It’s been over five years since I finally admitted to myself that I no longer believe in the divine. Even after all that time, I’m still discovering new things about myself and the echoes of my former piety. Leaving the kind of religion I had wasn’t just a one-day affair. It’s a process that has its ups and downs. In particular, I’m faced with how my Christian faith had stunted my emotional growth.
I hold onto anger too easily.
Raising godly children isn’t always a precious or uplifting process. There’s an ugly side to it. It involves physical discipline for slights both real and imagined. It involves reminding a child that his or her immortal soul is at stake. That there are evil, unseen forces out there ready to destroy everyone that child loves. Good and Evil are real things, and not appearing to like Good enough is grounds for punishment.
A corollary to all of this is that Evil must be hated. While in the mindset of belief, this is understandable. According to my old beliefs, Evil leads people to eternal damnation. It is the source of all that ails humanity. Some Christians view this as a tragedy of sin, but it’s not too far removed from anger at cosmic forces.
After abandoning my religious beliefs, I still have this urge to get angry about things that are outside my control. For years, I justified it by reminding myself that there was a divine plan, that bad things happen for a reason. Because it validated my faith, I never took that step back to ask myself if I really should have gone to the trouble of getting worked up about it.
In retrospect, it was a useful tool to nourish my faith.
I should be clear that my personal faith wasn’t something many Christians will ascribe to. Different people take different logical consequences to doctrines of sin, grace, and all other teachings. The similarity lies in the fact that it all reinforces belief. Whether someone feels pity or righteous fury towards sin is irrelevant. What matters is that something is felt.
My problem is that these feelings are artificial. The reason for them existing is something I know isn’t valid or real. Despite this recognition, I’m still finding occasions to get riled up over little things that don’t even affect me. When that happens, I have a tendency to be more susceptible to anxiety and depression issues. The latter is especially potent, because I can feel powerless over being able to rid myself of these vestigial pains.
I have been trying to learn what real acceptance of things is like.
I know that when I was a practicing Christian, I was told all the times to accept things as they were. However, some of the other teachings I got went against this practice. My mind seized upon the negative things all too easily. In the end, the kind of acceptance I was told I needed wasn’t the version that could help me. It was something incomplete.
For example, take a look at how Christianity treats loss of a loved one. That person is physically dead, but the spirit lives on forever in Heaven. To see that person again, one has to successfully get to Heaven too. This keeps the dead as a constant carrot-and-stick to remind people they need to be good or else they’ll never see the people they miss. Grief is eternal, not something to be overcome.
It took me leaving my faith to realize that loss isn’t forever. I can lose people dear to me without having to keep some macabre mental construct of them with me at all times. I can accept that they’re gone, and I can accept that their life had meaning to me.
The anger is harder for me to deal with. I’m determined to face it, though. There are times where it’s easy, and there are times when it’s difficult. I need to remind myself that it has gotten better with practice. Now that I’m not burdened with cultivating faith, I can finally begin my emotional growth.