Running afoul of GOD

Sent in by Nick M

I like to occasionally visit this site and read testimonials of people who've drifted away from their faiths, and admire the courage of many of them. Still, one thing strikes me every time I hear it, and that is the fear associated with giving up one's faith. I can understand the stigmas associated with it, affecting your family and friends, but I'm talking about the, if I may be so blunt, illogical fears associated, such as the continued belief one might still 'run afoul' of god. Just so you understand where I'm coming from, let me give you a little backstory on myself.

My childhood was as normal as any suburban family. I went to church every Sunday, never asking questions, just listening attentively, and waiting for the reverend to rescind his pulpit so I could go home and play Super Mario BrosAt the age of eight, my life took what some would call a rather startling turn, though I know for a fact it was the best thing that could have happened to me at such a critical time in my childhood development. It was Christmas morning, I’m not entirely sure of the exact year, and I happened down the hallway, excited as ever to see what gifts Santa had left for me under the tree, only to catch my parents in the final stages of putting together the bicycle I had begged for in my lengthy letter to the North Pole. It would be an understatement to say this came as quite a shock, but my parents gave me the classic explanation of how there really is no Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, or Easter Bunny. Though I wasn’t told this specifically, I naturally assumed god was just another imaginary character my parents told me about so I would be good, or something. Just to re-iterate, I was eight years old and much more concerned about Sonic the Hedgehog on my Genesis than any philosophical questions that might naturally arise when someone loses their faith. That's how I became an atheist.

Over the next few years, I continued to learn about atheism, and developed myself as a somewhat outspoken atheist in my small community. I waited until I was 14 to tell my parents that I was an atheist, and although visibly disappointed at first, they still understood that I was serious, and allowed me to go my own way, as it were. For this, I will forever be grateful. Occasionaly, I would be drawn in to debate the reasons behind my beliefs (or lack therof, rather), but those arguments were trounced pretty quicky, as the average 15 year old xian kid isn't very knowledgeable, especially about their own religion, when it comes to arguments for the existence of god. That leads me to this point in my life.

Going back to my original point, though, I can understand some fears that come along with giving up god, such as the idea that there is no afterlife. I can see how that may be hard to cope with at first, and it's long been my idea that that though is what drives many into the 'safety net' of religion, but the idea itself has always brought me comfort. The assurance that I'm not being judged for every little mistake, and that I can live my life and not have to answer to anyone but myself. I don't know... maybe it's just me, but I would still like some feedback either way. Thank You.

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20 comments:

DG said...

Let's not make the mistake of thinking that "all" here haven given up their 'faith". Some of us have merely changed the path while leaving the faith in tact. Christians are not the only people who believe in G-d.

Bill said...

Yea DG not all of us have given up their faith because some like me never really had it. I sort of believed in some kind of a God, but I was never a "Christian." I was always hard pressed to believe in Heaven and Hell, so when I officially became a non believer I really didn't have much fear.

Great letter and story Nick. Despite the fact that I was never very religious I for some reason prayed like an obsessive compulsive habit especially when times were tough. Filling the void that prayer left behind was hard at first. My wife had a little health scare and it was the first time something like that has come up since I stopped praying. It was wierd because with prayer it's as if you have some sort of control. Anyway it's been well over a year now and I function quite well without praying now.

xrayman

boomSLANG said...

Seriously now, would the creator of the entire universe really care if a little ol' homosapien spelled it's name with all the letters in it?..."GAWD"? lol

Deborah K said...

My fear comes from more than 50 years of indoctrination. I need to be de-sensitized, or de-programmed. There are just thought patterns that need to be changed, so I imagine it will take some time.

Nvrgoingbk said...

I have to admit that the whole lack of an afterlife really disappointed me when I deconverted. It goes so much deeper than a belief in Santa Claus. While I was relieved that there wasn't some divine retribution awaiting me at my death simply for using my brain, I was still longing for my celestial home in the sky or at least the hope of going on in some way.

There are days that I worry about being wrong, but not because there is any real reason to do so. The instilling of fear of Hell goes very deep, and the religious 'authorities' were very clever. A belief in Hell stems far back into early civilization. Most parents instill the fear in their children even if they are not particularly religious. Even moderately religious people talk about it as if it really exists, and even folks who do not necessarily prescribe to one particular faith or another seem to believe there is such a place or at least hope there to be for their enemies and for the evil doers of the world. 'Hell' is a part of our vocabulary, so you can imagine how people who were deeply devout Christians can wrestle with the fear.

Anonymous said...

Many, when commenting, preface their comment/s with "maybe it's just me". Well, of course, it's just you. Although sometime our beliefs are similar, the beliefs themselves are as individual as the people that hold them.

The "fear" that I've had in letting go of God, so to speak, is that God and faith was a crutch that for many years was very effective in giving me hope.

Sans that God and faith there is also an absence of some hope, therefore the fear. I wish that I could or would believe. It was easier then. Furthermore, it worked in helping me cope.

I sometimes wish that I were a simpleton. I would suggest that as a simpleton, I would have less worries.

Stew

freethinker05 said...

DG, I think the reason it takes awhile to get over the fears of knowing,'very likely" there may not be a god is due to the brain you were born with; by that I mean, its harder for some people to except things more than others because of all the imformation they recieved growing up and how long they have accepted this imformation. Bottom line is, it just takes more time for some of us to get over the fear of being wrong about the imformation we have recieved all of our lives. Hell, I don't know what the hell i'm trying to say now damnit! Roger

Anonymous said...

Christians are not the only people who believe in G-d.

Come on now, if it's somehow wrong to write the complete name of G-d in a sentence, then it should be just as wrong to write Chr-stian as well. After all, Chr-st was G-d, was H- not? Je-us Chr-st people, get a grip, will ya?

J-m E-rl

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Atheist Dad said...

I had nightmares of hell for two weeks after I deconverted.

Micah Cowan said...

Nick,

I can understand your incredulity at those of us who were fearful of hellfire for our "betrayal" of our faith. If you were convinced God was imaginary at such a young age, you wouldn't have had time to build twenty years or so of self-brainwashing and emotional-response habits. It is a purely emotional response, like many of our "guilt" responses to acts that, it turns out, are completely innocent. That it has no intellectual basis doesn't mean it's not hard to get over.

Realize, too, that some people, like me, did not begin our foray into atheism with a firm conviction that there is no God, but instead with only a recognition and acknowledgment of our loss of conviction that there is one. For people that still have some lingering doubts that we could be wrong, and there could still be a God who will punish us with hellfire for our rejection, it's that much harder.

For my part, while I wasn't certain that there was no God, I was certain that the Bible couldn't have given a very accurate description of Him, since the God of the Bible was filled with every kind of contradiction in character. I did experience that pang of "what if" with regard to Hell, but for me it wasn't really more difficult to get past than the first time you dive into water.

Joe said...

Thanks for your post, Nick.

Stew, my Russian friends like to quip, "The less you know, the better you sleep." It's pretty plain that blissful ignorance is one of the main things the church offers. In fact, the less you know about some things, the more holy. Go figure.

Leaving xianity for sanity is a significant step, and I'd have to say that, for me, it meant giving up one kind of peace to get another. Not a bad trade when the the church's peace was premised on submission to the rule and doctrine of delusional regurgitators of spiritual bologna.

I like my peace much better now. I still wonder whether I am doing right or wrong in my day to day affairs, but I don't have to consult with silent invisible men to figure it out. I can just reflect: What were my intentions? What were my actions? What were the results? The answers tell me clearly whether I was righter or wronger.

Hellbound Alleee said...

can't even begin to say what a strange superstition it looks like to me to write G-D. To me, it just looks like Goddamn.

I think I read somewhere that early Jews took the tradition from ancient Egypt, that to actually say the name of a god or spirit was to control it somehow. Or to summon it. Not saying the name is somehow respectful, I guess, according to some old laws that correspond to the horrific fear of yeast. (Yeasts are mysterious tiny buggers that grow and reproduce, and you can't really see them, hence they must be demons.)

So that's why swearing is taboo still today.

Weird, eh?

John said...

Spelling God's name "G-d" is no sillier than spelling "Christian" as "xtian." Why are some atheists afraid of the name "Christ" in "Christian?" They aren't going to re-convert simply by spelling the name correctly.

Nightmare said...

John,

Xian is simply easier than Christian, six keystrokes actually. When you're lazy like me, that matters.

Or can't you stand to see your cult name abbreviated?

Nightmare said...

Oh, and btw "God" is not your god's name. God is a type of being, like Man, or Dog, or Cat.

Your god's name, John, is El (which opens up a new can of worms) or YHVH ("Yahweh" in English). Look it up.

boomSLANG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
boomSLANG said...

That's right, spelling God, "G-d", is the same amount of key-strokes. Spelling Christian, "Xian", or even "X-ian" is less key strokes. Think of it as the economy of motion. And yes, we could correctly spell the biblical bull-calf creator of the universe, "El", and that would really save time, yet, most X-ians wouldn't know what the hell we were talking about.

Michelle said...

I suppose it's hard for the OP to imagine what it like to wholeheartedly swallow all the crap I did about the terrible things that happen to people that "turn away" from the faith or commit the unpardonable sin of denying the holy spirit. When you are brainwashed you believe what you are told, and that what it amounts to.

The OP has never experienced the gut wrenching torment of the internal struggle between logic and faith. You should be glad, because it's no picnic. I wish I'd had your experience rather than 14yrs of indoctrination in xianity (yep..it's easier to write it that way!)

In many ways it was as hard as my getting out of a bad marriage. You hear about it's effects on the children, the potential loss of friends/family connections, the stigma of divorce, the shame that you could not make it work - it's somehow your fault, yet the knowledge that the relationship is untenable and is destroying you pushes you to leave.

You may never understand the fear of leaving, but as long as you recognize and respect that it's real for those going through and still dealing with the fallout that's all we ask.

Anonymous said...

Why so much fear? For me it wasn't fear as much as it was a grieving process. I feared the loss of something once precious.
In early childhood I was told again and again that Jesus was the only one who could really understand me. My growing belief in the all knowing Jesus provided a reassuring sense that someone understood the pain and loneliness I felt in that time of my life. This desire to be understood was the crux of my acceptance of Christianity. My early experience of Jesus was as private and as intimate as I knew how to be...Jesus, lover of my soul. Who or what could beat that kind of relationship. After awhile the big daddy in the sky just wasn't intimate enough, and I longed to understand how to be intimate in human relationships. As a young adult, I did not have a clue how to engage with other without feeling huge amounts of self-doubt and insecurity. I covered my fear over by taking care of others and being giving, but had no idea how to authentically be with others without the judgement of Christianity hovering over me. I was afraid. It was this fear that led me to question my belief in Christianity. I began to see how held back I was from my emotions and from true connection with others. Thus I began a slow crawl away from Christianity. There was great loss in letting Jesus and the community of people who supported that relationship go...shame too that it was no longer working the way it was supposed to. When leaving Christianity, it took me several years to grieve the loss of the relationship and feeling known and understoond by Jesus. Now over a decade later, there's beauty and freedom in self-discovery, in taking risks of being known by other, and being present, open, and loving as I experience the lives of others. I much wider and bigger YUMMM

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