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I am now starting to fully understand

By Thick Canadian Beard --

This may seem like an odd testimonial, but please bear with me, as they are to my discovery of the hardships that come with the actions of leaving the church behind.

I stumbled across this site recently, and I have to say that as a man who has grown up as an atheist, I find it amazing to read stories of Christian de-conversions. You have to understand that to me, a religious world is quite foreign. My mother stopped believing before I was born, and as a result I have lived a life shielded almost completely from religion, Christian or otherwise. To go into a church for me is akin to stepping through a portal into another dimension... in fact, I remember going to a funeral when I was about 8 and, when everyone broke out into hymns, asking out loud "Mommy, why does everyone know the words?". Until I was in high school, I'd say that close to 100% of my religious knowledge came from popular culture. Most of my friends when I was growing up were, and still in large part are, atheist or agnostic. I guess it's true, your best friends often reflect your own values.

I've always been pretty liberal about my position concerning religion: live-and-let-live. I obviously don't go to mass or anything like that, but my views have never kept me from attending a wedding or funeral in a church. Am I uncomfortable being there? HECK yes, I always have been (I can't think of a more surreal experience, church services honestly creep me out a little bit), but I also won't let someone else's beliefs keep me from celebrating the joys of marriage, or mourning the loss of a loved one.

I have read many posts here recently that are interesting in that the majority of everyone in this community have reached the same common understanding that I have, yet we have arrived at these conclusions from very different roads; as one who never believed in the first place, it has been phenomenally simple for me throughout my life to rebuke arguments in favor of religion: scripture has always to me fallen into the realm of fairytale, as the idea that the entire collected being of "women" came from the rib of a man is as plausible to me as rubbing a lamp and having one's wishes granted, or trading a cow for beans that grow so high that one could climb them to reach a castle in the clouds. I grew up being taught and knowing that I was ruled by rational thought, and that morality and moral well-being was an absolute constant in man rather than necessary lesson, that doing good for others was doing good in itself, without the unnecessary ultimatum that religion forces upon acts of kindness.

I am now starting to fully understand just how hard it is to rebel against something like the church, against an idea that you have been raised by and lived with since you were old enough to have memories.My point is, I had no idea how much of a stranglehold religion had on people. I agree that while I have absolutely no reason to endorse religion, I admit that the sense of community it creates within people is often very healthy, however misguided the cause is, and to remove one's self from that community can be in many cases a great hardship. I have a much deeper and greater understanding and respect for those of you who have de-converted, as I am now understanding that the stress it takes to do so can sometimes be unbearable, creating scars and wounds within families and neighborhoods. To those of you who have shown such true inner-strength, I have nothing but the highest respect for showing such courage to not only change your personal views, but also to reflect that change in your actions.

I am now 30 years old, and I'm just now coming to the realization of just how indoctrinated the Christian community is, ESPECIALLY in certain areas of the U.S. If you never once believed in religion, it is SURPRISINGLY easy to excuse it as trivial and irrelevant, however I an now starting to fully understand just how hard it is to rebel against something like the church, against an idea that you have been raised by and lived with since you were old enough to have memories.

My best wishes go out to all of you who have felt the need to leave the church in your mind, but who maybe can't leave the flock: Knowing that the true realization of your own self-worth can be attained without the fear of divine retribution, that the world can be a good place without spiritual ultimatum, can be enough. Simply knowing you have changed is in itself a great reward, and you shouldn't dismiss it even if you find yourself in church every week.