grieving my loss of faith

May 29, 2013 | 115 Comments

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  • Kim

    I’ll hold space for you to be angry and love you, too.
    Inspiring clarity, honesty and vulnerability.

    • Shannon

      Thank you, Kim. I knew you would. I know you do. xo

  • Jennie

    Anger is one of your heart’s ways of saying “I or someone else deserves better than this.” Hells bells, even in the Christian mythology Jesus got good and table-flippin’ angry from time to time, because to his way of thinking God deserved better than having his temple become a place of business. (I love that story.)

    Anger can be a catalyst to change. IT can galvanize us, and provoke us. We can take that righteous anger and say “FUCK NO. I am NOT going to put up with this nonsense. I am going to FUCKING LOVE MY FRIENDS and I am going to trust my heart to tell me that loving loveable people is the right thing to do.”

    The danger to anger is when we let it curdle our souls. When we hold onto it when it’s no longer useful. When we look for ways to be angry, for things to anger us, because we need that hit of strength and righteousness, and we can’t get it any other way. When we hold onto it and don’t allow for forgiveness and reconciliation to grow. Then, anger can be a force for destruction.

    So, as long as you need to say “I deserve better than this,” or “So-and-so deserves better than this,” be good and angry. Let it galvanize you. Let it make you strong. Let it remind you of what things should be and can be. And when you’re good and galvanized, when you believe all the way through you that yes, you for-realz do deserve better, you for-realz are smart enough to trust your own moral compass, and you can make that quiet conviction part of what you are, then you’ll be ready to let the anger go.

    Trust me, I’ve been there.

    • Shannon

      I definitely don’t want to get to a destructive, self-indulgent anger phase. I feel like I’m on the last legs of this phase, but I needed to acknowledge and hold sacred its existence. I realized I was in denial about it. Anger is so unattractive in my mind. I didn’t want to be associated with it. And that was likely compounding what I felt.

      So, yes, I will use it to propel me forward into bigger spaces of love and acceptance and strength.

      Thanks for being here, Jennie. For holding space for me and for caring enough to share wisdom from your journey. I’m thankful for you.

      • jennie

        It’s such a horrible thing, that “anger is bad, anger is ugly” socialization, isn’t it? It tells us, in effect, NOT to trust our moral compasses. NOT to demand better of the world. To ask, meekly and politely, and to prepare ourselves for rejection. To take up less emotional space, to make less noise, and to live within the boundaries set up by other people.

        YOU are beautiful. Overflowing with love and passion and humour. Your anger, in the service of your own truthfulness, love, and compassion, is beautiful.

        It’s totally okay to struggle with it, and to ask whether you’re allowed to feel angry, as long as the asking is in the spirit of genuine inquiry, rather than in condemnation. (“Am I really allowed to feel this way??” vs. “I’m not really allowed to feel this way, am I?”)

        I’m grateful for you too, lovely. For all your feelings and words and questions, bringing additional colours to my life.

        • Shannon

          Writing this post made me realize I’m terrible at letting the people around me be angry. Especially Steve. Where does that come from?

          Thanks for your kindess and love. xo

          • jennie

            I think it’s difficult to let people around us be angry for a few reasons. The first is that social pressure I mentioned. It’s in the zeitgeist that anger is negative, scary, ungovernable, unseemly, and potentially violent. Even when we love and trust people who are angry, we’re conditioned to fear anger. So there’s that.

            I also think that a lot of us have *learned* that angry people are hurtful people. We’ve had things said to us in anger that make us feel horrible. We may have been physically harmed by angry people. So we distrust and fear angry people, even when those people are people we otherwise love and trust.

            I feel like collectively, as a society, we’ve messed ourselves up by treating anger as a shameful emotion, to be avoided or hidden. We’ve robbed ourselves of the opportunity to learn to deal with anger (our own and that of others) constructively and with compassion. We’ve learned to flinch away from anger, rather than trusting that people who love us and treat us lovingly will continue to do so even when they are angry. Rather than using anger to open up a conversation and provoke change, we use it to shut things down.

            Granted, there’s very little point to trying to talk something out when one party is incoherent with rage, but I feel like there have to be ways to be angry and loving at the same time, and to have our trust and love for each other inform how we treat each other when we’re in the grips of strong emotions like that.

          • jennie

            Oh! I just had a shower, which lead to another thought about why I, for one, tend to ask my loved ones to suppress their anger, which may be entirely legitimate and deserved. (Shower free-association is the best.)

            At least for me, if someone I love is angry, it means that they’re hurting and provoked. The worst is of course if they’re justifiably angry at *me*. Because that means I’ve hurt them, which means I’ve messed up. I’ve *done something wrong*, and I hate worse than anything else, feeling like I’ve made a mistake. (This is part of why I’m an editor, rather than a writer. It’s lots easier to correct other people’s errors than to expose my own.) So there’s a part of me that says that if other people aren’t angry, then everything’s okay, and I haven’t done anything wrong.

            Just a vague, unformed thought.

    • Shash

      I love Shannon already but now I am adding you to my list of people to love.

      • Shannon


  • Karen

    Be angry all you want. I will love you no matter what you’re feeling, in part because your feeling SOMETHING. As opposed to so many (including myself sometimes) who allow themselves to simply exist and feel nothing. And in part because you are lovable JUST THE WAY YOU ARE!!!
    I will say that your leaving of your faith intrigues me. I consider myself a christian and very much in love with my faith. However, I know i don’t follow the “Rules” all the time and I honestly don’t believe that makes me any less a christian. I think my views are ….. interesting? different? non conforming? I’m not even exactly sure of the appropriate word. What I do know is that I have felt often that my spirit is not being filled the way it used to. But I think, and I’m still in the early stages of this though, that because the world is changing, growing, expanding because MY world is changing, growing, expanding, perhaps there is a need to look at what His Word is saying and how it fits into today…… I’m still growing in this thought. I would love your oppinion on this.

    • Shannon

      I really don’t know, Karen. Our faith journeys–journeys–are so personal. I can only talk about my experiences and what got me to this place. Plus, while I’m still feeling angry at the church (and sometimes its people), I probably shouldn’t be advising others. Or maybe now is ideal, I’m not sure? ;)

      I want to worship love. I want to be love. That’s all I know. Love is what does it for me.

      Next time I’m in town we should have coffee. I’d love to talk to you about this. It’s cool that you’re thinking about it. Even that can be scary.

  • Liz

    I’m still angry at the Church. I’m angry at it for ostracising me, for treating me like shit. I’m angry at all the people in it who decided I was less-than for whatever reason. I’m damned pissed off, and I understand this post so well. I find myself hating the Church and its people – which is just as bad as what they did to me. I’m trying to work that out.

    • Shannon

      I’ve been at the hate-stage, too, Liz. I get that. It’s brave of you to admit. I don’t think I could have.

      Feel what you feel. Hold it and see it and name it. I think it will grow and fester into ick if you don’t. And read what Jennie had to say to me. She’s a gem.

      We should chat!

      • Liz

        We should indeed chat. I will read Jennie’s comment for sure – and I think I may blog about this and link back to you. It’s so hard to work through these feelings.


        • Shannon

          Ooh. I’d love to read you work through some of it. I’ll look forward to it.

  • Jesse Friedman

    Just a quick thought. You were instructed by a religious figure, to follow a religious guideline about “loving” someone who is gay. It’s unfortunate that, religion continues to diminish faith. I guess I’m one of those people who does believe the two are mutually exclusive. ;)

    • Shannon

      I have faith in love. That’s where all this has led me to, so I’m thankful to religion for that.

  • Leeanne Ekland

    So much of what I wanted to say has already been said here. I enjoyed reading the comments and your replies and relate a lot to what was said. I didn’t grow up in any specific religion but anger finds all sorts of place to hide.

    When I feel angry or out of control it’s difficult in the moment to understand how important it is to feel it and to observe it. To me, anger is a huge indicator that something isn’t right. And usually, it’s not what we are angry about.

    Anger is an important emotion, as all emotions are, to listen to, respect and understand but I agree when someone in my life is angry, it’s so hard to be around. I feel like a hypocrite then and that’s never helpful. I suppose that’s shame kicking me in the ass.

    All this to say that, Shannon, I love that you talk about this stuff and it inspires me every time I read your posts.

    • Shannon

      Anger DOES find all sorts of places to hide! And, I think I’ve always been terrified of it. For many of the reasons Jennie pointed out. It means I’ve done something wrong or AM wrong.

      Neither feel good.

      Thanks for your generous words, Leeanne. I look forward to hanging out with you and the bees some day. :)

  • Jeff Eaton

    *hat-tip* I don’t have much to offer other than to say thank you. For sharing what you’re seeing and for putting in the hard-work of self-examination that precedes the public stuff.

    • Shannon

      It’s all my mangly inside bits. I don’t really know how NOT to share. It gets lonely in my head. :)

      Thanks for reading, dude. And for taking the time to comment. It means a lot.

  • diyanna

    This has nothing to do with Jesus or Christianity but more with how we grasp the truth in our lives. Its like blaming God for war when humans pick up a gun and pull the trigger. My faith has helped me through alot of s*** in my life and I dont even think I could ever betray it for that reason alone but there are things I question and naturally so because we are built that way – to question and digest.

    Good Luck…

    • Shannon

      The bible teaches a lot of crappy crap–so what else are its followers to do but “pick up the gun and pull the trigger” if they want to be faithful followers? Religious people believe harmful things for a reason.

      I don’t blame god for anything. I don’t believe in god. I believe in people and I think people can be really thoughtless and shitty sometimes. Myself included.

  • Ryles

    I can’t speak about your experience with anger with your release from Christianity, but for me, I had a great time. They were some of the best years of my life. They are the best years of my life. Perhaps it could be a comfort to help you recognize the good things that happened too. You met me. You met lots of people you still care about. I’m sure you had some good times in there.

    The other thing I think I can relate to regarding the difficulty of your journey is that you are not alone. There are many other people who have dropped the façade of their faith and can at least to certain degrees, relate to your challenges.

    For me, I can’t say I regret my experiences at all. I think ours were not necessarily too different of experiences while we were Christians (BL, Keats etc), but perhaps our perspectives during and now after are unique. I presume allowing a certain degree of anger is a good thing, so I hope you are able to navigate through it in your way, in your time, but I hope you are able to come through.

    • Shannon

      Hey, Thanks Ryles.

      I am really so grateful for so much. I met some of my MOST favourite people, yes. And it was a community I needed at the time, for sure. It likely saved me (HA!).

      Being thankful is a good reminder. And I am.

      I’m also thankful to have safe places to be angry and to work through it. I think it’s going to help, a lot. xo

  • Lindsay Dianne

    I can’t actually tell you how much i LOVE this post. Such raw honesty. It’s beautiful.

    • Shannon

      Hey, thanks! xo

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  • Lynne

    I agree–we attach too much shame to anger. I think it’s okay to be angry and to give ourselves space to feel that. As someone else commented, it’s in many ways better than feeling nothing at all–and anger can sometimes be the catalyst we need to act or change. I’ve actually been thinking a lot about anger over the past week: Sitting down and spending a whole day talking through things with a sister I hadn’t spoken to in five years or seen in seven was mind blowing, and it also made me angrier at my parents than I *ever* have been–and I’ve been plenty angry, so that’s saying something :( After she left I was absolutely furious, and it got me thinking about my anger and what I could do with it. I realized I had a couple of options:

    1. I could rage at my parents, yell and scream about all the bullshit and vile things they’ve done that cost my sister and I almost a decade of connection.

    2. I could set the anger aside and instead channel that energy into rebuilding my relationship with my sister and working to strengthen the bond between us.

    While the first option really only seemed to lead to more anger, hurt and heartache, the second had a potentially more positive outcome. I guess what I’m trying to say is that while I’ve decided to let go of my anger, I’m absolutely not going to forget it. I feel emotionally and psychologically bruised and cheated by my parents–I’m sure you feel similarly bruised and cheated by years spent under Christianity. There’s no way in hell I’m going to let them back into my life, the same way you’re not likely to return to the church.

    I think allowing ourselves to feel and process our anger is important for growth and for self preservation–but I also feel it’s important not to let that anger control me or spiral into anything bigger or blacker in my life. At some point we have to let it go, take a deep breath and concentrate on what we’ve gained from where we’ve been. I know that sounds incredibly trite, but I’m finding there is peace in letting anger go–and for not feeling shame I felt it.

    Love you for always being willing to share, Shan. xo

    • Shannon

      Thanks for this, Lynne. I think the first step to me letting go of my anger was actually coming out from the shame of feeling it. Allowing it to be present without a mask. And so here I am.

      It’s amazing the work you’re doing. It’s great you’re rebuilding with your sisters. That’s really huge and wonderful.


  • Catherine N.

    Its interesting, I too have anger. I hate HOW anger manifests for me, in tears. I get so angry and frustrated that I cry. I have had an interesting faith path…brought up nominally Catholic in a Muslim world, went agnostic for a while, came back to Catholicism, even taught CCD for a while, but then left it again… I kind of feel as if, in my beliefs, I’m more “early Catholic Church” than anything else…just the love everyone stuff, the stuff that Jesus WANTED us to know. He believed in religious equality for men and women, I don’t feel as if he would have a problem with loving, gay couples. He was all about the love. But the Church isn’t. I couldn’t teach fifth grade CCD because that was when they started “teaching” about marriage. And I just could not do that. I couldn’t even say “this is what the Church believes, but I don’t”. And I could not stand there and feed hate to these small kids… and that was the beginning of the end for me.

    • Shannon

      Thanks for sharing some of your story.

      So… how do you reconcile your anger with what you believe now? What do you believe now?

  • Peach

    I do love you anyway. No matter what. Your feelings are your own, to express where, when and how you choose to express them. No one can take that from you.

    • Shannon

      It’s good to have safe places. Thanks for being that for me, S. xo

  • Gerald Ko

    As a Christian, I want to say sorry to you on behalf of the Church. I’m still trying to understand how I am to come alongside people with a different sexuality speaking with both truth AND love – ie. in a non-condescending way. I honestly believe that it IS our fault when we fail to journey with people that are experiencing the different pains in life we all encounter.

    One thing I can say is that popular cliches like “love the sinner and hate the sin” really misrepresent what Christianity is all about. I really appreciate hearing your thoughts so thanks so much for sharing it. I’d be glad to hear more, even more awesome if it’s in person. Was listening to Steve at the Interlink Conference recently and I learned so much from him, so if I can lend even just a listening ear it would be my privilege.

    • Shannon

      Oh wow. Thanks, Gerald. I’m always happy to talk about this stuff. I’m a pretty open person–as you can see. I think bringing things out from my dark head into the light helps with the healing, too.

  • Guest

    Its been years since we’ve connected, I know. But when I think of you (and its quite often, actually) I think of how much I admired your strength of character and how deeply you loved those around you. I’m feeling both sad and very proud of you for walking away from your faith… I will continue to send tons of love your way. Thanks for your total unashamed honesty. You rock ;)

  • No one in particular

    You’re a great writer – if you get angry for all of us, you still won’t be angry enough for my liking.

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