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QUESTION The friendly atheists next door

This is a long read by CNN standards. I thought it was interesting that they had such an article on their site. It was in the religion section. I could relate to many of the things the family in the article talked about.

Long Post Ahead

Here is an excerpt:

"What kind of God could I believe in?

The God of the Bible? Too cantankerous and spiteful. The Old Testament is basically one long temper tantrum.

The "God of love"? Have you seen the news lately? Not much evidence of a God who loves hurricane victims.

A God who set the world in motion and remains remote? Seems pointless. What good is a God who gives nothing and asks for nothing in return?

What about a God who's part of every piece of nature, suffusing the high stars above and cold dust below? By that logic, God is flesh-eating bacteria, too. Ew, no.

God knows, these are not the only arguments for or against the Almighty, and Harry doesn't remember all the thoughts that meandered across his mind. But he does recall this idea gaining hold: There is scant evidence for the supernatural.

Still, he didn't want to forsake his faith and everything that came with it: the community of believers, the closeness with his family, the sense of meaning and purpose.

None of that, though, helped Harry decide whether God actually existed. At wit's end, he tried an experiment.

At a meeting of local business owners, a life coach had mentioned a means of making difficult decisions: Try it on. If it feels good, keep it.

In the middle of one of many sleepless nights, Harry decided to apply the idea to his religious dilemma. He would act as if God doesn't exist and see how atheism feels.

If God is good, Harry reasoned, he will respect the effort and welcome me back like a prodigal son.

If God is evil, Harry thought, I'm screwed either way.

He didn't tell anyone about his experiment, not even Charlotte.

For the first few days, he felt lost, like he was wandering alone through dark woods, the ground sinking below his feet.

He thought about God during every free moment, driving to work, brushing his teeth, trying to sleep. When he felt frustrated or fearful, he would begin to make the sign of the cross, start murmuring a prayer, when ... damn, not supposed to do that.

Even Harry was surprised at how deeply religion was embedded within him, how it surfaced in unexpected places, at unlikely times.

But the epiphany that would soothe his doubts remained elusive. It didn't have to be a burning bush or flashing light from heaven. He just wanted something. Anything. A thought, a feeling, an experience to let him know that God was real. Even sinners and street-corner prophets get messages from the Almighty. Why must a good family man suffer God's silence?


Harry considered ending the experiment, going back to God, to the comforts of a spiritual community. Even if the Catholic Church didn't have all the answers, at least it had some.

But during the second week of Harry's atheist experiment, something strange started to stir: The pain subsided, the funk began to lift. The "snapping moment" — what mystics might call a mini-epiphany — came while Harry was driving home from work. For the first time, he internalized the idea of life without God."

SteveB 7 Dec 18

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Yay for Harry!!!! I wonder if he's gotten around to telling Charlotte?


Great article! I will share this to the Atheopaganism Facebook group.


Great article! I will share this to the Atheopaganism Facebook group.


I think the lesson here is that the fellow had religious behavior embedded into his day-to-day, moment-to-moment behavior patterns. Shaking that off was a matter of sustained, conscious, and difficult effort. It might have felt a bit like what someone who is trying to quit smoking goes through.

If your friend was trying to quit smoking, and slipped now and again, you wouldn't chastise them for sneaking in a cigarette. You'd encourage them to do better in the future, in a friendly, supportive way. Let that leaven our response to religious people who can't emotionally make the leap to accepting that the universe is godless.

I appreciate your empathy. I have been agnostic for many years, and still have religious baggage.


My atheism developed as a result of unanswered prayers. I prayed for so many issues in my life, and my misery never went away until when I denounced God,that may life restarted itself.

@SteveB No, that's a product of desperate desire to have answers out of my million prayers when I was in need. My life restarted because I started applying critical thinking and logical point of views. Yes, with that I was my own defender from the unknown.


I am, without a doubt 'the Atheist next door to a Theist, an Evangelic Theist to be exact.
Most of my other neighbours are either Atheists or Agnostics and we have all endured the endless preachings of religion from him with the most painful regularity imaginable.
As a result I am in the process of making myself a NEW house number 'plate' for my front gate which will also have painted on it, in Large Capital Letters, "No God-Botherers."


And here we all seem to sit: ....."Harry bonded with fellow atheists who shared a sense of being islands amid an ocean of faith, their shores pounded by wave after wave of believers: The evangelists who were invited to their children's schools. The conservative politicians who hold sway at the state Capitol in Raleigh. The neighbors who casually slip church-talk into conversations."

twill Level 7 Dec 21, 2017

Good article. He and his partner were fortunate to have gone through this together. They had each other's support during the most trying times of deconversion. I could really relate to the binge reading, and during a time when there weren't ex-Christian support groups online. I also wasn't aware that there were debates. Anyway, I'm glad he found what he was looking for. Thanks for sharing.


It just takes time to feel comfortable with your decision.

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