Why I’m a Mess as an ex-Christian

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I am angry. And hurt. Some days I feel like crying for no apparent reason, and most days I feel like I have to defend myself and my beliefs, even just in my own head. I have had days where I look for arguments online just so I can defend my point of view. I’m not a mess all the time. In fact, I laugh a lot. I enjoy my life, listen to music, make art, etc. But there is a deep hurt and sadness deep within me that does come out fairly often right now.

If my family and some friends knew, they would say that this is a result of my decision to turn away from God. Although that’s partly true, it’s not for the reasons they think…

Here is why I am such a mess at this current moment.

Growing up I was the “golden child”. I always did what I was told, I loved going to church, my goal was to be a missionary. I was always encouraged to be myself and to always stand for what I believe in. I never went against the flow, didn’t really think for myself, I accepted what I was taught and blindly followed it.

Then I grew up and started thinking for myself. I stopped believing certain things, and eventually became an atheist. I no longer simply accepted what I was told, I actually had different opinions than the closest people around me.

When people close to me became aware of this, their attitude towards me totally changed. The very same people who once commended me for being myself and told me always stand for what I believe in either wouldn’t talk to me or treated me horribly. I was called a “terrible example”, people expressed their horror and shock about my opinions, and was ironically accused of “giving into peer pressure”. (I only knew a couple atheists at the time; my peer pressure was all from my Christian circles- and boy was it strong.) Someone in my family told me that they would rather I died as a believer than live to lose my faith, wondered if I’d been faking my entire Christian life, and said that it was my husband’s fault for not “guiding me back” (as though I’m not capable of making my own spiritual decisions!) And I was told by someone else in my family that I would become a murderer or otherwise become a horrible person because I wasn’t a Christian anymore. I was bullied on Facebook to the point of permanently deleting my account and withdrawing from the people who continued to hurt me.

I had NEVER been the target of such anger, judgment, and hurt. I knew that people wouldn’t all react nicely, but it was still nothing I could have prepared myself for. I went from being everyone’s favorite to being the outcast that everyone judged and mistreated. Most of these people are normally kind, loving people- but stop being a Christian or believe differently from them and all hell breaks loose.

My theological journey out of faith had some emotional moments, but it wasn’t that difficult of a change by itself. In fact, I found countless positive changes once I started using reason instead of blind faith. Rather, it was the incredibly hurtful reactions of my friends and family, the people I had trusted and loved the most, that tore me down and ripped me into little pieces, showing me that my opinions and beliefs were no better than shit to them when I no longer agreed.

I had my first panic attack when the worst of this was happening, something I never expected. I was really rough for a while. And in some ways it is still rough; I feel on edge a lot, I feel like I have to be ready to defend myself and prove that being myself is ok. But it’s getting better. Some of these wounds will take a very long time to fully heal (if they ever do); betrayal of this magnitude is hard for anyone to deal with. But I’m learning to cope with being the outsider, learning that even though some people don’t accept me as I am that I don’t have to feel like fighting all the time. It will take time- but I am healing.

So for any Christians who look at their ex-Christian friends and think “their sadness and turmoil is a result of not having God in their lives”, just remember that for many of us ex-Christians, we were treated in horrible ways after our deconversion by the people who once loved us. I’ll bet that you would be feeling the same way if your friends and family treated you like this.

I do want to clarify that I still have some Christian friends- these are kind, good people who were understanding and respectful of my change, friends who were capable of disagreeing respectfully and still treating me like a human being whose beliefs are valuable. I love these people and I know that the others do not represent all of Christianity. Me and those family members have also made amends and do very well as long as we avoid the topic of religion (and politics).

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Angry Atheists

Angry Atheists

Some people joke about “angry atheists” and act as though they are little children who are throwing temper tantrums. While I don’t agree with anyone who calls people names or bashes them for their beliefs, and I believe everyone has the right to believe what they want, I can see why many atheists are angry. I am an “angry atheist” myself- and here are some of the reasons why.

(Note that when I refer to Christians, I am referring primarily to fundamentalist Christians who seem to be the most vocal and harmful in their beliefs and actions. There are certainly exceptions.)

I am angry because the gay and lesbian community have endured unimaginable hurt because of the teaching that homosexuality is an abomination. Gay and lesbian teens and young adults have the highest suicide and depression rates because they are told that they are disgusting, are headed to hell, no one likes them, that they must always be alone and never act on their feelings, etc.

I am angry because Christians are pushing their personal beliefs on other people through the legal system. They don’t want to serve gays in their businesses, they want prayer enforced in schools, God on our money, cherry picked sins regulated, etc.

I am angry because modern Christianity does not really follow scripture and no one can agree on anything, and yet they want to rule the country based on their flawed interpretation of the Bible.

I am angry because all sin is supposed to be the same, and yet they only wish to outlaw certain ones- while they do sinful things themselves. It’s so hypocritical it’s borderline ridiculous.

I am angry because Christians cite “religious persecution” when people ask for equal rights or ask that Christians stop pushing their beliefs on others. It is not religious persecution when you get special privileges and then deny basic rights to others.

I am angry because churches have a tax free status but use the pulpit for promoting politics and personal gain.

I am angry because Christianity speaks of helping the poor, and yet millions are spent on opposing gay marriage or building mega churches instead of aiding starving people overseas.

I am angry because Christians get so many special privileges and then complain when they cannot have more, or when they cannot regulate the lives of others.

I am angry because Christians blame the problems of the world on non-believers and sinners instead of looking for the real problems and helping to address them. Instead of blaming hurricanes on the gays, why not send aid for the victims?

I am angry because supporters of creationism and opponents of abortion often use false or twisted information to support their views, often deliberately misrepresenting the other side or using shock tactics to get their point across.

I am angry because I am supposed to accept the atrocities described in the Bible as justified and even moral simply because God did them or commanded them. Calling genocide and mistreatment of women moral is despicable to me, and yet I must push that aside and accept that “god knows best”.

I am angry because Christianity has been and still is used to hurt others, and yet I am asked to respect it and not challenge it.

I am angry because I am told that I must not question the teachings of Christianity. If I do, I am suffering an “attack of Satan”, I am weak, I am a failure. It’s only acceptable to doubt if it strengthens my original belief.

I am angry because I was taught to fear reason, logic, and science, and to throw out any information that did not line up with my preconceived ideas.

I am angry because when I change my beliefs I am viewed with suspicion, anger, and judgement. I am considered a failure, rebellious, my original devotion to Christianity is doubted, and I am suddenly considered a moral degenerate. I’m told “it’s a phase”, and I’m not taken seriously. Friends mistreat and abandon me, and I am accused of having led a double life. I’m not good enough as I am; I must always stay a believer in order to be really accepted, respected, and be given the benefit of the doubt. Other non-believers are accepted because they are “prospects” for Christianity.

I am angry because I was encouraged to be myself and always stand for what I believed in- until I didn’t agree with them any more. Then I was called a horrible example, people were horrified at my views, and I lost friends.

I am angry because Christians say that atheists have no morals, even though that is not true. Atheist countries prove that a country without religion will not crumble into chaos or have high crime rates; in fact the opposite is true.

I am angry because I was told that I am nothing without God, that I am worthless and helpless and incapable of making my decisions without his help. This has caused me and countless others to have low self esteem and self worth, to have difficulties in making decisions, etc. Being proud of and even acknowledging my own accomplishments was wrong.

I am angry because I grew up caring way too much about what other people thought of me. I was taught that my outward appearance would cause men to sin, that I must always be a good example to others, that my actions must lead others to Christ, etc; so I was constantly thinking about how others saw me.

I am angry because I grew up thinking that sex was dirty, and that my body was sinful. I believed that my sexual desires were disgusting, that I was some kind of sexual deviant for having fantasies and having normal sexual feelings. I was ashamed and afraid of my body, my mind, and my desires.

I am angry because no matter how moral I tried to be, I could never be good enough. All the teachings of grace do not change the fact that we are supposedly morally degenerate because we cannot meet this impossible moral standard.

I am angry because young children are being taught to not think for themselves, but rather are scared with hell and told to believe like the people around them.

I am angry because when I dared to question something as a believer, I was told that “there are some things you just don’t question.”

I am angry because I see injustice and hurt being promoted by religion regularly, whether intentionally or unintentionally by the people involved. It’s not a rare and unheard of thing, it’s a part of daily life for many people.

Anger is not always a bad thing. When it’s a response to injustice and hurt, anger can be useful for driving positive change. And it’s an important part of overcoming grief and hurt. The important thing is to not let it become bitterness, self consuming, or to allow it to be directed at individuals. When injustice is done, people must stand for freedom and kindness. But eventually anger must fade and be resolved in order for us to move on and find peace; it must be exchanged for balanced action when needed and a more peaceful mindset that does not revolve around the past.

I found some cool resources on this topic that are really good:

http://www.ex-christian.net/topic/21830-phases-of-deconversion/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUI_ML1qkQE#t=732