Religion remains one of the most valuable aspects of people’s lives with about 84% of the world’s population identifying with a religious group. In Kenya, more than 95% of the population is aligned with a religious group. Most people continue to follow whatever religious tradition their parents followed and were raised in. Others decide to leave organized religion altogether with one group quitting altogether and the other group maintaining a spiritual practice. Here are some people’s observations of the ways leaving organized religion improved their lives. Their experiences in a way serve as an indictment of religion as well as a celebration of the ways people grow and change over time.
Kinder, better humans
There’s often this sense that religious people have a monopoly on being decent human beings. Only they can be kind, empathetic, generous, and concerned about their fellow creatures. The true irony is the huge number of people who say leaving religion made them kinder, more empathetic humans and they live this way not because of some command to do so or an attempt to collect brownie points or fear of damnation. They do it simply because they understood its value and want to.
Sex in most religious traditions is loaded with shame and guilt. One of the ways leaving organized religion improves people’s lives is by lifting all that guilt and shame and freeing people to wholly enjoy sexual experiences, taking pride in said pleasure.
Improved spiritual life
One ironic effect of leaving organized religion for people who maintain a spiritual outlook is the improvement of their relationship with God and the divine.
Fear of death and hell
In most religious traditions there’s so much fear of death because after death comes judgment. With judgment comes the risk of eternal damnation. Leaving organized religion for many people results in freeing from the fear of death and judgment. For Christians especially, it comes with an end to rapture anxiety. The rapture, for any who may not know, is an instant when the world ends when God will bodily take his people to heaven. It will happen suddenly and the people who are right with God will immediately be carried into heaven. Many Christians have rapture anxiety, this persistent fear that they may not be among the ones who are taken into heaven and instead will be left on earth to suffer painful tribulations with the sinners.
For many, there’s something very freeing about leaving organized religion with all its rules, all the shame and guilt. It’s the freedom to choose your path and think differently without having to be limited to some religious text.
Acceptance of life and its despair
One of the things religion offers is it offers hope. In the face of the grief, pain and despair that is part of being a human being, it offers an escape. People are encouraged with statements like ‘God has a plan’ or when someone dies, ‘They are in heaven with God and you’ll see them again’. Religion always has a reason for your suffering or pain whether it’s your fault for sinning or it’s part of God’s ineffable plan. Leaving organized religion takes away these encouraging statements and reasons for why things happen, forcing you to face life in all its inexplicable glory and horror.
You don’t realize how much of your time is wrapped up in religious activities until you leave organized religion and suddenly find yourself with a ton of free time.
In most religious traditions, you can blame someone, usually the devil for your decisions. Once you leave organized religion, your decisions are yours and you have no one to blame. You have to make an argument for what you want to do, not relying on religious text or a religious leader’s instructions which makes you incredibly accountable for your choices.
Here’s one that’s great for homosexuals and women everywhere.
Still, some miss it
As with all other things, being part of a religious group is not all bad. There’s a lot of good in it. The sense of community it offers, for example, is often unmatched and sorely missed by some people who leave organized religion.
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