Tag Archives: apostasy

Things The Religious Should Never Say To A Non-Believer

This list (pardon the tacky title) is the result of a few years of fairly frustrating interaction with religious people, some of whom, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, had the best intentions and were either seeking to build a bridge or give helpful advice (the latter, presumed as such).

You will understand why sanctimonious remarks from otherwise intelligent and affable people, friends included, provoke more nausea than the knee-jerk reactions of zealots who simply wave you off to Hell. Many of these remarks come in the current socio-political climate of the “West fighing for its values”; some, however, are unrelated.

And yes, I’ve heard or read all of the following, quite recently, as a response to discussing my apostasy. Perhaps at the time I answered in a fairly polite manner; however, the intrinsic reaction would have translated better as follows.

Parenthesis here – I’m not even an atheist/ materialist, as I know there are phenomena worth exploring on the level of energy use, transcendental experiences etc, which cannot be reduced to mere coincidence. Foreseeing a future event with great accuracy in a dream would be a good example. However, the term atheist is often cast on me as a label (many believers cannot tell the difference; there is a clear line between those worshiping their god and the rest; specifics are often unimportant). I can’t say I mind, though it’s not entirely accurate.

1.”You must be miserable without God; you must feel so alone; atheists are dark and suicidal. They need our help and our prayers.”

My honest but less than polite response would be stop masturbating. Psychologically and emotionally, of course – at the thought that you’re in a much better place, than, conceivably, a non-believer could ever be. That what gives you elation must give everyone else elation and lacking it must equate depression and dark moods.

Needless to say, these people have their own emotional struggles – yet if you dare mention one of your own, however common among humans, they immediately make a connection between that and your lack of belief. Everyone struggles with issues at some point, regardless of religion or the lack of it.

I find this assumption and afferent compassion disgusting. First of all because it is divorced from reality. Former believers experience relief, at least in the long run (some do feel lost for some time); certainly not misery, at the realisation that there is no sky goblin perked up in the attic, listening to their every word and thought and potentially condemning them for it (much like the Stasi, I might mention). I do feel alone in that sense. In a good way. That my thoughts are my own and there’s no one writing them down in a “book of judgement” which notes my brain’s activity more arduously than a corporate accountant.

Stop assuming the role of a benevolent saviour in my direction. Stop masturbating, that is.

2.”Atheism is a fad nowadays; a cool label. You’re just going with the trend. It’s trendy to attack religion. You’ll get over it.”

Might I mention, you totally inconsiderate person (which came to replace some other term), the many years I’ve spent reflecting on all this, feeling doubtful, guilty and fearful, and endlessly analysing my decision, with all the internal struggle that involves.

I didn’t just “sign up to another club”. I had a lot of life-changing reconsidering to do. I had to question all I’d previously thought, in terms of moral applicability. You don’t just give up your religion because a new fad has arrived on your doorstep.It’s far more complex. Far more intimate and for deeper than that.

To cheapen, reduce and trivialise someone’s decades-long experience of religion can only be the product of a fairly simple mind.

3.”God has a plan for all of us, yourself included. If things go wrong in your life, it’s because you have not accepted his plan for you.”

Although I know the thought of a divine plan gives people comfort in times of struggle, such as bereavement, one has to think of the cognitive dissonance of praying to and worshiping a God who allows all imaginable atrocities.

You’re expecting your life decisions to fall out of the sky, instead of employing your brain. And then you delegate your own mistakes or misfortunes to God’s plan, while thinking someone else’s are a result of their absence of faith and being misled by the devil. How arrogant.

4.”I’ll pray for you to find your way back to God; he will help you if you just let him. I just know you’ll be back someday.”

Of course you think so; you can’t possibly imagine people existing separately from your divine Sim Farm. “It matters not. He is your king.” (Braveheart).

In your mind we’re all ants depending on his mercy, on his benevolence, on his tolerance. We are all ant-like in the sense that we cannot successfully oppose physical forces greater than us (illnesses, earthquakes, the weather, accidents, other people’s use of force etc). However, what we think and feel is ours and ours alone and not lorded over by someone else, earthly or otherwise. At least that’s the capacity we have. Of course, brainwashing gets in the way.

When you interact with me and at the back of your mind have fantasies of converting me, perhaps you should look for like-minded company instead.

5.”You’ve been brainwashed by cultural Marxists, who seek to attack our traditional values; you’re giving up your religion so you can embrace the ideology of sexual minorities.”

Look who’s talking about brainwashing. And by the way, opposing bigotry is not an ideology and neither is belonging to a minority the religious love to pick on. It’s someone’s nature, not a doctrine others convinced them to adopt.

These proponents of falsehood project by seeing artificiality in other people’s attitudes; everything is a conspiracy meant to upturn the religiously-inspired order of society. It’s called being reactionary, not objective or realistic. History has had its fair share of reactionaries and, like it or not, cringes when looking back on their views.

6.”You’re just not ready to understand that the world could not function without religion; we would all become animals; someday you will (this coming from a self-declared fellow agnostic).”

Really now? I could cite five hundred sources disproving that claim, since the beginning of time to present day, when murderous religious fanaticism is perhaps the greatest danger we all face. I could list religious wars, genocides and atrocities; torture and maiming which goes on to this day, witch hunts, the delaying of scientific progress for centuries, slavery and what not.

But something else comes to mind first – you must have little love or respect for the people around you, to claim that they are not capable, on mass, to behave decently towards one another without adopting a fairy-tale as their moral pillar. You basically argue that it doesn’t matter whether those beliefs they organise their lives around are true, as long as they can, presumably, be deceived into better behaviour.

In other words, you place yourself way above them. You don’t think they can handle the truth with their measly minds; only enlightened people such as yourself can. And those trying to make them see it are doing them a disservice, leaving them prey, heaven forbid, to their own nature (which you also share but distance yourself from). In that regard you demean the species far more than you might perceive an evolutionist does.

7.”Something terrible must have happened to harden your heart, so now you see only darkness in the world and blame God for it. You’re just angry with life; someone must have let you down, and now you reject God’s love.”

There’s such desperation to think apostasy could never be the product of an honest intellectual endeavour and sincere self-reflection. Anything but the kitchen sink is envisaged as the potential cause. Such desperation to think intuition is completely valid when resulting in faith (this is what I believe and feel in my heart, therefore God exists), yet invalid when renouncing it, and that apostasy is caused by flimsy external circumstances.

Darkness has its role, or should I say realism. I could not, without vomiting, raise my arms to praise God’s love in my direction for, let’s say, having survived a shipwreck, when everyone else around me drowned. It’s a matter of being honest about things. Survival is a matter of luck and/or resilience, not God’s presumed love. Other people’s love or altruism towards me is of their own doing, not something planted in them by the supreme puppeteer.

8.”Your preoccupation with religion shows your heart is actually crying out for God, otherwise you wouldn’t give it a second thought and you wouldn’t be talking about it to others.”

It should be common sense to realise that when someone has spent decades believing and regurgitating lies, when they do eventually abandon them, they have a natural drive to deconstruct all previously held falsehoods, especially when those around them keep spouting them.

When someone starts to see how much religion had affected their life, from their perception of themselves to their interaction with others and propensity for falling into political traps, they naturally reflect on every single aspect.They seek information regarding these falsehoods and often share it.  Seth Andrews (The Thinking Atheist) explains this in all its complexity.

The needless guilt and mortification, the needless fear of being spied on every second of the day by an invisible bookkeeper, to the degree of censoring their thoughts. The bigoted things said to others, which cannot be taken back. People who come out of cults often turn against them vocally – and who can blame them? Brainwashing causes anger.

There is, of course, a degree of anger – not necessarily towards those who unwittingly carried out the indoctrination, having been subjected to it themselves as children, yet towards the phenomenon per se.

9. “There are simply people who don’t concern themselves with matters of greater importance than their measly day-to-day experiences and pleasures… “

And then there are those with such delusions of grandeur they think they are among the chosen who will inherit the Earth. There are those who engage in social engineering in their own heads – who should have rights and who shouldn’t, which categories deserve respect and which deserve ostracism (sexual minorities for instance) etc. The world is a board game for them and they think they have it all figured out.

They are preoccupied with conspiracies upon conspiracies by those who seek to “upturn the natural order” (as if laws and cultures had not evolved throughout time, from one generation to the next, and their understanding of things were flawless). And in the end, these illusions only produce a thin smoke around them, if not gas, in some cases, as only a negligible minority of wannabe social engineers actually reach positions of influence.

Rejecting such futile arrogance is not, in any way, based on reducing one’s preoccupations to trivialities, as non-believers are often said to do. It’s simply the awareness of one’s limited perspective and limited possibilities of influencing reality – not to mention the quest to develop as much empathy as possible, as to avoid seeing enemies everywhere.

10. “I don’t think you’ll actually go to hell; you’re a good person; Jesus will take that into account. I’ll pray for you and God will listen to me.”

This is a poor way of saying “the afterlife system I believe in is so grotesque it involves the people I love and like spending eternity in a pit of fire and boiling tar, with imps shoving pitchforks up their behinds, while I spend eternity in peace and harmony”. Instead of admitting that, they give imaginary passes to those they want to maintain a relationship with in their earthly lives.

Either admit there is no such place or shut up about it. You might actually think you’re doing me a favour by interceding on my behalf to your imaginary sky goblin.Your condescending benevolence and ad hoc advocate/saviour role, from a presumed position of superiority, is so delusional it is sickening.

11. “You’re doing God’s work without being aware of it.”

This patronising remark comes when a believer is confronted with actions which fit the moral pattern they adhere to, at the hands of a non-believer. Since morality supposedly comes from God and atheists or agnostics are “of the devil”, the only way to get around liking and approving of non-believers is to think they are secretly on God’s pay role and are secretly carrying out his plan.

I hate to tell you but I don’t want a place in your imaginary Sim Farm where everyone is a property of your God. I know you built this whole world in your head, allocating a small plot to each individual you know, according to your God’s criteria – the saved, the potentially saved and the rest. Either like me for what I am or leave me alone. I don’t belong in your fantasy.

Years ago, Christopher Hitchens made this claim, seen as hyperbolic by many – that religion poisons everything. Upon analysing it, though the claim might seem exaggerated or frightening to the struggling-to-be-religious-and-get-along-with-others type, it is actually very accurate.

God is in your family, in your marriage, in your bed, in your community, in your likes and hobbies, in your intellectual ventures, in your state policy, in your country’s international affairs, and first and foremost, in your head and heart, like a ballooned Stasi, judging and censoring everything down to your most intimate thoughts.

And therefore, religion does affect, or should I say poison every aspect of your life, or at least has the capability to do so, if you take it seriously enough.

Giving Up Religion

Skimming through search results on this topic, it’s difficult to find those which describe this hurdle as a magnificent stepping stone towards freedom. Many testimonies mention anger, depression, the lack of a moral compass – even hopelessness.

And sure enough, liberation does not come overnight; it’s often a lengthy process, spanning over many months or years. Whereas some people effortlessly declare themselves atheistic or agnostic as they have never fallen into the trap of religion, for others the separation is more painful than an ugly divorce (and divorce is hardly ever pleasant). Writing about such a sensitive issue is bound to require caution; hopefully this post will be more useful than off-putting.

To start with, it makes sense to list a few reasons why quitting religion is so difficult.

  1. It involves permanently altering one’s grasp of reality, often held since their earliest cognitive development. Some people can’t do that without falling apart.

Religion is not a choice, unless one is an adult. While sincerely believing Christianity was the path to salvation; I didn’t have moral qualms with that, having been taught all my life that not bringing kids up into the faith would lead to their perdition. I justified it by arguing the moral values upheld by it were essential and only good could come out of passing them on to others (which is true to a point, if we exclude the fairytales).

By rethinking the light you see the world in, you know you have to rethink every aspect of your life, past and present, realising the errors and delusions you have been trapped in. That means rewriting your story and reconstructing your identity. Every belief, every value you’ve ever had comes under scrutiny; it takes courage to set off on this journey (and sometimes years to find this courage).

Your faith is not just a psychological bond; it’s an emotional bond; it can be your rock when everything else seems to dissipate. Imagining having gone through difficult times without it might seem impossible. But that in itself does not make religion accurate.

Children are so innocent; hearing them talk about mysticism is the funniest thing ever. My kids once believed Death was dwelling inside the building’s electric panel, as it had a skull and bones drawing on it to warn people. In the same way, they believed God lived in our bedroom ceiling. After laughing it off as silly, I started wondering who was in fact being silly about the factual aspects of this deity – them or me.

2. It  involves considering the possibility that spirituality is a fabrication altogether, which to a spiritually-oriented person can feel like life is not worth living at all.

I must confess I’ve never dealt with that fear as my intuition and long account of extrasensory experiences have put my mind at ease that reality as we perceive it with our five senses is not the complete picture (it might be a small part of it in fact). If anything, the doors are now wide open for venturing down any avenue with no worries -ever again – of heresy, eternal damnation and the likes.

3. People are conditioned to think something terrible will happen to them if they become apostates. 

Perhaps I should have started with this one. A precious light bulb moment I had was while listening to a former Scientologist describe how hard it had been to mentally detach from the cult; it had been drummed into her head her entire life that the punishment would be immediate and terrible – her plane would crash, her loved ones would die, her entire existence would be destroyed. Her words echoed my own feelings and the reason why I’d had several unsuccessful attempts to break away from religion. When doing so, I’d attributed everything that had gone wrong in my life to this attempted separation. Therefore, if she could feel that way over a false cause such as Scientology, what made me think my feelings were more true to life?

This ruthless conditioning must be what keeps so many people in line (unless one goes the way of Islam and threatens actual murder when leaving the faith).

4. One can find it hard to separate  from a  kind and loving community, turning into a drifter. 

And I’m not talking about proper cults here. Christians for instance are generally beautiful people, aside from a few fundamentalists who use religion as a way to justify their bigotry (and who would behave in the same manner regardless of their belief system). They cultivate the best aspects of the human personality; listing them is pointless as they are well known. When you become aware that Christianity itself is just a story, with some degree of truth to it, it does not make those around you less sincere in their good intentions and exercise of moral values. You can still respect them for who they are and how they live their lives, without agreeing with them regarding dogmas.

However, if they outnumber you and you’re exposed to their ideology on a frequent basis, you can sometimes doubt your choice, thinking you should perhaps revert to their ways, especially if they seem more at peace than you are.

That said (though definitely incomplete as this subject is SO vast), it now makes sense to list the best parts of becoming free from indoctrination.

1.The liberation of spirituality

The reason for listing this first is that spirituality, in some form, does matter to many people – all but those who consider themselves a hundred percent atheistic and only believe in the existence of what is palpable. When dogma is removed, the word “heresy” flies out the window, never to return; so does the fear of thinking or saying the wrong thing, which might be a gateway to your eternal damnation.

Moreover, reminiscent of mediaeval times, inside the bubble of religion it is forbidden to develop and make use of one’s natural extrasensory abilities, this being classed as occultism or even witchcraft. This can cause a person to stifle these abilities, to push them under as dangerous to their eternal soul, which is yet another way of denying their own nature. The joy of finally valuing this potential is likely to help someone overcome any anxiety regarding the “right path” they are supposedly no longer on.

2. The boulder of Sisyphus

This consists of all the small things which stain our supposed purity on a daily basis, leading to frustration and in many cases, I’m sure, neurosis. All the elation one has when getting out of confession, alas, can last no more than a few minutes, until the next sinful thought which basically takes them back to where they started. And so the boulder returns to its initial place and an exasperated Sisyphus restarts the consuming journey. Again. Ad infinitum.

“From this moment on, I will never again…” You can fill in the blank with any hopeless promise to eliminate imperfections, whether it involves swearing, sexual thoughts or the odd extra glass when no one is watching.

All this guilt and shame over trifles can be avoided by simply becoming aware that if we don’t harm anyone and don’t irreparably harm ourselves, there is no one else to answer to. Certainly not for thoughts and urges which are never acted upon.

Both Christianity and Islam argue that every deed, word and thought is recorded somewhere; those who truly believe that must be absolutely scared of their own minds, obsessing over every thought, compulsively praying for forgiveness and for outside intervention for the thoughts to stop (which never arrives, as whatever you resist persists, as Carl Jung noted).

3. Human nature stops being shameful

Mind over matter is an excellent idea, and is very useful when possible. People in extreme situations – such as solitary confinement in dreadful conditions – manage to survive through the sheer force of their minds.

However, asceticism is not everyone’s cup of tea – and needless to say, does not suit everyone’s ability. The obligation to refrain from certain physical impulses for religious reasons is no more than a tradition passed down through the centuries, much like not washing on a Sunday. It’s unclear to me still if it helps improve self discipline or simply proves the extent of religious conditioning, making people potentially deprive themselves of natural needs for fear of being shamed on Judgment Day.

Regarding strange sexual impulses, addictions etc, religion is perhaps the last place to look for answers, as instead of neutral explanations or theories (such as those put forth by psychology), it welcomes people with threats of eternal fire, or, in a softened, less graphic variation, simply eternal loneliness and misery.

4. Everything stops being satanic 

One of the biggest scares today for religious people is becoming unwittingly enmeshed with demonic elements through popular culture. There are so many videos “exposing” how a certain musical performance displays 666 in the undulations of someone’s butt  when slowed down frame by frame. This obsession with the infiltration of satanism into their minds leads to radical attitudes towards those they identify as potential promoters of satanism or occultism in general. Sometimes, these attitudes are knee-jerk reactions and are not preceded by much thought.

There’s no need for occult symbolism for these people to be a bad influence – just listen to the superficiality popular music promotes. It’s all out in the open; they’re trying to downgrade the human species to an Idiocracy type of dystopia.

But wait – wasn’t Satan musically gifted and able to play all instruments? If these people really were possessed, how come their skills are so poor they have to resort to mating calls to attract attention, like rodents under a bush on a dark alley? How about some craftsmanship FFS?  Is Lady Gaga all Satan can do?  Maybe he’s been a victim of overestimation.

There is so much more to say and definitely doesn’t fit into one post, without turning it into a short story. The issue is that letting go of religion needn’t be demoralising – not for a single day.