Can I leave my religion without losing my friends and family?

The question in the title of this blog is a big one. And I have to admit, I don’t have a definite answer.

I don’t know what your friends are really like or how they will treat you if you decide to leave your religion. Do your friends and family love religion more than you? Honestly, I don’t know. All I have to go by is what I experienced personally. So, let me share some stories and thoughts.

Let me start with the story of how I became invisible to a whole congregation.

I planted a church for a big-time international ministry. When the leader who hired me to plant the church decided he didn't like me anymore, he fired me.
The next Sunday I had to go to the church when it was opened so I could collect some things I'd left there. People were already gathered. Seriously... when I walked in, up the aisle, gathered my things, and walked back out, not one person said a single thing to me.
They never even looked at me.
It literally felt like I was a ghost. And, well, to them I was. In fact, I was a demonic one apparently.
I was literally ghosted.

(Click on the image to get a digital download of it.)

I love the humor in being “holy ghosted” but for many of us, being ghosted by a community we were so invested in and loved is no laughing matter. It does hurt.

I wish it wasn’t the case but I lost most of my church friends.

When I decided to leave my religion I imagined I would keep many of my church friends (even though wasn’t planning on going back to church). I learned quickly that it doesn’t work like that.
You lose friends. Maybe not all, but most of them. Period.
You have to learn how to make new friends while you're grieving the loss of your old ones. It’s not easy.

(click on cartoon for a digital download)

How did my family react when they heard I was leaving my religion?

Even though I've lived away from my family home for all of my adult life, they still played a role in my leaving the church. It was difficult for me because not only was I leaving the church, I was leaving the ministry.
This would be a great disappointment for some of my family. Leaving the church was disappointing for them too. But my family was pretty fair with me.
However, for some people, their families can make it incredibly difficult and painful. I know some people whose families totally cut them off because they left the church. The implicit and sometimes explicit pressure to stay with a church in spite of what you know is good for you is incredible.

(click on image for digital download)

There’s a high chance you’ll be branded as lost. But please don’t give a flock.

You might never come right out and verbally state that you're leaving your religion or taking your own path. But when it becomes evident you are, you may lose friends and confound family.
People will freak out.
Of course, sheep never leave. Because when sheep choose their own path they're immediately branded as "lost". And so will you be branded. You will be branded as lost when you walk from the flock.

(click on image for digital download)

I didn’t choose my loneliness. But it certainly is a result of my choices.

When I chose to leave my religion, I chose to submit no longer to the spiritual authority of others or conform to the group.
I fought for my spiritual independence.
I wanted to walk my own spiritual path and find my own spiritual land. This was my right and responsibility and reward too.
I admire the many people I know who make their personal development a priority even though there are risks and costs for doing so. It takes deep commitment and courage to accomplish, but people do it.

(click on image for a digital download)

To leave or not to leave? That is the question.

Although the costs are complicated, the choice is simple: be fake in a crowd or authentic alone.
I’d be lying if I said it was easy.
But I’d also be lying if I said it wasn’t worth it.
The truth is, if you work at it, you will find not only yourself but eventually a new community of friends who support your curiosity, authenticity, bravery, and growth.
Does it cancel out the hurt of losing friends and family? No, but it feels great to be liked for who I am instead of what I believe.

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