Lately I have been battling one of my oldest nemeses: loneliness. When I first deconverted, I was overwhelmed by the immediate support and empathy of not only my fellow apostates, but lifelong atheists as well! Don’t get me wrong, I am still incredibly thankful for those people – if you are reading this blog, chances are pretty high that you are on that list – but I am really starting to feel the lack of like minded individuals in my day-to-day life.
As I have mentioned before, I live in a very small town in Alberta, Canada. When people think of Canada, particularly Americans, they tend to think of people who are far more liberal, socially left and open-minded. While that is generally true for the country as a whole, it is unfortunately not the case here. Most of rural Alberta, and even much of the cities, are very right-wing and incredibly fundamentalist. Sometimes it seems like people here give people in the Midwest or South in the States a run for their money. I have come to terms with this particular fact. Sadly, it means that meeting others who wish to rid themselves of religion and superstition are few and far between.
Belief in god, or lack thereof, is by no means the only thing that matters in a relationship with another human being. I understand this. However, it does make it very difficult to share some of the most important aspects of who I am with people who will not only disagree with me, but immediately jump to the conclusion that I need to be saved. Even people who do tend to tolerate my viewpoints, I have a hard time connecting with as they just generally don’t get the position from which I am coming.
Much of my melancholy has less to do with these realizations and more to do with a singular thought I had the other day in the car: I have moved on from my old life. My friends, my family, my community, I have moved past it all. I no longer belong to them. When one’s life was at one point dominated by christian culture, how is one to move on after giving all of that up? I feel as though I am losing connection with my past. I see a wonderful and existing world ahead of me, full of joy and possibilities, a point of view I could never have had previously. However, I likewise see so much slipping into the gray waters of inconsequentiality. How can I hold onto my past, for my past is a large part of who I am, when so much of it holds no bearing on my life now?
Philosophically speaking, I am excited at my awakening, but on a personal level, I can’t help but feel alone. Community was always something about religion that I believe had an incredibly positive impact on my life. I know atheists, particularly ex-christians, can get very bogged down by the negatives that religion perpetrates, in our own lives and around the world, so it is important to, on occasion, remind ourselves of the positives.
This is not to say that atheism lacks a vibrant and supportive community. There are groups across the world doing incredible amounts of good for people like me. Sadly, those groups are elsewhere. I participate how and when I can, but being stuck where I am, surrounded by the people that surround me, I cannot help but despair at times.
I debated about even addressing this issue on my blog, for fear of sounding ungrateful, whiny or self-pitying; however, if I have learned anything over the past few months, it is to embrace my feelings and put them out there. At the moment, this is who I am and this is how I feel. I know there are others out there feeling the same thing and, to repeat an earlier post, You Are Not Alone!
If you are someone in this position, feel free to e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I would love to chat or even come up with ideas to combat this feeling of isolation that too often plagues us. If you have been where I am and have suggestions on how to deal with it, I would LOVE to hear from you! I have a few ideas, such as starting a local group (there aren’t really any in my area) or becoming more active online, but I have yet to solidify anything as of yet.
Most of all, I wanted to thank those of you who have been there for me through this transition. I can’t say I feel utterly alone because there have been people who have gone out of their way to encourage me, support me and make it known that I am not alone in this journey. You are appreciated. Without you all, I am sure this experience would have been much different, and much more difficult.