I thought I’d talk about something that might not be mentioned often. Some of this is my own experience and some of it is that which I’ve heard from the experiences of other atheists. Much of it also my own thoughts and internal struggles.
The truth is that when you realize that there are likely no gods, it can be depressing. Not just when you first lose your faith, but even long after. When you observe the world in light of this realization, you begin to think that you are alone and that there is no hope.
Even though religion is probably a human construct, it does provide comfort and safety. Though I think this is a false sense, I acknowledge that it’s a powerful one.
Another thing that religion does is provide relationships with people who are very like-minded. It’s true that religious people are individuals, but they usually have things in common. In their specific groups, most have a community of people who agree on many of the same things. When two Catholics meet, it is likely that they will find many things they can agree on.
This is not always true with atheists. If two atheists meet, they may find that they have very little in common – other than the fact they lack belief in gods. Not to mention that a lot of atheists are not open about their position, so meeting fellow atheists is a challenge. It can be difficult to find people to connect with as an atheist.
It can sometimes be worsened when an atheist comes out to family and friends who are religious. Though sometimes relatives and friends accept them, many times they do not. It’s still very common for atheists to be shunned or even disowned by family. Even if an atheist is fortunate enough to have family and friends who accept them, the relationships they have with these people will never be the same again.
Even though they say they love you and accept you, you may still see a subtle look of disappointment in your parents’ eyes and hear a tinge of condemnation in your friend’s voice. People may start keeping you at arm’s length and those you were once close to may start treating you like a stranger.
All this while an atheist must deal head-on with a reality that many believers only experience tangentially; the uncertainty of the future and the dangers of life.
How do we navigate life?
What decisions should we make?
None of us knows what will happen to tomorrow. And there is no guarantee that we’ll even be around to see it. This is a plain fact that most of us realize.
An atheist experiences this to a greater degree. Yet sadly, often has to deal with it alone.
So what can we conclude from this?
Does this mean atheism is hopeless?
Yes. But probably not for the reasons you think it is.
Atheism is hopeless because atheism isn’t supposed to provide hope.
We provide hope.
You see the world is the way it is because few people do anything about it. We are engrossed in our own lives. We only see that which is of immediate benefit to ourselves and forget about everything else. It is a sad trait that many of us share (including myself).
It is a unique perspective looking at a world without gods. Everyone, whether religious or not, is primarily concerned with themselves. So you can see people both loving and hating for a god they don’t know exists, but rarely see people loving for the sake of a human they know does.
For this reason, we live in this cold, dark and unforgiving place and we feel alone.
But we’re not alone. We have each other.
And when human beings decide to change, things will definitely get better.