The Cross To Bear!

It has been about a year and a half now since I have de-converted from Christianity. I still feel even though I have internally embraced this new walk of life, that there is still a cross to bear with religion. I have a family of my own (my wife who is a Christian, and a two year old son). I as well still work for a religious organization for almost 2 and a half years coming up. I have told my wife a year ago & she had taken it pretty well (as she is more laidback in her faith). She has told me however it could be a ‘desert place’ until god brings me back, but the truth is I will never go back to something so manipulative.

How I lost my faith started one day while I was researching the bible, and oddly this question came to me ‘What is truth?’. Although very simple, this question I could not just throw faith at. This question came from my very gut begging the response. As I pondered to give reason for Jesus, the bible, personal experience to faith, the more I tried the more something interesting had occurred. For the very first time I was thinking for myself. As I thought and weighed what faith I had verses these practical questions, I found myself comparing religions/faiths/sciences all together and it was so eye-opening! I wasn’t scared at all b/c I was completely by myself and so I had the whole day to wrestle faith with thought. It made me rather upset at the same time that I had bought into the hype of religion so naively when I first ‘got saved’, primarily because I knew no better, and handed trust innocently over to the ‘seasoned in faith’ to tell me how to believe instead of being guided individually on how to believe.

After leaving the faith I scheduled time with the pastor and leadership of the church to be open with my new stance (and honestly to see if they would provide some reason for me to still believe). But in speaking with them mostly on the issues of hell I happened ~ just with honest questions and examples to stump even them! And they responded “Well you just gotta have faith brother! The bible says after all to lean not on your own understanding but trust in the Lord.) Geeze……Now, I wonder why the bible would say such a thing? Maybe because if you used your head you’d realize there is a whole world out there full of possibilities! And even when I saw the dumbfounded look on their faces due to basic common sense, they retorted to Christian authors about these authors’ sayings and evidences. I continued to make my point rather upset to say to them that “with all due respect if you have use outside sources and rehearsed answers, is it any wonder you need faith in religion if you can’t honestly ponder the depth the yourselves?”. They all looked distraught, like I had just ripped them off. But it was clear with the sad and shady looks that I was going have to move on. I still consider them friends, but we hardly see each other anymore.

As for my wife, she has oddly followed suit with me for she only attends church once in a while. Even when I was a ‘super Christian’ attending everything under the sun, she would not do anything that encouraged bible reading or prayer so much as being a part of the social gathering of things which I found strange in my ‘super Christian’ days. But talking with her about bible reading and prayer she felt was fake and rehearsed in group settings, which I agree it was myself. She has her parents however who are proud elders of their church, and you can practically see it when they put the ministry face on. They have taken recent notice of my dispassion and much time I spend by myself now and have questioned my spiritual walk. At this point I have brushed off honesty to save face mostly for the sake of my wife and my job, to say I still believe. I really don’t want any level of a holy jihad with the in-laws, or the losing of a well-paid job to support my family over some silly beliefs – that most don’t seem to understand anyways. But I do feel for all the closet agnostic-atheist others who in similar circumstances cannot parade to the full extent of their beliefs. I am half way out of the closet, and have been searching for some type of Agnostic support group (to gain new friends who think as I do, & about how to take the next steps to become fully open in my new walk of life). I hope this encourages those who are going through a similar walk. If anyone can lend some advice on taking the next step or how you handled the situation to be fully open, anything would be much appreciated! Thanks.
soliare soliare
26-30, M
3 Responses May 4, 2012

I can not tell you how awesome it is to read your post! I am a pastor's daughter who was raised Southern Baptist from the time I left the womb. I always had questions growing up, but never anything big. After I got married and had children, I became a stay at home mom. Noticing our need for extra income, I was offered different jobs at the church. It first started with something small like helping with paperwork. Then I started teaching some classes for school aged kids. Finally, last year, they asked me to become the children's worship director. I have been in this position for about 14 months now. I love the kids and I enjoy thinking if fun exciting ways to get them interested, but I never liked the new found responsibilities of being in this roll. All of the sudden I noticed I had to put some what if an act about myself and my spiritual walk. The more I dug into the word, the more my faith and my belief lessened instead of growing. I started reading a lot and researching a lot. I then started doubting. I prayed and prayed for God to help me see the truth in the things I was doubting and to help me through this time of struggle. I even prayed that I would wake up one morning and open my eyes and be amazed at how renewed I would feel in my faith and love of Jesus. This never happened. What I struggle with now is as you put it, being a "closet agnostic." I wish so badly that I could quit my job and walk away, but we can't afford to loose the income. My husband recently lost his job and was able to find something else, but now he is making significantly less. So I struggle with wanting to make my views known (especially to my parents), but also because now I feel like I have to lie to everyone to keep my job, pretend I'm something I'm not, and most of all, feed the kids in my department lies every Sunday.

Ironically, the last couple of days has been a classical example of what I perceive to be the hypocrisy, frailty, and downright unreliance of religious people. My good friend and neighbor had a heart attack while out of the country on vacation and died 2 days after being medi-flighted to the closest US hospital. Still 2,000 miles from home, the family has had to deal with the return of the body, the expense (the medi-fight jet alone cost $15,000), and grief of the sudden death of a very beloved family man. He was only 67 years old. As soon as word hit my neighborhood of his illness, I was beseiged with prayer requests We were all requested to "pray for his recovery" - although he was on life support and the family had been called in. Recovery? Really?? While they were busy praying, I was thinking of ways I could help. Once the inevitable happened, I knew it was going to be extremely difficult for the widow to return home for the first time, seeing all of her husband's things about the house just as he had left them. So I made a huge floral arrangement of fresh flowers, got a nice card, and set it on her dining room table. (I have a key to their house to care for the yard, etc when they were away from home). The family is gathering now in preparation for tomorrow's funeral so I called my neighbors to organize a food plan for the many visiting family and friends. I got numerous answers - all the way from "I'll grab something at Wal-Mart" to "well, I can't because I have a sick kid". One neighbor, who spends 90 percent of her free time running to and from church, just "didn't have the time right now" because her 3 kids had some church activities going on, but she was praying for all of them. It never ceases to amaze me that people actually think they are helping when they do nothing but pray. I consider that the epitome of copping out. So far, I'm the only neighbor who has paid the widow a short visit to give her a hug and tell her how sorry I am, take some homemade ready-to-bake meals and a breakfast basket to her, and offer my guest room for out of town family. The others are, of course, praying for her and plan to be at the sevices so they can pray some more. And I'm getting besieged with all the typical religious babble about "'God's will", "The Lord took him home", blah, blah, blah. I absolutely cannot understand how people are comforted by that. They pray for his recovery which didn't help then analyze that it was all in God's plan for this wonderful man so full of life to die at a young age and leave behind an emotionally and financially devastated family. They just have the 'faith' that God "knows what he's doing" and we are not to question it. I don't understand, if everything is preordained, then what useful function does prayer have other than to make people feel psychologically better about themselves? And how do they feel loved and comforted by a deity that allows suffering and death of the innocent from things totally out of their control - and takes those same people away from others who love and need them HERE??!! I don't want to get on a rant, but my brain just can't go there. And how can people think that I'm the one that's going to toast like a marshmallow over the fiery depths of hell because I'm not sitting in church every Sunday - and I consider "helping" those in need to be something tangible and concrete rather than spiritual?? I may be old and wise, but there are some things I will never "get".

I read your story with a great deal of interest and empathy. From the time I can remember, I've always been a free thinker. Even as a child, I tried to find the logic in things. My parents gave up attempting to get me to believe in Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. However, we lived in a very small religious rural community, smack dab in the middle of the Bible Belt, and we attended church frequently. I was the little kid that drove the Sunday School teachers nuts. I asked all the hard questions no one could answer and it caused me a great deal of frustration and confusion. The older I got, the worse it got. As a teenager, I wanted to "fit in" so, like my Bible Belt friends and family, I continued to attend church, sing in the choir, and get baptized. As an adult, I started having more and more discussions with people which were vastly similar to the ones you described - and either resulted in people becoming argumentative with me, trying to convert me, or walking off in anger. It hasn't been until the last 10-15 years that I finally decided it was ok to be who I wanted to be and believe (or not believe) what I wanted to believe. I am at last comfortable with it. I still get frustrated with all the religion that surrounds me because of living in what is known as "The Buckle of the Bible Belt". Even the state newspaper has a separate section just for religion and I finally closed my Facebook account because of all the religious rantings and prayer requests. I am content with knowing I am a good person who is generous, kind, thoughtful, and fiercely loyal to family and friends. I am retired now, after working 30 years in an administrative government job and raising my kids, and I devote much of my time to volunteer work for 3 different charities. While others are on their knees praying, I get to work. If someone is sick, I call or go visit them. If someone is needy, I find out what they could use and get it to them. If someone is lonely, I let them know I am thinking of them. My very religious neighbor once joked that I am more "Christian" than most Christians. I am respectful of the faith others have, even though it's not always reciprocated - but I'm not bothered by that anymore. I also figure, since Christians analyze that each of us was created by God, that God doesn't make mistakes, and God knows our hearts and minds, then I am a free thinker and skeptic by his own design. ☺

Really well said my friend! It is always nice to hear the experience of another’s journey in life. Like you, in my childhood I always had a curious streak in me that kept me in wonder about my surrounds of people, places and things. I didn’t so much ask questions as much as just diving in to the very thing I was curious about. I feel this was due to not only the curiosity of the thing but also the person – What made things tick. I never really had a strong upbringing in the supernatural as my parents were very laidback and just lived to live life. It was not until my late teens that I started looking into things like astrology and eventually God – where this led me to Christianity. But unlike you I had been very naïve and trusting, so much in fact that my emotions clouded my reason as I dove into Bible College and became completely immersed in the Christian culture. It was not too long however before I started seeing that the religious circles played a lot like politics. Even after seeing this I still continued on thinking god still had a plan and so I would follow. One year led to another and the same grinding of religious pressure got to me. Not only would I start to carry on a bi polar personality (One day for God and the next for the Devil – this victorious / victimized mentality), but church life just all seemed like a big theater, where the people would get together in the churchy circles and jerk each other on religious emotional hype, then after leaving, basically living like anyone else. It made no sense to me the constant religious pressure, when everything is reduced down to living life anyways. It was not until I started to attend less that I began to think more. I was scared to think & challenge the norm at first as thinking in the religious community can lead to doubt and of course doubt can lead to hell. But as in my main post as confronted with “what is truth?” no longer could I throw myself to simple belief, or could I pray, for as much as I did I felt like I had to cut the **** and answer myself honestly. I think getting over hell was the hardest part as this was the very sole anchor (I would even say more than jesus) that held me to religion. After accepting who I was and valuing my individuality, I soon embraced what I thought over what I was fed. This led me in the past year not just to challenge religion, but my very self in the face of society. As much as I can be social and hang out I am by nature a very private and solitary person. This can be a very hard pill to swallow when having to face the daily pressures of society’s status quo to fit in. But if belonging means to conform, I would much rather be the odd cat out. I am married and have a lot of family, but am learning to set my boundaries of who “I” am and not what everyone else wants or thinks I should be which will always I feel be a fight. Feel free to add anything else AW ;).