Five Stages of Atheism

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Five Stages of Atheism

Postby Nick » Sat Feb 16, 2008 2:38 am

When I converted to atheism, my view of the world changed drastically. It occurred to me the other day that this might be a pattern among theists converting to atheists. So, tell me if this sounds familiar to any of you atheists.

1. Initial Depression
Having believed in God and having a sense of purpose in life is very comforting, but once it disappeared I felt very lonely and sad. Everything I had ever thought was wrong. This stage lasted a day for me, but it could last longer; I think it depends on how long you have been a theist.

2. Initial Euphoria
After the depression comes this newfound happiness; no longer are you bound to act a certain way in certain situations, lest ye be damned. No longer do you feel tricked by a delusion. No longer do you have to go to church every sunday, or if something bad happens to you, you no longer have to worry about whether God is angry at you or not. This stage lasted as long as depression did for me.

Possible return to Normalcy. Normalcy phases are optional and may not happen at all, or may stay until the end of one's life. Because of this, one may never go through all the stages. A Normalcy phase is a phase where the person ignores their atheism and goes through life as though the person was agnostic.

3. Hedonism
After euphoria, I began to wonder; what is the meaning of life? If there's nothing after death, why don't I simply kill myself right now? The answer is because life is generally fun (for most people), and you don't want to give up that happiness that life can bring, and in this thinking you become a Hedonist, one who believes that the sole purpose in life is to pursue pleasure and happiness.

Possible return to Normalcy.

4. Libertarianism
Following Hedonism comes Libertarianism, the belief that one should be able to do whatever one wants. Abortions, drug use, stem cell research, unprotected sex, purchasing weapons; anything anyone could possibly do should be legal, as long as they hurt no one (with the exception of themselves) in doing it. I am currently in this stage myself.

Possible return to Normalcy.

5. Conservatism
Here I am speculating, since I have not reached this "step" yet. I predict that as one grows older, one begins to realize the Libertarianism can not work in society, since there will always be those who abuse it. The Atheist Conservatist is not worried about pursuing happiness at this point. To him, the purpose of his life is to ensure the survival of future generations as a species (since there is no God to save people from themselves), and that the most effective way of doing so are to impose strict laws that prevent people from harming other people as well as themselves.

Thoughts?
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Re: Five Stages of Atheism

Postby zero » Sat Feb 16, 2008 7:58 am

I experienced neither (1) nor (2).

It is unclear how you mean to distinguish between "going through life" as an atheist and as an agnostic. My understanding of these terms is that they answer different questions: Do you believe in a god? (Yes/No -> theist/atheist) Is it possible to know that there is a god? (Yes/No -> 'gnostic'/agnostic) One addresses belief; the other addresses epistemology. Thus, if I may belabor yet another obvious combinatoric point, there are four distinct possibilities. I happen to fall under the heading of both atheist and agnostic, as defined here. So necessarily there's no difference for me between living as one or as the other.

Steps (3), (4) and (5) do not quite reflect my experience, either, and certainly not in that order. On the other hand, Benjamin Franklin, who was raised as a Puritan, did become a hedonist for a time, according to his autobiography. He was never an atheist, however.

Could be an extremely interesting question to ask a wide range of people to see what commonalities of experience are generally shared. Those who were never religious to begin with, and who often appear to me as the most well-balanced as a whole, would naturally differ from those who adhered to some particular collection of religious beliefs. Among the latter, I would expect significant differences, too, depending on the nature of those beliefs and the attitude in which they're approached by the religious community involved and the individual who used to share them.

Was this intended for the religious discussions section?
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Re: Five Stages of Atheism

Postby Nick » Sat Feb 16, 2008 12:04 pm

zero wrote:I experienced neither (1) nor (2).

Oh. :sweatdrop:

It is unclear how you mean to distinguish between "going through life" as an atheist and as an agnostic. My understanding of these terms is that they answer different questions: Do you believe in a god? (Yes/No -> theist/atheist) Is it possible to know that there is a god? (Yes/No -> 'gnostic'/agnostic) One addresses belief; the other addresses epistemology. Thus, if I may belabor yet another obvious combinatoric point, there are four distinct possibilities. I happen to fall under the heading of both atheist and agnostic, as defined here. So necessarily there's no difference for me between living as one or as the other.


What I mean to say is that the person stops thinking about it completely. They never talk about, never think about, and act as though religion doesn't exist and has never existed.

Steps (3), (4) and (5) do not quite reflect my experience, either, and certainly not in that order. On the other hand, Benjamin Franklin, who was raised as a Puritan, did become a hedonist for a time, according to his autobiography. He was never an atheist, however.

What order did and what steps did you experience? And I'm pretty sure he was an atheist. http://www.wonderfulatheistsofcfl.org/Quotes.htm

Could be an extremely interesting question to ask a wide range of people to see what commonalities of experience are generally shared. Those who were never religious to begin with, and who often appear to me as the most well-balanced as a whole, would naturally differ from those who adhered to some particular collection of religious beliefs. Among the latter, I would expect significant differences, too, depending on the nature of those beliefs and the attitude in which they're approached by the religious community involved and the individual who used to share them.

Unfortunately I don't have the time to go to New York city and interview every person walking down the street... so instead I posted it here.

Was this intended for the religious discussions section?

I wasn't really sure where this would fit. We're not discussing religion, we're discussing the psychology of someone who abandoned religion, so I thought it would be best here.
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Re: Five Stages of Atheism

Postby Keiji » Sun Feb 17, 2008 4:51 pm

Moved to Religious Debates.

Though I've always been an atheist, I could probably say I've also always been a bit of a hedonist as you call it - my principle seems to be "have a long life to enjoy as much as you can, rather than killing yourself to escape the downsides of life".

One rather odd thing is I've always felt "good" while reciting The Lord's Prayer in school assemblies. Maybe I'm a Christian in disguise and just don't know it. :o :mrgreen:
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Re: Five Stages of Atheism

Postby zero » Mon Feb 18, 2008 12:32 am

Nick wrote:What I mean to say is that the person stops thinking about it completely. They never talk about, never think about, and act as though religion doesn't exist and has never existed.

That person might better be described by the rather novel term "apatheist" (one to whom it makes no difference whether or not there's a god).

Franklin, by the way, was a Deist. Like so many other Deists of his time, he had his own personal notion of a god that was quite conscously not a corporate religious belief shared with others. Theists being a very diverse lot can often say disparaging things about one another (just as atheists can likewise), and those American revolutionaries who were Deists did, by and large, hold traditional Christianity in contempt as being corrupted, unworthy of belief, and even in some ways disgustingly superstitious and anti-intellectual.
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Re: Five Stages of Atheism

Postby d.m.falk » Mon Feb 18, 2008 6:40 am

zero wrote:Franklin, by the way, was a Deist. Like so many other Deists of his time, he had his own personal notion of a god that was quite conscously not a corporate religious belief shared with others. Theists being a very diverse lot can often say disparaging things about one another (just as atheists can likewise), and those American revolutionaries who were Deists did, by and large, hold traditional Christianity in contempt as being corrupted, unworthy of belief, and even in some ways disgustingly superstitious and anti-intellectual.

Might be because the hanging of Galileo was still in living memory.

We're still around- Deism hasn't disappeared, although it's up to us how we interpret God's presence in the Universe.

There are even a few websites on Desim. Been a while since I been to any, myself, but one comes to mind- http://www.deism.org

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Re: Five Stages of Atheism

Postby papernuke » Tue Feb 19, 2008 3:58 am

The only stage i've been through is Hendoism
3. Hedonism
After euphoria, I began to wonder; what is the meaning of life? If there's nothing after death, why don't I simply kill myself right now? The answer is because life is generally fun (for most people), and you don't want to give up that happiness that life can bring, and in this thinking you become a Hedonist, one who believes that the sole purpose in life is to pursue pleasure and happiness.
--Nick
What is the purpose of life? When I was smaller, i always had a couple minutes in my bed where i thought: How can "I" simply "do" things? How come, to my will, I can simply raise my hand? How can I "think"? Why is it so that "I" controll this body which I'm in?

A good way to pass time if you're bored..
mulling over the purpose of life...
since you'll probably never find it....

[add] What is Normclacy?
"Civilization is a race between education and catastrophe."
-H.G. Wells
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Re: Five Stages of Atheism

Postby Nick » Tue Feb 19, 2008 2:20 pm

This is what I mean by normalcy:

zero wrote:
Nick wrote:What I mean to say is that the person stops thinking about it completely. They never talk about, never think about, and act as though religion doesn't exist and has never existed.

That person might better be described by the rather novel term "apatheist" (one to whom it makes no difference whether or not there's a god).
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Re: Five Stages of Atheism

Postby zero » Wed Feb 20, 2008 4:39 am

d.m.falk wrote:Might be because the hanging of Galileo was still in living memory.

I highly doubt it. Unless by "hanging" you mean his house arrest?
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