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Gobbles

How to start believing?

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Happy
Gobbles

This is really difficult typing it all out, just writing the title felt weird. But here we go:

I consider myself a liberal atheist. Meaning I do not believe in God, but I don't care what everyone else does or rather, I support liberal religions/people who choose to believe. I'm definitely not agnostic because I think believing that God made the world in seven days is - sorry - bullshit. It always baffled me when I saw supposedly religious people cry at funerals. In my understanding you see them again in heaven and I did notice that at some funerals people were not totally unhappy and the wording of the obituary was also different. Like "the body will be buried vs. the casket will be buried". I was told that those people think that the person is already with God so, they only bury a unimportant shell. Again, I try to explain it, but given that English ins't my mother tongue and the topic makes it extra hard.

My personal situation is that once my parents die, as of now, I will be alone. Completely alone, no relatives, no friends. I'm Autistic, so I need a bit more support than other adults and it also explains my lack of social contacts. That situation makes me extremely sad every now and then. Now if I would believe in God, the fact that I loose my parents one day wouldn't be that hard because I would see them again in heaven. (And everyone else.) That thinking sounds child like, I know, but it is what I feel.

Adding basic (idiotic?) logic leaves me at needing to start to believe in God/heaven to make me feel better about the future. (I get that finding friends would help as well, but like I said, I think believing is easier than that.) How do you start with a religion? How did you start to believe when you were atheist first?

Please be kind, I know that I might sound pretty "dumb" or whatever for religious people. I'm just looking for something to help me.

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singsingsing

Oh @Gobbles, you don't sound "dumb" at all. Everything you're describing is so natural and common. Most people fear death or at least feel uneasy about it, miss their loved ones when they're gone, and fear being alone. Religion helps some people come to terms with these things, but it's not necessary. It's hard to just start 'believing' if you're an atheist. I don't think you can make yourself believe in God if your only reason for doing so is wanting to believe that you'll see your loved ones after you die. It doesn't really work like that. You'd always know that you were faking it, you know what I mean?

A few points...

28 minutes ago, Gobbles said:

I'm definitely not agnostic because I think believing that God made the world in seven days is - sorry - bullshit.

Being agnostic simple means that you don't know whether God exists or not. Most religious people don't even believe that God made the world in seven literal days. Agnostics certainly don't.

You're absolutely right that finding friends, or some kind of community connection/support system, would also help you with these feelings. It might actually be easier than trying to force yourself to believe in God when you don't.

That said, if you're interested in God, religion, and/or spirituality, please consider that there's a huge variety when it comes to religion and different belief systems. Most religious people aren't like the Duggars. Maybe try visiting a liberal Christian church and see if you like it? Are there any Unitarian Universalists near you? You could also look into other philosophies like Buddhism, nature religions, or just create a form of spirituality that works for you. Lots of people are spiritual without being religious, and lots of people believe in a higher power without believing in the God of any particular religion.

You might like to read about near death experiences and other related phenomena - many people believe that these constitute proof of an afterlife (I'm not giving my own judgment, just pointing out the existence of those stories/beliefs). There are also people who believe that we all come from one source and return to that source when we die, so in that sense we are reunited with our loved ones, whether consciously or not. And of course there are many, many atheists who don't believe in any kind of higher power or any kind of afterlife but reconcile themselves to death simply being the end of consciousness and lead very happy and fulfilled lives.

Just know that you're not alone in this - it's something that many, maybe even most people struggle with at least at some time or another during their lives. I hope you find what works for you. :) 

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Happy
Gobbles
24 minutes ago, singsingsing said:

You'd always know that you were faking it, you know what I mean?

Of course I know. I was hoping a "fake it til you make it" approach would be helpful. A little bit over ten years ago I was in a hospital against my will. I was so devastated that I started to pray. I stopped after the situation was over, but during that time it felt completely natural.

27 minutes ago, singsingsing said:

Maybe try visiting a liberal Christian church and see if you like it? Are there any Unitarian Universalists near you? You could also look into other philosophies like Buddhism, nature religions, or just create a form of spirituality that works for you.

Thing is that I think we don't have that much variety with churches in Germany. Based on my knowledge we have the two huge churches (catholic/protestant) and the smaller branches of those two who are most of the time much more conservative. I just did a quick search and found a Unitarian Universalist church in Berlin (too far away) and their newest entry was from 2016. We have a lot of US army people around here, so there might be more groups with them. At least I overheard some of them talking about churches and saw those young men on mission going in and out of the barracks.

I am a member of our local church here. Although this isn't something special. Everyone I know is, but most of them don't believe and like I only go to church on Christmas or baptisms. Confirmation (or the Catholic equivalent) are like high school graduation. A normal thing to do when you grow up. The religious background isn't important at all. I had a friend who was a member of a smaller branch of protestants and she refused to be confirmed with us, because it was not the real deal. 

You have either the normal church with 95% older people (talking 75+) or the smaller branches with the too religious folks. Other churches or versions of believe are basically unknown. In other parts of the city you have a bigger % of muslims, but not here. 

42 minutes ago, singsingsing said:

Just know that you're not alone in this - it's something that many, maybe even most people struggle with at least at some time or another during their lives.

I know. Looking around I only see the people with as huge social circle, huge families and whatnot. People like me are more hidden away I guess.

There is always the option of keeping pets as well. That is what keeps me going when I'm down. 

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jjmennonite

Big hugs. Another non-believer here. I'm pretty sure you need friends more than you need religion, but it's pretty brutal to socialize when you have issues that make it hard to socialize. I don't know what to suggest, as a way to find a community. But you're not alone. 

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Bethella

@Gobbles I don't know how to tell you how to start believing. I was raised in a Protestant Church, so it was always a part of my life. As I have gotten older though, my beliefs have evolved to the point where I choose to believe. I know that God as described by many religions is not the most logical belief but when I look at the world around me, I see a world that is so complex and amazing that it can't believe that it just happened by chance- basically intelligent design. 

I believe that there may or may not have been a historical figure named Jesus of Nazareth, but that the teachings ascribed to him- mercy, love, repentance, and good deeds are all things that can make you a better person, whether you're Christian or not. Although maybe a better way to describe repentance is admitting you were wrong and trying to do better in the future. I try to take the good parts and leave the bad (judgement. condemnation, scrupulosity...).

If you're looking for friends or a community, even though you don't believe, it might not hurt to attend church more regularly. Belief isn't required to attend. I don't know that it will help you start believing although it's possible that it could. But by participating in the community you might make connections with other people that can exist outside the church. 

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NakedKnees

I went from being a nonbeliever to a believer, then back to a nonbeliever. From personal experience, what "sold" me on it was the sense of community. I'm not sure if that's what you're looking for, since that probably falls somewhere between "friends" and "faith." What drove me away was being a few weeks out of my confirmation in the United Methodist Church and thinking about having to get in front of the congregation and say that I literally accept Jesus died to absolve me of sins (or something to that extent). I couldn't lie to my new community like that and my whole belief system fell apart from there, although I was honest with my pastor and he was really understanding. I stayed active in that church until I moved away almost ten years later.

Now, I consider myself an athiest but I detest the negativity, judgement, privileged status quo, and bullying that dominates so many athiest communities. I still love to explore religion and ritual and attend services/religious sites frequently- as long as I can do so respectfully, given my position of faith.

I joke that I think if I felt compelled to let Jesus into my heart, I would, but I really feel that way about all faiths. Long story short(ish), I really recommend putting "feelers" out there and trying to just stretch that mental muscle that makes you turn "logic" off sometimes. It can be really refreshing, and it might take you down a spiritual path naturally (rather than forcing spirituality on yourself).

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elliha

I had a childhood faith and then stopped believing very uneventfully and at perhaps 10 years old. At 22-23 I started to explore religions and finding things that appealed to me but I never learned much of Christianity which was the faith I grew up in. My mom was a very liberal Christian who didn't really go to church much but we did learn about god and some biblical stories but as I stopped believing so young I never read the bible myself. After many different turns I finally did start exploring Christianity and slowly things started to make sense at about 25 I started going to church and calling myself a Christian again. Nowadays I even consider becoming a priest myself. That's my story and based on that I would suggest reading different religious texts, Christian and others as well as theology and see if this impacts your views about religion. 

Also, I definitely do not believe in the world being created in 7 days, I see it is as a story to help people understand that the world is here because it is the will of god and that the world was not all created in one day. There is progress in god's work. This is me not describing this in detail because I am a bit too lazy right now but if you want to know more I can write more about this later. I am also a strong believer in the Christus Victor theory of Atonement. There are many sides to it but one aspect of it is that if this theory is true "The devil made me do it!" is not an acceptable defense for a Christian.

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Depressed
victoriasponge

I'm in a similar boat (though for different reasons). Had a childhood faith, left it, have been to a few churches with friends since. I desperately want to believe, I've called out and done the whole 'ask and ye shall receive' kinda sitting there wanting something to happen. It probably sounds stupid too.

I just signed up for Alpha. If this doesn't work, I think I'll just have to accept my non-belief, even if I'm never all that comfortable or content with it. I'd rather not fake it. Are there any humanist groups in your area? We have a couple that provide Sunday services, giving the community of religion without the God part, if that's the bit you struggle with and you want comfort.

Sorry, I'm a bit late to the party, but I feel weird having signed up for Alpha. Most of the people there are going to already be Christian and I'm worried they'll judge me, or just say 'oh we'll pray for you, honey'. I want to believe, I really do. I feel like this might be one of the last shots. (If I hate it, I'll try a different church running it before giving up entirely).

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Aggravated
keen23

There are so many other ways to find community outside of religion. You're on a message board now, so you're able to navigate this type of tech. Find other message boards for other interests that you may have. What about board games? Germany has a history of creating board games that are for grownups who want a more sophisticated scoring system and cooperative play. There has to be someplace where you can go to board game nights. Or join a book club or a sewing club or even a foodie group. Religion can be a crutch and it's not a magical panacea that will cure all of your problems just because you start following their rules and regulations.

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singsingsing
6 hours ago, victoriasponge said:

Sorry, I'm a bit late to the party, but I feel weird having signed up for Alpha. Most of the people there are going to already be Christian and I'm worried they'll judge me, or just say 'oh we'll pray for you, honey'. I want to believe, I really do. I feel like this might be one of the last shots. (If I hate it, I'll try a different church running it before giving up entirely).

Isn't Alpha mainly for non-Christians, or new/uncertain Christians? Don't worry too much. I'm no longer involved in organized religion, but back when I was first going to church as an adult, everyone was really accepting and non-judgemental. Of course, it helps to find a more liberal church. But even conservative churches can be okay (in that regard). I still find myself tempted to start going to the Baptist church just down the street because the people are so nice, and it's nice to go and sing some songs about God and feel like you're part of a community for a couple hours. But I'd rather not listen to sermon after sermon about how sinful I am and how we all deserve to be tortured forever in hell, but thankfully God loves us despite how disgusting we are, and if we believe in Jesus we'll escape that nasty fate. (My Presbyterian church was not remotely like that. I have other issues with it, but fire and brimstone it was not.)

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Depressed
victoriasponge
2 minutes ago, singsingsing said:

Isn't Alpha mainly for non-Christians, or new/uncertain Christians? Don't worry too much. I'm no longer involved in organized religion, but back when I was first going to church as an adult, everyone was really accepting and non-judgemental.

My friend's mum runs her local Alpha and said a solid 50% were already members of the church (and I've seen this church advertise it on their twitter to current members - so I think it might be like that too). Hopefully they'll be welcoming, I'm just worried it'll make asking my questions harder because it'll be me vs everyone else (and... well... I have questions that might not be popular). :my_angel:

We'll see. I'll report back after tomorrow, I suppose. Their main church plant is just down the road from me so it'll be easy enough to get to events if I don't hate it all. It's some weird evangelical modern Anglican hybrid thing, no idea where their liberal/conservative rota is at. They do advertise to students though, so I'm hoping for vaguely liberal.

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Happy
Gobbles

Just checking in to say I have been reading your responses, but I don't have time to reply properly currently. Will do some time later. 

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