Why I Left the Faith: the aftermath

Part 6     (Part 1 here)  (Part 7 here)

I want to start this part with a disclaimer. Religious belief is upheld in my country as moral and necessary and it’s a stigma that non-believers are constantly trying to overturn. Because of this, I want to emphasize that religion is not necessary or good for me. In fact, I am much happier and better off without it. All the same, losing my religion was deeply painful and I am still in the process of grieving it in some ways. I will discuss all of the wonderful things about being free of faith soon. But for now, I want to confess this truth: losing my faith hurt. And that’s what this part is about.

You see, I didn’t want to stop believing. I desperately wanted god to be real. He had been a part of my life as long as I could remember. He had been my friend, companion, comforter, and someone to rely on. My life, experiences, and personality had all been shaped by my former beliefs (I’m still not sure if in good or bad ways). I didn’t want to lose that. I wanted to still believe he was there. I didn’t want to give up.

Unfortunately, I had no choice in the matter. I was rapidly learning that we don’t actually choose what we believe. Sure, we can choose to go to church and surround ourselves with people who agree with us and repeat our doctrines back to us. We can choose to read scriptures and look for meaning in them. We can choose to pray or meditate. But we can’t really make ourselves believe something. I can’t make myself believe that the sky is green. I can’t make myself believe that the earth is flat. I can’t make myself believe that the president is a lizardman. And I couldn’t make myself believe that god was real. No amount of saying “I believe it” could trick my brain into accepting something that it knew there was no evidence for.

I was heart-broken. It was like a close friend had utterly betrayed and abandoned me.

And that made me angry. Yes, just like so many Evangelical Christians’ wet-dream, I was a non-believer who was angry as hell at god. It’s a little odd being angry with someone that doesn’t exist. But I was. I was pissed that he didn’t exist. More specifically, I was pissed that I had made him a part of my life for so long. I had spent so much time and effor serving, reverencing, and prostrating myself to this god, sacrificing my safety, wants, needs, and health to honor him, following his “leading” and performing his “requests” only to find out he wasn’t even there. It was equal parts heart-breaking and humiliating.

Christians trying to re-convert me just made it worse. I was alternately treated like a petulant child or a criminal. As far as they were concerned, I could not possibly have lost my faith due to honest seeking, valid experiences, and years of consideration and examination. No, either I was too stupid to see The Truth (and thus needed to have some more scripture and 1st-grade apologetics beaten into my head) or I was rejecting god out of some sort of malicious intent. Many of them were angry with me for not believing what they believed. My very existence was a threat to them; it was unfathomable that I could have reasonably and rationally come to a point of unbelief. They would stamp their feet and demand that I needed to read more scripture, try this church, talk to this person, read this book, pray more, seek more, and jump through more hoops before I was “allowed” to not believe. I had just finally broken free of their shame-based religion, so it was miserable and infuriating to have more blame heaped on me for it. As a result, I withdrew from Christians and anything church-related as much as possible.

Even so, for a while, I kept hoping god would turn back up. I picked up various different religious scriptures and read through them curious if anything would change my mind. It was fascinating, but ultimately futile. The qur’an was just as trite as the bible, which was just as trite as the ancient Hebrew and Gnostic myths and scriptures I read. Indeed, expanding my religious horizons just reaffirmed my lack of belief as I realized one religion’s Truth was no truthier than anyone else’s Truth. I sometimes prayed absently, usually starting with “well, I don’t think you’re really there, but…” It was partly habit, and partly wishful thinking. As expected, nothing happened. Little by little, I grew tired of yelling into an empty room. If god wasn’t interested in answering or wasn’t there, maybe it was time to stop.

Let me say something to any Evangelical Christians out there: do not dare tell me that I “walked away from god” or “hardened my heart against him” or any other such bullshit. Don’t you dare tell me that god is still trying to reach me and I just won’t listen. Don’t you dare pretend that I’m responsible for the break-down in the “god relationship”. I didn’t turn my back on god; I chased him to hell and back again. I struggled to hold onto him for years. I only let go at the point where it was physically impossible for me to believe any longer. That might be uncomfortable for you. You might hope that you will have some trite and simple answer for me, like “just pray more” or “just ask god to show himself to you” or “just read these verses” or (most annoying of all) “just believe.” Trust me, I tried all of that. I prayed, I begged, I read, and I wanted so badly to believe. But I can’t. If god is out there and he wants me to believe in him, he should either give me some evidence of his existence, or he should not have given me a brain that requires evidence for belief. If he’s out there, he only has himself to blame for losing me.

Alright, that’s enough gloom. Next time I want to talk about what I love about being faith-free.

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9 responses

  1. I would never presume to attempt to get you to believe again. I remain a Christian, but, as i said, I think my brain was imprinted very early on. Just as you can’t believe, I can’t disbelieve. But I do know that feeling of yelling into an empty room. While my father was dying, I was convinced that I had no voice, not even with my god. It’s so painful. You are where you need to be. I am glad to hear your voice. Being voiceless is the most terrible thing someone can endure.

  2. […] home that why I did leave the faith: because I found so little evidence to support it that I was physically incapable of believing […]

  3. Your pain is very real. The loss of faith is a painful thing. I felt that when I lost faith in church, but like sheila0405 I can’t let go of my belief in God. I see Him in nature, in people, in life, none of which I can conceive of as being a result of some accident/s of science.

    1. The pain of losing faith isn’t something that is addressed much in atheist communities I feel.

      1. I ended up leaving religion this year, on New Year’s Day. I just suddenly realized that Christianity doesn’t work, and since I never believed in any other gods, I realized that I no longer believe in any god at all. I’ve only shared this with a few people. So far I have been researching all of the science and other atheist sites which help me “catch up” on what I’ve missed over my lifetime. The atheists I’ve met online have been very supportive, and have linked me to good sources. I had to step away from much of my family, but my husband and son don’t mind. I haven’t told my daughter or son-in-law because we have so much else to talk about aside from religion. They are devout Catholics.

      2. You have all of my support as well. I don’t really find it appropriate to say “congratulations” because I don’t feel that having faith or not having faith is an objectively superior accomplishment. However, I will say that I think you’re brave to come out and say it, even just to a few. If you’re interested in resources, I love Steve Shives “an atheist reads” series on youtube. I find him to be a very non-judgmental atheist discussing apologetics that are commonly used to defend Christianity. I like his style and tone because he works hard not to denigrate people of faith (except when they are saying something spectacularly dishonest) while a lot of other atheists online I’ve found to be a little toxic or at least a bit harsh when you’re freshly deconverted. I also love DonExodus2’s discussions of evolution, if you’re interested in that. I don’t know if that is something you feel you need catching up on or not, but at the very least, he’s extremely knowledgable (and actually a Christian for parts of it) and I found his videos very interesting.

      3. Yes, I don’t see a “congratulations” response exactly appropriate, either. I’ve had some atheists say “welcome”, as in “welcome to our world” kind of thing. Nor did I “decide” to deconvert–it just happened. Losing belief is probably not a “choice” per se for anyone who does so. After time, the evidence becomes weighted more against one’s religion than for it. I think people just follow the facts where they lead. I’ve heard other atheists refer to Steve Shives, so I will chick out his videos. Right now I’m in the middle of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. I realize just how much information was kept from me while growing up, and then throughout my life, by my religious leaders. I hope this finds you well.

      4. It does find me well, thank you! And yes, I agree, beliefs are not really a choice. One can choose to attempt to shore up one’s beliefs or actively seek out reasons to believe something. But one cannot really CHOOSE to believe something. I can’t choose to believe that the sky is green when my senses tell me it is blue. I could seek out information and theories to try to convince me, but in the end, I can’t choose what I believe anymore than I can choose what I feel or who I love.

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