Friday, October 23, 2015

Being an Atheist: I Miss the Church Community

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I've been an atheist for over eighteen years now; I realized my skepticism while my daughter was a tiny baby in her crib. At first I thought I could not tolerate the structure of man made religion and I decided that it was church itself that I could not accept. It was obvious to me at that time that the rules and guidelines were obviously creations of men, although they were said to be of god.

One of my first steps away from belief in a god was, first, to become clear that so much of the system was so clearly an invention of human beings. That was major for me in those days. As a former Catholic, I recall the fear of these questions and of my own resistance to the new clarity that I was experiencing.

So I left the church. It was difficult to lose that community that I loved so much. That loss was major and I sometimes feel that loss even now. So many of my friends were a part of that church and so many of my activities each week were directly involved with my church and diocese. The church calendar was my calendar because all of the feasts and celebrations and activities were important to me. 

Anyway, now, nearing twenty years later, I still think fondly of the community of the church. But when I think of those people realistically I know that they would no longer be able to tolerate an atheist in their circle of friends...because atheists are to be feared and knowledge is eschewed for faith. 

The longer I am an atheist, the more obvious the brainwashing and nonsense that religion offers. No wonder those old friends of mine are unable to be friends with me these days. They are well programmed. In order to be a part of that group of people, I must buy the doctrine in full, sacrifice all independent thought, and refrain from all questioning. I can't do that.

I spent many years feeling sad about losing that church community that I used to be a part of. But I realize that I was very replaceable in that company. I used to miss the community of the church, but the price is just too high. The longer I am an atheist, the more years I put behind myself as a skeptic, the harder it is to believe that I was ever able to believe, to have faith, at all.

Do you miss the community?
What do you do about it?

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  1. Our journeys are so similar. I, too, was Catholic (raised to be so). I was the child who was usually getting yelled at by our hapless catechism teachers because I always had questions about dogma: "What was the actual physics of Jesus turning wine into water?" "What do you mean that God expects a woman who was raped to carry that child to term, no matter what?" "If God is all-loving and forgiving, then why does he excommunicate people? Why is there even a hell?" "I am not Eve, so why am I suffering with horrible cramps each month because of her actions in the Garden of Eden?" Yes, I was threatened pretty much weekly with damnation and a call to my mother if I didn't just shut up and believe what they were teaching.
    Like you, I look back to see that the my skepticism first took root in mistrusting the trappings of organized religion. And, my serious doubts about the whole shebang began after the birth of my first child; motherhood--and its powerful, unconditional love--is what started me truly questioning. How could a supposedly all-loving, all-knowing father-being actually *WILL* his children to suffer? I am a mere mortal, but I know I'd never plan for or *WILL* my child to suffer violence, disease, etc. in order to learn a life lesson.
    However, I never really loved the church community. The supposed fellowship of it all always felt fake and forced to me. Even my favorite part of mass (because it was a break in all the overdone ritual when there was actual, potentially meaningful interaction and the priest finally stopped yammering for a moment), which was the whole peace-be-with-you-now-turn-and-offer-each-other-a-sign-of-peace, often felt forced on the part of others.
    Still, there are brief flashes of nanoseconds in life where the dogma, the overdone rituals, the blazing organ music, and even the handing-it-over to a supreme parental being feels comforting--again, for a flash of time--and I understand on an intellectual level why people believe... it's comforting on some level. Though my mind just can't accept all the trappings anymore, I understand that it's easier to "give it all to God" than to be totally, soberly a participant in the whims of the Universe; or, perhaps even worse, to be accountable--it's always easier to look up and around one's self for answers or blame than to look within. ;)

  2. Camp Quest had really helped me fill my need for community. My son (almost 12) loves that he can be around kids that accept him for who he is and I get to volunteer with young people that often don't have other secular allies in "real life". Camp has become the best part of our year :)

    1. That's a great example of community. :)
      My 14-yr old son went to Camp Quest this summer and WOW did he find wonderful community there.

    2. I'm curious to know what you do as a volunteer for them. :)

  3. I've been an atheist for at least 10 years now, but only left the church environment and organized religion 3.5 years ago. It was a good and healthy move for our family, but I do miss the church as community greatly. That particular part has been really hard for my kids. When we left, it was an excommunication and it was hurtful. All these people who claimed to "love their neighbor", shunned us and we lost friends. It became apparent that love thy neighbor only meant those in the tribe. But I miss the weekly gatherings. I miss the social opportunities. I miss being a part of a group of people. However, I wouldn't trade being free from the indoctrination for the social bits for anything in the world. :)

    1. YES! An excellent example of the PRICE of the community of the church.
      I missed it for so long....until I realized that the cost of being a part of the community was way too high...makes me wonder who *I* ostracized in those years. :(

      I'm very interested in how you explained that process to your kids or how they understand it...

      Thanks for your comment. ;)


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