When it comes to religion, I am what you might call a slow learner. I managed to make it all the way through high school, despite an eating disorder I couldn’t pray away, and all the way through college, despite a suicidal depression triggered by the same eating disorder, and almost all the way through grad school before I finally gave up on my religion and god. Child and nun. By contrast, my friend Geoff figured things out in the second grade. One day a nun at his Catholic school tried to pour holy water on the one Black kid in the school to exorcise the devil because he kept getting in fights. But Geoff thought to himself: It’s not Satan, it’s because all the other kids pick on him. Today Geoff is a psychologist working for Seattle Children’s Hospital –which is, ironically, the same place that did in the last shreds of my Evangelical beliefs.
I can’t recall the name of the small person who severed the final strands of my faith—just a vague image of soft brown hair and trusting brown eyes. I was twenty-six, in the last stage of my Ph.D. which required a year-long internship at the University of Washington. In one of my rotations, the one at Children’s Hospital, interns provided mental health consultation for families of patients on the medical wards. He was two, in the first phase of treatment for a spinal cord tumor that would leave him paraplegic even if the nightmare course of chemotherapy were successful. I don’t know how long he survived.
Maybe it was his eyes, or his inability to comprehend why he couldn’t walk anymore or why people who looked kind kept hurting him. Maybe it was the unbearable tenderness of his parents, who simply wanted to take their child home and love him rather than watch him suffer inexplicable months of “treatment”— for a long shot at extending his life. But something inside me broke.
For years I had been patching my faith together– as I like to say– with duct tape and bailing wire. My beliefs had become more and more idiosyncratic as I tried to hold together the lot of moral and rational contradictions that make up born-again, Bible-believing Christianity. Now, finally, after two decades of warping my feelings, and perceptions, and intellect to defend the absolute goodness of the biblical God, I got mad. I said to the god in my head, I’m not making excuses for you anymore. I quit, and just like that, He was gone. All that was left was the frame of tape and wire: empty excuses, rationalizations, and songs of worship that sounded oddly flat.
I tell you these two stories because they illustrate two extremes of leaving faith. On the one hand you have Geoff, whose parents were casual believers and whose skepticism kicked in early and painlessly. On the other hand you have me, who took things to the brink of suicide because, as I thought, if I couldn’t pray away bulimia and depression then what was the point? I was a failure in the eyes of God.
There are many paths into religion and many paths out.
The Damage Done
Most freethinkers were religious at one point in their lives. Whether you need a recovery process or how intensive that recovery process will be depends on what you believed, how deeply you believed it, and how much of your social support depended on fellow believers. ExChristian.net hosts forums that give people a chance to talk about their exodus from faith with support from fellow travelers. As often as not, loneliness is one of the hardest parts of the process. A believer can go anywhere in the world and find a ready-made community of fellow Christians. But a former believer can find himself or herself alone at the dinner table surrounded by family members but harboring a dark secret that would trigger rejection and judgment “if they only knew.”
Ministers who lose their faith often face the worst isolation, which is why Richard Dawkins and other have launched the Clergy Project to support those who are in transition. My friend Rich Lyons is a member of the project. He had to leave his home in Texas and excavate old radio skills that he hadn’t used in over a decade in order to start life over in Seattle. Questioning cost him not only his livelihood, but also his wife, access to his beloved daughter, and his small-town reputation as a decent person. Rich now produces a podcast series called Living After Faith – his way of offering a helping hand to other exiles from Christian fundamentalism.
Getting out of the Church may seem complicated, but it is easy compared to getting the Church out of you. A while back, I wrote an article titled, “Getting God’s Self-appointed Messengers Out of Your Head.” In it I talked about a concept that psychologists call “introjects.” When you are little, your mobility outpaces your good sense. Left to their own devices, many toddlers would play in traffic– without even being told to. Caregivers have to provide constant external supervision. One of the ways that a small child becomes capable of greater autonomy is that the voices of those external supervisors get internalized. The toddler brain develops what we call an introjected parent, an internal model that can say, Don’t follow that ball into the street, even if the real world mother or father isn’t there. We create virtual, introjected parents (and teachers and preachers) so that even if all of those authority figures disappeared we would still know how to function. But at some point having your parents (or teacher or preacher) along in your head is a disadvantage, say when somebody really hot has just undone the top button on your shirt.
I think of recovery from religion like peeling layers off of an onion. Dissenting intellectually from teachings or doctrines you learned as an adult is like peeling off one of the outer layers. But if you keep going, you find scripts that got laid down earlier—attitudes, emotional conditioning, ideas you were taught before you had the capacity to question them. And some of these can be tremendously harmful from a psychological standpoint.
I once was speaking to a group of Hindus who wanted to understand evangelical Christianity because rampant proselytizing was dividing their villages and splitting families down the middle. After the talk, a woman named Mohini came up to me. She said, “Is what you told us really true?—That Christians believe children are born evil?!” I explained again the doctrine of original sin. She was horrified! “When babies are born into Hindu families, we whisper to them: You are perfect. You are a spark of the divine.” Last week, I was working alongside my friend Al, who is a carpenter and used to belong to a Christian commune. “If you were talking to a group of college students about recovery from religion, what would you tell them?” I asked him. “What would you most want them to know?” “Tell them they are ok, just the way they are,” he answered. Getting rid of the sense that you were born deeply, unacceptably flawed—so flawed that you deserve eternal torture–can be a lifetime endeavor.
Triggers for leaving
Because those messages are so deeply imbedded, a radical break with religion often requires some kind of acute trigger like my own experience at Children’s Hospital. Religion has an immune system – promises, threats and behavioral scripts that keep belief from crumbling under pressure from outside information. In Bible-believing Christianity that immune system includes disparagement of rationality: “Thinking themselves wise they became fools.” (Romans 1:22) or “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” (Psalms 14:1) The Bible is full of threats against the faithless – from the story of Noah’s flood to the tortures promised in Revelation. Rules for believers prohibit emotional attachments to outsiders: “Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness and what communion hath light with darkness.” (2 Cor. 6:14).
When a religion’s immune system is working, it can seem like nothing gets through. A motivated believer will fend off any amount of logic or evidence. Backed into a corner he or she will simply insist, “I just know.” At times I picture some of my own family members as surrounded by a polished wall of smooth steel—impervious, with no foot or handhold.
And yet, over time, life creates little windows of opening. Sometimes the trigger is hypocrisies or cruelty by church members. Sometimes it is a life crisis—a divorce, natural disaster, injury or loss of a loved one. Sometimes new social connections open up new ideas. Sometimes the accumulation of contradictory information reaches a tipping point. Bible-believing Christians, those who see the Bible as the perfect word of God, would be horrified to know how often loss of faith is triggered by someone deciding to read the good book and then discovering the long litany of slavery, incest, misogyny, genocide, or scientific absurdities there.
Stages of Recovery
When the walls of faith start crumbling, people often go through a process that I think of as roughly four phases based on the dominant emotions of each stage:
Denial and fear. When religion has provided the structure to your life, doubt can be terrifying—especially if you’ve been taught that doubt is a sign of spiritual weakness or comes straight from the devil. In this phase, many believers redouble their efforts to shore up their faith. They may pray desperately for God to take away the doubts. Increased Bible reading is common—even missionary work. If you can convince others that God is real then surely it must be true. Psychologist Marlene Winell specializes in recovery from religion. Her website offers succinct nuggets of advice. “Get Real”, she says and “Get a Grip”:
Be honest with yourself about whether your religion is working for you. Let go of trying to force it to make sense. Have a look at life and the world AS IT IS, and stop trying to live in a parallel universe. This world might not be perfect but facing reality will help you get your life on track. . . . [and when the anxiety hits] Don’t panic. The fear you feel is part of the indoctrination. All those messages about what will happen to you if you leave the religion are a self-serving part of the religion. If you calm down, you’ll be just fine. Many people have been through this
Uncertainty and Guilt. At some point, doubt gains the upper hand. But that doesn’t mean the transition is over. When those final threads of my own faith broke, I kept my thoughts to myself. I didn’t believe in God anymore, so I told myself, but I didn’t want to drag anyone else to hell with me. – A friend described this phase as “I don’t believe in Hell—does that mean I’m going there?” It would take several years and several therapists after my Children’s Hospital rotation before I risked asking my brother Dan how he managed to hold onto our childhood beliefs. (I found out that his were as long gone as mine.)
For questioning Evangelical Christians, my book, Trusting Doubt, is valuable for in this phase because it digs into core teachings, showing how they can’t possibly be true. Information is powerful in helping to purge those last lingering shreds of doubt and the guilt that goes with them. Learn about yourself, the world around you, and the history of your religion. Former Mormon, Garrett Amini, says his parents called books and articles that were critical of his religion “spiritual pornography.” Since he was reading “pornography” his parents didn’t want him around his younger brother or sister unsupervised. Evangelicals don’t use this term, but the concept is probably familiar to anyone who has ever been a part of a sect that has to constantly fend off reality. So, read widely: Evolutionary biology , analysis of sacred texts, psychology of religion, physics. Listen with open ears. The truth will set you free.
Loss, Grief, and Lostness, Anger. Once there’s no going back, it’s not unusual to feel bereft, spiritually, socially, intellectually and emotionally. The loss is real, even if Jesus is not. Religion offers clarity, identity, purpose, community, a channel for joy, a structure around which to sculpt the week and the calendar year. For some people, like Rich Lyons, the losses are more concrete. But that is a lot to lose— even if your spouse or parents don’t kick you out. When needed, grieving is important. So is anger. Anger gets a bad rap. Christians often are taught that anger is sinful—and well-intentioned people may encourage you to shutter it during the recovery process. It can feel risky, too big or too out of control. But the reality is that each of our emotions has a purpose. Anger is an activating emotion; it gives you the guts to say what is real—to yourself and to others, and to make hard changes. Sometimes we need to express anger so we can learn how to take care of ourselves without it. Learning to express anger in a way that is appropriate and modulated takes practice!
If you get stuck in either grief or anger, that is a time to get help. I mentioned psychologist Marlene Winell before. Her book, Leaving the Fold, has great self-help exercises for fundamentalists in recovery. But sometimes self-help isn’t enough. Winell herself offers long distance phone consultations and Dr. Darrel Ray’s site, RecoveringfromReligion.org, is creating a referral list of mental health professionals who are able to work with clients in recovery.
Emergence, Curiosity, Affirmation. The very first ex-Christian website I ran across, almost ten years ago was called losingmyreligion.com. It still exists, as an archive with the same banner it had then, a picture of a dead fish and an inscription that says: Stay home Sundays, save 10 percent. Just beneath the banner is this poem:
I woke up to an empty room
No more angels watching over me.
No more demons to be held at bay
by the invocation of
an Anglicized version
of a Hellenized version
of a Hebrew name
I woke up to an empty room:
Just a room. Four walls, ceiling, floor.
Just a room. Nothing more.
I woke up to an empty room
and embraced the solid air.
I woke up to an empty room and knew myself
In those wonderful interludes when you find yourself awake, the dominant emotions shift from focusing on who you were to focusing on who and what you want to be. Which values and habits from your religion do you want to keep? What do you want to call yourself? What new discoveries most excite your curiosity? What matters – really matters to you?
As a movement, atheism—freethought—secularism–or whatever you may call it is just becoming strong enough to move beyond a defensive posture and beginning to ask similar questions. Are there secular moral absolutes? Dare we talk about secular spiritual community? How do we build ritual, holidays and music back into our communal lives? Absent religion, how can we together express wonder and joy? How can we create structures for volunteering and giving to the world around us?
Replacing religion is a big challenge, in part because we don’t know exactly what that means. After studying religions and myths around the world, Joseph Campbell had this to say:
People say that what we are all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive…”
That is the quest of a lifetime.
Read more about recovery from religion by this author:
Getting God’s Self Appointed Messengers Out of Your Head
Trusting Doubt: Chapter 1
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org. Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.
Thank you. I really enjoyed this story as it resonates so deeply. ” I’m not making excuses for you anymore.”.. crossed my mind many times in my own de-conversion.
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I really enjoyed this honest telling of a deconversion story. So much of it is familiar.
It took years before I outgrew some of my religious habits. That stuff can become awfully ingrained.
Thanks for scribing your journey out of Egypt. Mine took a similar course however my trek has ended with a little bit of a deeper understanding of biblical history. It was not my design that it took this course, in fact I was “persona non grata” in the organized church and are still very much that way today.
The understanding I was given that I want to share with you also illuminates why there has been over 10 million people who have “exited stage left’ of the evangelical movement as well as many other organized ‘Christian’ groups over the past ten years. And more to come!
The course I began navigating on began in 1993. It took me on a similar one as your’ s.
“Coming out of Egypt” however, looking back over the series of events, mine would have been likened to majoring in abnormal Psychology circa 1900 and than after graduating finding out there was a latest edition. But this later edition was not made known to me until I had been totally isolated from the Christendom universe…. or almost all the way out of Egypt.
Studying and walking out a thesis based life while using an archaic Psych 101 lab manual to understand religion was not a very enjoyable trip. However, looking back on psych and religion it does not matter how many breakthroughs, pharmaceutical miracles or treatments, churches denominations or movements that have come down the pike……! Because in my observation there was and there has always been something “rotten in Denmark” both in the field of Psych and especially in the field of ‘ religion’. In my humble opinion.
Kind of like those sayings about “close but no cigar”and “horse shoes and hand grenades. No matter how much I sought truths from many pulpits from across the field of denominations. The entire field spans the divide from the far sides of the spectrum. Ranging from the one side who deny the Holy Spirit and the other side who misuses the Holy Spirit.(Evangelical to Pentecostal) The answers were almost always the same… close…. but……… not the deep truth. The truth that signals to one’s spirit, mind and body that aha moment…. when you know, what you know, what you know.
It was not until I searched for what was not in the bible (Daniel 12 and Revelation 5&7) that I could begin sensing that I was finally on a trail of truth that might lead me squarely to an aha moment. For me this finally began after moving from the state of California where I was planting churches to the state of Montana in 2007.
This ‘exodus journey’ began to bubble something up in my mind and my spirit as I was visiting a Lakota Indian friend who had been recently chosen to be a future leader. In their culture the elder leaders give the future leaders their head dress and take a picture of them together. This way the future leader when it is time to ascend into leadership will have graphic proof that he is the chosen leader for the nation.
After he shared this story of his selection with me we went to the edge of a cliff to view the land in his nation. He had seen a Shafer that was in the back of my car. It was given to me by a Messianic Jewish friend who dug so deep into his roots that he was seduced out of Christianity into Judaism. But that is another story. My Lakota friend asked me to blow the Shofar as he was curious to hear how it sounded.
After he heard the Shofar blowing he exclaimed to me that although he had never heard this sound, he told me that he knew this sound but, could not tell me where he had ever heard it before. But none the less he knew that he had a memory of hearing this instrument.
This fractal of information of an Indian that already knew the sound of a Shofar would have to be shelved alongside the rest of the thesis outline and outdated abnormal psych materials about religion until I could process it.
So after much seeking and searching for truth as to the behaviors of religious organizations, abnormal psych treatments and why a Lakota man knew the sound of the Shofar I was compelled to seek more truth. It was not until several years later I was led to meet two men who had been studying the ancient texts and had developed a computer program that documented the ministry of Jesus. Except the timeline they had designed by computer did not work using the King James, the Roman, Greek or Hebrew bibles.
They began experimenting with an alphabet called Paleo to see if the time line of the ministry of Jesus would work. This alphabet is almost identical to the Hebrew except that it has a few variations of the Hebrew Symbols. After they placed this alphabet over the timeline and re- translated the bibles that have been used in our nation as well as the others. I felt validated… finally! What fell out is on the link below. And the information you will see beyond any shadow of a doubt will confirm my earlier belief that something was indeed rotten in Denmark.
Not only was it rotten but it explains many more things. Many that you have already written about.
Here is the link.
The link on losingmyreligion.com. to your book is inactive.
Beautiful article. Thank you. Also, odd question: the “Eve and the Snake” image is completely captivating, what is it from?
I don’t know who the artist is or I would credit them. It came across my facebook page.
What about trusting belief? That nagging feeling that we came from a higher being–even in people not raised with religion?
Good question. Of course no one can rule out the existence of some kind of higher power, but there are a number of naturalistic explanations for that feeling. Our brains processes information about other sentient actors using a set of capacities that are largely independent of the information processing systems that deal with physical bodies and the natural world. This and other aspects of our cognitive structures allow us to construct and respond to a variety of virtual beings whether or not they correspond to any external reality. you can google the term hyperactive agency detection” but even more interesting my be a lecture by Andy Thompson “Why We believe in Gods” which is available on youtube.
Well there’s feeling and then there’s DNA that incontrovertibly tells us we came from “lower” beings.
DNA doesn’t tell us our origins. Similarity in the code can suggest the same maker, now couldn’t it? We share 97.5 DNA similarity with….rats. Does that suggest rat ancestors? Close relatives? That’s higher than some studies comparing our DNA to ape DNA.
According to evolution, we are all ultimately ancestors and there is absolutely no evidence for that. And there never will be.
An evolutionary biologist can address your questions on DNA, evolution, including our hominid ancestors. What I find of note is this apparent need of yours for a maker, presumably an anthropomorphic one with high intelligence and the capacity to create lifeforms (out of a chemical soup perhaps?). Would this maker be a naturalistic phenomenon such as extraterrestrials or a supernatural one?
It’s called THE UNIVERSE.
Great Adam Savage quote in this vein here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2012/03/back-from-the-reason-rally/
This article provided me with the 10 most rewarding and helpful minutes I’ve spent since my disarming deconversion a few months ago. The recovery process is indeed daunting, particularly for us who have been under the yoke for 60 years or more. Yes, the paths out are plentiful, but thanks for the map.
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I am in awe of anyone who can somehow shed the yoke after 60 years. Being a lifetime learner to that degree is rare, I think.
Oh, were it true. The yoke prevented a lifetime of learning, unfortunately. My story “Late for Church” at Ex-Christian dot Net fills in the details. But 60-something ain’t so ancient as any 80-something will happily tell you.
I have a very similar experience which has left me feeling empty and soulless and it is not a good feeling, I believe that many of these people we’re very cruel to little kids and just heaped Guilt upon Guilt on them, I will not call them evil, but they did plant the seed and it grows everyday exponentially until one actually looks at oneself and realizes much of your life is not really your fault..call it being brainwashed or brainscrubbed
I loved this post! So much of it resonates with me and reflects my own thoughts. I remember the article you spoke of: “Getting God’s Self-appointed Messengers Out of Your Head.” It was from that that I learned the word “introject,” which put a term to something we all recognize, I think.
The Joseph Campbell quote also struck a chord with me, although I’d suggest that what we’re all seeking is a release from our natural–and necessary–feelings of insecurity; which release, BTW, is pretty much the definition of happiness, IMO. But this whole thing about wanting to live to, basically, be alive hit home. I remember the turmoil within as I was withdrawing from the Christian faith. I understand believers when they genuinely can’t see where an atheist could get his joy, peace, and sense of purpose. I foundered for a while myself. But over time an amazing thing began to happen. Somehow, the joy, the peace, the sense of purpose began bubbling back to the surface again. Then I realized what was going on. Our will to survive isn’t driven only by an aversion to death, it comes mostly from the pure joy of living! I’m guessing it’s genetic, at root. Unless relentlessly beaten back by contrary emotions, that joy and peace will always surface again. (Barring, of course, as in the case of my ex-wife, there is an actual physiological problem where the brain doesn’t produce enough of the right chemicals.) And the purpose? Why, that’s living itself! We live because we really, really like it.
Your journey is fascinating to read. Mine (from a pretty easygoing Presbyterianism) was pretty uneventful. Thanks for sharing.
my story is similar, left the “fundamental bible-believing baptists for the charismatic movement, transitioned to the holiness movement, and fell out through the episcopalians and a final flirtation with catholicism. the final straw for me was bush and the neo-con christians and their lies for war torture, and the “righteous” hatred for muslims, science, global warming, anybody else that is different or acts different than they say you should act…
I saw this posted on Tumblr and came to check it out on WordPress and shared it on Facebook, thanks for this it was really helpful.
I wasn’t really ever a church goer, my parents only sent us to Sunday school when it was convenient to their hangovers. But I joined AA 18 years ago which led me to believe I needed a higher power to recover, I did as was asked of me and stayed sober these last 18 years praying to a God I usually doubted.
This last year I started to just get more and more frustrated with the hypocrisy, intolerance and hatred I saw and came to the conclusion that there wasn’t any God for me to worry about at all. ( http://bookofjamez.com/2012/03/05/crossroads/ ). Not believing hasn’t really affected my AA program at all, I can say a prayer at the end of the meeting without having to believe in a god and I can certainly continue to take the actions that a person has to take to remain sober without the threat of condemnation or rebuke from the old man in the sky.
I think a lot of other people are having more trouble accepting what’s happened to me than I have, I appreciate the words you’ve put together here and will probably come back to check on this post a few more times.
What a great insight into the turmoils of throwing off the yoke of religious belief and gaining a realistic perspective on man’s true place in nature. I was probably more like Geoff, in that I never took the religious ‘bait’ hook, line and sinker, though my older brother did.
I think some of the biggest inroads could be made by dispelling the myths and falsehoods about atheists and enlightening society with true statements about the origins of morals and ethics. I comment frequently on sites that discuss evolution v. Creationism and constantly remind people that morals and ethics existed millions of years before mankind arrived on the scene. Our animal forbears evolved ethical and moral behaviors as an enhancement toward their group survival rates and this has been proven from the likes of Dame Jane Goodall, George Schaller and Frans de Waal, among others. We inherited those traits from our simian ancestors. A book I frequently recommend is Dr. Carl Sagan’s ”Pale Blue Dot”, a truly poetic introduction to the realities of science, evolution AND atheism. Though he may seem confrontational in his speaking engagements, Richard Dawkins confronts religion with impeccable logic, reasoning and rationality in his book, ”The God Delusion” Anyone who has the slightest doubts about their religious beliefs owes themselves a favor by reading that great book.
I frankly find it astounding that religion holds such a grasp on people’s minds in this 21st century. I never swallowed the indoctrination virtually all of us receive from ’those religious folks’ and decry the brainwashing of Sunday schools, churches and even our own parents in most cases. If there was something more akin to ”Science Fridays” on PBS that could direct a child’s natural curiosity about dinosaurs, the stars and life around us into a fuller and deeper understanding of palaeontology, astronomy and biology, this world would be a much better place! I commonly end my comments with:
RELIGION FAILS, SCIENCE PREVAILS!
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One of the things I find baffling is how often those who remain faithful make vitriolic accusations of taking the easy way out as the sole reason why someone else loses their faith. As people of faith they must surely realize how difficult it must be to leave behind things like the lure of immortality, the idea that all your loved ones await you somewhere in the afterlife, the comfort in knowing that a benevolent God is up there watching over you like a father figure and so many other soothing psychological and social comforts that come with faith. I suppose it is just their self defense mechanisms kicking in but it’s a very nasty and negative attack on a person’s character that has no basis in reality. A painful truth is never the easy way out. Quite to the contrary it is the more difficult path to take.
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Great article! I have a slightly different story but it’s also relevant. I left Christianity easily when i was 14, but it was the 60’s and I dove headfirst into the new age/human potential movement. Magical Thinking abounded. I eventually ended up in various pagan and Native groups and found some good stuff there. But I also found the same things I’d found in Christianity. People telling me what Spirit, or the Creator, said to us even tho I heard differently. I had to learn which voices were real and which were false. It was hard when people kept telling me to listen to the words of “Spirit” instead of to my rational mind. I had to leave them all after some rather extreme pronouncements from my Native teacher. I’m still in recovery from all that Magical Thinking and it’s as difficult as leaving a mainstream religion or any other non rational type of reality. It gets deep into your psyche and it’s hard to shake. I spent years dreaming. Now I live in the real world and wow is it ever beautiful!
I just want to find some atheist friends, and an atheist wife. I am very alone in my region of the U.S. Moving isn’t really an option. Years of religious counselors and support groups have left me empty, angry, and alone. There are no solutions, since Christianity seems to have the monopoly on philosophies in this country. I’m a 42 year-old scientist, and I’ve learned to respect very few people. Blame me if you want, but the system is ready to accept homosexuals – but once again – not atheists.
Similar problem here. I live in a little North Texas town where everybody at least pays lip service to the Christian religion. Let’s just say I don’t really advertise that I’m an atheist.
Valerie, I am a recovering Christian. I have yet to figure out which of two sins was the more grievous when I lost my birth family:
1) I came out as transgender
2) In the same letter, I came out as an atheist.
Initially, the reaction was mostly about the one paragraph in my letter that spelled out my no-longer-belief in a god. I expected that; my family has always considered non-believers as targets, more or less.
However, the worst part of the reaction was reserved for later, when I was told over and over again how the bible forbade my “dressing as the other sex”. They were, and continue to be, in denial over this aspect of my life, my truth — that I am not a man, that I am a woman, born with perhaps an unfortunate few features to my body.
I greatly appreciate your writing; I sense that it will help me on my own road to recovery. Thank you.
What a painful loss. I’m sorry you are having to go through such difficulties as part of your journey.