Question for Deconverts

ThinkingThis post is a bit different — no ranting. 😉 I’d just like some feedback from those of you who have left the faith on something that’s going on with me.

Life-long non-believers won’t really be able to answer my question, but of course, you’re welcome to add any input you might have.

Background

When I was a Christian and wanted something really bad to happen in my life, I always “prayed” and asked God to grant the desire of my heart. Sometimes (often) this meant “praying” a LOT in hopes of getting the answer I sought.

Occasionally, it felt like the prayer was “answered,” but more often things just continued to happen as they do in life and eventually the request, and the hoped-for response, was simply absorbed into everyday living.

Today

In my current life as a non-believer, I have something I really, really want (yea, need) to happen … but so far (even though I’ve done all the things I need to do to help things along), it hasn’t come to pass.

You probably know the saying “Old habits die hard,” and sure enough, I’ve actually found myself feeling the “urge” to ask someone/something (the universe?) for help in making this event become reality.

So, my question is this:

As someone who has left the faith and accepted/recognized that prayers to a non-entity are a waste of time, what have YOU done when in this type of situation?

Thanks!

P.S. This is not a medical emergency or anything like that.

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53 thoughts on “Question for Deconverts

  1. I’ve never been able to put toothpaste back in the tube, no matter how hard I try, so I have just accepted that there some things I can’t do. That said, if it’s something significant, then I would have to say,
    • try harder, fail better, repeat as needed.
    • Try approaching it from a different angle.
    • Ask someone who has done it, how they did it.
    I’m sure there are other ideas out there, but above are three.

    If it’s skydiving, forget it – no one should ever jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Trying harder doesn’t fit the circumstances; approaching from a different angle … not sure that’s even possible; asking someone … most people do it the same way but I might give this suggestion a try. 🙂

      Thanks for your input!

      P.S. Agree about the skydiving.

      Like

  2. Interesting question, Nan. Honestly, even when I was a believer, I wasn’t much of a pray-er. I fully believed that it worked; I just didn’t always think I was good enough to approach God in that way. Because of that, I haven’t had the urge to pray since leaving Christianity, but I can totally see how that would be a harder habit to break for others.

    If I were you, and there was anything I could do to help bring about this goal, then I would do it (obviously). But beyond that, I’d probably just try to get comfortable with the various possible outcomes. That’s probably not very helpful… But if you can’t really do anything about it, then the only thing left is accepting it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good response, Nate. Wish I hadn’t been a pray-er! 😉

      Of course, acceptance is always the final answer, but it is most definitely not a preference in this case. Although the situation is not a medical situation per se, it does involve a health issue on behalf of my “special guy.”

      I’m sorry for being mysterious but as I said to Arch, I think we’ve all experienced situations where we really wanted something to happen but knew that “prayer” was no longer an option.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As an extremely devout catholic, I focused on “continuous prayer to god” my entire life. After deconverting last year it has been a total bitch to break the prayer habit. It’s not that I believe there is a god up there listening, it’s that I had inadvertently trained myself to cope with anxiety by offering up prayer. As an atheist I have tried to shut down my prayer habit in a very hard core way, but as you know, sometimes there are circumstances you have no control over that you hope will turn out favorably. During these times, I’ve stopped making myself feel guilty for sending a little prayer into the ether. Yeah, the words are only hitting the ceiling and bouncing back, but it makes me feel better sometimes to give voice to my hopes. It’s only a way to cope…it doesn’t mean I (or you) expect a deity to be listening or care.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Violet. Thank you for your comment! I wasn’t a Catholic, but prayer was an enforced practice in the church I attended — and it does tend to leave a residual effect.

      I actually looked up at the stars the other night and mumbled a bit of what I would like to happen, qualifying it of course with the comment that I knew they were “just stars.” Perhaps it doesn’t have to be to someone — simply giving voice to what we want is the secret.

      Liked by 1 person

    • My approach to prayer as a Christian had been very similar to Violet’s. At the first sign of a worry I am intuitively still drawn to prayer. I realise now it was my way of dealing with worry, now I have to keep telling myself that there is no-one there to hear. At times when a real (as distinct from trivial) worry has emerged I have recognised that prayer was a way of giving myself comfort against the downside, which I now no longer have, it was a psychological crutch..

      On the negative side of things (I am a natural pessimist) I have needed to tell myself that reality does not accord with the fears of my active imagination. On the positive side, apart from doing all you can do yourself (as you have already done Nan) I don’t have much to offer.

      I suppose, Nan, in the situation you face I would adopt a glass half full sort of attitude assume that it won’t happen, then if it does not happen I have already prepared myself. But if if it does happen, I would be so happy I would need to stop myself suddenly bursting out into a chorus of praise God as old habits die hard.

      But I am not recommending to others to do what I do (I am just saying what I do) as I don’t want you to live the crazy messed up existence my life has descended into.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. There is the Law of Attraction, which may be a simple manifestation of focusing your attention on what it is you want to do or have. Having what you want to do or have on “the tip of your mind” means that your thoughts will be directed to making it happen. If all you are doing is “wishing and hoping,” though, I wouldn’t expect great results. Pasteur said that “chance favors the prepared mind,” meaning you have to be ready to grasp opportunities (of thought or action) and what you see as an opportunity is shaped by your thinking and understanding.

    I recall feeling a bit cheated in that I was volunteering my services and giving away my best work with no recompense. I decided at one point to stop giving away my work. No sooner had I done that that I received an request for work and an offer of pay was included. I never was asked to work for free after that. You may look at this as a “request being answered” but the truth of the matter may have been closer to the truth that my willingness to work for free brought me in contact with people who expected to pay for such work and who found my work worthy.

    So there is nothing wrong with fiercely concentrating on what you want. Expecting your desire to be answered magically somehow is quite unlikely. Making you more likely to grasp at an opportunity you might not otherwise consider is much more likely.

    Frankly praying is more than a little bizarre, especially if the god in question already knows all of the particulars of your case and your worthiness as well (“He knows when you are sleeping; he knows when you’re awake; he knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.”) What possible good could a prayer have or even the ganged prayed of thousands? An all-knowing god already knows this. Plus what is being requested is inherently selfish. If you are praying for someone dying to continue to live, you are asking “god” to alter his plan because you asked. People who believe in “god’s plan” seem to have no compunction to asking god to change his plan because it was stupid and your idea is better. At the very best this is hubris, at its worst …

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Steve — Thanks for reminding me about the Law of Attraction. I know it works because I’ve seen it in action in my life and in others. Perhaps I just need to visualize the end result a bit more fervently …

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  5. I never really ever prayed, but what I did do, and still often do is repeat this mantra in my head: “Boy. I hope this happens! Boy, I hope this happens! Boy, I hope this happens!” Then, if things happen as I hoped they would I say/said: “Boy, I’m glad that happened! Boy, I’m glad that happened! Boy, I’m glad that happened!” And, if it didn’t/doesn’t happen as I’d hoped I say to myself: “Sucks that didn’t happen! Sucks that didn’t happen! Sucks that didn’t happen!” This way, I’m thinking SOMETHING but not praying to something that doesn’t exist to intervene as that’s a waste of time. Stating to myself I hope something turns out as I wish gives me a mantra to say that’s merely an expression of reality. I really do hope whatever I’m hoping for happens as I’m hoping it will. $Amen$

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You might recall how last April I disappeared from WP for a month or so. I was falling apart emotionally due to some circumstances at work, and I was so desperate for relief that I prayed. I had not yet been a non-Christian long enough to develop new coping mechanisms, and I returned to what used to comfort me – prayer and Christian music. And it helped. But then as I recovered, I recognized that there was no divine intervention. It was comfort from people and familiar habits that helped. I was praying and listening to Christian music while simultaneously knowing I did not believe in God. But I prayed anyway. Partially “just in case”… Maybe I’d made a mistake. I figured I’d give God another chance. Partially because I just needed to do something.

    That was after being a deconvert for about a year. Now, about 18 months out, I rarely feel an urge to pray, even when things are hard. And I went through an even more difficult month in August than I did in April. I turned to people for help. In my situation, there were people who could help me.

    If what you want/need to happen is out of anyone’s control, then just pay attention, keep your options open, and be ready in case there is an opportunity to act. Also, something now might be in your control. Think creatively. For me, that happens best when I interact with people or authors. Stuff comes to mind I would never have thought of if I’d just been sitting and thinking (or praying!).

    Liked by 2 people

    • In a sense, yes … what we want to happen is pretty much up to “the gods.” 😉 We’re doing what we can on our end and will most definitely act when the opportunity arises … but it’s that “opportunity” that is so slippery. At times, things just seem so hopeless. I think that’s why I felt a “need” to speak to the stars (or whatever).

      I do appreciate good friends … online and in person.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Charles, I really liked your comment and could identify with everything you said. It is the psychological comfort of prayer I miss most, as it was something I could do when there seemed nothing else I could do.

      I am still learning to cope without that psychological outlet, but suppose that recognising the reality of life is the first step.

      I had always sort of thought that God had been working behind the scenes to direct my life and thus concluded that no matter how difficult things seemed that there would be a good outcome at the end. This gave me strength to cope with difficult situations. It is the loss of that hope which makes coping with issues so much harder.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Peter!
        Similar to what wrote, the “let go” part of “let go and let God” is valid. We don’t have to lose that aspect of prayer. Realize that all along you’ve just been talking to yourself, making yourself feel better. You can still do that.
        Yeah, it’s different now, as you know there’s no all powerful being out there, but you couldn’t count on God to do anything anyway. “Sometimes (!) he says ‘no'” and all that.
        Prayer was always just helping yourself, and then making excuses for God. Just keep the first part, and realize the second part was a pretty lousy crutch anyway!
        Easier said than done after so many years, though.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Excellent response, Charles! Love this part: ““Sometimes (!) he says ‘no’” and all that.” Ohhhh yes. I do remember that happening a time or two … or three or four …

          I guess after so many years (for many of us) depending on an invisible being that lived somewhere “out there” became such a part of us that we now find it very difficult to accept our own innate abilities to make things happen.

          It’s interesting … I’ve accepted this way of living for over 15 years. But this particular “obstacle” is so totally out of my control, I guess I felt a bit overwhelmed. Probably a bit similar to what you’ve been experiencing in your situation, ‘eh?

          Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks, Nan!
          I have to try hard not to laugh out loud when a Christian says, “God always answers, but sometimes the answer is no.”
          If God always answers, the answer is always silence.

          I have had two situations recently… don’t want to go into details here. But in both cases, I found people to help, both offline and here online, including you, so thanks! In the one situation, offline, there were people with the power to change what needed to change. So I guess what I did was “pray” to them! Amazing how reassuring it was to go to beings that exist and have power! In the other situation, I have the power to change the situation, but I choose not to because in that situation, I prefer the cost of status quo to the cost of change. And I still have some hope that I even have power to reduce the cost of the status quo.

          Incidentally, I just had lunch and when I sat down to eat, the first thought that came to mind was, “Bless this food to my body, and my body to your service” which was my default for saying grace. I think I used to even mean it half the time. The other half it was just avoiding the guilt of not saying it. If anyone is wondering, no, my food has not become unhealthier to me since I stopped praying!

          Liked by 2 people

      • That was supposed to say, “Similar to what Swarn wrote….” My iPod changed it to “Swarm” and I must have deleted the whole name when I was trying to edit it!

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  7. You said it all here Nan: “Perhaps it doesn’t have to be to someone — simply giving voice to what we want is the secret.” Whether silent, or a whisper or out loud or screaming on a mountain top. simply give voice. Nothing wrong with it. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My usual outlook is “hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”

    If this situation has something to do woth medical, as you sorta mentioned, then all we can do is put our trust in doctors, and modern medicine.

    I can remember being told as a child if you want something really badly, to pray. I, like you, found it lacking severely. I haven’t utterred a prayer in many years, but have been guilty of hoping the universe could find a way for things to turn out well. I feel like we all at one time or another recognize our limitations in the face of things out of our control. I think we should look within for strength and determination in these situations, rather than seeking out the help of the non existent sky fairies, and their wolves in the clothing of men.

    Reaching out to likeminded friends/family can’t hurt either.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Shelldigger, I like your response. It speaks to me. Especially the part about hoping the universe will work things out. I guess inwardly, that’s what I’m doing. But then I question myself. Am I reverting back to the “old days” and inwardly hoping some guy-in-the-sky is there to hear my plea?

      That’s why I asked others what THEY do in similar circumstances. While I most definitely appreciate all the suggestions and words of wisdom, I’m still interested in hearing what de-converts do when faced with similar situations.

      Surely some of you have wanted something to happen but it just … wasn’t happening. (I know Charles has … and is.) What have you done to get through it?

      P.S. to shelldigger … family definitely not like-minded and friends are borderline (they “believe” but don’t practice).

      Like

      • Sadly, since giving up on the sky fairy, I have been feeling a rather large loss of control. Religion does give one a powerful sense of justice, which will arrive in heaven after we’re dead (how convenient). When I lost religion I definitely lost the sense of justice/fairness in the world.

        There comes a point when you must simply embrace that you’re ultimately at the mercy of the universe, and you have to trust yourself to survive/cope with any situation that presents itself (and if you can’t survive it, you’ll be dead with nothing to worry about).

        I remember a movie I was watching (The Kama Sutra…a fantastic movie not just about sex) that addressed this issue. At the end the leading lady was walking along the road after having lost everything and everyone she held dear in life. After pondering her losses, her words were, “my heart is now as open as the sky.” She lost it all and was completely void of attachments; yet she survive, and still embraced the world the way it was. Not a bad way to go through life at all.

        Liked by 4 people

        • That’s very Buddhist in philosophy – we are only truly free when we have no attachments. But I love, and I think I am loved, and I don’t want the kind of freedom that comes with severing those attachments.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Of course not! I’ve studied buddhism quite a bit as a psych nurse, and do not believe giving up all our attachments is healthy or necessary. However, if it is thrust upon you that you must give them up (as in the movie where the woman’s lover had been murdered), then one must cope how one can. I once wrote a post about how being a woman with nothing left to lose has been psychologically freeing to me. Alas, my blog is no more. 😦

          Liked by 1 person

        • Alas times ten, Snotbox – you didn’t have to delete it, just to stop blogging! Others could have benefited from reading of your experiences.

          Like

      • I feel the same way you do when I have that moment, it seems silly and it has parallels with religious practices. But without a little hopeful optimism, life would be a little colder I think. It is cold enough already. Some hopeful optimism however is not the same as begging your imaginary friend for help. (Which if I’m not mistaken would be going against the imaginary friends plans in the first place?)

        Well, the friends/family might not be likeminded, but that’s what your blog friends are for. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  9. While I was only a Christian for a short time when I was 12-14 years old, and then was just sort of deist after that, I can’t really claim de-convert status but I will try to explain some of the things I discovered along my life journey. For awhile in my deist phase I didn’t so much pray but had what I called conversations with God. If there was nobody I could really talk to about my problems, but I a talker, I found it helpful to have a conversation with this higher power that I wasn’t really sure was there or even listening. What I realized sometimes later that it was the verbalization and expression that was therapeutic. Like journaling and writing your feelings out, that expression can be very helpful in reducing worry. I feel many aspects of religion are masks for a bigger umbrella which addresses methods we can use to reduce our stress. Your mind is dwelling on this thing and so a form of expression may be really helpful in giving you some respite from dwelling on it, even if doesn’t help make it happen. Because of course also doesn’t help make it happen, but maybe there is just peacefulness in finding a way to express what’s in your head.

    Another thing I learned was when I was in therapy for my dad’s alcoholism. As is typical for children of people with addiction you want to fix everything, make everything happen for everybody. I struggled a lot in my younger days with recognizing things that are out of my control. My therapist asked me if I believed in a higher power. At that time I did and I said “Well I do, but I am just not sure he could do anything.” The therapist looked at me and said “But Swarn you’ve tried everything and nothing makes in any different. Maybe God can’t do anything, and maybe he can. So why not just leave it God’s hands.” It was a breakthrough moment for me in relieving my stress. What I realized sometime later as I let go of the notion of God was that once again I was using God as a placeholder. God was the person who I gave things to that were not in my control. The fact that there is no God doesn’t change any of that. Situations are either in your control or their not. Based on your responses to some others and reading your post it seems like this may be one of those cases. All the worrying in the world won’t change the outcome. Just like praying won’t change the outcome either. The only thing you have to figure out is, have you done all you could? And if the answer is yes, then you probably need to just let go. Be mindful so that if there is an opportunity for you to do something you can do it, but wasting your time worrying about something you can’t make happen will only leave you more depleted when the time comes for you to perhaps make a difference.

    I am sorry if such advice sounds presumptuous, but without knowing more that’s what I thought might be most helpful to you. Good luck Nan!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. OK … Violet, Zoe, and Swarn Gill … Your words/suggestions have gotten through. You each, in your own way, said essentially the same thing. And it got through. I know what I need to do now. Thank you!

    And thanks to all the rest of you. Each of you gave me great food for thought. None of your advice will go unheeded.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Excellent question Nan.
    I will start by a story. Back when I was in high school and had my final exams and I was a still a believer I recall how hard we prayed for good grades. I also recall how much time I studied. When the results came out, I had passed but instead of thanking god for his favours, I felt happy with myself for having done well. I should have stopped believing then.

    Fast forward to today. When I want something so bad, I work for it. If I still don’t get it, I wait. I have over time learnt to check my dreams.

    Liked by 1 person

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