Please give advice on how to accept my atheism, let go of God and the need for one, how to get over the fourth stage of grief/letting go (depression), and how to find my passion for life again!
I'm from a totally Bible-banging family (Creationists, End Timers, warped-Republicans, sexist, homophobic and a little racist). I haven't been a Christian for going on six years now, ever since I read the Bible all the way through and decided it was a total piece of junk filled with violence and hatred toward other faiths, women, etc. I know I don't believe in the Christian God, or, it seems, any religion or philosophy akin to it (no, not even Buddhism), as I have read many religious texts, apologetics and more besides and just don't feel there's any evidence for any of it. Simply put, I appear to be an atheist...at least as far as labels go.
The unfortunate thing is that I'm not handling this too well, and it has recently occurred to me that I have been going through what can best be identified as the five stages of grief
, which just annoys me to no end! (I'd just like to get on with my life!) The whole not believing in God/gods thing has really been like a death in the family, so to speak...it's frustrating and painful. I'm specifically not having what I would consider healthy reactions to my lack of faith, which is a major reason that I've chosen to post this, rather than just rely on the great advice that I could find in similar questions from the past.
Maybe I should first talk about the five stages.
For one year, I was in denial. Even though I didn't believe in God, I continued to say that I did and tried to push through. I came up with lots of excuses as to why my doubts were happening. I read a lot of Christian apologetics that I didn't agree with in that time, in an attempt to act like things were okay with me and the Big Aggressive Creator in the Sky. I even avoided competing ideas. I prayed lots. I lived as closely to the Bible as I could, without totally ripping myself of my own thoughts regarding ethics and morality.
That didn't work, and I ended up getting angry. I was angry at the concept of God, angry that I couldn't seem to believe in it and angry that I had believed in what I felt was myth. I was angry at my family for bringing me up in extremism, as well as at all the borderline-abusive things they did in God's name, all the things they kept me from, because they were "of the devil". I was angry that I couldn't have lived "normally, like most people", in either moderate faith or no faith. In a weird sort of way, I was even angry that I was having to think about any of it. I couldn't decide whether I wanted to go back to the blind faith I'd had or bypass all of it, but I was angry that the issue had cropped up. I read everything I could get my hands on at this time, be it scientific or religious. I feel like I read more during this time than any other time of my life. I wanted to learn
, so I could actually form my own opinions.
Another six months to a year passed, and bargaining began. I tried to live some form of very mild Christianity to agnosticism (Jesus was a good man; the Bible's a good "moral" text), thinking, "If I just do this, it will be the best of both worlds. I won't have any more problems. Things can work out this way." The idea was that I could still keep up with a religious community, be everyone's friend, etc. The reality, however, was that I began to identify less and less with Christians/Christianity/more religious people on the whole, with only a few exceptions, and that more of my friends slowly but surely ended up being agnostic, all the way to militant atheists. Not trying to step on any Mefi toes, but to be honest, the agnostics/atheists in my life were the only ones who didn't seem to be insecure, lying jerks most of the time, so it seems almost inevitable that things turned out the way they did. (Big disclaimer!!: I know this does not represent all Christians, just my experiences with some of them. I still even have some Christian friends, but not many.) I didn't go searching for my "heathen" friends, but we found each other. We gravitated toward one another, as our core philosophies were now similar. I also found/find myself annoyed by most religious people these days, but I never say/do anything regarding that. I try to accept where possible and be silent, when I feel myself unable. I married a mild-mannered, sugar-sweet atheist guy. My watered-down Christianity turned to full-blown agnosticism around the time I met him, as a result of all these experiences and changes.
I was happy with my agnosticism for a year, to year and a half, but recently I've noticed, as far as labels go, I am more of an atheist. To this very moment, though, I've not said aloud to anyone, not even my husband, that I actually consider myself an atheist. I don't know why the label means as much as it does, other than I know that if religious people dislike me now as an unbeliever, many will hate me as an atheist, even if that's what I most closely identify with... I guess I can't help but not want people to not hate me, even if they're extremist whack jobs. The label means a lot to me, too, though, because I'm really tired of lying about how I feel and think.
This seems to have put me in the fourth stage of grief, depression. I feel sad that I can't buy into the comforting stories I once did, sad that I can't agree with my family as far as faith goes, sad that I'm not accepted by tons of religious people (including family) when they find out I'm an unbeliever (even when I am accepting toward them), sad that I no longer believe in life after death or guiding forces in the universe. I think we are here, we die, and that's it, and that notion depresses me. I don't think there's any evidence to the contrary, however, so I'm bound to it...whether I like it or not. I know we can't know what happens "on the other side", but I highly doubt it's anything spectacular. I highly doubt it's anything at all.
I want to get to the fifth stage of grief, where I accept myself and the death of my religion and faith, but it just seems so impossible at this stage. As said, some of my reactions to my own atheism aren't healthy. For instance, I have lost my passion for a lot of life, which is bad for me in more ways than one, considering I am a professional artist and writer and need
and create accordingly. I miss my sense of wonder. I feel wonder at the universe, but it's a head-wonder, not a heart-wonder, like I felt with spirituality. I'll agree with Carl Sagan and my fellow atheists and agnostics that it's amazing to think about how statistically unlikely it is that I'm here, that the planet works the way it does, etc. I'll agree that, because of all these things and my finite time here on earth, I should
value every second I have and live it to the fullest, without apology...
But I can't seem to...
I am amazed by the world, but that doesn't drive me. In fact, it's all the opposite. It makes me feel like there's no point. Amazement is just part of it, but it doesn't particularly mean much. I realize that, without "something behind everything", it doesn't matter one iota (speaking from a selfish perspective here) whether I build great things or just sit on my couch and rot, whether I live to be 100 or die tomorrow. It will matter to some, but not to many, and not for long. It's like, what am I trying to prove to anyone or to myself now? How on earth does any of it matter if it's just this tiny bit of time I have? I'd like to help people, and while I realize that while I do touch some people's lives, and that does make me happy, the odds are against my helping a significant number of people in my lifetime, try as I might, so it all feels a little hopeless and pointless still. Death depresses me immensely, and rather than living my life more fully as a result, I just have ended up somewhat stagnant...blah
ed and meh
Please note that I'm actually not depressed in other areas of my life, just this one. But it does...influence...the other areas, from a foundational perspective, so it definitely needs to be seen to. I think it's affecting more, too, as time goes by. I appreciate the concept of life, but I don't really feel compelled to do much with it now, without the notion of some sort of equilibrium in the universe (carried out by a creator, karma, whatever). I mean, I do what I need to and try my best, but I'm not striving toward things like I once was. Without a reason behind things, so much stuff in the world seems overwhelmingly random and unfair and out of my control. (I think this is one of the reasons there are so many moderate Christians, even. People keep some idea of God, just so they can pray about the things they can't control, to comfort themselves.) I can't even pray about any of it, though, and I think the concept of sending good thoughts toward it all is just as silly. I've tried giving myself rituals, but it just doesn't work. I always feel silly.
So, hivemind, I guess what I want to know, after all my heathen rambling, is how do I peacefully come to accept my lack of faith and not having a god in the world? How do I regain passion for life, despite feeling everything is off balance without a godly figure? I've tried listening and reading some things, like Julia Sweeney's personal story
, and while helpful and something I could identify well with, it's never gotten me over the hump. I'd appreciate personal advice, recommendations of what to read/listen to/do...anything, really.
Throw-away email: email@example.com
Thanks, guys and gals.