Being Happy After Leaving Christianity

One of the most heartbreaking things I’ve realized after leaving Christianity is that the religion never wanted me to be happy. That’s a bold statement, and a bit counter-intuitive considering that the whole faith is based on loving one aspect of a particular deity. Love and caring and compassion get poured over the faithful like wax, forming this veneer of perfect bliss. But the covering is too complete; it doesn’t leave much room to breathe.

Just recently I had been walking by as a sermon got played on TV, the bright and shining face of a folksy evangelical preacher with a modern thin microphone clipped around his head. He had that look like all Southern ministers have, that look of desperation and authority all rolled into one. It wants to pull you in and break you into a thousand pieces and reassemble them all at the same time. The guy’s from Georgia, but he’s upper-crust Southern so his accent has only a slight lilt to it.

His message? Really following Jesus.
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard a sermon chewing out Christians for not really following Jesus, I’d have a shitload of nickels. Even after deconverting and not intentionally looking for these messages, I’d still have a decent income from it. It’s not enough to get people into the pews on Sunday; they have to learn how they’re doing life wrong almost every week.

That sermon came from a DVD purchased online by a family member for an adult Sunday school class. Like most other sermons and videos of that nature, it’s packaged as something new and exciting. Here’s this secret to really following Jesus that true Christians™ have been missing up until now. The guy would build people up only to tear them down and let them know that the real Jesus wants you to do…whatever he says it is.

The whole goal is to do like what the minister in my previous post did to kids: discourage being content with yourself. People who are happy with themselves don’t fit in well with the message of a world of sinners in need of salvation. Being happy is a sin in and of itself; happiness only can be associated with thinking about Jesus or the associated deities.

These messages are a stumbling block to my recovery from religion.
They don’t just come from sermons. Sometimes they come from well-meaning Christians who assume not believing is pitiable, or it comes from ill-meaning Christians who insist they know what’s really in my heart. Messages that people can recover from Christianity and lead happy lives really contradicts the message in traditional American fundagelical culture. In that light, it makes fundagelical Christianity seem misanthropic.

I’ve let the opposition keep me quiet for the past year almost. Whenever I encounter this misanthropy, I have to deal with it because of my history with the faith. Unlike people who never hung around in it, they might not get the undertones of every little jab and snipe that gets sent my way. It takes its toll because I used to take these messages to heart, and I’m having to learn how to see them for what they really are: attempts to make me miserable so that I might reconsider Christianity or criticizing it.

Part of me thinks that by not reacting to this kind of stuff, I’m losing my humanity in some way. Through a lot of searching, I’ve found that I’m actually doing the opposite. For too long I’ve hated being in my own skin for no other reason than some old book and some church said so. It’s not that I’m ignoring the point of view of others; it’s that I’m ignoring people when they’re being rude for no good reason.

People can and should be happy without Christianity.
That search can be hard for people who leave the faith, considering all I’ve mentioned above (and then some). On top of that, I have a condition which doesn’t let me be happy very much. Despite all that, there are times when I do recognize that I am happy, if for no other reason than knowing I don’t have to be trapped inside a religion anymore.

It does not matter one bit when someone of faith wants to tear down the happiness of others. They’re just trying to share their misery. Nobody has to take it from them, because it’s their choice do lock themselves inside a cage.

16 thoughts on “Being Happy After Leaving Christianity

  1. It seems Christians simply are unable to understand that happiness does not come from “knowing Jesus.” Rather, it comes from within. It’s looking at life with a positive frame-of-mind. It’s being upbeat about what happens around you instead of focusing on all the things that are “wrong” (like those misguided “sinners”). And most of all, it’s simply enjoying LIFE!

    Sure, we all have our trials and tribulations, but with a positive attitude (and sometimes a little medication 🙂 ), things eventually seem to work themselves out. As the old saying goes, “Remembering always. This too shall pass.”

    Liked by 5 people

  2. This is a lot to wrestle with. I have not left Christianity, and I don’t know if I ever will. I’ve more or less left the Church in that I don’t attend Sunday services anymore, but I don’t feel like I’ve left the body of people who do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God and others. I resonate so much with this post, though. I am happier without those religious pressures, and at the same time, I miss the rituals, the music, and the stories. I wonder if I can still claim the Christian label, though, when I find myself more drawn to so-called secular circles who show more love and compassion than most of the so-called Christians do.

    Wow…all of this from one post. Thank you for sharing your story and encouraging me to wrestle with these questions.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lindsay, if you are one of those people who do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with others, then you are OK in my book. I don’t think it matters so much what label you give yourself right now. No church has a monopoly on being a good person or living a worthwhile life.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hey Lindsay,

      I’d like to echo Ubi’s sentiments. The label itself isn’t terribly important, or at least it ought not be important. Being a kind person isn’t a destination. I like to think that I try to practice at it as much as I’m able over my lifetime.

      That you are trying to figure out what justice, love, and mercy are is all anyone can do, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Since we both have a background of growing up in a Christian environment, we know the drill. They are well intentioned, trying to “save” you. It doesn’t matter if you are perfectly content in your new religion, worldview or philosophy. You are wrong and Jesus is the way. (in their eyes)

    In the past, I have struggled with and fought against the same people. I generally except these people for who they are and what, in the name of their religion, they are trying to accomplish but at the same time, I stand my ground and, again, explain that I am perfectly happy and content with my own “truth”.

    There’s going to be really cool people out there who accept that you have a different vision and just like other areas in life, you’ll have those who give you a hard time. The only thing that really matters is how you feel and what you believe.

    Dave

    Liked by 2 people

  4. When someone says that Christianity or God doesn’t want me to be happy, it makes it think, what do they define as happiness, what are those good things they want to do that God doesn’t let them do?
    I would urge someone not to look at Christianity as a society of people who have strict rules, restrictions and programs, where they have been coerced to join so as to participate in them, but as a personal choice, their own choice to follow Jesus.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Daniel,

      It’s not so much as feeling denied by a deity as it is being denied by the implications of the tenets of faith. As an initial caveat, I do recognize that brands of Christianity vary, and so my own experiences might not reflect that of most Christians.

      That said, one big thing I’m talking about here is the belief that everyone is a sinful being in need of salvation. This is a core belief in many versions of the faith, and the implication is that people are worthy of eternal punishment in the fiery lake of hell if they don’t trust in Jesus to save them (whatever that specifically might mean is a whole other matter entirely). Thus, the idea that a person might be content with their self-worth runs contrary to this teaching.

      As I alluded to above, some Christians might not believe in hell or damnation or the theory that people must believe in Jesus to be saved. To that extent, I’m not referring to any persons or churches which might call themselves Christian.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, I’d say that the whole concept of everyone being a sinful being in need of salvation is the actually the number one reason for Jesus’s coming to the world to die for our sins. (Ever wonder why John 3:16 is the most popular and most well known scripture of the Bible)
        The Bible itself is a book about our salvation. It explains how sin was brought into the world…how God gives the Iraelites laws and conditions on how to live righteously…how God has issues with people who sin…how Jesus was the sacrifice to take away sin, if one acknowledges him and accepts him…and how one can be connected with God.
        In fact, even if a certain community/individual hasn’t heard about Jesus or doesn’t know at all what a sin is, they still sin…lying, cheating, killing, stealing, fornication etc. And even if someone doesn’t want to call these things sin, they still know that they are wrong acts. And people do these things, we all have done these things.
        Now, concerning Christians who might not believe in hell or damnation, or the theory that people must believe in Jesus to be saved…I could ask them, “how can that be?” Jesus himself talked about these very things (Luke 12:4-5, John 14:6). Actually, this is why I referred to Christianity as a personal thing with Jesus, to be a Jesus follower and not as a society one just says they belong to. These Christians would basically be saying that they don’t believe Jesus when it comes to the existence of hell or being saved from sin. One can’t chose to believe Jesus’s teaching on one thing, and then refuse to believe in the other. They’d be making Jesus to be one who tells some truth but can also lie when it comes to some stuff. Jesus is God, and God doesn’t lie.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hey there Daniel,

        It sounds like you do hold the belief that the whole world needs salvation from sin. What I’m driving at is the implication of that idea. If the belief is true, it means that everyone is deserving of eternal torment simply for being who they are. In other words, without salvation, everyone is deserving of hell.

        That idea inherently carries with it the notion that one ought not be content with who they are. In order to be “clean,” they need an outside influence. On their own, it is impossible to be good enough to be considered worthy of an eternity with a holy and perfect entity.

        Some people might counter with the notion that salvation is the other part, but I must reiterate that it is besides the point I’m making. Instead, I’m focusing on the idea that people are not good on their own, cannot be sufficiently decent by themselves, and therefore cannot be content with themselves in their own right.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I understand your concern. But just to put it straight, people aren’t deserving of eternal torment simply for being who they are, but because of their practice of sin in their lives (doing wrong in their lives). When Christians commit their lives to God, it doesn’t stop them from being who they are and what they like to do…working tirelessly to earn a living, watching comedy shows, having parties, and many other things that constitute life.
        By worldly standards, we have good people and bad people i.e. those who keep the law, and some who even do charity, and those break the law, and others who enjoy malice and are sadistic.
        However, God’s good is basically a standard above…what we do, what we say, what we think, the kind of people we are in the privacy of our rooms when no one is there looking/supervising us.
        If we were all to do a personal evaluation of the kind of people we have been through our years…counting those times when we were stubborn young kids, those teenager lifestyles and attitudes we had, and so on, I don’t know how we can confidently proclaim that we have been good individuals throughout.

        Yes, some of us are good people; keeping the law, helping others when we see their need, greeting politely, not dealing in drugs, etc. But I’m sure, If one evaluated themselves honestly, being true to themselves, they’d identify that at some point in their lives, they did something wrong/bad/selfish. And just that mere fact, is enough to know that we are not good by God’s standard. And that is why he has been there since the beginning, expressing how he dislikes sin/evil/what is bad, and how he wants to correct and connect that once-was relationship with us.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Diplomacy gives me the opportunity to explain something, not just to the people in the conversation but maybe also to people who might be reconsidering their stance on Christianity. It’s the people who feel trapped but aren’t sure how to leave their faith that I think most about when I engage in these discussions.

        Like

      • Hello again!

        This thought you express is the crux of what I’m talking about in my post:

        “But I’m sure, If one evaluated themselves honestly, being true to themselves, they’d identify that at some point in their lives, they did something wrong/bad/selfish. And just that mere fact, is enough to know that we are not good by God’s standard.”

        It’s hard for people to be content with themselves when there’s this idea that there is something about them (sin) that makes them unworthy of eternal life. How are they supposed to feel good about themselves when nothing they do to better themselves matters?

        Like

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