A Three Day Series at The Wondering Eagle: Why Atheists Walk Away From Faith, And how They Find Freedom and Hardship in the Process

In December of 2019 an atheist video made the rounds on the internet that explained the reasons why people left faith and the and challenges that came about as a result. This is a brief post to lay the foundation for three days of discussion for what was revealed. During this I am going to squeeze in a couple of other posts about some of the stories I am working on.

“I have a great love and respect for religion, great love and respect for atheism. What I hate is agnosticism, people who do not choose.

Orson Wells 

Downtown San Francisco, California. The Salesforce Tower is in the far back peaking through in the center of the picture. 

A survey of atheists.

In December of 2019 an interesting video about atheism made the rounds on the internet. It grew out of a survey that was done by Anthony Magnabosco and Rebecca Fox who are from the United Kingdom. They put out a survey about why people let go of their beliefs and and 850 people responded. Most of those who responded were Americans. They tweeted about the project in December and you can see it below. 

In the survey there are three things that came forward. I find what people said deeply interesting and over the next few days I want to look into each topic more deeply. 

  1. Most people who walked away from God did so because of the problem of evil. 
  2. Those who let go of God and who walked away from faith found improved emotional health and a solid well-being. 
  3. The most difficult part of the leaving faith? It is the abandonment, shunning, stigma of lost relationships. And in some situations friends and family suffered because of those who walked away from faith. 

Each of these topics are fascinating and deserve to be looked at in more detail. From my prior faith crisis to what some in the atheist community emailed me I heard some interesting experiences that I would like so share that go along with those three major points. So while I write about a few church situations in the next week expect to see three posts detailing those issues above. The purpose of this post is to lay the foundation for the work over the next week. The Friendly Atheist wrote about this video here. And before I start to write about this I am going to ask you to watch the video. The website for more information about this project is here. I hope to get the first post up tomorrow night. 

 

12 thoughts on “A Three Day Series at The Wondering Eagle: Why Atheists Walk Away From Faith, And how They Find Freedom and Hardship in the Process

  1. I want to walk away from faith because of the problem of hypocrisy.

    I cannot walk away from faith because of the problem of meaning. If there is no meaning to all this, the Sartre was right in saying “There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide.”

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    • I am right there with you on the problem of hypocrisy, Eeyore, much more so than the problem of evil. My biggest struggle is when so many people claiming faith are supporting/doing things and opposing/not doing other things in a way that seems largely contradictory to my understanding of the nature of that faith. If anything would drive me from organized religion (not from faith itself, mind you, but from participation in organized religion) it is likely to be that ongoing hypocrisy.

      I am a person of Christian faith, and for me the existence of evil doesn’t shake my faith. On the contrary, if I believe this is a fallen world where sin is widespread, the existence of evil makes sense and is to be expected. For me, the “problem of evil” doesn’t arise until other believers start telling me precisely how I am supposed to think about God and think about evil. Primarily, when people tell me how I have to think about God’s sovereignty, and how it relates to the existence of evil. Some advance rigid views of sovereignty that, to me and others, would seem to take one to the logical conclusion that God must be the author of evil, an obviously unacceptable conclusion. Others advance views that seem to somehow minimize the reality of evil (“oh, it only seems evil in the here and now, but God uses it all for good”), which simply fails the eye test. These views and approaches don’t provide any comfort to the suffering or provide a good lens through which to view that suffering.

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      • From Eagle’s three topics:

        1) Most people who walked away from God did so because of the problem of evil.
        2) Those who let go of God and who walked away from faith found improved emotional health and a solid well-being.
        3) The most difficult part of the leaving faith? It is the abandonment, shunning, stigma of lost relationships. And in some situations friends and family suffered because of those who walked away from faith.

        (2) & (3) indicate that a “faith community” for these was primarily a NEGATIVE experience. Otherwise they wouldn’t have “improved emotional health and solid well-being” after they walked away. And the “abandonment, shunning, stigma” sounds like “stay with Us or we’ll make it even more NEGATIVE for you”.

        That leaves us with (1), which on the surface is more abstract and philosophical than (2) & (3). Until you put it this way:

        For me, the “problem of evil” doesn’t arise until other believers start telling me precisely how I am supposed to think about God and think about evil.

        Which links (1) back to “faith community” as NEGATIVE experience. Because “other believers” started FORCING their way into “what you think”. Or at the minimum didn’t “provide a good lens”. Again, faith community as negative.

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    • My answer to the problem of meaning is this: We create our own meaning. The meaning to your life is the meaning you choose to give it. It’s not handed to you by some god, it’s not cosmic meaning, or objective meaning or “ultimate meaning”, whatever that is. Meaning is personal and it’s your own.

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      • Can I create a new world when we’ve trashed this one? Can I stop myself from dying? Creating personal meaning doesn’t amount to much in comparison with those problems.

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      • Maybe it doesn’t. But just because we want there to be a bigger meaning doesn’t mean there actually is one.

        Do your best with the one life you have. Life it to the fullest. Try not to trash the planet. Leave it a little better place for those who come after you.

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  2. I walked away from Christianity (the religion I was indoctrinated into), due to many different reasons. It wasn’t that one day I was devout in my religious beliefs, and the next day I was an atheist. I found the notion of the “one true god” strange when I went to high school and met people with different beliefs. It was also around that time that a lot of science contradicted what I had been taught in the home or church. I found I didn’t need faith in a god (or gods) to lead a happy and fulfilling life. The list goes on.

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    • It was also around that time that a lot of science contradicted what I had been taught in the home or church.

      From other blogs, this usually indicates Young Earth Creationism in some way. That’s the most common “Science vs BIBLE” flashpoint these days, and YECers (Ken Ham & his followers being the high-profile type example) have become Fanatics Unto Death on the subject. And nobody’s backing down in this game of Chicken.

      As one Catholic’s comment at Internet Monk put it,
      “We have the Vatican Observatory and Pontifical Academy of Sciences. They have the Kentucky Creation Museum and Ark Experience theme park.”

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      • 35 years ago, YEC didn’t really exist as a concept here in the U.K. my church was Anglican High Church (like Catholicism but without the incense). But Genesis was taught as literal truth

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      • If “Genesis was taught as literal truth”, YEC DID exist as a concept.
        (Just being High Church Anglican, I assume it was a Veddy Veddy British YEC?)
        Out here on the other side of the Atlantic, Low Church YEC is what predominates.
        (And I do mean LOW. Can Oz take back Ken Ham? Like can Canada take back Justin Beiber?)

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  3. Pingback: Why the Problem of Evil is the Best Reason for Rejecting God | Wondering Eagle

  4. Pingback: When Religion is so Suffocating and Controlling that the Healthy Option is to Leave | Wondering Eagle

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