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Grief and the loss of your faith

Moving Mountains

A poem written while reflecting on the loss of faith and the beginnings of my own personal grief.

This particular post is being written with the ex-christian and ex-believer who has embraced atheism or agnosticism in lieu of their former faith. This is done because this is where my best experience lies, however – for those that leave their faith for another many of these same words will ring true, and so I hope you will still read and take from it what you can – and share with me your own experiences if you are so willing.  I don’t write in this way to alienate anyone and I hope my words don’t do so – my goal is to provide those experiencing these emotions with some feeling of normalcy over what is happening and an understanding that they are not alone.
 
 

A couple days ago Neil Carter over at Patheos’ Godless in Dixie (Which is currently my favorite atheist blog btw) was gracious enough to use one of my posts from 2011 as a guest post on his very popular blog. That post, entitled “It Get’s Better: A Letter to Doubters” has made the round a number of times since I originally published it 4 years ago now and I’ve always felt like I’ve needed to follow up on it in some fashion, if you haven’t read it – I recommend you do. The emails and comments I’ve received since it’s appearance on Godless in Dixie have confirmed that need more than ever – and so today I want to discuss the process of grief and the loss of your faith.

The Death of Faith

Traditionally grief is a process that occurs after the death of a loved one and for many in the ex-christian and ex-believer communities the loss of their faith is very similar to the death of a loved one. I personally believe that just how death-like this process might be depends on how sincere and life consuming one’s faith has been – but even the nominal believer will experience the symptoms of loss when recognizing that he or she no longer holds the same beliefs that once rang true.  In other words – the devotion you have to your god or faith will be directly proportional to the pain you will feel as that faith dies.

This faith death is often spurred by a series of realizations, often the embracing of doubts that have long been quieted by the desire to leave well enough alone. Whether it be a recognition that  your particular holy book doesn’t meet the criteria for evidence and truth that you once thought it did, or  the epiphany that your own cognitive biases have held you in a belief system that new information simply can no longer reconcile. Whatever the reason and however abruptly or agonizingly long this death takes to occur the end result will seem very confusing and difficult to explain – most people say that they feel alone in the world and, despite a sense of data overload that accompanies all the new information coming to you about the faith you no longer hold, a sense of quietness that seems unlike any other that you may have experienced before.

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Honey and Flies – My Personal End to Bitterness

 

This is the first post in a series in which I intend to explain, philosophize, argue, and even convince myself of a new approach in my own personal life regarding my lack of religious faith.

For nearly two years now I’ve been an out atheist and as a result of a very painful process of losing my faith I have to force myself to embrace a Truth regarding myself – I’ve been bitter, angry, and sometimes hurtful toward other people. Some of them deserved it while others did not and I feel the need to repair my approach to humanity.

The fact is, despite my best efforts and the efforts of my peers, we are stuck here with religion and the religious – the vast majority of whom, due to the nature of faith, will hold on to their faith despite all of the good evidence you and I can provide to the contrary. Religion, as a whole, may one day disappear but not without many more years of scientific discovery and understanding so that all questions in which god can be a hypothetical answer to may be answered – if they ever are.

It’s not that I’ve suddenly forgotten all of the dangers of religion or how it has held humanity behind for ages – I haven’t. I simply can’t justify the effects that my approach have had on myself and others in the last few years. Despite being the happiest I’ve ever been, there has still been this underlying bitterness…even a persecution complex (something I often accuse Christians of) in-so-much that I may often see persecution in places that it isn’t actually occurring. Of course persecution absolutely does occur and yes I have absolutely been a victim of it – but my failure has been in giving those around me the benefit of the doubt.

Lessons of experience

Over the last few months I have found myself associated with two organizations, one of which I am a founding officer called C.O.F.F.E.R of Dodge County – a citizens organization dedicated to working with the local Board of Education to ensure that responsibility is used in the areas of education and finance. Secondarily I am now performing all of the web-admin duties and doing other volunteer work for Faithful Hearts Animal Shelter (501c3) – a local startup non-profit incorporation of individuals interested in building a permanent rescue for abandoned and abused animals in my local area (we desperately need it – but that’s a whole different story, just know that my wife and I are pretty much animal freaks.)

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Understanding Biblical Context: The Wrath and Anger of God

rosecoloredglassesDefending the God of the Bible was once a passion of mine, I studied apologia in order to defend my “True Faith”. Talking with young Atheists and dissenters was something I spent a lot of time doing at one point, though I could understand their arguments and reasons for disliking YHWH, I always felt in my heart that the only reason they didn’t “get it” was because they didn’t have the Holy Spirit in them to show them this truth or to help them “understand it” the way that I did.

In retrospect I find that this “Holy Spirit” that was silently giving me “Knowledge of God” and “evidence” was merely my own understanding and desire for the Gospel to be the Truth. My need for God was providing me with all the evidence I required at the time…which for me then was nothing more than a “fuzzy feeling” and a burning in the bosom (As the LDS Church conveniently puts it). That small self contained and self created feeling allowed me to ignore a magnitude of flaws in the character of YHWH…because I had a Personal relationship with Christ I was able to look past the bad parts and only see the good parts, justifying the evils of YHWH as justice and fatherly love… something my Christian counterparts are able to do still.

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