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Did anyone else go through the stages of Atheism?

So I'm mostly asking people who grew up religious and became an atheist later, but here's what I went through.

Stage 1: Mostly shame and lots of self doubt, despite realizing that there isn't a god, was still worried about consequences of being an atheist, both interpersonal and eternal.

Stage 2: Derision. Basically hated everything religious and religious people in general. No longer worried about being an atheist, no longer doubting what I believed.

Stage 3: Acceptance. Realized that while religion causes tons of problems in the world and there is almost certainly not a god, religion helps many people cope with life and some people need a dictated code to live by. Lots of evil, but plenty of good also comes from religion.

TheWholePeter 3 July 25

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  1. WTF?? This doesn't make any sense. How can people actually believe this logically inconsistent, terrible nonsense?? Look at them: they actually do believe it! I must be missing something... I'll just keep my mouth shut and my ears open and eventually i'll figure out what everyone else knows...

  2. Nope. Not missing anything. This system is full of truck-drivey holes and no one's questioning it because...oh, I really don't want to know why, it's too horrible to think about... Anyway, I know I'm paying attention and my head's screwed on straight--and I know for sure this is total garbage.

  3. I'll look around and try on different systems until I find one that isn't total garbage...

  4. ...Nope, none of these fit. I guess I'll just fashion my own system.

  5. I don't need a system. I don't have to play this game at all.

  6. Enter the Dharma: life really opens up when you get to know the nature of mind and release concepts.


My progression out of religion was more gradual. I went from being raised Calvinist/evangelical (yeah I know that's a contradiction) to pentecostal to liberal to agnostic to atheist.

For me, the most terrifying leap was from biblical fundamentalist to theologically liberal. My later leap from liberal Christian to atheist was far less dramatic. I suspect a lot of members of liberal churches are agnostic/atheist who are just culturally Christian.


I was speaking to a preacher once and I fully believe, despite his profession, he was an atheist. He said for many, religion is a crutch and for others, its a wheelchair.

This is quite true. If you discuss religion with properly theologically educated priests and bishops you will find that they are more consirent with the wonder of the world than literal interpretation. These guys will give you a proper conversation rather than the direct quote nonsense from the Evangelicals. If you want to find out what proper Christian leaders think, ask a C of E vicar!


Never went through stage 1. The concept of immortality in some heaven just never seemed to fit with what I experienced personally in the natural world. Stage 2, I still go in and out of depending on what triggers me, these days it's politics triggering me and the dangerous hypocrisy of the evangelicals. I think most people that get stuck in stage 2 have been really hurt, abused, by religion and know first hand the real harm that religion can cause - the danger of leaving it unchecked. Same thing with stage 3. I don't go around raging against people or religion, but I'll never accept it as such. I know first hand its danger. It is intrusive, parasitic, toxic, bigoted, delusional, murderous, genocidal, and extremely harmful to humanity overall. I don't excuse or accept that kind of all encompassing harm just so that a few believers can find 'comfort.' Now, there is nothing that I can do about religion as a whole. I'm not the queen of the universe and I do believe in people's right to pursue their happiness. If that means religion for them, fine. I just keep those people at arms length and don't let them get too close or friendly. I just struggle to trust people who believe in lies just to comfort themselves. People like that can use religion to rationalize all kinds of atrocities just to 'comfort' themselves. I've seen it happen, the rumors they start, the shunning, believers use religion to destroy people's lives, and that is the real harm behind religion - that, and it's fake sense of comfort in the face of real immorality. There are many, many days where I don't even think about any of this stuff, and then sometimes it all comes back and I have to push it aside. So, yeah, stages 2 and 3 are a work in progress for me, even after all this time.


I did stages 2 & 3 during first weeks as athiest. Only regret that i didnt become an athiest earlier in life.


Sounds like a Christian disease to me, not a religious one! I doubt ex Buddhists or ex Sikhs go through that motion.

You are absolutely right ... it is clearly a disadvantage to be 'born into' certain religions or religious traditions. I have succeed in eliminating the symptoms of Christianity, but the disease still lurks, deep within me.

@pnfullifidian Well done. Not having been born into it I don't have an experience to draw on but I can only imagine how traumatic it must when you know that is just not right for you. Peer pressure can be so exhausting! It's bad enough having a wife and two daughters being in a minority but the Christian thing? Good luck with it.

@Geoffrey51 Consider yourself one lucky dromedary! Peace.

@pnfullifidian Thank you 🙂


Nope. I did of a burst of religiosity from spending the 9th grade in a Catholic school, but I merely opened my mind and began considering there was no God. If anything, I was excited to be figuring it out once and for all.

godef Level 7 July 25, 2018

Where are you getting these stages from?

I was never truly religious, so I never worried about "eternal consequences", as I never truly believed in an eternity. Socially, my family didn't give me much comeuppance other than friction with me ex as I stopped going to church even for token appearances.

Even before becoming an atheist, I railed against stupidity in religion, so nothing there. I treated religion as a metaphor for an eternal mystery, not a literal or historical truth.

I still don't see how religion helps people cope, it pulls blinders over their eyes and gives them a false sense of moral superiority. Most of those who supposedly follow this code, in fact just pay it lip service and then go about their business. They're hypocrites. Furthermore, most dictate that all other religions are false and their followers must be converted, so at the core religion encourages war in the name of a fictional God. This far outweighs the acts of charity which could equally well be done for secular reasons. And don't get me started on televangelists.

@jioo087 Thank you, I'm here all week 🙂

My own personal experience. I wasn't trying to claim there are any official stages or anything like that. Was just interested in other peoples stories. Thanks for sharing.


There is an element of abreaction to religion on the part of deconverts. And it does settle down in time, for most of us, I think. Like all "x stages of y" concepts, the stages aren't a clear cut sequence and are experienced very individually, possibly with periodic regression under stress.

Stage 1 would for example not be nearly so much in evidence for a person deconverting from a non-fundamentalist sect, or for someone like myself who just isn't very prone to being influenced by gaslighting techniques. In my case, my parents were unconditionally loving and accepting of me, and I think that was who they were as people before they became involved in fundamentalism. So they unintentionally vaccinated me against the shame-and-blame aspects of fundamentalism.

Stage 3 depends in large part on a person's ability and willingness to broaden their understanding of religion as a generic phenomenon rather than a specific expression with which they are familiar. I have found this surprisingly challenging, and has required effort on my part -- effort that many people haven't the time or energy or curiosity to make. So I have a lot of compassion for people who remain in the "derision stage". It keeps things simple.


Alrhough I de-converted as a teenager, I later went through the stages, sort of.

My stage 3 involved acceptance of my own atheism and anti-theism, not acceptance of their religious nonsense. I'm still outspoken about it. I'm the asshole who will tell a cop that the "In God We Trust" decal on his cruiser is unconstitutional.
I feel like history will favor us. Someday school children will be taught that we were the early pioneers of the kind of free thinking that eventually saved the human species. And my version of stage 3 is accepting my little tiny role in that change.


Your stages do reflect my journey.


I noticed discrepancies in what the church taught as a child. Love your neighbor then hate based on their differences. I began loosing respect then seeing religion as a business, a corrupt one at that.

For a long time I identified as a non-practicing Christian, just kept what I considered the good stuff and didn't think about it anymore. Last year I realized that Agnostic was a good title that described what I was living and when I found this site my education continued and I feel that I can describe myself as Agnostic-Atheist.

To me the stories in the bible are as believable as any Stephen King novel. They are both spawned from the imagination. The difference is that religion tries to sell you the stories as "truth", and to me that is a tool for abuse.

I think the only time I resented religion is when my husband died. It was the first time since I was a child that I felt pushed and coerced to believe in a fantasy.

Can this be described as stages? I don't know. I describe it as growth.

Betty Level 7 July 25, 2018


Thank you. 🙂

...well said


I agree with irascible; I don’t think a significant amount of good comes from religion, it comes from people. Good people do good things, bad people do bad things, bad people sometimes do good things; but for a good person to do bad things, that’s usually the result of religion. Im fairly anti-theist. I don't hate religious people but I do hate the effects of every single theistic religion about equally. So many horrible conditions it has put on the world that most people seem to never recover from.

The only thing that makes me think some people do need religion is the presence of so many more conservative/tea party/trumpian atheists than I thought possible. Those are the people who obviously do need an extrinsic moral code because whatever theyve developed intrinsically isnt working. They need a nontheistic religion like satanism or buddhism though. Skydaddy religions would likely just make them worse.


These stages do not apply to me. Yet have strong doubts there is a monotheism God.

When one moves to being religious to atheist, that is one extreme to another extreme, my ideal solution are somewhere in the middle.
It allows me confront every major problem without fear, as my daughter is fearless too.
Yes, Religion is a dangerous problem, since people are basically good, there are other better ways of thinking to bust through their fears.


I went through distinct stages: Realization, fear, phony agnosticism, trepidation, acceptance of my atheism, self comfort.
I realized atheism was who I actually was inside.
I had a fear of rejection
I decided to pretend "agnosticism" to get a feel from family and friends
Fear at realization I could not pretend to be what I was not and the consequences
Declaration and self acceptance of my atheism
Self comfort (with continued trepidation of retaliation)

This is my emotional plight. So many people don't understand what an atheist is and are just as afraid of me as I am of them, though for different reasons.


Wish I wasn't on my phone. So much I'd like to say here.
I think too many people confuse being an atheist with being anti-theist. They are not the same thing.


Stages certainly but different.
I went through this gradual thing of altering my perception of god. Ie originally an old white man and so forth, then I accepted what many told me, that the bible needs to be interpreted etc. God created the word in 6 days, but days were much longer back then, or that the term day was symbolic and really mean a thousand or a million years and so on. Have to remember, I was a gullible child.


No. These stages do not resonate with me. I never feel shame or self-doubt about choices I have made.

xyz123 Level 7 July 28, 2018

These stages also reflect my journey. Good job! Nice wording of it.


..yes I definitely ,through diligent filtering,
had to gently but firmly defend free thought
on 10-15 life choices. Religion does good:
ok-but [the] human race has been at these
activities for a long time;to at this stage try
to micro manage human thoughts;choices;
needs=over reach!!!!

BBJong Level 7 July 28, 2018

I skipped stages 1 and 2 and went straight to 3. I think this is because I was quite young when I realised that religion is fiction. I was about 13/14 years old and accepted that whilst religion isn’t for me, it serves others well and I should respect that.


My parents were not religious, so I guess you might say I was born atheist.


Yeah and many seem stuck on stage 2. I get being angry at religious people and churches screwing with our country, but some just love annoying religious people who aren't doing anything.

I go to monthly themed dinners at a local restaurant with an older atheist man and he always enjoys provoking religious people. Even if they're chill, don't say grace or barely say grace he provokes them. It's a little annoying, thankfully the woman who organizes the events has started putting us with non-religious people.


I experienced stage 2 and 3. I became an atheist very young and I was very clear about it, but my family is very religious and they spent years dragging me to their religious events. Anyway, they gave up years later but every now and then my mom tries to guilt me into going. I really don't harbor any anger or resentment. I leave people alone unless they try to push me to religion. Not sure if they get more points for converting an atheist but the way I see it when they do that is that THEY have doubts about who they are and if they can convert you, then it's confirmation for them that they're not wasting their time.

...just wondering-do they try to convert
the helpless immergrants at the holding

@BBJong I don't know. I don't live at the border anymore, so I have no idea. They already had facilities there for children that came by themselves to this country for years (because there are children that come here by themselves from south America, btw) and those were more like schools that provided them with food, education, and bunk beds. No religion though. The staff are government workers and they're pretty caring people from what I heard. I had a couple friends work there for one of the facilities for nearly 10 years They kept the kids there until they could find a family member in the United States that could take care of them.


It appears that your purported stages do not describe what happens with most atheists.

I agree. Everyone has their own story that is unique to them. 🙂

As I said in a lower comment, I wasn't claiming that these were official stages or anything, sorry if it came across that way, was merely curious about other people's journeys, especially those that were raised religious and how they differed or were similar to mine. Thanks for sharing.

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