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11/25/2007                                                                                       View Comments

Replacing the rituals

By Sharon

Three things I missed about Christianity when I first left were church music, prayer, and church attendance. Much to my surprise, I have derived much satisfaction from building new routines and rituals into my life.

For the vocal benefit of prayer, I have substituted talking to myself or reading aloud to myself. For the meditative aspect of prayer, I have substituted gazing out onto some horizon or body of water in nature. For the intentional aspect of prayer, I throw coins in the fountain in the park, or just sit by it pensively in wintertime when the water doesn’t run.

I didn’t think church music would be easy to replace, because the experience of it was one that would stay with me for hours after each service as I bounced around my house singing the familiar church songs that rang in my head. But now that I have the freedom to explore other music genres besides gospel, my everyday life – not just Sunday’s – is permeated with music. I have enjoyed singing since I was little, and I always had a talent for singing, but now the scope of that enjoyment is much bigger, and the scope of that talent more versatile. The more I sing, the more I realize that church music lifted me because of the physiological effect of music on the body, not because of any special inspiration from "on High."

For the Sabbath rest benefit of church attendance (setting aside one day of the week for rest), I simply make sure I set one day aside (not necessarily Sunday) to conduct myself in a more laid-back fashion than I do on the other six days. For the socialization aspect of church attendance, I simply make sure I build into my life ways of connecting with people - such as working out at the gym, hanging out with friends at the local women’s center, or chatting with people I see each day as I take public transit. For the worship aspect of church attendance, I have substituted the sanctuary of my body for the physical building – by paying attention to my physical needs on a more ongoing basis.

As a Christian, I was taught that my body was an appendage of myself. Nothing but a pesky nuisance when it broke down with disease. Nothing but a stumbling block for righteousness when appetites for food or sex emerged. And nothing but an inconvenience when unfitness kept me from reaching my full potential “in service for the Lord.” Now I know that my body is “me,” not just an appendage. It needs attention all the time, almost like an infant. It needs honoring, nurturing, and pampering. It needs me to honor it by noticing when it’s sore, hungry, tense, or tired and by taking care of those needs. It needs me to nurture it by eating well, getting quality rest, and providing protection from the elements with suitable clothing and a cozy roof over my head. It needs me to pamper it by using it as a canvas for self expression by dressing exactly the way I choose - not according to the dictates of some church. It needs me to pamper it by giving it the rich experience of an occasional warm soak in a tub, or by affirming its worth by smiling at myself when I look at myself in the mirror in the morning – maybe not before the splash of water on my face but definitely after.

I love the new rituals and routines I’ve discovered through replacing prayer, church music, and church attendance, I don't miss Christianity anymore, and I love my new Post-Christian way of life.


Stephen B said...

What a beautiful statement! And a great solution! Can I post it on my own website, and giving you full credit?

That "Ball" Guy said...

Well written. This process of replacing the rituals is very crucial to integrating with reality.

After living with certain mental constructs for so long (the rituals) it can feel weird to let them go. . .But many of the practices are fairly normal and healthy in themselves (meditation, singing, social networking, etc) once they're extricated from the dogmatic bullshit.

The other tendencies which aren't so healthy can be easily redirected to something productive: e.g. my desire to "fight and conquer evil" is fulfilled by playing chess. Most of the time any remnants of the martyr complex are satisfied as well after I play chess, lol.

Thank you for a well written expose!

xrayman said...

I was what one could call a non Christian theist for most of my life. Despite the fact that I never was very religious, I did pray with obsessive compulsive regularity each and every day. I had many mental rituals I would perform which involved conversations with God. I was convinced when I got out of a jam that God had answered my prayers and I would give massive amounts of thanks to Him.

When I opened the can of worms on the internet that convinced me that God is a figment of the world's imagination, it was really a bitch not praying. I realized I was talking to myself and it was very difficult replacing all those prayers with some other mental activity. I guess when I look back I realize that prayer is our way of thinking we have some sort of control over a situation in which we really have no control like the health of a loved one.

I said my last prayer about a year and a half ago, and I don't even think about it much now. I gradually replaced prayer with rational thought and actions. Like the smoking habit that once consumed my life, I am completely out of the prayer habit. It's a good feeling.

resonate11 said...

Lovely, Sharon. It sounds like you are building a more beautiful and more comprehensive life for yourself post Christianity.

Allison said...

Hi Sharon,

You might want to check out the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, if there is one in your area. It might suit you.


Sharon said...

Stephen B said...
What a beautiful statement! And a great solution! Can I post it on my own website, and giving you full credit?

Thank you, Stephen B, for the great compliment. Yes, you may post it on your website. I'm honored.

Sharon said...

xrayman,you said you are "completely out of the prayer habit." I guess maybe I have that to look forward to! Thank you!

Sharon said...

Thank you,Allison. There is a nice Unitarian Universalist Church in my area. I attended it for awhile but doing so doesn't seem to be a necessary part of my process anymore. Thanks again!

Sharon said...

Thanks, Resonate11. People on this website are so encouraging!

Sharon said...

Thank you, "that "ball" guy, for the compliment and the helpful insights. "Fight and conquer evil,"? Wow! Did I get that one from the cult, too? LOL

rickyusvi said...

I have been surprised at how little effect dropping religion has had on my life. I’m pretty much the same person that i was—minus the guilt, the externally imposed homophobia, and the delusion that a zygote is as much a “person” as a grown woman. So much for the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

My habit of saying grace isn’t completely gone, but it always gets cut short before it starts when there is Nothing to pray to!

The one thing i miss about my religion is the social aspect. I’ve always been shy, somewhat deficient in social skills, and totally clueless about network building. I have yet to find a replacement, but remaining with my old parish would make me feel like a big hypocrite. A UU congregation wouldn’t do, as i have no need or desire to worship, and would feel foolish doing so.

resonate11 said...

rickyusvi: "A UU congregation wouldn’t do, as i have no need or desire to worship, and would feel foolish doing so."

The word "worship" comes from combining the Old English words meaning worth and ship. Therefore, when UUs worship, they are transporting or carrying to each other that which they find of worth or value. As I understand it, they are not praising God or anything godlike. However, I am not a Unitarian/Universalist myself.

Mandy said...

I too had thought about going to a UU Church, however I feel the same way that "Rickyusvi" feels also.

My situation is similar to his in regards of not having a social network of friends ever since leaving the christian faith.

It would be nice to have some more open minded friends in my own personal life. Don't know for sure what I will do yet.

Angela said...

A lot of times, people in psychotherpay say they regret having to care for their body, becasue namely, they feel guilt for things that have happned to them/their bodies. If only your post could be in every hospital, every therpaist office, in every waiting room. SOO much pain could be alleviated. Thank you for a beautiful post. I think I'll go brush my hair. . . .

FirstInTheDance said...


I really loved your post. I left Christianity many years ago, and while there were always things I missed, I never really made all the correlations you just did. Not consciously, anyway. Over time, Christian activities and thought processes were just naturally replaced by new habits of thought and new kinds of activities. I think my deconversion would have gone a lot more smoothly had I consciously realized the positive psychological effects ritual/music/etc. served and actively sought replacements. I especially liked what you said about caring for your body. Of all Christian teachings, I think those that teach that the body is "of the world and evil" are some of the most harmful. What you said made me realize that maybe I still had some left over, unconscious, baggage along those lines. I really should take better care of myself. Thanks for your post!