Sunday Thoughts – Becoming an atheist in 3 easy steps
Being an atheist has its numerous benefits, the biggest being its ability to open the brain for critical thinking. Usually the brain is attuned to stay within the setup of prevailing traditions and for most people this setup is a religious one. A brain accustomed to thinking within the same setup over and again loses the ability to think out of the box. A drastic transition to an ideology like atheism therefore opens up the brain into questioning almost everything previously taken for granted.
But becoming an atheist is not an easy task, otherwise more than half of the world’s population could now be atheists. This is because once the brain wholey believes in an ideology to be true, that ideology remains true to it no matter the evidence to the contrary. Any information the brain receives will always be interpreted through the framework of that ideology – thanks to Cognitive, Confirmation, and Belief biases and Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon among other psychological effects.
Becoming an atheist – Step 1
Thus, the first step towards atheism is to doubt the ideology you currently believe in. This doubt is called being skeptic. Ask yourself questions such as:
- How sure am I that my beliefs are the objectively true beliefs?
- How lucky can I be to be the one believing the truth when all others who also claim to be believing the truth have contrary beliefs to mine?
- Are there objective facts that are currently known by mankind that contradict my belief
- What are the errors within my belief system? Errors such as logical errors, historical errors, scientific errors?
- Self honesty – Am I able to judge information objectively or I just want to cling to my beliefs no matter what?
After you have asked yourself these questions and found ways of working through them, you shouldn’t be an atheist immediately; but they should help you develop a mental framework of indulging in healthy skepticism.
Step 2 – Getting out of confusion
After acquiring the skeptical mindset, and using that mindset to ask yourself hard questions, you should now be confused. Questions such as “does God really exist”, “If God doesn’t exist, how can I explain my personal experiences with God?”, “What about life? Where did it come from?”, “How about the origin of the universe?”, ” Can death be the end of everything?”, “Are there spirits”, “What about the miracles?” should start troubling you.
Your attempts to answer those questions will be the beginning of your journey towards massive accumulation of knowledge. Some of the questions will need you to be equipped with philosophical fundamentals, whereas others will require you to dig deep into biology and physics. General knowledge of religious and cultural history from prehistory to current events will come in handy. You may want to stick to histories on the origin and evolution of Christian theology, get to know how different doctrines and dogmas became formulated and adopted, and most importantly how the holy texts were birthed and transmitted. This step may take you years. Many become atheists while still trying to get answers to those hard questions.
Step 3 – Living without religious purpose
You have asked yourself the hard questions, questions that allow you to entertain the thought, “what if there is no God?” You have taken your precious time to dig deep into those questions from religious, philosophical, historical and scientific considerations, and you have arrived at the seeming conclusion, “probably there is no God”. But that conclusion seems to leave you empty.
Your life appears to be meaningless. Existence tends to be unimportant. You have no idea why you’d want to do anything at all. “If there is no God, does it mean death is the dead end?” You don’t want this to be true.
You badly want for there to be a purpose for everything, a purpose for the universe, a purpose for earth and the life in it. But these purposes can’t seem to make sense in the absence of the idea of God. If not careful, the all powerful question of purpose may stress you up, break you down, and even force you to commit suicide. As statistics show, atheist commit suicide at a higher rate – mostly because of this break down, and secondly because to an atheist there isn’t any afterlife punishment resulting from commiting suicide.Overcoming the big dilemma of purpose is thus very crucial.
Good news is that humans are social animals. At the stage of trying to understand the meaning of life in absence of God, you’d be better off sharing your thoughts with someone who has undergone the difficult journey of becoming an atheist. That person might be in a position to address some of the difficult questions that are still lingering in your head.
Another thing you may want to do is to formulate your own philosophy that you can use as a foundation for interacting with the world, and some of these philosophies might even be of religious in origin. It’s important to know how you want to respond to societal hard questions – economic questions, political questions, social questions. For example, are you going to be in support of abortion, the institution of marriage, homosexuality? What will be your political stand? Will it be socialism or capitalism?
Some of these questions were once not things that bothered you because you subconsciously depended on your religious foundation to provide an anchor, but now that you are on your own, you’ll be faced with the challenge of formulating your own thoughts…And that’s when you’ll discover you still have a lot of learning to do. And with that, you’ll be welcomed to the school of perpetual knowledge acquisition.
Happiness – The Ultimate goal of atheism
You might have been promised by some religions that true freedom comes from some sought of religious salvation. But they lied. Religion does nothing but to enslave you into fear – fear of eternal damnation. Religion also comes with a list of things not to do – things that hinder your own selfish pursuits (fundamentally selfishness is the greatest virtue for life for without it you will not be able to survive), personal pleasure, and letting people do their thing. Atheism therefore offers you an opportunity to experience the ultimate freedom humanly possible under prevailing social, cultural, political and economic environments – the freedom to be happy. There are two levels of happiness:
1. Rudimentary/Naive level
At this level an individual requires belief in the supernatural in order to find purpose, happiness and joy for the life they live.People at this level, when they stop believing, are very likely to experience chaotic psychology and emotional disorientation which is likely to stress them up, more often than not lead them to living a depressed life.This is the level Jordan Peterson remarks by saying “the idiots need their religion”.
2. Self awareness level
This is a level arrived at after someone has acquired enough knowledge to allow themselves to fully understand why they don’t believe in deities and other supernatural superstitions. They have also been able to embrace some of the several philosophical frameworks with which they interact with the world. They may embrace things like humanism, existentialism, and/or naturalism. Their awareness of unbelief makes them be able to derive their own purpose for existence, hence allow them to form a more formidable life that’s happier and more meaningful. These people live longer and better lives. The Japanese are good examples. At this level religion serves no purpose at all.