How to shed old beliefs
Posted: 05 May 2012 04:08 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I consider myself a secular humanist. I was formally what most would consider a conservative christian as that was just how I was raised. I am now 25 (and incidentally, gay). I know very definitely that I am an atheist; however, I cannot unravel some of those old core beliefs (i.e. fear that I am being judged by christians and all the anxiety that it creates for me). How can I get throught this? Anyone who has been through this and can understand and offer advice, I would appreciate your reply.

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Posted: 05 May 2012 06:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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What beliefs? Your morals are yours, not religions. You own yourself.

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Posted: 05 May 2012 08:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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however, I cannot unravel some of those old core beliefs (i.e. fear that I am being judged by christians and all the anxiety that it creates for me).

A lifetime of cultural indoctrination is a very difficult thing to shake off. The thing is that you already know that the basis for the the judgements being made by these same Christians is bogus, so as a start, you need to work it that way.

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Posted: 05 May 2012 07:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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“fear that I am being judged by christians”

We’re all being judged by christians, and by almost everyone else.  It’s what humans do.  I’d tell you not to let it bother you, but I know that answer wouldn’t convince me.

If you’re talking about family, or about people who think you’ve betrayed them due to your beliefs, or about some concrete action being taken or threats against you, my answer won’t be of much help.  But it sounded like you were speaking more generally.  I have not been in your particular situation, but I was raised Christian (it never took), and am gay.

If the judgment is not about atheism, and is more general, you need the confidence to build your own system for evaluating what is right, and what is wrong.  Certainly, the golden and silver rules are a good place to start, as they are widely respected across several belief systems, and have some basis in science.  I recommend watching Michael Sandel’s Harvard course on Justice, available on YouTube ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBdfcR-8hEY ).  It exposes you to a variety of different ways of thinking about what is right.  You might be attracted to a system that makes sense to you, or come up with your own.  I think the main thing is to think it out, and to be able to defend your choices.  Being judged is less intimidating when you know why you think or do as you do.  It’s not easy, when the answers aren’t handed to you.  And you may find you have to change your mind on some things.

If the judgment is more specifically about you being gay, I think having mentioned it to us then you’re probably already able to defend yourself on that.  There’s support in your corner, if you seek it.  I think what’s remarkable about this time is that public opinion is shifting quickly (never quickly enough, of course) in your favor.  That’s not to say everything will be great.  But there are a lot of people, including many conservatives, who will stand with you, so you can succeed as a gay person.  If you don’t have these people in your daily life, I think you should make that a top priority.

If the judgment is specifically about atheism, I recommend counteracting the culture’s impact on you by watching documentaries about the planet and the cosmos (perhaps starting with Cosmos).  We’re so awash in anti-scientific ideas in North America that it’s sometimes a shock to rediscover what is actually known about the world.  Once you begin to take advantage of scientific knowledge that has been built up by others, you get a beautiful picture for how the world really is, as far as we are able to tell, and you’ll have the confidence to ignore unfair judgment for your unbelief.  Brian Cox has done some good series for BBC about the solar system and the universe.  And a couple of years ago the BBC had a fantastic series on Darwin.  He’s a lot more than a guy on a ship collecting finches.  After a while, you notice that religious claims just don’t match up to the evidence.  It’s one thing to know this intellectually, but it’s another to have that information stored well in your mind, so that you can explain it to someone who doesn’t.  So explore a lot until it becomes familiar.  (I’m biased in favor of movies and TV, but there are plenty of books as well). 

As you’ve probably discovered, there’s not a uniformity of thought among atheists.  Find some you agree with.  And some you don’t.  There’s increasingly more conversation happening, particularly via blogs and YouTube.  In addition to debate and argument (and general shouting each other down) there’s an entertainment component as well.  I think some have recognized there is a need for some sense of community, a social aspect, to reduce the isolation that certainly some atheists feel in dominant christian towns and cities.  As a parallel, gay pride used to be the only time some gay people (i.e. me) even saw any other openly gay people.  Now we’re on TV every night.  I think atheism will be like that.

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Posted: 05 May 2012 07:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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FinallyDecided - 05 May 2012 04:08 AM

How can I get throught this?

By feeling superior. grin

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Posted: 19 November 2012 07:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Randy - 05 May 2012 07:52 PM

“fear that I am being judged by christians”

We’re all being judged by christians, and by almost everyone else.  It’s what humans do.  I’d tell you not to let it bother you, but I know that answer wouldn’t convince me.

If you’re talking about family, or about people who think you’ve betrayed them due to your beliefs, or about some concrete action being taken or threats against you, my answer won’t be of much help.  But it sounded like you were speaking more generally.  I have not been in your particular situation, but I was raised Christian (it never took), and am gay.

If the judgment is not about atheism, and is more general, you need the confidence to build your own system for evaluating what is right, and what is wrong.  Certainly, the golden and silver rules are a good place to start, as they are widely respected across several belief systems, and have some basis in science.  I recommend watching Michael Sandel’s Harvard course on Justice, available on YouTube ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBdfcR-8hEY ).  It exposes you to a variety of different ways of thinking about what is right.  You might be attracted to a system that makes sense to you, or come up with your own.  I think the main thing is to think it out, and to be able to defend your choices.  Being judged is less intimidating when you know why you think or do as you do.  It’s not easy, when the answers aren’t handed to you.  And you may find you have to change your mind on some things.

If the judgment is more specifically about you being gay, I think having mentioned it to us then you’re probably already able to defend yourself on that.  There’s support in your corner, if you seek it.  I think what’s remarkable about this time is that public opinion is shifting quickly (never quickly enough, of course) in your favor.  That’s not to say everything will be great.  But there are a lot of people, including many conservatives, who will stand with you, so you can succeed as a gay person.  If you don’t have these people in your daily life, I think you should make that a top priority.

If the judgment is specifically about atheism, I recommend counteracting the culture’s impact on you by watching documentaries about the planet and the cosmos (perhaps starting with Cosmos).  We’re so awash in anti-scientific ideas in North America that it’s sometimes a shock to rediscover what is actually known about the world.  Once you begin to take advantage of scientific knowledge that has been built up by others, you get a beautiful picture for how the world really is, as far as we are able to tell, and you’ll have the confidence to ignore unfair judgment for your unbelief.  Brian Cox has done some good series for BBC about the solar system and the universe.  And a couple of years ago the BBC had a fantastic series on Darwin.  He’s a lot more than a guy on a ship collecting finches.  After a while, you notice that religious claims just don’t match up to the evidence.  It’s one thing to know this intellectually, but it’s another to have that information stored well in your mind, so that you can explain it to someone who doesn’t.  So explore a lot until it becomes familiar.  (I’m biased in favor of movies and TV, but there are plenty of books as well). 

As you’ve probably discovered, there’s not a uniformity of thought among atheists.  Find some you agree with.  And some you don’t.  There’s increasingly more conversation happening, particularly via blogs and YouTube.  In addition to debate and argument (and general shouting each other down) there’s an entertainment component as well.  I think some have recognized there is a need for some sense of community, a social aspect, to reduce the isolation that certainly some atheists feel in dominant christian towns and cities.  As a parallel, gay pride used to be the only time some gay people (i.e. me) even saw any other openly gay people.  Now we’re on TV every night.  I think atheism will be like that.

I apologize for my ridiculously late response, but I certainly owe you thanks for sharing all the helpful information with me that you have. I think the most difficult aspect of the situation is family members (Christian) who take the approach of, “love the sinner, hate the sin.” I find this approach to be very condescending. But at the same time I resepect others beliefs. I am just in quite a quandry as this is a family member I love and have previously had a close relationshiop with. I don’t know if the best approach is to distance myself from people who hold these beliefs toward me (because I am not in the business of trying to change their belief, unless they come to me with open heart and truly feel compelled to change. This is all creating a great anxiety response in me that is difficult to manage. I am tired of being treated as a second class citizen in 2012. My partners family is highly accepting and inclusive. I rarely, if ever, feel uncomfortable or awkward in thre presence of his family. I find it dehumanizing that certain people in my family decide to refer to my partner/spouse as merely my “friend.” It’s just a way of invalidating and minimalizing my family and I.

You’ve offered great advice; however, if you have any more advice to share, please feel free to do so. At this point, I’d like to think I am taking baby steps at improving, but appreciate any help from people in similar situations, past or present, such as yours. While I believe, some days, I am improving, I still need moral support and help in unraveling old beliefs and getting over that proverbial “hump” of self acceptence.

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Posted: 19 November 2012 07:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I find it dehumanizing that certain people in my family decide to refer to my partner/spouse as merely my “friend.” It’s just a way of invalidating and minimalizing my family and I.

And that should tell you a lot about what those people are really all about. Your real family is the one which accepts you for yourself, without basing their judgements on the hangups of Bronze Age shephards.

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Posted: 19 November 2012 07:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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George - 05 May 2012 07:58 PM
FinallyDecided - 05 May 2012 04:08 AM

How can I get throught this?

By feeling superior. grin

I have used a little phrase, “those above me don’t insult me, those below me can’t insult me”. Try it, it works…. cheese

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Art is the creation of that which evokes an emotional response, leading to thoughts of the noblest kind.
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Posted: 19 November 2012 09:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Equal Opportunity Curmudgeon - 19 November 2012 07:37 PM

I find it dehumanizing that certain people in my family decide to refer to my partner/spouse as merely my “friend.” It’s just a way of invalidating and minimalizing my family and I.

And that should tell you a lot about what those people are really all about. Your real family is the one which accepts you for yourself, without basing their judgements on the hangups of Bronze Age shephards.

Thank you for reminding me of this. I have taken this approach in the past. Sometimes, I feel so much like a minority in certain groups, it’s difficult to stay strong in my beliefs in their presence, without letting them make me feel inferior.

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Posted: 19 November 2012 09:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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You’re not a child anymore.  Base your beliefs on intellectual honesty.  When you do that consistently, you will sometimes find that you have had mistaken beliefs. So you change your beliefs to fit the evidence that you have.  Everybody sometimes believes things that are incorrect. No big deal.  Move on.

In regards to your desires, those are yours, and are not a problem as long as they don’t lead to actual harm for others. Simply desiring and having an intimate relationship with some consenting person of your own gender is not harmful to others (except to the extent that it may outrage those who believe it is intrinsically wrong - and that is their problem.)

As for family members’ religiosity, it is unfortunate that they likely cannot bring themselves to respect your non-belief.  I take the stance of not confronting religious family members with my belief system, as I don’t want to cause discomfort or to threaten their belief system (that they apparently have some strong need to maintain.)  To some degree this limits the potential closeness of relating, but I consider it the price to pay for being true to myself.

Welcome to the forum.

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 19 November 2012 11:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I’m seeing a young man trying to come to grips with the religion he was brought up in that is anti-gay by wanting to chuck the whole deal, religion.
I might offer this word of advice: you are just another victim of Pauline Christianity which has produced some of the most vicious killers in the name of
God on this earth. Bigotry is just the weaker cousin because thankfully, the law protects us from Pauline Christians gaining political powers like they used to
enjoy and the faggots were gathered for people like you and others not towing the Pauline Christian line which is decidedly biased against homosexuality as
is Judaism where the bias originated because Jews were at religious war with Greeks, the best writers and philosophers in the ancient world. Know this:
God is on your side as biological science reveals homosexuality part and parcel of a whole range of life forms, it’s not just for human beings so the Scriptures
against it are man-made prejudice and bogus.

I want to tell you about another form of Christianity that was buried by the traditional Church Fathers and Rome but has come back alive in our times: Gnostic
Christianity where you will find no such prejudice against you. Modern Gnostic Christianity can be found here in The Aquariana Key book at: http://biomystic.org/
Christianity is no longer held captive by Paulists who promoted Paul’s ideas over Jesus’.

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Posted: 20 November 2012 03:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Sometimes, I feel so much like a minority in certain groups, it’s difficult to stay strong in my beliefs in their presence, without letting them make me feel inferior.

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent. That aside, what does it say about any of these people that they would need to?

I’m minded of something that former Secretary of Defence Willaim Cohan said in an interview a few months ago: “This is what we have to understand, at the heart of every bigot, there is a bully!”

Something to think about.

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Posted: 20 November 2012 08:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I recommend that you focus on your thinking habits, which like other habits are ruled by a sequence of cue, routine (in your case the thinking routine of old core beliefs) and reward. Charles Duhigg wrote a great book and it explains how habits can be changed effectively. It requires effort. One key is finding the cues in your environment that trigger an unwanted routine. So you need to observe yourself. What exactly happens when you think of your old core beliefs? Is it the sight of a church? A person wearing a necklace with a cross? A specific time of the day? Music on the radio? When you find the relevant cues, you can think of alternative thinking routines and rewards. Here’s a link that outlines the approach:

http://blogs.plos.org/neurotribes/2012/03/20/breaking-the-habits-that-enslave-us-qa-with-charles-duhigg/

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Posted: 20 November 2012 02:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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dansmith62 - 20 November 2012 08:02 AM

I recommend that you focus on your thinking habits, which like other habits are ruled by a sequence of cue, routine (in your case the thinking routine of old core beliefs) and reward. Charles Duhigg wrote a great book and it explains how habits can be changed effectively. It requires effort. One key is finding the cues in your environment that trigger an unwanted routine. So you need to observe yourself. What exactly happens when you think of your old core beliefs? Is it the sight of a church? A person wearing a necklace with a cross? A specific time of the day? Music on the radio? When you find the relevant cues, you can think of alternative thinking routines and rewards. Here’s a link that outlines the approach:

http://blogs.plos.org/neurotribes/2012/03/20/breaking-the-habits-that-enslave-us-qa-with-charles-duhigg/

Thank you for sharing. I did read the article you provided the link to and have put that book on my to-read list. I think it will help my OCD mind!

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