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Leaving Religion Behind: What it’s like to survive the ‘suicide’

by / 0 Comments / 04/12/2017

How does it feel to leave your life behind to live again?


 

This article may seem like words have been put into my mouth, but they haven’t. These are my words, my thoughts, that I believe in. You don’t have to agree with what I say but at least listen, as I would do for you.

Leaving a Religion seems easy to do, on the surface. Those who wish to leave have the freedom to do so, but where does that freedom go when they’ve left? That has been the problem lately; there’s no way out anymore. We can’t just pack up our beliefs and run out the door without any consequences. Especially when religion has been ingrained within our mind and beliefs for so long. From the moment our first breath is taken, we are brought into a world filled with rules and oppression. Our decisions are made for us from birth by our parents, carers, guardians … We have no choice in the way we are brought up, but later on in life we find that our lives belong to us and that we can grab our freedom instead of living life marching to the beat of our parents’ drum.

Leaving a religion is the hardest thing to do. Mentally it takes a humongous amount of strength and willpower to reject all the ideologies and ideas that have been ingrained in you from birth. In all honesty, no one truly understands what you are going through but yourself. This statement may ring true for all those who have left particularly harsh and controlling religions. When your life has revolved around following a set of rules that would have dire consequences if not obeyed to a T, it becomes insane to even think about leaving such a life. In some ways it is madness to walk away from the only life you have known, but that’s the point. This life you have lived is not really yours, and it’s even more insane to remain living a facade of your true self. This life isn’t yours, it’s someone else’s; it wasn’t meant for you in the first place therefore you’re never going to truly identify with it.

For some, religion can be a means to enlightenment that frees them, but for others it can become a chain wound tightly around their mind that prevents them from independent thinking. These tight chains prevent them from leaving their families because of the fear of possible hatred and rejection by the same people that claimed to love them once. Even if someone leaves a religion and isn’t faced with extreme backlash, they will still never lead the same life again nor be able to associate with the same people ever again. The reason is that they are no longer viewed as the same person afterwards; their ‘community’ no longer trusts them. These individuals are ostracised and harassed simply for wanting to live freely.

Leaving anything or anyone can be hard enough, but when you’re leaving one of the most key parts of your life behind it become a thousand times more difficult. This is especially so when you’re younger and more vulnerable, since when you’re leaving a religion you’re not just leaving behind a throwaway item or a disposable thought, you’re leaving an entire life. The life you’ve known and gotten accustomed to after all these years is now going to change. Your beliefs have been destroyed and all your connections have disappeared, and all because you’ve decided to leave. That’s it. That’s all you’ve done; made a decision, something that will follow you for the rest of your life.

All of this leads to a private suicide. The suicide of your once religious self. The old life is killed. The old public persona is killed too. Your place in a beloved community ceases to exist. Everything you once held dear disappears. However, what you do not do is kill yourself. Instead, you carry on living despite the struggle and refuse to succumb to death; refuse to hurl yourself into the darkness and choose life.

The people who leave their religions come out stronger. These people realise that views are just views and that it’s not necessary to hold the same opinions as everyone else in order to live well.

You might feel dead at first, like there’s nothing here for you anymore, but at the same time you’ll feel that there’s everything. A new world full of knowledge has suddenly opened up.

Living your life freely is the best way to achieve your goals and dreams. However, for many like myself who have left religion, the journey towards freedom can feel like a literal suicide — as though one has been sentenced to death for committing apostasy. It is during these moments when we are most prevented from living our new life freely.