The Emotions of Atheists January 30, 2009

The Emotions of Atheists

Valerie Tarico, the author of The Dark Side: How Evangelical Teachings Corrupt Love and Truth, used to be a psychologist.

We all know about how atheists are often called “arrogant,” but Tarico writes about how, beneath that label, there are actually a whole host of emotions we have that slip under the radar:


Not all atheist pain about religion is personal. Many nontheists feel anguished by the sexual abuse that is enabled by religious hierarchy, by women shrouded in black and girls barred from schools, by the implements of inquisition that lie in museums, by ongoing Christian witch burnings in Africa and India, or by those images of people leaping from windows. Even less dramatic suffering can be hard to witness — children who fear eternal torture, teens who attempt suicide because they are gay and so condemned, women who submit to their own abuse or the abuse of their children because God hates divorce. To the extent that we experience empathy, these events are can feel unbearable, the more so because they seem so unnecessary.


Have you ever had a dream in which, no matter how hard you try no-one can hear you? Many freethinkers feel like that whenever they try to talk about their journey of discovery.

“Hey,” say former fundies. “Guess what I found out. The Bible contradicts itself. Do you want to see where?”

“I never meant to end up godless,” say former moderates. “Do you want to hear how it happened?”

“‘A theory’ isn’t something we dream up afterhours,” say biologists. “Can we tell you what a scientific theory is to us?”

“We think we’ve figured out how those out-of-body experiences and bright lights work — at a neurological level,” say neuroscientists. “Care to know?”…

Plenty more emotions are on Tarico’s list at Tacoma Atheists.

What other emotions does your atheism bring out in you?

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  • SarahH

    Sudden bursts of happiness!

    I really enjoyed that list, and it definitely hit home. I felt understood. I might share that with people who come at me with the assumption that I’m an arrogant nitwit. I think it would be hard to dehumanize an atheist after reading it.

  • Peace.
    Peace is not something you can only get through transcendence or belief in a higher power. Peace is finally realizing that you can stop pretending, that you can stop insisting that you feel the power of God when you don’t, that you can stop searching for the religion that ‘fits’ you even though none of them seem to. Peace is finally quieting that voice in the back of your head that keeps saying, ‘But do you really believe this, or are you just saying it?’. Peace is not having to worry about what happens to you when you die. Peace is that thing atheists find after they spend many years of their lives looking for it in all the wrong places.

  • I think it would be hard to dehumanize an atheist after reading it.

    In my head, I just heard Frank Turek say, “Is that a challenge?!”

  • Polly

    We all know about how atheists are often called “arrogant,”

    I was just called that last night. I was also called “lazy.” Yup, that’s right LAZY. I’m lazy because I don’t want to put in the effort to persevere in a relationship with god.
    But, you’re not lazy if you swallow, unquestioningly, everything peddled by ChristCo. without doing a lick of research.

    Here are some other emotions:
    self-confidence(1st time ever)
    self-empowered(1st time ever)

  • Saint Splattergut

    Peace for me as well
    Because I know life is random and indifferent and because I accept that. It makes me appreciate what I have more and also makes me less materialistic. Most importantly, it makes me cherish the time spent with the people I love.

    Every time I hear someone comfort another person who had just lost someone they love, by saying, “His time was up.”

    Every time I see somebody accepting their suffering because “I’m a __________.”

    Every time I witness a hypocrite out to milk religious people for all they’re worth, financially by exploiting their emotions.

    Every time when I see someone admiring another person they’ll never be with, just because they’re of a different religion. Gushing over them, though they know that nothing can ever be… Don’t see the point. The even more painful thing is how they don’t question WHY.

    How religion is so “immune” to critism… no fair!

  • hoverFrog

    Sometimes I meet with or discuss things with very intelligent and thoughtful people who happen to be Christians. For some they have invested massive amounts of time and great effort into trying to understand what God wants of them. Perhaps they’ve suffered and wonder why God would test them in such a way or they’ve denied something about themselves such as their sexuality because their holy book says it is bad. For these people I think: what a waste.

    Sometimes I just think it’s funny, typically when they say something that is just wrong.

  • Mriana

    I saw this on Good article and it has created a several discussion on the net, where it is posted. Glad to see her discussed here.

    As for emotions, I think I have about every human emotion there is, but I do get very irritated when a Xian misquotes or misstates something or alike in the Bible.

    Mostly though, I think I feel more empathy than what a person should, because I’ve been there done that, for those who have been abused by the religious or are being abused. At the same time, I can turn around and practically bite the Fundie’s head (s) off for mistreating others. No worries though, I think my bark is worse than my bite. 😆 Of course, I think you all have seen it quite often here. 😉

  • Peace. I wish i had thought to mention it, because you all are right. What a gift. I’ve loved this poem ever since I first found it on

    I woke up to an empty room

    No more angels watching over me.
    No more demons to be held at bay
    by the invocation of
    an Anglicized version
    of a Hellenized version
    of a Hebrew name

    I woke up to an empty room:

    Just a room. Four walls, ceiling, floor.
    Just a room. Nothing more.

    I woke up to an empty room
    and embraced the solid air.

    I woke up to an empty room and knew myself


    Copyright © 1999 Secular Pagan
    Used by permission

  • Mriana

    Hi Valerie! Glad to see you here. 😀 {hug}

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