Religious, but not Spiritual
For some people, not having to participate in ritual is one of the benefits of deconversion. This was not true for me.
True, rituals tend to be silly when looked at objectively. Lighting candles on a birthday cake just to blow them out a minute later while everyone sings at you is a practice I expect some anthropologist has spent a fun day with. But for me, rituals are a helpful tool for building community and celebrating what (and who) I value.
I’ve been asked why I don’t keep the trappings of my old faith, continuing to go to the churches I know. I can’t do this. I’ve tried. Those rituals are tied too tightly to feelings of loss and anger for me to take up lightly. And the stories told, if not true, are not ones I consider moral. So I tried joining other communities who might gather for joint ritual and song, and work together to make themselves and the world a little better. I missed that.
The local CFI group is pleasant to chat with, but often focus more on what they are against then what they are for. The local Unitarian congregation is pleasant to visit. The rituals were familiar, but the stories and songs were new and spoke of the here and now. There was a lot of interest in making the world a better place. The community, though, were mostly people twenty to thirty years older than me, and while we spoke in a friendly manner with each other, I wanted something more.
It occurred to me that I was approaching this backwards. I then went to friends of mine who I wanted to build my relationships with, and found out what sorts of ritual communities they were a part of. Since then, I’ve been participating in the occasional pagan or heathen ritual; maybe twice in one month or once in every two months. The ones who know me best know my story, but no one cares what I believe or don’t believe. They care what I do. That’s a favour I can return.
I still talk with people from CFI and the Unitarian center, and may join them in an event or community service project, but it’s nice to have found a community of ritual I can feel at home in.