Trading in Atheism

49


Discussion by: aloneandconfused

I have a question for any atheists or agnostics. Would you trade a life of wealth (not extreme, 100k/yr or so), great family and friends for your beliefs? (or unbeliefs)

This is the situation that I find myself in. I was raised in a very fundemental religious group that practices shunning. After a few years of research I now see how wrong my beliefs were. After reading The Greatest Show on Earth and Why Evolution is True my world was rocked. I still attend my religious meetings (about 10hrs a week) but it pains me to do so. I am still required to participate actively, so I can't just show up and be a bump on a log.

I have made no one aware of my new found beliefs except my wife, whom I barely mentioned it to before she broke down in tears. She cannot bear the burden (or the freedom) that this new knowledge imparts. If I speak of it to any of my friends, I risk being shunned. Since my entire network of friends and family belong to this particular religion, along with my employer, if I "come out" and discuss my new beliefs I WILL be disowned. There is no "if". 

I have a good life except for the fact that if I continue live "as is", I have to pretend to be something i'm not for the rest of my life. I'm not ready to lose my child, wife, friends, and entire family, but at the same time it kills me not to talk about my beliefs and to actively participate in a religion I no longer believe in.

Hence my original question, is the price too high to pay? Can I be happy participating in a religion but not believing?

49 COMMENTS

  1. If you were single you probably should leave. You probably have a lot of life to live. Since you have a family you have a real problem if you can’t convince your wife to go with you.

    There may not be a good solution to your problem. I would never advise someone to abandon their family. You may be stuck where you are.
    I think I would start looking for job opportunities far from where you live. I think a clean break is your only solution. But you must sell your wife on the move.

  2. Family is something you are born with. You don’t get to choose it, but you get to love them. I have many people in my life that do not share my way of thinking, but i keep them around. Friends are something you get to choose. Go out, meet new people, and see what’s out there for you. Maybe you’ll find that there’s more for you, and that you could start over. You found the answers about evolution on your own, i’m sure you will find an answer to your predicament.

  3. Hence my original question, is the price too high to pay? Can I be happy participating in a religion but not believing?

    You can probably be fairly happy – at least for a while, paying lip-service to the religious beliefs of your family and friends.

    It is one of the features of religious sects and cults to isolate members from outside associations, so as to be in a position to bring pressure on people to make them conform.

    I would suggest you take things very slowly, look for possible other jobs, and build up friendships outside the confines of the group, so if you are unable to tolerate the religious domination, you can ignore shunning, and walk away without being isolated and friendless – hopefully taking your wife and child with you.

  4. This is tough stuff. But the trade-off may not turn out as extreme as you may picture it. We humans have a way of bouncing back, fiscally and otherwise.

    And you may not be alone. No doubt there may be loss of friend and family as you have described with your shunning situation, however what value do you put to these people closest to you if they treat you in such a way? Backbone with some strategy is needed here to say good-bye. Take heart that the world has a lot of people, ready to fill the voids left if you put good honest self forward.

    As for your child, perhaps you will save your child from this trend that you have found yourself in. And why should you loose your child? It is here that you can have some positive influence and alter the course of history for your child. It may be the best reason to go forward with honesty.

    I have come from a fundamentalist history short of the shunning. But my circle of friends some of which have become family over the years is immense. Take heart.

  5. For not knowing, in wich Religion you´re trapped and where you live, it´s hard to give you good advice. But remember, that your life is the only life you have. Also, if you stay in the trap, it is likely, that your children get also trapped.
    And for the money, we Germans say, that the last shirt hat no pockets ;-)

  6. I find it difficult to believe that your job would be in jeopardy. Are you Mormon? Do you live in a community filled with people of the same religion – Utah, etc?

    Ultimately, you will be inauthentic and in time your life will snowball into something that doesn’t even resemble you. If this falls apart – death, the company fails, you get fired, etc. what you have built would only have been for financial and security reasons. This is at the lower level of Maslow’s heirarchy of needs. Can you live at this lower functioning level?

  7. You have to do what’s best for yourself and each person has a different situation. It was one of the toughest experiences I’ve gone through and was horrible at first, quite painful. I’ve read about other people having even worse experiences than my own, so you have to take it slow and weigh things and just do the best you can with whatever you decide to do.

    For me, realizing I was a nonbeliever was more of a process…like an onion peeling away layer after layer after layer. The more I discarded the mythology, dogma, and “faith,” the less tolerant of the whole thing I became. I reached a point that I had no layers left and just my own skin. At that point, it was much tougher to fake it, I felt fraudulent, and I’m not a good liar either. As much as I wanted to maintain the status quo with my family, it no longer existed for me, and I realized I must be true to myself, even if it meant risking banishment. If you reach this point, coming out is probably inevitable.

    The fallout was rocky and painful. Some disowned me, others still look at me warily. However, it’s been a few years now, and those who really loved me have come around. We agree to disagree and avoid the topic of religion, which works (other than sneak attacks of proselytizing, but I’m very adept at handling those now). Shockingly for me, I discovered other family members who think like I do, and I really had no idea. Also, I joined a free-thinkers group and always read the posts on this site, and I try to contribute towards improving the less than ideal stereotype about atheists/free thinkers by volunteering and charitable giving, speaking up (calmly and rationally), and writing. These things all have greatly helped me “evolve” and regain my footing, and I’m extremely happy now.

    Good luck to you as you navigate through things. I hope you find what works for you, too.

  8. I can’t speak for you. Your situation would be nothing like mine. But it looks like you’re stuck in an impossible situation. If it was me, I wouldn’t take any rash decision, like, tell your wife straight up.

    I have a good life except for the fact that if I continue live “as is”, I have to pretend to be something i’m not for the rest of my life. I’m not ready to lose my child, wife, friends, and entire family,

    The burden is not on you. You are basically forced in that situation by your peers and their shitty judgmental attitudes. Don’t beat yourself up over that.

    but at the same time it kills me not to talk about my beliefs and to actively participate in a religion I no longer believe in.

    It’s bigger than you, unfortunately.

    Also, check out recoveringfromreligion.org. And maybe call The Atheist Experience in Austin if you can. I’ve seen a few callers in your situation, it’s also a good way to vent your frustration (anonymously) as well.

    Hence my original question, is the price too high to pay?

    Too high for you it appears. At least now, while your kids still depend on you providing.

    Can I be happy participating in a religion but not believing?

    Happy, not really. I wouldn’t be happy. But hey, as I said, it’s bigger than just you. You’ve got to make a sacrifice for the ‘greater good’. Maybe you can find happiness in that. Raise your kid with an open mind, then he’ll take up the baton.

    Religion Poisons Everything, not very helpful I know, but that’s all I can say.

  9. Personally grew up living across the road from the local preacher (Anglican) who told me on several occasions that “he only joined the church because he liked singing in the choir” (ie. he was telling me he didn’t believe or take religion seriously). So if you do decide to “come out” you might start with your local preacher. If he studied the bible as part of his training to preach then he is almost certainly closet agnostic if not an atheist. But I am talking about Melbourne Australia which, in my experience, has been completely secular with religion mostly being a point of comedy or derision. The world you describe is very different and sounds like “coming out” to the preacher might get you lynched or similar. Best of luck.

  10. I have a question for you. If someone will only accept you as long as you conform to their required belief do they love you or do they only love the image that they project of you?

    When I was a teenager I became a born again Christian with a fundamentalist sect. When I started to have doubts rather than supporting me they accused me of back sliding and spread lies about my behaviour. I appreciate that this is minor compared to the situation in which you find yourself- but I asked myself the question I have posed and found to my horror that they didn’t care for me the individual. I still believe in some of the basic tenets of Christianity including the teachings of Christ, not the teachings of his successors – tolerance is central – and love is the acceptance of another for their own worth not for some overlay of beliefs.

  11. Can I be happy participating in a religion but not believing?

    Plenty of people are only nominal believers or cultural participants only. I’m sure some of those people can be happy, but your remarks about having a good life except for the fact that you are pretending to be something you are not looks like a moral hurdle that won’t easily be overcome by you.

    I don’t envy your circumstances and wish for you only the best that life has to offer. Have you read Sam Harris’ book, Lying? It might help as you are formulating your options. As hard as it must be for you, thank you for sharing such a personal story.

    Mike

  12. Keep up the pretense only as long as you have to, then come out. Tell them you began to change your mind some time ago. That will have them thinking hard for quite a while. Speaking for myself, I could justify that in my own moral scheme if the others in the group were ‘bad’ in any way… anti-condom, anti-abortion, anti-lgbt, anti-secular, anti-atheist (anti-anything-that’s-good), but especially if I thought I might be helping them become happier and/or more productive people in their own rights. In other words, turning this into a positive may be a worthwhile goal.

    And seriously, don’t go this alone, whatever you choose. You’ll need friends and support and so on, take care of your future now. Leaving the group behind (rather than them leaving you behind) should become of secondary importance to getting a few new friends. Look for an atheist support group. It may have to be an online-only group, depends where you live. If you think you might have to move, you’re probably right, so plan for a move! Might even be a first step, before the new friends? Again, depends where you live. But don’t sentence yourself to social isolation.

    If you were home-schooled or otherwise deeply immersed in a religious culture for a long time, a support group becomes very important as you move towards new horizons. Further reading: Sam Harris on Lying, $10 or less. He’ll convince you that you need to be truthful in life to be happy in life.

  13. Tough, tough question. If your religious sect is who I think it is, you will need to choose between living a lie for the rest of your life or never seeing your children or wife, (If you love her) again. The world should not be thus, but it is. You are another victim of religion. If you feel you are brave enough to coming out, then before you do, you may be able to help some other people.

    You may be able with the help of like minded journalists, go “under cover” and produce a documentary from the inside, that exposes this religious blackmail for what it is, a crime against humanity. Wear a lapel video camera. Slowly engage the hierarchy of the church in conversation. Get them to commit on film to the retribution they will reap on you, if you come out. Get them to make the threats on tape. Depending on where you live, it may even have evidentiary value for any subsequent court actions. If you are in the “Land of the Free”, America, the land where the media sets the agenda, you may find some allies. The light of sunshine on an issue has the same sterilizing effect as it has on germs. The person who follows you may not do it so tough.

    I don’t know if I would be brave enough, but then I came out when I was about 8, in a country where we were actually free, and nobody gave a toss.

    • In reply to #17 by David R Allen:

      Tough, tough question.

      I think David’s response is the best of the bunch. My own response was deliberately taken to the extreme edge, the run-for-your-life edge. David’s, if you have the nerve to pursue it, is much better. Depends how strong you think you can be, to remain in place but undercover (imagining you’re a spy in enemy territory, or a cop infiltrating a gang, may help). Nobody else here has raised the possibility of physical danger, so maybe I was being overdramatic, but I wouldn’t put anything beyond these cultists. At the core of their black hearts, the leaders are power hungry charlatans and liars, so don’t drop your guard for a second. Confide in someone within the cult and you will be betrayed, sure as day follows night.

      • In reply to #22 by OHooligan:

        In reply to #17 by David R Allen:

        Tough, tough question.

        I think David’s response is the best of the bunch. My own response was deliberately taken to the extreme edge, the run-for-your-life edge. David’s, if you have the nerve to pursue it, is much better. Depends how strong you think you can b…

        As valid as these responses are, the run-for-your-life suggestion may not be the best angle for aloneandconfused.
        He’s asked for advice, but he’s clearly in the early stages of this transition and not everyone is ready to just jump ship so soon, logistically or emotionally. This sort of thing requires a lot of reflection and planning. We also do not know his exact circumstances.

        Also his main question is “Can I be happy participating in a religion but not believing?” He’s still debating whether he should jump ship, not how or when.

        .

        For my answer to that question, it’s entirely possible that you could be happy, just paying lip service, pretending to believe. However that’s not the question you should really be asking.

        You should be asking. “Can I be content, knowing that I’m subjecting my family, especially my child, to a lie?” “Can I be happy that I’m sentencing my child to the same circumstances as me?”

        I don’t think I need to propose an answer to those questions. You have a unique opportunity to break this cycle of deceit, will you have the courage to take it?

        .

        It may have been a mistake to tell your wife what you told her, judging by her reaction. It is best to ease your family members into the idea that you’re ‘losing your faith’ rather than telling them that you’ve lost it. The former will allow them to empathize with you, they’ll think they can save you which will give you a chance to engage with them, while the latter evokes a defensive reaction that will contribute to them viewing you as an enemy. Frame it in a way that you’re simply not satisfied with the answers the church is providing, and when it comes to it make sure you ask them this crucial question “Is your faith more important to you than your family? Do you love the church more than you love me?” you need to force them to question their faith, it may come to light that some of your friends and family end up feeling a similar way, you might find some much needed allies.

        There’s no doubt that you will eventually need to distance yourself from most of these people in due time, it would be better for you and your child to get out of this situation as soon as realistically possible. But you have a lot of bridges to burn and you may not want to burn any unnecessarily, save as many as you can.

  14. Of course you can. A simple way would be to change your perspective on religious gatherings. It’s similar to a social gathering only that it’s through a religious medium. I know of ppl who attend churches just to know and socialize with people.

  15. Get out. Now.

    Don’t look back, take what you can – and whoever will come with you – and abandon the rest. Your pseudo-christian cult should have prepared you for not putting too much store in Worldly Goods. Well, these cultists are controlling your access to exactly the kind of Worldly Goods you need to disconnect from. Run. Leave. Escape.

    On the other hand, you’ll sell your soul to Satan (truly!) for a moderately comfortable standard of living and a community of “friends” and “family” who would burn you at the stake for what you now believe, if they thought they could get away with it. Come on, you’ve made the first step – realising what a fu*ked up cult you were raised in – now, take courage, and flee.

    I don’t know how far you need to get to be free of them, I’d expect them to have a nasty vindictive streak when faced with an apostate, don’t know if they’d cut off your head, or hold your family hostage, but be prepared for the worst. Take with you as much evidence of wrongdoing as you can, if only for your own defence, and to help others to escape, and bring down the power structure – for that’s what it comes down to – that keeps this evil in place.

    Accept that your life is at a turning point. Stay, and pay lip service, and learn to despise the person you are becoming, or make the break, breathe the air, discover freedom. Get a passport, you may need to leave the country, though a distant state might serve as well. Bring family if your wife is True, and can cleave to you as the Bible says she should, leave her behind and start divorce proceedings if she won’t. Fight for custody, you got to rescue as many of the next generation as you can. Go public, do interviews, write a book, make this escape the basis of your new career. Be aware that your former “friends” will become the worst enemy you can imagine, they’ll pull every dirty trick they can. But you have to be better than them, so no dirty tricks from your side. Do nothing illegal, but I suppose being in the USA you might be well advised to obtain a legal firearm and the right to carry it concealed in those states that allow it.

    Only steal their money if you know they’ve got it by underhand means, and left no audit trail. And don’t kidnap any cultists who aren’t ready to come away willingly with you. Your child you can probably get away with bringing along, you’d need legal advice (from non-cult-members) before you can be sure of your rights there.

    Run. Now. Seriously.

    (You did have the good sense to ask for feedback from this site. So, you did ask for this. How it works out is now down to you. Alone. Though you may find there’s an Underground Railroad for cult escapees that can offer moral and even practical aid.)

    I’m not in the USA, but there are others here who are. Some of them might have links to someone who can help on the practical front of how to handle the first few weeks. I suggest you document everything, blog it, video it, record it, write it down and upload it somewhere safe, capture all you can. Just in case.

    Back to your original question: “is the price too high?”. Well, just what is the price of your soul? A steady job and some fairweather friends? Come on, don’t you think you’re worth more than that?

    I wish you the all the very best, may you find your courage, and do what’s right, not just what’s convenient. Good luck. And keep in touch, I’m sure we all want to know.

    Do it well, and become a role model. Do it badly, and become a cautionary tale. Don’t do it at all, and Satan got your soul at at pennies on the dollar. Some years down the track, you’ll be faced with a young guy who reminds you of yourself at that age, but who speaks out, honestly, if rashly. What will you do, join with your community to shun him? Destroy his marriage, his family, his life inside the cosy cult? Will he see you have no real faith, only cowardice to keep you in thrall? How many others in the cult already stay out of cowardice? Maybe one day you’ll be able to ask them.

    ps I used the term “cult”, as I believe that to be an accurate word for a “very fundemental religious group that practices shunning”.

  16. Hi Confused,

    Yours is a very sad story, but don’t despair, many have been down this path before you. I have spent a good part of my life worrying about similar problems. I’m very fortunate, many of the problems I foresaw in ‘coming out’ have been resolved. However I need to set your expectations; it took me the best part 25 years.

    Also, I still haven’t quite achieved all that I would like to do.

    In a situation such as yours which, as you describe it, seems pretty tough you will need to think hard and plan ahead. Start with your nearest and dearest. Try to avoid any form of confrontation, and ask simple questions. Try and avoid making statements even when forced to answer questions. Be honest, and be diplomatic.

    You have read two books, that’s all that appears in your description of your change of heart. You yourself must still have many questions. Take your Wife on that journey with you. Avoid saying you know any answers, or that you know where a line of enquiry is leading. Open your mind to the idea that you may be wrong every day and look for facts, not reasons, to believe.

    As you begin to ask questions those most worried about your loss of faith will offer you the same reasons that you yourself have listed. The love and friendship of those around you, and their support, are reasons not facts. They are inducements to turn away from truth in order to follow the easy path.

    Good luck. Come back here to ask more questions like this, any time.

    Peace.

  17. I should add:

    I don’t think “coming out” and staying put is an option. Well, maybe it is, but it’s probably the hardest one. You’d be an alien in a familiar place. They’d do whatever it takes to break you, drive you to suicide or surrender, both equally evil outcomes I think. This coming in the mundane day to day existence in the same house, same town, same job, would be something I imagine would be utterly intolerable. They’d get you, one way or the other. And don’t expect their cult flavour of “christianity” means they’d show a scrap of charity or tolerance to you. You’d be the enemy within, to be dealt with without mercy.

    Don’t stay.

  18. Until your kids are grown your first concern should always be for them. They asked for none of this, neither your first chosen lifestyle, nor whatever the second lifestyle may be if you continue in fully covert mode. In your enlightened state you need to plan how to make their lives better as best you can.

    In making “loving groups” religion’s dogma turns the tightest of them into the most heartless monsters.

    I suspect that for a while at least until your wife is more stabilised with your position you must try and mitigate the harms done to your kids. Whilst not choosing conflict lead by the example of reason. Making decisions securing their happiness first will probably make you most satisfied with your choices in the long run. Especially when you see how your grandchildren turn out.

    May the quantum states this solstice collapse in your and your children’s favour!

    (In fact, in the UK most atheists say Merry Christmas without getting all knotted inside. Superficial accommodation is the first trick of the double agent. Hmmm? Now there’s a role for you…)

    Edit: Ah, suggested already. Excellent….

  19. I want to add my voice to give you moral support in your predicament. But without a detailed knowledge of your exact situation, it is not possible to advise except in very general terms. I would say ( mostly paraphrasing many others on this thread)

    1, Don’t rush into anything; stay on as a cultural participant, at least until you have examined carefully all your options
    2. Try and obtain help from an outside counselor (s) (e.g. social worker, secular/human rights group). Maybe RDFRS staff can guide you to a suitable address in your location?

    3.. This will help you to clarify all yr options. An extreme one is to envisage some variant of a Snowden-like action. But this requires very good planning, and being able to fully accept the likely consequences.

  20. No one but you can answer your question. I would not be able to live such a lie, and would move to a new community, make new friends, and move on. I would try to stay in touch with family, and sometimes people come around and forgive after a while, but that is ME, NOT YOU.

    Only you know if you value the social interactions and community you are currently familiar with,more than the potential new one you will likely build in your new live. You mention a wife. Are there kids? Is there any chance of your wife “seeing the light of reason”? Can you move, get employment, and build a new life with reasonable chance of success?

    We can’t answer these questions for you. We can only support your honesty and courage with words and good will.

  21. If you are in the clergy of this organisation, you don’t say you aren’t there is a support group theclergygroup.com.

    I would only echo others, work slowly, carefully and don’t make rash decisions.

    There are also ‘help with cults’ pages that discuss how to deal with techniques used to coerce people.

    Your wife may eventually come round, or at least be able to accept things, I know from personal experience that family breakdowns are hell on kids (pardon the phrase) so they’re paramount.

    Darwin’s wife worried about his mortal soul even though he lost his faith, so it is not within the wit of people to deal with this situation.

    You’ve ‘confessed your murder’ and you’ll always find support here I’m sure.
    May Humanity and Reason be with you, always.

  22. Well, I’d say it’s up to you what you do. Do what you consider to be honest, compassionate, and reasonable, and live with the results, changing what you find was wrongly assumed by your previous actions and ideas.

    Easy for ME to say. of course, since I don’t currently have any of your difficulties, but that’s the advice I followed in my hard times (which I did have) and basically the advice those who cared enough to give it to me offered.

    Yikes, but yours sounds tougher! But truth, like murder, will out, whatever you do. That’s why so many “believers” shun it. But that’s where you are.

    Let me be one who’s rooting for a happy resolution for you.

  23. I was seven years old, in Catholic school and the nun told us about original sin. I thought (to myself because I was not an idiot), “That isn’t fair!” Then she explained about how Jesus died on the cross so I wouldn’t go to hell. I said (to myself, because I was not an idiot), “That’s just crazy!” Now, I knew I had to keep my mouth shut, because to speak the truth was actually risking my life. They might not kill me outright but the were perfectly capable of driving me to suicide.. I learned the catechism, cover to cover, and got straight A’s in religion. I went to confession and confessed everything except my disbelief (Because I wasn’t an idiot!) I became an altar boy and learned my Latin. I joined the choir (although I lost my singing voice when I learned about the Pope’s castratos.) In the tenth grade I transferred to public school and found some people with who I could be reasonably honest, but I certainly didn’t “come out” at home (because I was not an idiot!) .When I joined the army I had to pick a religion to put on my dog-tags. “Agnostic” and “Atheist” were not offered choices, so I chose “Roman Catholic” (because I was not an idiot!) So my advice is; Don’t be an idiot. Some day the door to freedom may open.
    I am seventy years old now, and I realize that many people are trapped, as I was, as “aloneandconfused” is, because there will be social and financial consequences if they choose to be honest. Look with clear eyes at religious people, and you will often see the fear, and the self-loathing. Do what you have to, and even enjoy it. Don’t be an idiot.

    • In reply to #31 by hisxmark:

      myself because I was not an idiot), “That isn’t fair!”>

      That’s exactly what I thought at the same age, though not at a catholic school and not about that particular point of doctrine. Having a younger brother made me very mindful of ‘fairness’ as a virtue, also ‘showing favouritism’ as a vice. In retrospect, I think my six or seven year old take on morality was superior to that of my scripture teacher. I wasn’t stupid either, but I’d learnt by then that it’s wiser not to make waves, so I held my piece.

      I never considered the bible as a source of morality, and fortunately by the time I reached my teen years I came to the conclusion that it was all ridiculous, ( how could I not?) Leaving the fold was no great effort. I feel sorry for @aloneandconfused and really can’t offer any advice except to play it by ear, I suppose.

  24. First off, I want to apologize for not getting back to this thread sooner. The post was approved about a week after I posted it, and by then i had just left to go on vacation and had no internet signal while gone.

    Second, I want to give a HUGE thank you to all the posters in this thread. After reading all of the suggestions, I realize there is no “best” answer. Many of you have great ideas that I will definitely use and gave me support that truly touched the heart. I thank you.

    Some additional background information: I mentioned the two books that i recently read, but feel I must credit a few more people. When I first started questioning my beliefs I came upon a website that helped me dissect my religion piece by piece. The website, jwfacts.com might be of help if you know a Jehovah’s Witness that is questioning his beliefs. I then started listening to the podcasts “Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean”, “The Bible Geek”, and “The Human Bible”. All of this took about two years, all the while I was fact checking the claims of these websites and podcasts. After I deemed them mostly correct I read the two books I initially quoted and that put the final nail in the creationist coffin.

    Some of you suggested going out and meeting new people, getting new friends, etc and slowly drawing away from your current group. I appreciate that advice, but unless you have a wife that feels the same, it would be virtually impossible. My wife is a very social person and we have 15 or so couples that we hang out with on a very regular basis. I have no time to meet new people, and even if I did I could not socialize with them, for it is frowned upon to associate with unbelievers. So that idea is kind of out.

    I also do not think that coming out quickly would be the best option for me. The only thing that means anything to me anymore is my child, and I do not think I could live without her in my life. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that my wife would take a drastic step if I came out.

    It would take a tremendous amount of courage to come out, but I think it takes some courage to stay in as well. To be forced to live a lie for the benefit of your child is something I might be forced to do. I can slowly try to open up my daughters mind to the awesome scientific world that lays before us and guide her into becoming more open-minded. I would rather do that than be divorced and have half the time with her and all the while she thinking that she has to go see her dad the apostate.

    I like the idea of going undercover, almost as a spy (definitely helps to get into that state of mind to be able to attend church), to try to help some of my close friends. This would be a very dangerous game to play though, for one false move and I would be done. I would not go undercover to “expose” my religion. While I do think it has many faults, I feel truly bad for most of them and would not want them on camera. A lot of these people I have known my entire life, and they mean no harm at all and actually try their best to help people, however misguided that help is. They have no idea that they are wrong. The leaders are just common guys trying to follow what the Bible says. They think things like shunning is whats best because it will shock the person into coming back into the religion, and many do because they can’t stand to be away from their friends and family. I know it’s wrong and it sickens me, but they honestly think they are helping.

    If I didn’t answer a specific question in this thread, I apologize. JUST got back from vacation 3 hours ago and have many things to catch up on, but I will return to this thread. Again, thank you all so much for the thoughts and well wishes.

    • In reply to #33 by aloneandconfused:

      First off, I want to apologize for not getting back to this thread sooner. The post was approved about a week after I posted it, and by then i had just left to go on vacation and had no internet signal while gone.

      Second, I want to give a HUGE thank you to all the posters in this thread. After read…

      May the Force (of rationalism) be with you Sibling

    • In reply to #33 by aloneandconfused:

      First off, I want to apologize for not getting back to this thread sooner. The post was approved about a week after I posted it, and by then i had just left to go on vacation and had no internet signal while gone.

      Second, I want to give a HUGE thank you to all the posters in this thread. After read…

      My only advice to you is to try your best to endure while you are trying to figure out what to do. I hope you can at least get some comfort knowing that there are people out there who truly feel sorry for the situation you are in. Whatever you choose you should not feel ashamed for your actions. It’s your life and only you can decide what to do. I know there are atheists out there who look down upon people who are closet atheists, but that’s very easy to say if you don’t risk losing everything you find important in life. I wish you all the best…

  25. To aloneandconfused: After reading the original post and the “back from vacation” addendum. Your dilemma as rationalized in the addendum comes across as an immoral surrender and dishonest. You’ve done little but worry about yourself with all your ‘what ifs” but at the same time the fear is understandable. If you don’t feel you have the moral courage to follow your new knowledge and perhaps endure a few hardships then you probably should stay in your “comfortable life”. The good life you describe is a falsehood as it is based upon your being able to fool your network of family and friends into believing you are something you are not. You are attempting to build a straw house (life) without a foundation (integrity, honesty and mutual respect) and we all know the story of what happens to straw houses. You are already a victim… but to be a willing volunteer seems inexcusable.

    Been there… done that (different circumstances)… when one only knows mental slavery… freedom is incomprehensible… until it’s tasted.

  26. I agree it’s a tough position to be in. Personally i don’t think you can be happy faking it. Certainly not in the long term. It is not only disrespectfull to yourself but disrespectful to your loved ones to lie to them about who you are. I believe everything you say about being shunned and job etc. I think if I was in a similar situation I would make a plan. I don’t think it wise to randomly reveal your change of belief without having considered a strategy that will take into account all the reactions that will be triggered. In doing so it will help to imagine the various reactions and actually write down your responses to these.
    Making a plan will also keep you feeling resourceful and perhaps diminish the frustation of pretending to adhere to the old beliefs in the short term. A well considered approach also has the possibility of reducing the hurt this news may bring to those important people in your life and perhaps enalbe them to respect your position as authentic and honest. If you’re in a position to get professional help in preparing for this, it might be worth investigating.
    All the best!!

  27. A song sprang to my mind:

    The memories of a man in his old age
    Are the deeds of a man in his prime.
    You shuffle in gloom in the sickroom
    And talk to yourself till you die.
    

    — Roger Waters (Pink Floyd).

    While I’m quoting, aloneandconfused, you might find it helpful to introduce your family to this prayer (if it’s not already familiar).

        God, give me grace to accept with serenity
        the things that cannot be changed,
        Courage to change the things
        which should be changed,
        and the Wisdom to distinguish
        the one from the other.
    
        Living one day at a time,
        Enjoying one moment at a time,
        Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
        Taking, as Jesus did,
        This sinful world as it is,
        Not as I would have it,
        Trusting that You will make all things right,
        If I surrender to Your will,
        So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
        And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
    

    — Reinhold Niebuhr

    For those who might be confused, as I don’t usually post prayers, if you drop the last 4 lines and the Jesus, God and sinful references, it makes a perfectly good motivating and inspiring verse for one faced with difficult decisions, regardless of theology.

  28. Thanks for posting this. You should think rationally through the issue. You need to read a lot first to understand the alternatives. Questioning is an important part of life. I will recommend a book titled Islam: A challenge to religion. It is free on the web. Read some parts esp on the concept of god.

    You can change your belief without letting anyone know and this is the real change of your choice. We are not our body – our self consists of what we develop through our choices. We don’t have to disclose out belief till we can have an alternative in hand. You may find people around who may also be questioning this religion practices?

  29. Thanks for responding, I’d like to provide some more advice based on your decision to stay put.

    It’s easy for us to say you should leave your old life and never return, but of course it’s not that easy in practice.
    You’ve clearly weighed up your options and decided that not rocking the boat is the best choice for he time being, and quite possibly it could be the best choice for your daughter if rocking the boat would cause her to be pulled further into the fold.

    It’s not a courageous choice though, it’s most certainly the safest of several unfortunately bad options. However it’s not without it’s hardships and being courageous isn’t what it’s all about, if being courageous puts your daughter at risk then being courageous is a bad move, which is what you’ve decided.

    The flip side of this however is that you are perpetuating the intellectual crimes committed by this church and subjecting your daughter to a different risk. It’s one thing to let your friends and families lives continue in delusion, but it’s another to willingly abide by it yourself.

    I would focus on your daughter, ensure she doesn’t grow up thinking everything revolves around religion, which is exactly what your community will try to do. Then when she a is older and less reliant on her mother, re-evaluate your priorities, and perhaps you and your daughter will be ready to move on. This will give you time to plan your options, and put aside some money for the inevitable financial hardships that would come from a move in the future.

    Do not live the rest of your life in denial, thinking that you can put up with being in this cult for the rest of your life for the sake of your daughter, because your daughter will not benefit from being in this cult for the rest of hers. But if it’s too risky to shake things up just yet, have patience and plan your escape.

  30. If I were to answer your question by saying that you should turn your back on your community and expunge them from your life I think you would quickly recognise that advice as being rather similar to advice given by certain cults. However perhaps their teachings go against your fundamental values (perhaps they practice homophobia or are scathing of those with other beliefs or no beliefs) in which case I would ask just how long are you prepared to listen to “Gays are an abomination”, or “Non believers will burn in the fires of hell” while pretending to agree.

    Remember that it is highly likely that there are others like you with doubts and it is only the threat of being shunned from family and friends that keep them quiet. Is that a society you really want to belong to?

  31. Yes, the price is too high. Stick to your present life and go along with the silliness of the rituals. After all, even Richard Dawkins enjoys the rituals of the Church of England: the songs, the stained glass windows, the language of the St. James Bible. I don’t think any belief is worth losing your family and friends for.

  32. Yes and Yes! There is no need to push against your families beliefs, that will only cause you pain. To me, Acceptance is the key to happiness. You have to decide what you are willing to accept and live your life based on those choices. If you are not willing to accept losing your family, than you need to accept the way they live their lives and to accept your participation in their lives. This does not mean that you have to give up your new found beliefs.

    Here is my example. I was raised Catholic and now I don’t believe in Religion. I fall somewhere between Religion and Atheism/Science. I still believe in God but not the same way Catholics do. I believe that God is Universal Consciousness and by consciousness, I believe that consciousness is energy. Catholics believe in a Soul and I believe that what they call a soul is the energy that runs through our body and mind. Catholics believe in Heaven and Life After Death. To me, energy cannot be destroyed, so when our body dies our energy moves on to a new plain of existence, which is in essence, Life After Death. To Catholics, Jesus was their savior and to me, Jesus was a person who lived 2000+ years ago and was a great teacher who tried to teach people about love and forgiveness. So basically, I have taken the science of Energy and practical reason and related it to how I was brought up in a Catholic family. I haven’t rejected my families beliefs, I have just laid my beliefs over theirs and can still function as a member of my family without putting down Catholicism.

    • In reply to #43 by JonMeikle:

      Here is my example. I was raised Catholic and now I don’t believe in Religion. I fall somewhere between Religion and Atheism/Science. I still believe in God but not the same way Catholics do. I believe that God is Universal Consciousness and by consciousness, I believe that consciousness is energy. Catholics believe in a Soul and I believe that what they call a soul is the energy that runs through our body and mind.

      Energy has a quite precise meaning in physics. It isn’t consciousness or soul.

      Catholics believe in Heaven and Life After Death. To me, energy cannot be destroyed, so when our body dies our energy moves on to a new plain of existence, which is in essence, Life After Death.

      The energy in you that isn’t destroyed after your death stays in this universe. It doesn’t move into a different plane of existence. If it did that would violate conservation of energy.

      To Catholics, Jesus was their savior and to me, Jesus was a person who lived 2000+ years ago and was a great teacher who tried to teach people about love and forgiveness.

      And hell. I think He invented hell.

      So basically, I have taken the science of Energy and practical reason and related it to how I was brought up in a Catholic family. I haven’t rejected my families beliefs, I have just laid my beliefs over theirs and can still function as a member of my family without putting down Catholicism.

      I was also a Catholic. Whether or not you family care you have rejected Catholic belief. Do you take communion ? How do you feel about transubstantiation?

      Michael

      • In reply to #44 by mmurray:

        Energy has a quite precise meaning in physics. It isn’t consciousness or soul.

        Here is the first definition of Energy I found on the internet when I typed “Energy Definition” in google.
        en·er·gy
        /ˈenərjē/
        noun: energy
        1. the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity. (sounds a lot like consciousness to me). Obviously there are plenty of other definitions of energy, but this is one of them.

        The energy in you that isn’t destroyed after your death stays in this universe. It doesn’t move into a different plane of existence. If it did that would violate conservation of energy.

        I’ll concede this point, I should have said dimension. Although I also believe in Multiverses.

        I was also a Catholic. Whether or not you family care you have rejected Catholic belief. Do you take communion ? How do you feel about transubstantiation?

        When with my family, Yes I take communion. As for transubstantiation, It’s bread and wine, a nice snack during the service.

        • In reply to #45 by JonMeikle:

          In reply to #44 by mmurray:

          Energy has a quite precise meaning in physics. It isn’t consciousness or soul.

          Here is the first definition of Energy I found on the internet when I typed “Energy Definition” in google. en·er·gy /ˈenərjē/ noun: energy 1. the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity. (sounds a lot like consciousness to me). Obviously there are plenty of other definitions of energy, but this is one of them.

          But you are referring to conservation of energy in your first post. That means you want the physics definition. This is not the physics definition.

          I’ll concede this point, I should have said dimension. Although I also believe in Multiverses.

          What other dimension? You have the same problem. I don’t really know what you mean by energy moving into another dimension so I can’t determine what effect it would have on conservation of energy. It’s not something we see in the real world. Your use of the word energy is as much mumbo-jumbo as any bit of theology. That’s fine. I don’t really mind but you really shouldn’t say

          So basically, I have taken the science of Energy

          Finally

          When with my family, Yes I take communion. As for transubstantiation, It’s bread and wine, a nice snack during the service.

          Have you discussed this “snack” interpretation with the priest? That would be fun :-)

          Michael

          • In reply to #46 by mmurray:

            Have you discussed this “snack” interpretation with the priest? That would be fun :-)

            While talking to the Priest, I need to find out if during the Consecration, they can turn cheese into his heart and add that to the snack. This would make it a lot more tasty.

            As for the Energy stuff, I am obviously not a scientist and shouldn’t have used the words, “the science of energy”. All I was trying to say is that our bodies contain energy and from what I’ve heard, energy can’t be destroyed, only transformed. So when our bodies die, where (specifically) the energy goes i’ll never know but I know it has to go somewhere, whether its stays in this 3rd dimentional reality or not. I believe that our conscious mind is a form of energy and will never be destroyed. I’m not claiming to be right, i’m just stating my beliefs, as screwed up as they may be. As I stated before, i’m not religious nor am I an Athiest. So what category that puts me in, i’m not sure. I don’t like the term Spiritual either.

          • In reply to #47 by JonMeikle:

            In reply to #46 by mmurray:

            I believe that our conscious mind is a form of energy and will never be destroyed. I’m not claiming to be right, i’m just stating my beliefs, as screwed up as they may be.

            I wish you were right but I don’t think you are. Our conscious mind consists of patterns and structures in the atoms, electrons and fields which make up our brain. When we die those patterns all unravel and are lost for ever. Sure the matter and energy are conserved. It’s like taking a book and feeding it through a shredder. You haven’t destroyed any matter or energy but the particular arrangement of matter which contained the information in the book is gone.

            Michael

  33. No one can answer that but you Mr. Confused ;-). But since you’re reaching out I will offer my 2 cents. I think you should be honest. I don’t think you need to shout it from the rooftops but I think you should be true to yourself. I wouldn’t want to be in your situation and if you do “come out” I will count you among the very brave. If you love the people you speak of than give them a chance to shine. Maybe they’re not as closed minded and bigoted as you think they are. They may nag you and try and bring you back into the fold but perhaps they won’t shun you. If they do perhaps they are not as worthy of your love as you believe. If you’ve brought your children up well they will love you regardless of you belief. That being said, it might be easier and less painful for everyone if you find a way to participate in the rituals that helps to enrich your “spiritual” life. Celebrate community and family and love and charity and compassion and choose not to participate in any practice you find repugnant. Share with your family first, regardless of what you reveal to the community. Give them the opportunity to be honest with you about their beliefs. You may not be the only one. At the very least share with your family before you come out to the community so your family can prepare to take on any consequences along with you. Good luck – I wish you well

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