From the good friendship I know that they're genuinely not understanding it, it's not about mocking me or anything like that. They just honestly can't imagine how it's like. 

 

Do you have advice for me? Something that's helped you explain things, such as the "relationship with God" that I think most of us have seeked and some (including myself) thought they also had, to your good friends who have never been devout anything? I know every friendship is unique and all that, but I'm hoping there would be something I could use in a similar way that Citsonga's "Letter to Parents" is a good resource for people coming out to devout Christians. 

 

Thanks! 

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I don't see why it would be a big deal.  This simply means you won't pull religion on them.  It's one less thing to worry about.

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From where I'm at, the idea of believing in Christianity is such a foreign concept to me at this point that I really don't understand it anymore at all. Though I've never really been what you might call a true believer, I did get lost in it for a while before I finally rejected it all.

 

I'd imagine they understand it's a thing, but you might not be able to get them to understand what it means exactly.

Honestly, I wouldn't worry about it. They might be curious as to what changed your mind, but I doubt they would be critical of it, and especially not to the point a devout believer would likely be. They may even be exited to talk about stuff they previously judged to be potentially ill received.

 

Well, that's my take at least.

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It is actually why I came here...

 

If you want people who understand you have to look for them in places where they can be found. Like on this forum. People are people. They don't even understand what it means to have been bullied if they have never been in that position.

 

But with time you find out who has an understanding and who has not. The worst I think are those who think they understand but totally don't. This is why I don't tell people unless the topic comes up or I trust them.

 

My birth mom totally doesn't get it but thinks she does. She is like: Finally you have left that religious stuff behind. But she has no clue what that means and she has no real clue what it meant to be religious to me.

Not even my long term friend whom I know since we are seventeen and has left it all way before me doesn't get it. Just when I visited her in January she went like: I never understood how you could believe in this stuff for so long since you are an intelligent person. And it was impossible to explain it to her.

 

So all I can tell you is: reclaim your life and don't make a big deal of it. Maybe some time there will be a topic and you can give your very unique perspective on it. But don't expect others to get it.

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Thanks very much, all! :) You may be very right, in most cases it's possibly best to not make a big deal out of it, even though going through what lead to my deconversion was devastating for me and my experience of the world pre and post are very different.

 

I'll take a snippet of moanareina's post:

 

My birth mom totally doesn't get it but thinks she does. She is like: Finally you have left that religious stuff behind. But she has no clue what that means and she has no real clue what it meant to be religious to me.

Not even my long term friend whom I know since we are seventeen and has left it all way before me doesn't get it. Just when I visited her in January she went like: I never understood how you could believe in this stuff for so long since you are an intelligent person. And it was impossible to explain it to her.

 

This. There are some who do this "why does that and that person go to church, they're so smart" stuff in front of me. That one I wish I could get a good conversation about, because there's the innuendo that only stupid people should go. I don't think it has much to do with smartness or lack thereof, it's something else.

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Yunea,  I totally get where you are coming from.  That is why this website is so helpful because there are many here who came from conservative, Christian backgrounds where the Bible and God dominated most of our conversations and how we approached life. To deconvert from this is painful.  The only way someone who came from a liberal background or who never was religious to begin would understand would be to liken it to something that involved similar devotion, care and affection.  Maybe they would understand it if you likened it to a life long friendship that you had with someone only to break up because you found out that the friend you had believed loved you and cared for you was using you and cheating on you from the beginning of the relationship.  Everything was a sham and now you are left with rebuilding your life and coming to terms with your past and what your new future will hold.  Deconversion from being a strong believer is realizing that a lot of your life and choices were devoted and tied to something that does not exist, it is a shattering of the hope of seeing all your loved ones in heaven when you die, dealing with the disappointment and condescension of your Christian friends, and coming to terms with the fact that you are alone and that the wonderful, fuzzy, warm and loving stories of you being valuable, loved, and wanted by the God of the universe is just a fantasy.

 

Not everyone will understand and that is okay.  We all have different backgrounds and things we have had to deal with that affect the way we empathize.  If you want true empathy and compassion you need to share the depths of your agony over deconversion with those that were "true believers" like you.  Hang in there!  Hope you find the ExChristian community to be a great place to vent and express your thoughts and feelings about all of this!!

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This site is a good place to be.  You can vent or talk about whatever issue you want or read other peoples' experiences.  For me, I've been able to better understand the craziness of just what it was I believed.

 

This isn't stuff you can normally discuss with someone who was raised atheist or hadn't believed in it since childhood.  I remember the entire conversation I had once about religion with someone who had been raised catholic and sent to catholic school but had immediately rejected religion, at the time of the conversation he was around 20.  The entire conversation was:

 

Me:  "Religion is strange."

Him:  "Yes.  Catholics are crazy.  So is religion."

 

Short, but to the point!  

 

If I want to delve into why it's so crazy (and I do enjoy that), I can enjoy doing that here!!

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Hmm, one of my best friends is atheist with a Buddhist/shamanistic family, so this may be a little different.. What I did with her was just slowly explain myself over time. She saw me going to church events for a long time and I sometimes would invite her to come. I even got her a bible and we had long talks about religion when I was still xtian.

 

After I deconverted we still talked a lot about deep topics and spirituality. I know she didn't understand completely, and even now after a year of being religion free I just recently told her about how xtianity tries to control peoples' sexuality through shame.

 

Maybe you and your friends just need to have talks about it over time. They probably will never completely understand, but at least you can give them some insight into what you went through. There's so many topics in religion that affected us so I think it takes a long time to make other people able to understand it better when they have no experience themselves.

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I also think people don't really get how you leave your whole social network if you leave religion and how difficult that is. I don't know how it was with you but for me it was a time of utter loneliness. It was the one thing that was making this decision so difficult. Most people think it is just a mindset or an opinion you change. Today you think this and tomorrow that. This can be pretty unspectacular if changing your mind isn't changing anything about your social contacts. With going from religious to non religious you also go from having friends because you have the same face to having no friends because you have nothing in common that is strong enough to keep you bonded. At least it was this way for me.

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Perhaps they don't understand why you feel the need to tell them.  If their view is "believe what you like as long as you don't preach at me", then they are liable to apply that attitude to the deconverted as they are to the converted.

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Sincere thanks, all! Alongside the support, you gave me lots of food for thought. :) I'm not really in the place right now to write a long, good reply, but I'll just say that yes, I will definitely keep reading the forums, and writing a bit too - I feel very lucky to have found this site. 

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There are some agnostics/atheists in my life who completely deserve to know I'm Ex-C, due to the close, good relationship I have with them. So, I've recently began trying to tell them what happened.

 

I quickly learned a lesson about people who have never taken any religion very, very seriously, the kind of seriously that I think most people on this site have, including myself. I mean, I get the "What's the big deal, really? I believed in God as a small kid, then I discovered that my life had exactly the same problems no matter how much I prayed, and I was like "ok, blah, I don't need this" and stuck with that" kind of replies. From the good friendship I know that they're genuinely not understanding it, it's not about mocking me or anything like that. They just honestly can't imagine how it's like. 

 

Do you have advice for me? Something that's helped you explain things, such as the "relationship with God" that I think most of us have seeked and some (including myself) thought they also had, to your good friends who have never been devout anything? I know every friendship is unique and all that, but I'm hoping there would be something I could use in a similar way that Citsonga's "Letter to Parents" is a good resource for people coming out to devout Christians. 

 

Thanks! 

 

Greetings. When I saw the thread title, what first crossed my mind is the atheists/agnostics who mock even their fellow atheists/agnostics for having once believed in religion. That attitude can be quite frustrating, but I see here that the ones you're talking about are rather accepting and apparently generally nonjudgmental. The reason I felt the need to write the letter to my parents is because of how judgmental conservative Christians can be of those who leave the faith, so I needed to explain where I was coming from. If there was no expected unfair judgment (albeit honest misunderstanding) from them, then I would not have bothered with writing out such a detailed explanation.

 

Regardless, if you do feel the need to communicate your experience with them, I think Salemite's suggestion of equating it with a relationship with someone who turned out to be using you all along may be the best route. Even that may be difficult for them, though, since it's comparing the way some real humans are with a being whom they see as obviously fictional, but I can't think of a better analogy offhand.

 

There are some who do this "why does that and that person go to church, they're so smart" stuff in front of me. That one I wish I could get a good conversation about, because there's the innuendo that only stupid people should go. I don't think it has much to do with smartness or lack thereof, it's something else.

 

Indeed, there is something else. For many, it's a matter of indoctrination. Those who were indoctrinated very effectively from childhood may be very intelligent otherwise, but they've been so conditioned to believe that they compartmentalize and rationalize their beliefs in ways that they would never do with anything else. The power of brainwashing can be very strong.

 

Whatever you choose to do in communicating with your atheist/agnostic friends, I wish you the best. Good luck!

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I think you'll be fine, yunea. Unlike most everybody on this site, I was never Christian or any other religion at all. It was my parents who deconverted, long before I was born. I know I will never understand first-hand what you've been through, but that's why it's important to listen to other people. I read a lot of the threads on here, but only respond to a few, when I think that I have something I can contribute, but I learn from everything I read. There are always so many things any given person will never be able to experience from the "inside." If you think people aren't paying attention, though, you can always gently bring that up, and remind them to listen. I've learned a lot from everyone on this board. 

 

I know everybody's different, but if you want a test case "never Christian at all" you can PM me and bounce ideas off me. I'd be very glad to discuss it!

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Yunea,

 

I don't think someone who has truly never been in will ever understand. That's true of anything, really. But, like the last poster said, just share your experiences, you can share what it's like for you. Ironically, your friends will grow to have a greater understanding of what Christians deal with on a daily basis, and how hard it is to leave. I've had similar conversations in our Atheists meetup group out here.

 

The responses from your friends will depend on how well they set aside preconceived notions and empathize with others' experiences in general.

 

Even as an ex-C myself, I try and do this when reading or hearing the experiences of other ex-C's because every experience is different, and we humans are quite complicated.

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Thank you so much for the support, all of you. I've been unwell for a while now and can't concentrate on writing much, but I really appreciate all of your words and the thoughts they're sparking. Thank you, thank you, thank you. kiss.gif

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  • 2 weeks later...

I was astonished to discover that even other types of Christians (non Fundamentalist) didn't understand the intense process I was going through.  One person said, "I never felt Like I had to believe everything my church teachers, I just go and take what I want from it."  This was a totally alien concept to me because my sect taught an all-or-nothing approach to religion.  

 

My friends who were not raised religiously didn't get it at all, but they could comprehend that for ME it was a terrible time and that it involved working through intense fears and negativity. They were very supportive, and even though they didn't understand the specific agonies, it was healing to me to be with people who didn't have those issues. It helped me visualize a time when I, too, would be freer in my being.

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In a way, it's enviable for them that they can't truly empathize, but they might learn a little about what it's really like to have been indoctrinated, and to be an ex-christian.

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