Do Atheists Ever Get Lonely? February 2, 2009

Do Atheists Ever Get Lonely?

I live on my own in an apartment.

One of my work colleagues just bought his own place over the summer. He’s also a single guy. He knows I’m an atheist.

He threw out a random question last week:

“Hemant, if you don’t believe in God, do you ever get lonely?”

It took me by surprise. I had to think about it for a second.

I told him I didn’t. I tend to surround myself with things that I enjoy… friends, non-profit work, babies, this site, etc. I don’t feel like I have much down time, but for me, that’s a good thing.

But not everyone has those same interests or opportunities.

If people do get lonely, though, I can understand why they might turn to God. They want someone to talk to, someone who might “listen” back.

I wonder if there are atheists out there who ever feel lonely. What do you do to fill that void?

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  • mikespeir

    Sure, I get lonely. But I don’t fill that void by deluding myself. A little bit of loneliness never killed anybody.

  • Alex

    My first reaction to the question was “I get lonely exactly as much as a religious person.” After all, what does a god belief have to do with it? My second thought fast on the heels of the first was, “I get lonely more.” Being an atheist can cut down on your potential partners for interaction. But truth be told, I have friends who are religious. No big deal. Then the third thought arrived. “Actually I get lonely less often that religious people.” Here’s why: I don’t have any imaginary friends I rely on who keep ignoring me. So which is it? I dunno. What was the question again?

  • astrogal

    I was lonely, but it’s hard not to when you have a 3bed/2bath house to yourself. So I got two children!

    And by children, I mean kittens. 😀

  • PrimeNumbers

    Isn’t that what internet blogs are for? Lonely – never, even before the internet. There’s always some activity to keep your brain in gear.

  • I am married, and sure, I feel lonely at times, even if people are around me. But that was true when I was a Christian too; religion has nothing to do with it.

  • It might be true that religious people are less lonely because they spend their holy days among others who believe as they do.

    But, the other side is that a disbelief in a god does not mean you sit at home without family, friends, hobbies or work.

  • S

    Has anyone truly NEVER been lonely? At least once in their lives? I don’t believe anyone can honestly claim that much. I enjoy spending the majority of my time on my own, but when I do get lonely I take the time to talk to someone, pretty much the way anyone would.

    And loneliness isn’t necessarily negative, and doesn’t need to be so socially stigmatizing (as people are making it out to be). It is entirely natural — we all require a certain amount of human affection. Just because we become lonely from time to time does not mean we are unloved or unhappy. I would hate to be nothing but content for all eternity.

  • When I am alone and feel the need to talk to someone, I talk to my cat. She listens as well as God does.

  • There are different degrees of loneliness I guess. I separated from my wife at the end of last year after six years where she was my best friend and constant companion. I feel lonely every single day since then and it’s going to take a long time to adjust to that. I’ve never come close to inventing an imaginary friend or borrowing someone else’s to fill the gap though.

    Instead I talk to friends, write my blog, write stories, go running, do some Muay Thai, play music, read a book or just geek out on the internet. It’s not the same, I realise that, but at least I’m being honest with myself and dealing with the situation rather than taking comfort in a lie.

    Some day I’ll find a real person who’ll occupy that void in my life. I can’t wait.

  • What some may call agony of loneliness others call the ecstasy of solitude.

  • JD

    my girlfriend of a year decided to break up with me, so yeah, as an atheist, I feel lonely.

  • Sock

    I am me. Do I get lonely when I’m alone? Yeah, and then I start thinking things, or watching TV, or reading a book, or playing a game, or anything else I do to occupy my time when I’m not sharing it with others.

    This question seems silly to me. Are we to assume that those with faith never feel lonely? As I see it, I fill my loneliness with things that make it easier to deal with, just like someone with faith does. The difference lies in how we do it, not what we do when faced with loneliness.

    Also, I highly, highly, highly doubt that a vast majority of religious people fill their time alone only with prayer and reflection on God. I’m sure that takes up some part of their life—after all, I daydream about imaginary situations, so why can’t they do the same with their own daydreams.

  • Stobrawa


  • Fergus Gallagher

    I am reminded me of the witticism:

    An atheist is someone who has no-one to talk to while receiving a blowjob.

    But, then again,

    “A witticism is an epigram on the death of feeling” — Friedrich Nietzsche

  • Loneliness is not an emotion I can relate to.

  • Dan C.

    I get lonely less often than I used to. As a religious person I always felt guilty (and I mean debilitatingly guilty) for not living up to the expectations of my religion. I was sure that everyone around me, or at least the people I would care to associate with, were doing much better than I was in the eyes of the Lord. Clearly no-one would want to associate with a hopeless sinner like me.

    This is not a problem I have any more as an atheist.

  • I was more lonely as a theist, but I think that really had nothing to do with it. I have more good friendships in my atheist meetups then I ever had in church, and I met my fiance there too. Lonely? Nope.

    As many social opportunities should be provided for us athiest and secular folks as possible!

  • Frink

    I can be lonely. I’m around people all the time though. At work I talk to people and fix their computer problems all day. Afterward, I go to class, which has 30-50 people in it, depending on the night. I come home and spend time with my family, then do things on the weekend with them and occasionally my friends. I talk to people on the podcast over at every Saturday, but I still find myself lacking anyone to really connect to in person. The internet has certainly been a boon, but it seems like the atheists I meet in person are still few and far between. So, am I lonely in general? Not at all. But I do wish there were more people I could connect to on these topics.

  • Dutch

    We are all born with a certain spirit. Some people have a more difficult time being alone, whereas others enjoy the solitude. I am a Christian, and a father of 5 with 5 grandkids so I can’t relate. I can’t even imagine what it would be like without the sure knowledge of God’s love, however I am sure Christians get lonely – just not me. Henry David Thoreau deliberatley spent a year alone in a cabin by a pond…a lot can be learned when your mind isn’t cluttered.

  • TheDeadEye

    God makes a pretty lousy imaginary friend.

  • Siamang

    I was much lonelier when I believed in god.

    But that had a lot more to do with the fact that I wasn’t married or dating, rather than the fact that I could pray to something.

    Theism/atheism had exactly zero to do with my loneliness.

  • SarahH

    I have much less interaction with people who stress me out, judge me and expect things of me.

    I have much more interaction with people who are excited to go see R-rated movies, play video games and talk about metaphysics, sex, and philosophy. I see fewer people, but the ratio of people I want to see / people I’m obliged to see has improved drastically.

    I thrive on moments of solitude, and I could actually do with a bit *more* “alone time” lately.

  • Brooks

    I’m an atheist who used to be a Christian and I don’t feel much more lonely than I did when I believed in God, but then I’ve always been more of an introvert, so I prefer to not always be out partying or socializing all the time anyway.

  • Harknights

    It’s funny I do feel lonely..but not when one thinks. I feel lonely when I am driving and see the second Sylvia Brown billboard in a row for her shows at the nearby casino on the freeway. I feel lonely when I am in a group and they are misquoting the bible while showing each other how religious they are. I feel lonely when I am in a group of people in an older house and someone asks if the place is haunted…and is serious. I feel alone when Fox news can ask the question “does Obama refering the Non-believers offend you?” without a second thought. I feel alone when people say Jefferson was a religious man. It’s at these time I feel lonely..but what gets me through it is the knowledge that I am not alone.

  • Tony Boling

    Even when I was a Christian I’d still get lonely from time to time. The question he posed seems to imply that Christians or believers never get lonely.

  • I’ve got two cats and a wife. Amazingly that seems to be sufficient social interaction that I don’t feel the need for an imaginary friend to keep my company when I work from home by myself as I often do (and am doing right now). If/when I do feel lonely, I have non-imaginary friends with whom I can spend time.

  • Polly

    I assume this is just an atheism relatied loneliness we’re talking about? I do feel somewhat marginalized. But, all minority groups do.

    Thank god I have a nearly-atheist friend! I don’t want to dismiss his deism 🙂

    Otherwise I’d stew in my own juices all by myself every time some idiotic religious quackery presented itself.

    My Xian wife is also a good listener and doesn’t buy into a lot of the hocus pocus, End Times or the Rapture a la “Left Behind.” However, she believes in the possibility of miracles occuring in every day life.

    Cue sentimental music.

    If I didn’t have online forums like this one and Daylight, I think I’d feel much more isolated. What a blessing! 🙂

    But, when I was a fundie I felt like I was alone because most people, even Xians, didn’t accept the one true version of Xianity. So, I guess I’m an “extremist” of sorts either way. A philosophical extrmist, not an RPG type.

  • Becky

    Absolutely not! It wasn’t until I started questioning my faith and moving more towards agnostic and atheist that I became less lonely. Granted, I was lonely and religious in high school, which can be a lonely time for many people. But, I didn’t really have friends I related to, as I was never as SUPER-Jeebus as they were, and I was never really the submissive, lovely, christian girl that religious guys wanted to date. Now, as an atheist, I think I’m less-lonely than I ever have been in my whole life; Happier, too.

  • What an odd question. I have known many, many lonely Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and even Ba’hais. I have not known a lonely Buddhist, but, then I don’t know very many Buddhists.

    And these religious folks often comment to me that they are lonely in the crowd – they are part of a church/temple/assembly/etc., and don’t quite connect to the others there despite their shared beliefs, and a belief in God isn’t the same as a friend close by.

    And yeah, I am often lonely, but that has nothing to do with supernatural beliefs and everything to do with my tendency to isolate myself.

  • Kenken. I’ve spent over an hour working on a 9×9.

  • Mriana

    I have cats. 😀 Three of them. It’s impossible to feel lonely when you have furry people that don’t get much past the mentality of a 2 or 3 y.o. 😆 Some days they are all acting up and keeping me busy, as well as running. I come home and one or two of them have made a BIG mess that I have to pick up and straighten out. Can’t get lonely that way. 😆

  • No, there are no voices in my head that aren’t me.

  • I used to get “lonely”, mostly when I was younger and had all of these expectations to have tons of friends and be popular. As I got older, I started to realize how ultimately important getting to be ‘alone’ is to me. It’s party of the reason I’ve stayed single. As fantastic as a man in my life might be, I relish the ability to go in my room, close my door and just be … with me.

    I don’t know, maybe that makes me egotistical or something negative like that, but really I /like/ alone time. Now… do I ever get lonely? Sure, but I’ve found loneliness, for me at least, only occurs when I’m with other people.

  • My husband is currently working 16 hour days in an effort to restore power that was lost to people in our state by the recent ice storm. My two children go to bed at 7:30PM. So yeah, last night at 8:00 PM when the girls were in bed and it was just me and my little candle staring at a dark house.. I was lonely as hell. Now, if I hadn’t been sitting there without power, I would’ve been lonely in the sense that I missed my husband, but I would’ve been a little more ‘okay’ because at least I could’ve listened to the raving lunatics on Xbox Live or attached myself to a message board. lol

  • vivian

    Lonely?? I only wish I had a chance to be lonely. I”m a stay at home mom who has a 3 year old and a 4 year old that go to bed when I do and get up when I do, plus a husband that’s home every evening. I’ll trade lives with some of you lonely people and after a day of my life you’ll be thankful for at least having the chance to be lonely.

  • Zephyr – I understand what you mean about the need to be alone, and that kept me single at times, too. However, I have been lucky lately in that I have been involved with someone who A) also wants time to be alone and therefore does not begrudge me mine, and B) has her own interests and activities, so that we are able to do our own things when we wish. It works out well, but I have had experiences to the contrary in the past.

  • Emily

    go online and read blogs or visit chatrooms, call up some friends and make them hang out with me, white hat at a movie, go for a walk, write, take pictures, blog about how bored I am…

    I basically do the normal things that people that are only vaguely Xtian do when they’re lonely…

  • I have to admit, the first night after I admitted to myself honestly that I had returned to being an atheist (since we’re all born atheists) I felt a bit alone, in the sense that I was a tiny human in the vastness of the cosmos type alone. It was like my first night as an adult without my security blanket of God.

  • God never provided a cure for loneliness for me so the question is rather moot. I found out when I was twenty or so that the cure for loneliness is other people.

  • Me


  • Sure, I have been lonely at times in my life. I’m not a Siberian tiger or a plasmodium, after all! The best antidotes to loneliness are busy-ness and people.

    My parents tell me that I had an imaginary human friend when I was very, very young. I don’t need one now because I first realized that “God” is an imaginary friend when I was 3.

  • I’m self-employed working from home with no social life because I work 12-16 hours a day 7 days a week. So yeah I get lonely from time to time but I have my family, a few close friends, and a menagerie of pets. Dog is far better at relieving loneliness than God (and is far cuter and cuddlier).

    I doubt I get lonely any more often than a religious person in my situation would.

  • Sure I get lonely sometimes, especially since my wife of 20 years ran off with one of my, so called, friends. But I’m not going to turn to some imaginary sky god for comfort.

    I have family, and good friends both on-line and in real life to keep me company.

  • I used to get lonely. Before I left my religious beliefs behind, I was often lonely and felt even more depressed by unanswered prayers and pressure from loved ones whose only advice was to “talk to God”.
    Since becomming an atheist, I seem to fill my time much better with books and blogs and news. And, having a gigantic community of nonbelievers doesn’t hurt either!

  • Brooks

    And isn’t this argument from loneliness an argument from double standards anyway? Like growing up as a xtian, I always heard from the other fundies at church that xtians need the church and you can’t be a true xtian unless you go to church three times a week.

    They would rant about how other Christians who didn’t go to church either just wanted to make up their own rules or they were just hurt by the church and that was the only reason why people didn’t want to find God in the church anymore. Yet they would turn around and preach about how your invisible friend in the sky is the best friend you could ever have and that he would never forsake you but at the same time preach about the importance of having xtian friends.

  • kat

    i’ve been lonely when i was christian and as an atheist. if ur stuck at home and can’t get out to meet people i suggest

  • Miko

    Nope. As far as I can recall, I haven’t been lonely since, say, when I was 10 or so.

    I have heard the question a number of times, though.

  • I have my wife,other family members and friends. I don’t need to imagine some special entity somewhere out there to keep from being lonely.

  • The ironic thing is that I was lonely when I was single. Now, many years later, I married with two kids and crave time by myself. One extreme to the other. Nothing to do with religion or atheism, though.

  • rae

    my long term boyfriend “brought” me into atheism (i use that word as loosely as possible, not in the god sense). when we broke up, of course i was lonely, and in the absence of my boyfriend, thought about turning to god.

    i figured out that i didn’t believe in god any more after we broke up than when we were together, but the need for someone to listen unconditionally was still there. that’s why, imo, people have a god in the first place and why they feel it (he?) is so hard to give up.

    everyone gets lonely, it’s just some people, like atheists, read a book, find more friends, or write in a journal instead of taking empty solace in someone who isn’t there.

  • I never get lonely, but my hubby’s a bigger “A” Atheist than I. Before I met him, I wasn’t quite “atheist” but I never believed in a personal god. Sometimes, I would talk to the stars at night because I could actually see them.

    I was raised an only child, so loneliness I can handle! I used to write A LOT of poetry, lyrics, short stories, scripts, anything and everything.

    Hobbies & friends/family keep you from being lonely. The God thing never worked for me, even when I considered myself a reform Jew (which is as close to any religion or god I ever was/had).

    Finding comfort in a pet or stuffed animal makes more sense to me. Wouldn’t turning to god to keep you from loneliness, make you feel even lonelier?

  • weaves

    It’s uncomfortabnle to admit, but I get freqient intense ’bouts of loneliness. I generally avoid mentioning it online/on forums because the religious will pop up all “you need god!”

    I need to make more friends. The problem is I’m quite shy, there’s not much of an actual atheist community in canberra (that doesn’t cost $30 a month to even find info about).

    To rememdy this. I am making friends, I’ve got 3 awesome pets, my housemates and I do have my close friends who…happen to not live in the same state/country as me anymore.

  • Kristine

    Why not ask instead “Do humans get lonely?” because it’s a human thing, not an atheist thing. People get lonely no matter what their religion.

    Ironically I’m less lonely as an atheist than I ever was as a theist.

  • Sometimes. I don’t have a lot of friends, just some realy meaningful. Also, I get to read blogs, participate in forums, study, work, which is pretty interactive. I feel lonely sometimes, but there is too much to do to feel bad.

    By the way, you’re not alone. Many people look at you, many look up to you. You are one of many that reminds us non-believers that in this world of biggotry and delusion, we’re not alone.

  • While I won’t deny that I’m lonely from time to time, I wouldn’t attribute it to my atheism. I was lonely even before I became an atheist.

    But, I don’t let that stop me. When I think I’m getting lonely I mope a bit, then absorb myself in a project or something and before I know it I’m back to (ab)normal 😀

  • Rest

    I do get lonely sometimes, but no more than when I was a born-again Christian. And since I’ve recently found Dog, I’m never alone. Dog is on the floor beside me at this moment. God, on the other hand, was never there.

  • i am a dodt

    @ Stobrawa: Yes! When I read this post, I kept thinking, “someone say heroin, someone say heroin.”

  • Indigo

    It’s odd, but for someone who felt terribly lonely a great deal as a child, I tend to prefer solitude. It’s not that I don’t like being around people, but I find it kind of tiring. I need time apart from even the people I love a lot.
    The long and short of it, I think, is that if I did believe in God I’d probably get sick of Him being around all the time.

  • Rev. Snarfleez J. Cattleprod

    I traded my theistic delusion in long ago. I’m no more or less lonely for having done so. I will say, however, that I’m far more happy. It’s helped me to work through some issues I had at the time without fogging my vision with dogmatic fairy tales.

    Dicarding the deity was the best thing I ever did for myself.

  • Joanna


    I agree with somebody above who mentioned how human it is too feel loneliness. It doesn’t require a belief system (or non-belief system). We each just have to find our own personal “cures” for it when it happens to us. It’s a sign of feeling isolated. Keeping busy is a great way to fight the “self-pity” that comes along with bouts of loneliness. For me, buying myself flowers helps…such an extravagance. Or calling a friend/family member gets me “out of my own head”.

    I tend to be a solitary person by choice…somebody else mentioned above that they tend to seek time alone rather than with others. I guess I lean that way myself. I have to force myself to “be social” sometimes. To get out of my comfort zone. To take a few risks.

  • If I don’t have anyone to talk to I talk to myself. Just like Christians.

  • Yes, but I can’t really complain. Being lonely because you live in the middle of nowhere and are the only single person in town is far better than being lonely while surrounded by a sea of people who act like your BFF on Sunday mornings and ignore you the rest of the week.

  • I apologize, but it must be said.

    When I get lonely, I get in touch with The Noodly Appendage.

    It always makes me feel better.

  • doug parker

    Although there is grave stone in the cemetry opposite riverdale zoo for rev john parker my great great grand father who started a church in t.o .,that is still in operation today I stopped believing in god when I was 10 years old and after 58 years I have not changed my thinking . MY grandfather must rolling in his grave.DougParker

  • llewelly

    An atheist is someone who has no-one to talk to while receiving a blowjob.

    An atheist is someone who credits his partner for the quality of the blowjob, rather than god.

  • This might have been said already but my solution is much simpler and more interactive than talking to a invisible god; that is to talk with my cats.

    Cats and Dogs are great listeners. They will always listen and will usually not interrupt. 🙂

  • Terry

    Atheist tribe forming- Missouri area
    100 people wanted of like minds to form a tribe
    100 people can get a lot done, economically, politically.
    It’s literally us against them-

  • Cats and Dogs are great listeners. They will always listen and will usually not interrupt.

    In my experience with my cats this would be “usually not interrupt. Except when it’s really, really important. Like when attention has to be called to the fact that you won’t shut up and play with/pet/feed me. Also birds and bugs.”

  • efrique

    Almost never.

    If it happens, I go talk to someone.

  • Bryony

    Everyone gets lonely sometimes..

  • Daniel

    “There’s always some activity to keep your brain in gear.”
    I don’t think that loneliness is just not having anything to do. It’s way deeper, i’d say. It’s like having no person to share feelings, thoughts, wishes with. And i do think that people already died from loneliness. There once was an experiment on new-born babies. They wanted to see how they evolve when nobody cares for them like a mother would. So they got milk and stuff but not more than that. And what I heard was that they died.

  • Tinna

    I feel lonely in the respect that out of the thousands upon thousands of people I have met so few hold my points of view. They have no urge to expand their knowledge or to soak up real information.

    I feel very lonely in that people cannot look beyond their house, street or country. While I want to look beyond our galaxy and our universe.

    Being an atheist makes me very fulfilled to be alone and desperately lonely around other people.

    I actually found this post by typing “being an atheist is lonely”

    Most of the time I feel like I’m being civil and respectful of other people’s belief of fundamentals. I actually feel like I’m talking to children who still believe in santa and have to try very hard not to spoil the secret.

  • Kait

    I’m a recent atheist, and I’ve been trying to figure this out myself for a while now. I guess I deluded myself into thinking that there was something there when I was alone, that when I finally acknowledged that there wasn’t, I was hit with how lonely it is. I’m sure it will pass in time, as I have no reason to be lonely, what with my friends and husband. But the fact that I feel like I’m truly alone for the first time in my life is difficult, for the moment.

  • Dtquit

    I feel the same, I have religious friends and we all get along great. But they don’t even want to expand their horizons where as I want to learn so much about as much as possible. They don’t want to question their beliefs and I feel very uncomfortable when we start on the subject because  I feel like im walking on glass to avoid confontation. All except for one or two of my relatives are religious and pretty deep into it so that kind of leaves them out of the picture. My parents are great and my mom agrees with me and dad just kind of sits and stares. I feel alone more and more often lately since I came to this realization.

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