A mixed up conglomerate of pride, fear, discomfort and uncertainty. The idea that what you’ve thought for so long was true…was not. Some ideas being wrong can be pretty painless—perhaps you only had the idea for a short period; perhaps you were not that committed to it in the first place.
Other ideas can be so gut-wrenching it takes years to disentangle oneself. For some deconverts, we invested our entirety for decades—enveloping every relationship, every moment, every effort, every essence we could pour into a idea regarding the divinity of Jesus and/or the inspiration of certain writing. The creeds and dogmas carefully studied and either discarded or embraced.
The people we choose to associate with, (and not), to date, marry and even divorce. The way we raised our children; the way we talked. Who we talked to; what we talked about.
And then one day we learn it is wrong. It wasn’t what we thought it was. Changing not just what we believe, but like an ever-growing avalanche, the snowball begins to play havoc with our studies, wreck our socialization, destroy our connections, and even decimate our marriages.
It effects everything—Every. Single. Thing.
That is hard.
You don’t want it to; you want the relationships to continue. You want some of it to remain true. You want…something…to show for all the energy invested. Who wants to say, “I spent the last 38 years learning the wrong thing”?
I link to Like a Child--a person struggling with having been wrong. Just like me. She made this comment on another blog:
I received an email from someone a few days ago that broke my heart, b/c she is facing the same battle i dealt with months ago...panic sttacks, loneliness, trying to figure out what church to switch to in the fundamentalist bible belt south. She should not feel so alone. There should be somewhere she can go locally, to find a welcoming christian communityI find the progression fascinating. Only a few months ago, Like a Child was the one with panic attacks. And I was empathetically feeling terrible I cannot do anything about it. And a few years ago, I was the one with panic attacks and another deconvert wished they could do something about it. And so on. We progress.
Yet as we do, we find it so hard to release Christianity.
Both Like a Child and DoOrDoNot call themselves ”Agnostic Christians” --yet each wonders how long they will retain the “Christian” part of that label before lapsing to only “Agnostic.” (Again, a route equally traveled by myself.)
We can’t believe we were that wrong. Or at least I couldn’t—there must have been something there! How could we have believed it so deeply—so thoroughly—and it be wrong?
It’s like some puzzle where a person has to remove a ring from an object made of steel and wood. We wrestled with it and strove with it and did everything we possibly could to remove that ring and become firmly convinced (along with everyone we knew) the ring couldn’t possibly be removed. And then one day, someone comes along and removes the ring. At first we think it a trick—they cut the ring, or they bent the object or they did something against the rules, and it really still can’t be removed. Yet more and more we see people removing the ring. And we start to try some things we never tried before, and all of a sudden the ring is in a different position than it ever has been before.
And all of a sudden we see how it is possible….just maybe…that the ring could feasible be removed. We reach a point (or at least I did) where we wonder whether we would remove the ring, even if we saw how. Because it would tear our world apart.
I would be wrong.
Yet the not-knowing was worse; what if the ring could be removed? Could I live with that knowledge without trying to apply it?
All our friends are rejecting our new found position. They want nothing to do with discussing it--they want nothing to do with us. They are comfortable with what they believe. They are very UNcomfortable continuing to relate to us.
In retrospect, I did everything I could to hold on to Christianity. Even if I lost the belief in the inerrancy of Scripture, perhaps I could hold on to inspiration. Losing inspiration, I could still hold on to Jesus. Losing Jesus, I could hold on to God. Losing God, I could hold on to Christian friends. Losing Christian friends, I could hold on to Christian Family.
I tried holding on to beliefs, when I should have realized I was wrong. I tried going to church, when I should have walked away. I constantly wrestled because I didn’t want to be THAT wrong!
I had a great holiday season. I spent time with family who didn’t care whether I was an atheist, or Buddhist or…whatever. It didn’t matter. And we still laughed and ate, and stayed out too late.
I spent time with friends who don’t know (and don’t care) about my atheistic belief. They may be Christians; they may not. We enjoy each other for who we are—not for believing the right things or holding to the right dogmas.
And I can look back at 38 years of being wrong and be thankful it made me who I am today. I don’t have to wrestle with Christianity. I was a Christian; I am not now. *shrug* There is nothing to wrestle with.
Like a variety of choices, knowing what I know now, I would obviously do it different. Isn’t that true of all humanity? It now firmly resides as one of those choices.
There are always twinges, of course. I continue to study Christian claims which requires just enough empathy to occasionally give me a moment of hesitation. One doesn’t remove almost four decades of living overnight!
Yet I find more comfort than fear in those tugs. It means I don’t have a lock on ALL TRUTH. It means I can walk away not knowing and not wrestle either.