Ask Richard: Call-Out: Atheist Needs a Forum Specifically for Ex-Catholics March 3, 2011

Ask Richard: Call-Out: Atheist Needs a Forum Specifically for Ex-Catholics

Hi Richard;

I recently decided that it was okay to share with people that I’m just not that into church. I was raised Irish Catholic and it’s going to take a few more years of therapy to undo all the bullshit that goes along with that. I haven’t come out to my family because there is no point in it. Everyone will have heart attacks and in addition to asking me why I’m not married and having children (don’t feel like it), if I’ve gone to confession. I think my cousin the priest has figured it out because I challenged him on the role of women in the church. He didn’t have a good answer. He was all, “women have to pray on it.” Shenanigans! Anyway, I’ve been looking for a specifically ex-catholic forum so I can talk to others who can joke about CCD classes and bingo and spaghetti nights at the parish hall. My former protestant atheist friends don’t get it, and I figure it would be good catharsis. Do you know of any such forum or even a website by and for ex-Catholics? I’ve tried Googling it, and all I get are dumb websites about converting atheists and dealing with ex-Catholics.

Thanks in advance,

Our Lady of Couch Sleeping

Dear Lady,

I can easily understand your sense of isolation from your family, but now I can better appreciate how someone like you might not feel entirely understood by her fellow atheists if they haven’t experienced a specifically Catholic upbringing. All I could advise would be to look for common ground and common experiences with ex-Protestants, but it would be much preferable to find a closer match with people who know exactly what you’ve endured. While atheists from all sorts of backgrounds can be wonderfully empathetic and encouraging, you’re right, seeing the knowing nods of a few who have been there and done that in the RCC would be very helpful, especially in the early part of your healing.

But if you can’t find it on Google, then I have nothing else to offer. I was raised by scientific secular types, so I have no personal experience with Catholicism. Google is exactly where I’d go to look.

So let’s call out to our readers. They came through remarkably when I asked for help from survivors of religiously-based homeschooling. The breadth of knowledge and the depth of caring in the Friendly Atheist readership always impresses me.

HEY EVERYONE! Does anyone know of any kind of online forum, blog, discussion board, Facebook site, website, or whatever that is specifically for ex-Catholics? Or maybe a general atheist discussion site that has a goodly-sized portion of ex-Catholics in their readership?

Also, if she is interested and you are willing, I can forward your email addresses to her so you can correspond privately, as several people did with the column about homeschooling. Send them via the Ask Richard email link below.

This fine Lady needs some comrades who personally know the in-jokes and the in-hurts. Please help. You people are awesome. Thank you.


You may send your questions for Richard to AskRichard. Please keep your letters concise. They may be edited. There is a very large number of letters. I am sorry if I am unable to respond in a timely manner.

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  • liz

    I wouldn’t mind an ex-catholic friend like myself!

    I can totally relate to the horrible experience that is CCD and I also have a cousin (soon to be) preacher!

  • CelticWhisper isn’t specifically ex-Catholic, but has a fair number of ex-Catholics on it and is populated by people who can offer advice and insight.

    Also, willing to correspond via E-mail if the original poster wants.

  • OverlapingMagisteria

    I’m an ex-catholic myself, but I’m afraid that my experience may be quite different than yours. I was raised in Eastern-Rite Catholicism (Ukrainian Catholic) so I did not have CCD classes, was “confirmed” at my baptism, and never played bingo. My religious experience was mostly of boredom, since everything was not in my dominant language and church was overwhelmingly old ladies.

  • exe

    Maybe start your own blog or Yahoo Group or Google Group (if they don’t have one already)? With the groups, I feel the focus is getting other people to participate, which may be more of what you are looking for, rather than a blog which is more of a monolog with comments.

  • exe

    I can identify with what you are saying, being ex-Russian-Orthodox myself. I felt the religion was completely irrelevant to me. When people ask me what my favorite hymns are, the only ones I remember are strings of syllables I don’t understand.

  • Kim

    Another ex-Catholic here, but I’ve been a skeptic as long as I can remember. I was lucky enough that I was out of the whole thing before confirmation thanks to my sister, also an atheist super-early in life, who said “No way!” to my folks when it came that time. We never had bingo, but CCD, spaghetti dinners, and after-mass coffee and donuts were so awkward and totally the pits. And the “family” masses with the “modern Christian music” were absolutely awful.

    For some reason, I actually still enjoy going to a big traditional Catholic mass about once a year, though, like Christmas Eve or Easter Vigil. I like the atmosphere with the incense, choir, candles, and stained glass, and something about the ritual and Latin mass is really comforting, despite being a complete atheist.

  • MikeW

    I’d be curious to see if anyone starts an ex-Catholic group as well. While I was able to escape relatively unscathed, since I realized right before confirmation that I never really believed in any of it, I wouldn’t mind kvetching with like minded individuals about CCD class and endless masses 🙂

  • Liz

    =[ I got confirmed even though I considered myself an atheist at the time. Maybe if my older brother was more outspoken than me I would’ve had the metaphorical balls not to. I kind of regret it, but I didn’t want to start a fight. I don’t even know why my parents made me do it…I had already started refusing to go to church and denouncing god at the time. I guess the just thought it was a phase and by me getting confirmed I’d realize the same. Nope.

    I never played bingo either…not sure my church even had that.

  • Andi
  • Bob

    Another lapsed/ex-Catholic here. Facebook is not an option because of their abysmal privacy policy.

  • Liz

    ah…I tried to search on facebook but couldn’t find any groups…so I made my own:

    maybe I was just searching wrong? I hate facebook =P

    Feel free to join my group though! Maybe it can be an ‘Ex-Catholics of Friendly Atheist’ Group instead

  • Jazz

    Ex-christian. Raised by extreme christian zealots, who can only be outdone by the Westboro Baptist clan. In a similar position, in that no one understands the insanity I’ve endured in the name of religion. Exorcisms to cast out the gay demons, supposed faith healings to heal torn ligaments, and of course the threat of going to hell my entire life.

    If nothing else, I’d love to swap stories. It’s always good to know you’re not entirely alone…

  • Nancy

    Yet another “recovering” catholic, here. I went through 12 yrs of catholic education, 8 of those with Baltimore Mercy Nuns. *shudder*.

    If you find one or start one, I would love to know. You are right, if you were raised indoctrinated as a catholic, you cannot appreciate the special situation we share. I have lots of “horror” stories from my grammar school days, my non-catholic friends find most of them hard to believe.

    Let us know….I want to join!

  • As an atheist without a Catholic upbringing, the first thing I think of when I see the initials CCD is a charged coupled device as used in digital cameras so therefore (as with Richard) I will defer advice to others.

  • Start a group on Atheist Nexus. I recently set one up for ex-Seventh-day Adventists when a reader of my blog was wanting to talk to more who have left the church or are just deep in the closet in the church. We have one discussion going where we’re arguing over which Adventist fake hot dog is best. It’s kind of nice to be able to have that kind of conversation with fellow atheists who understand your background.

  • Andi

    @Bob, if you want to check out a group on facebook, create an account with a fake name, and use a new email address for yourself. (Get a new hotmail or yahoo account for it that you won’t use for anything else, or anything else important.) You don’t have to put any personal information in your account, and you can make all of your settings private. (Just google ‘facebook privacy’ and you will find websites and articles that tell you how to make your account as private as possible.) If you use a fake name for your account and put no personal info in the account, you don’t have to worry about privacy.

  • Andi

    Last thing, on my post above about an ex-Catholic Facebook group, my whole comment is a link to it so just click on my comment.

  • Rick O’Leary

    I’m also ex-Catholic, ad the other members of my family are currently (and very vocally) Catholic… But my story is simpler:

    I came out to my Mother 20 years ago, I told her I don’t believe in God, but I would support her belief.

    Nothing happened. Mom still loved me (until her death a few weeks ago.)

    Hope you get some help, but sometimes your family will end up as good as they can be.

  • Gordon

    I’m ex Irish catholic myself. Here’s hoping this church loses their grip on our country.

  • I totally feel your pain here… I’m ex-Catholic, but at my university (I live in the South), most atheists — if they ever were religious — are ex-some-kind-of-Protestant. It’s hard to relate on some topics because of this, just because our experiences of religion were so different.

    As far as finding others, I’d say check out my blog, since I am writing from an ex-Catholic perspective… but sadly I doubt you would find anyone other than me there. That said, I’m sending in my email! It’d be great to have someone of a similar viewpoint to talk with, finally.

  • Rachel

    I don’t know of any ex-Catholic forums yet, but I will definitely join in your endeavor, being that I am an atheist in my senior year of an all girls Catholic school.

  • Michelle
  • Gregory Marshall

    Dustin Williams already mention Atheist Nexus, which indeed does already have a group for Ex-Catholics

  • heironymous

    Ex-Catholic here. I completely understand where the questioner is coming from. I’ll check out the Atheist Nexus ex-Catholic site but it doesn’t seem too active.
    I may have to start my own blog – but I don’t have enough time to generate content. If anyone finds an active site, I’d appreciate a link. Thx.

  • contains several ex-Catholics who’d more than understand, along with plenty of other members of who are ex-Christian, ex-Muslim, etc,.

  • Face
  • Recovering Catholic here — I don’t think any ex-Catholic is ever really an EX-Catholic; if you’re a cradle Catholic, the culture is practically hard-wired (true for me, and I left the church at 15, some 35 years ago, and stopped pursuing Christianity in any form about 15 years ago).

    I’d love to participate in an ex-Catholic group; I like the idea of a Yahoo Group, as it can be moderated, and the messages will come right to my email (keeping me engaged), and hate the idea of a Facebook group (too many jerks, and FB is just one more site I’ll forget to visit).

    It would be wonderful to commiserate with other ex-C’s, and perhaps help one another progress a bit from wondering “What the hell is wrong with me?” to realizing: “Oh! I’m not just neurotically guilty about absolutely everything for no reason.” (I’d insert a smiley here, but I think most ex-C’s will understand exactly what I’m talking about.)

    I bet it would also help, at least indirectly, our ex-Protestant partners who do their best to “get it,” but just can’t, no matter how hard they try (the lucky ducks!).

  • Apollo

    I grew up Irish Catholic as well. I kept the Irish, ditched the Catholic. About the only forums I frequent are the Friendly Atheist forums, but there aren’t a ton of ex-Catholics there. If you want to stop by, I’d be happy to commiserate about the joys of Catholicism!

  • Moky

    League of Reason is a place with atheists from many different denominations. Ex-Catholics and ex-Protestants are the most common there.

  • PrettyButterfly

    I’m an ex-Roman Catholic. I remember the horribly boring CCD classes where we had to read pages and pages of bible verses and interpret them in the narrow view of the adult in charge. We were praised for memorizing the Rosary, which I always thought was dumb. I also endured Vacation Bible School, baptism, and first communion. To escape some of my misery, I became an alter-girl as something to do during Mass. By the time I was forced into confirmation, I was already arguing with my family and my church’s sole nun about the inconsistencies of religion. The whole thing was terrible and I am glad to be rid of it.

  • Ashley Moltzan

    What a great question. I am also an ex Cathlolic and remember ccd, went to catholic school for one year, vacation bible school. Etc. A forum would be great. I hate it when my parents who are devoutly Catholic and rub it in like I am getting married this summer and apparently my dad can’t get excited since it’s not the Catholic wedding he has always dreamed of me having … argh. But i digress, one of my favorite home movies that my parents took was after my firstborn communion in second grade. They videotaped family asking me if i felt different eating jesus, and i had a blank look on my face and said something to the effect of not really. I was more excited about eating cake. How telling is that video!

  • Might have a future in standup comedy?

  • Bob


    I have fairly tight privacy controls on my existing FB account, but inevitably find that nary a month goes by without FB selling your data to a third party or changing some fundamental setting so as to make your interactions less private.

    So I’m not inclined to be present in their system – pseudonym or not – more than I already am.

  • Our Lady of Couch Sleeping

    Hey guys! Richard, thanks for posting my letter. I really appreciate it. Everyone else is awesome for responding. I do welcome discussions with ex Protestants. It’s fun to play “who had the weirder church experience.” For instance, I had no idea what the Rapture was until my late 20s!

    I started a Google group because I am not advanced at the internet and setting up a bulletin board kind of taxed my abilities.

    Please join and share your stories! If you have trouble, you can email me at

    I might be a bit slow in responding as I just changed countries and am veeeery jet lagged.

  • For anyone who hasn’t heard this before 🙂

    “Letting Go of God”
    From Catholic to Atheist… funny.

  • Mike

    I was raised Catholic, though not in a particularly strict manner. I did however, attend 12 years of Catholic school, which has provided me with enough comedy material to hold court on Catholicism fairly frequently. When I get together with my old friends (many of us professed atheists – indoctrination FTW!) We genuine enjoy getting a rise out of discussing things like Ash Wednesday, confession, Emperor Benedict XVI, and how they only served veggies in the cafeteria on Fridays. Don’t even get me started on nuns! I’ve yet to find a public forum to share my stories, but your Google group seems like an excellent start!

  • me

    Sounds almost exactly like me. You need sympathy and positive influences. You are you, hear you roar!

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