One thing that helped for me was that my Adventist community was school based. Since I was leaving the seminary and the church at the same time it was the natural thing to leave them all behind. When I got a job and settled briefly in Tacoma I was certainly at a loss socially, but I've never really had an easy time making friends anyway, so that wasn't new to me. Since moving to Boise I've found the atheist community here to be awesome, they certainly don't have the connections that your typical Adventist church does, but they're so much better.
I'm glad you found your way out of religion, the freedom of rational thought is truly incredible.
i worried about this too, it's so easy at church where the social community can be quite large and very effective at helping you but at the same time, because the rules are so strict and the culture so inclusive you end up being more exclusive and ignoring other social connections because they aren't adventist, so i find now that i actually have the same amount of friends and contacts but they're more natural, for example i'm much more friendly with my neighbours just for the simple reason that i don't mind being around people who smoke or drink or cuss or are hindus or muslims and the same can be said for people at work or at school, i think i can see people more for what they are and i don't hold their beliefs against them like i did when i was adventist...another point on your regret of your "wasted" year online with the evangelical former adventists, think of it as a declimatisation chamber, maybe you needed that year to get used to not being an adventist to be able to look at christianity from a more objective standpoint, i told myself i still believed in jesus for about 3 years after i left adventism, maybe it would have been too cruel a break-up for my still in-love-with-jesus heart, i don't think any of us in this group became an atheist in a cool or rational way, don't be too hard on yourself
Community is key! I quit believing in creationism in eighth grade. Let's call it Year 0. I quit believing in Adventism in 11th grade, Year 3. I quit believing in god entirely by my second year in college, Year 6. But it wasn't till I was a graduate student, Year 9, that I found the strength to come out as an atheist. What was it that finally got me over the hump? Community!
In my case, the rather odd but absolutely wonderful community known as the bronies, but I suspect any caring and supportive community would do! Oddly enough, studies have shown that bronies are more than twice as likely as the average American to claim atheism. Personally, I wonder if the real difference is that we are just more honest about it.
what are bronies?
Adult fans of the new "fourth generation" My Little Pony TV show. It's a goofy group. About 3/4ths men, almost all between 14 and 24, if that tells you anything. Mostly gamers or /b/tards or /co/mrads or part of some other group that lives and breathes on the web. I've not been running with them much for the past three or four months, but I can vouch for them as a super fun and accepting group!
Thanks for sharing, everyone. I enjoyed hearing about your experiences.
Interestingly enough, here I am, a year later, completely relocated to another part of the country, and in that very position of making new friends and meeting new people, without the instant set-up a church affords.
The neighbors have been super friendly, and I think Clinton was right - I'm more open to being friends with neighbors then I would have been as an Adventist. Without the time-suck of involved Adventist membership, I can direct more energy toward community involvement.
I became agnostic at 21 as a natural development, and began reading some books which helped me make the next rational step to Atheism. I think Clinton is right about the declimatisation chamber, that was agnosticism for me, and it was about a year too.
When i came out as an atheist to my parents it was a very, very bad idea. I wish I had simply let them think I was agnostic and never told them about all the things I resented from my childhood, because now they genuinely think that I have bipolar syndrome. For real, because I got upset and teary and let my heart pour out and then left home after recieving no sympathy, they think I have bipolar. I don't know how that works either to be honest, but whatever. Anyway so I've completely lost their respect and thus the respect of the church community, beause I stopped attending right about then, so from that time onwards all the people at church hear is what mum and dad say, so now I'm just one of those backsliders or as a friend of my dad's put it when describing his eldest son: "fools".
I feel as though the feelings back home (and completely baseless, unchangeable beliefs abaout me and how I apparently live my life and apparently wasn't a virgin before 18) is so bad that I'm not even sure if I can bare seeing my parents ever again, not to mention going back to that horrible country town. It's been about 9 months now.
So despite the chamber I still had the bandaid-rip seperation from community. It was, first a foremost, a huge relief. I have always hated church and all attached affiliates such as pathfinders. But as time went on there was still a hole in my heart (I think it's just lack of others to approve of me really) and these days I find myself on these forums more and more, to remind myself that there are others out there and I'm not alone.
My partner has been my rock thoughout this whole thing, I couldn't imagine what this would all have been like if I hadn't met him soon after leaving home.
I do think I will find my community one day, but at the moment I'm not really sure how.
Think of the online forums as kind of the second chamber. It was a very important step for me that coincidentally lasted about a year to a year and a half. However, eventually it's nice to be able to sit down and have a beer with like minded people. Australia seems to have a pretty decent atheist/skeptic community. If you'd like, I could get you in touch with some contacts I've developed thanks to my podcast and they could get you in touch with people where you live.
So glad to hear that you have your partner there for you! I didn't have that until very recently. I wasn't ready for it, really. I was too close to the church to have an atheist partner, but of course I couldn't date anyone who wasn't an atheist, either. Lucky for me, things timed themselves just right for me to meet the match of a lifetime. :)
I grew up in a smaller country town church that had a very close community. I still have very fond and happy memories of the friendships and support and yes, fun, we had in our little church. I sometimes wonder how long it would have taken me to leave if I'd stayed there, because i was immersed in the culture and community as much as the belief system. But I went off to the church college at the tender age of 17, and it was not the same at all, I felt lost and alone despite some good friends. That sense of community was broken a little and that actually made it easier for me to start addressing the serious questions about the beliefs I already had but was ignoring.
Once I left adventism I virtually broke all ties - I moved to a city where I knew no-one from the local church, and started a new life. I found it hard at first. I made new friends, but I did miss the 'community'. I also found it difficult to talk to the few old adventist friends with whom I kept in touch. Some of them have now left adventism, but some are still either immersed or what I call 'fence sitters'. It was also difficult when I went back to visit my family and saw people I cared about from my previous 'life' who I knew viewed me sorrowfully as a 'back slider' who had been exommunicated and struck off the books.
It took a long time for me to get over the loss of this community and some of the friendships, it felt like leaving a family. When I was studying psychology, I read a couple of books about the effects on people who leave cults, and I recognised some of what I went through at the time. I struggled with depression for some years.
I am older and wiser now, and have long moved on. I have many wonderful friendships. But here I am on this group because it is still good to connect with others who have been though this experience that is hard to explain to people who did not live it.