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Unread 6th February 2017   #1
Sherman8D
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Default To the Atheists w/ a Religious Past : That Nostalgic Feeling

Past: Seven years ago when I was a Junior in highschool, I considered myself a close follower of Jesus Christ. I used to go to my Pentecostal church every Sunday and Wednesday. I loved my church community, but I was also struggling with my sexuality -- which they consider a sin. I tried my best to not like men, but it was futile in the end. I had to admit that I was gay and this is who I am no matter what. I didnít want to feel disgusted with myself anymore, so I stopped going to my church altogether. I did consider believing that Jesus loves gay people, but so many people including my mom have programmed my mind to believe that being gay is a sin that I would feel false/fake. I value honesty and authenticity from myself and others. So, I could not bring myself to go to a church that accepts gay people. Then during my college years, I learned so many things about this world and believed less and less of God. And so I met the fork in the road. Either I believe in God all the way OR not believe at all. I chose the latter.

To this day, my ex-church family does not know why I left them. Nor do they know that I'm gay and an atheist.

Now: I only have one connection with the church and that is my friend, Stacy. Occasionally, we still hangout and discuss our current lives. She invited me to her wedding recently (It's not her "real wedding" though. That will be after her baby is born). She assured me that no one from the church will go, just her friends and family, so I went. Apparently, her wedding was not in the altar where church services are conducted, but in the large dining room.

Then I snuck into the altar area because it has been 3 years since I came to my church. All of the lights were off, so I turned on my flashlight phone app. Then everything seemed to come to life to me. The more I wandered around, the more I remembered. Every person, every skit, every holiday celebration, all of the pleasant things. It was a nostalgic feeling.

Ofcourse, it might have been completely different had I outed myself to my church community. But I didn't. That's why I have these feelings now. My ex-church family was good to me. And sometimes I tell myself "maybe if they didn't believe that being gay is a sin, I would still believe in a God." Don't get me wrong though. I have no intention of going back. I'm perfectly happy with who I am now. So for the curious theists, please don't suggest I go back, this post is not about that.

I wanted to know if anybody has felt this way too. If so, tell me what triggered your nostalgia and how you ultimately feel about the whole thing.
Maybe this is a sensitive topic though. So it would not surprise me if no one responds.
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Unread 6th February 2017   #2
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I can't speak for myself but a good friend (who is also an ex-girlfriend) came from a deeply religious Russian Orthodox home, one that believed things like you could be cured of cancer if you touched a priest's robes at the right time. Her family was close, and she never told them she was gay, and that she later became an atheist...though I don't think it was out of self-defense as it was for you, but then maybe it was and I don't know it, and maybe she doesn't know it either. She's still open to the paranormal (though with what I'd call scifi theories for a lot of it rather than occult, spiritualist, or new age beliefs), and she treats higher mathematics the way some treat a holy book, perhaps as if she was trying to regain something she lost.

I know what hurts her the most is how her family is. She was very close with some, and couldn't stand the rejection she was certain she'd get, and one has died. This depresses her. And what angers her is that they've allowed some dangerous criminals to stay with them (they openly disapprove of their criminal lifestyles and urge them to go straight, but they're still family) and yet a lesbian like her could not be tolerated as God obviously cursed people like that, and those with God/Christ within them must also despise them now. She could be a cocaine-addled hitwoman and they'd still have a place for her (with many sermons and lectures, but still), but not a lesbian who loves another woman, and atheists aren't accepted either, which implies that a lesbian atheist is about the worst thing you can be in the eyes of those she loved as a child.

I feel really bad for her, and her depressed state (and alcohol problem she has that runs in the family) worries me.
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Unread 7th February 2017   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pix View Post
I can't speak for myself but a good friend (who is also an ex-girlfriend) came from a deeply religious Russian Orthodox home, one that believed things like you could be cured of cancer if you touched a priest's robes at the right time. Her family was close, and she never told them she was gay, and that she later became an atheist...though I don't think it was out of self-defense as it was for you, but then maybe it was and I don't know it, and maybe she doesn't know it either. She's still open to the paranormal (though with what I'd call scifi theories for a lot of it rather than occult, spiritualist, or new age beliefs), and she treats higher mathematics the way some treat a holy book, perhaps as if she was trying to regain something she lost.

I know what hurts her the most is how her family is. She was very close with some, and couldn't stand the rejection she was certain she'd get, and one has died. This depresses her. And what angers her is that they've allowed some dangerous criminals to stay with them (they openly disapprove of their criminal lifestyles and urge them to go straight, but they're still family) and yet a lesbian like her could not be tolerated as God obviously cursed people like that, and those with God/Christ within them must also despise them now. She could be a cocaine-addled hitwoman and they'd still have a place for her (with many sermons and lectures, but still), but not a lesbian who loves another woman, and atheists aren't accepted either, which implies that a lesbian atheist is about the worst thing you can be in the eyes of those she loved as a child.

I feel really bad for her, and her depressed state (and alcohol problem she has that runs in the family) worries me.
What you have described doesn't seem to be nostalgia (and probably suited for a different thread) , but I will respond nonetheless. Correct me if I'm wrong though lol

Main differences about me that made my life easier compared to others:
I was not born in a religious household. Even though my mother herself was catholic, she never bothered taking me or my brothers to church enough for us to care. I'm sure she was more religiously active in her youth, but not anymore. I started getting into it on my own will when I was a sophomore or junior in highschool. The weight of religious influence was not as heavy on me as those who were born into the religious lifestyle.

Similarities:
My church felt strongly about faith-based healing as well.
Yes, I think I think all humans desire an explanation to how the world works. For me, I like reading up on psychology stuff. It makes more sense than believing in some man-in-the-sky nonsense.

Feelings:
I'm sorry to hear that about your good friend. gosh, I hope she gets well soon.
Ugh, I hate that! Me loving someone from the same sex equates abhorrent criminal behavior??! People have been spouting that bullshit for a looong time.
My only shred of advice for her is to find friends where friendship "transcends time and space." Make her own personal friend-family. Creating a support system that's solely dependent on one's family is too crippling imo.
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Unread 7th February 2017   #4
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Somewhat similarly, I converted from Christianity to atheism around the same age as you (probably 22 or 23), which I would have never imagined years before. I think a lot of it had to do with, as you put it, learning more about the world and people and all that entails. It was as if my mind couldn't "believe" anymore, even if I wanted it to; which brings me to my next point--I wasn't sure I wanted to believe anymore.

You talk about being nostalgic. There have been times when I've felt sentimental feelings when having a conversation with someone from my past; however, I realize it is probably nostalgia over the connections with the people, not necessarily the religion. You mentioned you feel nostalgia when thinking about the activities and people, but I noticed you didn't really say you felt nostalgic about the sermons or other strictly religious activity. Obviously, good or bad, this place is forever part of your past and helped shape who you are today and it will forever be a part of you.
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Unread 7th February 2017   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pacific View Post
Somewhat similarly, I converted from Christianity to atheism around the same age as you (probably 22 or 23), which I would have never imagined years before. I think a lot of it had to do with, as you put it, learning more about the world and people and all that entails. It was as if my mind couldn't "believe" anymore, even if I wanted it to; which brings me to my next point--I wasn't sure I wanted to believe anymore.

You talk about being nostalgic. There have been times when I've felt sentimental feelings when having a conversation with someone from my past; however, I realize it is probably nostalgia over the connections with the people, not necessarily the religion. You mentioned you feel nostalgia when thinking about the activities and people, but I noticed you didn't really say you felt nostalgic about the sermons or other strictly religious activity. Obviously, good or bad, this place is forever part of your past and helped shape who you are today and it will forever be a part of you.
Hello Pacific,

Thank you for responding to my thread. It's interesting to see people who share similar experiences. My college education really did open my mind. I do find it amusing that Christians vehemently advise fellow followers to avoid the "things of this world." And now I'm like . . . the world is not inherently evil, and it has its upsides. And once you know that, it's hard to believe in god anymore.

Oh wow. Those conversation must have been awkward. I wonder how that was for you. If I see anyone from my old church days, I'm hitting the deck. I am gone pecan. I will disappear like a ninja. There really isn't a good reason why I should interact with them anymore. But I do remember how lovely our conversations would be.

I don't have any particular attachments to the sermons themselves. Honestly, I think it's about that feeling of being part of a close community that enticed everyone in the first place. Not so much God himself.

Yes, this past of mine will always be a part of me.
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Unread 9th February 2017   #6
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Had that been my experience in church, I could totally see responding as you did. You are likely missing the feeling of community that being there gave you. However the warmth these people expressed was towards the person they thought you were (still basically you.... just minus the sexuality). In most settings I would say they would likely get past it but it sounds like they deal in absolutes and thus that would be unlikely and you've already said you wouldn't want to pursue any kind of changed/compromised faith pattern.

In my case I grew up Roman Catholic and there are elements about that which I miss... the young adult program which had emotionally-charged retreats, various friendships, etc. But after being outed and shown the door, that was all eclipsed by my anger, which only grew as I learned about the hypocrisy that was and is so rampant.

It was two decades later when--because of 9/11--I found myself in a church setting again as part of helping our area cope with what was going on. I got involved with the Episcopal Church which--besides evolving on LGBT issues--has a very different approach to theology that admits there is a lot we don't know and a lot that people over the years just made up. While I no longer say I believe without reservation in "god" as the church defines it, or that Jesus Christ was any more "the son of God" anymore than any of us are, I believe that Jesus the person brought us teachings about how we should live and treat each other which remain relevant, more so than ever in the environment we find ourselves today. To me the church, beyond community for my own needs, provides a framework to live that out and try to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

I think there are lots of people who feel similarly to you. There is something called the Ethical Culture Society which has the community and even the social justice work, just minus the god stuff.
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Unread 10th February 2017   #7
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I know where you are coming from. I miss singing the old Hymns. I sometimes find myself missing prayer. Prayer to me was sharing some of your inner faults plus wants with friends / family.

I too grew up Christian in the Evangelical church, was Born Again, + would attend a Pentecostal Churches on and off. Might have spoke in Tongues once or twice. Graduated from a Baptist college and attended 1 semester of seminary - when I was outed.

I lean atheist now but find that it's not that much of an issue anymore. Maybe time heals all. I used to get into long drawn out discussions w/ Christians, pointing out the fallacies of different aspects of the bible. Found it's not worth my time. I'd say I still believe in a God but haven't been to Church in 15 years.

My Mom loves to preach to me over the phone. She knows I'm Gay and still loves me. She's on her 3rd battle with Cancer and this might be it. I let her talk and listen to her though I don't necessary agree with everything she says. It took her a long while to accept that I was Gay.
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Unread 10th February 2017   #8
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I'm curious about the formerly religious, now atheist identifying people in this thread - do you guys think your sexuality was the catalyst in your questioning of the church / religion? Or were you already questioning it? Like if you guys were straight, do you still think you'd have ended up atheists?
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Unread 18th February 2017   #9
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Hello @ShiftyNJ

Thank you for replying. Yeah, church youth-groups are really memorable experiences; I still keep some church retreat souvenirs in my memory box. Had I chose to expose myself there, I would have followed the path of anger too. Though I was always aware of hypocrisy in churches, which also added another reason to leave my church altogether. Sorry, you had to go through all that. But it looks like you are in a better place. I always forget that there are various forms of the same belief. I suppose Jesus Christ was my framework to live too, but I just do my own thing now. I think first of "what is," "why," "where," "when," "how" before I think of "what should be." I'll look into that society. Thanks

I wonder, how was it when you transitioned to a belief system different from what you were always used to?

Hello @drobs

My brother has recently been involved with religion and he plays Klove radio station in the car. So I am constantly bombarded with Christian songs. I tune it out, but the songs are soo catchy that I sometimes whisper a lyric or two lol. I only pray if something really bad happens, and my mom needs that emotional/spiritual support despite knowing that I do not believe in any god. And lol I think every believer at one point has prayed to be filthy rich.

Wow, it sounds like you did the whole nine yards. It must really suck to be outed. I never experienced that dreadful situation. Then again that's probably because I have always eliminated romantic distractions (both straight and gay) in order to do well in school; in those times, I merely focused on my friendships. I agree that time really does help.

Err.. I'm very confused when you say that you are leaning towards atheist, but still believe in a God. Sounds closer to agnosticism if you ask me.

I'm sorry that you and your mom is going through that sickly ordeal. But I am glad that she was able to accept you for who you are. . . I wonder. If my mother accepts me and still loves me, will she change her beliefs for me? Or will she overtly or covertly suffer for me?

Hello @Emiliano

For the most part, yes, my sexuality was a catalyst in the questioning of my church/religion. But the seeds of doubt were planted in me much earlier when I took a psychology and a sociology class in highschool. Something about those subjects really opened my mind. If I was straight, I think I would have ended up still believing in God. Not that it matters anymore.
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Unread 20th February 2017   #10
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Quote:
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Hello @ShiftyNJ ...
I wonder, how was it when you transitioned to a belief system different from what you were always used to?
It was not a hugely radical theological shift, only because our church evolved from the Catholics. The service is not hugely different, and the core beliefs are similar. We just stepped away from some of the doctrines that had been added which do not have basis in scripture (such as a Pope who has infallible authority, clergy not being permitted to marry, etc.) and the belief that the bread and wine actually "become" the body and blood of Jesus at Communion, something my logical brain always struggled with. They are actually are more in line with my own thinking anyway, So now I don't feel like I am breaking rules for having some logic creep into what I freely admit is kind of a bizarre ritual when you really think about it.
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Unread 22nd February 2017   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Emiliano View Post
I'm curious about the formerly religious, now atheist identifying people in this thread - do you guys think your sexuality was the catalyst in your questioning of the church / religion? Or were you already questioning it? Like if you guys were straight, do you still think you'd have ended up atheists?
I became estranged of my religious upbringing when the vicar wanted to talk to me about 'living in sin' with my girlfriend (at that time, yes) something I strongly disagreed with because I was living according to the teachings ie 'loving my neighbour' in a committed relationship. I thought his stance may have been heartfelt but it was, to me, hypocritical. I then started unpicking all the liturgy and thinking, even if the precepts of Jesus's teachings were sound, the whole church stance was about ruling and power over the masses. I didn't like its double standards. Then I became gay, so what hope was there for any of us sinners?
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Unread 2 Weeks Ago   #12
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No its just gonna be one "HELL" of a party down there someday, right? I think South Park go5 it right in showing hell as one big party...
Haha

I myself got lost within all of the double standards of "Religion," and the unrealistic nature of the promises made. That is why I no longer follow any of it, and feel that it is one big load of crap personally.

I know others may not agree with me, but just so long as no one tries to force "Church" on me, I feel that we can survive even with the varying viewpoints that are out there.
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