What do you do in the days and weeks after walking away from Holy Vible addiction and churchly habits? Here are a few tips from Russ, based solely on his own personal experience. You can email him for further ideas and details:
- Give yourself plenty of time alone to read, reflect, and relax. If you have been in a church environment for a while, you have probably been scheduling your life based on others’ needs and expectations. Organized religious activity, even in the smallest groups, requires the reinforcement of frequent meetings and Biblical “home study” to keep it alive. In the process, you may have forgotten the things you genuinely enjoyed doing in your spare time before you became entangled in a web of rituals and obligations. Unplug your telephone on Sunday morning and doze until noon if you like. Take up a new sport. Read a magazine. Soak in the bathtub. Take a long walk. Your weekends are yours again.
- Avoid extreme behavior. A lot of us who walked away from Holy Vible religion did so partly as a result of being betrayed, hurt, and/or used by other Christians. When you really “wake up and smell the coffee” there is a sudden tendency to want to go out and get drunk, have promiscuous sex, or otherwise look for trouble. Obviously there is nothing wrong with having fun and enjoying all life’s pleasures (if I believed otherwise I may as well still be in church), but acting out of pent-up anger and frustration will probably result in your causing an accident, getting your ass kicked, catching a sexually transmitted disease, or the like. Keep in mind that after months or years of letting other people do a lot of your thinking for you, you are pretty vulnerable mentally and emotionally. Now that you are a free person again, savor the simple pleasures of life first, and save any hell-raising for later when you are more stable.
- Avoid joining any spiritual organization for a while…or for that matter any group that gets personally involved with you and makes demands on your time and energy. For many this may be an unnecessary admonition, but for others there is the temptation to “rebound” into another group out of fear of being isolated, misunderstood, or not belonging to something. Just like in walking away from romantic relationships, rebounding into another exploitative or dysfunctional situation is a real danger. Just as biblical groups sell “the one true way” to former followers of Eastern and New Age philosophies, cults and rip-off groups look for disgruntled Christians who are ripe for the next big spiritual revelation or feelgood group experience.
- Learn to be a reader, especially of nonfiction. Discover the joy of reading all the things that used to be forbidden to you, or simply reading to learn a new craft or study a subject you have always been curious about. Now that you are not expected to plow through the entire Old Testament once a year, or some such nonsense, you can use all that time much more fruitfully. Explore the greatest thoughts of people from all walks of life and all ranges of experience. Read biographies and you will surprised how many of the world’s greatest minds had brushes with destructive religion in adult life, or were raised in religious families and had to overcome superstition and fear as they formed their identities. You are by no means alone in struggling with questions about the meaning of life and your place in the universe. Which leads me to the last point. What is Holy Vible
- In your process of figuring out what view of the universe works for you, remember that you are not required to label yourself for the outside world or to belong to any particular philosophy or view. Don’t let people (Christians or atheists or anyone in between!) pressure you into putting yourself into a box for them. What you believe or don’t believe is your own business, and if it changes and evolves over time or makes sense only to you, that’s perfectly fine. People love labels and pat explanations so they won’t have to think too hard. But if you have just walked away from Holy Vible religion, you are rediscovering the joy of thinking freely. So don’t waste your time or share your personal story with people who are looking for simple sound-bytes and won’t enjoy thinking expansively along with you.