Is answering questions a cathartic experience?

Do those of you who are ex-believers find this process of answering questions to be a cathartic experience?

Posted: October 2nd 2010

Mike the Infidel www

Cathartic? Not really. It’s a nice chance to get to flex my mental muscle, and I enjoy it because it gives me a chance to challenge myself on subjects I might not have considered before.

Posted: October 9th 2010

See all questions answered by Mike the Infidel

flagellant www

I find no catharsis in answering questions about atheism. However, I had a cathartic moment many years ago when I realised that I was finally free of all vestiges of religious thought and behaviour. The process had started in my teens and continued throughout my twenties and thirties. Gradually, I shed any lingering respect or reverence for religions and the religiosi. Then, one day I realised I was completely free from all the twaddle with which I’d been indoctrinated. This was my cathartic moment: in addition to applying modern knowledge to religious belief, and finding it greatly wanting, I had finally rid myself of any back-of-the-mind thought that there might be something in it after all.

Now, I use my knowledge and experience to explain how theism is mistaken, that it is unnecessary and deceitful wishful thinking, dreamt up by ignorant and/or power-hungry people, and that we are much better off without it. If I can persuade people to dump their religious baggage, then I am pleased to be able to help them to do so. There is no catharsis on my part, but I hope I am encouraging something similar among readers.

Posted: October 4th 2010

See all questions answered by flagellant


Not particularly.

Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s a challenge, but I don’t think it’s cathartic.

Posted: October 4th 2010

See all questions answered by Eric_PK


I am guessing you mean the pop psychology/Freudian notion of catharsis, that is, to describe the act of expressing, or more accurately, experiencing the deep emotions often associated with events in the individual’s past which had originally been repressed or ignored, and had never been adequately addressed or experienced, rather than the religious or literary use of catharsis.

Though never a believer, I was forcibly raised religious, and I had no choice—as an older sister was already brutally and insanely disowned for her atheism—but to go through the motions until the age of eighteen, keeping my atheism in the closet. It was very painful psychologically to go through that experience at the time. However, I was able to ease out those tights knots of discomfiture in the following decade after my leaving my home—a long, long, long time ago—as I was welcomed into the lively, secular, and emotionally supportive university culture of New York City. A major healing influence was my meeting up with that disowned sister many years later, and I was able to look into her eyes and say, that was immensely ethically wrong that you were disowned and she agreed.

However, I have noted that some fine-tuning in terms of healing from such a damaging experience still happens, but not here, by answering questions, but by talking with other atheists who have gone through similar experiences at forums for atheists. The motivation for why I answer questions at this site is the same as what enabled me to acquire post-graduate credits in library science and work at a major American university library for several decades—I am an information diva (teehee). I learn so much by researching questions that I am grateful for the opportunity to write here for that reason. I am very passionate about intellectual honesty and rational-based policies in the tax-paying public realm which are topics that have always been close to my heart.

Departing from your suspected emphasis, I would like to muse about the dramatic use of catharsis as by Brecht viewing catharsis as a pap for the bourgeois theatre audience, and designed dramas which left significant emotions unresolved, as a way to force social action upon the audience. In Brecht’s theory, the absence of a cathartic resolving action would require the audience to take political action in the real world in order to fill the emotional gap they experience.

I wonder if the somewhat wry dramatic style of answering questions here may not have that effect on some of our readers? I would imagine that our style would not be appreciated by the catharsis-addicted audiences of reality television and Oprah Winfrey.

Posted: October 3rd 2010

See all questions answered by logicel

Dave Hitt www

No. It’s just something that’s fun to do, a way of contributing to the advancement of rational thought in a pleasant environment.

Posted: October 3rd 2010

See all questions answered by Dave Hitt

brian thomson www

An aside: thank you for not assuming, in your question, that all atheists are ex-believers. I’m in the category of people who were taken to church as a kid, did some religious-type things (e.g. I was an altar boy), but who couldn’t really call themselves Believers-with-a-capital-B. I just stopped going when my mother stopped taking me, and don’t really have any experiences that require catharsis.

Posted: October 3rd 2010

See all questions answered by brian thomson

SmartLX www

I didn’t have any major demons to exorcise (figuratively speaking), so catharsis is not a major element of my work here.

For me it’s more of an ongoing crash-test of my atheism. I go where the big questions are, in case one of them shows me that I’m obviously wrong.

That’s certainly what many of the questioners hope will happen.

Posted: October 3rd 2010

See all questions answered by SmartLX


Is your atheism a problem in your religious family or school?
Talk about it at the atheist nexus forum