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The difference between a disenchanted and an unenchanted world

June 3, 2020

I have occasionally written that for me and my Mormonism, I didn’t have a faith crisis as so many of my exmormon brethren have had, so much as a lack of faith crisis. It was a crisis not of once having faith, and then losing it…but a crisis of having never had faith, and then coming to realize that’s not how most people experience the world. In a faith that insisted that anyone who was serious enough could just choose to believe.

I find myself fascinated by those who document a life infused richly with spirituality and communication with God or gods. I find myself heartbroken for those who document the end of such life, the often involuntary cessation of their spirituality, the silencing of the communication. I have seen some of my friends ask for prayers that they might one day re-experience the presence of God. I’m not much for prayers, but I genuinely send some thoughts their way as best I can.

It is fascinating and heartbreaking to me because I am utterly unfamiliar with it. It is not my story.

I know only in an intellectual sense that people who have had experiences that they once attributed to God can come to reclassify those experiences, or mourn the loss thereof.

But for me, the heavens have always been closed.

I suspect there is a sort of pain that those others have experienced that I myself have not, and I am perhaps a bit differently situated from those others because of it. Maybe there’s a sort of raw wound from having had that faith and having it work for a while and then losing it? The dark night of the soul is probably altogether much darker when someone is acclimated to the light and has been thrown in the dark room.

And I thought about the recent awareness and visibility of protests regarding police brutality and racism.

I have had some people ask me if I am “ok.”

I have written a bit on Twitter and Facebook about how weird my thoughts are on this. Because I feel “ok”, and I don’t know if that is ok. I don’t know if that’s really me being “not ok” for so long it is a baseline.

But then I think about atheism.

I think about how many theists tell me that atheism to them is so dreary. So depressing. I think about how many disaffected former theists wonder about how they will overcome the dreariness of their new status quo.

I know some atheists appeal to a secular sense of awe and beauty and a way to rehabilitate spirituality without calling it spiritual.

But for me, these are not my strategies….it’s not that I don’t think there aren’t beautiful things in the world. It’s not that I don’t think I have experienced some forms of wonder. But I think I’ve said it before: it seems more respectful not to attribute this universe to a God. It doesn’t feel like I should be reclaiming anything in the realm of “spirituality.” (but the theists will ask: who put in you such lofty ideals about what the universe or what spirituality should be like?)

I think that many people are just beginning to be disillusioned, and when they ask me if I’m ok, it is perhaps because they think that I (like them) must be newly disillusioned as well.

But the thing they don’t realize is that this is my baseline. The world has not become disenchanted; it was always unenchanted.

I had someone ask me what could be bad about having hope and faith. It is something I have never understood — an immediate evidence of the chasm between them and me. For them, hope is a free action, or at least, one without critical cost. But for me…when I try to force myself to have hope in something that just doesn’t seem likely, the incongruence is an everpresent ache. Maybe it is a Sisyphean incongruence I feel called (by whom?, some theists might ask, but I would say my brain chemistry has given me less noble neuroses as well) to bear, but an it is an incongruence nonetheless. When that hope is lost or betrayed, it is a wound. But when you don’t hope, you can’t be let down.

Is that ok?


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  1. spawneedave permalink

    If it helps, am an ex-Christian, now atheist, and I have never been so happy. None of this dreariness that you have come across in my life (or when it does naturally occur as it does in everyone’s life, I move on).

    • 🙂

      People definitely make it work. Even in the stories I am thinking of, there’s usually a lot of processing of religious trauma that people also work through and come out the other side saying, “hmm, maybe things weren’t all roses back then…”

  2. When you don’t have unreasonable expectations, you can’t feel let down. Reality can be a bitch. 😯

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