How to be a better atheist, by a morally superior atheist – By Jake Farr-Wharton
A Guest Post by Jake Farr-Wharton
Martin S Pribble
Don’t you hate it when a guest blogger starts their piece with a rhetorical question?
Recently, my wife began the process of de-conversion from her deeply held pseudo-religious/ambiguous spiritual belief and I’ve been awarded (lucky me, right?) with a rather glaring PTSD-esque reminder of why we must make ourselves completely available to those we help to de-convert.
She believed in ghosts. Though, not in the same way that those charlatans with night-vision video cameras and devices that pick up EM fields (such as those produced with the torches they inevitably hold in their other hand!). She believed ghosts because some specific things happened that reinforced a previously held religious belief of an afterlife. And who doesn’t want to believe that death of your physical body isn’t the end?
By its self, a belief in an afterlife,is pretty benign. It doesn’t assume that wishing for your cancer to go away is better than surgical resection and chemotherapy, nor does it demand an unthinking and unwavering belief that well-reasoned disbelief is punishable by eternity in a burny place. All it says is, “I believe that when I die, I might not be entirely dead.”
As with all beliefs, either you actively ignore all contrary data or you live with a cognitive dissonance that will slowly, but inevitably, eat away at it. And eat away it did, and eventually, the belief in an afterlife went the way of the Moses and Abraham and dodo (except dodos were real birds, not fictional patriarch archetypes), and she got depressed.
In this case, I didn’t have anything to do with her de-conversion. These core beliefs are largely impenetrable anyway, you can chip away at them over time and provide the tools (that’s what she said) to aid in the de-conversion, but ultimately, the realisations/revelations are as personal as the beliefs themselves.
Nonetheless, while I had nothing to do with her losing her faith, it seemed a great time to point the finger at all you reprehensible atheists and skeptics and remind you that there is a consequence to scuttling misinformation and debunking irrational belief, the de-conversion its self.
I recently spoke with Jerry deWitt, the first graduate from Dan Dennett’s Clergy Project and Executive Director of RecoveringFromReligion.org, on the issue of “Atheism and Depression: Causation or Correlation”, for my podcast, The ImaginaryFriendsShow.com Podcast. During the conversation, Jerry and I shared some stories about our own de-conversions from Christianity, and the deep depressive states that we found ourselves within, following the ordeals.
It hurts when you let go of the magical sky pixie and his warlock son, it really does!
“So, what does this mean, Jake, should we refrain from actively countering the claims of believers just in case some of it sticks and they end up feeling sad?”
No, of course not, disembodied salient question asker, of course not!
What we need to be doing is three-fold;
- Continue to actively counter the claims of those holding irrational beliefs with evidence refuting their claims.
- Doing it very nicely, so that those who invariably leave the belief see atheists as delightful bastions for intelligence, reason and rationality (rather than bearded curmudgeons with tiny penises and halitosis).
- Be there to help pick up the pieces when the house of cards topples.
While points one and two are self-explanatory, the third is one that is worth emphasizing because I see so much blog based vitriol from our various atheist figureheads that can leave the believers without a belief and, as a consequence of their de-conversion and the callous way non-believers are treated by their former place of worship, without a church/coven/brothel to go back to. So they feel rejected by us because we’ve made them feel stupid and irrational, rejected by their old institutions of belief and have nowhere to turn.
Personally, I think I do this by being as nice and light-hearted as possible, even at times when others might have already sunk in their fangs and claws (and other appendages).
Have a listen to my chats with the Westboro “God Hates Fags” church, or with Ray Comfort, and other creationists. I refute their claims in the same way that everyone else does, but instead of getting angry and frustrated when they refuse to “give ground” or “concede facts”, I chuckle.
As a consequence, people who have listened to The ImaginaryFriendsShow.com Podcast have reached out to me and asked for help when they’ve found themselves at the apex of a personal de-conversion. In each occasion, I’ve done my best to help connect them with their local atheist/rationalist/skeptic groups so that when they find themselves ready to leave their church or coven or psychic group, they can do so safely.
We need to help the recently de-converted to understand that while a previously large part of their life is no longer relevant, life not only goes on, but it’s matriarch fornicating awesome!