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GabrielsLamb's avatar

Atheists was your transition difficult for you? Did you have guilt?

Asked by GabrielsLamb (6151 points ) October 5th, 2011

*and anyone contemplating the shift toward becomming one…

Was the transition hard for you?

Were you at all guilt laden?

What, or whom was your biggest motivation?

Did you have guilt feelings afterward?

Was there any process to it, anything you did or anywhere you specifically went for information?

Help!

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46 Answers

janbb's avatar

It’s hard to recall a time when I didn’t not believe in G-d. I did think about him or her when I was a child but as I grew up, it just seemed logical to me as I observed the world that there wasn’t one. I didn’t look for any outside sources or need to do research; the shift was intuitive. It was a very natural evolution of my growing up and I have not struggled with it; nor do I have any need to try to convince anyone that their beliefs are wrong unless they are trying to impose them on me.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

@janbb Thanks… I’m scared, but that’s not a good reason TO believe either right?

janbb's avatar

Nope – but on the other hand, if you can still believe and it’s a comfort to you, why force yourself not to?

GabrielsLamb's avatar

@janbb Something I have been contemplating for many years and that is actually one of the biggest reasons. Does G-d (respect) want people to believe because they are afraid?

I have to examine my own motives better and kind of revaluate. Is it all about an afterlife? I just don’t know what to think anymore other than religion doesn’t work for me at all.

janbb's avatar

You may have to find your spiritual core somewhere else then. I decided for me that continual self-assessment and aiming to be a better human being was the heart of my spiritual belief. And also, “first do no harm.”

GabrielsLamb's avatar

Honestly, in the discussion last night, that transition (yours) believe it or not sounded to me like the most practicle thing I have heard concerning all of it… Converting to judiasm, and then becomming an atheist.

I have yet to hear anything that makes more sense and I’m serious too. Of course aware that it was a birth rite as well as a decision after the fact on your part but It seems to me that all of those people who have made that shift seem to be some of the most well adjusted and decent people I have encountered.

I’m doing my 7-year phoenix… I try to change who I am every seven years or so because I come from such a bad background it is a necessity.

I have gone through some bad relationships in my life and I am just wondering about this because fear & guilt doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to love. It’s likened to being in another bad relationship and I just can’t do it on any level anymore.

janbb's avatar

I do believe that my immersion in Jewish culture and Jewish ethics as a child formed the basis of my ethics as an adult; I’m not sure if conversion is necessary for the acquirement of such ethics though.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

The transition was fast. Once I realized how much harm religion produces and how I didn’t need it in my life to lead a good one, I dropped it. Poof, gone, no guilt.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

@janbb My mother was born Protestant and converted to Catholic in order to get married, I was raised pretty much with no religion at all being the last of 5 kids they just gave up and for years there was no mention of it what so ever. Later on probably when i was about 13 they both converted again to fundamentalists and within that arena *more likened to a circus in my experience, I have encountered more hyprocracy and nonsence than anywhere. My mother even later after that had been a Christian Scientist and finally settled upon Judiasm as an adopted belief system and I know she was happiest there until she died.

All of the things of her’s that I have saved around my home, pictures of my kids and us kids when we were little all have the star of David on them, all of them were precious to her, she started having jewish holiday celebrations and followed it pretty closely.

She gained her sanity as well after finally deciding to leave my father (mentally and emotionally a HORRIBLE, LONG MARRIAGE) and she gained the most peace there I think? So it all ties into my reasons.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir But what about God? When and where He isn’t necessarily the cause or the effect of Religion to anyone other then those who miscreate in His name. It’s not religion I have difficulty giving up, that was a no brainer… I’m having guilt issues with leaving God because of religion. I’m not so sure I have to, but then again I’m not so sure I believe anymore either because of it?

How much of God is actually attached to religion?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@GabrielsLamb Since I wasn’t raised in a religion, it was always about the Goddess for me as I was doing solitary witchcraft at one point. Eventually talking to someone ‘up there’ made no sense, for any gods.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I guess it’s just ingrained in me? Wondering if maybe I shouldn’t attempt to extract it for that reason as well. What ingrained it, isn’t really a very good example of anything. So it all ties in with me. Family God, religion and bad relationships. Old habits die hard… I need to recoup and rethink life in general, too much of my life has been fear, guilt and hurt driven and it has taken its toll indeed. I can’t help but wonder how much of this is symptomatic?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@GabrielsLamb Well it’s not like there’s a deadline…

dappled_leaves's avatar

For me, the process was unplanned; I just realized that I didn’t believe, and didn’t want to continue to pretend to believe. So, rather than feeling any guilt, I felt a great sense of freedom and relief.

CWOTUS's avatar

No God, no guilt, no problem.

I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church, an altar boy, sang in the choir and joined the Youth Group. I was “in” that church.

But after I grew up and started thinking (not that Christians don’t think, but I hadn’t been) I realized that everyone who believes in God either believes in the same One with different names and miens – or It doesn’t exist at all. Even if It does exist, It can’t be so petty as to blame and condemn me for not believing in It (and if It does, then It can go to hell, because I don’t want to be around It in that case).

And if God makes us all in Its image, then God is an atheist too, because that’s what It made me. (So in that case, It definitely has a sense of humor, too. As if the platypus and seahorse weren’t already proof enough.)

XD's avatar

I’m sorry this is going to be less about where you are, @GabrielsLamb, and more about where I am, but having dealt with a similar transition, where I’ve ended up suits me really well, although I am still wrapping my head around it. So here’s my gist and why it works for me. “God,” as most of us conventionally have believed, is an externalization of what I believe is our direct connection to a universal or cosmic consciousness, which, if you “tune in to” by simply allowing yourself to feel it, is apparent through direct experience. As Tolstoy said, “The Kingdom of God is Within You,” although that kind of language even still obscures what it is and how it is experienced. I found the transition in thinking difficult (because I didn’t know where I was going other than away from Christianity, but also), because I was so entrained to think of God as an external reality buttressed with anthropomorphic traits and decorated with dumb logic puzzles that eventually can only be held constant by the addition of magical exceptions to the rules. This kind of thinking is like explaining the characteristics of a three-dimensional world using two-dimensional concepts and language. It’s never going to get you there. Not even if you make Byzantine allowances for breakdowns in logic.

And this doesn’t even account for the probable fact that much of (Christian) religious history is about control over hearts, minds, and beliefs. Let’s suppose for a moment that we are naturally born with some degree of personal power as “radiant beings.” What better way to “trick” us into handing it over than to tell a story about all that power belonging to God (and by the way, you can only get to Him through us). Insidious, no? And the thing is that it isn’t exactly untrue because that reservoir is “out there.” What they don’t tell you is that it’s also “in here.”

Another point… there were many “messiahs” at the time of Jesus. What if they were all waking up to their primary connection to a universal consciousness, and what if that were bad for business if you were a power monger? It might make sense to modify the story so that there’s only one son of God (instead of many) and then water down and fluoridate the magic so that it’s safe for public consumption.

It’s probably easier to just say that it’s an Eastern (Buddhist/Taoist) way of thinking, but more than that it’s a way of “feeling.” I’m still getting my sea legs, but more and more I feel super connected to everything. It’s a different way of seeing, and it allows for an “absorption” of my old idea of “God.” Throw out the name “God,” for a minute and look at what that name refers to. How would you describe it? Is it adequately described with language, or is it better to just feel out its presence? And if you do, then where does it end and you begin?

To borrow a verse, it’s a matter of letting the scales fall from your eyes.

So, anyway, this isn’t to save you from atheism, just to relate my experience. While I rejected Christianity as nonsensical at a certain point in my life, it also didn’t make sense to believe in a spiritless, Newtonian universe. I didn’t come to the answer right away (in fact it was a many-year process), but I’m happy about where I ended up. Delighted, in fact, and that’s far beyond whatever I could have imagined a few years ago.

Coloma's avatar

@XD

Beautifully spoken! I concur.
When one lets go of the concept of an external “God” one is free to FEEL the interconnectedness full force.

Yes, the kingdom of “God” is within, it is in the recognition of this amazing dance, the dream within a dream. ;-)

GabrielsLamb's avatar

@XD I certainly didn’t and never would have expected or wanted an “apology” for your sharing, that’s what this is all about no? I’m sorry you felt that you had to do that… Am I being a thread hog with my issues?

Please feel open and free to check this neck any time you like. Please don’t ever feel that you can’t speak here. If I gave you that impression I truly apologize, Im not all about me at all, I just get caught on the proverbial nail of my own bullshit sometimes, but that should have to be your problem…

But that being said “universal or cosmic consciousness” is a concern of mine as well…

You say that and that becomes in part, a great deal of the concerns I think everyone has. Is the moniker of GOD really what the issues pertains to in a nutshell?

Maybe it’s just a matter of semantics and not much more than that? DO we just need to say instead like you so eloquently put it… The universal or cosmic consciousness and call it all a day? Could it be THAT simple?

GabrielsLamb's avatar

@Coloma Points!!! Because you rock & Roll!

wundayatta's avatar

Not hard. First of all, there was no religion to rebel against. The rest of it was up to me. There was only one person who ever said anything about it and that was the teacher I officially declared it to. I wrote in a paper on existentialism that I had decided I was an atheist and the teacher told me I was too young to decide (I was 15 at the time and had probably decided years earlier). So really, there was no transition.

XD's avatar

No apology needed. I was just covering my ass.

I don’t think it’s semantics (again like talking about a 3D world with competing 2D models—e.g. The tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao). I think it’s more critical than semantics. It is the boxing in of or the boundaries of one’s imagination.

IMHO, the difficult transition that you or someone in your situation might be feeling is the unboxing of your imagination with respect to God and religion. How do you do that in a graceful manner? I don’t know. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen good instructions or good teaching. A hard way to do it is to throw out everything, wait until you get tired of your tabula rasa, and then start cobbling something else together that makes sense to you.

@Coloma, chakra high five!

GabrielsLamb's avatar

@XD That SHOULDN’T have to be your problem I meant to say… TYPO! Sorry

And that’s a great response… But I fear i have never really been able to manage much in life in a “Graceful” manner. I’m like the dancing hippo in Fantasia. LOL

koanhead's avatar

Atheism is a big tent. It’s not a matter of a choice between an Abrahamic God figure or a spiritless Newtonian void; I find that in practice Atheists believe in all sorts of types and gradations of things while still calling themselves Atheists. Thus semantics needn’t enter into it: I have known Atheists who believe there is Something Out There without trying to make statements about it.

After a certain point, though, semantics does come into play. If you make statements about something without defining your terms, then you can’t be said to know what you are talking about. This isn’t a sharp, bright line either. If your position is that there’s Something Out There and nothing more, you certainly don’t have to worry much about specifying it’s parameters. On the other hand, a God that’s a hodgepodge of Alpha, Omega, Bearded Guy in the Sky, Vengeful Policeman, and Loving Father is thoroughly defined but in a troublesome way. For example, I’ve been up in the sky, above the clouds even, and I didn’t see any big bearded guy hanging out there with winged glowy eunuchs hanging about. I can’t regard that as conclusive, but it’s a failed God-test. Also, there is some contradiction between the various attributed properties, and so forth.
That’s just an example; I don’t mean to pick particularly on the Abrahamic religions. My point is just that it’s so difficult to meaningfully define what a “God” is that it becomes a concept that can’t really be talked about and is hard even to think about.
It’s easy to feel about it; but “if you believe in things you don’t understand, then you’ll suffer; superstition ain’t the way.”

I spent many many years actively searching for a God or gods. I never found one, and eventually I quit trying. If there’s one around I guess it will let me know if it wants to.

No blame.

El_Cadejo's avatar

No and no. I think its because I never really believed in the first place it was just what I was taught to believe but when I got into my teens I started to think for myself and came to my own conclusions.

Prosb's avatar

It wasn’t hard exactly, it happened all at once. I had energy sort of building up since I was little. Energy in the form of yearning, questioning. Why did none of this make sense? Why does my logic conflict with my religion? With this building I hate being in?
It was akin to a boulder on a hill, held back by this little peg, and eventually the boulder would grow too large to be stopped by such a tiny object. I asked my uncle about some of these questions, about what he thought of this problem I was having with my idea of “God”.
He then said that he didn’t believe. I had to ask him again to make sure I heard him right.

You . . . don’t believe? I wasn’t aware as a child that this was even an option. It had been kept from me. The peg holding back that boulder was flicked aside, and I started to roll.
Everything slotted into place, very quickly, and very heavily. I was a little nervous, but I felt so uplifted! So lightweight! All these troubling thoughts had such a simple answer!
I felt no guilt, just relief. Later, I learned more. The things in the Bible that would have felt horrible to know and think about, if that peg wasn’t moved when it was. The fact that, if I had been born in some other part of the world, I would have been of a different religion just as easily. I was agnostic, because you could not disprove or prove a god.
Then in my late Middle School, early High School years, it occurred to me that I was hanging onto this tiny bit of belief, that maybe there was a chance it was out there. But I had it for the wrong reasons. I was afraid to let go. I didn’t believe in a cosmic entity, or a universal mind. I just was afraid of letting go of that last bit, just in case.

Upon realizing that, I did let go. I couldn’t prove it existed, but I couldn’t disprove anything existed. If there was a god somewhere out there, it obviously didn’t like people. And you had to reach for it, where it should be reaching you. Touching you, embracing you. A god shouldn’t be a matter of feeling or believing. It should be a matter of fact. If a god wanted me, it knew where to find me, it knew where to find everybody. If it was here, we would know it. We may not have had a name everyone could agree upon, but we’d know it was there, watching, and to doubt it would be like doubting gravity. So I was an atheist, for better or worse.

It’s a personal thing obviously, and you should move at your own speed, if move at all.
We’re always here for you, if you have any questions. You have but to ask.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

It didn’t happen all at once for me, but I didn’t really deal with guilt. I was young when I started to doubt, and I was also still attending a Catholic church (since I didn’t have a whole lot of say in the matter.) So, at the beginning, I got myself in trouble a lot. I asked too many questions, I brought up things that were considered blasphemous. I remember being on an airplane to Ukraine when I was 12 and asking my grandmother how they knew Mary was a virgin. That was bad.
It got to the point where my Sunday school teacher wouldn’t even acknowledge me if I raised my hand, and there couldn’t have been more than ten kids in my class. My curiosity offended so many people… and that only drove me deeper into wondering why no one had answers for my questions. I just didn’t “feel” any type of higher presence in my life.
When my sister died, I started on a search to “find” god. Any god. I studied multiple religions, I tried meditation, I tried different churches, I tried balancing my chakras. None of it felt like it held any truth. It never lasted, for me. I just couldn’t find it in myself to believe that it was real. For a long time I really wanted to believe. I wanted to take comfort in the things that people seem to hold so dear, that give them so much peace. I just couldn’t find it in my heart to believe it, no matter how hard I tried.
And so, I found my own peace, in letting go of all of that.

tranquilsea's avatar

I was raised with no religion and thought of myself as being agnostic. I converted to Christianity at age 24. I loved the church we attended because the people were kind, generous and inclusive. I spent the next three years reading and re-reading the bible. I had a lot of questions that they answered non judgmentally.

We moved to a different city and a new church. This time the church was all the things I hated about churches growing up. In around this time I found a comparative religion site and read A. Victor Garaffa’s thesis on the Pauline Conspiracy. I asked more questions and was hushed up. That was beginning of the end for me.

I did mourn. I mourned the friendships that I knew I’d lose due to dropping out of the faith. That made me mad too. Shouldn’t they have continued the friendship even if I wasn’t the same faith as them? I understood that we weren’t really true friends.

So here I am again: agnostic.

downtide's avatar

I was raised atheist so there was no transition for me. It was just the normal way to be. But then, the UK is very different from the US in terms of religion. It’s totally acceptable and normal to be atheist here, if you’re devoutly religious you’ll be regarded as unusual.

coffeenut's avatar

Really easy transition, As I don’t think I ever believed. Can’t feel guilt about something that doesn’t exist.

ragingloli's avatar

I have always been an atheist. In fact, I was born one.

downtide's avatar

@ragingloli everyone is born an atheist.

KateTheGreat's avatar

Nope. The transition was fast, I was relieved, and I’m a very happy person. Never felt one morsel of guilt.

Mamradpivo's avatar

I just kinda stopped believing in god over time. Probably by about the time I was 16, I was just over it. I had learned enough science and astronomy and realized that I didn’t particularly need a god in life to have a moral code.

No particular guilt, aside from one really awkward Thanksgiving. I’ve never made any attempt to hide my lack of belief, but I’ve also never bothered to bring it up. If someone is saying Grace at a table, I’ll bow my head and go along, etc.

Qingu's avatar

I felt guilty about going through with my bar Mitzvah. I started to doubt right at the time when I was “studying” (most of which involved memorizing Hebrew words to recite that I did not even understand); I started to read the Bible in earnest and realized that it was BS. If I went back in time, I probably would have been firmer about not having a bar Mitzvah though I’m sure my mom would have probably still tried to make me.

But I count myself lucky. My family wasn’t religious, my community didn’t shun me or anything. I’ve been pretty outspoken about it ever since too.

desiree333's avatar

I have always identified as an agnostic, but recently some people here on Fluther helped me realize that I don’t believe in God, which makes me an atheist. Just because I am open to the possibility doesn’t mean I am agnostic apparently. There was no guilt whatsoever because religion has zero influence over me and guilt would suggest that I believe in hell or think there is actual consequences for not believing in religion. The only negative emotion I feel is when people find out, they always think I am hateful or some sort of devil worshiper. I typically do not use the word “atheist” do describe my view, I just say that I don’t believe in God and that I do not like organized religion.

jrpowell's avatar

My parents never shoved magic man in the sky shit into me. No transition needed. And once I was old enough to look into religion none of it really made any sense.

Qingu's avatar

@johnpowell

When I read “magic man” I couldn’t help but think of this… actually reminds me a lot of ol’ Yahweh come to think of it!

6rant6's avatar

The initial impetus for me was knowing too many good people whose religions were at war with one another. I could not believe that most of them stood condemned.

I don’t see that men can distinguish between prophecy and insanity – either in themselves or in one another.

I see the practice of religion as hurtful – so antithetical to the supposed purpose.

digitalimpression's avatar

Seems like a simple transition to me. It’s pretty easy to not believe.

“Enter in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be who go in there: Because narrow is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it.”

I can already see the skeptics and the non-religious rolling their eyes.. but I thought I should throw it out there on the off chance that it might mean something to you personally.

Symbeline's avatar

My transition went unnoticed to me. When I was a kid maybe I believed in God, but I never really cared. To me it was just what people did, so I followed along. While growing up, I had my worries related to death and heaven and hell, but it was extremely minor. I just didn’t believe in a god. It’s not even anything I really decided or discovered, seemed like a natural thing to me.
If anything at all, me being an atheist has had a lot to do with me discovering about people, and how a faith based approach is common with everyday stuff that has nothing to do with God, from believers and atheists alike.

fizzbanger's avatar

I thought about it a lot as a kid, when coping with my first “what happens when we die” thoughts. “God” never quite came into the picture, it was more of an acceptance of not knowing. Thinking about how nothing is permanent, and how everyone’s body will eventually decay. I never felt guilty, just a little scared, but that passed.

desiree333's avatar

@johnpowell That is kind of how my experience has been, except I went to a Catholic school. Either way it didn’t have any influence on me, if anything it pushed me farther from religion and showed me how fanatical it can be.

6rant6's avatar

@fizzbanger That “acceptance of not knowing” is a difficult thing for our species. It’s probably what has made us so invested in things that have made us the transforming force on this one little planet.

JLeslie's avatar

I was raised an atheist and so I never had a transition. I remember when I became aware people believed in God, I was in my teens already. Before that God was just something mentioned in declarations like, “oh my god!” And, in the stories we read at Passover. When I was very young I did not really connect or bother to think there might be a God actually watching us and controlling things or we could pray to for help.

Kato's avatar

@GabrielsLamb, I am not an atheist but, if you don’t mind I would like to respectfully interject my opinion.

I believe in Jesus, and God. I am hugely against many of the traditions of religion. I would say that there is a difference between faith in God and actions, behaviors and traditions of men (humans). There are a lot of “Christians” that piss me off to no end because of their ideas of what it should look like. The practices of a religion (any religion) are a conglomerate of traditions, for instance, Buddhism isn’t about a god it’s about a set of good practices.

Traditions hold communities together, that is their primary purpose. However, they are not the basis for a relationship with the creator.

I also don’t think it should be about fear. The fear you hear about in the old testament is similar to being in awe of a force of nature. The vastness of it’s strength to over power you. But if you believe that Jesus is God, then God, (that overwhelmingly powerful force), came not to destroy you, but to build community/relationship with you. Nobody was afraid of Jesus, they were captivated by him.

Jesus broke the traditions of men and healed on the sabbath, because what God wants, really is about a relationship between you and him, and healthy, respectful relationships with others. That’s why Jesus sums up the old testament as love the lord your god with all your heart and love you neighbor as your self.

Having a faith shouldn’t be about other people either. All humanity proves how fracked up we are. Religious or not, we epically fail at love one another as we love our selves. Granted you don’t want to base that one on someone that loathes them self, just saying, but that raises an interesting point. some one in loathe of them self is incapable of sacrifice and love for another.

I was raised in a split religious home. I didn’t like how my mother and her church did religion so I stopped… after a while I realized that I could not escape the fact that in my life, there was control but it was not me. I brought chaos to my life, but there was clearly control and influence. The more I examined all sorts of faiths the more I felt like, there was a supreme controller.

My transition as out of a religion and to a pragmatic testing and eventually trust in a supreme controller.

I re-examined Jesus, not the Jesus of some creep thwacking the bible, but the Jesus of the Bible. Actually I didn’t bother with Jesus at first. I bothered with the God of the old testament, this big, scary, moody good, that after reading, kept providing for a people, and calling them to higher standards, and disciplining them like a good father and them bringing them back to their land and trying over and over to remind them of their relationship with him. But they took the traditions over and forgot the relationship, too.

And then there was Jesus. The God of the old testament was trying to show a warring tribe through what they knew, about himself. But Jesus never declared war on the Romans, The Jews so completely got the traditions down and thought they understood God, So god needed to show them more about who he was. Now He gave a clearer picture of what it really was he wanted, declared war on the concepts that would bring separation in relationships. Adultery, greed, lieing, selfishness, etc.

So long story short, you don’t have to give up on God to move past the BS of people.

Ron_C's avatar

I went to church, catholic grade school, and learned my share of catholic guilt. I found, however, the more I learned about religion, the less I believed. The progression to disbelief was gradual and felt natural. I’ve never lost a minute of sleep because I quit believing in a “sky god”. In fact I feel better because the I don’t have to feel guilty for things I never did and for “thought crimes”. I find the idea of an “original sin” a terrible thing to teach children and refused to do it to my kids.

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