Help this struggling atheist get over her desire to believe.
February 6, 2009 10:14 AM Subscribe
After years of drifting along as a "spiritual but not religious" believer I am beginning to come to terms with the fact that I'm not actually a believer at all. I am an atheist with a lingering but unwanted desire to believe and it is making me miserable. Can you help me move past this?
posted by lysistrata to Religion & Philosophy (77 answers total) 91 users marked this as a favorite
I was raised in a nominally Christian home but left the church at thirteen. From that point on and up until a few years ago I believed and took comfort in the idea that there was something larger than myself--a greater power that I could turn to in prayer in times of need--but never belonged to any organized religious group. When asked I would refer to myself as "spiritual but not religious." While I didn't belong to any particular group I definitely believed and had faith. Faith that at one point I thought was unshakeable. While this was fulfilling in some respects, over the years, due to many events big and small, I have moved further and further away from belief. In the last two years or so I have slowly started to realize that in my heart of hearts I don't believe at all anymore. In some ways this is a relief and even a little exciting. But I am also feeling a deep sense of loss and hurt not only because I feel as if I have wasted a good deal of my time on something that wasn't true but also because I can't let go of the desire to believe. I feel as if I am going to have to give up my sense of wonder at the world. I feel like I'm giving up the last remaining connection I have to deeper mysteries and that loss hurts me even though I now realize that those mysteries which captivated me for so long are likely not real at all. I took great comfort in my faith and being stripped of it leaves me feeling vulnerable and lonely.
I basically feel like I am stuck between belief and non-belief and I can't move in either direction. If I discard it all and move on to a more materialistic view of the universe I am losing something that has been a big part of my life for a long time but I can no longer pretend that I believe when I don't.
I want to move past this desire to have faith. I don't wish to return to religion. I would be deluding myself if I did. I just want to know how to get rid of the leftover trappings of religious belief. I want to turn this around so that instead of leaving religion behind I am moving towards something better, clearer and more rational. I'm just not sure how to do that. I don't personally know very many atheists and the few that I do were never religious to begin with so I don't know how common these feelings are.
I am looking for advice or anecdotes from formerly religious atheists or agnostics who have found themselves in a similar situation. Did you feel a sense of loss when you "deconverted"? Did it pass? Has your life improved since you moved away from religion? How has it improved? Do you ever feel as if you are missing out on something (either spiritually or culturally) because you are not religious? Are there any books out there that deal with this issue? Am I always going to feel this confused?