Good Sunday Morning,
Life is busy and I'm not very good at this "facebook" culture thing, however, I am in need of some guidance and you all seem most eager to engage.
Thank you for the warm reception Atheist Nexus has extended to me. I suspect I have never felt this alone in my life, and it is scaring the hell out of me. I've not yet devoted enough time to pursue any group involvement, until today. Still a bit skittish, I guess.
Though I am certain /confident about my decision to abandon "The Faith", I am very UN-certain about the way forward and what I suspect for me is "Atheist-by-Default". I am truly concerned about just replacing one faith for another, that is, to operate under ANY paradigm using the same principles of faith I have exercised for the past 30 years . I am reading voraciously, but I am sinking into a black pit faster than I know how to dig. I wake up with terrible bouts of anxiety most mornings and terrible bouts of guilt as I sent my family off to church without me. My christian friends are hammering hard (in Love, of course!) to see me back within the fold. I cannot go back, but I can't afford to go crazy, either!
I was "born again" at age 16 in 1978 at the explosion of the Charismatic Movement. Not quiet as hardcore as what Rich Lyons came out of, but very fundamentalist. I helped start New Life Church in the '80s and watched 14000 people revile and reject Ted Haggard when he "fell" in 2006. I continued as a fully committed, invested member of "The Body of Christ" until last November, 2011 when, after 5 years of reflection and struggle, I announced to my family that I have abandoned my faith. My family has been downright supportive, though not understanding. They remain believers and I'm fine with that.
Certainly, at first, I felt like I had slipped unnoticed through a hole in the fence surrounding my "Christian Ghetto" .
I felt exhilarated, dancing unashamed in the sunlight! I knew at once I have chosen to never go back. However, as night began to fall... over this past year I see my efforts in the past 30 years at "thinking Christian" have been thorough and effective and I find myself ill equipped to manage my own destiny, The full force of my conclusion that god does not exist (and all which that implies!) has me shaken to the very core! I am terrified by the permanence of death, Crushed by the prospect that my 19 yr. old son, who died in 2010, did not survive the grave, struggling mightily to redefine meaning in a universe that does not endow us with meaning.
My head feels empty like a very large house from which the long overdue departure of once invited relatives has finally come! My head and my heart are my own, the transition has been as natural as... waking up, refreshed and excited about a new day! I don't wish to go back, NOR do I wish to simply replace faith in the "Word of God" for faith in the Words of Darwin or Dawkins or Dennett. I'm wandering about in this big, beautiful house, excited by the possibilities, but fairly overwhelmed by the scope of the task to tear down the parts of my old world view that are rotten and untrustworthy and to rebuild or to start afresh somehow.
Look, I could go on for pages here... (it's been refreshing! I've no one to really talk to), but I think you get it!
I hope you all, we all can have a great time with our families, traditional and otherwise. I can't say what it all means, what it should mean, but I know I love my family. Weather we are still "under cover" or "In their face" with our perspectives, we are Human and that means emotional intercourse! I am attending a Midnight Mass with very close friends (they don't know I'm an atheist) from which I will draw fellowship and a sense of cultural continuity AND acknowledge OUR shared christian history through which we all have past, knowing full well, as Jerry DeWitt expressed, I have "graduated" from christianity, I mark this day, rejoicing in my past AND my new found freedom from religion!