I used to think that I wasn’t a family person but now I identify as extremely family oriented because I want to spend all my time with my closest friends and family—the community that I have selected for myself. These communities are special, and they are unique to each person. It takes time to develop the relationships within them, and so it’s no wonder that after so much bonding, they’re something that we feel we can’t do without. It can be very difficult to make the right decision for yourself when you feel that the very thing that binds the group is the thing that you’re giving up. For example, if you are a Christian, and you give up your faith, you no longer go to Bible Study, but that may be where all of your friends are. Fear of loss freezes us from taking risks, and when it comes to apostasy and our communities it is no different. There are lessons to be learned and things to be considered regarding the interpersonal communities that we leave behind, but in the end, I have found that the true pain of losing some loved ones was still worth it from what I have gained from those I haven’t lost.
This is only an opinion and an account of my own experiences. Other people's experience would be different from mine.
When we think about the apostasy process, we usually focus on the apostate because after all, they are the one who is in control of change. We like to imagine their departure from their church like a cowboy riding off, leaving the devout behind in their pews as they mount a beautiful horse and gallop into the sunrise. There are many troubling inaccuracies about the way that we think of this process (including liking apostasy to an episode of “Walker Texas Ranger”) but I think the greatest disservice of this vision is that apostasy is a one-time deal. In fact, it includes a social process because people who feel left behind are still trying to understand the news that I have given them.
I try to put myself in their shoes. I try to imagine how I might feel if I were the one still in the religion, and someone who I considered a friend suddenly threw up their hands and disinvited themselves from the group. I imagine that they probably feel betrayed. Some of them do feel that I was never truthful with them about who I was, that I tricked them and lied to them—and I assess that they feel this way because they are threatened by my leaving. Despite how many times I have tried to assure everybody that the choices I made are based on my own understanding of myself (and do not reflect on anyone else), they still feel insecure about my choice could reflect on them. This much I know. I know because some of my Satanist friends have come forward, though unfortunately only after becoming especially distraught, to ask me questions about it. They saw me as an archetypical Satanist, and their understanding of my identity was supposed to be constant. Instead, my news rippled over them like a rogue wave, and in its wake, I can identify three different categories that my community can now be classified in: the Bent, the Broken, and the Buoys.
The Bent are the people who weren’t expecting the news, who were affected, but are still deciding how they want to react. These are the people who confessed to me that my departure from Satanism winded them, that they felt that they had been knocked over by this “out of nowhere” change. They’re the people who don’t know if I want to be left alone or don’t know if they can talk to me (Please come talk to me). Some of these people want to still be friends, and others are realizing that all we had in common was a shared religious identity. This is the group of people that apostasy hurts the most, and I’ll tell you why: because these people don’t have to be left behind. If boundaries are lain and respect is established, the apostate and the Bent don’t have to become strangers. There is no need to feel abandoned. With communication (a lot of communication), patience (a lot of this too), and understanding, this can become something that makes or breaks the relationship.
I’d like to add too that this goes both ways. People who are in this category are trying to process the reasons why I left Satanism after-the-fact. They’re trying to work both backwards and forwards at the same time, and I empathize that it would be very difficult to understand. At the same time, it is difficult for me to explain myself to them. They ask me questions like “why” and because there are many reasons, but because I don’t want them to to feel as if I am attacking their religion (or for them to misuse my reasons), it’s hard for me to express them. Still, the more we both continue working at this, the sooner we can get back to the way things were, which is, I think, the best outcome for both of us.
The name of this group is a bit of a misnomer. The people in this group didn’t break under the pressure of my news, they became zealots and became even more firmly rooted in their beliefs which "broke" away the parts of them that I found deserving of my fondness. This group encompasses everything that we fear when we are hesitant to leave a religion because although we don’t like to think that we can't control their choices (read: lesser magic is bullshit), the truth is that we don’t make any decisions for others. In this group you will find people who have decided that it is easier to reject the truth than it is to accept it. On one side you have the people who are trying to coax you back in so that they can write it off as just a temporary blip. If they succeed, they don’t have to reconsider their understanding of the world and your place in theirs. On the other side, there are those who find it easier to loudly reject your truth, and to try and reshape it into something that makes it easier for them to process. They may make you out to be a villain so they can detach themselves emotionally from the pain they blame you to have inflicted on them. Both create an avatar based on who they want you to be, not who you truly are, and they try to make that avatar the new "you."
In dealing with this group of people, establishing boundaries is paramount. It's hard. These are people I may have deeply cared for. However, in the same way that I have made the decision to resign my Satanic convictions, they have made the decision to burn the olive branch I left for them. I can’t spend energy on people who want me to live in their alternate reality, whether it is someone who is lovebombing, or someone who is making me out to be a monster. It isn’t fair to the people who are willing to put in energy, and frankly, it isn’t fair to the Broken, either. They have made their choice. If they want to stop refusing my honesty, they will have to commit to making that call all on their own. I accept their desire to be left behind in peace. I am not turning back for them.
Out of all three groups, the group I underestimated the most was the one with people who were majorly unaffected by my news. I ended up being the one in shock. It wasn’t that they knew in advance that I was going to make this call, it was they just didn’t care, frankly. It didn’t matter to them how I identified with religion because they were interested in being a friend to who I was, not necessarily friend to ‘A Satanist.’ These were the people who didn’t see ‘Satanist’ at all, in fact. Sure, they understood that it was a philosophy that my life perspective identified with, but they knew or they didn’t care that I wasn’t a person who could be put in a box and contained there for long.
Some of them have been my friends through multiple identity experiences (Christian, atheist, Satanist), and since it didn’t matter to them then, there was no need to think it would matter now. Others were new, were Satanists themselves, and based on how other Satanists had responded, I felt the need to be very cautious—for nothing. We picked up conversations like nothing happened at all, and in fact I think that our friendships have grown even stronger since psychological safety has been establish, tested, and withstood its trial. The Buoy people are the ones who I feel safe discussing my satanic grievances with, because I know that they don’t take things personally. I know they aren’t going to try and apply my personal logic to their own to determine what they should do, themselves. I have found more meaningful relationships and stronger bonds with those who were able to surf the bumpy wave with ease. In the end, even if it were only for being able to identify who these people were (which it wasn’t), my apostasy was worth it.
It feels strange to acknowledge at this point that the things I originally feared about losing community have paled in comparison to what I have gained. All I used to be able to think about was the loss, and it made it difficult to complete and finalize my separation from Satanism because I knew I would lose some people close to me, but I didn’t know who it would be. It was a risk I wasn’t willing to take, and I had no concept that there could be anything to be gained in taking a step away. I couldn’t conceptualize that the people who knew me as a Satanist might see me for me, rather than me as a Satanist. I didn’t think that I would be able to maintain the connections that I have. I, too, was under the impression that when you achieved apostasy, that you had to leave everyone behind. I have heard stories of people coming after you from your past, trying to drag you back into the fold and I expected this exclusively. I thought the world would be made up of people who fit into the “Broken” classification—and I am happily very wrong. I’ve learned that apostasy doesn’t mean that you have to leave people behind. It means that you have an opportunity to deepen relationships with your community, and you have an opportunity to discover who is ready to accept you for who you really are instead of who they want you to be. Certainly, there will be people who choose their fantasy over your truth, but they are a minority. In the end, I’m glad I left. I’m glad that this happened. My loss wasn’t the loss I thought it was. I wish I had known sooner that my choice would bring me closer to the ones that truly matter—and I continue to have fervent hope for those who may join my family once more.
Be safe, be well! Be you.
Who is the Witch?
Once I called myself a Christian, then an atheist, and a Satanist. At the end of the day, I'm just a person who is living her truth one day at a time. I'm interested in religion, its effects on the mind, the occult, and more. Learn more about me on the about page.