since leaving religion.
january 2020

It’s been
4 years since I began to break away from religion.
2 years since I started talking about it. (read my first post here)
1 year since the concept of ‘God’ stopped being useful altogether.

Leaving religion was the single hardest and most painful decision I’ve ever made, but undoubtedly the most rewarding.
In short, everything has changed, and nothing is any different.

Everything has changed
I’m significantly more open minded now – embracing insight from all kinds of sources and walks of life, instead of only accepting those that reinforce my worldview.
I’m far less judgmental and conceited and I’ve completely eradicated the belief that I have a monopoly on the most efficient way to behave or think.
I’m not in constant fear of judgement or crippled by shame and guilt every day.
I’m not consistently concerned about what I should or shouldn’t be doing or saying or thinking.
I’m not lying to myself anymore and I’m not endlessly disregarding my feelings or discrediting my instincts.
Of course a lifetime of reinforced habits don’t just disappear overnight, but they are diminishing day by day.

And nothing is any different
Methods to combat anxiety and stress still produce the same results as before – without the employment of religious prayer or ritual.
Existential contemplation is just as frequent and evokes the same feeling of wonder and awe – without being rooted in religious doctrine.
Gratitude and recognition are still strong impulses and function as they used to – without being directed to an ethereal being.
Self-improvement is still a continued discipline – without encouragement from the bible or a church community.
Injustice and oppression still challenge and provoke me to action – without the urge of religious duty.
Declaring my hopes and aspirations still feels powerful – without imagining that God is listening.

Life is just as beautiful, mystical, vibrant, and compelling (if not more so) than it’s ever been.
Religion does not have a monopoly on any of these things anymore.

Family and Old Friends
The hardest struggle at the moment is navigating conversations with family (99% of which are practicing christians to varying degrees) and old friends.

It’s difficult to relay the personal significance of a journey to a person that insists you are wrong, and rational debates are near impossible when you disagree on a fundamental worldview.
So I tend to find myself suppressing everything and putting on an act around family and old friends, which is a shame – but perhaps we all do that a bit from time to time.
It has made me realise how non-religious friends of mine might have felt around me for years, which gives me an even greater passion for inclusion.

Church
I’ve been back to church a few times (at mum’s request) and naturally find myself wanting to criticise everything – inconsistencies in doctrine, toxic language, the formulaic nature of it all etc

But I can’t ignore the fact that, at its core, the church serves a fairly significant purpose for many people.

For example, most sermons at mum’s church, when stripped of religious language, are just talks about coping with being human…
Basic tools to deal with anxiety and stress – “GOD IS IN CONTROL”
Techniques to combat low self-esteem – “GOD LOVES YOU”
Inspiration to live selflessly – “LIVE LIKE JESUS DID”
Motivation to keep persisting in times of adversity – “GOD HAS MADE A WAY FOR YOU”
Drive to aspire to a life of potential and fulfilment- “GOD HAS A PLAN FOR YOU”
Encouragement to practice gratitude whenever possible – “GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD”

Things we all need doses of from time to time, or perhaps as consistently as once a week.

When my mum goes to church she’s uplifted from the moment she enters the building.
The euphoria of corporate singing releases all of the week’s stress, she’s re-invigorated by a motivational speech and nurtured by a strong network of caring and attentive people.
She soaks up an atmosphere of love, self-reflection, gratitude and affirmation every week – in a wonderful rhythm of meditation.

Still, Religion does not have a monopoly on any of of these things anymore.

I’ve come to realise
The God that I’d believed in – his voice in my head, his personality, his agenda for my life; was all just an extension of ME.

His Will” was really just “My Will” based on a lifetime of theological and cultural conditioning.
He was a means of validating my decisions and direction in life, of feeling understood and loved and of summoning my own justice when I needed it.

He was also the solution to my questions about meaning and purpose – the best way I knew how to establish some order in my seemingly dIsoRderLy existence.
Choosing to believe and interact with an omnipotent being that reacts to my choices, gave me a feeling of control over my life – and I suppose that desire is just human nature. History and biology can attest to that.
Whether we employ Traditional Religion, Contemporary Spirituality, Mysticism, Holism, Transcendentalism, Universalism, Astrology, Numerology, Shamanism, Anthroposophy (the schools of thought are endless)… or just our own premonitions – it’s far more comforting to give it authority than to accept that we’re just floating in infinite space and have absolutely no idea where or how or why or how long it’ll be until an asteroid wipes us all out.

So Now
I delve into Psychology, Physics, Biology, History, Astronomy, Philosophy and my Own Life Experience to satisfy my questions about existence and humanity.

I’m naturally focused on being the most vibrant, dynamic, inclusive, transparent and informed me I can be and I’m comfortable doing it.
I’m happy and confident in who I am and life feels very exciting.