Today I have been reflecting on the difference between me as a not-yet-deprogrammed atheist for 35 years and me as an almost deprogrammed atheist. I first became an atheist in 1975 after studying evolution in college. I kept my beliefs to myself, although if anyone asked, I would admit that I was atheist. I never read any books about atheism and I never learned much more about my atheism, until recently.
As a not-yet-deprogrammed atheist, I was not upset by religion. I could easily go to church for a friend or relative without any negative emotions. In fact, after having two sons, I joined my wife's Catholic Church so that we could be together as a family and my sons would get training in "morals."
However, just about the time the priest pedophile scandal started to gain visibility, I started to have feelings of disgust about priests and going to church. I continued going to church until my sons grew up and I found out they had both independently decided that there was no god.
Once I knew my sons were atheists, there was no reason for me to hide my godlessness. I read Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett. I began befriending atheists on Facebook.com and Atheistnexis.com and getting up to date in the latest in atheist thought.
Now that I know what damage religion has done and is still doing to the world, I have become passionate about my atheism and anti-theism. I have never in my life been so passionate about anything that did not have to do with my family or me. I am really a different kind of atheist than I was a year ago or 35 years ago. Although I do feel more anger and disgust than I used to as a still-programmed atheist, I definitely feel it was worth the anger and disgust because now I feel more like myself than I have ever felt before. I feel like I have been hiding or being someone else for 35 years.
Before my new awakening, (dare I say re-birth?) I still had remnant religious thoughts. For example, as a not-yet-deprogrammed atheist, I use to believe:
1. Overall, religion is good because of the good things churches do, such as giving food to the poor.
2. It is okay to pray to yourself because it is like giving yourself positive affirmations to improve your life, e.g. “Help me be more successful.”
3. Religions help people be good by giving them morals. The Bible teaches people good ways to live.
4. Jesus existed and the historicity of the bible is pretty accurate.
5. The universe has some fate for me and is giving me signals as to the right direction to take.
Although these troubling thoughts still creep into my consciousness, at least now I know that these beliefs were blatantly false and I can easily detect them and reject them when they enter my mind. Now I wonder how many other not-yet-deprogrammed atheists there are in the world. I give Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett a lot of credit for helping to elevate atheists from the not-yet-deprogrammed to become deprogrammed atheists.
One reason why I am publishing the blog, beside its self-therapeutic value, is that I thought it would be beneficial to find a better name for these two types of atheists. Not that we really need more labeling in this world, but being aware that these two types of atheists exist and being able to discuss them might help people advance from not-yet deprogrammed to deprogrammed. I am looking for a better way to describe these two types of atheists. Some of the ideas I have had are as follows.
Not-yet-deprogrammed atheist: Naïve atheist, infected atheist, uneducated atheist, programmed atheist, or recovering atheist.
Deprogrammed atheist: Informed atheist, educated atheist, cured atheist, recovered atheist.
Does anyone out there have some ideas for what to call these types of atheists?