The Ethical Dilemma: Save Me From the God Stuff

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Save Me From The God Stuff: For many years I dealt with religion by calling myself an agnostic, even though I was sure that I did not believe in god. Now that I have finally admitted to myself that I don’t believe, I am having difficulty dealing with everyday influences of religion that seem to be all pervasive around me. As an agnostic, it seemed that I was somehow able to deal with those influences by saying “maybe—or maybe not.” Now I just become angry and overwhelmed with the invasiveness of the idiotic religious messages that seem to be inescapable. I only desire to escape the drivel of bumper stickers, roadside signs, radio, TV, politics, and Facebook posts. I find that visiting websites regarding atheism still provoke me with a high level of mental anguish, just because religion remains a part of any discussion.

I would like to remain socially connected, but I see myself becoming more reclusive as a means to escape the physical and mental damage when the anger overtakes me, whenever I am exposed to the slightest unwanted religious interference. I know I should be able to control this, but I have not been able to redirect my emotional state away from a constant agitation due to the inability to rid my life of religious influence. Is this common with others, and how have others overcome this, in order to find mental peace in the midst of undesired religious influences?

—God, I Can’t Stand It

Dear Can’t,

Are there other areas in your life where you also feel you know better but have to deal with those who don’t? For instance, if you’re a computer whiz, do you have trouble with people who can barely boot up their devices? If you are savvy about nutrition, do you suffer those who can’t distinguish a fat from a protein? If you’re a Shakespeare scholar, do you fume when people think “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” is asking for a location?

I suspect your heightened awareness of the theism that permeates (infects?) our world is related to your recent conclusion that atheism is The Way, such that everything else is The Wrong Way. And in a way, you may have become just as fanatic as a religious fanatic.

When people have a new thing, whatever it is, they tend to go a bit overboard in their efforts to embrace it. When my daughter got a label maker, everything in our house got a label—including the label maker. Then she lightened up and used it only on things that would actually be enhanced with a label. Ever know people who just converted to their spouses’ religion, and are now upbraiding those very spouses for not observing properly? Sounds like you are doing something similar. Now that you are adamant that god doesn’t exist, you are hypersensitive to the myriad ways god is invoked, and you want them banished from your life.

You need to step back and take a breath or two. Remember, just a short time ago you were one of those people wavering toward the “maybe yes” side. You’re never going to get everyone on the other side, and you’re going to have to make peace with that or not only feel alienated, but also alienate everyone you come in contact with—including fellow nonbelievers.

You can poke around the Internet to see all the arguments raging over whether no one should be an atheist because no one can be absolutely sure there’s no god, or whether being an agnostic is a weak position that weasels around the supposedly incontestable truth. I won’t get into that here. But no matter how sure you feel about your current conviction, you need to make room for those who aren’t there yet or who never will be. They aren’t necessarily wrong—they may just see or express things differently. If in time you don’t find any relief, consider visiting a therapist to explore why you feel such a need for everything in the world to conform to your (current) worldview.

Of course you will find discussion of religion on atheist websites. Anyone who identifies as an atheist and is active on atheist websites is still operating in the context of religion. In fact, atheists know more about religions than most believers. You’d need to go to purely secular or apatheist places to find people who don’t pay attention to religion at all—if such places even exist. As you point out, religion is everywhere—so it’s pretty hard to find anywhere where religion is nowhere. It’s just a cross we nonbelievers have to bear.