I’ve previously lamented the fact that people who leave their faith don’t get the same treatment as when they got into it. New church members where I used to attend get a welcoming class. They get meetings with the pastor. They get invites to church functions. They get potluck dinners with good food.
There’s no potluck, party, or post-faith coach when you get out.
The closest to it is deprogramming from the more violent cults. Even then, it’s therapy. Nobody’s able to offer cake or let them know when the next non-religious holiday is. Going into a faith, the people let you know you’re special. Coming out, people tell you to get over it.
Deconversion isn’t a process for the faint of heart. The more a person genuinely believes in a religious construct, the more someone needs a hand to hold coming out. Beliefs can cause permanent harm. Dealing with them is bad enough without having to miss the few perks there were when you were in a faith. I’m talking not just about the gatherings and community. People will lose their friends, their jobs, and much more when they finally get to be honest with themselves.
The harshest reality is that nobody who leaves a faith is less special than someone who is going into one. Deconverts are not less than anyone. If life has taught me anything, it’s that being honest to yourself is hard work. Deconverts have to maintain that honesty in regards to the thing that people lie to themselves and each other the most.
My focus here has always been on people leaving Christian or pseudo-Christian faiths. It’s the kind of recovery I’m the most familiar with. I’m recovering from that faith. But it’s not the only faith out there. I don’t know what it’s like for ex-Hindus, ex-Muslims, ex-anything else. If it’s anything like my experience, my heart goes out to those people as well.
It’s taken years, but I’d like to say that there is some sort of positive perspective on this. Leaving faith for good removes one artificial barrier people put between each other. We don’t have a religion-tribe to belong to, to support, to declare over another, to smother other people with. It’s like stepping into a brighter world with a better view.
Welcome. Find rest if you are weary. Find refuge from the storms around you. Find strength if you are weak.
And maybe one day, should the paths of the mutually wounded cross, we could have that potluck dinner.
One thought on “Welcoming People Out of Their Faith”
Great post SB. Whenever I feel that I miss some of the ‘perks’ associated with religion, it is good to remember that much of it was a facade – especially those ‘welcoming’ classes you mentioned. While you may feel like you are losing something at the time, you only have much to gain from leaving, not the least of which is the opportunity to experience authenticity.
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