Looking Back & Moving Forward
There was once a time when I practically hated all things religious and all things spiritual. I was angry and bitter after spending the first 20 or so years of my life in fundamental Christianity. The day the blindfold came off, I began realizing the many the things I had learned, seen, been part of, and had done to me that were wrong. The lies, the imposed guilt, the many options I should have had but didn’t because of my upbringing. The many evils done in the name of my former religion that had been swept under the rug by fellow Christians. So very many things crossed my mind and fueled my anger.
As I look back, I realize my anger was one of the five steps of loss and grief. The five stages are denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (I pulled my list and quote from this site). They don’t necessarily occur in a specific order and you can move through them several times. I’m going to list the stages in the order that I experienced them.
Before I officially renounced my faith, I went through the first stage of denial and isolation. “Block out the words and hide from the facts” is used to describe this stage. I think I was going through that first step long before I realized I was coming to the end of the road with fundamental Christianity. I was in a state of denial for a large portion of my thinking years, it just took me awhile to realize it and then figure out what to do with it. Indoctrination does that, though.
The fourth stage is depression. I experienced this stage as I questioned my beliefs, as I experienced the confusion of denial, as I worked through the anger, and later as I worried about what I could have done differently. In short, I experienced it simultaneously or directly after all but one stage of loss and grief (acceptance).
Once I left, anger hit and burnt passionately for several months. Anger is the second stage and is the stage that took me the longest to work through. I still get riled up from time to time, but seem to have moved away from it as a stage.
I experienced the third stage (bargaining) several times, but usually went through it quickly. I can recall many horrible, stupid things I did because I thought I was supposed to… all because the Bible or a spiritual leader said so. Had I not had the fundamentalist indoctrination, I believe I would have acted differently, because I’m really not a bad person. My mind has obsessed over what I did wrong and what I should have done instead. I should have seen through the lies long before I did. I should have been braver. And on and on the list in my head goes.
The fifth stage is acceptance. I thought I had reached this stage a few months ago, but have recently realized that it is now that I am truly experiencing it. I am accepting of my upbringing. I am accepting of what my past was. Perhaps most importantly, I am accepting of religion. Rather than having a blanket disregard or hate of religion, I hate how it can be used to abuse people; that will never change. I’m not proud of the opinion I held of religion for so long, but I understand why I felt that way. I’m very happy to have moved past the anger. I plan on writing about this newfound acceptance in more depth at some point.
I suppose you might be wondering why I was working through stages of loss and grief. What did I have to mourn, after all? I mourn the loss of so many normal, healthy things that most people take for granted. I mourn the things I never did. I mourn many things that I did do. I mourn the loss of whatever it is that indoctrination takes away from its victims/adherents/slaves. I mourn a lot of things. But I’m now able to accept those things and move forward. I’ve rediscovered my fascination for mythology. I’ve found beauty in the religions of the world where before I only saw enslavement and pain. I’ve begun to feel more comfortable with the concept of picking up a new “religion” and allowing myself to explore it without shame. This is certainly the way forward!