Image by ...storrao... via FlickrI’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.