Is it normal to relapse?
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19-11-2015, 12:59 PM
Is it normal to relapse?
I had another instance where I felt like going back to religion. I'd really like to tell you all about it.

My crisis these last few years has been about my own identity, and going through identity confusion, trying to resolve who I am, what I want, and who I want to be. In terms of social work theory, this is totally normal and expected. Also in terms of faith development, I'm where I should be (according to Fowler's theory). My "Human Behavior and the Social Environment" textbook has actually been very helpful in my quest to understand myself - I love my field because it marries psychology and sociology so very well.

I went antiquing the other day with a friend of mine, a transgender woman converting to Judaism. She gave me her rationale for believing in God, and her philosophy went way over my head.

I left that conversation feeling like I don't know what I'm talking about, and that there must be a god because people wiser than me think so.

When we went into one antique store, I couldn't help myself and bought this old Portuguese photo of one of the apparitions of the virgin mary my grandmother told me about when I was little. I find that religious objects are very triggering for me.

The next day, I went to church. I said the prayers, ate the wafer, and felt good. I felt like I was connected to my heritage, and that I was doing something I knew my culture approved of. I put a picture of the sun rising behind the Church up on FB. I posted a comment that went something like "God better be real, because I got up at 5am to be here this morning". My friends all liked it, people posted "glad you went", and I got tremendous approval from my friends and family.

I spoke to my (totally irreligious) mother on the phone. I told her that I just wasn't sure God was real, but that I didn't think I could ever know, to which she enthusiastically replied "Oh, he is." I wanted to throw my phone at the wall.

I'm really struggling. I like the approval I get from others when I identify as religious. But as always, I don't actually believe any of it. Even though sometimes I really want to, I don't believe it. Any of it.

I'm so frustrated with myself. I'd been "clean" of religion for so long. I began to think about what it would be like to lead a religious life, to go to a religious school for grad school, and things like that.

Then I began to slip backwards. If this is absolute truth, then I must believe in it, whether I like it or not. I must be celibate (I'm gay), I must join a religious order and be a monk so I'm not lonely, etc.

Then I thought myself out of it. I don't actually believe in it, but I like identifying with religion because it's culturally significant to me. But that leads to confusing places for me right now.

If only my community wasn't so uncomfortable at the idea of atheism and so affirming of religion.

Even with my new position (working in grief counseling), I had to pretend to believe in God because my supervisor is religious and constantly talks about God.

I am an Atheist. But I like to think of myself as Awake. I don't ever want to fall asleep again - but I almost did.

Tell me, is relapse normal?

People sometimes tell me I should just make up my mind. If only it was that simple!
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19-11-2015, 01:10 PM
RE: Is it normal to relapse?
Normal???

I had a teacher in high school who claimed that the only "normal" kid was one who lies, steals, cheats and masturbates......

....

That aside....

YOUR normal, is normal... For you anyway.

Don't try being somebody else.

.....

.......................................

The difference between prayer and masturbation - is when a guy is through masturbating - he has something to show for his efforts.
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19-11-2015, 01:11 PM
RE: Is it normal to relapse?
I think relapses are normal. Especially as you mention, when religion is a part of your family and community. It also brings you some good feelings as well. There are some good parts to religion. But as with anything, I think it is important to remember the bad parts. I think weighing all of that will help you figure out your philosophy on life.

I am an atheist, I was raised Catholic and I later became Christian on my own. Most of my friends and family are still religious. That can be a very isolating feeling at times, so I totally get where you are coming from.

The way I deal with it is not to live in the black and white, the either or the or. I live in the gray. What I mean is this: I don't believe in any religion. I don't believe in any god. I don't pray. But I do celebrate Christian holidays and go to church on occasion with my friends and family. Just because you're an atheist doesn't mean you can't still do these things and take part in these things if you still want to.
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19-11-2015, 01:12 PM
Is it normal to relapse?
I'm no expert, but I think it is. In many ways, the social aspect of religion is overwhelming. As you mentioned, even becoming a monk was because of loneliness. For many theists turned atheists, being ostracized is a reality.

For me, my research was what started my path to atheism. Even when I had doubts, I researched even more. I kept notes, wrote way too much about religion, spoke to others, and even went into mysticism. I was so sure I had missed something.

Maybe you still believe. We have a member here who went back to religion.

It's your path and your journey. Your steps and your slides.
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19-11-2015, 01:23 PM
RE: Is it normal to relapse?
You may want to read this book in full to better understand the implications.


"In The Human Story: A New History of Mankind’s Evolution (2004), evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar considers alternate reasons for attending religious rituals. I highly recommend this clearly written and well research, yet succinct book.

Dunbar is not stridently anti-religion in the mold of Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. He clearly recognizes, for instance, that

religious people in general do suffer less frequently than non-religious folk from both physical and mental disease; moreover, when they do go down with something, religious people recover more rapidly from both the disease and any invasive treatment (such as a surgical operation or chemotherapy).

(p. 172). Dunbar also recognizes that religious beliefs “undoubtedly introduces a profound sense of comfort in the face of adversity.” To what, then, does he attribute the participation in religious rituals? Endorphins.

Many religious activities emphasize the infliction of physical pain and stress.

These include fasting, dancing or other rhythmic movements . . . flagellation and the painful tasks imposed on pilgrims . . . (such as long periods of sitting motionless) . . . painful or stressful initiation rites in many tribal societies, communal singings (especially the tonally deep sustained forms that are typical of chanting, but also the lusty singing of hymns in the more evangelical traditions of Christianity), the intense rhythmically repetitive singing of the qawwali tradition in Sufi Islam, the long hours spent locked in services, the emotional rollercoaster induced by all the best charismatic preachers . . . The list could go on and on.

(p. 173). Dunbar has determined that each of these ritualistic practices imposes “low but persistent levels of stress on the body, and it is precisely this kind of persistent low-level stress that is particularly effective at stimulating the production of endorphins.” This endorphin system is designed to allow us to cope with “long-running stresses on the body,” such as stresses experienced by long-distance runners. The endorphin system is so effective that many runners get addicted to it. If deprived of running, they become irritable. Ever notice the twitchiness in a believer deprived of church?

Dunbar suggests that religious practices are designed to “give us that opioid kick that makes us feel so much better able to cope with the vagaries of the world and, perhaps just as important, so much more at peace with our neighbors.” There is also evidence that regularly stimulating the endorphin system activates the immune system, thus protecting the body.”

http://dangerousintersection.org/2006/06...ndorphins/

“I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man’s reasoning powers are not above the monkey’s.”~Mark Twain
“Ocean: A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man - who has no gills.”~ Ambrose Bierce
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19-11-2015, 02:20 PM
RE: Is it normal to relapse?
Thank you all very much.

I was thinking, and I also wanted to share that I'm offended when religious people tell me "I could never choose to be an atheist" when reacting to my atheism. I don't feel I have a choice. I can only believe in what I see as objective truth. I really wish god was real, and I wish there was a religion that offered some kind of salvation after death.

I want God to be real so much that sometimes I break down into tears over it. But my wanting a God doesn't make it so. I want to believe truth, even if it is uncomfortable. I just wish people would understand that.
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19-11-2015, 02:26 PM
RE: Is it normal to relapse?
(19-11-2015 02:20 PM)FreeThinker1994 Wrote:  Thank you all very much.

I was thinking, and I also wanted to share that I'm offended when religious people tell me "I could never choose to be an atheist" when reacting to my atheism. I don't feel I have a choice. I can only believe in what I see as objective truth. I really wish god was real, and I wish there was a religion that offered some kind of salvation after death.

I want God to be real so much that sometimes I break down into tears over it. But my wanting a God doesn't make it so. I want to believe truth, even if it is uncomfortable. I just wish people would understand that.

It's not a choice for me. I couldn't make myself believe if my life depended on it.

[Image: dobie.png]Science is the process we've designed to be responsible for generating our best guess as to what the fuck is going on. Girly Man
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19-11-2015, 02:26 PM
RE: Is it normal to relapse?
Yeah I went back and forth for a long while.


But as if to knock me down, reality came around
And without so much as a mere touch, cut me into little pieces

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19-11-2015, 02:47 PM
RE: Is it normal to relapse?
When I stopped believing, I didn't go back to it, but I don't think there is anything abnormal in your experience. Religion provides a strong social system, and it can be tough to find a set of activities and social ties that are as strong.
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19-11-2015, 03:00 PM (This post was last modified: 20-11-2015 09:03 AM by Iñigo.)
RE: Is it normal to relapse?
It doesn't sound to me like you are relapsing at all when you say things like "I actually don't believe any of it". Your "relapse" behaviors look more like seeking social acceptance and seeking positive social feedback which is completely understandable since it isn't easy being a gay atheist. Don't beat yourself up over it. You are a good person who needs love and belonging just like everyone else does and it is easy to get that (at least superficially) by invoking religion.
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