1/05/2010                                                                                       View Comments

The Transition Process

by Brian

walk on... [01/52]Image by ...storrao... via Flickr

I’ve been out of Christianity for over a year now, and it’s truly liberating. Getting out of Christianity is life-changing in many aspects, and can be overwhelming. Here I would like to provide some tips on getting through for those of you who are in the process of leaving, or thinking about leaving, that I found helped me.

First, realize you’re not alone. You’ll probably feel as if you’re the only one who has been in your situation. To overcome this, read people’s testimonies here and on other websites. All the testimonies are helpful, but you’re bound to find some that will make you want to scream, “This could have been written about me!” Feeling like a part of a group helps to transition away from the church and other Christians psychologically, and can also reduce the feeling of loneliness that can accompany leaving. So read others’ testimonies.

Learning about others’ experiences can also lead you to books and media about leaving Christianity that they read. I definitely recommend reading as much as you can on this subject. If someone’s story inspires you to read something, read it! To start with, I recommend “Virus of the Mind” by Richard Brodie. This book is an easy-to-read introduction to “memes,” which are essentially ideas or “programming” of your brain. You’ll learn what memes are and how they get into your head, as well as how they relate to religious ideas. If you were a member of a fundamentalist church, or spent any major portion of your Christian life attending church services religiously, I highly recommend “Recovery from Cults” by Michael Langone. Though not all churches are cults, many churches use the same techniques that cults do, intentionally or not, to maintain members, recruit new members, and lock out ideas “of the world” from your head. Other books I recommend include “Biblical Nonsense” by Jason Long, “The Jesus Mysteries” by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, and “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins.

Take some time now to meet some new people. This is one of the most common questions I’ve asked myself: how do I meet people, without going to church? Perhaps most importantly, reflect on what good things came out of your experience. If absolutely nothing else, remember that you now have the opportunity to help and encourage others, although there’s probably more. For example, if you attended a church that was demanding on your time, and you attended every Sunday, Wednesday night, and special event days, think about the skills it took to manage your time to be able to do that! If you could make time in your schedule for those services, you can manage your time for anything now. For example, you can manage your time to take on an important project at work (which could result in a bonus or a raise), spend extra time with your family and friends, or make time to go back to school.

For me personally, I spent a tremendous amount of time every week at church doing menial tasks such as cleaning the restrooms, vacuuming the hallways and sanctuary, and working as a youth leader. That took a lot of my time every week! But now, I know that there aren’t any projects that my work could throw at me that I couldn’t handle on my own. I remember that if I could spend all that time at church for free,

Similarly, were you at a church where tithing was preached and mandatory? Think about the financial skills you needed to acquire to be able to spend 10% or more of your income at church, then think about what you could be doing with those budgeting skills. Instead of giving it to the church, you can continue to practice the 10% reduction in your income, but put it into your retirement, saving for a down payment for a house, reducing your debt, or saving for school or a large purchase.

Finally, take some time now to meet some new people. This is one of the most common questions I’ve asked myself: how do I meet people, without going to church? The answer, I’ve found, is to spend time doing things you’re interested in out where others are. Try taking a class, volunteering in a cause you believe in, or joining a club. The reason you meet people in church so quickly is because you’re there once a week with the same people all the time. So look for activities that include regular meeting times (not necessarily once a week, but with some degree of frequency and regularity) and that would tend to have the same people in them.

I hope these things help you in your transition out of Christianity. It can be an overwhelming process, but it’s so rewarding in the end to truly know yourself. Remember that life is precious, valuable, and short, so don’t waste it on things that make you unhappy.

36 comments:

webmdave said...

Thank you for this post. Very nicely laid-out practical things to do to handle one' deconversion. Sometimes we do need a plan of action to just stop stewing in the enormity of what we have done.

webmdave said...

I would also suggest reading "Misquoting Jesus" and "Jesus, Interrupted" by Prof. Bart Ehrman. He's a New Testament Biblical Scholar and 1st Century Historian. He teaches N.T. at The U. of N.C. at Chapel Hill. He also was a fundamentalist who is now an Agnostic. Also read "Who Wrote The Bible" by Prof. Elliott Friedman. He's an Old Testament Scholar who teaches at the U. of Georgia. Both of these books thoroughly debunk both the O.T. and N.T.

webmdave said...

"Life is precious, valuable, and short; so don't waste it on things that make you unhappy."

Happy New Year, Brian!! You really nailed this one on the head. I have been through a lot in 2009, especially with my father passing away last August from lung cancer. The last time I went to church was when my family and I attended his funeral; that's when I made up my mind that I will never EVER go back to church nor will I become a Christian anymore. I know I am a great person, so why should I go to church to teach me how to be a good person?!

I cannot tell you how happy I am right now without "gawd" in my life. At the present time, I am working on my finances as well, mainly paying down my credit card and saving money for the future. As far as meeting people, I am working on that too. Since I've been away from church, I made a lot of friends (non-believers or atheists), both gay and straight; when I was a Christian, I had to be around Christian folk because my mother felt it was "the right thing to do". Now that I'm older, I can make friends with anyone that I like as long as they're good people who do good things from the heart, not because some Wholly Babble says so.

Also, another good book to read is "Godless" by Dan Barker. I'm in the process of reading it right now.

Again, Brian...thanks for the post and welcome to this site!!

webmdave said...

I've been out of Christianity for just over a year, and I've had similar experiences. I have so much free time on my hands that I don't know what to do with it all. Because I'm not tithing, I more money than I otherwise would have. And most importantly, because I'm not in Church, I not lying awake at night worrying about what people think about me.

You've got the right idea: focus on the future and how bright it can be instead of the past and how bad it was.

webmdave said...

You got that right, John!!! Don't live in the past. Learn from your past so you don't live it in the future.

webmdave said...

Brian....Thank-you for so many great suggestions on leaving " the big lie ". I've always noticed that one of the big reasons so many stayed glued to the church, is the social aspect of it. If that glue can be removed, and put in other places, I just wonder how many fence-sitters would leave church.

I belong to the Sierra Club, and am lucky to have a chapter near me.
It's amazing how many non-believers there are that are involved in clubs, etc. that promote the protection of the earth, and helping animals.

I hope many fence-sitters see your post----Thanks !

webmdave said...

Since I departed Catholicism as a very young man after reading that dreadful book, the Bible, I never got caught up in the 'group-think' as an adult. But I can see how a person who WAS caught up has a 'hole' to fill. Look around. You are not alone.There are groups formed or forming all over the country. Hell, start one yourself. It's a challenge. I spent years developing friends. Watching letters to the editor from people who appeared to be freethinkers. Writing &/or calling them. Almost all of my friends are former Xians. We enjoy each others company frequently. We have Solstice picnics & partys.

webmdave said...

A fun resource for me is The Freedom From Religion Foundation www.ffrf.org They have about 14,000 members. Under The News Tab at the top go down to Freethought Radio. There you will find archives of their radio shows for several years. The interviews are great and Dan Barker one of the Co-hosts is a former Evangelical preacher and is mentioned by DebTheQueenBee . A direct link to the Radio Program Archives is http://www.ffrf.org/news/radio/ Some also enjoy Infidel Guy Online Radio Show http://www.infidelguy.com/

webmdave said...

Great post! You articulated so many encouraging and helpful ideas. Thank you for "paying it forward."
I remember when I first considered leaving Christianity. I thought I would lose everything--my friends, my family. I was so afraid. I'm not saying it was easy. It was not. I did lose "friends and family," but you get through it and as anyone who has left Christianity knows, you are better for it. I've made so many new friends and if a de-convert enters his or her new world with enthusiasm and openness, they will have all the friends they could ever need and the best part: They are friends because you genuinely like them not because you go to church with them--you all know just what I mean :-)

webmdave said...

Thanks for the book suggestions, I am always looking for more to read!

webmdave said...

As, I become more and more public about my leaving Christianity losing family and friends is one of my biggest fears. I am glad to know that it was worth while for you! Thanks!

webmdave said...

Dogma Free America is another radio show/podcast that I have found entertaining and informative. It is a show that is hosted by former christians and has interesting segments like Skeptic Sunday School and Anti-Apologitic . . . "HIDE YOUR FAITH FROM THE LIGHT OF REASON!"

webmdave said...

Good advice! Now if only I had learned those skills in the first place :\

Hehe.

webmdave said...

Your points about time management and tithing are outstanding! If exChristians apply those same principles to a rational life (instead of abandoning them) we can accomplish great things, which applying them to religion and superstition prevented.

We're actually doing a post series called Visionary Atheism that addresses a lot of these concepts. It's viewership isn't as high as some other topics, so this encourages me.

webmdave said...

Thanks for the post. Very nicely done.

I'd like to add one more piece of encouragement to those who have recently lost their religion. Namely, to cut yourself some slack.

Don't beat yourself up for having believed that stuff for so long. It is easy to feel angry, thinking "How could I have been so stupid for so long?" I suggest you let yourself feel those feelings for a time, but then get over them as quickly as possible and don't turn them into self directed anger.

Just be happy that you were smart enough to finally see the ridiculousness of it all, and that you are now free. Then go learn how to enjoy your life with your new found freedom.

webmdave said...

Very good and helpful advice, Brian. :)

webmdave said...

Well said, Brian. Now more to read...

webmdave said...

It's really hard to get rid of an "I must save the world" complex. From my early teen years I took on the personal responsibility to be a savior side-kick, spreading the "Good News" every way I can. Of course I sucked at it but I sure did try.

Through the years I fought my own personality, struggled with the inconsistencies of Christianity, and was continually baffled at how little every Christian actually tried to be Christian. I was always the zealot who was shunned for his fanaticism.

The story is too long to tell here but suffice it to say my faith was my world. Then it began to crumble. On an early summer day five years ago it crashed. I was wrapped in confusion and drowned in fear, the fear that keeps Christian from ever even looking at through even on the periphery. It took a while to get over that fear. It was the first and last time I was ever afraid of anything in my entire life.

I first became a Buddhist Christian. Buddha was a man with great ideas. But I could not muster "faith," even after dumping 99% of what Christianity was. The week my mom died last year I told the family (all evangelical conservatives) I was just a Buddhist. A month or so ago I admitted what I knew to be true, that I am an atheist. The idea of a "creator" is completely absurd. I wrote that I am an Atheist on my facebook where my family would read it. I said so to my wife who clings to Christianity like a ship passenger clings to a life raft. The news was not well received.

I remain Buddhist but then Buddha was an atheist too. He did not believe in a creator. He was not a "Dawkins" atheist though and he believed humankind can improve itself. He provided the best formula, one I support entirely. I am a Buddhist Atheist.

I DO regret all those years I was stupid, I got in people's faces, I judged. Fifty years thrown away. The reason is that I still care about people, maybe more now than before. I have compassion. And I threw away four decades trying the wrong things. Now I'm broke, broken, and old. There's not enough time to fix the problems I created, much less do more for others.

So while I don't flog myself I do have regrets.

I did not become a non-Christian or a Buddhist or an atheist because I wanted to be free and happy. I became those things through a logical progression as I rejected myth for fact, lie for truth, belief for knowledge, absurdity for common sense.

I am contented with who I am. I am not happy and cannot be completely happy as long as all those I love reject me because I won't believe and as long as they remain living a deluded and manipulated life in a religion that will ultimately prove the destruction of our planet.

webmdave said...

B Ted..." a Buddhist Atheist "....I really LIKE the concept ! : )

webmdave said...

Thanks, Breeze, so do I. Actually though there is a lot of spiritism in some Buddhist sects Buddhism is atheist because the definition of atheist is not believing in a creator or supreme deity. Buddha didn't at all.

A few weeks ago when I said, "I'm an atheist," a friend and my wife both said, "you're not atheist, you're Buddhist!" or, "you believe in Buddha." Somehow it's better to be Buddhist than atheist. Go figure. I explained to them I do not "believe" in Buddha, I follow him. He was a man, not a god.

Common sense and science tells me there's no creator but that still leaves the question of ethics and morality. Buddha provides the answer without bringing in theism. Works for me! Thanks for the comment.

webmdave said...

B Ted...You're welcome !

webmdave said...

You got that right, John!!! Don't live in the past. Learn from your past so you don't live it in the future.

webmdave said...

You got that right, John!!! Don't live in the past. Learn from your past so you don't live it in the future.

webmdave said...

I've been out of Christianity for just over a year, and I've had similar experiences. I have so much free time on my hands that I don't know what to do with it all. Because I'm not tithing, I more money than I otherwise would have. And most importantly, because I'm not in Church, I not lying awake at night worrying about what people think about me.

You've got the right idea: focus on the future and how bright it can be instead of the past and how bad it was.

webmdave said...

"Life is precious, valuable, and short; so don't waste it on things that make you unhappy."

Happy New Year, Brian!! You really nailed this one on the head. I have been through a lot in 2009, especially with my father passing away last August from lung cancer. The last time I went to church was when my family and I attended his funeral; that's when I made up my mind that I will never EVER go back to church nor will I become a Christian anymore. I know I am a great person, so why should I go to church to teach me how to be a good person?!

I cannot tell you how happy I am right now without "gawd" in my life. At the present time, I am working on my finances as well, mainly paying down my credit card and saving money for the future. As far as meeting people, I am working on that too. Since I've been away from church, I made a lot of friends (non-believers or atheists), both gay and straight; when I was a Christian, I had to be around Christian folk because my mother felt it was "the right thing to do". Now that I'm older, I can make friends with anyone that I like as long as they're good people who do good things from the heart, not because some Wholly Babble says so.

Also, another good book to read is "Godless" by Dan Barker. I'm in the process of reading it right now.

Again, Brian...thanks for the post and welcome to this site!!

webmdave said...

I would also suggest reading "Misquoting Jesus" and "Jesus, Interrupted" by Prof. Bart Ehrman. He's a New Testament Biblical Scholar and 1st Century Historian. He teaches N.T. at The U. of N.C. at Chapel Hill. He also was a fundamentalist who is now an Agnostic. Also read "Who Wrote The Bible" by Prof. Elliott Friedman. He's an Old Testament Scholar who teaches at the U. of Georgia. Both of these books thoroughly debunk both the O.T. and N.T.

webmdave said...

I would also suggest reading "Misquoting Jesus" and "Jesus, Interrupted" by Prof. Bart Ehrman. He's a New Testament Biblical Scholar and 1st Century Historian. He teaches N.T. at The U. of N.C. at Chapel Hill. He also was a fundamentalist who is now an Agnostic. Also read "Who Wrote The Bible" by Prof. Elliott Friedman. He's an Old Testament Scholar who teaches at the U. of Georgia. Both of these books thoroughly debunk both the O.T. and N.T.

webmdave said...

Thank you for this post. Very nicely laid-out practical things to do to handle one' deconversion. Sometimes we do need a plan of action to just stop stewing in the enormity of what we have done.

webmdave said...

B Ted...You're welcome !

webmdave said...

Thanks, Breeze, so do I. Actually though there is a lot of spiritism in some Buddhist sects Buddhism is atheist because the definition of atheist is not believing in a creator or supreme deity. Buddha didn't at all.

A few weeks ago when I said, "I'm an atheist," a friend and my wife both said, "you're not atheist, you're Buddhist!" or, "you believe in Buddha." Somehow it's better to be Buddhist than atheist. Go figure. I explained to them I do not "believe" in Buddha, I follow him. He was a man, not a god.

Common sense and science tells me there's no creator but that still leaves the question of ethics and morality. Buddha provides the answer without bringing in theism. Works for me! Thanks for the comment.

webmdave said...

B Ted..." a Buddhist Atheist "....I really LIKE the concept ! : )

webmdave said...

It's really hard to get rid of an "I must save the world" complex. From my early teen years I took on the personal responsibility to be a savior side-kick, spreading the "Good News" every way I can. Of course I sucked at it but I sure did try.

Through the years I fought my own personality, struggled with the inconsistencies of Christianity, and was continually baffled at how little every Christian actually tried to be Christian. I was always the zealot who was shunned for his fanaticism.

The story is too long to tell here but suffice it to say my faith was my world. Then it began to crumble. On an early summer day five years ago it crashed. I was wrapped in confusion and drowned in fear, the fear that keeps Christian from ever even looking at through even on the periphery. It took a while to get over that fear. It was the first and last time I was ever afraid of anything in my entire life.

I first became a Buddhist Christian. Buddha was a man with great ideas. But I could not muster "faith," even after dumping 99% of what Christianity was. The week my mom died last year I told the family (all evangelical conservatives) I was just a Buddhist. A month or so ago I admitted what I knew to be true, that I am an atheist. The idea of a "creator" is completely absurd. I wrote that I am an Atheist on my facebook where my family would read it. I said so to my wife who clings to Christianity like a ship passenger clings to a life raft. The news was not well received.

I remain Buddhist but then Buddha was an atheist too. He did not believe in a creator. He was not a "Dawkins" atheist though and he believed humankind can improve itself. He provided the best formula, one I support entirely. I am a Buddhist Atheist.

I DO regret all those years I was stupid, I got in people's faces, I judged. Fifty years thrown away. The reason is that I still care about people, maybe more now than before. I have compassion. And I threw away four decades trying the wrong things. Now I'm broke, broken, and old. There's not enough time to fix the problems I created, much less do more for others.

So while I don't flog myself I do have regrets.

I did not become a non-Christian or a Buddhist or an atheist because I wanted to be free and happy. I became those things through a logical progression as I rejected myth for fact, lie for truth, belief for knowledge, absurdity for common sense.

I am contented with who I am. I am not happy and cannot be completely happy as long as all those I love reject me because I won't believe and as long as they remain living a deluded and manipulated life in a religion that will ultimately prove the destruction of our planet.

webmdave said...

Well said, Brian. Now more to read...

webmdave said...

Very good and helpful advice, Brian. :)

webmdave said...

Thanks for the post. Very nicely done.

I'd like to add one more piece of encouragement to those who have recently lost their religion. Namely, to cut yourself some slack.

Don't beat yourself up for having believed that stuff for so long. It is easy to feel angry, thinking "How could I have been so stupid for so long?" I suggest you let yourself feel those feelings for a time, but then get over them as quickly as possible and don't turn them into self directed anger.

Just be happy that you were smart enough to finally see the ridiculousness of it all, and that you are now free. Then go learn how to enjoy your life with your new found freedom.

webmdave said...

Your points about time management and tithing are outstanding! If exChristians apply those same principles to a rational life (instead of abandoning them) we can accomplish great things, which applying them to religion and superstition prevented.

We're actually doing a post series called Visionary Atheism that addresses a lot of these concepts. It's viewership isn't as high as some other topics, so this encourages me.