Need advices, I'm starting to have doubts in my atheist convinction
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03-09-2016, 01:31 PM
Need advices, I'm starting to have doubts in my atheist convinction
Hi all,

I'm stuck in a situation where I don't know exactly what to do, so I'm looking for advices from like minded people.

Here is my situation. I'm an atheist, I have always been, and I have always enjoyed my life this way. For me, not believing into any kind of god or afterlife has always made life so beautiful. My problem is that I have been living for 10 years with a woman who believes in this kind of things. At first, it was no problem, she believed in an afterlife, I didn't, we didn't discussed the matter, and when she mentioned stuff about premonitory dreams or divination or things like that, I just told her that, when those things work out, for me, it's just coincidence, and I believed that. A couple of years ago, she turned towards new age, and now everything she does is related to that, her main interest is that. It's very hard for me to ignore it. After a while of constantly hearing new age stuff, I started to think "what if I'm wrong", and I started to adopt an agnostic position. It led me to 1 year of deep depression, being in my head all the time, questioning everything. After one year of turning things over in my head, I got back to my atheist position, because that's the only position that makes sense to me. Being back to my original conviction got me out of depression, but I fear my convictions are now weak. A couple of days ago, she told me that she was speaking with a deceased friend of her, normally we had an agreement not to talk about this kind of things since I don't share her belief, but she can't help it. I questioned her about the way she was speaking with her friend and even though the explanation she gave me could be just a succession of coincidences, she seems so convinced about it that it somehow makes me question myself. Are those coincidences or is it me who want to see coincidences because I don't want to believe ? In a way, maybe I am also victim of confirmation bias because I don't want to believe, life seems so much more valuable with my atheist conviction that I don't want to change it.

Now, I'm lost, I really wish my conviction were stronger and less easily challengeable. I'm terrified about going back to doubt, because I would really like to avoid another year of depression, or more. I also fear that now I have opened the door to doubts, and that I might never be able to close it. Or maybe I could, if I wasn't constantly in contact with all those beliefs that make me rethink mine again and again, but living with a new ager, it seems I will ever be in contact with ideas that challenge mine. I am thinking about talking to this to a psychologist, but I live in country where new age ideas are very well accepted, if not integrated to the culture for some people, so it is very likely that I find a psychologist who also has new age ideas and thus doesn't help me the way I wish.
Do some of you have some similar experience ? Do you have any advice for me ?

Sometimes I think about reading more science books to consolidate my conviction, or if I had friends in the real life that are atheists, but I have none.

Thank you very much for reading me, it is the first time I"m talking about this problem, it already feels good to be able to speak it out.
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03-09-2016, 01:35 PM (This post was last modified: 03-09-2016 01:43 PM by DLJ.)
RE: Need advices, I'm starting to have doubts in my atheist convinction
Welcome to TTA.

First off ... there's nothing at all wrong with asking "what if I'm wrong". Doubt is a good thing. We all have biases and it's a very good idea to question them occasionally.

Having said that, I suspect that your instinct is right and that her 'pattern-recognition' software is putting two and two together to make five... she's counting the hits and ignoring the misses so that these coincidences form a pattern.

I have very few real life friends who are not Islamic or Buddhist etc.

That's why I come to TTA. There are many people here who help me confirm my biases and more importantly give great reasoning as to why those biases are not wrong.

And there are other people here that tell me when I'm talking shite. And that's good too.

Stick around, amble through the threads and post specific questions whenever you need to.

Smile

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03-09-2016, 01:51 PM
RE: Need advices, I'm starting to have doubts in my atheist convinction
My father gave me "the God Delusion" for my 21st birthday, but has subsequently embraced protestant Christianity - primarily since his new wife is an avid church goer. It seems people in a romantic relationship will often succumb to their partner's beliefs. I view it as a sign of weakness in my father, and we recently fell out big time because of my arguing against his new found, appeasing Christianity. I lost all respect for him. Perhaps I could have been kinder but it just seemed so pathetic. He said "I don't believe 100% but I think it substantially viable", or words to that effect. He'd do/say/think anything to stay in his wife's bed. I'm sorry, but it's just weak in my mind. Don't compromise your intellect - you'll get more respect from fellow realists that way, and who values the respect of delusional theists anyway.
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03-09-2016, 01:54 PM
RE: Need advices, I'm starting to have doubts in my atheist convinction
Well I was going to answer, but DLJ as usual already covered most of the issues.

It's a bit amusing (not at your expense, though!) to see someone having this issue with non-Christian beliefs, as that's the usual flavor of "but what if they're right; they sound so confident about it!" stories we hear, here.

Perhaps it would do you some good to read some of the others who have posted their stories here, and take note of how different the set of claims they're having trouble fending off are from the ones you are being urged to accept.

To all people who want to maintain their rational minds in a superstitious world, I recommend reading Carl Sagan's book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, which covers everything from alien abductions and religious mysticism/magic to how to spot patterns of bias which lead to pseudoscientific ideas (or what we call "woo" or "woo-woo"), in the Baloney Detection Kit, which can be found online if you don't have time to read the whole book.

But I strongly recommend it. And meanwhile, welcome to TTA!

"Theology made no provision for evolution. The biblical authors had missed the most important revelation of all! Could it be that they were not really privy to the thoughts of God?" - E. O. Wilson
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03-09-2016, 03:20 PM
RE: Need advices, I'm starting to have doubts in my atheist convinction
It... sounds like you hadn't particularly thought about your atheism before - you'd just taken it as given. I was similar. Assuming a God just seemed to me so prima facie stupid that I didn't dwell on why it seemed stupid, so I was vulnerable when reasonable seeming religionists got hold of me. They would ask questions like "but how do you know?" and "have you thought of this?" It... was an interesting experience. I went through a period where I decided I *was* a Christian, although I could never bring myself to "witness" to anyone. Eventually I came across a trove of back issues of Skeptical Inquirer magazine and began to appreciate critical thinking, and that gave me the tools to finally understand that my instincts (that religion smells like bullshit) were in face correct.

I'd suggest learning some principles of critical thinking. In most people they're innate, but can be subverted by e.g. a course of brainwashing of sufficient potency. Wikipedia probably has an article to start you off.

We'll love you just the way you are
If you're perfect -- Alanis Morissette
(06-02-2014 03:47 PM)Momsurroundedbyboys Wrote:  And I'm giving myself a conclusion again from all the facepalming.
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03-09-2016, 03:28 PM
RE: Need advices, I'm starting to have doubts in my atheist convinction
Just was popping back into TTA to say hi to everyone and saw your post. I am a former Catholic and Christian and was pretty hardcore in my faith for a long time. It was not uncommon for many of us in my church to see mere coincidences as something "otherworldly." Much like in your situation, I had religious friends (and still do) who believe that certain things happen for a reason or for some type of purpose.

I have a few resources that will help get you back to rationality. These three books are amazing: The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day by David J. Hand, How We Know What Isn't So: Fallibility of Human Reason in Every Day Life by Thomas Gilovich, and The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies-How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them As Truths by Michael Shermer. Also really good--this video by Andy Thomson on Why We Believe in Gods:





Hope these help! Smile
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03-09-2016, 03:42 PM
RE: Need advices, I'm starting to have doubts in my atheist convinction
Hi Sturm,

Yup right up my ally. That was my ex-belief-system Wink

First off, as DLJ said, there is nothing wrong with "what if I'm wrong" as long as it doesn't turn into a Pascal's Wager argument ("you should better belief this because what if you're wrong" kinda).

Now for the rest, generally I would always ask myself: Do I want to believe this because it makes me feel good or because there is scientific evidence supporting this thing? That was pretty much how I argued myself out of it because everything that comes after that, is simply looking stuff up on the internet.
If you don't mind your gf or whatever believing in that stuff, then you can simply do that just for yourself.
Also about agnostic and atheist position. You do realize that those are neither mutually inclusive nor mutually exclusive, right? Atheism is about belief or the lack of it while Agnosticism is about knowledge ar the lack of it. So saying "I don't know if reincarnation is real but I don't believe that it is" is an absolutely valid point of view.

And last but not least, the thing that I always offer in such more complicated cases. If you feel like going into depth about any details, feel free to pm me, I am happy to help as much as I can or at least to point you towards good ressources.

cheers


EDIT: Where are you from if I may ask. Not nosy at all.

"Freedom is the freedom to say that 2+2=4" - George Orwell (in 1984)
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03-09-2016, 03:54 PM
RE: Need advices, I'm starting to have doubts in my atheist convinction
Thank you all very much for your comments and welcoming !

(03-09-2016 01:35 PM)DLJ Wrote:  Having said that, I suspect that your instinct is right and that her 'pattern-recognition' software is putting two and two together to make five... she's counting the hits and ignoring the misses so that these coincidences form a pattern.

That's also what I think, that she sees what she pays attention to, because she wants to see the things that comfort her idea of communication with someone who is deceased. On good days, when I'm confident about my conviction, it seems clear to me, and I don't question this explanation, during those days I feel quite good. Then, there are other days when I think "what if that's not just coincidences", and doubt brings fear, because my conviction is not as strong as I would like. It's good to read your message, you reached the same conclusion than me (when I'm in those good days), it's conforting in a way, thank you !

(03-09-2016 01:51 PM)Pragmatix Wrote:  My father gave me "the God Delusion" for my 21st birthday, but has subsequently embraced protestant Christianity - primarily since his new wife is an avid church goer. It seems people in a romantic relationship will often succumb to their partner's beliefs. I view it as a sign of weakness in my father, and we recently fell out big time because of my arguing against his new found, appeasing Christianity. I lost all respect for him. Perhaps I could have been kinder but it just seemed so pathetic. He said "I don't believe 100% but I think it substantially viable", or words to that effect. He'd do/say/think anything to stay in his wife's bed. I'm sorry, but it's just weak in my mind. Don't compromise your intellect - you'll get more respect from fellow realists that way, and who values the respect of delusional theists anyway.

That's why I came here, because in my case, I don't want to change my mind, I don't want to believe. In my case, I don't want to please her by adopting her beliefs, and I didn't adopt her beliefs, but those beliefs, to which I'm now confronted all the time, put a strain on me and I really hate being in a situation of doubt. That's maybe a weakness from me, but I'm the first one to be disappointed about it. When I think about who I was 10 years ago, extremely confident about my conviction, I so much wish to be that person again.

(03-09-2016 01:54 PM)RocketSurgeon76 Wrote:  It's a bit amusing (not at your expense, though!) to see someone having this issue with non-Christian beliefs, as that's the usual flavor of "but what if they're right; they sound so confident about it!" stories we hear, here.

To all people who want to maintain their rational minds in a superstitious world, I recommend reading Carl Sagan's book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, which covers everything from alien abductions and religious mysticism/magic to how to spot patterns of bias which lead to pseudoscientific ideas (or what we call "woo" or "woo-woo"), in the Baloney Detection Kit, which can be found online if you don't have time to read the whole book.

I think I would have less problem being challenged if she believed in god in a christian way, but I think the new age is much more insidious, because it is largely accepted. There are tons of youtube videos, each one with a serious sounding voice explaining things about "consciouness", most of the time using scientific language to make it more serious. I never watch those videos to be honest. Even though I used to be a scientist (I studied biology), I don't have the knowledge in physic to decide if those things are likely to be true or not. So I simply decide not to pay attention to them, the problem is the attention is brought to me when she watchs those kind of video.

Thank you for the book recommendation, I am definitely adding it to the list of "must read" to confort my conviction

(03-09-2016 03:20 PM)morondog Wrote:  It... sounds like you hadn't particularly thought about your atheism before - you'd just taken it as given.

I'd suggest learning some principles of critical thinking. In most people they're innate, but can be subverted by e.g. a course of brainwashing of sufficient potency. Wikipedia probably has an article to start you off.

Thank you for the advice ! Each time my girlfriend brings some supernatural idea, first thing I do, is not to accept it, but to find a rational explanation for it. I have always done that, we often have arguments about that, because she thinks I'm stubborn to not see stuff. I actually have looked a lot on the internet about it, reading a lot of things from skeptic.org and other websites, about the cause of religions, superstitions, rational explanations about things that people claim to be supernatural, it comforted me when I had doubts. But even doing that, and even with my mind which is normally very rational, being confronted to that all the time is very difficult, especially when she seems so confident... I hate having to think "what if she is right and all this is not coincidence", but I can't help it.

(03-09-2016 03:28 PM)jennybee Wrote:  I have a few resources that will help get you back to rationality. These three books are amazing: The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day by David J. Hand, How We Know What Isn't So: Fallibility of Human Reason in Every Day Life by Thomas Gilovich, and The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies-How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them As Truths by Michael Shermer. Also really good--this video by Andy Thomson on Why We Believe in Gods:

Thank you very much, I'm adding those to my list ! I hope reading them will make me stronger in resisting ideas that are irrational but that I can't disprove.

@Leela
Thank you for your comment ! Sorry it took me a while to answer the other messages and I need to leave the computer for now. I will edit my post later to reply to your comment. Thanks again !
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03-09-2016, 04:19 PM
RE: Need advices, I'm starting to have doubts in my atheist convinction
(03-09-2016 03:54 PM)Sturm Wrote:  Thank you all very much for your comments and welcoming !

(03-09-2016 01:35 PM)DLJ Wrote:  Having said that, I suspect that your instinct is right and that her 'pattern-recognition' software is putting two and two together to make five... she's counting the hits and ignoring the misses so that these coincidences form a pattern.

That's also what I think, that she sees what she pays attention to, because she wants to see the things that comfort her idea of communication with someone who is deceased. On good days, when I'm confident about my conviction, it seems clear to me, and I don't question this explanation, during those days I feel quite good. Then, there are other days when I think "what if that's not just coincidences", and doubt brings fear, because my conviction is not as strong as I would like. It's good to read your message, you reached the same conclusion than me (when I'm in those good days), it's conforting in a way, thank you !

(03-09-2016 01:51 PM)Pragmatix Wrote:  My father gave me "the God Delusion" for my 21st birthday, but has subsequently embraced protestant Christianity - primarily since his new wife is an avid church goer. It seems people in a romantic relationship will often succumb to their partner's beliefs. I view it as a sign of weakness in my father, and we recently fell out big time because of my arguing against his new found, appeasing Christianity. I lost all respect for him. Perhaps I could have been kinder but it just seemed so pathetic. He said "I don't believe 100% but I think it substantially viable", or words to that effect. He'd do/say/think anything to stay in his wife's bed. I'm sorry, but it's just weak in my mind. Don't compromise your intellect - you'll get more respect from fellow realists that way, and who values the respect of delusional theists anyway.

That's why I came here, because in my case, I don't want to change my mind, I don't want to believe. In my case, I don't want to please her by adopting her beliefs, and I didn't adopt her beliefs, but those beliefs, to which I'm now confronted all the time, put a strain on me and I really hate being in a situation of doubt. That's maybe a weakness from me, but I'm the first one to be disappointed about it. When I think about who I was 10 years ago, extremely confident about my conviction, I so much wish to be that person again.

(03-09-2016 01:54 PM)RocketSurgeon76 Wrote:  It's a bit amusing (not at your expense, though!) to see someone having this issue with non-Christian beliefs, as that's the usual flavor of "but what if they're right; they sound so confident about it!" stories we hear, here.

To all people who want to maintain their rational minds in a superstitious world, I recommend reading Carl Sagan's book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, which covers everything from alien abductions and religious mysticism/magic to how to spot patterns of bias which lead to pseudoscientific ideas (or what we call "woo" or "woo-woo"), in the Baloney Detection Kit, which can be found online if you don't have time to read the whole book.

I think I would have less problem being challenged if she believed in god in a christian way, but I think the new age is much more insidious, because it is largely accepted. There are tons of youtube videos, each one with a serious sounding voice explaining things about "consciouness", most of the time using scientific language to make it more serious. I never watch those videos to be honest. Even though I used to be a scientist (I studied biology), I don't have the knowledge in physic to decide if those things are likely to be true or not. So I simply decide not to pay attention to them, the problem is the attention is brought to me when she watchs those kind of video.

Thank you for the book recommendation, I am definitely adding it to the list of "must read" to confort my conviction

(03-09-2016 03:20 PM)morondog Wrote:  It... sounds like you hadn't particularly thought about your atheism before - you'd just taken it as given.

I'd suggest learning some principles of critical thinking. In most people they're innate, but can be subverted by e.g. a course of brainwashing of sufficient potency. Wikipedia probably has an article to start you off.

Thank you for the advice ! Each time my girlfriend brings some supernatural idea, first thing I do, is not to accept it, but to find a rational explanation for it. I have always done that, we often have arguments about that, because she thinks I'm stubborn to not see stuff. I actually have looked a lot on the internet about it, reading a lot of things from skeptic.org and other websites, about the cause of religions, superstitions, rational explanations about things that people claim to be supernatural, it comforted me when I had doubts. But even doing that, and even with my mind which is normally very rational, being confronted to that all the time is very difficult, especially when she seems so confident... I hate having to think "what if she is right and all this is not coincidence", but I can't help it.

(03-09-2016 03:28 PM)jennybee Wrote:  I have a few resources that will help get you back to rationality. These three books are amazing: The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day by David J. Hand, How We Know What Isn't So: Fallibility of Human Reason in Every Day Life by Thomas Gilovich, and The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies-How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them As Truths by Michael Shermer. Also really good--this video by Andy Thomson on Why We Believe in Gods:

Thank you very much, I'm adding those to my list ! I hope reading them will make me stronger in resisting ideas that are irrational but that I can't disprove.

@Leela
Thank you for your comment ! Sorry it took me a while to answer the other messages and I need to leave the computer for now. I will edit my post later to reply to your comment. Thanks again !


Great, I hope they are helpful to you. Smile I think understanding why and how the brain works and processes info really helps dispel irrational beliefs. As DLJ mentioned, we are pattern making machines, it's an evolutionary trait that helped and helps us to survive. Due to this, seeing coincidences or patterns different places is really quite normal and should be expected. You add in the fact that our brains are wired to fill in the blanks and there you have these coincidences your friend keeps seeing. It's just a natural manifestation of the brain and not due to paranormal and/or religious activity.
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03-09-2016, 04:46 PM
RE: Need advices, I'm starting to have doubts in my atheist convinction
(03-09-2016 01:31 PM)Sturm Wrote:  Hi all,

I'm stuck in a situation where I don't know exactly what to do, so I'm looking for advices from like minded people.

Here is my situation. I'm an atheist, I have always been, and I have always enjoyed my life this way. For me, not believing into any kind of god or afterlife has always made life so beautiful. My problem is that I have been living for 10 years with a woman who believes in this kind of things. At first, it was no problem, she believed in an afterlife, I didn't, we didn't discussed the matter, and when she mentioned stuff about premonitory dreams or divination or things like that, I just told her that, when those things work out, for me, it's just coincidence, and I believed that. A couple of years ago, she turned towards new age, and now everything she does is related to that, her main interest is that. It's very hard for me to ignore it. After a while of constantly hearing new age stuff, I started to think "what if I'm wrong", and I started to adopt an agnostic position. It led me to 1 year of deep depression, being in my head all the time, questioning everything. After one year of turning things over in my head, I got back to my atheist position, because that's the only position that makes sense to me. Being back to my original conviction got me out of depression, but I fear my convictions are now weak. A couple of days ago, she told me that she was speaking with a deceased friend of her, normally we had an agreement not to talk about this kind of things since I don't share her belief, but she can't help it. I questioned her about the way she was speaking with her friend and even though the explanation she gave me could be just a succession of coincidences, she seems so convinced about it that it somehow makes me question myself. Are those coincidences or is it me who want to see coincidences because I don't want to believe ? In a way, maybe I am also victim of confirmation bias because I don't want to believe, life seems so much more valuable with my atheist conviction that I don't want to change it.

Now, I'm lost, I really wish my conviction were stronger and less easily challengeable. I'm terrified about going back to doubt, because I would really like to avoid another year of depression, or more. I also fear that now I have opened the door to doubts, and that I might never be able to close it. Or maybe I could, if I wasn't constantly in contact with all those beliefs that make me rethink mine again and again, but living with a new ager, it seems I will ever be in contact with ideas that challenge mine. I am thinking about talking to this to a psychologist, but I live in country where new age ideas are very well accepted, if not integrated to the culture for some people, so it is very likely that I find a psychologist who also has new age ideas and thus doesn't help me the way I wish.
Do some of you have some similar experience ? Do you have any advice for me ?

Sometimes I think about reading more science books to consolidate my conviction, or if I had friends in the real life that are atheists, but I have none.

Thank you very much for reading me, it is the first time I"m talking about this problem, it already feels good to be able to speak it out.
I went thru a New Age phase in my life. I had answered prayers and started to see auras etc... I was an independent contractor and I was told I should pay 10% of my income to the church. but couldn't afford it, buy the time Sunday came around I didn't have that much left, or not enuff that I figured I could give it away. SO one Friday night I stopped by the church after having earned only $220 for the week and slid $22.00 thru the slot in the door. Getting back in the car my cellular rang. It was a man I had done work for in the past and he wanted to know if I could do a job for him the next day Saturday, he'd pay me when I finished. So by Sunday I had earned another $300.00 to pay tithe on. And Saturday driving away from that job another contractor I had not heard from for quite a while called me and put me and my 3 guys to work starting Monday for a job that lasted several weeks. Remembering these stories brings the doubt back to my mind fore sure. I had my proof and yet later walked away from it!
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