On 8/15/10 I went to my former pastor's 70th birthday party. It was good to see all of the smiling faces of my former church members. I haven't seen them in YEARS. However, after sitting there and listening to many people say good things about him and relate his nature and success to the hand of god i got a little down. Many of them know what I believe today. Clearly it was and is upsetting to them.To be honest its upsetting to me as well. To be in a room full(banquet hall) of bible believing people can be very unsettling. Especially when they were once authority figures that I looked up to. To hear them going on about god and his goodness....I felt like I was the only sane one in the room. I love them all dearly and wish that I was closer as I miss many of their warm and loving smiles.
I'm currently finishing my degree in psychology and I realize that religion is not only about belief in a or THE higher power, its about community and culture. That is what I miss so much. It took a lot for me to finally come out of the proverbial closet because I didn't want to lose friends or family. I was a minister who was doing big things in my community and walked away from it all. Not because of scandal but because of integrity. I couldn't open the bible and preach from that ridiculous book anymore. My last 3 or 4 sermons were so tough it was a shame. My wife at least gives me credit for having the guts to walk away and not be a hypocrite. That's probably the only thing she appreciates about me leaving 'god'.
The problem is that when one walks away from religion they leave the culture of holidays and other festivities behind as well. This has been so tough and I miss them dearly. I just felt a little down after seeing them and needed to share. Thanks for listening (reading) and any words of encouragement are greatly appreciated.

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That's what we're here for man. It takes a lot of guts to do what you did, and it sucks how messed up our relationships can get over something like faith. I try and keep in mind that their concern is a sign of their hearts being in the right place.

Besides just by being there you showed them that someone doesn't have to believe to be a good person, and that might give a few others there who only go along because it's what everyone does the courage to do what you did too. In a banquet hall, I'm sure there was at least a few who might learn from your example.
L.,

I grew up in a mega-church in the Midwest. Losing my religion was a painful process, but I am ever thankful I did. Yes, it has been with great sacrifices. You definitley miss out on some of the reindeer games. The key for me has been to find more like minded (Freethinkers) people. The internet has helped a lot. Not being afraid to discuss my lack of belief has helped, as well. A lot of people are, at the very least, Agnostic and aren't aware of it. I will say this- my choice for Freethought did take a toll on my marriage. It wasn't the only reason we divorced, but it was a mitigating factor.

Hang in there and keep networking. Good work is being done across the country/globe to unite us. There are some great opportunities for us right now.

In Reason,
Joël
Hi L. -
I think it took guts to go to your former pastor's birthday party and understand why you would want to be with him for his celebration. It sounds like you enjoyed seeing your former church members and I think it was good that they saw your smiling face. I have not come out to everyone in my community, just close friends and family, so I can only imagine what you have been through. My church went through a major upset (the pastor had many affairs so he was removed) so when I stopped going no questions were asked as other families left at the same time. In addition, I think you have been through much more than most of us considering your past as a minister. There must be many pastors out there who wish they had the courage to do what you did and leave. Thank you for sharing and I hope it gets easier for you. I don't think you have to stop celebrating the holidays and festivities as you can always celebrate in a secular way but I understand the emotions tied to the community you left. Hang in there and know that even though this can be difficult, I truly believe that continuing in the lie would have been worse.
-Natalie
I have felt uncomfortable surrounded in a room of "faith" and sometimes I do feel sad because it has distanced some people from me. I also understand what you are saying about "holiday blues." A few friends of mine and I, people who don't have family nearby for Thanksgiving, have created our own celebration, but it's hard when everyone is with family at the holidays and you feel alone. I accept invitations to seders and other traditional ceremonies because I think it's still important for my son to understand their significance, but often we aren't really invited to these kinds of things anymore. It is hard to hear and read bible passages; they are irritating in their irrationality.
L if you didnt get a little down about matters ,there might be some real reason to be worried .Just goes to prove you still have a very healthy heart .

I kind of know how you felt .And others who replied to your post show we sure are not alone in this pain caused by divise nature of faiths.I guess if it wasnt a problem that often caused pain , we wouldnt have much reason to be here feeling the way we sometimes do huh .

You talk about missing the community and culture part a whole heap ,well humans are tribal social beings .We feel really at home in a group . Trouble is faiths often tried taking over culture and communities/tribes ,often using the old divide and rule tactics.

We know its tough when so much family and dear friends are often involved by being caught up in the cross fire .Wish there was some miracle that could quickly fix it so you never needed to feel this way , but you and i know in any real honesty ! that really isnt possible .I agree with Natalie it took guts to go to your former Pastors birthday , you knew before you went it was never going to be so easy, right.

Its like many things often its all about , no pain - no gain .Im sure you understand what i mean. Many folks suffer in many wars too dont they my friend , some even pay that cost with their own lives .

Its natural you feel down , it means you honestly love people. In a way you should be a little glad you felt this way because its for very good valid reasons.

Regards from New Zealand !

Los`amigos
Just wanted to thank all of you that posted some encouraging words. I appreciate it a lot. Its good to know there are caring people who walk the same path as I. Funny thing, I told a religious friend how I felt about the situation. He said that if I wasn't sure and had these feelings I should come back.
I told him that I never said I wasn't sure and am more firm than ever. Amazing what people hear and what is actually said. Thanx again guys and gals.
Greetings from Saskatoon, SK., Canada!

I really appreciate your integrity. Examples of those who lack it are far too common.

Perhaps if you find a new community, you will feel less alone, although I admit that 10 years after leaving my church 'family', I still miss that closeness. It was a huge loss.

I am getting involved with the local Freethinkers and Skeptics, and this helps a lot. I found these groups on the 'net, and I imagine that you could do a similar search. I think I just typed in 'atheist' and my city name. I ended up ditching all the 'friends' from that period that I had on F/B because they weren't interested in communicating. I'm not sure why they bothered to become my 'friend' in the first place.

I wish you all the best,
Gaylene

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