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Was It Hard For You Too?
Posted: 26 September 2006 06:13 PM   [ Ignore ]
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As someone who is new to faithlessness it’s interesting to observe all the steps of grief as I realize the irrationality I grew up in is no longer my foundation.  The paradigm shift I went through was not an easy one and it’s still a struggle to inform my family.  Don’t get me wrong.  The shift towards critical/rational thought has been as liberating as it has been challenging.

It would be helpful if others could share their transformations.

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Bill McElree

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Posted: 28 September 2006 04:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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All those views and not one comment?  Leaving the cultural mainstream is an insurmountable obstacle for many because it means becoming a pariah.  I personally know of someone who has returned to church and actively hides his atheism simply because it was so socially limiting.

Your thought?

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Posted: 28 September 2006 05:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I can’t speak for anyone else, mcelreb, but this hasn’t been a problem for me because I wasn’t born into a religious family ... that said, I am sure that it is difficult to ‘make the change’, especially considering how entrenched religion is in our culture.

You might want to pick up some books by people like Robert Ingersoll; his wit, humor and good sense are definitely worth a read.

Anyone have something to add here?

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Doug

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Posted: 28 September 2006 06:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Even though I wasn’t born into a religious family either, I think I can relate, Bill. Around the age of twenty years old I “fell in love” with Plato. His idea of the existence of perfection and us - everything which is materialistic - trying to mimic that perfection, really made sense to me. Years later I came across Dawkins’s Selfish Gene which proofed my believes to be wrong. I remember throwing the book away from my hands and swearing never to look at it again. That “never”, however, lasted only about ten minutes. Plato will always be my “first love”, but we don’t usually marry our first loves. Darwin made me realize who I am, where I came from, and where I am going. Plato was fun, Darwin was to become my life.

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Posted: 28 September 2006 07:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I wasn’t born into a religious family either, so there was not much of a process for me.

I do find it interesting, however, that when the negative aspects of religion are brought up, or when certian persuasive arguments are brought against various beliefs, apologists will often say things like “well what harm does it really do anyway?”, “What’s wrong with just letting people believe what they want?”, and the ever popular “Why make such a big deal about these beliefs?”

When pressed into the corner they try to act like various religous beliefs are “no big deal”, and thus should just be left unchallenged.

The flaw to this claim is obvious. If they are no big deal then they should rightly be challenged, since why should we leave false beliefs that are no big deal unchallenged, but more importantly, they very obviously ARE a big deal. People center their whole lives around these beliefs and get hugely emotionally invested in them, their family lives are linked to them, everything.

If these beliefs were “no big deal”, then people like yourself wouldn’t have such a hard time coming to grips with them, and people wouldn’t be so upset when you challenge them.

For whatever psychological reason, which I cannot address because I have not experienced it, these beliefs become very central to a person’s sense of self and place in the world and their emotional comfort. That fact alone speaks to the importance of gaining a better scientific understanding of belief. This is a real, serious issue and condition of the human psyche.

If you are not familiar with Julia Sweeney, I recommend her work to you:

http://www.juliasweeney.com/welcome.asp

You can listen to part of her monologue here:

In the first one her part doesn’t start until half way through the piece, but its worth it. You can download it first then skip to the secon part it you want.

http://www.thislife.org/pages/descriptions/05/290.html

http://www.thislife.org/pages/descriptions/96/9.html

Click on the speaker icon on the left.

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http://www.rationalrevolution.net

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Posted: 28 September 2006 01:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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The only people who are religious in my nonextended family are my two younger siblings and if they try to convert me, I just shove it in their faces that I am smarter.  Now friends and classmates totally different, I pretend to respect their views and they may or may not respect mine.

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Fighting the evil belief that there is a god(s).

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Posted: 29 September 2006 06:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Hey, rationalrevolution, just listened to the excerpt from the Julia Sweeney monologue “Letting Go of God”—it’s really excellent. Wish we could hear the whole thing online!

Thanks for posting the link.

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Posted: 30 September 2006 06:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Hey mcelreb,

Over this past year or so I have been in the process of “escaping faith” as well. While some of my family and friends are churchgoers my family doesn’t much talk about it, one of my friends thinks I’m bound for hell, and another thinks I’m just saved by previous belief and my current unbelief won’t change that. Most of my fundementalism was self-imposed around 1994 so I haven’t had to suffer too much at the hands and mouths of believers. My sister sometimes gives me christian books; she gave me “A Purpose Driven Life” a couple of years ago, which I am happy I didn’t read. I am thinking of giving her “A Reason Driven Life” this year.

I understand at least on a personal level how difficult it can be moving from faith to faithlessness. I didn’t so much consider it a grieving process as just a time of great fear and confusion. My entire basis for trying to make sense of the universe being gone, it took quite a bit of resolve not to go running back to the cross. It has taken quite a bit of time and effort to really see the beauty and wonder of the entirely natural world. I went through many stages to arrive here recently.

As far as social limitations go I have been fortunate. A catylist in my conversion to reality was joining a Unitarian church in my initial distaste for what I thought was a rise in radicalism in fundementalist christianity. I’m not saying this would be a good thing for everyone but in my experience it has been a positive influence. Not being bound by scripture or dogma I was able to compare religious beliefs and eventually see that they were basically irrelevant to living in the real world. Happily once I came to this realization and was able to dispense with the supernatural altogether, I found there were several atheists and agnostics in this particular church. That is where I go to get involved with social action and to talk with others about science and humanist issues. I haven’t yet found a Secular Humanist group invlolved in community/social action in my area and I am ill-prepared to start one. 

So hurray for us we made it out. We can breathe a sigh of relief but now a new very real world has opened up to us; there is much to learn and life is short.

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Posted: 30 September 2006 07:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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For me, who grew up in a fairly fundamentalist, Southern Baptist family and community, it was completely liberating.  I’m sure that down deep I knew that my beliefs were inconsistant with reality, even from a fairly young age.  My interest in all things science helped immensely with the transition, since when I shed my religious faith, I had solid ground upon which to stand.

That was 30 years ago, and by eliminating adherence to dogma, it opened the world to me and I’ve been excited ever since.

Good luck in your journey; almost all radical change causes temporary discomfort.

BTW, there was an excellent Infedelguy podcast a couple of weeks ago, where he interviewed an ex-Jehovah’s Witness, who went through not only incredible personal turmoil, but was socially ostracized as well.  Worth listening to.

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Posted: 02 October 2006 02:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Yeah, I have to admit that there are several people in my family who simply pretend that I don’t exist anymore.  I get invited to all the family events (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, my mother’s birthday), but that’s about the extent of it.  It is kind of painful to see my brothers and sisters all going out to dinner together, helping each other with home improvement projects and so forth, and yet when I ask, it’s always “we’ll see”.  [heavy sigh]

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Posted: 02 October 2006 09:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Wow.  Thanks one and all for your excellent and helpful replies. 

An acquaintance of mine cannot speak of anything even remotely related to Christianity or religion without vitriol.  This seems to be common amoung new non-believers.  Does one ever get over the anger, the bitterness and the feeling of wasted time?

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Posted: 02 October 2006 10:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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[quote author=“advocatus”]It is kind of painful to see my brothers and sisters all going out to dinner together, helping each other with home improvement projects and so forth, and yet when I ask, it’s always “we’ll see”.  [heavy sigh]

Tha’s pretty nasty. Do you ever bring this up with them? I mean, the “love thy neighbor” stuff?

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Posted: 02 October 2006 02:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Doug,

I think the full quote is “Love thy neighbor, if he believes exactly the same thing as you.”  The disciple who recorded that phrase ran out of audio tape right after the first half of the statement, and so the second half was never included in the canonical scriptures.

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Posted: 02 October 2006 03:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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[quote author=“Jayhox”]I think the full quote is “Love thy neighbor, if he believes exactly the same thing as you.”  The disciple who recorded that phrase ran out of audio tape right after the first half of the statement, and so the second half was never included in the canonical scriptures.

LOL  LOL

Harsh ... but true ...

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Posted: 09 October 2006 02:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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[quote author=“Dougsmith”]Do you ever bring this up with them? I mean, the “love thy neighbor” stuff?

Naturally they claim that they DO love me, and they promise to do better.  But give it a couple of weeks and….

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Posted: 09 October 2006 02:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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[quote author=“mcelreb”]An acquaintance of mine cannot speak of anything even remotely related to Christianity or religion without vitriol.  This seems to be common amoung new non-believers.  Does one ever get over the anger, the bitterness and the feeling of wasted time?

Yes, I see this a lot, too.  I can only tell you that I got over that anger and bitterness.  But some people will insist on hanging onto it.  It’s an individual thing, I guess.

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