One of the positives that religious people claim is the love they feel within their church community and themselves with God. I can understand these feelings having gone through them myself years ago (see about page). The church can be a great place to meet people, after all, you are all there for the same reason, so you have at least one thing in common. I met my first ever real girlfriend (my first true love?) through my church, even took up an interest in netball as she played in the church team. The church organised youth camps; holding hands in front of the fire, singing songs – how is that not beautiful?
So what happens when the love goes wrong?
What happens when one of you decides the partnership is over?
I’ve seen this with religious people, they attend the same church for many years, then something sours. They no longer get on so well with other members of the congregation, the message the church delivers no longer touches their heart, no longer gives them inspiration. Perhaps they doubt what god and religion is all about, they start to think rationally, disbelief sets in.
So they leave, but after years of mostly good times, they start to miss the good times, the fellowship, the love. They see no bright moments in their future. Bitterness, loneliness and depression sets in. Some turn away and never go back, they may even remain bitter forever.
What to do?
Some religious people leave their old church and take up with one of the newer charismatic churches. These churches look like fun, more singing and dancing, playing in a band, clapping hands, having a good time. However, jumping into another relationship often seems like a good idea, but when that collapses as well, it can sometimes feel worse than the original long term relationship.
What happens then, the person finally realises it’s all over, it was all a lie, there is no going back. This can be very emotionally draining for both parties, the friends in the church also get hurt that one of theirs has left. The person is now all alone, they find it difficult to talk to their old partner (the church and it’s congregation), so they need to find something else.
In a lot of communities that are very religious, it must be very difficult for someone who has lost their faith to find someone to talk to. So many of their friends, acquaintances, and work colleagues are religious; no help there. The people from the past keep asking what is wrong, they worry that it is all their fault, what did they do wrong. But sometimes you have to let go and move on, you can’t go back and live with the lie. Your old friends and members of the church also have to let you go. But we all know what a lot of them are like, after all they believe they have been commanded to ‘spread the word’.
Is this where the atheist community steps in?
Many of us have ‘been there, done that’. We know what it feels like to let go. In some ways we are suddenly ecstatic, we no longer have to live with the lies and deceit. God wasn’t real after all, there are no ‘wages of sin’; we die, that’s it; no longer living in fear we might go to ‘hell’ if we don’t follow some mystical sky gods demands.
But there is still the loneliness to deal with. Is this something the atheist community should be doing something more about? There are some good web sites where people who are about to leave, or have just left the church, can go to and ‘talk’ with like minded people; get guidance from non-believers. But this is not necessarily enough, where is the community, where can one go to to talk face to face with like minded people? Who can they turn to for emotional support?
I honestly don’t know.
I’d really like to know what is out there. If I knew someone personally going through this crisis, apart from my own limited support, what else could I do? Where could I direct them to go?
This post was inspired by various things happening in my life, and remembering about the past. I guess in some ways I was luckier than some, my loss of faith was somewhat gradual and I had a completely new community around me at the time, but what happens to those just cut off?
A lot of questions, and I have few answers, hopefully my readers will help.
Finally, whilst think what to title this post, the words “love lies bleeding” suddenly popped into my head. I thought “isn’t that a song? by Elton?”. A quick search on the net, and hey presto:
Elton John – Love Lies Bleeding (1995 Live In Rio) /10:20
Music by Elton John
Lyrics by Bernie Taupin
Available on the album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
The roses in the window box
Have tilted to one side
Everything about this house
Was born to grow and die
Oh it doesn’t seem a year ago
To this very day
You said I’m sorry honey
If I don’t change the pace
I can’t face another day
And love lies bleeding in my hand
Oh it kills me to think of you with another man
I was playing rock and roll and you were just a fan
But my guitar couldn’t hold you
So I split the band
Love lies bleeding in my hands
I wonder if those changes
Have left a scar on you
Like all the burning hoops of fire
That you and I passed through
You’re a bluebird on a telegraph line
I hope you’re happy now
Well if the wind of change comes down your way girl
You’ll make it back somehow
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