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Breaking Free

By Neal Stone ~

So, you finally got to where you realized what you believed all these years has turned out to be nothing more than man made crap. You have decided to take the big leap and finally set yourself free and leave religion.

Now what? What do you do now? How do you deal with this sudden change? Let me throw you some pointers that helped me and a few that I wish I had tried when I made that big leap.

1. Be Angry, Don’t Be Angry

Wait what? You will feel a strong loss and realization of all that you have missed out on because of religion. You sacrificed so much for something that didn’t even work; you missed out on living and exploring life around you because you spent all your time at church doing the pastor’s…er…ahem…God’s will. You will be angry, you will be pissed and the desire to lash out and let everyone know how disappointed and upset you are about your realization will be strong.

Be angry, process those feelings, and work through it. Feel the loss of what you missed, what you gave up, what you sacrificed. Those feelings are ok and valid! Process them and continue to move forward as you do.

Don’t be angry and lash out going off on former fellow believers or the pastor as they will not be open to anything you say, and you will appear the typical angry atheist who hates God even though that isn’t the truth. You could break relationships you may need or contact with those who may someday be open to how you feel or be ready to take that leap. You are in a vulnerable state and religious people love that because they can use it against you to reel you back in. Find a blog site or journal and use that as an outlet and when the anger has simmered, then you can engage others in a more peaceful way and chances are to getting a better response.

2. Grieve

Yes, grieve, you have suffered a tremendous loss and realized what you have already lost because of religion controlling your life. You let go of a life that meant something to you and it can be depressing and hurtful. You also discovered how much real living you missed out on and that too can hurt and be actually worse. So, grieve, process it and then open your mind to the now endless possibilities of your life soon to come.

I was in an apartment in downtown Olympia, WA in the late 90s. I was about 33 years old. In this apartment my journey started as I realized what I lost and gave up. The grief and anger were strong, and I held onto both for a long time. This was in the early days of the Internet, so my resources were limited. This was a rough moment filled with heartache and tears. I never felt so alone as I did then.

3. You are not who they say you are

They will say you are a worthless, undeserving, disgusting, horrible sinner, and deserving of hell or eternal punishment. This is false and a lie. This is nothing more than a manipulation tactic to guilt you into being converted. Disregard these feelings and beliefs and embrace yourself as the wonderful person you are or can become. Learn to live without guilt and feeling like a constant disappointment to God. Stop muttering “God forgive me” under your breath every time you make a mistake. Guilt is only for when you truly do something wrong or hurtful to yourself or someone else. You are worthy…of a better life, you are deserving…of everything you dreamed of, you are amazing, and you do not deserve hell or eternal punishment, since they don’t exist anyway.

Stop feeling guilty and down on yourself. That is a sick and perverted mindset. Unless you have done something harmful to yourself or someone, you have nothing to feel guilty about. Don’t feel guilty about living your life as you feel it should be lived. Guilt is for stealing something, raping someone, harming someone…you know…being a priest.

The guilt was strong and took years just to be able to go to the movies without looking around feeling shameful and guilty because my previous church was against movie theaters and TV. Now I am just fine with seeing a movie, bonus points of Samuel L Jackson is in it.

4. You will not end up lost

Your religious friends will convince themselves you are lost to the world and will end up doing drugs, become an alcoholic, become some sex crazed promiscuous person, and end up in a horrible life of sin. Out of the three things above, they were right about only one…you guess which one?

Ignore their comments, their stares, their judgmental attitudes, because they are the ones who are lost, not you. Keep moving forward and be ready to show them the amazing life you can create when you’re not wasting it mopping the church bathroom at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon.

Here is an experiment you can do. Before you quit your church, make a point of hanging out with as many fellow believers outside of church as you can. Go to their homes or meet them somewhere where the pastor or other Christians aren’t around. Watch how quickly you see a totally different person than what you see in church. You might be surprised at how many alcoholics, smokers, potheads, foulmouthed, and promiscuous people are IN your church.

It’s like this: you can’t be lost when there is no actual path to follow. Follow your own path and create your own way.

Look at the story of Moses and the Exodus. They escaped Egypt with the promise of a new and wonderful land they could call their own. They end up in the desert for 40 years wandering and when they finally arrive…TADA!… those over the age of 40, including Moses, are denied access, and not allowed to go in. Welcome to serving your church and God!

Explore, find what interests you, find your own way and path, and it will be the correct one because it is your life. Go for it, man!

5. Understand life doesn’t need a meaning

Yes, that is right, life doesn’t need a meaning. Why should it? Why can’t it just be lived, embraced, and enjoyed by those lucky enough to be alive?

When I realized life didn’t need a meaning, I experienced an all-new freedom and relief that I didn’t need to prove myself to any god, deity, or religious people. Meaning is decided by you, not God or a religion. YOU! — Neal StoneYou will be accused of being selfish, self-centered, and ungodly because you lived life as you see fit. It is perfectly ok to take care of yourself and still serve or help others and you don’t need church for the latter. You can enjoy your life as you please. It’s ok to live!!!

When I realized life didn’t need a meaning, I experienced an all-new freedom and relief that I didn’t need to prove myself to any god, deity, or religious people. I just chose to live period! Everyone pushed for life to have some meaning, but that meaning is decided by you, not God or a religion. YOU! This is not a sad thing at all but an amazing realization because now you are free to explore life without distraction of some mystical meaning for your life. YOU ARE THE MEANING!

6. Find like-minded people

Find others who have been through what you have and will support your life as it unfolds. Supports and understands how you feel and what you now believe or stopped believing. This will be one of the most important things you can do. It will help you find better sources of information for understanding and healing and help keep you from getting sucked back in.

The longer you stay out of religion, the stronger you will get as a person. The insecurities will dissolve, and you will realize how much you relied on religion for so many things that you could’ve done on your own. Self-worth, personal security, self-reliance, personal development and so much more that you will now gain. I was amazed at how insecure I was when in church. Just watch any televised or online video of a church service and see how insecure most of them are. That was once you!

Get some counseling if necessary. I was once anti-counseling because…JESUS! Now I am all for it and have spent five years in it. She was a Christian but offered secular counseling and never pushed her religion on me. It was the best thing I could’ve done for myself and helped me sort through a lot of feelings that were unresolved and helped me reset.

7. Embrace your new life Yes, you have left the church and moved on. But on to what? What now? Where will I find meaning and purpose? What will I do?

Anywhere and in anything you want! Dance, create, be artistic, explore, travel, read, study new things, do whatever you feel you want to do and build that meaning in any way you wish.

I have a variety of hobbies and am always exploring new things. Every year, my income tax return goes into something new to explore and try. I love that part of my life the best because I learn so much about myself in the process where before it was just Bible and church related stuff I studied. I can’t even imagine what I would’ve done or learned had I quit church a lot earlier.

I still get meaning by helping someone when I can, or by inspiring others with how I handle things with the new strength I have found within myself. I am six months post open heart surgery and am almost completely back to my old self and have no issues and definitely not disabled. I work full-time outside and am on my feet 7 hours a day. People are astounded and inspired by this and how I handled it all.

You would be surprised how you inspire others unaware. I have had people message me about how I encouraged them to keep going.

You have just stepped into w whole new world of choices, opportunities, and it’s time to embrace that and explore that.

8. Be prepared for the rough road ahead

I didn’t say it was going to be easy. Many will be opposed to your decision to leave religion including friends, family and even your spouse or partner. You may lose a lot of these as a result, and it can hurt. Years of a life you built will unravel, or not. It really is hard to say. Mine blew up, and the loss was great and painful, and I kept going and am better off.

Yes, the loss will hurt, you will cry, scream, and may even regret the decision and be tempted to go back. DON’T! Once the storm passes and things are sorted out, you will be hopefully better off and happier.

You may lose your marriage or relationship, your kids may stop talking to you, or your parents will cut you off. You will be surprised how many “close friends” you really didn’t have and how quickly they will turn on you. They will call you selfish and narcissistic, all the while displaying these very characteristics themselves. I can only hope you are able to pick up the pieces and move forward as hard as it will be.

The fact is life happens! It hurts especially the betrayal you will experience. I was totally surprised at best friends who cut me off and even turned on me. Friendships spanning 25 years. Conversations behind my back that I overhead. So many saying they were concerned for my very soul and prayed for me, yet not one could be bothered to approach me and talk to me. I guess having me around helped them feel more spiritual and holy?

Your relationships shouldn’t be based on something more than the fact you believe as they do and worship as they do. I don’t care what you believe as long as you respect where I am in my belief system. You shoot with a Canon, I shoot with a Nikon, we both still get some good pictures. The relationships I had were based on usury. As long as they got something out of me I had value, once you veer off from their belief system, they realize they can’t use as much anymore. Your skills or the fact they would keep you in a place of insecurity so their insecure ass could look like a leader or encourager showing off to everyone else.

Be ready for this loss and the rough road ahead. I lost my home and almost everything I own through a rough divorce and my losing my religion was one of the factors but not the main one. I lost my marriage, many friends, most of my hard-earned possessions, but I gained myself and that can never be replaced. It is the best find ever!

It has been 9 years since the divorce and not one of these “concerned” friends has ever bothered to contact me, to reach out, to minister to me. Not a single one! I guess my immortal soul wasn’t that important.

One last thing, never feel you have to explain yourself. You don’t! Religious people will demand an explanation, but not to listen, but to get a foothold on you and look for a way to convince you that you are wrong and made the wrong decisions. You just “misunderstood” something. It’s a ploy to get you to open up so they can find a way to pull you back in. Be ready for this! The harder you make it, the quicker they will give up. Be stubborn and make the frustrated…IT’S FUN!

I hope in some way this helps someone who is on this journey now.


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