My Country

Forgive this divergence; I know this is not related to my typical “Godless” writings, but writing is how I vent….and boy do I need to vent.

 

My County

My country has existed for just over 200 years,

Centuries less than most of its power-peers.

Vision founded by rebels and dreamers,

Fallen to the hands of powerful schemers.

Animosity becomes a poison mantra chanted loudly,

Cradling rosy minorities incapable of reasoning soundly;

Every group has its abhorrent, its odious looters,

But the problem is the verdant budding of shooters.

Dreams are tinged with unanswered calls;

Swelling back-beats of club music, rubescent falls,

Interrupted studies of technology or chemistry:

Enduring silencing of a piping recitation of A-B-C;

Disturbed worship and families bereft,

Of black bags filled with holiday dressed.

Wakening;

Primal instinct overrules statistical safety.

Metallic hip protrusions in line, anxiety weighty;

Discreet tremors waiting beside ununiformed

Peek-a-boo butts, qualification unadorned.

Paralyzed; no face or hue on the bearer

Religion, race, gender makes no fouler, or fairer.

Blind: who holds the indifferent fire arm?

Just feel small warm hands held; reverberate alarm.

Wondering: quickly, unobtrusively walk out?

Keep breathing, since milk is easier to live without.

Most disquieting is the lack-lost novelty

The “mass” news report headings usual to see.

Is the repercussion of primal fear unfounded

When media pass-time proves it grounded?

The last time I felt any anguished surprise,

Was a birthday with a Sandy demise.

A political hook thrown to the masses;

Screams for change over which time passes.

My country has existed for just over 200 years,

Centuries less than most of its power-peers.

A country founded seeking life and liberty;

Again; escape blood- coated captivity.

Part Four: Depression

If you are currently experiencing depression, I would like to call your attention to some services that exist: The Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a website and phone Hotline. The number is:

1 (800) 273-8255

The are available 24/7, 365 days a year

Alternate title: Discovering Finality

“Imagine if you suddenly learned that the people, the places, the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, had never been.”

-A Beautiful Mind

This section is still a bit tough for me to write, and personally I am struggling to keep a focus. This section is the most difficult, but also the most succinct. I will preface with a reminder that while this tends to be a lingering, inflammatory, and difficult place, it is also one of the final steps out, and there IS a light at the end of this tunnel. 

The facts that emerge when one finally realizes the finality of death are hard, and if you are in a tough spot, PLEASE read through this entire post.

Depression strikes in so many ways, but I will try to stick to three broad categories;

  1. Loss of the afterlife
  2. Lost Time
  3. Loss of the “Great Plan/Adviser”

Loss of the Afterlife

Once you embrace the concept of no God, there is generally a moment when it really hits that there is also no afterlife. You won’t see Mom, Dad, your kids, your friends, your pets etc… again.

And it hurts. Deeply. 
You relive the death of each lost loved one, sometimes hard hit by the words that had initially been handed to you in attempts at comfort:

  • “They are in a better place”
  • “God needed them”
  • “It was a part of God’s plan”
  • “They are looking down on us now…”
  • “This was just how it was meant to be”
  • and so many more

This thought can be prohibitive, and seeking an escape from this fact is tempting; sometimes to the point that some may give up and back-peddle from their pursuit of truth at this point.

All I can say here (which may not be an immediate comfort) is that while life becomes incredibly fleeting once you escape religion, it often also become precious beyond measure.

And YOU own it- you can do whatever pleases you ( within reason and law, of course ).

Personal Note: A huge relief for me was also found here; while I felt I was losing my loved ones all over again, I also lost hell, and that was amazing. No one was burning, writhing, screaming, crying etc… for eternity. While heaven might not exist, that meant hell didn’t either. And that meant that countless “souls” were safe from torment. Since eternal torment was a concept that always bothered me, this was a massive relief.

Lost Time

This one is especially tough on those who have dedicated significant amounts of time, perhaps even their careers, to their faith. If the apostasy breaks up a marriage or ends a career, it can be especially difficult.  Sometimes this can even play into time lost with friends and family if religion (or lack thereof) had created a rift previously.

 

Loss of the “Great Plan/Adviser” 

It can be more than a bit unsettling to suddenly realize that you do not have to pray for forgiveness, but you now have to solve to problems yourself, without some divine guiding hand helping you along. Suddenly, your choices are your own; your outcome is your own.
Suddenly, life is now your responsibility.
If you lived in a strict household, you may recall the feeling you had when you first moved into your own place, and your parents were not there to tell you “no”, or when to be home, or how to sort laundry. It is a paralyzing mixture of freedom and terror! There will be habits to break and thought patterns to change.
Change that is this sudden and ambiguous can quickly put you at odds with a previously cherished community, which can certainly certainly trigger anxiety and sadness.
No matter your age, you can feel like the new kid on the block.

Rest assured, there is a large and ever growing secular community out there who has been in the same place you have. Reach out:

The Thinking Atheist
Living After Faith

 

 

If you are currently experiencing depression, I would like to call your attention to some services that exist: The Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a website and phone Hotline. The number is:

1 (800) 273-8255

The are available 24/7, 365 days a year

Part Three: Bargaining

(Alternate Title: Keeping the Faith)

Faith, and the path towards escaping it, is a regular Baskin Robbins. For the sake of brevity I shall lump our flavors into three categories, and In the interest of taking this analogy as far as I can (and to head off a slew of “yeah, buts…”), I fully acknowledge the sprinkles, candy bits, and nutty additions available. But I will stick to my basic flavors for the time being.

 If you are reading this, you are likely past these, or on your way out. Or, perhaps you are simply curious. Regardless, I hope it helps to remind us all that this is a road that has been well traveled.

 In the realm of lost faith, I have found that bargaining comes in three major forms;

1)The first occurs before the rejection of faith, and many budding apostates stall at this point. They are happy with the comfort they find in the distillation, reinterpretation, etc… of their faith.

And frankly, why shouldn’t they be? It’s widely socially acceptable, and you get to cast off most guilt for atrocities committed by extremists.  This is the realm that many “moderates” dwell in, and tends to list towards what is viewed as a liberal view point.

These are the Cherry-pickers; in my experience, this is the strongest group. This group tends to tote the allegorical defense for their chosen faith. They will claim that their chosen holy book tells tales that are clearly false, but which have a valuable, chewy moral nugget in the center. This cherry-picking tendency allows them to eschew the nastier bits of their holy tomes, while embracing the poetic, altruistic sections.

When all else fails, this may default to the “better person” defense; they like having some form of mystic crowd control. They may also love the community and heritage they have, and are simply clinging to the common interest held by those they socialize and live with.

These folks bargain by moral weight; the good vs. the bad within their faith.

 2) The Second is commonly referred to as Pascal’s Wager, and is also a question/challenge many of us will face when we “come out” as godless. 

This one is as simply as philosophy ever gets; I have copied the following from a Wikipedia page, and it looks pretty similar anywhere you go:

(excerpts from Pensées, part III, §233):

  1. God is, or God is not. Reason cannot decide between the two alternatives.
  2. A Game is being played… where heads or tails will turn up.
  3. You must wager (it is not optional).
  4. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.
  5. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. (…) There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.
  6. But some cannot believe. They should then ‘at least learn your inability to believe…’ and ‘Endeavour then to convince’ themselves.


I have actually encountered a number of closet atheists who stay in Church for this reason. I have one simple response:

Pascal assumes only the existence of the Christian God. However, in the course of human existence nearly 3000 deities have been identified, many within polytheistic faiths.
Knowing this plethora of potential deities awaits,  which should I choose, why, and how? And, as most of these are wildly jealous,  won’t I be damned by the rest for choosing the wrong God(s)?

Instead of Pascal’s short sighted Wager, I challenge folks to consider these alternate viewpoints:

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones”.

–Marcus Aurelius

“We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.”
― Richard DawkinsThe God Delusion

 3) The Third occurs after one faith is rejected, and another embraced.

This group has its own subcategories, but is highly individual in their path. Generally, however, it is simply the first flashlight in the dark; the realization that something is off, and a search for truth, and maybe for a more sincere compassion.
These are the people who are searching, because something just does not fit.

Feel free to skip the rest, of this section, as I will tell my story, as I don’t know a better example to give. However, my base reasoning is really where this group is defined, so here it is if you are interested;

The short version played like this (And many of you likely have a similar story):

Conservative Lutheran—Moderate Christian—Pagan/Wiccan—Buddhist—Agnostic—Atheist.
After moving out of the first category, I lived here for a long time; I did a lot of bargaining to stay in this comfy-cozy category. I began as a rather conservative Lutheran, with Catholic ties –Yes, I do understand the irony, and would like to note that I am ethnically Irish and Jewish (the cognitive dissonance is strong in this one)—and moved to Wiccan in my teens.
I moved, because I could not yet fathom a world without a creator, and frankly wanted there to be one. However, I could no longer stomach the strongly discriminatory verses and values that leaked their bile into my Christian faith, which told me that my sweet, wonderful friends would burn forever for simply loving the wrong God, or wrong partner, for being the wrong race, or any other number of supposed sins.
As time continued, I discovered that while Wicca allowed me a strange comfort and a course of action in tough times, it still didn’t actually solve anything.
My path continued to a brief stint in Buddhism, because they did not really acknowledge a deity, and I found myself less and less able to reconcile the idea of an omnipresent creator that was involved with daily life with the apparent arbitrariness of daily life.
But after a series of sudden and shocking personal events in 2010, I simply stopped needing a deity. I still  craved the comfort-blanket idea of a God for the first few months after, but it was unsatisfactory and shallow after the intensity of the recent events.
I decided to look for concrete answers and see what I could find, and what they might suggest. I searched for God in Science, hunting in all the little gaps that Gods love to hide in. I bargained, and flirted with agnosticism. But like the amusing hunting party for the invisible pink unicorn, I found nothing.

All my cards were on the table, and I simply had to call.

There was no God.

…but golly, did I bargain with every mental fiber I had in trying to find and keep one.

Part Two: Anger

Alternate title: Why are we Angry, Atheists?

Anger.

Perhaps the emotion atheists are most famous for. From Facebook groups like The Angry Atheist (and variants) to t-shirts, to the book Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless by Greta Christina, it has become our signature sentiment. 

We all have seen it expressed in various ways, from the not-so-subtle “F–CK” GOD signs, to the pointed mockery of religious followers by the talents of The Thinking Atheist, or even the general anger we individuals may feel at the state of the world. 

If you are reading this, you are likely old enough to remember 9-11. You have probably heard of female genital mutilation, honor killings, Jihad, child soldiers (See: A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah) and heard of the 19,000+ children that die every single day from preventable causes, causes that are not prevented due to wars and religious restrictions of treatment or reproduction. If you are reading this, chances are also good that you know that a huge amount of this suffering stems directly from wars, laws, and taboos created by religion.

We live in a society that is uncomfortable with this anger, and seeks to lock it up. And in America, this vast and culturally isolated nation, it is so very easy to distance yourself from the rest of the world and all the occurrences that make anger so very understandable. We are encouraged to ignore the plights of others, called hopelessly liberal if we want to try to help people who live somewhere beyond this magical patriotic border, and even the attempt to learn another language can be considered controversial.

There are bumper stickers everywhere that remind me of the hopeless turtle-tactics of many Americans: Duck inside your shell, pray, buy a Ford and a gun, pray, think America first, close your eyes, pray, tap your heels three times and say “America is the best, America is the best, America is the best!” And remember, say it in goddamn American English (preferably without dialing one)!!!

Ahem.

And we are the angry ones? While anger is frequently found in the atheist community, I feel analyzing why we are angry is essential– anger is a double edged sword that can either motivate us to discover or bleed us dry. To borrow a bit from the hilarious and intelligent Natalie Angier in The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science, we need to avoid cynicism, which is a largely useless state–we need to use our anger to become know-it-alls, not no-it-alls.

So let’s analyze the common sources of anger, both as one approaches becoming an apostate and those encountered afterwards:

Anger at God

First for me was anger at God. Anger is frequently our introduction to becoming an apostate. Almost holding hands with the gut-wrenching grief that initialized my path to atheism, skipping just a beat behind the tears, was intense anger. Anger that was truly overwhelming and deeply painful. Anyone who has taken this path to discovering the absence of a God understands the level of rage and sense of injustice it takes to truly, profoundly question God’s motives. At this point you still believe, and yes, you are indeed angry at God. This lasts only until our reasoning leads us to the discovery that God is simply not there to be mad at.

For me, this was healing. There was so much hurt, and so much confusion that was alleviated in that striking moment when I finally realized that there is no God. I realized that the anger was pointless–large numbers and nature will eventually strike us all.

I still think of the old parable of the scorpion and the fox; I cannot be mad at nature and statistics. Eventual tragedy is inevitable; it is their nature.

Allow me to add–this is very different from accepting God’s will, though the religious might mistake the two. God’s plan implies a purpose that we cannot in our lowly existence understand. Accepting life and statistics means understanding the random and inescapable impartiality with which life events can be dealt. It means not taking it personally, and in my case and those of many others, it meant the freedom from a horrid guilt that suggested perhaps I had done something wrong, and that others were being hurt to punish me for my sins.

I think many Atheists are in fact angry with God; but not in the sense that the religious would like to think. For those of the Harry Potter generation, I think our anger at God is similar to my ongoing hatred of Voldemort’s follower, Bellatrix. It is anger at a fictional character who symbolizes something to me. I would be crazy if I assumed Voldemort or Bellatrix was real, but those of my generation must still be as outraged as I am at her taking out one of our beloved Weasley twins.

Anger at the Church/Bible

I feel this is where many of us vent our anger in the world of apostates. The church has caused many of us to lose contact with family, friends and entire communities. Even those of us like myself (I have been very fortunate), who lose very few friends and family members after coming out of the atheist closet, experience sadness and anger at the church.

Why?

Because as much as I love my friends, I experience frequent anger at many of them who hold faith.

Currently, while the courts debate the arguments of Prop 8 and DOMA, I have friends posting Bible links justifying their support of segregating homosexuals, touting that obnoxious little “love the sinner, hate the sin” slogan. These are genuinely good people, whose loving nature is being drowned and distorted by the hands of a tragically obsolete scripture.

I have co-workers who deny themselves and their children the basics of science education, substituting genesis.

In a parenting forum yesterday, I was overwhelmed with anger and sorrow for the children of a mother who, in response to another mother asking how to handle her toddler’s temper tantrum, posted:

“You have to beat it out of them. Children throw tantrums because humans have a sinful nature. Children should obey parents because it is pleasing to the LORD.”

I am still appalled and chilled just typing this account of it. The Bible had one thing right–it really is the little children who suffer.

If any of the anger is justified, I really think this is it. The churches shove harmful doctrine down the throats of good people. Extremists start camps to brainwash children. This is more than simple faith; Church is religion with an Agenda with a capital A, and frequently that Agenda is not very nice.

Anger at ignorance/believers

A note: This will likely be my longest section, because I will seek to explain some things in a way that the life-long atheist can understand. Faith is nearly impossible to understand if you have not existed within it, but I will try.

I am always dumbfounded by how resolutely the faithful dismiss science and evidence. As much as I try to retain my laid-back nature, when I see my students pull out genesis homework in science class (a new form of church-endorsed ignorance; students are given creation homework they can pull out in science class whenever they don’t agree with the actual lesson being taught), I am outraged. How can their parents allow this?? The evidence of evolution is right in front of them. Medicine, Geology, Astronomy, Psychology, etc… IT’S ALL RIGHT THERE. There are books and empirical evidence and everything!

As an educator, I really do have an instinct to teach, so perhaps I take this a bit personally. I also genuinely love humankind. I think education is the single most important thing to give a person after food, water and shelter. It pains me deeply to see God praised for the accomplishments of science. But why? Why should I care?

Because when God is praised for science, people go read a Bible, not a science book.

See, when I have an interest in something, ever since my atheism, I go grab a book about that subject. I learn. In the future I can utilize that information. Before my atheism, I grabbed some candles, and did a fancy prayer of thanks. Afterwards, all that resulted in was scraping wax off my counters.

“In the age of information, ignorance is a choice.”

Lovely sentiment. But so, so hard. For those of you who have escaped religion, I don’t need to explain how hard it is to get your mind out of the pew. But for the benefit of those out there slinging insults like “Religitard” or “Creationshits”, allow me to explain why you need to turn down the heat. As the entertaining and enlightening Seth Andrews says in his book Deconverted: The Path from Religion to Reason, no one was ever “brow-beaten into an epiphany.” The louder you yell, the ruder you get, the less anyone listens.

As humans, we tend to make up our minds and stick to it. Being able to change your mind easily when new evidence proves your previous stance wrong is a rare and valuable gift. Be happy your neurons and synapses function in such a way as to allow you these mental gymnastics. But have pity on those who have been trained to stick to their guns even when they are out of ammunition and the mighty sword-pen is to their throat. Not only have the religious been trained to ignore reason, they have been instructed in refuting it. Additionally, they have been told that if they fail, they (and possibly their families) will burn for eternity. And I cannot explain how terrifying the concept of hell is.

This is a horrible trick, planted in them since their infancy, but it is one you must try to understand. Faith is like a virus or tumor, lodged deep within. It is insipid, linked to many of their essential functions, and worse, they love their little God-tumor. The pride and conviction of the religious must be handled with tact; like removing any disease, the God-tumorectomy requires skill and compassion. Attempts to rip it out with the blunt instruments of cursing, name calling and plain rude mocking just will just cause thick scar tissue to build up and resist the future excision.

Remember: You are the result of 4.6 billion years of evolution; act like it.

Take a moment to consider how much of their life has been built around this, and what they might lose: family, spouse, offspring, community, jobs… Consider how hard it is for the average person to admit they are wrong. Consider the pain of accepting that not only that there is no God, but worse- there is no heaven. There is no reuniting with the lineage by the pearly gates. Essentially, they will experience the death of all their loved ones AGAIN when they realize there is no afterlife. If you have never had faith, take some time to imagine it.

Do not be angry with these people–pity them. Try with tenderness and understanding to help them, if they will let you. Understand that you must protect yourselves from the religiously rabid, but also that you cried at the end of Old Yeller (for those of you who have not read/watched Old Yeller, do so).

Let go of this anger at the online religious trolls. There is little you can do for them except protecting yourself. In summary to this whole article: stop fighting the terminally religious–it will make you a cynic. We need to focus on finding an inoculation; and that inoculation is education.

Look deeply at your anger. Is it helping you?

Is it helping anyone?

Can it?

Part One: Denial

Greetings!

Launching into Part one: Denial, I would first like to put forth a bit of a disclosure:

I will right now let you know that while I am using the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross & David Kessler format, I do acknowledge that everyone grieves differently. While there is significant research supposedly “debunking“ the five stages I still feel it helps to establish a familiar vernacular and I think the bones of the theory still hold basic validity. Because of the variability of grief, and how each stage might manifest, I encourage you to share your own stories, tips, discoveries etc… in the comments.

Part One: Denial

It is said that denial is nature’s way of helping us cope with or survive loss. (There are many ways this is experienced.) The ways this is experienced are many. Some may deny they ever truly believed and some may cling to their belief even as their tenacious grip on mythology slips and they tumble into reality.  Initially, the non-religious environment can leave you feeling like a fish out of water . While you are gasping and trembling in this new world of fact, you simultaneously are seeing the lay of the land clearly for the first time. The haze of heaven and hell, arbitrary saints and sinners falls and you have to readjust your entire perspective.

So who can blame us for having a hard time adjusting? Just as our first ancestors climbed bravely out of the oceans, we escape the cloying baptismal waters and find a new, scary and beautiful existence.

But it can take some time.

In this section I will be discussing some of the  challenges faced by those who are just fledgling humanists/atheists/brights etc…

When reading about denial, you will find numerous examples of people confronting physical deaths, hoping that the doctors called the wrong person, that filing had a mix up, that it was all a bad dream, etc… but with physical death, there is usually a fairly inescapable moment when you are confronted with the actual body, a funeral, or an obituary. After this, denial becomes more difficult and superficial. These can include little things like expecting your loved one to walk around the corner, waking up and momentarily forgetting they are gone, habitually putting out that extra setting or refusing to delete them from you phonebook.

Due to the lack of physical evidence when reality kills our God concept, I feel this is probably the longest stage for many of us. This is when society hits us with:

  • “you just need to have more faith”
  • “you are being tested“
  • “you aren’t submissive enough”
  • “God works in mysterious ways”
  • “it’s not for us to understand”
  • “it’s for the greater good” “
  • “we just can’t see what God sees”
  • “It’s all in God’s plan”
  • etc…

 

which compounds our guilt, shames us for our wavering belief, and encourages and prolongs our denial of God’s non-existence. In addition, for those of us without a scientific background, the temptation to burrow back into our community and deny everything is sometimes hard to resist.

A famous example is the creationist darling Kurt Patrick Wise, who earned a doctorate at Yale in Geology. He can easily be googled if you would like to read more about him since I will only provide a summary here.

The tale of the ironically named Wise begins with being raised fundamentalist yet seeking (and obtaining) an impressive and advanced scientific education. However, he eventually realized that fact so strongly disagreed with his religious upbringing, that he had to choose between the two- – the education he had dedicated years of his life to, that had been proven/supported scientifically, or his family and community with which he was raised.

Despite all the evidence, he still went back and now works in a creationist “Museum” teaching that the world is only 6,000-10,000 years old. Every day he knowingly lies to children about the history of the earth because this massive denial was easier than escaping his religion.

While I personally had a single experience that was the proverbial back-breaking straw, I spent years beforehand trying to rationalize my love of science and humanity with the faith I had been born into. I began to realize the falsehood of the concept of a loving God in high school, when I was essentially presented with a choice between accepting that my wonderful friends and some family were eternally doomed sinners or accepting that my religion was wrong.

I chose my friends, but was still unwilling and unready to abandon faith altogether. I explored Taoism, Wicca, Paganism (which stuck for a long while), Spirituality, Buddhism and various other religions. I dived wholeheartedly into each, searching for a spiritual connection. I devoured literature, attended meetings, psychics, etc… and tried earnestly to connect with something bigger. I was resting in each until the gap* that the God/ Gods were hiding in was filled with fact, or at least strong evidence, and it was obvious that God no longer fit there.

After realizing that this newest God didn’t work out, I dived into another;  I would hang on in any way I could because admitting that I was praying to nothing and I had absolutely no “Grand Plan” laid out for me in the cosmos was terrifying. I thought at the time that I was following some path, that some cosmic truth was leading me to a God I hadn’t discovered yet. I thought I just had to listen harder, be “better”.

I see people go through this all the time, and it breaks my heart. They dive into a Bible/Torah/Koran etc.., join prayer groups, light candles and try to regain (some amount of) control that they never truly had. They are fed statements like the ones listed earlier, designed to placate and guilt rather than heal. Proselytizing becomes encouraged as a way to display ones faith in the face of hardship.

Lastly (for this entry, not in reality) there is a certain guilt to the denial of the deity itself. It is akin to that well-loved binkie or teddy bear that has finally been torn asunder by the years and must be committed to the rubbish heap. It is that sense of betrayal your 8 year old self felt when you buried your beloved but deceased childhood pet in the dirt. It cannot be avoided and while you will come to understand it with time, I am not sure if that wound ever really heals. I guarantee you will still miss it sometimes, maybe just in passing. However, like that aching scar that is left after a life-saving surgery, let it be a reminder that you survived and have grown. Use it to help others.

Again, I encourage you to share your stories and examples in the comments. Recovering From Religion has some wonder forums as well; you can seek fellowship from those escaping the same faiths and sects, find out where to attend meetings and simply educate yourself.

*please reference “God of the Gaps” as explained by Richard Dawkins or Neil deGrasse Tyson.

My recommended reading:

Infidel, by Ayaan Ali. She explains the journey, guilt and denial of her path to Atheism as she escapes here Muslim/Somalia upbringing.

A special thanks to my marvelous friend for proofing these posts before I publish them! 🙂

Grieving for God (s) : Intro to an upcoming 5 part series about the stages of grief and the path to Atheism

Greetings!
I am going to break into the blogging world with an idea that has been rolling around in my head for a while; How the five stages of grief (as established by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross & David Kessler) are very much experienced in the realization of Atheism. I feel this is an important topic, as the transition from believing to knowing can be traumatic. Additionally, finding support for mourning religion can be hard– while I love my new-found secular community, it can be hard to discuss emotion in such a logic based community.

This topic formed while I was watching the film “A Beautiful Mind” a couple of months ago (a personal favorite) and heard this quote by the doctor treating the main character, who suffered from Schizophrenia:

“Imagine if you suddenly learned that the people, the places, the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, had never been.”

I quite literally had to stop the movie because of how deeply this quote impacted me. I had seen the movie countless times before, but never really “Heard” this quote in my previous viewings. I flashed back to the emotional state I had been in for nearly a year after discovering that God did not exist. When I realized that the entity I had grown up loving and fearing, praying to and sharing with, had been no more than a hopeful and publicly encouraged delusion, I was deeply shaken.

I am not sure many can understand the grieving that accompanies the death of your God or Gods unless they have been there. Society encourages religion, and hunts for proofs of it like a little dog that desperately searches for crumbs in a carpet. It is not hard to figure out why so many people are trapped within it. Even those who have critical minds and might discover the truth if left to their own devices are faced with serious consequences; the damage to a marriage and family, the reaction of coworkers, the loss of friends and the subtle or sometimes sudden exile from a faith-based community.

In addition to the real-world wars, we fight an internal battle as we discover the falsehoods of faith. This is what I will be discussing in this blog series. This battle ranges all over the emotional board. From feelings of betraying your family or church, to shame at your previous naiveté, to an actual feeling that you have lost a loved one, or the crushing realization that you will not actually be rejoining loved ones in another life, or even guilt at the relief you feel at finding out hell is not real. Nor is it all negative– there is a roller coaster here. From the grief can spring great joys– A freedom from an abusive belief system, the happiness of finding out your wonderful gay uncle and friends of other faiths will not burn for eternity.

It is a very difficult path to travel and I am hoping my thoughts and experiences might help someone out there feel a little less alone. Along the way I will provide links and recommendations to help my fellow new-born free thinkers traverse the difficult path to independence, self-awareness, and personal responsibility.

I imagine most of us know the five stages of grief, but I will list them here to remind you:
-Denial
-Anger
-Bargaining
-Depression
-Acceptance

This is the order my blog series will follow; you can do some reading up on the stages here:
http://grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/

And here you an find an amazing resource and community for those of us escaping faith:
http://www.recoveringfromreligion.org/