Life After Faith – Assessing The Damage

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

I’ve considered myself a non-Christian for just over four years now. During that time, I’ve written (and deleted) a bunch of posts on figuring out where I end and religious beliefs begin. For a long while, I believed in so many supernatural things that some of them just found a place and have been hiding there ever since. They’re no longer obviously religious thoughts, but they come from religious seeds.

Case in point: attaching identity to ideas.
I learned in church that things outside their teachings were bad things. They were of the world. It was a shorthand for saying that they were bad, and the people who held those ideas were bad people. Eventually the idea spread to the point that anyone who contradicted teachings was an agent of evil incarnate. If they didn’t fight as much when you tried to give them the GOOD NEWS™, at best they were just misguided souls who hopefully would come around.

This also worked introspectively. Every non-Christian thought and deed became a cause for dire concern. What if I didn’t mean it when I asked Jesus into my heart? What if I’m actually a terrible person who’s capable of lying to himself? What if there’s no salvation for someone like me who doesn’t conform to what the church says should happen when I give myself to Christ?

Nowadays, the idea just loses the religious trappings. People who don’t share the same thoughts on macroeconomics are bad people. Rivals are individuals who must be stopped. All of this because they don’t conform to ideological standards.

These ideas don’t do me any favors. I want to find them because of that.
Leaving religion – Christianity for me – isn’t just a single decision I made a while back. A lot of the teachings I picked up are unhealthy, and they still hurt. The process of healing gets stunted by every person who insists that I should come back for more abuse. Sometimes it’s all I can do to just ignore the demands of my former faith.

I think part of the problem is that living a secular life is a process and not a destination. Think of all the magical promises that were made when people joined a church or converted. They were bathed in the blood of the lamb. Born again. Made new. Everything changed all at once. Some people even started speaking gibberish and thrashing about on Sundays.*

There’s an unspoken expectation that the way out should mirror the way in. If magical thinking got me here, why can’t magical thinking get me back to reality? Of course that doesn’t work. It took years of being around the hyper-religious to get where I am, and so it’s going to take years of work to shore up my defenses.

Eventually I want to get into how those defenses get eroded.
Right now I just want to mention that people still in the faith have an interest in seeing deconverts stumble. This isn’t to mean that all Christians are lurking in shadows, waiting for that next notch on their spiritual bedposts. Rather, it means that the ideas behind the faith encourage Christians to break people down.

Incidentally, this is where I put most of my energy in damage assessment. I’m trying to find the ideas that want to keep me at the mercy of an imaginary deity at the expense of my well-being. Those are the most important, I think, because rejecting them inherently makes me a stronger person. Remembering that breaking myself down was part of the system is a crucial step to no longer being affected by it.

*I was too dignified to do that as a Lutheran. Instead, I just believed that communion wafers and wine turned into human flesh and blood after I consumed them. Every subset of Christianity has an absurd belief when one digs deep enough.

5 thoughts on “Life After Faith – Assessing The Damage

  1. Your existential pain is all too evident and I have commented that I think you are brave for sharing your thoughts as you process this transition in your life. I can’t but think that you will be creating an archive that can help others in your position.

    I think that one of the cruelest aspects of evangelical Christianity is evangelism. My view is that religions that do not coerce the masses into working to serve the interests of the religious and secular elites will not last. For example, Christianity’s support for slavery allowed it to be adopted by the Roman Empire which then used state power to greatly expand its scope. had Christianity not supported slavery, it would not have been so adopted, and it would be a minor religion to this day, if it lasted at all.

    Requiring believers to “spread the good news” and make nonbelievers into believers is a little like charging slaves to recruit indentured servants. Surely, this helps the elites who benefit from the coerced labor of the masses, but in what manner does it help the masses? If you are loathe to accept the role I assign to Christianity (as well as all other major religions) as I was at first, the primary message of Christianity is look to a future beyond death, one that will last ever so much longer than the years you have being alive. Do as you are told by the religious and secular authorities and you will be rewarded after you die. Interestingly, the elites get their rewards now and obey the rules or not at their whim (think of all of the backsliding prominent preachers there have been, pedophile priests, etc. Render unto Caesar, etc. Christianity, in the form of its worldly churches, is based upon obedience and little else. Ask yourself, who does this serve? If you lose belief in an afterlife (for which there is no evidence whatsoever) what reward do you get from your obedience. Currently it is status in church communities and nothing else.

    As always, I wish you the best and the way forward is always through the pain … always. (Having spent years and years avoiding the pain of these realizations, I have direct experience with this.)

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  2. I was taught that things were either “for or against” God and Jesus. So naturally, there would be some way to spot “demonic influences” in music, movies, art, places, etc. I spent years literally demon hunting, hahaha. So don’t feel bad if you believed anything magical. 😉 Religion is a powerful force, and humans seem to be wired to believe in the supernatural.

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  3. It’s a huge tangle, SB. We have so many influences in our lives: Our religious upbringing, our culture, the failings and successes of our parents in raising us, our friendships, etc., and they all inform each other. I wonder if it’s even possible to eradicate the cancerous parts that have metastasized and invaded the positive parts. My parents instilled in me a strong work ethic, but combined with evangelicalism that I fell captive to outside of my home, it’s turned into a monster that has almost done me in. Ugh. Thank gods for therapy.

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  4. I think one of the most helpful insights anyone can internalize is that people are not to be perceived as the enemy because they have opposing opinions. It just means they have different perspectives. The next step is to realize that there is some truth to be found everywhere and that we can also find common ground, and learn from each other.

    Whenever we fall into a rigid us against them type thinking, it is always harmful and in some measure rooted in insecurity and then a need for control.


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