Why do people turn to atheism when they try to escape dogmas?


Sometimes people who were grown in some religious environment feel like they do not like that religion. Usually they do not like dogmas which tells them what is allowed and what's not. Since the conflict between their own and religious views on values they decide to escape religion.

In that case why do they oftenly think that atheism is what they should choose? The conflict of values does not lead to metaphysical conflict (existance of god[s] in this case). Why do not those people choose something other that does not negate existance of creator[s]? Moreover why do people even choose atheism if they could define their own beliefs?


Posted 2018-03-28T08:51:17.623

Reputation: 2 456

Doesn't this seem more like a question for sociology? Although the conflict of values can in fact pose a metaphysical conflict or motivate one. Take the problem of evil for example. As for the last question: just because they accept the label in one way or another, why should this mean that they don't define their own beliefs? – Marc H. – 2018-03-28T10:19:40.093

I thought atheism does not consider any belief in creators. Thus do they somewhy link dogmas to those beings? And about sociology: what would be more appropriate site then? – rus9384 – 2018-03-28T10:22:36.730

Ah sorry, I didn't think you meant "belief in creators" by "belief". I guess that's the misunderstanding here. So, would the last question be something like, "What are reasons to be atheistic?"? | SE doesn't seem to have a section for sociology. There's an asksocialscience subreddit. But I've no idea if it's any good. You might try to ask the relevant parts of the post there in case there if you don't get good answers here. – Marc H. – 2018-03-28T10:29:41.580

I see this as a psychological question. – Geoffrey Thomas – 2018-03-28T10:31:54.123

A lot of people do go to half-untruths like deism when they realise their original beliefs were false. – Veedrac – 2018-03-29T02:34:52.920

@Veedrac, I don't think it's correct to call something "half-untruth" without knowledge. But I know they do, as well as other nontheistic beliefs. – rus9384 – 2018-03-29T06:42:04.060

@rus9384 I agree, if I had no knowledge I'd rather call it a random guess. But I think you rather underestimate what it's possible to have knowledge about. What I don't understand is, if you understand as much as you claim to, why you would then ask this question. Do you expect every person to need to placate themselves with stories? That nobody would just accept the evidence as it is? Would it surprise you to hear that every child is born an atheist? – Veedrac – 2018-03-29T08:13:29.513

@Veedrac, I understand quite many things but obviously not all of them. Far not all. And actually accepted answer was helpful in the sense that people thought that if they leave their religion (not turning to another) they already are atheists. – rus9384 – 2018-03-29T08:21:37.613



They do not seek atheism, they become atheists after the fact

Usually they do not like dogmas which tells them what is allowed and what's not.

What you are describing here is faith-based doctrine, in other words: theism (*).

When people are in conflict with a doctrine (no matter its origin) it is because their own values and/or their own reasoning do not arrive at the same conclusions as the doctrine. They have used their own experience, their own judgement, their own feelings, and their own ability to empathise with other people... and they have — through the use of all of those tools — arrived at something that clashes with the doctrine.

Normally, when someone is in conflict with a doctrine, they will seek out the discourse that led to the doctrine. If — for example — they do not like a certain law, they will debate the matter; they will get in touch with legislators; they will seek dialogue with their peers... all in the hope that they will either affect change, and/or to understand the arguments and reasoning that led to the doctrine, and thereby be able to accept it.

When doctrines are sourced in human values and human reasoning, people will — through discourse with their peers — often find acceptance or at least agree to disagree; they will tolerate the present doctrine. And even if the doctrine does clash with their own values, they can still operate within it without the doctrine grating too much on their own sensibilities. Being heard by your peers and accepting "defeat" is all right, if the discourse has been open, fair and equal.

Faith-based doctrine however very rarely offers open, fair and equal discourse. Faith-based doctrine often do not even allow for a discussion in the first place; in some places it is even illegal to engage in religious discourse unless it is to advocate for the doctrine in question. And when faith-based doctrine does offer a discourse you are not debating against your peers but instead you face arguments like "This is the divine will" / "This is the higher truth" / "This is what the authorities say". It becomes even worse if the ones in favour of the doctrine do not provide rational reasoning behind the arguments but instead say "You just have to take it on faith". You are being asked to reject everything you have reasoned and argued about the matter, and instead "just have faith" that what you believe and feel is all wrong; you have to just lie down flat and accept that the other side is right.

At this point there are those say "I surrender to the religious doctrine". But there are also those that cannot reconcile with this and therefore say "No, I will not accept that". The latter have then declared that they are not accepting the dogma; they are indifferent to/rejecting the faith-based doctrine. This — automatically — makes them atheists, at least in regards to that particular doctrine ( ** ).

Do note that theism and atheism are descriptive terms, not prescriptive dittos. You do not reject (a-) faith-based (-the-) doctrine (-ism) because you are an atheist; you are an atheist because you reject faith-based doctrine. And conversely: you do not accept dogma because you are a theist, you are a theist because you accept dogma.

In other words: people do not turn to atheism to escape religious dogma. Instead they become atheists once they have escaped the religious dogma.

In this process however, they may turn to atheists — in the meaning: approach atheists — in order to seek out arguments for and support in their struggle. Breaking up with a faith is usually traumatic and hard. In that process it helps to talk to other people that have gone through the same. So they are not turning to atheism, because atheism is not a doctrine, it is the rejection of doctrine. But they can turn to other people that reject the doctrine — atheists — and ask for advice.

So there is your answer: people that want to escape religious dogma do not turn to atheism, they turn to atheists. And they do this in order to seek support, arguments, and comfort during a time that — almost always — is very difficult and upsetting. It is easier to face such a process when in contact with people that have experienced the same situation and can empathise with it.

( * ) And before any commenters draw breath to say "No, theism is to believe in a god and atheism is to not believe in a god!", you must define what it means to "believe in a god".

( ** ) This is the source of the half joking/fully serious claim that "Everyone — including the faithful — knows what it is like to be an atheist. Us atheists just take it one god/faith further", because everyone is rejecting at least one faith-based doctrine.


Posted 2018-03-28T08:51:17.623

Reputation: 4 805

Thus, deists who do not accept any dogma are atheists? Also I believe in divine beings who do not give any dogma, as these beings relate to humans (and other beings as well) as player to characters (like in sims). Does this make me theist? Even if I do not accept them as undisputable lords? – rus9384 – 2018-03-28T10:49:34.400

@rus9384 "deists who do not accept any dogma are atheists". Using this definition, yes. Christopher Hitchens explains the difference between deism and theism quite clearly in this debate (00m 37s to 02m 00s).

– MichaelK – 2018-03-28T10:53:28.577

@rus9384 Also... if you believe in — or oven know of the existence of — divine beings that do not give any dogma, you do not have any doctrine. So you cannot be a theist then because there is no doctrine for you to adhere to. If that makes you an atheist can be debated; can you even reject something that clearly does not exist? As some like to point out: there is no word for "a-toothfairy-ism" because everyone knows there is no toothfairy doctrine to follow (except when you are a child, the doctrine being "Put the tooth under your pillow and you will be rewarded for it" )! – MichaelK – 2018-03-28T10:58:51.033

Hm, I'm completely confused right now. Can atheists (or more generally nontheists) accept the idea of creative beings? – rus9384 – 2018-03-28T11:09:59.953

2@rus9384 Atheism is the lack of belief in Gods, so it comes down to a semantic question of whether or not those beings are Gods. – JeffUK – 2018-03-28T11:15:11.483

@rus9384 Well... let me answer that by answering the age old theistic comeback: "What will you do if you one day face god, huh?! Will you be an atheist then?". My answer: yes, I will be, because — unless this entity subjects themselves to the process that us humans in my community have established to create and enforce doctrines, i.e. democracy — I will still reject doctrine from this entity, and even more so reject the doctrine handed to me by the faithful. Hitchens — in the link above — goes on to explain this position, and I agree with it: I will not accept the divine Kim Jong-Il – MichaelK – 2018-03-28T11:15:29.103

@JeffUK As I said in the footnotes: define what "believe in god(s)" mean. – MichaelK – 2018-03-28T11:16:04.040

@rus9384 Also Stephen Fry gives a — in my not very humble opinion — brilliant response to this and I agree fully with it. When Stephen says "I would not want to get in on his terms", that right there is rejection of religious doctrine, which makes him an atheist, even if faced with the deity in question.

– MichaelK – 2018-03-28T11:21:09.600

This sounds completely weird as everyone (including atheists) has their own [unique] definition of god which means that the same person X may consider themselves as theist even while others may consider person X as atheist or vice versa. And then one might assume that there is no difference between theism and atheism as there is no precious definition on that. – rus9384 – 2018-03-28T11:23:41.673

1@MichaelK fully defining either "Believe in" and "god" would probably be worth a PHD in their own right (@rus9384, therefore fully defining theism/atheism). A large proportion of theists would tell you that it is beyond the wit of man to fully define 'god.' See: "allah, al-batin (the hidden one)" and the Christian idea that 'God is unknowable.' – JeffUK – 2018-03-28T11:25:30.560

@rus9384 Well I would say that you are a theist if you promulgate or accept adherence to at least one faith-based doctrine, while the atheist rejects all such doctrines. – MichaelK – 2018-03-28T11:26:30.887

@JeffUK Exactly right, which is why I do not like the definition of theism as "to believe in (a) god" because the "believe in (a) god" is not well defined, and thus cannot be used to gauge if a particular person is a theist or not. That is why I say theism is "faith-based doctrine" instead. – MichaelK – 2018-03-28T11:29:19.587

Anyway, this answer made my question lost it's sense... As according to it the only escape from religion is atheism making the answer on original question self-evident. – rus9384 – 2018-03-28T11:37:23.550

@rus9384 No your question is fine, it is just slightly miss-phrased. What you seem to mean is: "Why do people turn to (in the sense: seek advice from) atheists when wanting to escape from religious dogma?" I have made some edits to the answer. Please read it from top to bottom again. Hopefully it becomes clear then what I mean and why your question is indeed valid and useful. – MichaelK – 2018-03-28T11:40:03.537

@rus9384 And regarding that last: "why do people even choose atheism if they could define their own beliefs?". Two reasons: 1) if you have entirely individual beliefs and an individual code that you follow, you are not a theist, because you have no doctrine. 2) Most people like to have a doctrine that is validated by other people. It is scary to try to work out your own beliefs. Because people will ask: "How do I know I am right?". In that situation it is comforting to hear other people say "You are right if you follow this doctrine, because the doctrine is right". – MichaelK – 2018-03-28T11:44:10.967


The flight of 'veterans' may be because of many reasons.

Different causes for escape (mentioned in the first para):

Some people when they feel that they had only loss in their life than profit, they won't like to continue in their religion.

When the religious scholars can't answer the followers' some sensible or 'disturbing' questions against dogmas, they will certainly lose hope in them and eventually in their religion also.

When some people who have good questioning-ability (sometimes) can't cheat their conscience. They can't negotiate with their religion.

When some people feel that there is no scientific basis to some dogmas, they try to escape from their religion.

When there is big gap between the actions and words of priests or when they can't find any good role models, some people feel fed-up and try to quit religion.

Sometimes when people know that the 'services' of their religions are only as a part of some flourishing business, they lose hope in that religion.

Some people like some dogmas only, but they are not allowed to choose according to their wish. [I mean, the dogmas are not follower-friendly.]

Followers are not allowed to choose some useful/sensible/harmless dogmas in other religions.

Some people can't find different dogmas in their religion according to their caliber/nature.

Some people practise their rituals without trying to understand the essence of their religion.

People who are in extreme poverty can't lend their ears to dogmas.

In that case why do they often think that atheism is what they should choose?

This is the sign of their burning desire for freedom from a suffocation. [Some people might feel like suffocation in their religion]. The first thing they could do is to get out of this nervousness.

Why do not those people choose something other that does not negate existence of creator[s]?

This must be because they know that the sufferings of people are almost the same in all religions. They feel that God doesn't help everyone always.

Moreover why do people even choose atheism if they could define their own beliefs?

They choose the easiest. Their beliefs may be not based on God.

Read this strange prayer of a true devotee whose aim is something great.

From the above hyperlink you might have noticed that the queen hadn't given up the strong faith in God.

If the basic idea in the link is the truth, the main problem behind the change in attitude of the 'believers' must be the misconceptions about God. [Misconception is applicable to religious scholars also.]


Posted 2018-03-28T08:51:17.623

Reputation: 2 594


People are not born believing in god. So the first question should always be why people change from being atheists in the first place. And the answer is practically always because their environment (family, society) indoctrinates them to have faith at an age where humans are not able to make a rational choice about it (When children will still believe in Santa Clause and the Easter bunny).

When people decide to escape a dogma, they reject a part of the indoctrination. The question then however is for them where to draw the line. If some of the indoctrination is to be seen as lies, then where to draw the line as to what was not a lie.

A rational person will have no choice in that matter, and have to reject all that was told without being proven, which is all of faith.

People choose to define their own beliefs if they made observations in life which they cannot explain using their scientific education. That happens much more for people with a very poor scientific education, of course. So countries/societies/eras where people don't get a good scientific education will have the highest number of people choosing given or individual beliefs.

In modern societies where people do get a decent scientific education, people do not need beliefs anymore to make up for the lack in knowledge.


Posted 2018-03-28T08:51:17.623

Reputation: 727

Actually I have a principle: "From all possible explanations one should choose the most probable." This is another type of razor and the thing is that lack of any beings outside of universe is not the most probable. Although, it is more probable than existence of exactly one such being, thus all abrahamic religions. On the other hand, some explanations are better. So, the question is not why people reject their religion, but why out of all possible choices they choose atheism. – rus9384 – 2018-04-01T12:33:38.450

Nobody chooses to not believe in Santa Clause. They realize it was their parents buying the gifts all along. Same for other supernatural entities and gods. People realize they have been indoctrinated. It's not a choice. – tkruse – 2018-04-01T12:37:10.240

that does not explain such kind of belief as Ietsism, when people themselves are not certain what "god" is, but believe in him/it. But they reject dogmas, I think. – rus9384 – 2018-04-01T12:41:16.793

there are as many different kinds of faiths as people on earth, almost. No simple theory can explain them all. People are very individual about their beliefs, we can only generalize from large masses of people in the big religions. – tkruse – 2018-04-01T13:26:25.413