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The Benefits of Leaving your Church

Updated on January 8, 2013
Do we actually need to attend a church to be a good person and close to God?
Do we actually need to attend a church to be a good person and close to God? | Source

Some churches work for some people. If you feel uplifted and closer to God when attending church, this article probably does not apply to you.

However, I was raised in a religion that was very insiders-only, and used guilt and fear to maintain members. I'll give you 2, maybe 3 guesses.

Anyway, once I decided to leave the church, for very intensely stressful reasons, I felt a freedom like I had never known. But, I had to work through the guilt and fear part, which took about 10 years, and part of that plan included trying and doing everything I had never been allowed to do before.

Religions that rule by guilt and fear are not displaying Christ-like love.
Religions that rule by guilt and fear are not displaying Christ-like love. | Source

Guilt

Overcoming my feelings of guilt was quite a long process and took a lot of self-examination. Basically, I determined that I wanted to eliminate this feeling from my life. So, I started recognizing when I felt guilty, then I would ask myself the following:

  1. Why do I feel guilty?
  2. What am I going to do about it?

If I determined that the source of guilt was illogical (I could now determine this based on giving myself some distance from the church and associating with normal people), based on religious perceptions, or parental expectations, I decided to abandon the feeling of guilt.

If, however, I determined that what I was feeling guilty about was actually harmful to myself or others, I decided to quit doing it. It was completely worth it, to rid the guilt from my life.

An enormous weight was lifted from my shoulders. This led to an increase in self-esteem, something I'd been missing my whole life.

Fear

In the church I had attended my whole life, fear of displeasing God was a large factor and frequently reinforced. Again, I did not realize this until I distanced myself from the church. Then it was pretty easy to recognize.

More self-examination was in order. If I felt that fear, I had to question why, was it a rational fear, and where did it come from? This helped me determine whether to change what I was doing or reject the fear.

College - My New Savior

This may sound strange to you, but there is at least one religion out there that is very anti-education. There's a lot of home-schooling that takes place so as to avoid a child's contact with "the world," and college is most definitely counseled against. I later realized this was because of what you learn in college, and how you come to question authority and your long-held belief system by being exposed to so many different cultures, beliefs, and values, and realizing that the world you knew, was so tiny, like a new-born baby only sees so many inches from their face.

I recently met a 19-yr-old, completely naive, who just left the church, was disowned by her family because of it, and is now seeming to lead a direction-less life of partying as much as possible. She doesn't work and she's not going to school. I see now the difference in her rebellion and mine, and the element, I believe, that saved me from self-destruction was college.

Experimentation

Having been so sheltered all my life, I was (and still am) really 'dumb' about a lot of things. For instance, I never used to know who the President of the United States was (as we were forbidden from engaging in politics). I could go on and on about my ignorance and how people continue to chuckle at me and say, "You didn't know that?"

So, there was about a year where I pushed myself to try most everything that had been forbidden, to see if there was a real, logical reason behind the taboo.

Being a fairly bright person (in my opinion), I did figure out that some practices were harmful, but some were beneficial, and with the continuing goals of removing guilt and fear from my life, I created my own set of standards and values that I am now comfortable with. For instance, I put myself through college and surmised that this is a good thing, not bad, as I'd been told. But, I also took up smoking, and soon realized that everyone in college was smoking to be rebellious, therefore, I was only following, not being rebellious myself, so I gave it up.

I tried dating, and learned so much about relationships that I never would have learned before (The rule had been: No dating allowed until you're ready for marriage, then the dating must be supervised). Turns out, men can be trusted to be respectful after all! (Usually).

The Parental Dis-Service

The above section on Experimentation illustrates the dis-service the parents (with good intentions) do when they over-shield their child from the real world.

Normal psychological development requires a teen to break from parental expectations at some point and discover the world and its consequences on their own. (See my article about Raising Your Child Using the Concept of Natural Consequences, a method that was very successful for my child.)

Over-controlling religions don't allow a natural development and awareness over the years; so, it's like an over-tight spring being released all at once. Who knows what will happen?

Take it Slowly

So, I guess my advice for those of you leaving an over-restrictive religion, is to take it slowly.

  1. Get educated
  2. Determine your own values and beliefs
  3. Hang out with positive, smart people
  4. Eliminate the guilt and fear factors
  5. Raise your child differently

I wish you all the best - it's a long journey to normalcy, but you can get there. I also welcome your comments and suggestions based on your own experiences in the Comment section below.

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    • profile image

      Murry T 3 years ago

      Continued:

      God is very very real. So is the eternal life of our spirit/soul in heaven or hell. Where is our choice now before our bodies die. God will show our spirit/soul it's choice (after our body dies) and send it where we have choosen. Where our spirit/soul goes is based on who we choose not on what we do.

      The author's experience was with a church (human run and organized) that taught "this is what god wants. . . rules, regulations, good deeds, charity, donations to the church, etc." and this is not what God said he wants. God said he wants a "relationship" with people who freely choose Him. This is why the orginal author of this hub feels betrayed. She did not find God in the church she was connected with. So she has decided church, and her preception of god, are bad and/or don't exist. It is like eating a rotted or spoiled piece of fruit (or any food) for the first time and assuming all like fruit or food tastes the same. She will and never

    • profile image

      Murry T 3 years ago

      It is very important to separate God from the church sometimes because man (humans) often run church the way they want to and not how God intended. This often harms our image and preception of God's good character. God is very very real! So is the eternal life of our spirit/soul in

    • LucyLiu12 profile image
      Author

      LucyLiu12 5 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Thanks for the encouragement!

    • Logos831 profile image

      Logos831 5 years ago from somewhere, ca

      Thanks for sharing your experience. It sounds like it's been tough but you've grown and opened your eyes to new things. Keep seeking :)

    • LucyLiu12 profile image
      Author

      LucyLiu12 5 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Yes, I've recently started working on the spiritual (not religious) part of my life, just doing some exploring, reading, and trying to get closer to nature. We'll see what comes of it. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Glad you found your freedom. Hope you maintain your connection with God, even though not with the church. Sometimes the church distorts His image; but He can reveal Himself to you.

    • LucyLiu12 profile image
      Author

      LucyLiu12 5 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Many thanks, Bob. You're right, it was scary to break away, but I am SO glad I did.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Very good hub, Lucy. It took a great deal of courage to break away, I salute you. It seems as though you've come a long way and you did it on your own. You deserve a lot of credit and should take a lot of pride in getting to where you are today.