don’t need fixin’

Atheists tend to get two reactions from believers: the angry, indignant, “You’re going to burn in hell!” reaction and the soulful-eyed, pitying, “I’m so sorry you lost your faith” reaction. I want to talk about that second one.

People say that atheists are sad, angry at God, hurt in some way by life experiences… “seeking.” I won’t deny that some people reject God because of some tragedy in their lives. (Incidentally, they’re also very likely to go back, because you have to believe in something to be mad at it.) But their numbers are few. For the rest of us – for your typical atheist – this response is rather condescending. I’m sure you don’t mean it to be. You’re trying to be understanding, to communicate that you still love us, as if we’re damaged in some way. For others, I think maybe it’s the alternative to having to deal with the actual reasons a person would have not to believe.

We are not sad. I’ve known atheists in real life and online. None of them are sad. None. In fact, I can think of several who are some of the happiest people I’ve ever known. I went through a couple of years of sadness, struggling with the battle between my brain and my heart, refusing to admit that I no longer believed. I wanted it to be true! There’s an absolutely wonderful quote by Jean-Paul Sartre that encapsulated this period for me:

That God does not exist, I cannot deny. That my whole being cries out for God, I cannot forget.

But the strangest thing happened. Once I embraced it and cut those strings and walked away, it’s been like a daily waterfall of relief and happiness and everything finally making sense. I will always have sad times. Everyone does, and clinical depression doesn’t help. But I am so much happier. So. Much. Happier. I’ve heard the same thing from every atheist I’ve spoken to about it.

Life has more meaning, not less (see my earlier post about this), and I no longer have to deal with the mental gymnastics of justifying a belief that doesn’t make sense and brushes away the problems of evil and suffering as “mysterious ways.”

We are not “seeking.” The vast majority of atheists stop believing in the magical sky-man because they have come to the conclusion after much thought and research. Studies and surveys have shown that atheists know more about religion and theology than believers do. It’s not a phase. We aren’t seeking. We are at the end of seeking.

We are not mad. Well, sometimes we are, like when we see ignorance and harm perpetuated in the name of religion. Or when a Christian complains about persecution of their beliefs in America, one of the most Christian nations on earth, where every president has been at least nominally Christian (or deist) and 99% of Congress is Christian and the vast majority of state governments are run by evangelical Christians, whereas polling shows that only about 40% of Americans would elect an atheist to any kind of public office. But yeah, Christians are persecuted in this country because they get criticized for ignorant comments and can’t tell their employees which kind of birth control they can use with their own medical benefits.

*ahem* Where was I? Yeah, we get mad at things like that. Everyone gets mad at certain things. It doesn’t mean atheists are walking around mad. We’re not. We – wait, make sure you’re sitting down before I continue – we are just like you!

So don’t cry for me, Argentina. My seeking is done, decades and a religion major’s worth of it. I am happier. I feel free and relieved. My life has more meaning and makes way more sense to me. I’m not a broken person who needs sympathy and fixing. I’m a normal, happy person who is grateful for you, friend who wants to talk or hang out (or read this little blog) instead of viewing me as a scary or lost or evil “other.”

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