What Losing Your Religion Feels Like


Let me say that losing your religion feels like the worst thing in the world. Worse than physical pain. This is ontological pain. Existential pain. Soteriological pain. Those are very fancy ways of saying that everything you know about your place in the universe and what will happen to your soul has gone has gone from snuggling comfortably on the couch in fuzzy PJs to, well, imagining that you may burn in hell if you are wrong. Very literally.

One comfort of any kind of physical or emotional pain in your life is that even the worst storm runs out of rain. Nothing lasts forever. Except, as you previously believed—and still superstitiously feel–your soul. When you lose your religion you don’t automatically lose your superstitions. I still believed my soul might last forever, but losing my religion now meant it was up for grabs. Not fun.

I can’t compare what it feels like to lose your religion to anything else because I’ve never been forced to leave my comfort zone in such an extreme way. My parents are upper middle class and would never have forced me to leave home when I wasn’t ready. It was a gradual process initiated by my choice. Even if they had forced me out and I lived on the streets, that’s temporary discomfort. Feeling unsure about what will happen to your soul for eternity is much scarier.

Losing your religion feels like the scariest movie you have seen and then look up on Wikipedia later and it’s all based on a true story.

Losing your religion probably feels like what it’s like to be a toddler, if you were fully conscious and aware at that age. You need to revert to knowing nothing, all the while knowing that there are a Lot Of Things you could have wrong that have Big Ass Consequences.

Losing your religion also feels like coming out as gay, I’m sure, in the sense that you could potentially be a gigantic disappointment and embarrassment to your family. Awesome.

If you can calm down and give it time, losing your religion feels like a good workout. It gives you strength. You’ve survived a beating and leave feeling better equipped to take the next one. And more hopeful. You hit the ceiling and didn’t shatter yourself. You know there’s more out there. You can find it.

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image –plaits