So, I’ve been away from writing… Honestly I ran dry on things to say and I’m not one to just put out something to fill the void but I had an inspiration yesterday…
I went to a gathering of people who listen to a certain podcast. I don’t want to name people or even the podcast so as to protect those who might still be in the closet. Including myself there were about 20 people there. This is the first time I’ve been to one of these gatherings and it was very enlightening.
First off, I was the only life-long atheist in the group. Everyone else had de-converted at some point in their life. For some it had been many years but for others it had only been a month or two ago. They all shared the common experience of having been religious at one point. They varied from regular church members to those who had been pastors.
We started off socializing and getting to know each other. I met people from all walks of life there. We exchanged stories and ate and drank. After a period of time the organizers circled up the chairs and we sat down. By chance I was two seats to the right of the main organizer of the meeting. He asked for a direction to start talking and since I didn’t know what I was in for I pointed the other direction so I could get a feel for what was about to happen.
He gave each person at the meeting 2 minutes to talk about how they were doing and where they were in their journey. I listened to a lot of people talk about the pain of de-conversion and where they were mentally and emotionally in the process. I heard stories of marriages strained or broken by the process, others who had escaped bad situations in the churches they’d been in, and others who had dealt with trauma in their families.
Each person told their story with the full support and understanding of those around them. There was something liberating and relieving to them to be able to speak openly about the experiences they were enduring but in many cases could not speak openly about for fear of endangering relationships outside of the group. They were able to get someone to just listen and understand a difficult situation without judgement or hostility.
To me, this drove home the need for people to meet and just be heard. Too often we struggle with our own situations in a vacuum. We are so caught up in our own troubles that we fail to see there are those out there who may be struggling as we are.
The value in gathering in person rather than online is great for those of us who have lost communities we long cherished but lost. For others there is value in finally having a group to belong to. We are social creatures and we need to gather together and be with like-minded individuals. The one area the religious have far outperformed the nonreligious is in gathering and building community. We are only now starting to create groups to gather and rebuild the social circles we lost or never had.
If you are in an area with groups that meet up, reach out and join them. You may be surprised at how important it can be to be around others like you. If there’s not a group in your area, create one. I can attest that believing you’re all alone can be very difficult. You have nobody you can talk to and you can’t tell anyone what you’re going through since you can be judged harshly for admitting to something so antithetical to what they believe.