Dr. Gericke on How He Got Over the Difficulty of Losing His Faith

Previously today I posted his well-written deconversion story here. Now he wishes to explain how he came through that dark period in his life.

How I got over it and how I think now, by Dr. Gericke:

There is a reason why losing faith can be very difficult and why it can take so long before one experiences atheism as liberating - especially if one was deeply religious and happy therein. The fact is that when losing faith, the way to freedom does not come just by ditching the contents of religious beliefs but also the assumptions that make religious belief seem existentially necessary in the first place. You see, the trouble with losing faith is that it can dump you into nihilism. This is because, as Nietzsche said, all value has been sucked out of the world and placed in God so that when God is dead (in the Nietzschean sense) no value remains whatsoever. One has to learn to start living from scratch. The problem is that doing so is like a detox and it takes some time and some mental suffering to get rid of the old toxins in one's psychological make-up.

This is because religion works like an advertisement. It fills a need only because for years it has created that need within one during childhood before one could critically reflect in the first place. By the time critical faculties become operative one is not really thinking for oneself any longer - one is only being logical with the contents of religious dogma. So religion first has to convince people they need it - that they are lost and guilty and that life is pointless and atheism is immoral before it can sell its dogmas - no wonder conversion means a sense of relief, purpose and joy. But the fact is that the need and its fulfillment is a culturally constructed and ideologically indoctrinated phenomenon and no natural human concern.

The problem is that while one is a believer one is told how horrible life without God is and that everybody needs to believe in something bigger than themselves. When one then loses faith the problem is that you ditch the dogmas but are unaware of the deep seated cultural assumptions telling you that you will be miserable unless you find something else to believe in. So the way to experience liberation came for me not by letting go of faith (which only made me depressed) but by becoming aware of and removing the presumption that one needs religion to live a meaningful, moral and joyful life.

Only once I realised how the trick was done I felt happy again - after eight years of hell. Now I realise that much of what we take for granted in western culture is nonsense and you do not need to believe in something metaphysical, to "find yourself", to belong to a group, to have an identity, etc, before you can live your life. On the contrary, the more identity, beliefs and certainties you have the more intolerant you become. So now for me the mission is to be less, believe less, to belong less. And funny enough one does not turn into an immoral person by doing so. In fact, people who, when losing faith begin to act like barbarians, are still part of the christian system in that they have simply become the antagonist the Church told them they will be if they are godless. Atheists are not satanists and if one is anti-religion to the point of being obscene one is not free from it at all.

The fact that human morality is all made up is no problem. Like traffic laws they make sense and make life better for everyone. In fact, if one is only moral because you are told so by someone up there who threatens you with hell or promises you heaven you are not being moral at all, only opportunistic. I now believe that one should not think of morality, meaning, purpose, happiness and even truth as so is supposed to be revealed. No, we make it up as we go along and there is nothing wrong with that. And the fact that one no longer knows who one is, where one is coming from, why one is here or where one is going is no longer a problem. In fact, it is the exciting state of affairs that allows us the freedom to be whatever we want. We have to take responsibility for who we have become and religion is simply giving that up.

Somehow, what keeps deconverts wanting to go back is fear of God and hell. But once you study the history of both these concepts you realise there is nothing to fear. It's impossible to "just believe" for there is no stable dogmas out there to believe in. And with biblical contradictions being real it doesn't matter which part of scripture you follow, you're in trouble. If you believe in the Jesus of the gospel of John you are on your way to the hell preached by Jesus in the synoptic gospels because you are blaspheming by thinking him a god. If you believe in Paul's gospel the hell of James and Matthew awaits you given your disrespect for the law. And besides, not only the people but also the god of most of the Old Testament himself does not believe in a hell. So what now? Just relax.

Alternatively, deconverts wish to keep God as a stop gap for mystery. But think about it, even if the universe has a cause, what reason is there to believe that:

1. there is only one cause
2. that the cause is the first cause of everything (or that this is the
only universe)
3. that the cause is greater than the effect
4. that the cause still exists after the effect
5. that the cause is something supernatural (it might as well be just
another natural phenomenon).
6. that the cause is aware of the effect
7. that the cause is a he rather than an it
8. that the cause is a god
9 that the cause is the god of the Bible
10 that the cause is the updated and user-friendly version of a god
called "The Lord" worshipped by contemporary Christians

Moreover, I cannot for the life of me imagine why such a cause, even if it had a personality, would have a human ego and would want to create other entities to tell it how wonderful it is (or create such frail beings as humans). In other words, I can no longer for the life of me understand why a god wants to be worshiped. Hence religion which just is worship, seems meaningless.

Or, given the history of human ideas and changing conceptions of morality, it hardly seems that the cause of the universe, whatever it may be, gives a damn about superstition or human morality (why would a god have to keep people in the dark about the nature of the cosmos for thousands of years or is it not interested in a personal relationship with other species who are all atheist by default and act "immorally" all the time?).

However, perhaps the pinnacle of absurdity comes in with Christianity's belief that the cause of the universe's greatest concern is that humans only agree that it exists and that it will reward them with immortality if they say amen to whatever it had written up for them in a collection of ancient scrolls are indeed the case.

Does the word absurdity still actually mean anything at all?

One final word. People sometimes miss religion because they miss the
spirituality thing. If that's you, try the book Atheist Spirituality. As the review in Publisher’s Weekly wrote:
“At first blush "atheist spirituality" may sound like a contradiction in terms, but French philosopher Comte-Sponville makes a compelling argument for a profound
dimension of experience that is god-free. We can do without religion and without God, the author argues, but we can't do without fidelity and community. Comte-Sponville's humanism is deeply traditional, but the red flag "atheist" will undoubtedly affront religious traditionalists. That's unfortunate, because the author's style of arguing is civil and witty, unlike a lot of public discourse on this subject. He draws deeply on the history of God's existence, disposing of the everything-is-permitted nihilism often associated with atheism. Nor does he argue that religion is dangerous, a stance in vogue among today's bestselling atheists. God just isn't logically necessary, but we can still have love, ethical behavior and even the experience of eternity. Formerly a Sorbonne professor, Comte-Sponville presents big ideas with masterful and witty clarity. For those who prefer Kant to cant, this refreshing little book is perfect.”

7 comments:

Al Moritz said...

So the way to experience liberation came for me not by letting go of faith (which only made me depressed) but by becoming aware of and removing the presumption that one needs religion to live a meaningful, moral and joyful life.

While I am a believer, I don't think either that one needs religion to live a meaningful, moral and joyful life. I just don't believe that atheism corresponds to reality.

ZDENNY said...

I have yet to meet an atheist who is really living a joyful and meaningful life. After a great deal of interaction, I am absolutely convinced that the path to Atheist is by means of unresolved anger.

I don't know of any atheists who are really concerned about love. Atheist only talk about love as though it was a form of lust.

stamati anagnostou said...

Of course not, because that would undermine your beliefs.

Teebird said...

I agree with Al Moritz who said, " I just don't believe that atheism corresponds to reality."
I also don't see any evidence to suggest that athiesm is the "default" belief. If you have any evidence suggesting that animals are athiests or that newborn babies are athiests as some atheists have said, I would love to hear it.

openlyatheist said...

I welcome Dr. Gericke to the world of the ex-Christian, where his years of study and soul searching will be dismissed in seconds by Christians who will never do the same.

Grace said...

I don't think this man's years of study, and soul-searching should ever be disrespected, or dismissed.

But, in all fairness, there are people of faith who have also studied and wrestled with many of these questions, and issues. They have done the same.

Yet, they came away not as confirmed atheists, but with their faith in God renewed, and further strengthened.

What is it that makes the difference?

stamati anagnostou said...

Teebird,

I think this is the problem when trying to saying anything is a 'default' belief: for each person there will be a different default. For some it is perhaps atheism, for others theism. Some people are by default more in tune with nature, for instance. Mankind is as varied on a grand scale as your consciousness is varied inside your head.

Having spent innumerable hours researching theism and atheism, I can say confidently that biblical theism corresponds in almost no way to reality, while science especially in the realm of consciousness is leading us in interesting places in terms of how we exist here. As Nietszche said, 'God is for us a gross prohibition- Do not think!' God gives us an answer and that is comforting, as we no longer have to do any investigation ourselves.

I think what you and Al are getting to is that it is absurd that we exist here, and someone must've made this place. I understand that impulse and of course this place is strange, this state of existing is the unsolvable riddle or so it seems. But the absurdity of it does not demand a god, nor does it necessarily evidence one.