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Life after belief

Tulsans grapple with leaving religion behind

Rhonda Dorle founded the Tulsa chapter of the Recovering from Religion support group in 2012.

Greg Bollinger

They’ve been Muslim, Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness and Baptist—now they’re all recovering from religion. 

“If you’re one of the many people who have determined that religion no longer has a place in their life, but are still dealing with the after-effects in some way or another, Recovering From Religion may be the right spot for you,” said Rhonda Dorle, organizer of the Tulsa chapter.

Dorle understands the struggle of “coming out” as a non-believer, especially in the Bible Belt. Seeking a community of like-minded people, she found her way into multiple Atheist groups in the Tulsa area. In one, Dorle found herself leading a book club review of The God Virus by Dr. Darrel Ray, founder of Recovering from Religion. Dorle spoke to her club, and the seed for a local chapter of RFR was planted. By the summer of 2012, it was up and running.

“The primary focus of Recovering From Religion is to provide ongoing and personal support to individuals as they let go of their religious beliefs. This transitional period is an ongoing process that can result in a range of emotions, as well as a ripple effect of consequences throughout an individual’s life,” she said. “RFR is made up of people who have all given religion our best shot, but we can’t bring ourselves to accept the unacceptable any longer. We are recovering from every imaginable religion: Baptists, Mormons, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hindus, Muslims, Lutherans, Pentecostals, evangelicals, and many more.”

She said everyone comes with their own set of questions, concerns and experiences. “We had one young man join that is Christian. He came in with a stack of church bulletins and a lot of questions. He said, ‘With everything going on in the world—I’m Christian, but the people I know aren’t the type of Christian that I want to be,’” she said. “He had questions and wanted to ask us what we believe.” 

She said this person and many others just want a safe place to ask questions. “They say when they go to their church, they’re told ‘Stop questioning. You have to have faith.’ But they’re looking around the world, and the way they’ve been told to believe is not being reflected by the Christian individuals surrounding them. So we give them a place to talk about it.”

Dorle said she was honored to watch the recovery of another member whose transition has been more than spiritual. “Her journey has been leaving religion and realizing who she is. … The issues she was hiding from childhood, feeling like ‘I’m a woman trapped in this body and nobody understands and I’m too afraid to talk about it because my religion says I shouldn’t.’ She decided a few months later to come out as herself and she’s been so happy. She’s an independent, confident woman.”

For those considering attending, Dorle said, “Know that you won’t be judged. Everybody is going to be respectful of whatever you want to talk about. If you just want to sit and listen, that’s fine, too. Know that you’re surrounded by individuals who have similar stories or are going through the same situation and understand.” 

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Recovering From Religion 

Gypsy Coffee House, 303 N. MLK Jr. Blvd.

Last Sunday of every month, 

11 a.m.–1 p.m.