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"I have never,
in all my life,
not for one moment,
been tempted toward religion
of any kind.


The fact is that
I feel no spiritual void.

I have my philosophy of life,
which does not include
any aspect of the supernatural
and which I find totally satisfying.


I am,
in short,
a rationalist..."


-- Isaac Asimov







"I have found that ex-Christians frequently describe an enormous
life affirming nature to the discovery
that their beliefs were false.

Reports from deconverts
are of a life of honesty,
free, and more loving,
and often a passion for knowledge
and interest in the world.

No divine judging,
spiritual separation from others
or easy condemnation of different lifestyles.

Instead the discovery of the
poignancy and vulnerability of life.

The desire to be moral because
we can truly empathise with others
in their messy humanity.

Connection with the world
rather than running against it..."

From
Leaving Christianity LINK








"I contend that we are both atheists.
I just believe in one less god
than you do.

When you understand
why you dismiss all the other gods,

you will understand
why I dismiss yours."







"Human beings are intelligent
and psychologically rich ...

We have much potential
which we can either use, misuse or squander.

There can be far reaching
ramifications
both in our mental lives
and in our interactions with others
when we take on a huge belief
system such as Christianity.

Many of us who are bought up to believe that Christianity is what the universe is all about
end up taking our religious beliefs
most ardently,
basing our personal,
interpersonal and
sometimes professional lives on this.

It makes a big difference to our lives
if Christianity is mistaken
and we take it as very seriously true.

It is therefore
worth examining our beliefs.


Some of us take up this challenge,
or are forced into it by noticing difficulties with the claims of Christianity.

We notice problems, think, read and often come to a startling conclusion.

There are many reasons why people leave Christianity,
but the most common reason
for a very serious Christian
to leave is through research.

Ironically this often happens when research is carried out in order be a better exponent of Christianity.

This happens to apologists,
theologians,
missionaries,
ministers,
fundamentalists and liberals.

The broad spectrum
from professional to
lay Christian of all Christian types..."

From
Leaving Christianity LINK








"You are an intelligent human being.

Your life is valuable for its own sake.

You are not second-class in the universe, deriving meaning and purpose from some other mind.

You are not inherently evil
- you are inherently human,

possessing the positive rational potential to help make this a world of morality, peace and joy.

Trust yourself."

[ Dan Barker,
Former minister - now with
Freedom From Religion Foundation
in "Losing Faith in Faith" ]















"I was born an Atheist.

All humans are born Atheists.

No baby born into the world
arrives with specific
religious beliefs or knowledge.


Such beliefs and knowledge
must be acquired,
which means that they must first exist before and apart from the new life


and that they must be presented to
and impressed on
the new suggestible mind

--one that has no critical apparatus

and no alternative views of its own.



Human infants are like sponges,
soaking up
(not completely uncritically,
but eagerly and effectively)
whatever is there to be soaked up
from their social environment.


Small children in particular
instinctively imitate the models
that they observe
in their childhood,

but I was not compelled to attend or practice any particular religion,
and as I grew I never saw any reason to 'convert' to any particular religion.


I have thus been an Atheist all my life.


I am a natural Atheist."


From the Introduction in
"Natural Atheism"
by David Eller Ph.D

http://secweb.infidels.org/book958.html








New reformation Leaving

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(This excerpt is incomplete,
is taken from postings in a newsgroup years ago,
and may have been edited incorrectly.
A part is missing so it does not represent the author's complete thoughts on this matter.)>

I kept a copy because some of this article matched my own experience.
It certainly mirrors that of people I've known.

I think that it is important for those re-examining their religious beliefs,
those who have just broken free
and those who fortunately escaped religious indoctrination
to be aware of these issues.


(I think it is very important that people who have left religious groups are supported,

understand that you feel they took the right action,

and that there are ( and always have been )
those who found they had to disagree with what they had been taught.)


Excerpt from “Psychological Issues of Former Members of Restrictive Religious Groups”


....emphasizing negative aspects of a once strongly held way of being in the world may trigger defense of something with which the client is still unconsciously identified.

Criticism of past beliefs may be misconstrued as criticism of the client for having believed them.

There may be shame in having once accepted as true things that now seem untenable.......

It is often helpful to approach the involvement as a developmental stage that was important, in ways both good and bad, in shaping the individual's life.
As with any other developmental stage, the restrictive belief system was eventually outgrown.

But unlike most other life stages, there is rarely a readily apparent next stage for the former believer to move on to.

This is especially true with groups that actively discourage awareness of other systems of thought and lifestyles.
Group members may know nothing about other religions, the humanities, or modern critical thought.

Education in schools operated by the group, where all ideas are filtered through the shared belief system, tends to increase social and cultural isolation.
Thus the former member may be unaware of alternative approaches to spiritual and existential questions.

Support for spiritual and philosophical explorations, in contrast to the limits set by the former belief system, will help validate the client's capacity for independent thought.


Without the unequivocal pronouncements that once guided them, former members of restrictive groups are apt to feel lost and confused.

In any transition, there is a naturally occuring period of time between the collapse of old beliefs and their replacement by a new set of guiding principles.

Kuhn's (1970) account of the disorientation that occurs when a scientific viewpoint once thought to be definitive fails to fit emergent facts can be applied to the similar confusion that comes with shifts in religious belief.

Bridge's (1980) concept of an "empty" middle phase in transitions is also helpful in normalizing the ex-believer's sense of confusion and inner emptiness as a natural part of the process of moving beyond outmoded views about self and the world.*

( * I found that religious habits of thought faded quickly
with passage of time & re-affirmations of what I now knew to be true.


Some who leave allow themselves to be troubled
if something triggers an ingrained religious habit.


They need to realize that these responses were learned, NOT inherent.
People without that indoctrination – in childhood or during “conversions”
- don't think in religious ways. )


The tenets of a restrictive religious group serve as the primary source of meaning and self definition for its members.
In departing from them, the former believer loses what may well have been the central focus of her or his life.

As with any loss, there is an associated grief process which, however, often goes unrecognized.
Acknowledging losses as well as gains in leaving the group, and normalizing the depression the ex-member may feel as a natural response to the loss can go a long way towards helping him or her move through the necessary grief process.

(I felt relief & happiness at getting free, but regret the wasted time, missed opportunities,
used savings & lost potential very keenly.)


Ex-believers often feel doubly misunderstood and isolated.

Family and friends who remain in the group are likely to have little tolerance
for the views of anyone who has rejected their beliefs.

People who do not share the same background are not likely to understand
the intense and long lasting effects of having once belonged to a restrictive religion.


Often the connection between current life difficulties and past religious experience is not apparent even to the former member.

Fundamentalist doctrines emphasize human imperfection, maintaining that there is no possibility for doing good without the assistance of divine grace.

Along with the loss of idealized images about the group and its leaders, the disillusioned believer also loses what was believed to be the only hope of salvation.

Self esteem based upon association with the group and its "sure truths,"
is seriously impacted when one no longer belongs to the group.

I have found Jung's * (1965) concept of
the self as an inner, transcendent source of healing and wholeness
that is often projected onto institutions and their leaders
useful in helping people reclaim aspects of themselves that they may have given away to the group.

In therapy as well as in other relationships,
the projections formerly carried by the group and its leaders
are likely to appear in the form of idealization or devaluation,
with the two processes sometimes alternating.

Ex-believers may need to test a relationship to see if they are at risk for another painful betrayal.


Therapeutic process often revolves around reclamation of the personal authority
once given over to the group,
and now perhaps projected onto significant others as well as the therapist.

The former believer may be very adept
at unconsciously meeting the
perceived expectations of others.

Denial, repression, splitting,and a false sense of self are often well developed defense mechanisms.

The black and white thinking expressed in such conflicting pairs of opposites
as God vs. devil, church vs. world, sin vs. righteousness,
leads to repression of anything that might possibly be construed as unacceptable.

Constant self monitoring and rigid self control,
along with confession of every sin in prayer,
may have been regarded as the only means for avoiding divine condemnation.

In the literalism characteristic of fundamentalism,
an "evil" thought or feeling is considered just as sinful as an evil act.
Impulses and feelings may be believed to be demonic in origin.

The former group member is likely to need frequent reminders that there is nothing inherently evil about negative feelings, and the fact of their existence does not mean that they will be acted out.


Strongly held beliefs greatly complicate family dynamics when not all family members share those beliefs.

Unlike former members of "cults"
whose families likely opposed their group membership,
individuals who leave fundamentalism often leave family members behind.

People who have left religious groups to which their families still belong will need support
in coping with the anger,pain, and grief of being misunderstood and judged.

They will also need assistance in maintaining a personal philosophy that clashes with the deeply held beliefs of family members.

Family interactions can become dominated by the well meant attempts
of the
"faithful" to persuade their "lost loved one" to return to "the Truth."

Conversely, the former believer's desire to win family and friends over to his or her condemnation of the group is often as strong as the desire of those who still belong to bring her or him back into the fold.


Dysfunctional family patterns are sometimes hidden behind the idealized image of the religiously affiliated family, an image that is apt to fail when faith in the church is lost.

The discovery of pathology in one's family presents yet another challenge to previously held beliefs.

Adolescents from families belonging to restrictive religious groups often rebel through gross violations of the strict moral codes that have been prescribed for them.
Sexual acting out, running away, and substance abuse may represent attempts to establish autonomy in the face of overbearing parental and religious authority.


Divorce and bitter child custody disputes,based in black and white conflicts over transcendent values, often occur when one spouse leaves a restrictive religious group while the other remains.

While not all groups go so far as to prohibit contact with those who leave,
a former member is unlikely to be well regarded by the faithful. **


Conclusion

Psychological issues of former members of restrictive religious are unique in the degree to which they involve past religious belief and experience.

It is important to remember that what may seem to be eccentric ideas and practices are likely to have been very important in shaping the former believer's life.

In addition to the usual goals of psychotherapy,
former members may need assistance in exploring lingering religious conflicts,
as well as support in seeking sources of meaning and guidance more congruent with current beliefs and lifestyle.


References

Bridges, W. (1980).
Transitions. Reading, Mass.
Kuhn, T.S.(1970).
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

(This excerpt is incomplete, is taken from postings in a newsgroup years ago, and may have been edited incorrectly.
A part is missing so it does not represent the author's complete thoughts on this matter.)


** Don't allow this to prevent you from leaving.

The rewards are greater than any discomfort.

Being forewarned allows for pre-planning.

As much as possible, pre plan what you will do afterwards,
including during times previously used for religion,
where & with whom you'll socialise,
how you will handle opposition and any work implications


Make sure you & your resources are strong and organized.




*
".. the self as an inner, transcendent source of healing and wholeness
that is often projected onto institutions and their leaders
useful in helping people reclaim aspects of themselves that they may have given away to the group. "

With a minister father and 11 uncles who were also ministers, C.G.Jung knew religion well.
He became a medical doctor.

The very valid quote can be re-phrased loosely in less professional language as :

"Trust & rely on your natural self, not what your group has taught."

Sometimes Jung and other thinkers who have come out of a religious tradition
lose sight of the naturalness of unbelief
and waste time and effort trying to go beyond that simple truth.

As the anthropologist David Eller puts it so well:

"I was born an Atheist.

All humans are born Atheists.

No baby born into the world
arrives with specific
religious beliefs or knowledge.


Such beliefs and knowledge
( are ) acquired,
..... and impressed on
the new suggestible mind

--one that has no critical apparatus

and no alternative views of its own.......


...I am a natural Atheist."


From the Introduction in
"Natural Atheism"
by David Eller Ph.D




( "ex-preacher" is an Internet member of the American Atheists,
and having spent years trapped in a restrictive church,
strongly shares the aims & ideals of the Freedom From Religion Foundation,
of which he is an International Lifetime member. )


If you are having difficulty in recovering from harmful religious experiences
http://journeyfree.org has some resources.








"El Credo falso"

"The Beliefs are false"




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