A Primer for Recent Atheists: Pre-Launch Special
Religion provides a support structure for many. However, a sincere, honest appraisal leads the thinking person to conclude that there probably is no God. What then? What is the “new” nonbeliever to do – openly declare her non-belief and possibly lose friends, family, even spouse? Or remain closeted and live a lie? What are the options? Does atheism have an induction process, a way for the new nonbeliever to join the new culture, locate its supports structures, connect with the like-minded?
I posed these questions in my previous post, “Onboarding for New Atheists?“. I suggested that we should have an on-line course to deal with the issue.
The response was overwhelming. Well, maybe not quite overwhelming. Rather, “underwhelming” might be a better description.
A number of replies were along the lines of “atheism has no dogma, nothing to learn”, and “let’s not create another cult”. Perhaps I detected a hint of “I had to learn it by myself, let them suffer too!”
Still, some people did think it was a good idea. No new, recently-deconverted atheists answered: Yet they are the people the course would be aimed at. Almost by definition, they are largely not on the atheist Facebook groups yet.
However, we do hear from them on the Recovering from Religion Hotline and Chatline. The most frequent situation is someone who has come to their own conclusion that religion is silly, and that there probably is no god.
In some cases, they decided to read the Bible diligently to deepen their faith. When they saw what is actually there, it had the opposite effect. Others stumbled across atheist podcasts or debates online.
This person, typically, is the first in his or her circle to leave religion. Family and societal pressures abound. A disproportionate number are in the Bible Belt. All around them is a sea of religion. The younger ones face parents who insist that they go to church. Older callers often have a spouse who threatens divorce.
I had a caller, out of home already, whose fundamentalist parents had reconciled to the fact that he was gay. They had even accepted his gay lover. However, he felt that telling them that he was also an atheist would be more than they could handle!
Not surprisingly, many of our callers are homosexual: Their religion –usually Christianity– tells them that it is a sin; they feel that it is natural, who they really are. Hence it is also natural for them to reject religion.
At the Hotline, we have built up a list of resources and a repertoire of techniques for dealing with situations such as these. This is the subject of one of the early modules in my new course, “Atheist Orientation”. You can find the course, priced as an pre-launch special (until launch on Sunday December 25 only), at http://atheist-academy.teachable.com
About the Author
Small business owner, civil engineer, computer programmer, hiker, NLP Practitioner, Karate and Krav Maga enthusiast, blood donor. ex-Democratic Alliance Branch Chairman (Johannesburg Ward 109), Toastmasters Competent Communicator, Treasurer at Transformers Toastmasters Club, life member of Earthlife Africa, retired as Sgt from the South African Police Reservists (22 years and three medals earned), Rick is Vice-Chairman of the South African Secular Society. He blogs here and at African Atheist Activist, writes to the newspapers and is active in the promotion of science over superstition. From June 2014 to December 2015 he helped to produce the weekly newsletter for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. Since February 2015 he has worked as a volunteer on the Recovering From Religion Hotline and Chatline (averaging over sixteen hours a month), assisting people who doubt or are leaving religion. He also mentors new volunteers.