How to cope with your loss of faith
Losing your religion
The journey to atheism is fraught with peril for many. For most of us, it starts while we are still steeped in the faith of our parents or surrounding community. It starts as nagging doubts in the back of our minds, doubts that, no matter how many times we try to stifle them with platitudes or scripture, refuse to be silenced. Some of us fight the loss of our faith with all our might, fearing what lies before us in a world without God.
If there is no God, what's the meaning of everything? What will our family, friends, and co-workers think of our new godlessness? Is there anywhere we can turn to for help?
This hub is a high-level overview for new atheists seeking help with dealing with their loss of faith. Be on the lookout for future hubs dealing with these issues in greater detail.
What does it all mean, then?
One of the scariest realizations new atheists face is that there's no great universal plan for everything that happens. It can be terrifying to lose the comfort of the much-used "It's God's plan" line we hear so much when tragedy occurs. If there's no master plan, no Creator watching above us and guiding us along, does anything matter? Is there such a thing as purpose? As meaning? And isn't it depressing to think that once you die in this world, you just cease to exist?
This is something that I struggled with greatly, and still do from time to time. I finally came to terms with this loss of metaphysical meaning because of two things. First, just because something is comforting doesn't mean that something is true. Having warm fuzzy feelings because we think a Divine Creator cares about our well-being has nothing to do with whether such a Divine Creator actually exists.
Secondly, I realized that believing that this life, right now, is the only one I have and that it is finite means that what I do from now until I die is much more important than it would be if I had an eternity after this mortal life. Look at it this way: if you were told that you had 24 hours to live, wouldn't those 24 hours be more precious to you than if you knew you had another 50 years? Of course they would be. To the atheist, this life is infinitely more important than it possibly could be to someone who believes they'll live forever after they've shuffled off this mortal coil.
Of course, no one knows for sure what happens after we die, and for me to say that I know for a fact that we just fade away into nothingness would be as arrogant as a Christian telling me I'm going to Hell because I no longer believe in their fairy tale. The honest answer is we have absolutely no credible evidence that life goes on after our mortal bodies die, and I'd rather live this life as if that's true than believe that ultimately my time on Earth doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things.
What about morality? Don't we need to believe in God to be good? Of course not. I may write another hub later about this subject, but for now, you can read some of my thoughts on this issue at my Examiner column.
Family & friends
Coming to terms with the loss of an imaginary friend and His/Her/Its plan for one's life is only one hurdle the new atheist faces. Often, someone who has lost faith in the religion of their past is surrounded by family and friends who still believe. Depending on how devout the people you love are, life can be increasingly difficult as you let go of your religious lifestyle.
It's hard to give advice for dealing with this situation because so much of it depends on the personality and relationships of everyone involved. How much one can get away with revealing about one's lack of faith will be different with each person in one's life. The new atheist may have no choice but to go along with family religious traditions, at least for awhile, and especially if one is under age and still living with parents.
My advice is to test the waters to see who among your family and friends may be open to your newfound atheism. I would caution against burning bridges, but also against compromising your dignity and self-respect. Given recent studies showing that the American population tends to distrust atheists (at similar levels as they distrust rapists!), it's vitally important that atheists show believers that they're not scary people, and the only way to do that is to come out of the closet, so to speak.
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