The emotions of atheists

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...'s picture
The emotions of atheists

In a previous post, another user spoke of Anthropomorphic Design, "God is simply an anthropomorphic projection of the advanced ape mind on to a universe that was doing fine before we came around and will be just fine after we are extinct."

There are plenty of theories out there that attempt to make religion a psychological/evolutionary byproduct. Other's speak of religions as being strongly emotional, muddling rationality. Back then I argued that we all have the same brain, so if the Christian brain is prone to error, then so must the Atheist brain. The majority of the replies I received is that this is why the Scientific Method thrives. Because it is designed to uncover truth, despite our human, psychological short-comings.

Something never seemed quiet right in that idea. I agree the Scientific Method is a shield against our mental fallacies. But if religion is a byproduct of the human mind. There should be plenty of atheists with a strong emotional attraction to religion and God, but who don't act upon it for the simple fact that the "scientific method" shows its wrong. For example take illusions. These mental tricks are so interesting, precisely because there is a battle between what we are seeing, and what we know to be true. We experience an image moving, even when we know its not.

So my question to everyone is, do you know of an atheist, perhaps you yourself. With a strong desire to be religious and to believe in God. That simply does not do so because the science isn't there? Such an atheist must exist if religion is in fact a universal psychological predisposition gone wrong.



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mykcob4's picture
Stupid post!

Stupid post!
Understanding that there is no god is not a personal fight with a person's emotions. That is just stupid. When we learn that 2+2=4 we are not torn between the truth and a tug that 2+2 could equal something else.
The "emotion" is an attachment to forsaking a society that believes in a myth and nothing more.

...'s picture
Agreed, hence why I discredit

Agreed, hence why I discredit the notion that religion is an emotional and psychological byproduct.

Nyarlathotep's picture
John 6IX Breezy - So my

John 6IX Breezy - So my question to everyone is, do you know of an atheist, perhaps you yourself. With a strong desire to be religious and to believe in God.

It is a very common sentiment within the community. It has been mentioned many times here in the atheist hub.

...'s picture
Hmm perhaps, but just to

Hmm perhaps, but just to clarify. By strong desire I do not mean a state of longing, Ex. "I really wish I could fly, but know I can't." "I really wish I could believe in God, but I can't."

What I'm referring to is more pathological, for lack of a better word. The addict has a strong desire to quit, but his own brain won't let him. Or you can't stop seeing visual illusions, no matter how much you know they are illusions. To put it more strongly, I'm looking for an atheist whose brain believes in God, but whose reason tells him not to.

JamieB's picture
Yes, Um, thats Me. I have the

Yes, Um, thats Me. I have the struggle every day for something majestic( my former God) to sweep me away to that flipping purpose driven life. but then I realize I still get to figure out my purpose and its so much more fun this way. The transition was rough I'm not going to lie. but once out on the other side the possibilities are limitless.

Truett's picture
I am exactly what you have

I am exactly what you have described. I believed in god, wanted to believe in god, am inclined to religious experience and spiritual euphoria. Spine-tingling awe and connection with somethjng beyond myself is something I know well. But learning what we know about reality was perfectly effective in removing the foundation of faith and belief in god. I am thrilled by the numinous and transcendent, but I am perfectly incapable of believing something that is demonstrably incorrect. Some previous believers in god become atheists because of moral concerns about god, logical inconsistencies in the bible, philisophical absurdities contained within religious dogma, and other reasons. For me it was the straightforward proposition that every factual claim that the bible makes about reality is incorrect, and that our understanding of reality requires no creator. God's role as creator and this being his creation is referred to directly in 26 of the 66 books of the bible, by my count. It is the single most unifying concept of god in the bible. Yet there is no role for a creator in nature. And we don't get sick because of demons and curses, rain doesn't come from floodgates in the sky, earthquakes aren't due to the wrath of god, bad events don't happen because god is displeased, thunder is not from god, the sun didn't 'stop' in the sky so the Iraelites could massacre Amelekites, all animals didn't come from Noah's ark, deep water didn't come before the stars that are responsible for making oxygen, light didn't come before stars, death didn't arrive on the planet due to sin, women didn't start out as the rib of a man, Jesus didn't fly 'up' to heaven, stars will not rain from the sky and land on earth, and on and on and on. If you say that's all figurative then you're allowing yourself to ignore that it wasn't figurative until science proved it was incorrect. Then it became figurative. When I finally actually allowed myself to fairly consider what we have learned as a species it became perfectly impossible to believe. It was purely because of scientific awareness. I'm begging you, John 6IX Breezy, step back and fairly consider it as well. You are smart and educated and well spoken. If you allow yourself to weigh the evidence without concern about satan's deceipt and upsetting the holy spirit, you will recognize that you like me have believed something without good reason.

...'s picture
I appreciate your comment

I appreciate your comment very much, and I understand full well where you are coming from.

"Spine-tingling awe and connection with something beyond myself is something I know well." Two questions. Is this something you experience still as an atheist, and if so, is this something you attribute to a god in particular or is it just a vague notion of spirituality?

Truett's picture
Yes, I am still the same in

Yes, I am still the same in that respect. I am the most "spiritual" Atheist imaginable. I am blown away by the realization that every housefly I've ever swatted, every blade of grass I've walked over, and every dog I've ever owned are my literal cousins. The bacteria in YOUR digestive tract are directly related to ME. We are part of something far more profound and beautiful than anything I believed as a Christian. On an even deeper, more transcendent level, the fact that we are literally stardust and literally consist of what the universe is made of, a human being is an actual way for the universe to know itself. The universe has no intention and certainly didn't mean for us to know it, but we are in the truest way possible a way for the universe to know itself. Our existence is more magnificient than I ever expected. I was so incredibly afraid of not believing in god because I feared a life without meaning and a future without hope. I really wanted to go to heaven, and I deeply appreciated that god supposedly did so much for me to make that happen. But finally recognizing the nature of reality removed those concerns. I realized that the meaning and hope I feared losing were due to my misapprehension of what really matters and what is really beautiful. Life emerged naturally, multicellular organisms eventually came naturally after that, then early nervous sytems slowly developed and led to the first brains, and now we have arrived on the scene and use our powerful minds to consider where it all comes from and what it all means. We have a magnificient gift and I feel an incredible urge to thank someone. What we have to thank are our parents and theirs and theirs and theirs, all the way back to when our parents were single cell organisms blindly seeking to reproduce. We have arrived and are gifted with all of this wonder. I would immediately thank a god if he had anything to do with it. Really. There is no one around like that for me to thank. My appreciation then is for all of my distant human family brothers and sisters who began migrating out of the Great Rift Valley in Africa 60,000 years ago, and is for every life form on earth in that they share my same first parent. We are all struggling to exist and have been doing so for almost 4 billion years. That first self replicating molecule that allowed all of this life to come into being wouldn't know what to do with my appreciation, but it has it all the same.

Endri's picture
"I am the most "spiritual"

"I am the most "spiritual" Atheist imaginable. I am blown away by the realization the every housefly I've ever swatted, every blade of grass I've walked over, and every dog I've ever owned are my literal cousins. The bacteria in YOUR digestive tract are directly related to ME." - You know, sometimes you come up with the sentences that my mind couldn't be able to put into words. It is fascinating isn't it, it's always good to have cousins.

...'s picture
You have certainly given me

You have certainly given me something to think about. I'm still deciding what to make of it. Several individuals like Sam Harris have argued for a more "spiritual" atheism. Spirituality in that sense is considered almost a universal human emotion, which is thought to have been hijacked by religion. If spirituality, as vague of a word as it might be, is universal. Then perhaps there is some validity to religion being a byproduct of it.

I don't deny that people, and some religions do seem to have spiritual and transcendent experiences. I just never had one myself, and if I have, I've never called it spirituality. Religious awe is just normal awe directed at God. Religious love is just normal love directed at religious themes. Then there's the issue that Christianity seems to be antithetical to spirituality. In Scripture you tend to find spiritual experiences being had by those who worshipped idols, and God telling people not to be drawn in by it:

"And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars--all the heavenly array--do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven." (Deuteronomy 4:19).

So even though I was looking for something slightly different than you gave me. I do think you made an important point. "Spiritual" feelings, if universal, do play a role in being religious. I'll have to look into those types of experiences further.

Truett's picture
You might enjoy watching a

You might enjoy watching a Carl Sagan video or two on Youtube. He addresses these points as well. Good luck with all of this.

xenoview's picture
I use to be a christian, then

I use to be a christian, then I became a wiccan/pagan. Then I outgrew religion. I have yet to see a theist give enough evidence for a god or gods. Even if a theist could give me evident that was testable, I still wouldn't worship said god.

The Pragmatic's picture
There have been several here

There have been several here in the forum, who expressed that they wanted to "jump back into" their faith. Due to a variatey of aspects that they missed, often social reasons, feelings of belonging, feelings of comfort, etc.

...'s picture
Right, I've seen some of

Right, I've seen some of those comments myself. But I was looking for a more internal, almost biological urge to be religious. The social influences are just that, social influences. Meaning that if the social influences were removed, those feelings would be removed as well.

I was looking for something in our mental makeup that can be ignored but not removed. The "sex-drive" equivalent to being religious.

xenoview's picture
I don't think there is a

I don't think there is a biological urge to be religious. Everyone is born atheist, you have to be taught religion.

The Pragmatic's picture
@ John 6IX Breezy

@ John 6IX Breezy

Right. I don't think there is, as you put it, "a more internal, almost biological urge to be religious".

But I think,
- that the combination of curiosity, a pattern seeking brain and a whimsical imagination, gives rise to a very good breading ground for superstitious ideas to spread.
- that this is further enhanced by primal instincts, like a need for social belonging and fear of death. Both problems are satisfied by 99% of all religions.

MCD's picture
Do I know of any atheists who

Do I know of any atheists who ''want'' to believe in gods? God no.

Algebe's picture
I was raised as a C of

I was raised as a C of EChristian at home and at school/Sunday school, but the only emotional impact I felt was profound boredom. I especially hated the pictures they showed us at Sunday school. They always had washed out pastel-type colors that made my eyes itch. Any belief I had in those days was the result of conditioning. I made no emotional investment. I was more concerned about Santa Claus than Jesus.

I admit to a nostalgic fondness for the old hymns that we used to sing at school. "Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken," "Immortal, Invisible," "Guide me Oh Thou Great Jehovah,' "He Who Would Valiant be." These songs take me back 50 years. The words mean nothing to me, but they engender feelings of fellowship. I lalso ove to roar out "Jerusalem" at the Last Night of the Proms. Who wouldn't love Holzt's music wrapped around William Blake's words?

chimp3's picture
Religion is not the only

Religion is not the only illusion humans have created. White Supremacy is another. Religion does not deserve a special place in a hierarchy of fallacies.

...'s picture
Funny cause it was your own

Funny cause it was your own post I was referencing this whole time lol.

chimp3's picture
I recognised my own post. Did

I recognised my own post. Did what I say above contradict my post which you quoted?

...'s picture
It doesn't deserve to be in

It doesn't deserve to be in the hierarchy of fallacies, but did deserve a post by you on how it is a fallacy.

chimp3's picture
There is that post that you

There is that post that you quoted.

SecularSonOfABiscuitEater's picture


CyberLN's picture
To be candid, I was put off

To be candid, I was put off by the title of the OP. It read, at least to me, that there is some sort of assumed standard set of emotions that is in place for folks who identify as atheist.

I also don't think that religion is, as you've suggested, is a psychological predisposition gone wrong. From what I've heard from the religious, there are many and varied reasons for their belief. I just happen not to share those notions with them. That's all, it's no more complex than that for me.

mykcob4's picture
@John Breezy

@John Breezy
I call it reluctance to relinquish.
Atheists are for the most part isolated. We are normal people that would love to commune with everyone else but because we don't believe in a myth we are shunned. This becomes an internal struggle. I know this isn't what you are talking about. You are talking about our own minds nagging at us that there is a god, not letting us go to fully accept reality. That DOES exist. In me anyway. After full blown indoctrination into christianity complete with rite and ceremony, and facing christian encroachment in every aspect of my life, it is hard to fully release the myth, and sometimes actually wishing it were true. After all, life would be so much easier if it were true, but it wouldn't be real. Plus there is the factor that belief has been used, will always be used to exploit people and situations. That knocks me back into reality.

Charlie's picture
Nah Im good thanks, I think

Nah Im good thanks, I think im unique to most atheist's.. I'm not concerned whether god exist or not.. I'll find out soon enough when i'm dead....

SBMontero's picture
@John 6IX Breezy: This is

@John 6IX Breezy: This is another theistic stupidity.

There is no psychological theory about the emergence of religion among evolved human beings, there is a very good anthropological basis supported by studies of primitive societies on the origin of religion, there are psychological theories about religion as cultural imposition on human groups.

Oh, and I know I've said it on other occasions, but I have a ten-year-old niece who has never had the slightest cultural notion about gods, and does not seem to have any need to start praying "four little angels have my bed"... Do you think that means anything?

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