New Rule: When You Lose Your Religion, You must Blog about it.

It is such a common thing to do, it might someday become a rule of etiquette.  If you lose your religion — the religion you grew up in — you must start a blog about it.  If you don’t, you will be accused of bad form!

Yet, regardless of whether it ever becomes a rule that you must blog after losing your religion, some of the best written, most insightful blogs I come across started that way.  And so far as I can see, they frankly outclass most — but not all — of the religious blogs.  Especially if you include in the “losing your religion” category blogs written by people who swapped the religion of their childhood for unaffiliated spirituality.

Maybe the losing your religion blogs are so often powerfully written because losing your religion can be — to put it mildly — disturbing.  And “disturbing” experiences have always been one of the fuels of immediate, fresh, and forceful writing.

So why are people who blog about it losing their religion?  Well, from what I’ve seen, there are two primary reasons.  The first gets the most attention, but — oddly enough — might be the less motivating reason.  Namely, the blogger left because he or she could no longer intellectually accept as true the theology or scriptures of the religion.  Typically, their doubts began to mount until one day some point in particular became the straw that broke the back of their faith.

A second reason — and it seems to me a moving one — is they discovered their religion was repressing them.  That is, if you listen to the bloggers, they are often folks who discovered their religion was not helping them to be who they are, but was actually opposed to who they are.

Maybe they were a strong woman in a patriarchal faith.  Maybe they were a homosexual in a homophobic faith.  Maybe they were an intellectual in a mind-numbing faith.  Or maybe they felt they had a spiritual side that was not only unaddressed by their faith, but actively suppressed by it.  Whatever the reason, they are people who discovered their faith was detrimental to their being authentic.

Both the bloggers who left because they could no longer swallow the theology or scriptures of their faith, and the bloggers who left because they could no longer stomach the spiritual oppression of their faith, have frequently been accused by some of the faithful of being petty and malicious in denouncing their former faiths.

Yet, that strikes me as self-serving.  I think it would be more accurate to say the bloggers are, in some sense, mourning their loss.  If they feel anger towards their old faith, I think that’s usually part of the process of any mourning.   Wasn’t it Kübler-Ross who first pointed out that we typically go through — and all but must go through — an anger phase when we mourn a loss?

Now, my survey is about as scientifically rigorous as a limp noodle, so please take my impressions for what they are  — impressions.   But, if my impressions have any degree of accuracy, then perhaps a significant number of people are leaving religion because they find it fundamentally opposed to them.   Aimed at their heart and minds: They find in religion an aggressor.

34 thoughts on “New Rule: When You Lose Your Religion, You must Blog about it.

  1. What’s interesting to me is how this trend does NOT seem to be the same across all religions and denominations. It’s not common, in other words, to see ex-adherents of many religions blog about their old religion. Mormonism is a very big outlier.

    • I agree that Mormons do a lot of it. At least in my limited experience. But I also run across lots of former Evangelicals who blog. And then some Catholics.

      What I haven’t run across are a lot of Jewish folks who blog about losing their religiosity. And no Hindus, Taoists, Confucians, or Buddhists to speak of. But now and then — albeit rarely — a Muslim.

      Also, my impression is that when liberal Protestants blog about losing their religion, they tend to be in the unaffiliated spiritual camp, rather than the atheist.

      • You haven’t run across a lot of Jewish folks who blog about losing their religiosity? I can take a hint, Paul. I’ll do my best. 🙂

    • If you had, I could have linked to it here as an example. 🙂

      Actually, I thought about using examples, but there are so many blogs about losing one’s religion that I didn’t think examples were all that needed.

  2. I believe that any religion that is oppressive and in various ways damaging to the human spirit — as you pointed out, Paul — requires therapy to recover from. Some of us have to rewire our brains in a very real sense.

    This is especially true for those who were devout in their respective faiths. Not all religions are oppressive or suffocating to the human spirit. Another issue with Mormonism is the deep sense of betrayal that comes from the realization that your trusted religious authorities have been lying to you.

    Great post!

    • From what I see on the blogosphere, CD, the people most likely to blog about losing their faith are the same folks who at one time most devoutly held it.

      And, yeah, I can relate to your point about rewiring your brain. I was raised agnostic, but in a Christian culture. A lot of my own journey has been a matter of seeing beyond the Christianity that sank in when I was a kid. If even I have had to do some rewiring, how much more important must it be for those of us raised in churches?

  3. LOL – There are soooooo many “I lost/left my religion” blogs. I love them. What did people do prior to the internet? How did they connect with others from similar backgrounds? How did they get rid of the angst?

    So much could be said about those who “discovered their religion was not helping them to be who they are, but was actually opposed to who they are.” I may have to write about that over the next few days.

    • I’ve been wondering what people did prior to the internet, too. Especially, since so many people who blog about losing their religion do so anonymously. They are not entirely out of the closet about it because their offline friends and family wouldn’t accept their decision. I suppose before the net, they often enough sucked it up and kept it to themselves.

    • How, indeed, did they get rid of the angst, Kiley? I was a closet atheist through my adolescence. I told exactly two people. The first time, I surprised myself by bursting into tears. Apparently, I was having angst! The second time, my listener said the kindest thing he could, “I think many people are atheists but they are not willing to admit it.” In other words, I was not alone. But I felt alone and I used to think about starting an Atheists Anonymous group. Anonymous, because so many of us were going to get our butts kicked by our families if we ever “came out.” It seems funny now that I’m in my forties. But to teens still living at home, much of the angst is caused by the loneliness.

  4. Great post. It does begin to seem like a requirement doesn’t it? Only if it does start to be the “expected” thing to do, my fellow heretics and I will have to quit — can’t be seen as status quo, you know.

    • If it becomes a requirement, Donna, I’m taking to the streets in protest with my Molotov cocktail (Which will be made out of rubbing alcohol, since I don’t have a car and thus lack any handy gasoline).

    • I respectfully disagree with Paul’s solution. If it becomes a requirement, those of us heretics who don’t have the strength to quit will take to the streets dressed as Lady Godiva. Paul, you can ditch the rubbing alcohol, but please consider contributing sunscreen to the cause.

  5. Frankly, my religious beliefs are rarely fodder for my blog. I am a renegade Catholic who practices her own version of it and it really is not worthy of discussion/censure/abuse.

    That said, I’m going to be interested to see what you have to say!

  6. “Maybe they were a strong woman in a patriarchal faith. Maybe they were a homosexual in a homophobic faith. Maybe they were an intellectual in a mind-numbing faith. Or maybe they felt they had a spiritual side that was not only unaddressed by their faith, but actively suppressed by it. Whatever the reason, they are people who discovered their faith was detrimental to their being authentic.”

    And sometimes, all of the above. Good post, Paul. As usual. Jerk. (:

  7. I disagree with the writer who assumes that the biggest doubters were formerly the loudest religious. Too many factors for such an overgeneralization. Living in different communities
    made all the difference for me. Also, Judaism has such a rich contribution to intellectual life in Western culture Freud, Marx etc that one can easily take God out of Judaism and still live a happy culturally Jewish.

  8. Part of the anguish that makes said blogs so riveting comes from a sense of waste, too. Many ex-religious people sacrificed a great deal for their former faith, and when they discovered that their sacrifices were for nothing, they felt betrayed and used.

    • I think you are right, Ahab. The sense of betrayal seems greatest among those from somewhat “separatist” faiths who demanded phenomenal loyalty in an “us against the world” sort of way. Some of my friends who were formerly Jehovah’s Witnesses comes to mind.

  9. For me writing about it is therapy. I could just write a personal journal, but then I wouldn’t get to share ideas and opinions which would be kind of sad to me. I really enjoy the exchange of ideas, especially when a commenter isn’t in complete agreement with me and it makes me really think about my own reactions and opinions.

    • Interesting! How does the exchange of ideas help with the therapeutic aspect of blogging? Do you ever find what others say allows you to more easily “recover” from fundamentalism?

      • How does the exchange of ideas help with the therapeutic aspect of blogging?

        Having been thoroughly entrenched in fundamentalism and having been so closed minded for so long, it helps for me to open my mind to other people’s ideas. I don’t blindly follow those ideas but the exchange of those ideas does help me to think deeply about my own and what it is I actually think and believe as they present facets of the topic that I’ve never thought of and might have never considered.

        Do you ever find what others say allows you to more easily “recover” from fundamentalism?

        Absolutely. I find other people’s recovery encouraging. Beyond that, people like yourself and Michael Mock who haven’t been so deeply indoctrinated lend a fresh perspective to the conversation and give me a lot of food for thought.

      • Thank you for an interesting take on it, D’Ma. And also for your kind words.

        I hadn’t thought of it until you brought it up, but it now seems obvious to me (the obvious often escapes me, by the way) that a lot of people might be blogging about losing their religion for, among other things, exactly the reason you mention: To get feedback from others.

    • Thanks, QS. But I didn’t mean by that statement that “the biggest doubters were formerly the loudest religious”. I don’t know whether the bloggers I run across were once the loudest religious, or even if they are now the biggest doubters. For all I know the loudest religious never leave their faith, and the biggest doubters never blog. But it is my recollection that I have run across a disproportionate number of bloggers who have described themselves as once being quite devout. That’s all I meant by my statement.

  10. Just discovered your blog through Trove. Enjoying this conversation, especially having just listened to an old episode of On Being, a conversation with Joanna Macy, who translates Rainer Maria Rilke’s work. She started out quoting “Widening Circles.”
    http://being.publicradio.org/programs/2010/wild-love-for-world/poem_widening-circles.shtml (if you’re interested.) It really struck a chord with me. I don’t blog particularly about leaving my religion. I don’t have the nerve. I was such a PUBLIC Christian Scientist, and I didn’t want to hurt friends and family. So I literally left the country to live where no one knew me or what I did. Then I circled round and round — and found that it wasn’t the ideas or principles of Mary Baker Eddy I had a quarrel with, once I separated them from the organizational church culture. I still don’t blog about religion, but ended up writing a book: Virgin Territory: How I Found My Inner Guadalupe. — Which of course convinced one branch of the family that I’d turned Catholic. Sigh. I’m with Rilke:” I still don’t know: am I a falcon, a storm, or a great song?”

    • Hi Susan! I love Rilke! It;s hard to believe there was so much poetry in just one person. So how would you describe yourself today? Are you a believer? A theist? A non-theist? Just curious.

  11. Pingback: “They Find in Religion an Aggressor” « Café Philos: an internet café

  12. Pingback: Link bomb #10 | Main Street Plaza

  13. I very much enjoyed reading your well-researched and thorough document. Thanks for sharing it! Many of your reasons for leaving the church parallel mine, although you have done much more research than I have. As for blogging about my own exit story, I’ve posted it on a few sites where ex-Mormons dwell, but I’m still afraid to post it on my own website for fear of all the rejection I’ll get from family and friends who just don’t understand and don’t want to. If it helps somebody, that would be nice, but I’m afraid in some cases it may do more damage than good. Still, I really want to post it — just so I can feel understood — so maybe in time, I will.

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