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Ten Steps To Becoming An Atheist

Updated on July 18, 2016
It's worth the climb
It's worth the climb

Of all the roads we travel in life, one of the most important is that which beckons us to truth. It is a journey without end, yet impossible to navigate without honesty, integrity and commitment. Among the many steps along the way are those that lead us away from blind faith and superstitution and toward reason and rationality, including ten common steps found along the path to losing one's faith in God (though not necessarily in the order given below):

STEP ONE: REJECT MYTHOLOGY

Every cognizant human being has already taken this step: recognizing that not every notion is deserving of belief. We all know there are thousands of gods, stories and myths, lost to history, that are no longer embraced by anyone, and that there are still dozens currently believed by billions. Even if we believe in one particular god, we DISBELIEVE in many, many more. In essence, even the believer is an atheist with regard to every god but one.

STEP TWO: REALIZE THAT NOT ALL FAITH IS THE SAME

Understand the difference between "rational" faith - which relies upon evidence, experience and proven methodologies, and "blind" faith - which persists without evidence, or in spite of it. Consider that it is blind faith which underlies belief in God, and that the rational faith you easily and readily employ in other aspects of your life becomes much more complex and convoluted when you try to apply it to a deity.

STEP THREE: EXPLORE THE REASONS FOR YOUR BELIEF

Recognize that your chosen god depends largely upon where you were born and who raised you. Try to discern whether your belief is merely something you want or need, or if it is justified by knowledge and personal experience. Objectively re-examine the circumstances that have reinforced your belief, like personal "miracles" or "revelations." Did God truly "speak" to you or act upon your life, or did you struggle to interpret things that way? Does the "spirit of the lord" really fill your heart, or is it merely an exhiliration created by spiritual expectations or magnified by shared experience?

STEP FOUR: CONTEMPLATE BEING WRONG

Billions of people believe in a deity different from yours, and you can't all be right. However, you CAN all be wrong! Try to honestly imagine a world without any of those gods (including yours). How different would it look? Acknowledge whatever doubts you have regarding your belief. If you're religious, recognize that there are many commands and instructions -- presumably from God -- within your religion that you already reject or ignore.

STEP FIVE: EMBRACE A DESIRE FOR TRUTH

You should care whether what you believe is actually true or not. Be prepared to consistently take logical arguments to their ultimate conclusions (for example, if everything must have a cause, then so must God). Be willing to honestly examine whatever answers you may find, even if they're not what you were expecting or hoping for! Reject the notion that unquestioning faith is more valuable than objective rational inquiry.

STEP SIX: EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS

Any position that is worth believing is worth challenging. Be willing to explore other points of view (including those of non-believers) and to invite critiques of your own rationales for faith. Or consider the arguments of those who believe in Gods you reject: How do their justifications for their belief compare with yours? If you perceive flaws or fallacies in their explanations, they may draw your attention to similar errors in your own that you've previously ignored or overlooked.

Here are some thought-provoking ideas to get you started:

STEP SEVEN: STOP RATIONALIZING!

Genuine integrity requires intellectual (and philosophical) consistency and the abandoning of compartmentalization (applying reason and objectivity to some notions but not others). Discard the convoluted explanations you've used to explain away the inconsistencies in your god and in your faith. If your religious text is the "word" of God, stop picking and choosing which parts you'll ignore or explain away. If God doesn't clearly answer your prayers, stop fashioning contorted interpretations to answer them for him.

STEP EIGHT: ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR OWN MORALITY

Understand that even believers filter religious moral dogma through a comprehension of right and wrong that is fundamentally secular, and based upon empathy or experience. Even the most bastardized and hateful expressions of "morality" are often shaped by picking and choosing those elements of religious faith that serve one's own predilections. It is not the commands of God that direct our moral compass, but rather our own moral compass that guides us through such commands. This human morality remains with us whether we believe in God or not.

STEP NINE: ACCEPT THE CONSEQUENCES

As a non-believer, you will learn to no longer fear Hell nor desire the false promise of Heaven. Your loss of faith may dramatically alter some social and cultural aspects of your life, and may prove unsettling to family members and friends. However, removing the firewall of faith can also facilitate a new clarity of vision, including a deeper appreciation of the one life you have, as well as the realization that, while you are a human -- with human flaws and frailties -- you are NOT a condemned and broken soul in need of external salvation.

STEP TEN: REALIZE THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

There are many others who've taken the same journey. We're waiting for you.


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  • Paladin_ profile image
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    Paladin_ 9 months ago from Michigan, USA

    Hehe. Thanks for stopping by, Tim! :-)

  • TimFellow profile image

    TimFellow 9 months ago from The Universe

    Haven't heard from this in a long time. But, I got a notification in my email. Hi Paladin.

  • Paladin_ profile image
    Author

    Paladin_ 9 months ago from Michigan, USA

    That's true, which is why I specified "blind" faith and "rational" faith. I think it's a distinction we need to make clear on a regular basis, as it often seems to be a source of confusion in such discussions.

  • CatherineGiordano profile image

    Catherine Giordano 9 months ago from Orlando Florida

    Let me add to point 2--the one about faith. People often confuse two different meanings of the word faith. One is a belief in God and religious dogma based as you said on "blind faith," not evidence. The other is a belief in the truth of something based on evidence. Atheists don't have the first kind of faith, but only the second kind.

  • Paladin_ profile image
    Author

    Paladin_ 3 years ago from Michigan, USA

    Oh, man. I'll have to remember that one! Thanks! :-D

  • Say Yes To Life profile image

    Yoleen Lucas 3 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

    Paladin - thanks a lot! You made excellent points, saying that people cannot really choose to believe, and to refuse to allow fear to force me to follow a way of life that doesn't work.

    I don't understand why "Person" accused you of being in a cult. These 10 steps go directly against what cults teach. If you're allowed to analyze at all, it's only within their narrow confines.

    P.S. Why can't Mennonites have sex standing up? Because it leads to dancing. LOL!

  • Paladin_ profile image
    Author

    Paladin_ 3 years ago from Michigan, USA

    Hehe. Well, I suppose I can be happy I didn't become a Mennonite, then! :-D

  • profile image

    person 3 years ago

    The name doesn't matter. It was addressed to you. You just left one cult for another one. It's pretty easy to see. You still have the same mindset you did when you were a bible thumper. Being an atheist, a Christian, agnostic, a believer, a non believer are all pointless. I liked your hubs, but this Paladin character is an interesting one to analyze. You just switched from one cult to another one. Anything beats being a Mennonite though.

  • Paladin_ profile image
    Author

    Paladin_ 3 years ago from Michigan, USA

    Person, to whom are you addressing your comment?

    That's an, umm, interesting user name, by the way! :-)

  • profile image

    person 3 years ago

    You're the one in a cult.

  • Paladin_ profile image
    Author

    Paladin_ 3 years ago from Michigan, USA

    I'm sorry to hear about your experience with the cult, Say Yes, but I'm glad to hear you made it out okay!

    It sounds as if you're in that transitional phase where one begins to more seriously engage their doubts, and that can be a really agonizing place to be.

    I suppose the best advice I can give you is that, in the end, becoming an atheist isn't really a choice as much as it's a realization. We can't really "choose" to believe or not believe.

    The only decision that is truly ours is whether we're willing to honestly examine what it is we believe, and why we believe it. And that includes taking the steps I've listed above (which, to your credit, you seem to be doing).

    It can also require a lot of soul-searching and struggling with very emotional questions like the one you pose -- what if the Christian church is right? Unfortunately, even once you've realized that you no longer believe in God, there are going to be times when you still have doubts, probably in the form of that very question. A lifetime of religious indoctrination is a VERY hard thing to shake.

    The key is to remember why you lost your faith in the first place, and to not let fear tempt you into falsely embracing something you no longer genuinely believe.

    Whichever way your journey continues, Say Yes, I wish you the best of luck! :-)

  • Say Yes To Life profile image

    Yoleen Lucas 3 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

    Paladin - I was a devout Christian most of my life. I inadvertently joined a cult nearly 20 years ago, putting my life in danger as a result. I am currently suffering flashbacks, which are turning me into an agnostic. That's why I'm checking out hubs like yours.

    Your directions are concise and simple, yet not that easy. Christianity has many benefits; I believe what trips up a lot of people is that it teaches that there's only One Way. If that were the truth, I wouldn't be in the mess I'm in now, with these flashbacks. Christ would have made me a new creature, and I wouldn't have joined the cult in the first place.

    Yet, in spite of this, what if the Christian church is right?

  • Paladin_ profile image
    Author

    Paladin_ 3 years ago from Michigan, USA

    I'm not sure what point you're trying to make, Say Yes, but thank you for visiting and commenting!

  • Say Yes To Life profile image

    Yoleen Lucas 3 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

    It can be scary, especially when you were raised with religion as a solid basis. I was taught from Day One that without Christ, we are / have nothing. This was reinforced when I escaped from a violent school (one of the best in Oakland, on top of that) to attend a Christian school which saved my life.

    Problem with that is, where is the wonderful community I enjoyed then? All I'm stuck with now are a bunch of pathetic geezers who turn their backs on me when I'm in trouble, and encouraged my niece to drop out of high school and pass up a plum job to work in a cult for free. If Christianity was the be-all and end-all of everything, surely I'd be able to find a great community ANYWHERE???

  • TimFellow profile image

    TimFellow 3 years ago from The Universe

    haha

  • Paladin_ profile image
    Author

    Paladin_ 3 years ago from Michigan, USA

    A believer on a date:

    Woman: No, I'm not married.

    Believer: I believe you. Hey, who's that angry guy with the shotgun?

  • TimFellow profile image

    TimFellow 3 years ago from The Universe

    An Atheist on a date

    Woman: I love you

    Atheist: Well, due to the lack of compelling evidence, it appears that love does not exist.

  • Paladin_ profile image
    Author

    Paladin_ 5 years ago from Michigan, USA

    Thank you, passion!

  • passion4pen profile image

    passion4pen 5 years ago from delhi

    i completely agree with your rejecting mythology bit!!

  • Paladin_ profile image
    Author

    Paladin_ 5 years ago from Michigan, USA

    Thanks, sheds! Perhaps I'll use that one someday if I write "Ten Advantages of Being An Atheist." ;-)

  • twosheds1 profile image

    twosheds1 5 years ago

    Well done. I'd add "Sleep in on Sundays."

  • Paladin_ profile image
    Author

    Paladin_ 5 years ago from Michigan, USA

    You're welcome, Robert! It's nice to know one's efforts are appreciated. :-)

  • Robert Pummer profile image

    Robert Pummer 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA

    Thanks for the effort you put into organizing these thoughts, and to f_hruz, I know what you mean by mental health regained. It took me a long time to slip out of the maze.

  • f_hruz profile image

    f_hruz 5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    Paladin, congratulations!

    Every bit helps which stigmatizes religiosity as an undesirable mental condition, a visible lack of education or a belief system based on emotional imbalance.

    On a global scale, the damage due to irrationality and inaction from false hope in prayer is enormous to the modern world and society!

  • Paladin_ profile image
    Author

    Paladin_ 5 years ago from Michigan, USA

    Thanks, f_hruz and Heathen! I hope for that day, too. Though I doubt it will ever come, I'll keep doing whatever I can to make it happen -- to try to make the world a better, saner place.

  • GodlessHeathen profile image

    GodlessHeathen 5 years ago from Arizona

    Great hub! I look forward to the day when everyone realizes that God is just pretend...

    http://www.squidoo.com/god-is-just-pretend

  • f_hruz profile image

    f_hruz 5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    A good list of steps to follow for god delusion to stop and ones mental health to be regained!

    Should you feel you have to be a member of some church, than how about this one here ...

    == http://churchofreality.org ==

  • Paladin_ profile image
    Author

    Paladin_ 5 years ago from Michigan, USA

    Thanks for the comments, guys.

    My greatest reservation about publishing this list was that I'd forget to add something obvious (which is why I pondered over it for an entire week, just in case). As for possible number 11, I'll include that with step 5 (embrace a desire for truth).

  • profile image

    AKA Winston 5 years ago

    I would add #11: Embrace Intellectual Honesty as the cornerstone of your beliefs. If you do that, 1-9 will automatically follow.

  • Titen-Sxull profile image

    Titen-Sxull 5 years ago from back in the lab again

    Very nice Paladin, one way or another most people who venture out of superstition and into atheism take these 10 steps, though not always in the same order.

    Step 10 seems particularly important to many people. Atheism doesn't have churches on every corner, it doesn't have churches at all, and thus many who make the exodus out of faith are left isolated and are often ostracized by those around them, even their own families. Luckily we have the internet now, so it's getting much easier for atheists to come together.