September 12, 2017 at 8:18 pm #168452
<p dir=”ltr”>Hi, i am in a bit of a rut. You see at the age of 27 after being a devout follower of christ, I decided to take a step back and review why I belived what I belived. After much thought I realized that I was.a follower. I followed for friends. For 10 years I was a follower, it wasnt my choice to follow christ, nor do i believe he chose me it just sort of happened. Now at 27, im trying to unlearn Christianity. Which may seem easy but i assure you its not. I keep feeling guilty for things and feeling shame, its like this dark cloud over my head. I feel like the only way to make it stop is to go back to church, but i dont want to just be at church to make the guilt go away. Like it makes me feel that God, is guilting me into go back to church. I write all of this to say is there anyone who left the church and is able to help or just listen as i move through this time.</p>September 13, 2017 at 3:56 am #168496
In June you wrote: “I decided to be honest with myself. I had to really fight hard to not want to please those people and go back. Because I knew going back would just be for them and not for me… So truly very few things were my choice.”
Here you wrote: “I was.a follower. I followed for friends. For 10 years I was a follower, it wasnt my choice to follow Christ”-
Reads to me that it is important for you to make your own choices, choosing what is true to you not what would please other people, and so, I hope you do choose from authenticity, not so to please others and not so to escape any which way from the distress of guilt and shame.
Regarding the guilt and shame: as children our image of our parent/s is that of a god: all-powerful, knowing, loving. You wrote that it is like “God, is guilting (you)”. Did a parent guilt you, as a child, and maybe still?
anitaSeptember 13, 2017 at 6:30 am #168518
Your name is very pretty. Just wanted to throw that out there.
As with any belief system or belief at all, it is difficult to simply walk away from it. Many of us have beliefs that are embedded within us from our experiences and practices. Religion is one of those things that can affect you long after you stop practicing.
You already know that the shame and guilt you feel is that belief making a self-fulfilling prophecy. But this can also be healed on your own terms. The most difficult thing when leaving a belief is finding something else to believe in more. Otherwise, you will feel that guilt from leaving. If I were you, I would explore other belief systems, compare them, see how they are similar and different and choose which one you believe in the most. There are many paths like buddhism, hinduism, science, etc, or you could simply believe in your present moment. Whatever you decide, it is your choice which is ultimately what you’re after. You’re tired of following, that much is true. Christianity is all about sheep and shepherds.
Be free and be healthy, ChelcieSeptember 13, 2017 at 9:38 am #168514
Chelcie, I grew up in a Christian environment, and considered myself to be Christian until a few years back. It took me months, if not years of self scrutiny to find my core and since doing so I consider organised religion to be outside of my needs. As for the guilt, I believe this will unwind itself as you investigate (and recall) your reasons for having chosen this path and ultimately as you determine your fundamental beliefs (not the churches fundamental beliefs). It is integral for you to remind yourself (as others will not) of why you have chosen to investigate your religion, of why you were brought to or this religion was brought to you in the first place and also to have faith in your own good nature. These are things I have found have helped myself.September 14, 2017 at 5:46 pm #168680
Hi Chelcie. I actually just registered today so I could reply to you. I went through exactly what you described, but had absolutely no one to turn to when I walked away from Christianity for the last time. That all happened to me 25+ years ago. At the time, I was a bit older than you are.
Based on my experience, I don’t think going back to church will help you feel better. It might make you feel worse. I tried that, actually, and people treated me horribly after I came back. How dare I question anything?
I lost the people who claimed to be “friends” and, for the most part, my family shunned me. It was tough to feel so alone, but I had to be true to myself. After I got healthy, I realized they never were really my friends, anyway. Family still keeps me at arm’s length, but that sting dissipated, too.
The churches I was involved with all used guilt and shame to control people. When I finally decided that I wasn’t going to be guilted or shamed, I had control of the situation. I had nothing to feel guilty about and did nothing to be ashamed of. I was simply being true to who I am. Perhaps ironically, that is the truth that set me free. The process did take a few years, though.
By suggestion is, be true to who you are, and be very kind to yourself while you work through this.September 15, 2017 at 12:04 pm #168784
Like you I struggled with my Christian Beliefs that I grow up in and eventually left the church though my Faith has remained (Faith and Belief are not the same thing). I struggled with guilt and shame and like you pretty much because I felt I was disappointing people I cared about. It was difficult separating my desire to be part of the community and my beliefs and faith.
My own feeling is that the only way to Unlearn something is to really Study it. And if your open to Symbolic language a study of religion teaching can be eye opening
Guilt, Shame the feeling of having to follow the rules to be good and loved tends to be reinforced by a faith/spirituality that has stalled and or Religious Organisations that have stalled. (Unless your situation isn’t about a mater of faith)
Church/Religious organisations are in a difficult position. On the one hand the goal is to help its members achieve spiritual growth, while at the same time the nature of organisations are to contain. One belongs because we all think the same and follow the rules of the organisation while Spiritual growth leads away from rules. I suspect that part of the process of spiritual growth is leaving the Church and only then return.
For my own part though I do not belong to a Church organisation though I still hold to Christian teachings of the Birth, Betrayal, Death and Resurrection of Christ. That Birth, Betrayal, Death and Resurrection is a reality of every breath we take. Every Breathe a birth, a sacrifice, and death. The message to Follow Christ into this Truth is a YES to life as it is. Death and Life not two sides of a coin but integrated parts of each other. Wholeness… Holiness.
Anyway, I wish you well on you journey.
The book ‘Stages of Faith’ by James W. Fowler might interest you.
You may also find Joseph Campbells books and or audio lectures Helpful for example Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor.
“Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble.” ― Joseph CampbellSeptember 15, 2017 at 2:39 pm #168878
I have a slightly different experience: my parents were at odds with the versions of Christianity they were taught, and as a result they as believers in Jesus were actively looking for a version where they could find a congenial community. They wound up as Pentecostals! Back then, they sensed an integrity and freedom in that tradition that was different from the more intellectualized versions of the rituals they were raised with. It’s hard to believe now, because the “brand identity” (if I can put it that way) of different traditions change.
The result was that no matter where I worshiped, I looked at it critically, like an outsider. Sometimes this made me feel like an oddball, but the result was good: I had to constantly compare what the worship and teaching was like with what Jesus actually taught. This meant that no matter where I worshiped, I agreed with some things and disagreed with others, but I could always find people to love, serve, and learn from.
One thing I’ve noticed (I’m 56 and have lived in different major cities as well as smaller towns, although never out of the US) is that what the different versions of the Bible say about Jesus is pretty constant, but that Christianity has changed drastically over the millennia and from culture to culture. One city I lived in was San Francisco, and they have EVERY flavor of Christianity there, often at odds with one another. From this I concluded that the various “Christianities” are simply a variety of human cultural responses to what Jesus wanted to tell first-century neighbors about God. First century Christianity in Antioch was different from first century Christianity in Corinth. Neither of those was like Christianity once emperor Constantine got a hold of it. Evangelical revivals in the third world, or secretly in places where they are forbidden, bear very little resemblance to suburban American worship.
If you are having trouble walking away from Christianity, and are subject to negative emotions signalling your discomfort with the process, maybe you can notice what specifically you feel bad about abandoning. Being a follower of people because you seek approval? (Yes, I do that, too.) Being a follower of God because you sense a need for wisdom and humility? Maybe that’s a warning you can heed without backing down on your personal growth. Do you feel bad leaving what the media calls the religious right? Is the media usually accurate about what it says large groups believe? Maybe you can ignore those labels. Are you afraid mobs of thought-police will come to your house and guilt-trip you back? (There are denominations where this is an actual policy.) Maybe you need a restraining order–for real! The difficulty is figuring out what specifically is triggering the guilt and shame.
I find in my own faith that there have been times when the best way to walk TOWARD faith is by walking AWAY from religion. I say this is a committed shower-up, who helps out at the church I go to. You are the only one who can answer the call of integrity, which is one of the voices God uses to get our attention. If Christianity–or any other system of worship–is obscuring that voice you can walk away without guilt. Sometimes “Christianity” is an idol we realize we can no longer worship.
CherylSeptember 15, 2017 at 2:45 pm #168882
well said Cheryl!September 16, 2017 at 2:32 am #168890
Dear Chelcie, just a few words. The irony is I believe this is actually you spiritually evolving.
I have family who are devout Christians and if their not arguing amongst themselves which flavour of Christianity is most relevant, they are projecting hate towards people born with a different sexual orientation or worshipping God via other faith systems etc. Despite claiming they are “deeply religious”, they’re actually spiritually asleep. How bizarre is that.
The thing that frequently amuses me, is how at odds much of the Christian religion is actually to the teachings of Jesus. When you read what Jesus said in isolation from the rest of the bible, you can feel it resonate in your heart: Love, forgiveness, tolerance, acceptance, kindness. Note how different this is to much of the bible and some of the crazy doctrine within the church.
The man we call Jesus today did walk this earth and was probably the most spiritually evolved being yet to do so, but remember Jesus did not write the bible. (and nor did God via holy dictation or some nonsense). This was the work of men, who in the early years tried to capture the teachings of someone who was quite frankly on a different spiritual plane. They then tried to fuse it altogether with other doctrine into something vaguely comprehensible. But even then, its so full of contradictions and teachings that are not congruent with those of Jesus, that when you step back as your doing now you see the truth. This is why the Church tries to guilt trip people, because when your shine the true light of reality on it, you see it for it truly is.
However I fully appreciate how unsettling it can be stepping outside the framework your previous church offers, but what I say may surprise you; because I actually recommend you turn to Jesus on your own terms. He is there for you within your heart and let me assure the church does not have exclusivity on God!
I was brought up a Christian and have studied all the major religions and read hundreds of books on spirituality trying to find my way over decades. For where you are right now check out Eckhart Tolle books particularly a New Earth. There is also a wonderful free series of 10 talks by him on Youtube (the Oprah show / New Earth) where you will encounter many people calling in with similar dilemmas to yours and Echart really gets the challenges of letting go of the church. This may be of help to you. Also do not be afraid to check out Buddhism. If you find the right community it can be fantastic and a spiritually enlightening way to live your life.
All the very best
September 20, 2017 at 1:52 pm #169597
- This reply was modified 5 days, 4 hours ago by Humanoid.
I really enjoyed what many of you had to say. It was comforting and I have had similar experiences.
Christianity never worked for me because the story of one person (Jesus) being murdered to save the rest of us, did not logically follow. If something terrible, like a large scale violent attack happened in our community, you wouldn’t see the neighbors suggesting we sacrifice someone to take our pain away. Unless the neighbors were on trial for murder at the local court house! Many many years ago, people felt that human and animal sacrifices got them closer to the Gods, but we have moved very far away from this level of consciousness. Christianity doesn’t offer much in terms of life’s most difficult questions. For me, it was never sufficient. At a very young age, I rejected it and craved more. I craved knowledge.
John Lennon, once said, “I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.” There is a divine presence within all living things. We can always tune in to it. The Earth is one living breathing organism and regardless of our thoughts and beliefs, we are all connected to one another on this organism. This is why it hurts to hate others because we can feel each other through these connections. It’s basic science, but many people seem to think we are separate from one another? And they think that heaven is this concrete place in the sky? Hmm…right because, the Earth is already floating in space. Heaven may be up there in the sky, but we too, are already up in the sky. So where is this place?
I feel that the great prophets of the world where on a higher level of consciousness and understanding than many people. They were trying to teach people how to love on a very deep level. They had come into an awareness of themselves, that is beyond what many people are capable of grasping. Thus, many people found them crazy or dangerous and many miss-understood their messages. There were also so many religious texts and practices that were banned and oppressed through out the ages by churches and government.
Christianity asks you to look outside of yourself for the divine and I personally think that’s not at all the place to look. Every answer is within you because only you, know you. Only you, know the knowledge in your own head. Whatever that knowledge is determines what you see outwardly in the world.
My sister married a Christian minister and in many ways I lost my emotional connection to her and her family. They do not know my true heart, which leaves a deep emptiness within me. I would have loved to connect with my sister on a deeper, more soul full level, but her religion, OCD and anxiety come in the way.
It’s important to remember that these special connections in life are very possible, they just may not happen as deep as we wanted them to with our blood relatives. It is what we are designed to do – connect with one another. Whether it is male on male, female and female or male and female, etc. We came here to experience love on a physical plane with one another. How we experience it and/or where, doesn’t matter.
We do not know the answers to difficult religious questions. There is no way to know if one religion got all the answers right. However, in our modern world, we do have an understanding of how to love. Choosing love is something we can actively do for ourselves and others. We can also actively see the ways in which acts of love have a direct positive benefit. Love is something that we can count on. Ok sure, we all will have our heart broken at times but choosing to love still has much to offer us. Love should be our focus, not religion. It is much much more reliable.
You are love and once you come to know it, it pours out of you, to the others.