Atheists and Life's Foxholes

In one of my earlier threads I posted my declaration of atheism, using a lot of profanity to sever my last links with my deism. I still have my lack of belief in the supernatural, but I still at stressful times cry out to something greater than humanity to give me strength to endure. Only now, I feel crappy about it.

It’s like I’ll think very loudly, Oh Lord, let me get through this day. But now, a mythical creature somewhere is saying, “Go screw yourself, non-believer. That’s what you told do.”

I guess my problem here is, I’ve got nothing to pray to, and I feel stupid using an expression that used to comfort me at least a little.

Where do I turn for that spiritual boost now?

It’s a genuine issue. One of the benefits of religious belief is that even if it doesn’t offer any objective assistance, it can give you the illusion that assistance is possible. And thinking that something is out there that could help you is more comforting than the alternative of thinking there’s no potential source of help. Hope, even if it’s based on nothing, feels better than hopelessness.

Maybe your “lack of belief in the supernatural” isn’t quite as strong as you’d like to think it is.
If it was that strong, then you probably wouldn’t feel so crappy.

I don’t perceive the difficulty. When challenged, call upon your inner qualities, or ask assistance of others who actually exist.

I can understand expressions like, “Good Lord!” , “Why me?” or simply “wishing” things were different. But the lack of magic to call on just isn’t an issue for me.

No, I don’t feel crappy because I think God is flipping me off. I feel crappy because I cry out and I feel hypocritical and stupid for calling out to nothing.

We’re all the products of our history. You can’t just decide one day that you are going to dismiss a belief from your mind. Traces of a belief will linger long after you realize the belief is unfounded.

If your attitude is “I have no $^#@!@! reason to believe there is a God, but there ought to be one… .somebody should be responsible for all this!” or something akin to that, instead of apologizing internally for your lack of atheist consistency, explore what the “oughta be” means. It need not lead you to (or back to) a notion of an external Entity who rules the heavens and the earth. And probably won’t. That doesn’t mean there might not be something relevant to this sense of wanting there to be legitimate purpose to crying out as if to one.

I recently came very close to death in the hospital. Never occurred to me to pray to a deity. The doctors would either save me or not. Either way, nothing outside that circle had any meaning.

I completely understand the urge to ask some greater power for assistance. I also realize that prayers don’t get answered. I could delude myself and believe that some deity inspired the doctors to preform a miracle, but they didn’t. They studied the situation, used their years of expertise, and moved to a solution. Science all the way down. And what kind of deity would send a miracle to save my life and still leave me a long, grueling recovery? If you’re up there deitying, then do a full day’s work; don’t cut it off halfway through.

Humans need time to break life-long habits. I’m not supposed to cross my legs for the next few weeks and yet I keep finding myself doing so over and over again. Appealing to a deity is just as ingrained as muscle memory. You need time to readjust a basic trait. When I came home from the hospital I told my wife, “It’s the first day. We’ll make mistakes. By next week the new will become routine.”

Don’t beat yourself up for a newb error. They will happen. Over time you’ll re-create your mind. Time is the great healer, in the accurate cliche.

One possibility is finding comfort in ritual words or behaviors - you can make them up for yourself, or borrow others if their versions speak to you.

Wiccan rituals (“spells”) are great for this.

It’s nothing. If someone says, “By Jove!” it doesn’t mean they’re invoking Jupiter. People pick up swear words and intensifiers from their culture without a lot of conscious effort.

But maybe deism is intertwined with sex, orgasms, and the urge the merge. A helluva lot of Oh God!s get said during carnal activities.

Little_Nemo is correct, and I didn’t explain myself well enough. What I meant was that while those traces of belief linger, there will be a tendency to react the way you grew up (which you now perceive as hypocritical). But after your lack of belief is stronger, your nature will be to react the way Dinsdale suggests - calling on your inner strength, and/or on fellow humans.

If you want a spiritual connection with something are you certain you actually want to be an atheist? Maybe look for a different God than the one you feel is dumping on you.

Of course, even when you DID believe, you had Homer’s issue: “What if we are going to the wrong church and every week G/god is just getting madder and madder?!” :wink:

It’s not a question of what I want. What I want doesn’t make things real or true. I’m not going to start believing in Kali or Allah or whoever because I’ve decided Jehovah isn’t there.

I guess I’m mourning my loss. Martin Luthur King said, “Man does not begin to live until he finds something he would die for.” I used to have something I would’ve gladly died for. I would’ve refused that blood transfusion. Now I don’t have that anymore. It doesn’t matter that refusing blood transfusions is stupid. I have no hill to die on now. No one I would take a bullet for.

My eyes are tearing up thinking about it.

Since the title mentions foxholes, let’s start by pointing out that of course this is a myth. In the US, atheists are in the military in approximately the same proportion as the general population, and there have been notable acts of bravery by “out” atheists. Plus of course there are whole countries that are nominally atheist or have religions that do not teach a personal afterlife that still have a “normal” history of warfare.

But actually I think this does point to a real issue. When it comes to the big events in life, despite the common conception among the religious that that is where they need religion the most, I suspect the opposite may be true. That when things get serious, we find an inner strength because we have to. Our actions suddenly matter a lot.
Whereas, for the little issues in life, where failure may mean nothing to anyone but yourself, it may be more important to have an imaginary friend who’s got your back and is urging you on.

Anyway, it’s just something I’ve been thinking about, as an atheist who has been largely idle these last few months :confused:

Well, a lot of kids get upset when they learn there is no Santa Claus. :wink:

I’d suggest you intentionally shift your focus to the wonderful things about you that DO exist - both in the natural world, and the wonderful accomplishments and abilities of humans - including yourself. Take credit for your personal accomplishments and shortcomings, rather than shifting the blame to something nonexistent.

You might want to research terms such as “natural religion” - the world that we know provides countless opportunities for spiritual fulfillment. When I attended a UU church, the minister often preached of natural religion. I found it very meaningful. Persons who were unaware might not even realize that he wasn’t using the G word. A UU church/humanist society, or ethical society might be a worthwhile option, but the latter 2 are pretty few and far between, and to many of the first are becoming less Humanist and more and more “Goddy.”

Losing your religion is no different than breaking any other bad habit. It is tough at first, but w/ continued effort it gets easier and easier over time. Heck, 35+ years later, I still have the occasional urge for a cigarette!

I’ve thought about this a lot over the years. The thought of no afterlife and never seeing my loved ones again is heartbreaking, but I’ve always known that just because I want something to be true, doesn’t mean it is. When going through minor hardships, I tend to say things to myself like, “When you’re going through hell, keep going” and “Just keep swimming”. The former can be a bit of a reality check and semi-humorous poke at myself if I’m being a bit of a drama queen, and latter is kind of a calming mantra.

With the Big Stuff, I lean on others for support or call on my inner strength. I’ll sometimes label this as the God/dess Within, because it’s poetic and helps me focus on the strength I know is there, but can sometimes be hard to find.

I like to quip”‘Nothing is greater than God’ – why put my faith in the lesser thing?

Which sounds like goofy satire or somesuch, but it can actually be helpful. Go stand at the rim of the Grand Canyon an feel the vastness of the emptiness (which is not the same as ‘nothing’ but is at least approachable). Try putting the bearded dude into that empty place and see whether or not he improves it.

Keep looking for the place that that bearded dude truly belongs, that he makes a better place by being there. Do you want him putting his hands into that football game (and how much does that take away from the players)? Do you want him deciding your ailing grandmother’s fate (and what if he makes the wrong choice)? Do you want him to supervise the proper deflowering of your daughter? (And if you want a hill to die on, have children.)

Nothing will eventually seem like a much better fit in the places where you used to put the deity. And nothing will never deceive, betray or disappoint you.

Unless you grew up in an atheist family, “Deitism” has been hard wired into your brain. Synaptic pathways were formed and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

So by all means, if you need to exclaim: “Dear lord please help me through this day!” do so. Just think of it as a cathartic exercise.

Beer .