Feeling guilty about skipping church
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10-01-2016, 12:09 PM
Feeling guilty about skipping church
Hello everyone. I'm a new atheist. But why do I feel guilty for skipping church? I know my parents would just LOVE it if I went every Sunday. I feel uncomfortable in a church. Sometimes I think I'm making myself feel guilty. I think that I judge myself. I think that me skipping church is wrong and I think that's what my parents would think. So in a way I am judging myself. I know they would like it if I went to church. But why do I think it's wrong if I don't go? I don't think it's wrong if I don't go. Then why do I feel guilty? I always obsess when Sunday rolls around. When I lived with my ex I didn't go to church for 2.5 years. I felt guilty at first but it slowly went away. When I moved in with my parents it came back. Ugh. Do you have any advice on how I can stop judging myself? Did any of you go through this when you lived with your parents?

To the mods I didn't know where to put this. If you could please move it to the right category. Thank you.
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10-01-2016, 12:12 PM
RE: Feeling guilty about skipping church
It sounds to me like you are feeling guilty about not doing something your parents want you to do.

Maybe if you work through that issue with them you can let the 'guilt' about not going to church go again too. Or perhaps it will be a non-issue when you are out on your own again.

See here they are the bruises some were self-inflicted and some showed up along the way. - JF

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10-01-2016, 12:19 PM
RE: Feeling guilty about skipping church
You're not feeling guilty about attending church, you're feeling guilty because you're not adhering to your perceived social norms vis-à-vis your parents. You think your parents would be happy to see you there, and you're most likely right, and thus you feel bad because you're not meeting their expectations.

Ultimately, if you don't believe and are getting nothing out of it, it's up to you to determine whether or not doing it for them is worth it. Have you talked to them? Are you open and honest with them about your lack of faith? Do they honestly know that if you were to show up, it would be nothing more than a facade to placate them? If they don't know, what do you think their reaction would be?

If you're being honest with yourself and don't enjoy going, then don't go. If you do go just for their sake, do they know it's a show, and is it worth it? Only you can answer these questions, because only you can be you and have to deal with the consequences of your actions. I hope that you're in a secure enough place with your parents that you can be open and honest with them, and they love you and respect your decision to not put on an obvious show for their benefit. If everyone knows you're faking it, one would hope that they understand just how shallow such a ritual becomes.

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10-01-2016, 12:25 PM
RE: Feeling guilty about skipping church
I think when you are a new atheist, it's common to struggle with guilt over things because that is what you have been programmed by the church and by religion to do. From your posts, it also seems like you have a hard time separating yourself from your parents, even though you are an adult. Your parents are not going to agree with every decision you make and that's okay. Just like you are not going to agree with every decision they make. You ultimately have to do what's right for you.

On the flip side, if you want to go to church because you want to make your mom happy and that in turn, makes you happy--then by all means go to church. I am an atheist and I still go to church with my mom sometimes on holidays. It makes her happy to have the whole family together and doing things like that for the holidays. I also find the Bible to be rich in literature, so to me I view it like a book club. There's nothing stopping you from going to church if you want to go just because you are an atheist.
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10-01-2016, 12:25 PM
RE: Feeling guilty about skipping church
I think some of it may be because people are trained to think going to church is not just a good for you but also a giving thing, giving back to your community.

Is there some way you could do some good for your community that would replace the feeling of guilt with feel that you contribute in another way? A charity, volunteer at a animal shelter, volunteer work at a women's shelter thrift store, food bank, homeless shelter or something.

I teach ESL and the GED test classes and donate to my local animal shelter... things like cat litter, bleach for cleaning and pet toys. This way I contribute regularly and a real benefit is shared.

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10-01-2016, 12:30 PM
RE: Feeling guilty about skipping church
It's a habit. You'll grow out of it, and get over it. Find something else to do.
Serve lunch at the local "loaves and fishes" or Salvation Army or shelter, .... find a replacement community. If it's the music, find a replacement. The things you really liked about it, are not unique to "church". Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what they were, and what the best replacements are.

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10-01-2016, 12:44 PM
RE: Feeling guilty about skipping church
(10-01-2016 12:19 PM)EvolutionKills Wrote:  You're not feeling guilty about attending church, you're feeling guilty because you're not adhering to your perceived social norms vis-à-vis your parents. You think your parents would be happy to see you there, and you're most likely right, and thus you feel bad because you're not meeting their expectations.

Ultimately, if you don't believe and are getting nothing out of it, it's up to you to determine whether or not doing it for them is worth it. Have you talked to them? Are you open and honest with them about your lack of faith? Do they honestly know that if you were to show up, it would be nothing more than a facade to placate them? If they don't know, what do you think their reaction would be?

If you're being honest with yourself and don't enjoy going, then don't go. If you do go just for their sake, do they know it's a show, and is it worth it? Only you can answer these questions, because only you can be you and have to deal with the consequences of your actions. I hope that you're in a secure enough place with your parents that you can be open and honest with them, and they love you and respect your decision to not put on an obvious show for their benefit. If everyone knows you're faking it, one would hope that they understand just how shallow such a ritual becomes.

To answer your questions, the only thing they know is that I have doubts about God. That's all they know. They don't know that I lost complete faith in his existence. I don't think I could tell them because it would break their hearts. I guess that goes up to living up to their expectations. But to be honest, it's not all about their high standards for my life. It's all about me and what makes me happy. I know it sounds selfish. But I am not here to please them. Don't get me wrong I love them a ton. It's hard to please everyone. I pretend to be a Christian because I don't want to hurt their feelings. It would be awkward living with them if they knew. I don't want my dad to spiral into depression just because his daughter doesn't believe. I don't want the same for my step mom or family. So I just put on a show. Sometimes I hate when my dad says "You should be thanking God." It really bothers me. But when I move out I wont have to please them anymore. I don't think it's worth it to go to church just for them. I hate going to church to be honest. I'd rather sleep in. What with my new job I'm required to work every other weekends so I get out of it because of work. Is there any way I can stop beating myself up over this?

I have tried volunteering before. I dropped out of it because of lack of motivation. I have depression. I had it the worst when I was a Christian. But it slowly died down. I still get it from time to time. But not as much.

@Bucky Ball, I hope that I grow out of it. When I was away from my parents it didn't bother me. But now that I'm living with my parents it bothers me.

I'm going to do some thinking on this issue. Thank you everyone for your help.
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10-01-2016, 02:05 PM
RE: Feeling guilty about skipping church
We all have to find some kind of balance between doing things for our personal reasons and doing things for other people's reasons.

Going to church would mean you spare your family's feelings, and maybe preserve some other social ties, but also it can be a betrayal of your own ideas. Also, the church experience has become unpleasant and annoying to you, so by going you increase your personal unhappiness but keep the family peace. Which is more important? There's no right or wrong answer, but any answer you choose will have costs.

Not going to church would mean you are rejecting your old beliefs, and that you're not supporting the church even passively, but will probably lead to more family strife, plus you haven't yet figured out a fully satisfactory replacement for the time. It increases your personal happiness but might decrease the family peace. Which is more important?

I think the guilt arises out of the realization that no matter what you do, someone is likely to feel upset/hurt. Eventually I'm sure you'll make a good decision about what to do.

In your shoes, my decision would reflect how much longer I expected to be living at home. If just a little while, I'd probably go to church. If I was going to be staying at home for longer, I would stop going to church.
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10-01-2016, 06:56 PM
RE: Feeling guilty about skipping church
(10-01-2016 02:05 PM)julep Wrote:  We all have to find some kind of balance between doing things for our personal reasons and doing things for other people's reasons.

Going to church would mean you spare your family's feelings, and maybe preserve some other social ties, but also it can be a betrayal of your own ideas. Also, the church experience has become unpleasant and annoying to you, so by going you increase your personal unhappiness but keep the family peace. Which is more important? There's no right or wrong answer, but any answer you choose will have costs.

Not going to church would mean you are rejecting your old beliefs, and that you're not supporting the church even passively, but will probably lead to more family strife, plus you haven't yet figured out a fully satisfactory replacement for the time. It increases your personal happiness but might decrease the family peace. Which is more important?

I think the guilt arises out of the realization that no matter what you do, someone is likely to feel upset/hurt. Eventually I'm sure you'll make a good decision about what to do.

In your shoes, my decision would reflect how much longer I expected to be living at home. If just a little while, I'd probably go to church. If I was going to be staying at home for longer, I would stop going to church.

I have plans to move out sometime this year. I'd like to move out in the summer time. I would like to get subsidized housing. I can't afford regular rent as I don't make much money. For the time being I am stuck at home until I can move out and live on my own. I don't know which is more important. My family peace, or my happiness. Can't I have both? When I was living on my own it was so much easier. I didn't have to deal with it then. Maybe I need to deal with these feelings. I surpress(sp?) my feelings. Then when I don't deal with them I obsess.

I don't like going to church. Even when my mom was a live I started not liking it. I have a story to tell that deals with this issue. We went to this church my whole life. Then the church board decided they didn't want the pastor there anymore. So they kicked out. Then the church got a new pastor. I didn't like him at all. He changed everything. He changed the worship teams. I was on the worship team. I played flute and piano. Anyway, he made 3 groups of worship teams. He rotated them each Sunday. I didn't like that at all. Then my parents decide to leave that church. Ever since then I didn't like going to church. I guess that's why I have a hard time going to church. But since I found out my new beliefs I just don't want to go anymore. It's always so hard for me going to church because it's not the same as my old church. I don't sing or worship anymore. I always thought it was because I only worshiped with instruments. But that's not the case. Sorry it's so long. I thought that story might help you guys see this differently.
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10-01-2016, 09:52 PM
RE: Feeling guilty about skipping church
I can relate. I haven't been going to church for about 6 months now, and I still feel a little guilty from time to time, but it's not nearly as bad as it was at first. I don't live with my parents, though, but I do live with my brother and sister-in-law (who go to the same church as my parents).

While I think that others were right when they said you're probably feeling guilty about going against your parents' wishes and ideals and not about not going to church itself, I'll try to answer your question from my experience.

(10-01-2016 12:09 PM)musicharmony87 Wrote:  Do you have any advice on how I can stop judging myself? Did any of you go through this when you lived with your parents?

For me I stopped feeling guilty about not going when I started focusing on a few things:

-The beliefs of the preacher and the church that I find disgusting or harmful. Every time the preacher talked about hell, or homosexuality, or atheists, or pseudo-science, or gender roles, or promoted brainwashing kids as soon as possible, etcetera, I would lose a little more motivation to keep going and a little more guilt about not going.

-How much time I was wasting. Going to church twice a day on Sunday is such a time sink. If I still had lots of friends at church, I might be more inclined to put up with the two or three hours of service for the socialization, but all the friends I grew up with either went to other churches, moved away, or drifted apart. So I was essentially just going to appease my family, with whom I could spend plenty of time outside of church. Having two whole days on the weekend is so great after over two decades of church-going.

-Avoiding the people. I didn't have a bad childhood, and I enjoyed my time in the church for the most part. But seeing all the people I grew up with in the context of being a believer only made me feel sadly nostalgic. I don't see me ever rekindling all those relationships as a non-believer, so better just to move on, I think
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