Apostasy: Feelings of Loss & Liberation – By Troythulu
A Guest Post by Troythulu
Martin S Pribble
For those of us atheists who are former religionists initially unaccustomed to our unbeliefs, there at first seems to be a sense of loss and often the fear of rejection by our friends and loved ones who are still theists, who may harbor negative views of us were they to find out.
I’m a former Adventist, having left the Church in my pre-teens, and at first, the most disturbing things I remember from those years was asking myself the question, “Without a God, who do I have to watch over me now?”
What made it disturbing was that I was asking this and simultaneously feeling as if relieved of a great weight, all while wondering what my still devout relatives would say if they knew.
I also found myself saying, “Maybe I don’t really need anyone to watch me in wakefulness or sleep. Maybe I’m better off without a God, but let’s not tell too many people about it, not just yet. They don’t need to know.”
I’m personally ashamed of my lack of courage then, and I offer no excuse.
At the time, I had little in the way of a secular support network, or a broad reading of secular authors, indeed little acquaintance with atheism or skepticism even as they were then.
I felt adrift, alone, an atheist in a sea of potentially hostile theists, and for a time, I drifted from one religious or spiritual idea for a time…reading up on them though not practicing any, looking for a ‘new’ path that might possibly fit my needs, and little did I know that none of them would make the grade, none of them would prove suitable, none of them could in any way ‘fit.’
It was soon clear I had to look outside religious and spiritual traditions to find meaning, and it was afterward I discovered that the source I would discover lay outside parochial theological musings or New Age beliefs altogether, and within our species’ secular intellectual heritage — the arts, ethics, the sciences, history, philosophy, logic, rhetoric – things I had thought less of as a churchgoer, though I’ve always had a love of science as a child.
Why did I leave the Church in the first place? There were a number of factors, one of which was economic.
During the energy-crisis of the mid 1970s, it was too expensive to drive to church and too far to walk. Without the sustained exposure to my continued indoctrination, ending in my pre-teens, I lost my interest in my faith and toward adolescence it eroded until there was almost nothing left of it.
Another influence was my exposure to secular writers, starting with Isaac Asimov’s SF and non-fiction books.
But what remained for me was something far better than I had thought possible.
Without religion to force purpose and meaning upon me, I was free to discover my own, indeed, I had no choice but to, since the religious ideas where no longer credible.
As a churchgoer, I passively allowed others to give me direction, but as an atheist and skeptic, I can find my own, and the seeming emptiness that religion once vacated has been replaced with the more robust heritage of and allegiance to my species as a whole, not the tribal bigotries of faith, doctrine, or dogma.
What I lost as a former theist has been recompensed many times over to something far better and richer by comparison, making a life of religion seem shallow and inauthentic to me now.
I don’t think I would have it any other way.