Saturday, May 26, 2012

Barriers to leaving religion: Part 1

Over the course of a few posts, I'd like to take a look at how people leave, or consider leaving, the religion into which they were born.  Because of my own experience with leaving religion, many of the examples contained within will involve the Christian church, but I don't think the issues raised are in any way peculiar to Christianity.  I also think the issues raised are internal matters particular to members of whichever religion, which means that it's nothing (I think) I get terribly fired up about.  It's most certainly nothing I would ever lose friends or sleep over.

Most of the issues discussed will stem from involving children in the religion.  At the very beginning of most people's association with religion, they are placed at the center of a major religious ceremony, such as a bris or baptism.  They continue in the religion throughout their childhood before they reach the age where they are capable of questioning their association.  So they at some point reach the point where they questions their association with the religion of their parents.  Given the sheer number of hours spent on church activities between ones birth and one's questioning of one's own involvement with the Church, this forms a significant barrier to abandoning one's association with religion.

There are plenty of things I do, such as the Diablo game franchise or fantasy baseball, which take a few hours a week, as religion would, which would suck if I came to the realization that all that time I spent on that activity were wasted.  So as I was considering leaving the church, it occurred to me that, were I to sever all ties, I would have to write off the value of all those hours spent in services, Sunday school and confirmation as wasted.

This relatively-huge amount of time spent in church before one becomes consciously-aware forms a huge barrier to exiting the religion.  If I were to decide that fantasy baseball is stupid and worthless, the hundreds of hours I spent improving my performance in my fantasy baseball leagues would be a source of regret.  So I feel a desire to continue feeling that a hobby of fantasy baseball is worthwhile.  I imagine that for people considering leaving the church, the hundreds of hours spent in the church would fill a similar source of potential regret.

In the next post, I'll discuss how the religious views of others, such as a grandmother who would cry if she found out her grandchild weren't a Christian, would make leaving one's "natural" religion more difficult. (EDIT: actually, I'm going to go in a slightly different order, so we'll get to crying grandmas later)

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