Atheists that are afraid of their own (lack of) beliefs

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Discussion by: petermead1

I have a dilemma. One of my coworkers, whom I have known for several months now, recently opened up to me about his religious beliefs. I do not remember how the conversation initially began, but the subject of religion somehow became the primary topic. I told him that I wasn't religious and that I didn't really "believe in anything." He responded with something to the effect of, "Yeah, I don't really believe in God or any of that stuff. It just doesn't make sense, and there isn't enough evidence behind it." I looked at him and asked, "So, you're an atheist like me then, right?" When I called him an "atheist," he literally FLINCHED. He snapped at me, "Don't call me that!" I asked him why. He responded by telling me that he didn't want his religious friends or family to find out and think that he was a "bad person." Instantly, I recognized a problem. I kindly explained to him that there was nothing wrong with him and that "atheist" wasn't a bad word. Our discussion about religion deepened, and I decided to get to the bottom of it. He seemed conflicted with being honest with himself and wanting to please his parents and friends. He even told me that he "made up excuses" not to go to church on sunday mornings when everyone asked him to go. (It sounded as if his entire social network is under the impression that he is just like them. Evidently, I am the only person he has ever been able to be honest to, when talking about religion.) No matter how much I tried to explain to him that there was nothing to be ashamed of, he simply couldn't feel comfortable with the word, no matter how descriptively accurate. I eventually told him that it wasn't my objective to make him think or agree with anything that he didn't want to. It makes me wonder: how many people are out there that are simply too afraid to stand up because they are worried about what other members of society may think of them? Where would we be if they weren't so fearful? I don't want to "out" people, but I do wish they could have the courage of their convictions. Any advice on how to help these people to help themselves?

57 COMMENTS

  1. I myself am an agnostic-atheist;

    If a man has failed to find any good reason for believing that there is a God, it is perfectly natural and rational that he should not believe that there is a God; and if so, he is an atheist… if he goes farther, and, after an investigation into the nature and reach of human knowledge, ending in the conclusion that the existence of God is incapable of proof, cease to believe in it on the ground that he cannot know it to be true, he is an agnostic and also an atheist – an agnostic-atheist – an atheist because an agnostic… while, then, it is erroneous to identify agnosticism and atheism, it is equally erroneous so to separate them as if the one were exclusive of the other.

    • In reply to #3 by Apeshit:

      I myself am an agnostic-atheist;

      If a man has failed to find any good reason for believing that there is a God, it is perfectly natural and rational that he should not believe that there is a God; and if so, he is an atheist… if he goes farther, and, after an investigation into the nature and rea…

      An agnostic is a philosophical fence sitter. Creating the concept “god,” without underlying evidence (hypothesis, theory) is an invalid concept to begin with. Knowledge is not acquired through the process of inventing a concept or entity with no observable phenomenon to support it, and then stating “try and disprove it.” Lack of evidence to support a hypothesis is one thing. Creating a (god) concept with faith, then demanding disproof before not believing in the invention is another (quite impossible). The fact is, any asserted god “concept” is in conflict with virtually every law of physics. To believe in a god entity, is to invalidate what we know about existence. Simply put, elemental matter requires no creator. It exists unconditionally. Matter can react with other matter/energy to form other forms of matter, but it cannot be created or destroyed. It’s life span is infinite (our knowledge limited to the theoretical nature of the state of primordial matter). No god is required to create existence. One can pursue this statement further, in the context of astrophysics, not religion or gods.

      There is no rational basis to the middle, and somewhat political ground of agnosticism.

      The term “free thinker” is a fine substitute for the term “atheist.”

    • In reply to #3 by Apeshit:

      I myself am an agnostic-atheist;

      RD has an excellent section in The God Delusion where he tackles “The Poverty of Atheism”. YOu should have a read and see if you really find that a satisfactory label for your position.

  2. Why must we advertise our beliefs or the lack thereof?
    As an athiest I feel no need to convert others to my way of thinking. I have been a athiest for many years and only a few of my friends know about it. I don’t ask or care about what religion someone is. If I had made some big announcement about my lack of belief it would have really hurt my mother and other friends and relatives. What would be gained by that? I spend little time discussing my beliefs.
    What is to be gained by upsetting others?

    • In reply to #4 by Nash33:

      Why must we advertise our beliefs or the lack thereof?
      As an athiest I feel no need to convert others to my way of thinking. I have been a athiest for many years and only a few of my friends know about it. I don’t ask or care about what religion someone is. If I had made some big announcement about…

      To many atheists it is not a question of advertisement. It is a question of honesty and personal integrity.

      I’d much rather ask why “atheist” is such a scary word, and why people who are supposed to love you unconditionally cannot accept that that is who you are?

    • In reply to #4 by Nash33:

      Why must we advertise our beliefs or the lack thereof?
      [...] What is to be gained by upsetting others?

      Well, relief from the discrimination suffered by millions of atheists comes to mind. Also a much needed check on the presumption of moral superiority claimed by religion – the basis for many wrong-headed laws and policies which do real harm.

      It may not always be prudent for individuals to “come out” but we shouldn’t let that blind us to the fact that there is a real cost when atheists remaining silent while religion claims a privileged place in society.

      Besides, there is power and beauty in the truth, who are we to deny this to others in the name of sparing their feelings? When I finally confronted my religious beliefs and began the process of acknowledging rationality, it was very “upsetting.” I endured a lot of agony as I worked through the guilt and other mental obstructions put in place by my (Mormon) church. Yet I would not spare myself a single moment of that “upset.” It was the price of my freedom, and has opened horizons to me which I never imagined as a believer. I’m grateful that I had friends who cared enough to be honest with me when they were faced with the choice between telling me the truth or “upsetting” me.

  3. If he doesn’t feel safe coming out, he shouldn’t have to come out. I’m out to two people, and that was done very carefully. I don’t really talk about religion much, except for those two people I told. Everyone else can find out on a need-to-know basis.

  4. I’ve come out publicly and loudly as an Atheist. However my family, pretty much all of them, really don’t care that much, nor do most of my community, even the committed believers. I suspect this is due to living in a tolerant community. Other people may not be so fortunate.

    One of the things I really disliked back in the ’70s and ’80s was the “Out campaign” which exposed gays who did not want to be exposed. Except in cases of blatant hypocrisy I believe it should be personal choice, not political expediency which should be the norm. Until someone is ready to publicly declare their lack of belief the best thing to offer is a friendly, non judgemental shoulder.

  5. Atheists are afraid, with good reason. To be an atheist in today’s society, is to be considered foolish and evil god-haters. It makes us pariahs, and demonizes us. It causes strangers to either ignore or violently react to you. Many have been disowned by their own families, and other people they truly care about have abandoned them, all under the guise that we atheists are the problem. Is it really any wonder that they would be afraid to tell anyone?

    The problem is NOT that these people do not have the ‘courage of their convictions’. Atheism is not a conviction, because it is actually the lack of a conviction in something. Like ethnic groups and homosexuals, we do not WANT to be discriminated against for a single strikingly irrelevant characteristic we happen to have. Unlike them, we really could hide, and no one could ever really be sure that we were atheists. It is not surprising that so very many hide their unbelief, and in many cases, pretend to believe for the sake of preserving the life that they know. I am actually surprised that we have as many outspoken and vocal atheists as we do, considering how they are treated for it.

    That said, it is wonderful that so many atheists have come out of hiding, and confronted the social stereotypes that have been plaguing the community. We need it. If we EVER want the perception of atheism to change, we have to change it, because no other group has any interest in changing it for us. We MUST confront the absurd generalization made about us, and soundly defeat them, before acceptance can be achieved. It is OUR turn to call out the lairs and cheats slinging mud at us, prove that they are the ones in the wrong, and leave them crawling back under their rocks to hide.

    It won’t be easy, but it is necessary, that is why we do what we do here. That is why Dr. Dawkins does what he does. This horsesh!t only grows when we refuse to shovel it out, expose the floor, and fight the stink of unquestioned and unjustified prejudice.

    • In reply to #11 by Tlhedglin:

      Atheists are afraid, with good reason. To be an atheist in today’s society, is to be considered foolish and evil god-haters. It makes us pariahs, and demonizes us. It causes strangers to either ignore or violently react to you. Many have been disowned by their own families, and other people they tru…

      While this is true in parts of the US it’s not true in Australia and Europe and probably most of Canada. In Australia nobody would care although they might think you wanting to discuss religion was a bit weird. So immigration is a solution although it doesn’t help the people you leave behind !

      Michael

  6. After childhood indoctrination, peer pressure is likely the second most powerful influential factor forcing people to maintain religious belief. Your friend’s story is not surprising at all.

  7. The question is, what is an atheist ? An atheist is simply someone who is NOT a ‘theist’. The word atheist is the word ‘theist’ with the prefix ‘a’, where ‘a’ means without, or non, or lacking. It follows that atheism per-se is not a belief, but rather a lack of belief. Likewise, atheism is not a religion; it is a lack of any theistic religion.

    Thus atheists come in many stripes. A new born baby is not a theist, so a newborn qualifies as an atheist. There are people who are atheists, by lack of any concern about such matters. They are apatheists.

    On the other hand, there are atheists who have considered the options, and decided not to plump for theism. I call them considered atheists, because they have arrived at their position, by consideration of the evidence and its implications.

    Many atheists, (dare I say a majority), do not say with absolute certainty that there is no god, merely that there is no good reason to believe that there is one, (at least no good reason that they have yet come upon). They are agnostic atheists.

    Among the considered atheists, are those adamant that there is no god. They are strong atheists. You might say that in this narrow group, there is a belief – that there is no god.

    One might wonder what all this has to do with the original post in this thread. My point is that the term atheist is a much looser one than some theists understand, and the reaction of your friend, petermead1, seems to arrive out of the prejudice of some theists, about what atheism entails.

    So if someone is an atheist, the meaning of their atheism needs to be established by questioning them, for the mindset of that person to be fully understood.

    B.T.W. buddhists are religious, but are atheistic in that they have no theology, as they don’t follow or worship any god. And what of primitive peoples who worship pagan gods? Are people like that classified as atheists by contemporary theist, because they aren’t really, they just believe in the wrong god{s}, (by the standards of the contemporary theist).

  8. …. OMG…. you’ve become an “atheist agony aunt”….. do you feel a need to guide him onto the right path?? What is the right path???

    He is an athiest, being a christian, muslim… blah blah blah, whatever requires faith, not just saying you are one! He obviously does not have faith. I celebrate Xmas, it doesn’t make me a christian…. but I do get presents!

  9. Hi Petermead. Just remain the openminded, friendly and trustworthy coworker that your coworker has evidently taken you for. If he asks for advice on whether and how he should reveal his unbelief in Christianity, you could suggest that he just let his family and friends know that he prefers not to attend church services. He does not need to give a reason or excuse beyond saying that he finds the services not to his liking. He does not have to make a grand revelation of soul. When his right not to go to church has been accepted by kin and kith, opportunities may arise – some of them will probably be concerned about his spiritual welfare – for him discreetly to let those close to him know that he does not in fact believe in Christianity. That would be the end of the matter in any civilized society, but I know nothing of your coworker’s background.

  10. The situation really is no different than the issue of gays and being in the closet. Only once some people showed they were NOT ashamed of who they are did others stop believing there was something shameful about them. Atheists need to stand tall and proud and speak the truth. In this way, it makes it easier for other atheists to “come out of the closet” instead of living in fear. Life didn’t get any better until gays stood up for themselves. The same thing can be said for atheists. And continuing with the comparison, we are also born atheists.

  11. It really depends on where you live. Sounds like you are not worried about being lynched, but that the culture is mainly religious. I can understand not wanting to be ostracised by all your friends and family. While I think the world would be better off without religion I don’t want to force anyone to change their beliefs. I want to educate people. If religious beliefs include forcing others to do actions, and follow laws only for religious reason then I would forcefully fight against that.

    Superstition has no place in making the laws, or in any way governing anyone.

  12. Dawkins has shed light upon the way in which “Athiest” is a scary, dirty word to christian folk. One of his anecdotes springs to mind, where someone is on the telephone to a loved one saying “It’s all well and good you don’t believe in god. BUT AN ATHIEST!?!?”

    As for agnosticism, Dawkins and Hitchens slam that frame of view. Conceding equal likelihood to the existence, and non-existence of a god, is falling far short of logic.

    The OP has had first-hand experience in the emotionally engraved fears of the indoctrinated. It isn’t something which totally leaves one until after they make the logical decision that the only justifiable standpoint is atheism. You all might have seen Professor Dawkins Vs. George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney. My best friend was personal ‘altar servant’ to Pell, during his boarding school years. An Officer and a diplomat nowadays. The other night, over some lagers, he said first he didn’t believe, then might, then did believe in god.
    I suppose that one’s ability to denounce past practice, is inversely relative to time spent in that old mindset. A term surviving my mental fragmentation since the time of university, specifically from economics, seems perfect here. “Sunk Cost”. This term denotes all expenditure prior to the current, being potentially subject to a logical decision to drop it, if the future of the project isn’t viable.
    It’s just ‘sunk cost’. The future spending required to save a floundering project is unjustifiable, thus economically the old spending is simply ‘written off’.
    I think when transferring this notion onto the topic of faith and belief, it becomes too hard for some individuals to deal in emotional currency. Memories of time spent belonging to, and exerting effort towards a faith become an obstacle. The more involved a person once was, or the more involved their peers, family and community were/are, the harder it might become.
    Sadly this potentially accurate analysis, is of little use. Our target audience would undoubtedly, view economic logic as being equally as “cold” and “soul-less” as they perceive the actual sciences to be.

  13. I don’t think anyone should have to justify a lack of belief in something that has never been proven true. I am to the best of my knowledge the only atheist in my family and some immediate members know and I suppose other members are likely aware. I don’t feel a need to make an announcement to them about it.

    Being part of a very religious family with strong roots in the south means there is a lot of cultural ideas surrounding faith and such that go completely unexamined and are accepted nearly unilaterally. Fighting my whole family over something like that is pointless. If they can’t accept that I disagree with them on it that’s their problem.

    I don’t live near most of my family and don’t often head down to NC, so it’s far less an issue. But in general, something like this certainly shouldn’t be forced.

  14. Don’t out them or pressure them to come out. Period. You’re not a friend if you do. There’s a good chance that, after struggling with this for a long time, they ultimately will come out on their own. But when and if that happens is their choice, not yours.

    Being an atheist doesn’t have to be a person’s top priority in life. Family and friends can be more important to them than expressing their lack of belief. They are the only ones who know what they need most.

    You’ve done your part. They now know there is someone out there who won’t discriminate against them for their lack of belief. That’s a support network. This may give them someone to talk to about this stuff, where they haven’t felt able to do so before. Sometimes, that is enough. Knowing that they won’t find themselves entirely cast out into the wilderness might give them the courage to come out.

    But you also have to honestly ask yourself; how important is this person to you? Are you really motivated by this person’s best interests, or your own agenda? You describe them as a “coworker”, not as a “friend”. If they heed your advice, come out, and their family and friends reject them, how much support/time are you willing to devote to this person? I’m not suggesting intentional manipulation on your part, I’m just saying that maybe you haven’t fully analyzed your own motives here. You should at least take a few moments with yourself to make sure of that.

    • In reply to #24 by Nash33:
      If a person was being forced to be an aryan member of the KKK, being taught what he knows to be wrong, it would be filthy to follow Nash33′s advice. It is one’s DUTY to help a fellow person out of a position where they are being personally tortured. It is one’s duty to help another set themselves free.

      • In reply to #27 by dmanhart:

        In reply to #24 by Nash33:
        If a person was being forced to be an aryan member of the KKK, being taught what he knows to be wrong, it would be filthy to follow Nash33′s advice. It is one’s DUTY to help a fellow person out of a position where they are being personally tortured. It is one’s duty to he…

        Why invent a hypothetical situation? We have a real situation where a guy knows he is a nonbeliever. He just does not like the label ‘athiest’. He doesn’t need a label to be a nonbeliever.
        Where did this personal torture come from?

        • It’s not really necessary to broadcast your religious beliefs or lack of them. I am an atheist who doesn’t feel the need to shout it far & wide. If someone were to ask me I’d tell ‘em, but religious convictions simply aren’t discussed much in my circle of friends and the issue of god simply doesn’t weigh heavily on me at this time in my life. Basically there are other causes I feel more inclined to champion. In reply to #29 by Nash33:

          In reply to #27 by dmanhart:

          In reply to #24 by Nash33:
          If a person was being forced to be an aryan member of the KKK, being taught what he knows to be wrong, it would be filthy to follow Nash33′s advice. It is one’s DUTY to help a fellow person out of a position where they are being personally tor…

    • In reply to #24 by Nash33:

      Leave the coworker alone. Let him make up his own mind. Atheism is a statement of nonbelief. Why does nonbelief require any action?
      He knows he is an atheist. Why does anyone else need to know?

      As someone who simultaneously came out as both atheist and gay in my late 40′s I strongly agree that people (generally – see below) should not be ‘outed’. Linked to that, I also strongly agree with Timothy M’s point about the need to take account of past emotional investment. ‘Coming out’ is in my view a process, or a journey, not a one off event. It takes time to accept things for oneself, to acknowledge self-delusion etc: it also takes time to rearrange one’s life. In my case not going to church was not big issue: but telling my wife and kids I as gay & moving out was less easy. I can imagine in a small sized and small minded religious community coming out as atheist could match my (gay) coming out – a drastic rewriting of relationships, maybe job, maybe home.

      (As noted by others, there could be cases where outing closet atheists might be justified, essentially if they are using influence to coerce people in religious ways, ie are hypocritical. I don’t know how often that happens – there are of course all too many cases of secretly gay men (it’s usually gay men!) using their public office to push homophobia (J Edgar Hoover was perhaps the most notorious, but there are many religious examples)

  15. I know that part of the reason I check this site and am engaged by it is that discussing my world view is both interesting to me as well as important. I am not sure everyone feels that same compulsion. My point of view is that every person is responsible for their own world view and their own happiness within that world view.

    I get endless enjoyment out of the natural world and trying to understand it. Not every one does. Everyone gravitates to their own specialties and participates in them at their own depth of comfort. I am not interested in forcing people to be anything that they are not. I think that this is exactly what religions expect; they force you to be something your are not.

    For this reason I would not participate in religion. I do not, however feel the need to block people from doing what they need to do to navigate their life. I’ll discuss and debate and point at contradiction and inconsistency… But, people can worship a floating pile of dogshit for all I care!

    I’d allow my co worker to be who they are and broadcast it at any decibel level that makes them comfortable. It is their right. Just as my right is to broadcast at some pretty loud levels!

  16. I think you should encourage your friend to think logically about what he believes. I do not think it is important for him to label himself. I went through the vast majority of my life labelled as a christian although I never believed in it and in time I was quite open to being called Atheist.

    Atheism scares a lot of people, those who think what it means if evolution and natural selection is the principal reason behind why we are here on this planet. I believe a lot of people do not see the logic or the truth behind organised religions but are still too afraid to adopt Atheism as a principal in terms of how to live your life. I don’t really know any Atheists who have selected their partner based on the quality of their genetics to improve the gene pool and to promote evolution or encourage natural selection with their children.

    I think the best path is to not judge people or not care what they call themselves, best way to help people is to promote opening their minds to science and math and the wonders those things unlock. Religious extremists prey on people who seek guidance in their life and Atheism isn’t a belief which provides any guidance whatsoever. I do not think it is something you adopt more it is something you become when you reject the falsehood of religion and that has to be something someone does willingly and in their own time.

    People just need to learn to substitute religious dogma.with social values, most promote the same positive messages.

    • In reply to #32 by Vim:

      Atheism scares a lot of people, those who think what it means if evolution and natural selection is the principal reason behind why we are here on this planet. I believe a lot of people do not see the logic or the truth behind organised religions but are still too afraid to adopt Atheism as a principal in terms of how to live your life. I don’t really know any Atheists who have selected their partner based on the quality of their genetics to improve the gene pool and to promote evolution or encourage natural selection with their children.

      What? This is nothing to do with atheism.

      It’s more like Social Darwinism which is generally considered a bad idea these days.

  17. An interesting story. We have lived in a religion-dominated society for thousands of years. It is inevitable that the religious have managed to demonise the word ‘atheist’ and everything to do with it. To stand up and say I am an Atheist .. takes a certain strength of character and a confidence in one’s own sense of identity.
    To this person I would say this – you cannot persuade someone to make this kind of change overnight. If you expect that then you risk alienating him further. Enter into a gentle dialogue over a period and he will become accustomed to voicing his views out loud and sharing them. Also make an effort to find occasions in your work place where you get an opportunity to voice your position as an atheist, in his presence, and show him by example that it is a bona fide and legitimate point of view.
    Too many closet atheists do not come out because they see and hear no one else coming out.

    “how many people are out there that are simply too afraid to stand up because they are worried about what other members of society may think of them?”

    A HUGE number of people. I have met MANY church goers who have admitted that they go to church for the social element. This is VERY common in my view. They keep quiet about their atheism because it would rock the boat and cause the kind of friction in their social circle that they would find destructive, with no discernible upside. To be honest I can understand that.

    • In reply to #33 by Howard Brittain:

      An interesting story. We have lived in a religion-dominated society for thousands of years. It is inevitable that the religious have managed to demonise the word ‘atheist’ and everything to do with it. To stand up and say I am an Atheist .. takes a certain strength of character and a confidence in o…

      I am decades older than most of the posters here. It was around 1960 when I became a non believer. There was no Internet and all communication was slow. There was no sign of any support for atheism.
      I did not label myself. I simply quit believing in god. No drama. My life went on just fine with no comming out party.

  18. Naturally, it is not my intention to force anything on him. It isn’t that important that his family doesn’t know how he truly feels. It just seemed, based on the conversation, that he was legitimately struggling with these conflicting views. It just bothered me to see someone in this sort of mental pain. Ultimately, he is responsible for his own beliefs, and it is not my responsibility to influence him. After that initial conversation, he did bring the subject up with further questions a few times. Eventually, we stopped talking about and everything was resolved. I told him to do whatever is best for him. That’s the best advice I could offer.

  19. Atheists that are afraid of their own (lack of) beliefs

    It is not the atheistic world view which causes fear. It is the disingenuous propaganda and threats, churned out against atheists, by some theists, in some parts of the world.

  20. I remember the first time my daughter called me an atheist I said, “No I’m not!” Even though I had read atheist materials and knew I didn’t believe in a literal god and maybe even deep down knew I was an atheist, the word spooked me. It took a while for the dust to settle before I was able to say I’m an atheist. I would say the best way to handle this situation is to give the guy some space. Let him bring up the subject. If you approach him you may cause worry that he will be unwillingly outed.

  21. Hi Peter,

    Maybe your friend is confused of being a Communist or Atheist. I guess you can start a conversation by explain the difference between the two.

    Atheism is just a discussion of not believing in God.
    Communism is the discussion on how to manage a country their way. And you can also tell him that Cuba is a communist country, and they are Catholic. So you can ask his opinion about Cuba, if they are good or bad in terms of country management style.

    So atheism has nothing to do with being bad or good.

    And if you want, you can also share that “Nazi is also Catholic”. Show the evidence with pictures, videos, photos on how Nazi soldiers and leaders on their relationship with Catholic. Even Hitler wrote a book about his Christianity belief. There are abundance of evidence you can get from public library or internet.

    Later, you can conclude that if a communist country choose to be Atheist or Catholic, then it shows that Atheist has nothing to do with being bad or good. It shows that Atheism is just a way of thinking not believing in God without any evidence, that’s it, nothing more.

    And if your friend start talking about God is good, you can ask who their God is. If it happens to be the Christian God, then show their own bible about how bad the Old Testament God as described by Dawkins, and how bad the New Testament God as described by Christopher Hitchens.

    The thing is… we need to understand the concept that “In our society, many times but not always, there is no good or bad… there is only if you are the winner, then you’ll be the king. If you lose in the war, regardless how good you are to the society, the king can easily promote to the public that you are the bandit who has done a lot of bad things.”

    So your friend need to be informed about it, and start to come out of the closet. Explain that, coming out of closet is to promote science by questionings everything including the religions and their “policies” or dogmas.

  22. I just find it very sad that anyone should believe their friends and family would immediately judge them as ‘bad’ if they knew of their beliefs or lack of them, rather than maintaining their former assessment of the person, and re-judging their view of their beliefs. In other words, why wouldn’t they say “I know you are a good person, so if you tell me you are an atheist I must reconsider what I think of atheism”. But I shouldn’t be surprised; logical deduction isn’t likely to come naturally to them.

  23. I think it is a very sad day to not believe in Christ. If you don’t believe in him,then you are a atheist. The best advice for this person is that he must go and consult any priest. I think that atheist has a very bad knowledge of any believe. The more they know about Christ the more they will understand what it feels to be religious and to be loved by our Father in heaven.


    Female

    • In reply to #42 by Sally151:

      This is a good site to come to for some education.

      I think it is a very sad day to not believe in Christ.

      .. But that is only because you have no understanding of other view-points, and very little knowledge of biblical history.

      If you don’t believe in him,then you are a atheist.

      Actually atheists don’t believe in the numerous versions of the Xtian god or for that matter any of the other gods. List of deities

      The best advice for this person is that he must go and consult any priest.

      I have debated with quite a few priests on this site. Many of them are very very ignorant – even of their own religions.

      I think that atheist has a very bad knowledge of any believe.

      That is because you make stuff up, instead of carrying out objective investigations.

      Perhaps you could start your education with the early history of the god (Yahweh, Jehovah etc) you have chosen to believe in.

      The more they know about Christ the more they will understand what it feels to be religious and to be loved by our Father in heaven.

      Perhaps you could study some of the other versions of the mythology which were edited out of the bible by Constantine’s Bishop Athenaeus ?

      http://www.nationalgeographic.com/lostgospel/document.html

      http://www.gnosis.org/library/marygosp.htm

      The myths and delusions can be very comforting – until you encounter the harsh realities of life equipped only with stories from mythology.

  24. I don’t want to speak for anyone else so I will just share my experience with this. What your friend is afraid of is the overt hostility the fundamentalist crowd demonstrates to those who don’t think like they do and “atheist” is the worst thing you can be in their eyes because they just don’t understand how anyone cannot “believe” in their god, etc. It is unlikely that confronting his family would go well and there is a price to be paid for “comming out” including a loss of friends, possible retaliation in employment, and knowing that you may really hurt members of your family whom you love dearly like your mother or father (what child wants to do that?). I think that many of us are experiencing what many gay folks went through in their process of coming out. To make it more difficult, one cannot predict how the believers are going to react. Some will surprise you and be quite compassionate (I always suspect that they may have their own doubts) and others may surprise you be being overtly hostile and judgemental (who thought sweet Aunt whoever could be so angry?). Others just get very quiet. I suggest that he carefully chooses who to talk to. Start with the person he thinks would be the most understanding and go from there. Not all of us actually come out to all members of the family. I personally, never discussed it with my mother– she didn’t need more to worry about. However, the situation is a work in progress– particularly in the work place. I am a professor at a public university but many of my colleagues are devout believers. Some of them are constantly discussing every issue in religous terms. I just ignor them. It’s not like you will ever change them and you will look like the professional in comparison in such situations. Sometimes, you just have to be more patient. As for the Sunday morning dilemma– perhaps your friend could start a new hobby that can only be done on the weekend. At least he will have something to do when his family struggles with the reality that he doesn’t share their beliefs in magic. And, finally, I am always trying to treat believers respectfully even if I don’t often get the same in return. It’s sort of the MLK, non-violent approach to the entire situation. Tell your friend that the feeling of emancipation will be worth it. The sun will be brighter, the sky bluer, and the breeze will feel better… and it’s wonderful to be able to stop worrying about being held “accountable” for what you “think”! I am sure your support and friendhip is a big help in itself.

  25. I believe its very sad that these people are brainwashed from a very young age, leaving no room for self thought or reason. Religion is truly an evil tool used to manipulate the masses. Is there hope for those of us who refuse to be blinded by this screen of deceit? Richard Dawkins rocks my world

    • In reply to #45 by shawdennis:

      I believe its very sad that these people are brainwashed from a very young age, leaving no room for self thought or reason. Religion is truly an evil tool used to manipulate the masses. Is there hope for those of us who refuse to be blinded by this screen of deceit? Richard Dawkins rocks my world

      Is it evil, or just an anti-depressant?

  26. “”atheist” is the worst thing you can be in their eyes because they just don’t understand how anyone cannot “believe” in their god, etc.”

    It’s more a matter of social proof, or social evidence. If you have no real evidence for a belief the next best thing is social evidence, if everyone else believes then that is proof in and of itself. So saying to a theist you are an atheist is like destroying a piece of evidence of supporting their beliefs (like destroy a fossil is to a scientist). They won’t like that.

  27. Why should people of reason – critical thinkers – be defined in the terms of the religious believers? If they want to describe us as atheists, I say we describe them as “supernaturalists.”

  28. Yeah, that’s a tough one, but I don’t think it’s limited to atheism. There are also religious people who don’t want to seem too religious. For example, I know folks who will say a prayer before every meal at home, but who don’t want to be noticed doing that in public. It’s human nature. We don’t want to offend, so it’s easier to go with the flow.

    • In reply to #49 by joehev:

      Yeah, that’s a tough one, but I don’t think it’s limited to atheism. There are also religious people who don’t want to seem too religious. For example, I know folks who will say a prayer before every meal at home, but who don’t want to be noticed doing that in public. It’s human nature. We don’t wan…

      Isn’t that what the bible says in Matthew 6.5 ? Pray to god privately not publicly.

      Michael

  29. I would neither “out” atheists nor advise people to “help themselves”. Humans have always lived in a world infested with violence, superstition and absurd irrationality. Serves us right.

    I wouldn’t have advised Najm al-Din al-Kitabi in 1277, or Nicolaus Copernicus on his deathbed in 1543 to knock the Earth off its perch and replace it with the Sun at the centre of the universe. They did and Najm was reviled for it, while Nicolaus escaped a roasting by dying before publication.

    I wouldn’t have advised Giordano Bruno in 1600 to express his opinion that there is an infinite number of worlds in the universe, other than the Earth. He did and was roasted to death with his tongue held in a clamp as an irredeemable heretic. If we had to wait until a space telescope proved him right, then so be it, we don’t deserve better.

    I wouldn’t have advised Galileo Galilei in 1610 to open his mouth about the moons of Jupiter or the nature of comets. He was scheduled for roasting but for the efforts of his daughter Maria Celeste; instead, he spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

    I wouldn’t have advised Fred Hoyle in 1949 to excuse a god (any of the 2971 on my list) from the responsibility of putting the universe together. He did and now all his great works in cosmology and astrophysics hardly ever get an airing in the media.

    Nor would I advise anyone today to declare publicly that the “big bang” is a physically impossible piece of garbage, although it fits nicely with the “divine truth” that the whole universe came – in an instant – out of the mouth of a biblical god.

    All these scientists and thinkers should have kept their thoughts among themselves and left the rest of us wallowing in ignorance, deception, and lies. Others will disagree but I don’t believe that the gross majority of the “Sons of Adam” deserve better. Present company excepted, of course.

  30. Sounds familiar. Though in my case it is society in general – after the Soviet Union felled into pieces, everybody suddenly bececame Christian. Communists occupated Latvia->they did not like Christians->so christianity must be good. Except that this peace of land has always (except some decades) been occupied by somebody, and those befor Communists were Christians…. But the attitude of the new Christians to the atheists is, for example, shown by altering the word “ateists” to “atejists” (judging from the morphology, it must be person living in the lavatory). And then these talks that atheists are mean, vicious and have bad sex (that’ what local Cardinal says).
    Anyway, the courage starts with the knowledge (history in general, history of religions, psychology, Bible, human sexuality, after all), that will certainly bring peace of mind. Then it is essantial to develop ability to express oneself – Christians ar very touchy and you will certainly offend anybody, but if you manage to start senteces with “I think that” instead of declaring things, and then explain why you think such and such way (it is not easy to develop this habit), you will at least leave good impression on the sensible Christians and, as to the others, nothing will help….

    • In reply to #51 by ieva:

      Sounds familiar. Though in my case it is society in general – after the Soviet Union felled into pieces, everybody suddenly bececame Christian. Communists occupated Latvia->they did not like Christians->so christianity must be good. Except that this peace of land has always (except some decades) bee…

      You sound as if English may be your second language. Where are you living now? It might help to understand your post because its a little bit confusing.

  31. I think any individual who is well known for his or her atheism would experience just as much trouble turning away from the all-knowing ‘intelligentsia’ and walking in the other direction. The sense of betrayal and disloyalty felt by those who faithfully trusted and followed them would produce a significant disturbance in the movement. Case in point: Mr Dawkins dismissive treatment of the atheist apostate Antony Flew; Apparently, when Mr Flew was a staunch atheist, he was in touch with reality and was ‘a great intellect’, but since his apostasy, he is no longer that. It appears there is little chance of leaving any flock without suffering some bullet wounds. Fortunately for Mr Flew too, there were plenty of welcoming arms waiting on the other side. Funny lot we are, we all need to be right… This whole argument is a joke among monkeys who are divided in ‘reasons’ but are united by one simple pattern; neither side can stomach the thought that they have thus far, got it all completely wrong.

    • In reply to #53 by twostories:

      I think any individual who is well known for his or her atheism would experience just as much trouble turning away from the all-knowing ‘intelligentsia’ and walking in the other direction. The sense of betrayal and disloyalty felt by those who faithfully trusted and followed them would produce a si…

      The problem is contained in the little box of following a person rather than following well reasoned ideas. Either Mr. Flew (?) flew the free thinker’s coup due to a failure in “his” reasoned ideas, or was simply regurgitating some other individual’s ideas without incorporating them into concepts. Any weak mind can latch onto strong ideas, and then reject them later for light and transient reasons.

  32. Hi ieva,

    The word atejists, or atejistas sounds Baltic, probably Lithuanian. Anyway I don’t know how to describe a “communist”, but this is what I would say to a Christian:

    From ZedBee, a pome, a little trifling,
    With apologies to Rudyard Kipling.

    If you can ignore Jesus’ teaching,
    And follow Satan’s preaching,

    If under the cross you crusade and kill,
    Distant strangers who never meant you ill.

    If you can steal Aztec gold and claim,
    That you did it in Jesus’ name.

    If you can force on China the odium,
    Of Bengali hash, skunk, and opium.

    If you can steal diamonds, gold, and oil,
    With the victims’ blood, sweat, and toil.

    If you can take your victims’ money,
    And go back for their milk and honey.

    If you can invade a defenceless country,
    To stuff the coffers of obscene gentry

    If you smite the poor with all your might,
    And claim it is your god-given right.

    If you kowtow to the mighty and bully the weak,
    And on the world at large satanic havoc you wreak

    If you can, with a hearty laugh and giggle, say,
    So I am a sinner, but hey, to Jesus and Mary I pray.

    If after your ill-gotten gain you feel safer,
    With a drop of wine and a little wafer.

    Then, my friend, you are a Christian,
    Without any question.

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