Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Recently I linked to a post by an atheist (Staks Rosch) who admits that atheism has a suicide problem. Since, however, he's still an apologist for atheism, he has to put the best face on the problem. So now I'm going to comment on some of his statements.

I should say at the outset that both believers and unbelievers can be susceptible to depression and suicide. 

Then there is the transition period in which an atheist has just left religion and feels completely lost. 

i) That artificially confines the problem to apostates. But are apostates the only atheists susceptible to depression and suicide? Surely not.

ii) As far as apostasy is concerned, it's easy to see how, after the initial rush of "liberation" wears off, and humdrum reality sets it, that apostasy would ultimately be depressing. Like folks who go to parties to get happy. Maybe that works when the dance music is playing, but after the party disbands, they crash. 

They are often without the community they have depended on for so long and suffer from the existential questions of life for the first time. They were often used to the belief that God is with them everywhere and now they know that it was all false. So they feel really lonely and even angry that they have been lied to all their lives. 

This shows how emotional apostates really are. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the Bible is fictional. That doesn't mean they were "lied" to. The Christians they grew up with didn't think the Bible was fictional. Indeed, even if (ex hypothesi) the Bible is fictional, there's no reason to assume Bible writers thought they were writing fiction. An atheist could just as well say Bible writers were gullible men passing on secondhand rumors and legends. Like Medieval hagiographers. 

Why is "You lied to me!" the first thing many apostates reach for? Why this sense of personal betrayal? Why not just conclude that those he trusted when he was young were well-meaning, but sincerely mistaken? 

Ignorance really is bliss. People are happier when they have no idea what is going on. But when people do know what is going on, when they actually have a clearer picture of reality, they are in a better position to make themselves really happy. It is the difference between being high on drugs and being high on life. Or in this case high on Jesus vs. high on the vast wonders of the universe. Obviously, being high on life is the better kind of happiness. Plus, when we know what is not making us happy, we can take actions to fix things and to make us happy. If we just wash down the pain with religious platitudes, we don’t actually fix any actual problems. With that said though, recognizing the problems sometimes isn’t enough. Atheists are often isolated and ostracized. We see the sad state of affairs in the world and see the harmful influences of religion which at times seem overwhelming with little to no hope in sight. Religious believers can find help and comfort in their religious institutions, but atheists usually can only find help online or in very small local communities that don’t meet very often. 

i) Except that he substitutes secular platitudes for religious platitudes to wash down the pain. What if realty is the problem? 

Suppose someone goes to the doctor because he's feeling a little off. Can't quite put his finger on the the problem. Suppose his physician diagnoses him with the early stages of MS or Alzheimer's. 

Now he knows what's going on, and that's when it really bites. Many people are afraid of death, but that's not the only thing they fear. They fear dying in certain ways. They fear dying in a nursing home. They fear losing their mind before they die. All their memories fading away. They're afraid of being lost and alone, helpless, abandoned at the end of life–when they are must vulnerable. 

Or they fear retaining their faculties, but being trapped in a dysfunctional body. Your mind is still active, but you're frozen in place in dry cement.

What if you're diagnosed with a degenerative condition like Huntington's disease or Lou Gehrig's disease? What if you are paralyzed from the neck down due to traumatic spinal chord trauma? What if your child is diagnosed with terminal leukemia? Then Rosch's happy talk about "community," "fixing the problem" and "getting high on the vast wonders of the universe" rings hollow. 

Those are extreme examples, but not uncommon. indeed, as more people live long, they hit the threshold for some of these terrible diseases. 

Then, of course, there's the reality of atheism. There is no afterlife. Everything you hold dear is just a secretion of your brain. Atheism is a hopeless worldview. 

ii) What about "community"? Even at its best, that's no substitute for God. Hugs are nice. Sympathy is nice. Nice words are nice. But in the end, that's all they are…just words. 

There's a screaming gap between what people say and what they can do. Suppose a husband loses his beloved wife of 50 years. They made a life together, through thick and thin–like two vines planted side-by-side which grew into each other. 

Life goes on, but not for him. He has no life to go back to. 

No matter how supportive people are, they are ultimately impotent to make the situation better. Their kind words are ineffectual. 

There's only so much humans can do for one other. We are merely creatures. We are powerless in the face of life's greatest calamities. Things happen in life that leave many people irreparably broken. Their lives are shattered for life. 

iii) Moreover, failed relationships are a major source of depression and suicide. "Community" is a double-edged sword. 

Also, the atheist community (if there is such a thing) as a litmus test for membership. Political correctness is endemic in atheism. Social acceptance is conditional. They love you as long as you agree with them. 

That isn't unique to atheism. But by the same token, atheism is no alternative. 


  1. So they feel really lonely and even angry that they have been lied to all their lives.

    Lied to ALL their lives? It's true that some people become Christians because they were brought up in a Christian environment. But by the time people come to a place of even flirting with atheism or agnosticism, shouldn't they have first gotten to a place where their faith wasn't dependent on the say so of family and friends but also on reasoned evidence and/or a real experience of God? If they were diligent seekers of the truth while Christians, then at the very least they should also say they were SELF-deceived Christians as well. So, making the statement that they had "been lied to all their lives" is either an admission of intellectual laziness during their time as Christians OR of wanting to blame others for their past Christian belief. It's a refusal to own up to their own part in their own deception (probably out of embarrassment). But there's nothing to be embarrassed about if you were sincerely seeking the truth and at the time believed you were following it as a Christian. Therefore, I suspect that in many cases they are actually embarrassed for having been so gullible. In other words, they were intellectually and/or spiritually lazy and they didn't believed based on either reasoned evidence and/or on a real experience of God. They never had good reasons to believe or never truly believed in the first place. Their faith was a sham, they know it (consciously or subconsciously), and they're embarrassed by it. That's why they blame others for "lying" to them.

    1. It's analogous to an adult blaming others for almost starving to death because all his life others were spoon feeding him; and then all of a sudden he started starving because they stopped feeding him. But by the time you're an adult you should be able to feed yourself. If you don't know how to hold a spoon and bring it to your mouth, blame yourself. Or if you've realized that what you were scooping up with your spoon wasn't food and you were eating it, blame yourself. Don't blame others.