Hi all! I'm new here, this is my first post.
So, a problem I've been dealing with is that fairly often I find myself unable to stop thinking about how I can't understand how so many people around me are religious. It's very distracting and bothersome. I'm a medical student and I had some apparently naive idea that people in medicine would tend to be the rational type. Not true. My school is full of very nice but extremely religious people, and I simply can't fathom how they do it. How can you study evidence-based medicine one minute, then the next minute gather with your friends and hold hands as you pray that you all got a good grade on the exam? I'm like, hello, the Assessment Office has already known what your grade was for the last week. It's not gonna change now.
My roommate is also very religious. She's a wonderful person, but having her around can get me into these private mental rants... Thankfully she does not really ever say anything and is not pushy, but when she goes off to bible study every week and literally spends all of Sunday at Church, I'm like, what's wrong with you?
I'm seriously thinking about getting some counseling to help me deal with this. But then I'm afraid that my therapist would be religious too! Argh! Help me!
Hi Diane, and welcome!
When I was a teenager, and going through some awful family turmoil, I became depressed enough to start seeing a psychiatrist.
The first question she asked me was, "How do you feel about coming here?" I told her I was afraid people would think I'm crazy.
"People who come to therapy are normal people trying to deal with a crazy world," she told me, and I left that first appointment feeling like a 50lb weight was off my shoulders.
So YOU may not need therapy the way the crazies do, but that's the problem- crazy people don't realize they're crazy! Hence, the normal people going to therapy.
You might find the solace you need in here, venting and unloading, comparing notes, and at least *knowing* there's no judgment.
I listen to tons of lectures at work on YouTube. Dawkins does a great lecture at a college, with a cool Q&A at the end; anything by Hitchens is very entertaining if you're in an angrier mood; Harris is a bit on the dry side, but still refreshingly rational. There's even a video of the three of them and a fourth sitting around, having drinks, shooting the sh!t about what they do- truly awesome.
Also, the recent "debate" (ugh) b/w Bill Nye and Kevin Ham, at the creation museum in Kentucky. My blood pressure goes up listening to Ham, but Nye does an incredible job keeping his cool and getting his point across. To the credit of both, it's a very calm and fair discussion, no mud-slinging.
Keep us posted if/when you decide on a therapist!
Hm-mm, finding an atheism-positive MD might be more difficult than finding a sex-positive MD.
The latter was our problem at San Francisco Sex Information (www.sfsi.org), especially early during the AIDS crisis.
People who phoned wanted non-judgmental medical help with their sexual issues, and even in the SF Bay Area our referral file was not overflowing.
I've been away from SFSI for almost twenty years; I hope they have a larger file now.
BTW, the training to work at SFSI required about eight times as many classroom hours in human sexuality as medical schools were requiring of students.
No, THEY are the crazy ones.
I wish I could tell you what to do. I'm also surrounded by religious people and some of them have power over me. That's hella scary. I've had a LOT of counseling and it wasn't terribly effective. I am skeptical about psychiatrists and psychologists (and psych meds) after 20+ years of no real results.
Counselors are hit and miss whether or not they are religious. During the past 20+ years, I've found very, very few that helped even a little bit. Counseling isn't terribly beneficial unless you luck out and get someone fabulous. I've had one or two good counselors, a few halfway decent counselors, a ton of mediocre ones and a few really bad ones. Unfortunately, I never had a "fabulous" counselor.
So I had to learn how to deal with the religious on my own for the most part. And I'm still learning. First of all, I had to get the anger out of my system. This takes time and it's an ongoing process. It's probably different for everyone.
Next I had to establish boundaries with the religious. Doing that in day-to-day life isn't easy. :( It was necessary to cut off contact from my mother twice for extended periods. She simply WOULD NOT respect my boundaries. The only way to teach her was pretty harsh.
Thirdly, I have to maintain those boundaries. When I relax my guard, the faithful are there, picking at the edges. Sometimes you have to lay down the law again. Sometimes I have to own up to being the one who didn't respect boundaries. No matter who fucked up, if the boundaries are breached, I have to shore up the walls again.
Setting up boundaries and agreeing not to talk about religion = the only thing that has worked for me at all. Is it lonely? Yes. But I really have nothing in common with most of the religious people around me, anyway.
A in FL, stay strong with your boundaries. I've become somewhat aloof from my family (dysfunctional on several levels) and it helps tremendously. Although, I do find that staying aloof from most of humanity is necessary for good mental health!
It helps to live an exemplary life, where your good deeds and responsible nature are apparent, before revealing your non-belief. It throws believers off. "Gee, he/she seemed like SUCH a good Christian...." Then they're forced to re-learn what an "atheist" really is.
My religious co-workers asked me once about my beliefs, and they don't act any differently toward me, which is great, but in the NYC area it's expected that people be open-minded. You couldn't get through daily life if you insisted on being around only people just like you!
If we ever have to move someplace conservative, I imagine my first order of business would have to be the establishment of some gathering for like-minded, desperate people who crave rational conversation. Easier said than done.
Interesting, and I have marveled at the same irony, that men and women of science are believers, too. It might be that they were brought up to believe and simply accept some things on faith alone. Somehow, they reconcile science and religion, which to me are irreconcilable. Either Darwin was right or The Priesthood is. Those who accept evolution and know that the earth is millions of years old shouldn't also believe that it is only five or six thousand years old, as most theologians insist. We now know that we are hard-wired to believe in a deity. Even the founding fathers who insisted on church-state separation and in some cases, e.g. Madison, railed against organized religion, were deists in the main. Then, there is the social aspect of religion. One suspects that many who go to church do so to fraternize and to advance an economic agenda. Surely there is no scarcity of agnostics among these. Therapy might not hurt; after all, Scientology, a bogus religion if ever there was one, disses psychoanalytic theory for suspect reasons: your counselor might tell you you're involved in a cult that is, basically, a Ponzi scheme. (Equally obviously a pyramid scheme is Mormonism, since a small number of men run the show, and the only way you can get there is by enriching the church.) I sympathize. Do what your heart (head) suggests.
First, it is perfectly rational for everyone outside the bubble of delusion to become frustrated, and even, despair at the sheer amount of attention and energy devoted to something so obviously nonexistent. All of us have likely felt the same at some point and time, granted we might not be in a situation where we are around people who SHOULD know better all freaking day. Truthfully, all a therapist will do is have you try some different coping techniques, your time would be better spent elsewhere. If all else fails, remember: While alcohol might not make those around you any less ignorant, it can make their ignorance less painful for awhile...
Though do try not to overdo it, Alcoholism is a real illness, just not as bad as religion.