Apostate: a person who forsakes his religion, cause, party, etc.
There are many reasons a religious believer calls it quits. In fact, there are more reasons people list for leaving, than believing.
Many people believe simply as a result of their upbringing. Children believe and trust their parents, and if their parents are believers of any of the myriad jumble of religions on this earth, most likely their children will follow. The numerous built in doctrines of the faith, fashioned over the millennia, work to keep the believer within the fold.
“I didn’t know there was another choice”, some former believers relate, as to why they remained within the flock for so long. With people who believe the same as you do, it is easy to stay so confined. “I like the people, the social atmosphere, the ability to tell others how I feel, and that they care.” Humans have relied on each other a long long time, as it was necessary for survival against many perils.
Some believe because they have been told it is a requirement to escape a punishment from the very same God they are told loves them. Hell is described as a terrible place, with eternal burning of flesh which never can be consumed. Gnashing of teeth is thrown in for good measure, or bad, if you prefer.
A promise of great reward in some imagined afterlife draws and holds the crowds as well. Unfortunately, it cheapens the life we do have, and makes horrendous acts possible in the name of whatever… religion or God.
A lot of people leave the flock as the result of some tragic event or trauma in their lives. They get “mad at God”, it is said. Such people find it incredibly difficult to weigh their tragedies in relation to a “loving” God. “God has mysterious ways”, they are consoled. Sometimes these tragic events prompt a believer to investigate the religion in question, it’s past, it’s atrocities, it’s impact on society. Many atheists had their origin there.
“Too much dad-burned learnin’…” can lead a man or woman down the path to apostasy as well. Many of the questions religion used to hold sway over have their true answers now, thanks to science and reason. “Where’s the evidence?” becomes the question of the day, one with which religion comes up empty in response.
People leave religion in good times, in droves. The reverse is true, in bad times.
People exposed to other belief systems sometimes leave their own and join a new one, or as is the case most of the time, simply have their faith wither. They witness good and decent people, happy and content, believing in other faiths, or none at all, and despair that the dictates of their own beliefs consign such people to a horrid fate. “How could a loving God send his children to a fiery demise, to suffer for an eternity?”
Some leave, having never believed, upon finding another social group within which they no longer have to pretend. Others, still not believing, remain chained to their churches, their religions, for the sake of family relations. Even ministers, preachers, continue to preach, though belief has long ago waned and vanished. “What else will I do, this is all I am trained to do after (insert religious university of choice here).” Only now is this tragedy being addressed by some secular groups.
I helped form and am a member of a local group of non-believers. It’s there to help fill the social needs all human beings require, and to work toward improving the image of non-believers so soiled by centuries of religious propaganda. It is a group oriented at providing information to the public about atheism and non-belief in general. We work to improve the community through a high-way clean up program, donation programs, and providing for other needs as they arise. For more information go here.