Losing my faith used to be something that terrified me. My coping strategies for undiagnosed depression and anxiety depended on believing there was a deity out there capable of helping me. Without it, I was lost as to what I could do to make suicidal thoughts and sheer panic go away.
I’m not just talking about changing one’s specific faith beliefs to a different faith belief. Instead, it’s like quitting religion cold-turkey. One has this need to sing to walls and talk to food and talk about being a lowly sinner. All of a sudden it’s gone. And you can’t talk to your faith-friends about it because they might shun you, belittle you, or dismiss what’s happening.
That’s actually the worst thing about losing faith. It’s going from having people who pretend to care about you to not having anyone wanting to talk about your existence. Some religious sects – like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Latter Day Saints – have a program of putting this into place. Other religious sects – like the mainline church I went to – just tend to do it more informally. Regardless, big things can feel like they’re happening, and nobody wants to lend an ear.
Now’s the part where people can tell I’m a former Lutheran. I always have to talk about good news after bad news. Other former Lutherans might get what I’m talking about.
Regardless, the bad news is that you lose a support network. The good news is that you can always get a new one. Online is a great place to start (it’s where I started). In-person can be a bit risky. If you’re in a particularly religious area, a good way to meet non-religious people is to look around while religious people are saying grace. Anyone else looking around is someone cool to talk to.
Bottom line is that it’s okay to lose your belief in deities. I’ve said this before, but the world doesn’t stop spinning when you stop believing in the Christian deity. It applies to other faiths as well. I realize now that my fear about losing my religion was in part due to being afraid of what other people might do if they found out.
All I did was let the unreasonable behavior of others control me. Thinking about it, some of these people were part of my support networks. So in a way, losing my faith did something healthy for me right off the bad – it disconnected me from toxic people.
What happens when people lose their faith? A whole mess of stuff. But other messes get cleaned up by it. It’s not as bad as you might think.