No sense of loss, only a feeling of relief

By Bob Patterson

While at our community of reason bible study (Sunday), I became aware that many ex-Christians, having become atheists, felt a loss in the process. Some even said they almost wanted to return to their previous beliefs for the comfort it provided. I thought this very interesting and different from my experience with religion.

First, let me say my parents agreed to have NO religious influence over me, as my mother had been a Catholic and my dad's family, although claiming to be Christian, didn't regularly attended church. So how did I get involved? Simple, It was the neighbors who took me to church with their son, who was my age. I remember liking the singing and the people, but the Pentecostal hell, fire and damnation didn't make much sense at all. I was only six or seven at that time.

I attended this church until I became a boy scout and switched to the Methodist church. There was a lot less hell, fire and damnation in Methodism than Pentecostalism, I noticed. I tried to be a 'good' Christian, earning both my Eagle Scout and God and Country awards.

By now, I was sixteen years old and discovering the sciences. It quickly became blatantly obvious that religion and science were incompatible. I then found my new friend Steve was an atheist, as were his educated parents.

It was all over. That was IT! No more would I demean myself by praying to or pretending an imaginary god who never responded.

The feeling was one of relief, not the feeling of having lost a friend. I was OUT of a mental bondage that was never completely comfortable anyway!

That was 57 years ago and I have never once regretted my escaping the mental confinement of religious belief. I realized I never had an imaginary "friend," just an adult imposed constraint.

Today I recognize that religion is another form of child abuse, and I do whatever I can to help expose this. My feeling about religion today is much the same as "buyers remorse," at having been duped. This may sound a bit bitter -- I'm not, this is how it happened.

I hope this can help another person struggling to break the bonds of religious confinement.

Note: My friend Steve is still my friend and has his doctorate in nuclear physics. My son Steve was named for him.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

The hardest thing about being an atheist is the realization that you will never see your departed loved ones again. However, wanting something badly doesn't make it true, and this is what separates freethinkers from believers. This is the only sense of loss I have; I don't miss "Jesus" or "God" any more than I do Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.

Faith is merely believing in something just because you want to believe in it.

Insanezenmistress said...

People like to color with black and white. I am a shade of grey. It is not that i miss something, or that i dont feel a mental freedom having deconverted. It is that EVEN IF i wanted to keep my imaganary friend, and some mystical philosophy I should still find no company of belivers in chrisitanity.

SO really since i only knew my *version* of their *imaginary firend* i havent ever lost what they are missing.

I know thats confusing. But it seems to me there are a few differeent definitions can fit into the (Jesus) word. First there is the dogma which the people here rightly call ridiculus.

Then there is that part of the human mind that one may or may not personify. Such as one's Reason, or the act of thinking within one'self.

If i imagine that the vocie of my thoughts carries for its intention the goodness we would like to associate with christ, then i am merely being a Human with a crutch what happens to call his crutch Jesus.

But if i insist that my *version* of Jesus is the *true* and only right version then i have slipped from a quiet thought process into a Religion.

Well i guess i need to devlop this thought and use better words. It just doesnt seem that the average beliver is even speaking of the *Jesus* in the book when he talks about what it is he misses. Or his *personal relationship*

What he misses is useing the thougth form Jesus to reason with himself. And the hopeless confusion occurs when he finds that the good stuff his jesus says isnt what the CHURCH belives anyway.

SO he gives up the whole fantasy of jesus. He thinks for himself without fetters, that induces mental freedom and ability to reason with oneself knowing it is himself.

(((hope that makes some attempt at sence, but i wager not, i have alot to learn with this logical deduction/debate shit))

Jessy.

eris.discordia said...

I too, felt a great sense of relief! However, I am not an atheist. I think there is something greater than myself, perhaps it is pure energy, mother/father of the cosmos. However, facing the unknown is a scary part of the process of growing up and waking up! I think my study of Alchemy and ancient belief systems has helped me to deal with a lot of this. Also, the older you get, the less afraid you are of death. For me death is just another step in the process. From my vantage point, I cannot see the whole process, but I strongly sense that there is a process and that we have some sort of divine spark in us. After all, we are made of the same materials as the stars!

I prefer to think that when I die my body will decay as part of the process but that divine spark will be liberated once again!

Hells Bells said...

It's taken me a while to realise what I miss, or what was really taken away from me.

Church breeds a sense of belonging while also requiring a level of conformity. My need to belong was greater than my need not to conform. When this conflict (because that's what it was) started to cause severe depression, my need not to conform started to exceed my need to belong. Because I was no longer able to conform, I became a "persona non gratis", excluded from a group I felt I belonged to. It rapidly became clear that the group was only interested in itself, not in maintaining any friendships with people who, for whatever reason, were now outside the group.

Now, with a lot of the mental health issues resolved, while being able not to conform, I do miss a group that I can belong to. This is what church markets itself as - a group that you can have instant friends in - except if you don't conform.

It's also the reason that keeps my wife in the church - she's too frightened not to belong, and she has always "belonged", from before her birth. The fact that she no longer really believes what the church teaches comes second to her need to belong, as do I.

John of Indiana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John of Indiana said...

I really don't have a sense of "loss", because I didn't lose anything besides an abusive, petty, vindictive, spiteful "Sky Daddy", and I already had all that and more in the guy who sired me here on Earth, a bunch of hypocritical bullshit, and a "Hive Mentality" (We Are BORG.).
I didn't feel any less like an Outcast or alone then than I do now.
Ignore the previous strings of question marks, I was having problems posting.

Nina said...

I do not miss the whispers, the stares, the rightiousness, the lies, the emotional cripples.... did I say the rightiousness?
I might miss the moments of silence during a religious ceremony, but only because I could meditate right there in church. The people, priests, nuns, congregation, too wrong to even be nice anymore.
Nina

boomSLANG said...

I have to agree with the first poster, Chuckyjesus, in that the most difficult adjustment for me in deconverting from a worldview of supernaturalism, to one of naturalism, is the realization that I will not see friends and family members ever again. On the other hand, death, itself..i.e..the non-existence of "the self", no longer leaves me concerned in the least, because it will simply not effect me, much in the same way that nothing effected me prior to my existence.

So, I suppose I am relieved of the guilt, and the anxiety of fretting over what will become of "me", as well as what became/will become of my friends and family members. In that sense, my new-found philosophy is "bitter/sweet".

Another poster brought up the issue of the possibility of the existence of something "greater than myself". Well, you'd first have to define "greater". What?..more important? Define "important". More complex?...relevance? In other words, unless this "greater" some-thing can relate to being human, and unless I can relate to be "greater" than human, it is of no consequence to me, nor does it effect my Atheism whether such a "thing" exists, or not. In other words, I can logically remain an Atheist, and simply be agnostic on the issue of something "greater than myself".

sconnor said...

Boomslang said, I have to agree with the first poster, Chuckyjesus, in that the most difficult adjustment for me in deconverting from a worldview of supernaturalism, to one of naturalism, is the realization that I will not see friends and family members ever again.

For me it is not a difficult adjustment that I will never see my ten year old son, but hideous torment. The sense of loss is extremely overwhelming and there is nothing I can do to get comfort. The sense of Connor being completely obliterated is excruciating and I get to "live" with this for the rest of my life. "Living" being used loosely; I lost my will to live and now, simply exist, eternally lost. For me I gain no comfort from atheism, agnosticism, religion or spirituality and for the last year and a half I have obsessively, searched, but to no avail. I am an island. What am I to do?

eris.discordia, I'm curious how do you know that your divine spark will be liberated and you will continue on?

--S.

boomSLANG said...

Sconner said: For me it is not a difficult adjustment that I will never see my ten year old son, but hideous torment. The sense of loss is extremely overwhelming and there is nothing I can do to get comfort. The sense of Connor being completely obliterated is excruciating and I get to "live" with this for the rest of my life. "Living" being used loosely; I lost my will to live and now, simply exist, eternally lost. For me I gain no comfort from atheism, agnosticism, religion or spirituality and for the last year and a half I have obsessively, searched, but to no avail. I am an island. What am I to do?

Unfortunately, I don't have an answer, but especially, nor will I attempt to "hypothesize" on the matter, because I've not been in your shoes, personally. While I'm sorry for your loss, I know that that is like trying to fill an ocean with an eye-dropper.

webmdave said...

Sconner,

You may already know this, but you probably need to find a support group of other parents that are walking in your shoes. As you probably well know, you aren't the only grieving parent out there. Some of them have found a way to deal with it. Perhaps knowing those parents would help you.

With deepest respect, Dave.

Dave8 said...

Sconner: "eris.discordia, I'm curious how do you know that your divine spark will be liberated and you will continue on?"

Just giving my two cents. Our "potential" is liberated; how one understands potential is a long topic.

Each human, has the ability to develop certain talents, gifts, etc., based on genetic potential, etc... yet, most people do not develop their potential for the most part - we admire those who do.

Perhaps, it's the "lack" of that, which prevents us from becoming that "liberates" our potential - however, one can envision such a concept.

I can say I feel a sense of loss from religion... I lost; being intellectually controlled, deceived, manipulated, etc. I lost nothing good, because all that was good, I took with me.

Dave8 said...

Sconner, I agree with the insight of the others in terms of you seeking a support group of common interest.

When I lost... under different circumstances, I understood the surrounding circumstances in detail, but... once "reasoning" was well-established, I momentarily felt a sense of “guilt”, even though I knew it was an irrational emotion under the circumstances.

Guilt is not the same as grief; and meeting with others allowed me to visually experience and validate the difference between the two.

I didn’t grieve because of guilt; I grieved because I lost a presence in my life that I cherished. I mentally controlled my grieving process, through patient reflection and discussion with others.

When a person allows guilt to drive grief, grief will continue endlessly, until the source of guilt has been reconciled. Meeting with others who have had a similar experience as you, may provide you with direct, honest and caring feedback about the source of any guilt you may harbor, so that self-reconciliation can occur.

Best wishes.

sconnor said...

The thing is, I have gone to groups. The first group I went to was a grief group, hosted by a hospital. I slowly, realized this was not the group for me, because it was people suffering from grief due to varying losses. I couldn't empathize with someone who just lost their ninety year old mother. The group I do go to is Compassionate Friends and they only deal with parents who have lost a child. I still gain no comfort, because at the end of the day my son isn't going to come through the front door, asking me to play catch, with him.

And it's true some have found a way to deal with it. Except that's not the right expression, because they still are suffering -- they were just able to get on with their life, to a certain extent or they are set on auto pilot, while others are just as lost, as I am. I just don't know.

Everyone deals with their grief in unique ways. There definitely is not a magic word that fixes this. Even the people who have said they found peace, can't say how they obtained it. Most of them are 10, 15, 20 years removed from the death of their child and even though they found some semblance of peace, they are the first to tell you, they still suffer and are still fucked up.

I also have this feeling, being in the group, that we are all just wading, in the middle of the ocean, after our boat sank, completely helpless to each other. It's as if we are throwing each other a line but none of us are on shore. It's a miserable place to be. We -- in the group -- can share in the pain. We know the pain, but does that really help any? Some times it just makes me more depressed.

Nothing makes you lose the will to live like having your own son die. It throws you headlong, into the realization, that none of this matters. Life really has no purpose, except maybe what you assign to it, but with Connor's death, anything I assigned to that, "well of life", has been poisoned. I have nothing. There is no meaning. Nothing is important to me anymore. Life, fate, god? the universe, doesn't seem to care -- why should I?

--S.

Lance said...

Wow! I really appreciate this post and all the responses. Even with the sadness I feel reading about your loss sconnor, I still appreciate your honesty and openness. I can't fully understand your pain, so all I can say as encouragement is to just keep breathing, and to keep moving forward. The human mind is an amazing thing, and you may someday come out of that dark tunnel with a wisdom and an understanding of what it means to be human that transcends most people. Don't give up yet.

To Jessy (insanezenmistress): Yes, I do understand what you are saying, especially when you said "SO he gives up the whole fantasy of jesus. He thinks for himself without fetters, that induces mental freedom and ability to reason with oneself knowing it is himself."

I do find myself doing that instead of praying. In the same action as praying, I can sit quietly and think about a subject or issue that is bugging me. I don't ask some non-existent deity for help, but I sort of let the conscious thoughts in the front of my mind drift off and get mixed up with my unconscious thoughts in the back. I let the complex mess that is my brain work out a better solution by sitting quietly and not forcing it.

I realize that my brain is more complex and processes things in ways that my conscious thoughts don't fully understand. I know it is all just an electro-chemical process, but I can see how people can confuse that complex sub-conscious behavior with there being an imaginary friend up there. And if the thoughts get really weird because of religious teachings, we can even imagine friends and enemies up there duking it out is some crazy spiritual battle. Crazy being the operative word.

That is one thing I definitely do not miss about religion. I agree with dave8 here when he said “because all that was good, I took with me.”

Thanks for all your thoughts and comments. And thanks to WM Dave for hosting this site.

- Lance

mary said...

All I can say is "way to go Bob!"

Anonymous said...

Sconnor, it might sound shallow and cliched to say, but I am genuinely sorry for the loss of your son. I know how hard it is to lose a parent, it must be even harder to lose a son. The closest I came to that was losing my nephew, who was almost a son to me, to suicide thirteen years ago.

All I can say is that the only thing which will even begin to heal your pain is to gain perspective on your own life, and how you may have positively affected the people around you. Maybe you've already helped other young people, or maybe, if you look around, you might find an opportunity. I'm a teacher, and let me tell you that the schools are full of kids who don't get enough attention and mentoring from the adults around them. Most school districts welcome people to come in and mentor.

Good luck and keep us posted.

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