Afraid and lonely? It happens.

Question from Josh:
I am a somewhat new atheist. I recently finished leaving the fold and feel that I am now very much deconverted in this long drawn out process. However, no matter how many books I read about how hell was invented later I still have a small fear of it in the back of my mind. I was wondering if you had a similiar experience or had advice. Also I am feeling very lonely since deconverting it seems as if it gets harder and harder to find secular friends as an atheist. I feel I have to keep this hidden about myself.

Answer by SmartLX:
Welcome to faithdrawal, Josh. I didn’t invent it, but I did come up with the name. The fears and anxieties instilled in you by your indoctrination (including the fear of Hell) will outlast the core beliefs on which they’re based, possibly by a long time. Such is the nature of psychology and emotion. Be assured, however, that as long as you don’t relapse into the beliefs themselves, you will feel better and less afraid as time goes on. (The opposite happened to me; after not seriously thinking about religion for over a decade, all the associated emotions had faded and no longer supported the beliefs. I mostly base my concept of faithdrawal on what people have told me in their questions.)

You haven’t said where you’re from or where you’re living, but it can certainly be problematic or even downright dangerous to identify yourself as an atheist in some places. That said, there are few places in the world where you’re likely to be entirely alone in your atheism. Think about it: if you feel you have to keep it hidden, other atheists around you probably feel they have to hide it too, including from you. A community sometimes needs a few brave folks to “come out” before the rest will be open about it. I’m not necessarily encouraging you to do this, I’m just acknowledging that it would take courage, and for good reason.

While you’re waiting for the local atheist contingent to hit that “critical mass”, you can look for local groups with “Atheist”, “Humanist”, “Secular” and/or “Freethinker” in the title. If you’re in America, for example, American Atheists and the Secular Student Alliance are all over the place these days. If you’re in Great Britain, look for the British Humanist Association. If you comment and say where you are, even to within a state or equivalent, we might be able to help with this.

Cheer up, it seriously only seems like you’re alone.

3 thoughts on “Afraid and lonely? It happens.”

  1. I can tell you that my initial months as an atheist were very difficult too (for very different reasons that yours) but with time atheism opens the doors to rational (as opposed to “magical”) and scientific thinking and that helps a lot.

    Once you get used to thinking rationally about the situations you find yourself in, a lot of things start making sense. The question that one asks as a theist regarding misery (personal or general) in the world (“if there is a god, then why this …”) gives way to rational thought about the source of the misery and appropriate actions.

    The rational thinking often helps you analyse your situation well and think of better solutions than you did before. And this often leads to renewed confidence and a sense of liberation.
    Also, if all solutions fail, you don’t end up flailing your fist at some imaginary old man in the sky … you submit, realising (rationally) that not every situation has a solution that is likely to be beneficial to you, but at-least you tried and if you hadn’t, things may have been worse (for the lack of trying).

  2. Very good advice! My journey to atheism and truth began in my late 30’s. I am now 73. I began to question the bible and through
    extensive studies of it and organized religion came to the conclusion it was all myth and exageration. The books that comprise the old and new testaments are only a very small portion of the stories that were circuaing about God, Jesus and the deciples at that time. The Roman Catholic church decided in 325 AD in the council of Nicaea what stories were to be included in what today is known as the Holy Bible. I have found that most people accept with out question, what ever they are told, as truth, no matter how rediculous it seems, when it comes to the bible.
    Big mistake. Reality and the bible are two opposing factors. Science represents reality. Superstition and mythology
    represents the bible. Every one can choose which they wish to believe for themselves. I choose science, I choose truth. As Samuel Clemmons (Mark Twain) wrote pertaining to the bible, and I quote: It is full of interest, it has nobel poetry in it, and some clever fables, and some blood drenched history, and some good morals, and a wealth of obscenity, and upwardsof a thousand lies:

  3. damn Larry, I did not know Mark Twain said that, my favorite quote by him was, it is not the parts of the bible I don`t understand that scare me, but the parts that I do. awesome

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