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How do you deal with 'wanting to believe'?

Hello,

I want to begin by assuring you that I am not some religious troll. I have been an atheist for some years, having previously been a Christian. Now I know that Christianity makes no sense and many of its central ideas are in conflict with science and reason. However, I feel bad and miserable every day for not believing it, and part of me really wants to be able to go back, fall on my knees and pray. I don’t know what it is I miss about my former faith, but I do really miss it painfully. Life seems somehow less now than it did then. The only thing stopping me is the fact that I don’t believe it any more.

Has anyone here been in a similar situation and if so, how did you resolve it? Any advice for me to be able to deal with this whilst remaining true to reality?

Posted: February 8th 2011

logicel

Try to focus on what you do miss about your former faith. Was it the social support you received from your religious community? The discipline and the rituals? The feeling of belonging and being protected by a loving, all powerful being? Have a chat with yourself and find out what it is that you lost.

You are in a state of grieving as you have lost something very important and familiar to you. In a way, you are homeless, in an alien land, not grounded anymore.

Though never having god belief, I have experiences many losses in my life and uprooting (living in various countries, learning new languages). My yearning for what was familiar can be very strong at times, after all these years.

What I do is just accept that I am grieving, that I am homesick, that I feel wobbly, and use this recognition as an opportunity to embrace a fruitful and positive perspective. Some of the things I try to do fail, and others work. Experiment. You may be closing the door on an old way of looking at the universe, but you are also opening a door on a new way.

You have my best wishes.

Posted: February 13th 2011

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Mike the Infidel www

Indoctrination is like a splinter driven into your brain. If you try to leave, they drive it in deeper, while telling you that they’re the only ones who can make it stop hurting. They give you a pain reliever while leaving the splinter in place.

Breaking free is like pulling the splinter out. Eventually the pain goes away, and you don’t need the pills anymore. The hole it left will heal, slowly but surely. But for a good long while, its effects will be felt.

Of course, part of the process of breaking free is realizing that you don’t need their pills anymore because you never needed the splinter in the first place.

Your life as a nonbeliever is not less; don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. You are more free, more honest, more rational, and more capable of dealing with reality. The only thing you’ve lost is a comforting lie.

I deal with “wanting to believe” by replacing it with “wanting to understand” and learning as much about the universe we live in as I can. It’s far more affirming and enlightening than any man-made dogma could ever be.

Posted: February 13th 2011

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SmartLX www

I have a word for this phenomenon: faithdrawal. I’m not claiming that it’s entirely equivalent to the suffering of a deprived addict, but religious faith does tend to make you miss it after you lose it. Furthermore, the feeling you have is apparently exclusive to those who have abandoned strong faith, as opposed to those who never had much. It seems to be a natural human condition to miss faith, but not to want it in general.

Fill the hole. Find a purpose. Do for the world and for the people around you what you think needs doing, not what you’ve been told to do. If you still think and emote about religion every minute, even in terms of denial, little has really changed for you. Leave it behind and advance.

Posted: February 10th 2011

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Eric_PK

The vast majority of ex-christian atheists have felt the way that you did. Most of use were conditioned when we were too young to know better about all of this god-belief, and because of the age of conditioning, the emotional appeal, and the peer pressure that is part of organized religion, it became ingrained deeply into us – it’s part of our psychology.

My advice is to ask your question on the athiest nexus forum or the forums at ex-christian.net. I think the answers there will help.

Posted: February 9th 2011

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Paula Kirby www

I don’t know how to help you with this one, partly because it’s not something I have ever experienced. It did feel a bit odd at first when I stopped being a Christian, but that was just because it had released so much time that I hadn’t yet learned to use differently; but I never regretted it or missed it. To me, Christianity had only had value so long as I believed it to be true; as soon as I stopped believing that, I was glad to be rid of something that I now believed was simply false.

But my difficulty also lies in not knowing why you miss it. Is it because you now fear death? Is it because you miss the structure and regular activity it used to give to your week? Have you perhaps not found other things to fill the time freed up by no longer going to church, reading the bible, etc? Is it because the idea of someone who’s 'got the whole world in his hands’ appeals to you and you feel daunted by the feeling that responsibility for your well-being now rests with you?

Rather than try to answer specifically, given that there are so many unknowns here, I think I’d just suggest you try to analyse honestly what exactly you feel is now missing from your life, and why. I normally find that getting a firm handle on the nature of a problem leads almost automatically to ideas for how to solve it. Depending on the exact nature of the 'gap’ you feel to be experiencing, the solution could lie in anything from getting out more, to studying secular approaches to ethics, to perhaps considering some kind of counselling to build up your self-confidence.

For me, letting go of religion felt like a liberation: I no longer had to accept meaningless burble when what I really wanted were proper answers; I no longer had to analyse myself constantly to identify where I was falling short of some unattainable ideal; I was free to investigate scientific answers to questions, no matter where they led; free to just value life and other people for what they were, rather than as some kind of mean shadow of a perfect being; free from the feeling of no word, no deed, no thought ever being truly private, but always being spied on by a critical sky-parent. Liberated from the burden of eternity. Since rejecting Christianity I have been happier, calmer, saner, more interested in the world around me, more able to accept myself and others the way we are, more confident in my ability to deal with things, more in control of my life, happy to embrace reality rather than myth. Whatever the cause of your own unease, I hope you’re able to overcome it and will also come to embrace your new, liberated, saner life with enthusiasm. Good luck!

Posted: February 9th 2011

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