Finding Refuge from Religion: Forever

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Many people who have been hurt by religion want to escape from it.   We’ll take a look at an organization that is offering a refuge from religion, Recovering from Religion.    Is this the answer?

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Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd”  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them.

Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country

and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?

Luke 15:4

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I’ve been following tweets from reporters who have been attending the Religion Newswriters Association conference and my eyes opened quite a bit wider after reading tweets like this:

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Screen shot 2013-09-28 at 6.53.06 AM

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People on the brink of suicide because of their journey away from religion?  This breaks my heart, but it’s not surprising considering the kind of spiritual turmoil we regularly discuss here.  I was not, however, aware of this group, Recovering from Religion:

Who is Recovering From Religion?

If you are one of the many people who have determined that religion no longer has a place in their life, but are dealing with the after-effects in some way or another, Recovering From Religion (RR) may be just the right spot for you. We welcome everyone, from doubting theist to ardent atheist, and our goal is to assist you in dealing with the negative impact of religion in your life. We are honored to be a part of your journey to be free from faith!

Recovering from Religion is a well-organized group.  They offer support groups and you can see if there is one in your area.  This organization receives numerous calls and e-mails from people on their journey leaving religion.  I took a look at the site and was wondering what is their ultimate ending place.  Was it to validate and empathize with people and then lead them somewhere spiritually?  In my digging, it seems that it really is a place for people to go whose ultimate goal is to remove themselves from all religion, period.

RR is made up of people who have all given religion our best shot, but we can’t bring ourselves to accept the unacceptable any longer. If you’ve ever questioned the archaic edicts and laws of holy books, the inconsistent morality and questionable motive of ancient teachings (along with their many modern interpretations); if you’ve raised an eyebrow to virgin births, or found the flaws in resurrections, bronze age “miracles” and the ridiculously misguided “power of prayer;” then Recovering From Religion is the place for you.

I guess for some, the answer is no religion.  But what about those who have been burned by religiosity and churchianity and abuse and fake Christianity?  They still love Jesus, they just want real and authentic Christianity.  How can we reach them and tell them, “we know, we get it, we’ve experienced it, too?”    I’m concerned about those folks.

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13 comments on “Finding Refuge from Religion: Forever

  1. There are a lot of those folks. Almost every churchgoer in rigidly structured authoritarian churches has felt burned by religiosity and churchianity at one time or another. I have. If we can get past the feelings of personal guilt to the point of looking outside of ourselves and questioning the social structure instead of our own mind and heart, we will discover that there are few defined places to look for answers that aren’t cynical or faith-destroying.

    From the helping side, one of the difficulties in reaching out to the burned-out is that often we are so steeped ourselves in our own structures and doctrine that our “rescue” can easily tend to be more of the same….we just think we are offering “healthy same” and resort to the old, “forgive and forget” process without examining the whole faith and church structural base. But we aren’t just dealing with the pain and hurt of separating from unhealthy people (or their social systems and everything else we know).

    True recovery is an attempt to rebuild our understanding of what Jesus meant when he said, “I will build my church” and just about every other structural/functional statement in the Word. It is rediscovering Jesus, uncovering lies, pulling down strongholds, and fearless inventory of one’s own heart. No, no not to find where we screwed up and repent. We are so well trained we will do that almost reflexively. We must ask ourselves, “What do I REALLY think?” This is hard work when self-value has been so diminished, self-doubt so well fertilized and sublimation so much an integral part of how we function socially. We have so many books on faith out there.

    It’s time for a book on the beauty of doubt. Thomas had it…Jesus didn’t discipline him for it, he bared himself and permitted Thomas to bury his hand in his wounded side. He let Thomas go right to the place of his sacrificial pain. It is this intimate rawness of Jesus that ultimately saves us….that puts our focus back onto the wonderful journey of who He is rather than the intense life focus of jumping through institutional hoops. There certainly is no better place to be than a gathering of Thomas-folk who are simply loving Jesus, and unapologetic for their unconventional doubts.

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  2. Maryl

    Also liked reading this – Made me feel good – Is that allowed? 😉
    “True recovery is an attempt to rebuild our understanding
    of what Jesus meant when he said, “I will build my church”
    and just about every other structural/functional statement in the Word.

    It is rediscovering Jesus…”

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  3. It’s time for a book on the beauty of doubt. Thomas had it…Jesus didn’t discipline him for it, he bared himself and permitted Thomas to bury his hand in his wounded side. He let Thomas go right to the place of his sacrificial pain. It is this intimate rawness of Jesus that ultimately saves us….that puts our focus back onto the wonderful journey of who He is rather than the intense life focus of jumping through institutional hoops. There certainly is no better place to be than a gathering of Thomas-folk who are simply loving Jesus, and unapologetic for their unconventional doubts.

    Wow, Maryl – I’m going to have to chew on this for a while. This is very profound and is really resonating with me. How many times have I been shamed for doubting or having confusion in my faith? Ugh.

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  4. Wow, @Maryl. LOVE what you wrote. My thoughts were similar, yours are much more eloquent. Thank you!

    I would interpret RR as being an organization specifically targeting people completely rejecting not just the “institutions” of religion, but spirituality, and any faith or belief in anything unseen. This is different from most on this board (at least those I have seen post. I realize many may disagree with me), including myself, who still believe, but are re-interpreting what that means outside of themselves. How does Jesus (and the Apostles) direct us to relate to one another in regards to our faith. How do we bond with each other and reach out to others? Many are both hurt and dissatisfied with the current manifestations,

    What humans have done (both to me personally and historically) in the name of religion have little to no bearing on whether or not I personally have faith. That has been built up in me through my relationship with Jesus, my own study of Scripture…sometimes directed by others, sometimes not. People are sinful. Period. People will hurt others. Period. It has no bearing on my relationship with Jesus. It only has bearing on what my outward expression of faith may encompass….do I choose to go to a group “church” or not? Do I choose to align myself with other’s “statements of faith” or just work out my faith day to day with how I choose to treat others. It’s an interesting struggle, breaking away from traditions I grew up with. I don’t see questioning as a detriment, but rather a drawing closer to the truth. It’s called “critical thinking”, and I think God highly approves of it!!

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  5. What humans have done (both to me personally and historically) in the name of religion have little to no bearing on whether or not I personally have faith. That has been built up in me through my relationship with Jesus, my own study of Scripture…sometimes directed by others, sometimes not. People are sinful. Period. People will hurt others. Period. It has no bearing on my relationship with Jesus.

    I love that sfninerfan7. Man, I wish my experiences didn’t affect my faith the way it did, but sometimes that does happen in the process. I’m thrilled for you that it didn’t.

    It only has bearing on what my outward expression of faith may encompass….do I choose to go to a group “church” or not? Do I choose to align myself with other’s “statements of faith” or just work out my faith day to day with how I choose to treat others. It’s an interesting struggle, breaking away from traditions I grew up with. I don’t see questioning as a detriment, but rather a drawing closer to the truth. It’s called “critical thinking”, and I think God highly approves of it!!

    You’ve really done some healthy wrestling and it sounds like it has yielded positive results. Thanks for sharing how you have worked this out for yourself.

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  6. @JA, I should also say that I can COMPLETELY understand how “this sort of thing”….abuse, institutional church, etc, can and does affect other’s faith. It breaks my heart on one hand. But on the other, perhaps it can be a means, if dealt with in a healthy way, and with healthy help, to make faith stronger in the end? Like I said, critical thinking is HEALTHY, so is asking questions, and there ARE no wrong questions! I honestly can’t think of an example in Scripture where God chastises someone for asking an honest question. (Maybe someone here can?) Jesus definitely answers (or doesn’t answer) questions from the Pharisees rather harshly, but that is because of their heart and motivation.

    I can’t really fully explain why the nastiness I experienced recently hasn’t affected my faith, just that it hasn’t.

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  7. “I can’t really fully explain why the nastiness I experienced recently hasn’t affected my faith, just that it hasn’t.”

    I can totally relate to this. It made mine stronger. However, I had to let go of some ingrained tradition. Things we tend to think of as Christianity which in reality has nothing to do with it. For example, Christianity was never meant to be a religion. It is a “relationship”. And our idea of “church” is skewed, I think. We first and foremost have a relationship with Christ and also long to be with others who do, too. That is “church”. However and whenever that happens.

    However, because it is a relationship, that means it is individualistic and not corporate as we tend to see it or have been taught to see it. We do not stand before Christ with our pastor there giving an account for us. We do not stand before Christ with our husband giving an account for us. We stand alone.

    If we take a step back and really think this through it is really not very much like what we see happening in the institutions at all. And all the bad stuff out there going on in what passes for Christendom is not Jesus’ fault. It is our fault. We have supported it, tried to fit into it instead of seeking Christ with all our hearts. I blame myself for taking so long to see this. But boy is it ever freedom and responsibility!

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  8. Lydia: I apologize about your posts getting stuck in moderation. I do not know what is going on. I know if there is a different e-mail address or user name, it will hold it back, but it seems like there have been several lately. Weird!

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  9. Some blog programs check the name against the prior name and the IP address against the prior IP address, as well as the email address. If either the IP address or email address does not match the prior one, then the comment goes to who knows where or, generally, to moderation.

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  10. I really appreciate the comments by sfninerfan7 and Meryl, and the clarity in the way you express what you have to say. I’ve gone though some times of questioning, and come out stronger, Because Jesus can handle it! I completely agree that Jesus does not condemn people for asking questions.

    A few days ago, my 21 yr old daughter came to me and shared some of her struggles and the questions she is dealing with. Even a year ago, I would have been upset. But, instead, I was able to listen and rejoice. At one point, I was almost clapping my hands. She asked me why I was happy, when she had just told me she has no answers to her questions about faith. She is so young, and yet she sees through the lies! She knows there are not easy answers! She is not willing to accept what she is told at face value, but is willing to wrestle with it and see if it breaks. Yes, I am happy that she has questions. I know it is difficult to be in that place of questioning. But, I know my Jesus, and I know He will not fail her! He will strengthen her and He will teach her to come to Him. What else matters?

    Two years ago, I was in a Bible study on Habbakuk. He asked a lot of questions. One of the people in our class summarized the book by saying that the answer to “why” is Who.” It seems to me that the answer to all our questions is “Who.”.

    ———————————–
    JA, I randomly went back to this post from my email, because I need to “unfollow” the blog. I’m going through some emotional stuff right now, and can’t handle some of the stuff you deal with. Now, I’m conflicted, because this post hit me right where I’m at. Anyway, can you email me? I would like to connect with you more privately, and don’t know how to do that. Thanks!

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