Image by Andrea Mercado via FlickrIt's strange how many people want to talk about how you're doing when you've recently left your religion. People you may have had only brief contact with are suddenly concerned about your well-being.
When I left my church, I had an influx of regular e-mails, calls, and people who were "in the neighborhood" dropping by to grab lunch, hang out, any excuse that someone could think of simply to tell me what I was doing was wrong. I figured that was the intent the whole time, but I was never one to turn down an invitation. These were people who I still knew by name, even if I hadn't had much contact with, after all. So, when I received a call to play some basketball or grab a bite to eat, I politely accepted and went over.
The process was always the same. It felt as if they were chewing at the bit for about 15 to 30 minutes, just aching to start asking me loaded questions about why I was leaving and giving reasons why I shouldn't. We both knew why I had been invited out, but every time, there was some pretense that was dutifully carried out until they were able to make a clumsy segway to the subject of religion.
Every single time, it was like they thought that I just needed to hear it all one more time. Obviously there was something else that was causing me to leave my faith. All the presumptuous questions that a person could conceive of was asked. Do you have a problem with anyone? Did anybody do anything to you? Has something bad happened in your life? Are you sure this isn't just a phase?
Every single time, my simple answer that it just didn't add up anymore wasn't enough. It just didn't suffice. Of course it all added up. Despite my resistance to a theological discussion, they inevitably ensued. The notion that I simply didn't get it. After being basically the poster child of everything I was supposed to be as a Christian, I simply didn't understand that God has a perfect plan, even if it included damning the majority of everyone who will ever exist to hell.
My reasonings fell on deaf ears. I wasn't invited out to talk, I was invited out to be talked down to, criticized, judged, and, ultimately, ignored.
Still, the invitations kept coming. People who I had once respected and looked to for advice, old friends, even some family, everyone seemed to assume that, not only did I have a problem, but they could fix it simply by telling me how wrong I was.
The thing is, I never would have needed much convincing. After all, I truly did want to believe. All I wanted was to be happy and I wasn't getting that. Nobody cared so much when I told them that I was depressed or miserable in the months leading up to my deconversion. I never got a quarter of the invitations to talk before I realized that God didn't answer prayer and, quite possibly, wanted me to be depressed.
It seems that I only had a problem when I decided to actually try to find something that made me happy.
So, I went it alone. Through the most difficult mental trials of my life, I had nobody to support and help me realize exactly what it is I needed to be content and how to deal with all the anger that had accumulated in the process. After coming to the conclusion that the God of Abraham simply did not exist and finding people who actually cared about what it is I was feeling and not what I believed, things started to improve.
I still have people looking me up and asking to talk about how I'm doing, years later. I think I might actually take someone up on it and tell them that I feel better than I ever have in my entire life and that I owe it to having faith in myself and other people, not God.