Ending a relationship…

Not actually me.

I used to be a religious man. I was a Christian; a Catholic to be precise. I did my best to read the bible. I enjoyed the community of ritual. I even entered seminary for a brief time. I wasn’t perfect; far from it. But I tried, and repented, and tried again. When I was young, it was easy to believe. As I got older, I began to struggle with dualism and dogmatic concepts. My religious views said one thing. My rational mind said others.

Recently, a friend of mind told me that the Church was making it very hard to be a believer. In fact, he was considering Atheism. I told him that was a ballsy move. It was a similar statement of belief in an un-provable objective truth. He countered that the Church was making a good case for him leaning on the atheist end of agnosticism.

I found this to be a much better statement. And a true one.

Subtle, right?

For the last 5 years I have been struggling in much the same way. I would go to Christian services, but I could no longer say the words. I felt like a liar when asked to repeat the Apostles’ Creed or to sing the Gloria. It felt wrong to go through words and motions I no longer felt and no longer believed. Trust me, I tried to believe. I WANTED to believe.

It was sad.

It was like the end of a relationship where you hang on, not because you want to, but because you feel you have no choice. What would my family think? What about my friends? What about my church community? There was no more love. No more commitment. No more emotion. Just guilt and shame. And more guilt. And more shame.

yeah… it’s a hard sell…

But I had run into the same issue my friend had. The Church had made it too easy to lean on the atheist side of agnosticism. Not just because of the hypocrisy in the patriarchal leadership, sex abuse scandals, or outdated views on human sexuality. I had serious doubts regarding trinitarianism, the nature/concept of sin, transubstantiation/consubstantiation, and the existence of an afterlife. For those unchurched, these are foundational beliefs for any Christian. If you don’t believe in them, you are not part of the club. You are what people lovingly refer to as an apostate.

 

And then they damn you to hell.

Why won’t you just love me?!?!

I no longer believe in such things. But it still hurts. People who I love, because of their faith, are confident that I am going to burn in fire and torment for eternity. It doesn’t matter how much good I do in my lifetime, how much peace and love and reconciliation I bring to others, or how many good deeds I do. Because I am no longer a believer, I am going to hell.

This bothers me because these are the same people who say they love me. They BELIEVE I am so wrong and so flawed that I would deserve eternal damnation. Then they say, “But I don’t want you to go to hell. It’s just the truth. I’ll pray for you.”

That’s like a southern person saying, “Bless her heart.”

Trust me, that’s not what they’re really saying.

non religious does not mean non spiritual

So I do the only thing I can do. I forgive them. Just because I am no longer a religious man, does not mean I am no longer a spiritual man. My experience tells me I have emotional connections and responses not only to other human beings, but to my community and world. I find inspiration, beauty and joy in the mundane. I still encounter the peak experience. I have a need to explore what it means to be human. I recognize that there is an extra dimension to my existence, and I want to investigate what that is with a rational mind and an open heart.

I have found a church and community that encourages this. Unitarian Universalism.

These are their beliefs:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Much like a new relationship, it’s all sparkles and rainbows. It’ll be hard getting over my ex. But it’s time to move on. I’ll let you all know how things work out for the long haul. But at least I’m moving forward.

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About Justin Almeida

Coffee roaster, beer brewer, spirit distiller, capsaicin addict, active activist, peaceful warrior.
This entry was posted in Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Ending a relationship…

  1. Carla says:

    I’ve been having the same issue with wanting to believe but having a hard time doing it because my rational mind is just not buying it anymore. 😦

  2. Julie Gallagher says:

    Way to go Justin!!!

  3. Nothing wrong with doing what you’re doing. I come from a very religious family myself, though as time goes by most of us seem to be less and less religious. Except for my brother that is, who also entered the seminary, and who is now a priest.
    I’m glad you didn’t go through with it because I agree that the church is a hard act to swallow.

    What does Unitarian Universalism worship? Or rather, who?
    I’m curious how this fits into your life because the only steps I was able to take was to get as far and quickly away from religions (any religions) as I could.

    Congrats on the FP and keep up the good writing.

    • UU (Unitarian Universalism) isn’t concerned with worshiping a “what” or a “who”, It is concerned with individual spiritual pursuits, interactive and engaged communities, and environmental respect and interconnectedness. It would definitely give it a look… it’s very different from what I was raised with.

      Keep searching! 🙂

      • Wow. thanks for the add. I wasn’t expecting that. I’ll look into UU one of these days, but I have to admit, anything that reeks of anything religious or spiritual scares me. Quite a bit. Nevertheless, I’ll keep on searching, because learning and living are what life is all about. What better challenge, what better adventure, right?

      • Truth. 🙂

        I added your blog because it really reminds me of my time overseas in Eastern Europe. So few people get it sometimes. lol

  4. I’m a second generation Atheist. I never had to make the decision to “break up” with a church as my parents both did. I merely had to decide that I didn’t want to get involved with a church in the first place.

    I remember a period of time in my teens where I questioned my atheism. Where I entertained ideas that maybe there was something more, but I abandoned these musings with age as they began to feel more and more like the wishing of a child that fairies were real.

    Later I went through a period of evangelical atheism, to phrase it in the words of the immortal Douglas Adams. I wanted to tell every religious person I met how stupid their faith was. How contradictory and arbitrary it all was. How, though it is impossible to prove a negative, their faith was so unlikely and illogical that it just couldn’t possibly be right. This attitude won me few friends.

    Now I am solidly an adult at age 34. My views have mellowed. I’m still very firmly an atheist. But I’ve accepted that the religious believe because they want to believe. Not because logic supports their belief. They get something out of their faith that I just don’t understand and probably never will. It’s something that cannot be swayed by argument or facts. Much as I want to shake them and demand that they stop being stupid, I no longer even argue about it. Because I know they won’t listen. It is what it is.

    Sometimes it feels like my family is out here alone. The only atheists in a sea of religious. It’s unsettling to hear some religious person talking about how, not only are atheists damned to hell unless they repent, but atheists are also generally depraved and immoral in their behavior. I can’t help thinking that these people don’t actually know any atheists, or at least none that will admit to it in mixed company.

    But I know we’re not alone. We’re a minority, but we’re around. And to you I say, don’t ever be ashamed not to believe.

    • Bravo! It is hard to be a minority in any sense; but personal actions and deeds can go a long way into changing people’s minds. We’re all together in this; believers and non-believers.

  5. LucridLucifel says:

    I totally feel you on this. I went through my painful “breakup” with my faith. I’m an atheist now and feel more comfortable in my shoes. It was hard to remain in something I lost my heart with. But, as time goes on, it’ll get easier. It was a big part of your life, it’s not that easy to just forget over night. Be strong, it’ll get better.

  6. I know exactly what you’re talking about. I was born and raised Catholic and spent 15 years in Catholic school, but I was never able to grasp the abstract concept of God and I never felt right repeating creeds or singing. At eighteen, when I went off to college, church became a choice and though I tried, I knew I didn’t belong. It’s so difficult to break away and it took me about two years to feel completely at peace with the idea, though my family is still not pleased. Like yourself, I would consider myself spiritual and seeking (I now connect with Secular Humanism, which sounds much like Unitarian Universalism) and I think that process of shaping your own beliefs and accepting what resonates while reject what doesn’t is a beautiful process and a far more fulfilling that blindly accepting the ideas of your parents. Great post, and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  7. ikatpillowtalk says:

    Hmm, i’m very intrigued by your posts so far 😉

    First of all, good on ya for sticking to your own morals and values no matter what people think or say.

    Seriously?? You’re going to “hell”? Bless their little hearts.

    So i’m just curious – do you believe that it’s necessary to be part of a religious/spiritual group to feel…accepted? understood? safe?

    I’m technically catholic, but i don’t practice. I don’t think I ever did. Don’t get me wrong, i went to church as a kid, but even then, I was skeptical and resistant. Something about “religion” just didn’t seem legit. After all, who are we to say that we know why we are here and who created us? Really! How arrogant is that?? “But the world is a scary place if we don’t believe in something!” They exclaim. Well, what if we started accepting the fact that we don’t know everything and that it’s perfectly ok…there is beauty in being at peace with that. Actually, I have found a greater sense of spirituality once I stopped trying to figure out what I should believe in. It doesn’t mean I don’t believe in anything – i have a high sense of intuition which baffles me and freaks me out at times (premonition dreams, psychic abilities, divine experiences). What gets to me is that I don’t understand it. I don’t know why it happens or how. But I let it be and respect it because it’s part of who I am.

    “Ride the wave and let go of the reigns” a psychic once told me. Just have faith. Just be. 😉

  8. Chris says:

    Hey, that’s how I ended up UU.

    Welcome, good luck, and may you find where you need to be 🙂

  9. Pingback: Zero(ish) to Hero(ish) | What's My Age Again?

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