justaskingquestions

Emotional Health While Leaving Christianity

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Let me be clear: this is a forum to talk about emotions. This is not a forum to argue logic. 

 

I want to express how emotionally unwell I have been since becoming Atheist. Don't get me wrong, I feel a true sense of relief in no longer following God. But the ways that it has affected me mentally and emotionally have been tremendously bad. My entire worldview has been shifted so I have to reassess EVERY aspect of my life. I've been challenged to find what the basis of my moral code is, now that it's no longer based on the Bible. The world has becoming so depressing, and to be honest I've really lost my sense of hope. The one thing the church gave me that the rest of the world cannot is hope. I feel such a sense of dread and unease now that my purpose for existing - that a divine creator put me here - is gone and I'm left to justify my experience for myself. 

 

My OCD symptoms have worsened and I haven't been this depressed since several years ago. I don't know what to do now that my entire understanding of life and purpose has been ripped away.

 

Can anyone provide relief or understanding? Any quotes or books that have been helpful? If you feel comfortable, I'd really appreciate it, I'm really lost and could benefit from the help.

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7 hours ago, justaskingquestions said:

Let me be clear: this is a forum to talk about emotions. This is not a forum to argue logic. 

 

I want to express how emotionally unwell I have been since becoming Atheist. Don't get me wrong, I feel a true sense of relief in no longer following God. But the ways that it has affected me mentally and emotionally have been tremendously bad. My entire worldview has been shifted so I have to reassess EVERY aspect of my life. I've been challenged to find what the basis of my moral code is, now that it's no longer based on the Bible. The world has becoming so depressing, and to be honest I've really lost my sense of hope. The one thing the church gave me that the rest of the world cannot is hope. I feel such a sense of dread and unease now that my purpose for existing - that a divine creator put me here - is gone and I'm left to justify my experience for myself. 

 

My OCD symptoms have worsened and I haven't been this depressed since several years ago. I don't know what to do now that my entire understanding of life and purpose has been ripped away.

 

Can anyone provide relief or understanding? Any quotes or books that have been helpful? If you feel comfortable, I'd really appreciate it, I'm really lost and could benefit from the help.

First of all, Id like to say all those feelings are rather normal because your entire worldview has changed. It's a challenging process mentally, rebuilding how you see the world and finding purpose. 

Id like to ask what kind of community and social life did you have in the church, was it very supportive? Because it can be relatively easy to confuse where the source of the anxiety/hopelessness lies. What I mean is, if you've lost a supportive community, this can easily result in feelings of hopelessness as well. So you should examine all the contributing factors properly so you can decide how youre going to remedy it. 

Another thing that may help in finding purpose is finding either new or old hobbies and interests that you can focus on. Do you enjoy helping other people? If you do, this can really provide a sense of purpose. It's challenging because your sense of purpose was just imposed on you by Christianity. Now you are responsible yourself for finding something that inspires you. I'd like to say that having a sense of purpose doesn't have to be related to that question that's likely in the back of your mind: why are we here and for what reason. Perhaps it would be easier for you if you were a bit more gentle on yourself: you don't have to have the answers to those questions at all. What you can do is be more selfish than Christianity has trained you to be (afterall, it taught you you're a worrhless sinner), and perhaps rephrase the question this way: what do I enjoy that makes me happy? This can change. A sense of purpose can also change. Your mind has been trained to think of that purpose as written in stone and it isn't, you have the power to rewrite this story. That's a great freedom and opportunity to have. 

I can share with you what has best helped me. I enjoy learning, I'm a really curious person. So I see this life as opportunity to learn and experience as much as I can about life, the universe, and other people. We are incredibly lucky just to be existing in the here and now. Statistically, when you consider the odds, you feel incredibly privileged.  So if you're able to cultivate an attitude of wonder and curiosity and focus on the experiences that provide you with purpose and build relationships that give to you instead of drain you, you're on a good road. 

I'm just wondering what other things are contributing to your hopelessness, because there may be. Community? Relationships? Employment? Health? Finances? Maybe keep a journal and write down when you're feeling particularly hopeless and consider what occurred that day, to find some links. All these are major factors in regards to happiness/hopefulness. 

One thing that helped me a great deal in deconversion was reading. I think a psychologists perspective on deconversion may help you so I'd recommend Leaving the Fold by Marlene Winell. The more you understand how Christianity has trained your thinking and disabled your ability to be autonous, independent and responsible for finding who you are, the faster you can focus on undoing the harm and finding yourself. Therapy with a secular therapist would help too, personally psychotherapy really benefitted me. 

I would say imo the number one challenge with those leaving Christianity is this, rebuilding/reconfiguring your worldview. Give yourself time. Don't be harsh on yourself. It's ok to have questions in this life with no clear answers. I think when you start to explore your interests and goals and finding what excites you, you'll start finding what gives you purpose. 

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4 hours ago, justaskingquestions said:

Let me be clear: this is a forum to talk about emotions. This is not a forum to argue logic. 

 

If you are OCD, then you likely do need to express your emotions.  Find a way to do it that fits you.  Writing letters to all the people and situations in life that angered and saddened me were very helpful.  And then reading the letters out loud can be very helpful.  To yourself, or even better, to some understanding person.  Especially if you are suicidal, go to a mental health professional.  If you are OCD you may need medication.  And give it time.  It took me several months to  vent all the anger and sadness, and stop letting the past direct the here and now, and the future.

 

But at some point, bringing in your logic will be required to get your feet under yourself.  They are already there, and realizing you can walk by yourself will come.  Pardon me for being logical, but you are already doing so.  The concepts you bought into earlier are fantasies.  YOU were in charge of yourself the whole time.  YOU made the decision to follow Jesus.  YOU can make the decision to examine his, and other morality to see if it makes sense to you.

 

BEST WISHES!

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Recalibrating your whole world view is an extremely difficult process. I know what you mean and I assure you it doesn't always stay that way. There are practices that are useful for maintaining a mental/emotional balance without retorting to religion. Meditation or some kind of yoga practice can be a good way to do this - also exercise in general. Some people develop a spiritual worldview that is independent of institutionalized religion - but that is a personal choice and not necessary for everyone. Oh, and in my life doing art has been integral in restoring emotional balance and making sense of a senseless world.

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19 hours ago, justaskingquestions said:

I've been challenged to find what the basis of my moral code is

 

You have identified exactly  what you need to do to rid yourself of the angst anxiety you are feeling.  You need to know and understand your personal moral code.  You do this by spending whatever time it takes to write down in words what your personal moral code is.  This code becomes "your bible".  You will find it easy, and very satisfying, to live by your own personal morality.

 

Yes, I did this exercise.  I got my moral code down to ten words.  They inform all of my behavior and actions:  "I care about facts, empathy, and treating all people fairly".

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On 10/8/2018 at 12:20 PM, justaskingquestions said:

Let me be clear: this is a forum to talk about emotions. This is not a forum to argue logic. 

 

I want to express how emotionally unwell I have been since becoming Atheist. Don't get me wrong, I feel a true sense of relief in no longer following God. But the ways that it has affected me mentally and emotionally have been tremendously bad. My entire worldview has been shifted so I have to reassess EVERY aspect of my life. I've been challenged to find what the basis of my moral code is, now that it's no longer based on the Bible. The world has becoming so depressing, and to be honest I've really lost my sense of hope. The one thing the church gave me that the rest of the world cannot is hope. I feel such a sense of dread and unease now that my purpose for existing - that a divine creator put me here - is gone and I'm left to justify my experience for myself. 

 

My OCD symptoms have worsened and I haven't been this depressed since several years ago. I don't know what to do now that my entire understanding of life and purpose has been ripped away.

 

Can anyone provide relief or understanding? Any quotes or books that have been helpful? If you feel comfortable, I'd really appreciate it, I'm really lost and could benefit from the help.

 

I've had a lot to say about spiritual minded atheism over the years. For some, that goes straight over their heads and they admit it. Some folks weren't even spiritual minded while they were christians, they were just sort of along for the ride and going through the rituals and have admitted the same. So when leaving and becoming atheist, there was no feeling of losing something they were never wired to have in the first place. That's ok, that's one type of theist or atheist, a non-spiritual minded variety. 

 

But some people are just naturally inclined towards the mysteries of life and existence (mystical) and a spiritual attitude towards the earth and cosmos. It's just how the cards have fallen, so to speak. It's not worth getting into which variety is right and which is wrong because each are right according to their own personal perspectives. And you, for instance, sound like you are among the spiritual minded atheist camp. That includes the pantheism's. We have discussions in the ex christian spirituality section highlighting these things: 

 

Instead of taking this to rants, maybe you could come and explore this further in the spiritual sections with other ex christians who feel that they are non-theistic, but at the same time are not the run of the mill militant or hard nosed atheists that generally take up the spot light of the term, "atheism." We can talk about this further and maybe come to understand why it's ok for them to be them and you to be you, without having to back slide into theistic belief that you know good and well isn't correct and true.

 

A moral basis within the context of non-belief. Meaning purpose within the context of non-belief. 

 

We can discuss here it too, it makes no difference. 

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On 10/8/2018 at 9:20 AM, justaskingquestions said:

Let me be clear: this is a forum to talk about emotions. This is not a forum to argue logic. 

 

I want to express how emotionally unwell I have been since becoming Atheist. Don't get me wrong, I feel a true sense of relief in no longer following God. But the ways that it has affected me mentally and emotionally have been tremendously bad. My entire worldview has been shifted so I have to reassess EVERY aspect of my life. I've been challenged to find what the basis of my moral code is, now that it's no longer based on the Bible. The world has becoming so depressing, and to be honest I've really lost my sense of hope. The one thing the church gave me that the rest of the world cannot is hope. I feel such a sense of dread and unease now that my purpose for existing - that a divine creator put me here - is gone and I'm left to justify my experience for myself. 

 

My OCD symptoms have worsened and I haven't been this depressed since several years ago. I don't know what to do now that my entire understanding of life and purpose has been ripped away.

 

Can anyone provide relief or understanding? Any quotes or books that have been helpful? If you feel comfortable, I'd really appreciate it, I'm really lost and could benefit from the help.

 

Maybe you could decide to believe that a higher power has a purpose for you. Not Jesus, maybe your subconscious, maybe the Universe, maybe some non-descript God (who also has no rules for your life).

 

Maybe decide that your moral code is what your parents and society have taught you and is basically no different than the one you lived by as a Christian; minus some of the stupid sins that harm nobody.

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19 hours ago, midniterider said:

 

Maybe you could decide to believe that a higher power has a purpose for you. Not Jesus, maybe your subconscious, maybe the Universe, maybe some non-descript God (who also has no rules for your life).

 

Maybe decide that your moral code is what your parents and society have taught you and is basically no different than the one you lived by as a Christian; minus some of the stupid sins that harm nobody.

 

I think it's healthiest when we determine our own purpose. Instead of believing someone else sent you (general third person you) on a mission, IMO it's much healthier to believe YOU sent you on a mission and that as a free soul you can change your mind if you need to while "in it" (living life).

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Source of moral code:

 

My fundy husband teaches our kids not to lie, cheat etc. because god knows the truth and it is sinful so there will be consequences...

 

I teach my kids not to lie, cheat etc. because they wouldn’t like it if somebody did that to them.

 

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Sound familiar? But without the threats and giant surveilance camera in the sky.

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You're not alone. The emotions that you're experiencing, as undesirable as they are, are just the result of being human, and realizing that life is full of uncertainty. It's indeed scary to have to face uncertainty every day. It's what makes you wish you were a kid again. Let's face it. The so-called "hope" that we had as believers was just wishful thinking based on things that could not be confirmed by evidence. Now that we've abandoned the religious fantasy world, we're left to deal with the real world of uncertainty in our own power. We're left to answer the most important questions for ourselves instead of following someone else's script just to have a sense of belonging. Of course it makes you feel alone and even questioning whether you're a good person. That's the psychological harm indoctrination has done. It's systematically disempowered us and stripped us of our humanity and self-esteem. 

     It's time for us to learn how to nurture ourselves in our "existential crisis" - our "dark night of the soul". Understand that there is nothing wrong with you. 

 

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Regarding a moral standard, Anne Gaylor said to ask about an action, "is it reasonable? Is it kind?" I don't think she originated that thought, but Google is failing me as to the original source right now.

 

The point is, though, that humans, being social animals, have the ability to reason out a moral standard. The Bible that we once thought came from a god is filled with moral codes that were developed by the humans of the times they were written, but we know better now in so many cases. People who believe in continuing revelation will argue that their god never wanted people to own each other, but it took him until the 1800s to get that through to us. What that really shows us is that morals are ever changing, usually progressing, but that there's no divine standard. Some do argue that the moral standard is in a sense objective, but I'm not a philosopher and don't really understand the arguments. We don't have to have divine authority for our morals... we can figure that out on our own and with the help of our society. I am a more moral person now that I don't feel like the Bible is the standard. I'm kinder and try harder to help people, and much less likely to blame them for their circumstances. Christianity gave me too many wrong answers, and now that I know it's wrong, I know better how to be a good person... I actually know what "good" means!

 

As far as purpose, "fear God and keep his commandments" seems awfully shallow to me, yet that's what Ecclesiastes says is our entire purpose! What kind of purpose is that? As others have suggested, we make our own purpose. Even Christians make their own purpose... they just try to make it fall under that "keep his commandments" umbrella. Just as with morality (and being a better person now that before) I also have a clearer sense of purpose. My purpose is to make my own life and the lives of those around me as pleasant I can, as far as I am able. That doesn't mean "unbridled consumption," it means taking the future into account (planning for retirement... I'm 58 years old and have to think about my not-so-distant future!), enjoying "now" as much as possible, and spreading joy in what little ways I can. At its smallest, I tip wait-staff pretty well. I try to make my grandchildren laugh. I try to make my wife laugh. (And she suffers from clinical depression so it isn't always easy and I have to deal with a lot of frustration, but I know it's harder for her.)

 

But boiling it down, we don't need a purpose handed to us by a god or a king or a parent in order to have one. The truth is that we contribute to society in our jobs and in the other things we do every day. That's purpose. We have purpose in life by virtue of the fact that we were born into society.

 

When I realized that there were probably no such things as gods, and that Yahweh certainly was not real, I was able to feel free from a tyrant that was never there in the first place. I was free from society's belief in this non-existent being (though somewhat still constrained due to societal pressures). And this freedom allowed me to see what was truly moral, and to see what a wonderful thing it is to be alive and to be productive in society. I even like my job better now, because I can see the results and how important it is to be a small cog in this big machine. (Without all of the cogs, nothing works!) It's so much deeper and more meaningful that the Christian version!

 

I hope this encourages you!

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