The Difficulty of Going to Church and Missing Friends

I miss my friends. I think that’s been one of the hardest parts of leaving religion. Gratefully, my friends haven’t pulled away from me. It’s actually been quite the opposite, but not for the reasons you might expect.

One of my favorite parts of going to church was seeing all my friends weekly. I’d get to chat and laugh and catch up before and after service. Depending on who you were sitting with in the sanctuary also allowed for more potential fun to take place.

I kept going to church for a while after becoming an atheist, but I was still mostly closeted at that time. I kept going to keep up a front for my family and friends so that they wouldn’t worry or have something to talk about.

It became harder and harder to sit in service and listen to the pastor speak about things that I not only don’t believe in, but that I downright have a problem with. You see, the christian religion, or at least the way it’s always been known and represented to me, is one built on a lot of guilt. Some would paint it as grace or god showing his love, but I’d call it guilt. My biggest gripe was and still continues to be how empty and worthless people view themselves without god.

If you’ve ever gone to church then chances are you’ve heard these statements before. I can’t imagine how many times I’ve heard that humans are broken without god. We’re so terrible and corrupt and morally bankrupt without god. God gives our lives a purpose. We’re so terrible that god literally killed himself. We’re born broken. It sounds innocent enough if you’re in belief, but holy crap….what a massive downer.

It devalues every person on this planet with no evidence. We’re born sick and ordered to be made well by an all loving god that will send you to hell for not loving it. Yikes.

It’s very hard to sit in service and hear that. It’s also hard to even have a good time as I unintentionally sit there and deconstruct everything I’m hearing. Critiquing everything in my head. Looking for holes in the logic or an argument to support the assertions being spoken. I can’t shut it off.

Here’s a good exercise you can do next time you’re in service. Whenever the pastor says God, Jesus or Holy Spirit, replace that word with Zeus, Thor or Apollo. You’ll then have an idea of what it’s like sitting in service for me. It sounds crazy.

Also, since I’ve outed myself because I don’t want to live a double life, I don’t want to go to church and be a distraction to others that believe. I wouldn’t want to hinder someone’s worship.

I’ve been told by a good handful of people that I should still come. That they miss me. It’s a wonderfully nice thing for people to say, but it just seems so much more complex now.

A lot has happened to me over the last 2 years. My brother was killed, I lost my faith and I was blessed with a beautiful new baby girl. It’s been a massive emotional and intellectual roller-coaster in life and my relationships with my friends has suffered the most. If any of you are reading this now, I’m sorry that I’ve been as absent as I have been. It’s not been intentional or out of spite.

Sifting through the complexities that have come with all these recent changes hasn’t been easy. About 7 months after my brother died I was at the absolute lowest point of my life. I was missing my brother and I found myself very alone in my unbelief. Surrounded by people that didn’t and couldn’t understand my point of view while condemning my conclusions outright. It’s a low and lonely spot to find yourself in.

Thankfully, things have come a very long way since then and I feel better now than I ever have in my life. I just miss seeing my friends regularly.

Ah, what the hell. Maybe I’ll swing by church every once in a while just to shake shit up!

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8 thoughts on “The Difficulty of Going to Church and Missing Friends

  1. I read a bit of your blog. So sorry about your brother. In such situations, people often feel compelled to say something and frequently it is stupid. I know because after my 16 year old daughter died of cancer, someone told me, “I understand. I had a dog die.” Really? Peace be with you.

    • Thanks so much for the kind words. My condolences to you and your family as well. As much pain as losing my brother brought me I can’t pretend to understand the hurt you’ve gone through.

      Thanks for stopping by and for sharing.

  2. “We’re born sick and ordered to be made well by an all loving god that will send you to hell for not loving it. Yikes.”

    Totally I understand the feeling behind this quote. I think a lot of people feel this way. After reading the Bible several times I’ve come to the conclusion that Jesus would have agreed with your concerns. The basic reason for this is that the idea that we are ordered to be made well by God and that people can make themselves well is the root of religious hypocrisy that Jesus was so very much against. This idea that you’ve picked up is NOT a healthy idea and it is no wonder you have rejected it. True spirituality is very different… if you could accept that.

  3. I’ve read a bit of your blog, and I love how much your words speak to me.

    As I moved away from the church (raised Catholic) and discovered what my own personal beliefs really were, I still sought the community that came with church. I was at a Jesuit University at the time and would weekly attend a service on campus that was relaxed and filled with music and surrounded by people sitting around on the floor of a small stone chapel transplanted from France to the middle of campus. I would edit my singing, thinking for the first time the words I was actually singing and never took communion (which had never made sense to me)

    A few years ago, again seeking the sense of community when I moved to a new neighborhood, I found the Unitarian Universalists…If you haven’t checked out UU yet, I suggest you do. The congregation I attended was full of atheists, Buddhists, humanists and agnostics like myself. Services affirmed the dignity and humanity of all people and encouraged inquiry; reading were from poetry, prose, essays and the occasional holy book of various faiths (I only remember about one bible verse in the first year I was there). They joked that UUs are bad singers because they are always skimming the next line to see if they believe it and can sing it. They were my people…you may like them if you find yourself still seeking a spiritual community.

    • Amanda,

      Thanks so much for the kind words. It’s good to know that my experiences connect with people on some level.

      As far as a Unitarian church it’s a somewhat new concept to me. There’s one a town away from me that I’ve strongly considered checking out and your input strengthens my resolve to do so.

      Maybe once I do I’ll write a post about it and compare and contrast it from the Baptist and Evangelical upbringing I had.

      I do feel lucky that at my old home church they’ve been mostly non-condemning of my journey. It’s filled with good people and good friends. My membership was revoked though so becoming an elder is going to be a little harder now. Kidding.

      I met with another atheist for dinner last night and asked him about Unitarian churches and he told me a pretty funny joke:

      Q: How do you piss off a Unitarian?

      A: Put a burning question mark in their lawn.

      Kinda funny in a cheesy way!

      Thanks again for taking the time to give me some good things to mull over and for reading. I hope you’ll stop by again in the future.

      Nate

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