I have been a believer almost all of my life. God was very real to me, and I went to church and even for years lived the life that I thought God wanted me to lead. Only this calendar year have I come to the fact that there is no god. It's very hard for me. Sometimes I still start to pray, just to catch myself and think what's the good of it? There is nobody out there. I find the idea of God now to be ridiculous. That there is some invisible creature out there who can change his all knowing mind because I sent the right idea at him at the right time is just laughable. I don't know why in my subconscious it's still hard for me to come to terms that I'm a atheist, even though on the surface I know.

Did anyone else have this problem? My husband is also an atheist, but he wasn't raised religious like I was, so he doesn't have the default "pray when things are bad" idea.

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Hi! I had this problem... I had a habit of jumping in the shower every morning and starting my day with a nice little prayer :D Well once I stopped believing in god/Christianity etc. I would still find myself in my routine prayer sessions. I eventually stopped, I dont even know when or how. I guess I just put the annoyance in perspective...I told myself "I've prayed for most of my life so it feels natural b/c it is habitual, now that I dont believe this will stop!"
Basically there's no need to feel bad, strange or wrong...it's just a habit it'll go away--- Just like a child's concern of the boogie monster and Santa goes away when they gain more knowledge and experience! :)
Julia Sweeney talks about something like this in "Letting Go Of God". She also didn't lose all her beliefs and spiritual feelings at once. They kind of peeled away gradually. Definitely check out her work if you haven't already. She is so perceptive and she understands what it is like to be devoutly religious.

Like Dani said -- Praying and religious thinking become habits like anything else you do for a long time, especially if they bring you comfort of some kind. As your inner beliefs change, you will find different coping strategies that will work better for you. It may take a while before they are as second nature as the prayers you have been saying for years and years.

best wishes!
Drastic change is always hard for the brain to deal with, especially when dealing with something as influential in one's life as their religious decision.

Like everyone else in this forum has said, just be strong and eventually old habits will die. You'll eventually find yourself not even worrying about this at all.

Seek Atheism and you shall receive :)
Larissa: Thanks for joining Recovering from Religion (RR). Please take a look at our website at www.recoveringreligionists.com. We are looking for people to join RR meetup groups in various cities and to start or lead new groups. If you are interested in facilitating a group or know of someone who is, let me know. I can help them get started. It is not hard and it is very rewarding.

Darrel Ray, author of The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture
Hi Larissa,
I get a sense of hopelessness in your post, your plea "whats the good of it?" sounds a bit sad and lost (i hope I'm wrong).

I was never religious, so dont pretend to know what you are going thru. But can I suggest that your prayer "habit" probably isnt that far off what I would imagine a lot of atheists do. I often find myself thinking about how I would like things to be, exercising positive thoughts is good for you. My Dad's sick at the moment and I "hope" he gets better - but I dont direct these thoughts at anyone or anything. In the same way I hope nothing happens to my kids, but I certainly dont pray for it.

An evolutionary physchologist might argue that the "wishful thinking" gene is one of the things that separates us from other species. I dont imagine many great social and scientific advances would have occured without human-kind's seemingly ubiquitous predisposition to hoping/wishing things to be different. i think prayer is just a by-product of that whole process.

Just think of it as positive daydreaming - and dont start with "Dear Lord..."
Yes, yes, and yes.

Being a new non-believer myself, I find the hardest thing to get over is the innate built in fear and guilt that I think I was preconditioned with starting as a child. Nothing like a few fire and brimstone sermons to scare some religion into some children.

Though I also have a unique observation perhaps, why don't Christians practice what they preach so often? Personally for me it was because I was embarrassed by the almost seemingly archaic practices mixed with modern society. Some aspects of Christianity are actually counter to our natural tendencies, for instance spreading the "word" of the bible was embarrasingly awkward for me. Teaching logic to others is fun! So there's some examples of how being a non believer may in fact come more naturally than being a believer.

Guilt and fear, those two usually combined are a hard thing to overcome. This is why it's still difficult for me to accept my own new understanding of the world.. in fact I'm not even fully sure what was the turning point for myself was yet.
My only advice is to take it slowly. I keep saying this, but you don't have an instant conversion to atheism - it's a journey. Everyone has to take that journey at their own pace. If you find it hard to let go of some 'supernatural' ideas, don't push it, just let them linger there while you keep educating yourself and finally you'll find the strength to put them aside. If you start to pray, don't feel guilty. It's a habit like any other habit - eventually you'll break it.

Perhaps when you feel the need to pray, you can set yourself a little challenge. When you find yourself praying, stop and think, "What can *I* do to help this situation?" If there's something you can do, do it. If not, say to yourself, "This is beyond my control - I'm just going to have to see how it plays out."

Of course, you could always try praying to the Flying Spaghetti Monster - he answers prayers at about the same rate as God but requires far less investment of your time. ;-)

You are the mistress of your own destiny now - don't be frightened or overwhelmed - be excited!
I am trying to take it slowly... I was a Christian for most of my life and even though I went from one extreme of Christianity to the other, I still believed in the same God. Today I was at Taco Bell and my hubby and I ordered our normal bunch of burritos... they have burritos for 89 cents so we get 8 of them, eat 2 and then take the rest home for leftovers. I gave a burrito to a homeless guy who happened to walk in. I then went to CVS and I saw a homeless guy trying to get money to get a bus ticket home. I didn't have cash, so I offered to buy him a iced tea and he was happy. I was thinking "God must be happy with me today" or something along those lines. I didn't do those things because I wanted a god to be happy with me, I did them because I know helping people is the right thing to do. I still have it in me, though, that there is a god watching me. I learned that today with that thought. I have a lot of work cut out for me, but I know that logic and reason are the way to go, not superstitions. I feel like I have such a long way to go...
Though I am an atheist, I am also an artist (musician). Music is the language of emotion as well as reason. I've seen too often as a performer how my mood can transform a room, one way or the other. I read a book recently. (http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/eatpraylove.htm). I, as a recently divorced person, found a lot of comfort and empathy in this book. I recommend it. I think there is great beauty in many of us of which we are not aware. Perhaps, some people who consider themselves spiritual are really getting in touch with this in themselves when they say they are talking to god? Don't feel that being a non-theist means that there is no magic to be had in life. Just go to an art museum, or listen to Bach, Deuter, great jazz, etc. If you think about it you'd realize that eventually humans will become what they perceive as gods. We would be thought gods by persons from the distant past. When you think of all we know now that we couldn't even conceive of a few hundred years ago, imagine what we will be a few hundred years from now if we manage to escape the headlong plunge into oblivion that mankind seems determined to make at the moment. Things like this forum and others are steps back on track for humanity. Just be glad there are some positive signs among all the grim ones. Even when as a young person I might have been somewhat "spiritual" I knew that no organized religion was a way to achieve a higher plane in life. It is extremely difficult to overcome dogma, especially since it was drilled into most of us as children. It was drilled into me but for some reason, it just didn't take. I can see from the replies that you've struck a chord with the community and there's a lot of us that really sympathize with what you're going through. I will keep a good thought for you.
It's pretty obvious when you think about it as a Christian, that God doesn't really answer every prayer. So what do they make of it? It starts a slippery slope of appolgetics. The best answer I've ever heard is that prayer is for the person praying, it's a form of meditation really, you talk to yourself, which is a good thing actually. I often speak to Uncle Bud, he's the guy in my head, my alter ego. So in a way, I do pray when we talk, me and my head.
There might not be any God we've ever heard of out there, but that doesn't mean that there is no God at all. There may indeed be one, but we just don't have justification or knowledge enough to know it. I try to resist being the kind of atheist that automatically closes my mind to new things that threaten my beliefs.
Hey Larissa,
I came to this point around 2 years ago after 55 years of being involved in religion. I must say that the first year was the hardest for me. Its like there's a disconnect between the enlightened mind and the indoctrinated emotions that I unconsciously carried with me. I found that no matter how much the old habit tried to assert itself, my mind was firmly ensconced in the truth of no god - which made it rather confusing, to say the least. For me it was like when a person sees behind how a magic trick or illusion is done. Part of me wished for the "innocence" of my previous believing state of ignorant bliss. As time went by, it came to feel more and more liberating to just accept things as they truly are, with no strings attached. I find that I spend much less emotional energy worrying about whether or not I'm pleasing god - which is a huge boon, and a great relief. I think it takes time for the emotions to catch up with what the mind knows to be true. Its a process that you'll move through at your own pace I'm sure. In any case, take care.
Greetings Larissa,
I read your post with interest and know that many that have been entangled in supernatural beliefs from earliest childhood have much angst while in the process of putting away childish things. One very useful book, by Dr. Frederick Uhl is worth a read or listen. Here is the link: http://www.imaginenosuperstition.com/ He is down to earth, logical and humorous and will certainly give voice to much of what you indicate you are going through. I have it on my Ipod and listen to it often and each time get more out of it. The best of luck to you....and instead of prayer, try positive thought, self-hypnosis technique of visualization....prayer, is, after all just wishful thinking, as Dr. Uhl points out. I believe that it can be very beneficial to replace all 'negative self-talk' with positive self-talk, a technique far more effective than prayer. The power of the human mind is pretty amazing and so satisfying to rely on yourself rather than an invisible, mythical, all-powerful, mystical sky-farrie, god or gods.




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