In a crisis who do you turn to?

Having been brought up within the dominant religion of my culture (Christianity) I find it very difficult to expunge all the traces of religious brainwashing that I have been subjected to. As a consequence I still find myself using phrases like “oh lord”, “dear god” etc and in a period like a prolonged illness (I get back pain) I find my atheistic resolve weakening and start to feel like turning to prayer. How do you stay “true” to the atheist principle and finally get rid of all the religious rubbish from your life?

Posted: July 22nd 2008

George Locke

Go ahead and pray if it makes you feel better. God doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pray to it. It’s basically like positive thinking. Visualize the solution to your problem. Imagine an all-powerful being that will aid you in your struggle.

You don’t have to feel shame or whatever when you engage in these practices. Remember why you’re doing it: not because you rely on God, but because you rely on yourself. You know that God doesn’t exist, you know that no one hears your prayers but you. It’s just a way to keep your mind occupied on solving the problem instead of being anxious about it.

For me personally, when I find myself in duress, I of course turn to the people in my life. In my head, I verbalize how I feel, why I feel it, how I can solve the problem. Stay calm, breathe deeply, etc etc. This kind of thing seems quite like prayer to me.

Posted: July 28th 2008

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SmartLX www

I turn to other people. Those close to me care for my wellbeing and would help me in any way they can if I needed it. I’d do the same for them. And here’s the big selling point: I know they exist, at least as much as I know anything exists.

Those who seek comfort from God most likely find it within themselves; externalising it thus can work as a psychological aid. Atheists can find comfort within as well, without having to credit God for it. Simple thoughts like looking for the silver lining are examples of this ability.

Posted: July 27th 2008

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Though raised by a strictly devout Catholic mother many decades ago, I have always been an atheist from my earliest memories from around seven or eight. I was essentially a closet atheist until the age of eighteen when I was able to leave my family home. And yet, it has been relatively recently that I have finally stopped asking god for help when I am in a demanding situation.

Now, I just realize that if the word god pops up in my head, that it’s simply a warning that I am in a demanding situation, that’s all. I then focus on finding a solution for the problematic situation, or if I can’t, to take it in stride.

Habitual behavior which we have learned as children is commonplace. I am sure there are other habits which are secular that you have acquired, like brushing your teeth/washing your face in a particular way or eating the largest meal of the day at an particular time.

I am still identifying bits of rubbish related to my forced religious upbringing. For me, I find that my critical thinking skills can be quite clumsy at times because thinking uncritically was a habit my religious teachers taught me.

By insisting on being surrounded by critical thinkers in my personal circle, whether in person or on the Web, I am learning/honing the newer habit of critical thinking, replacing the old, worn, stale one of uncritically thinking, slowly and surely through time.

It is wonderfully liberating to gradually and gently through time
replace the old with the new. You have something very nice to which to look forward. Think of your quest as a treasure hunt. You will have the opportunity to learn more about yourself and shape and mold yourself in ways that are meaningful to you.

Posted: July 26th 2008

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brian thomson www

I would argue, however, that what people say under conditions of pain or distress is not indicative of their true feelings or attitudes. A long-standing atheist might still say “Oh God”, while the most moralistic Christian might use language that would make Denis Leary blush. I’m sure I remember an episode of The Simpsons where Ned Flanders was induced to curse like a sailor. 8-)

I think this is related to the “no atheists in foxholes” fallacy, or “deathbed conversions”: the idea that people somehow “revert” to religion under stress. If I ever see that happening to someone I know – or even to me – I hope I will remember that that is not reflective of the rational thought processes of the person I know. We’re only human, after all, but it’s rational thought that tells us who we grew up to become. If a Christian has a go at you over something you said under stress: ignore them, they are just trying to confuse you in to thinking you’re somehow one of them!

Posted: July 26th 2008

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Reed Braden www

I don’t.

I realise that I’m an imperfect primate and the human brain is still evolving. Occasionally I feel the need to pray and I have to kick my leg to remind myself that it’s nothing but wish-thinking. We are emotional beings and in times of stress, our reasoning faculties fall far short of what they should be.

As for, “Oh God!” “Jesus F—king Christ!” “Holy Mother of God!” etc., there’s no need to suppress that. Blasphemy is not only harmless, it’s fun!

Posted: July 26th 2008

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