What keeps people from being atheists? Thanks to this Reddit thread, with nearly 9,000 comments and counting, we learn of a range of reasons. Some superficial, some philosophical, some superstitious, some practical, some born of misinterpreting the word “atheist”… and all of them heartfelt.
Here are a dozen that jumped out at me.
confettiandwhatnot: “God ended my addictions.”
I was depressed and suicidal at 11. I was in and out of hospitals, and saw so many different therapists and psychiatrists. I developed multiple harmful addictions and generally spent each day trying to fill the emptiness inside of me. …
September 27, 2007 was the day my life changed. I know it probably sounds weird to the average reader, but I felt like God was using different people to speak directly to my personal situation. The thing is, almost no one knew me beyond maybe my name and face. I felt God speaking to my heart. At first I was stunned, but kind of shook it off as “weird.” But as someone began to share what God had been doing in their life, I began to cry (weird for me at the time)…what had I to lose? I asked God to forgive me for what I’ve done wrong, I believed on, and asked Jesus to come into my heart. …
I immediately felt a weight lifted. Most of my addictions ended that day. As a person who chased a plethora of rushes and highs, nothing comes close to the feeling of peace and joy that the Holy Spirit brings. The emptiness was gone and I became eager to live life. Suddenly I had a deep longing to read the Bible, and doing so became so satisfying.
MoshCow: “Me being a Christian makes my wife happy.”
My wife is Christian and it was a point of contention early on in our relationship. I was a staunch atheist/Nihilist/Misanthrope and I didn’t even want to entertain the idea that a guy was walking abound doing magic miracles to help people… but also doing weird miracles like turning water into wine for a party… That mixed with the idea that the Bible was written probably 100 years after the supposed stories happened, and then it got edited and rewritten so many times… I thought it’s all horseshit and we’re just mold on this planet that has the right condition for our type of mold to exist.
But then I did mushrooms and woooooo boy did that shit change. I still think we’re mold and all that, but I appreciate everything so much more and I am in awe of the beauty that we live in compared to what the vast majority of the universe looks like and what its conditions are.
I go to church with my wife because it’s her favorite thing to do, and if I wanted my wife to come to my favorite thing to do, she would without question… This past Sunday I smoked some weed before we went and during one of the songs I had to fight back a huge urge to cry my eyes out. The song just talked about being in awe of everything we’re surrounded by, including the universe. I realized in that moment that it’s all semantics. We’re all in awe of our surroundings, and religion is people’s attempt to explain it in a way that makes sense to them and allows them to appreciate it fully…. aside from all that bullshit about not being able to have sex with or marry whoever you want and all that other judgmental bullshit… that’s all still bullshit.
Being religious is like an extra credit question. If you’re right on an extra credit question, you get the extra points. But if you are wrong, nothing happens, and the end result is the same as someone who didn’t try the question at all. This, for me, holds true to my faith.
If I’m right, sweet; I get heaven as a reward. If I’m wrong, well, I’m still in the same place as an atheist, six feet under in eternal blackness. So why not try the extra credit question?
pinkripebananas: “Faith soothes my darkness.”
Believing in the afterlife and karma is my coping mechanism for my depression and anxiety.
briantoe: “I’m alive and I shouldn’t be.”
Totaled my motorcycle in front of a church and walked off with no major injuries. There’s something out there. By the way I was wearing gym shorts and a T-shirt.
(One notable response: “How would your outlook be different if it had happened in front of a Bennigan’s?” I admit it, I snorted.)
Because my devoutly Christian wife would probably divorce me and the subsequent child support would bankrupt me.
Weaponized Flubber: “Christianity saved my parents.”
Christianity, whether you choose to believe its God is real or not, saved my life. My mother was bi-polar and nearly at a homicidal level of insane. My father was a drunkard and abusive with years of deep-seated anger issues. I should’ve been raised in a dangerous, broken, and horrible environment by all regards… But I wasn’t.
My parents ran into a pastor at a church a year before I was born, and he began to love them and refused to tell them that they were doomed to hell like every other Christian they had met. Instead, he simply cared for them and became their friend. Years later, when I grew up, I grew up in the single most loving and amazing family I could ever ask for. Yes, there were issues, and yes my parents messed up over the years, but I have never been loved by anyone more than them. Whether you think Christianity or religion is real or not, that’s up to you. But it saved my life by saving my parents, and if it can do that for some, I’ll always hold out hope that it can do it for others who need it.
Gulpy: “Atheists are too narrow-thinking.”
Atheist turned ‘buddhist’ here. I feel like all established religions essentially say the same things about who we are, what we were, and where we are going as a society and creatures. Also, I believe there is a truth that all religions try to speak to, but because their analogies/stories are taken literally, that truth is often lost. By being an atheist, you’re in fact narrowing your understanding of the greater universe and your place in it, by rejecting the truth within the stories themselves.
I say ‘buddhist’ [in quotation marks] because my beliefs about us, the universe, and consciousness in general are a mix of buddhist, Taoist, and hindu philosophies with a healthy dose of science-based cynicism.
big-karim: “I love feeling welcome and safe.”
Faith builds communities, and that community mostly revolves around making things better and taking care of people and listening to the wisdom of old folks and raising children to be good. I haven’t found another place where my parents can have coffee with their friends and my kids can have a safe place to play and I am welcome to just sit and think quietly for maybe the first time all week and not be expected to buy more useless crap or sit through more ads or worry about parking or whatever. I’ve come to accept that having that sense of place is important to me.
Is there more to life than what’s in front of me? Maybe not. But I find comfort in believing that there is, and that there’s some agency behind random coincidences, and that that higher power loves me enough to think that I can do more and be better.
hogiewan: “The alternative is that I’m nuts.”
Because I have 2 options. Either (1) God is real and is truly present in what the Catholic Church calls the Eucharist, or (2) I am batshit crazy. The first one appeals to me more.”
shulace: “No data proves god isn’t real.”
Atheists (in my experience) believe they have proven the non-existence of god, but actually have only disproven theists’ supporting arguments, not their core claim that god exists. They have no more proof for their own claim (no god) than theists have for their claim (god = real).
An analogous example: Bryan, theist: “I believe it’s going to rain today. I believe this because my microwave only works when it is going to rain, and it worked today.” Steve, atheist: “That isn’t how microwaves work. Therefore, it will be sunny today.” Bryan’s reasoning is flawed, in that his conclusion is unrelated to his premise, but that flaw doesn’t disprove his conclusion. It could still rain. Steve does not produce meteorological data to back his own position, he only points out the flaws in Bryan’s.
Atheists do this all the time (your understanding of god makes no sense, ergo god is obviously not real), when in reality all they’ve pointed out is that the human understanding of god cannot be complete. They have no data that proves there is no god. That’s why I’m an agnostic.
Cagatti: “I’m too lazy.”
Because I was born a christian and am too lazy to change that now.
Do any of these sway you or make you think?
(Image via Shutterstock)