Who You Gonna Call?

Do you feel as though you’ve lost your faith?

Did you ever have it to begin with?

Are you an atheist in a family of devout believers?

Are you confused, scared of being ostracized, and in need of some helpful advice?

Well look no further.

Atheists to start 1-800 hotline for doubters

OK, I’m poking a little bit of fun, but there is a serious need for this kind of service for people who are anywhere in the spectrum of belief from self-acknowledged atheists to religious folks who are beginning to harbor doubts in an environment potentially hostile to independent thought.  What do they do?  How do they tell their family?  Do they tell their family?  Their pastor?  How do they field the questions that will come up?  What do they do if (or when) their family, loved ones, friends, or clergy react negatively?  How can they get the support they need?

Recovering from Religion, which has about 40 support groups in the U.S. and Britain, plans to launch a hotline that will offer doubters an anonymous place to ask difficult questions and find communities of like-minded nonbelievers.

The group plans to staff the help line 24 hours a day and is modeling it after services like suicide prevention hotlines.  Sarah Morehead, executive director of Recovering from Religion, told CNN that the mission is to help people, not convert them to atheism.

“A lot of the times they just need someone to talk to,” Morehead said.

This, of course, hasn’t stopped some people from saying the exact opposite, claiming that this is a ploy to start converting Christians to atheists.  I guess they’re afraid we’re going to start taking tips from their 2,000 year old modus operandi?  Come to think of it, that’s actually a good idea.  I guess that means that within the span of about a decade, we can start taking over Christian holidays like Pentecost and re-“christening” it Richard Dawkin’s Birthday (Observed).

What?  It’s not as if Christians haven’t pulled that same gag before.

Anyway, back to the hotline.  It’s goal is to be active by this holiday season, and they’re currently trying to raise $30k to cover setup cost and get up to 40 counselors on call. They specifically say that the phone operators are going to be specifically trained to not engage in religious or philosophical debate – since that’s not the goal of the hotline – but simply get some background on the caller’s experience and upbringing to formulate a plan of action.  Whether it’s to re-join their faith, find another one, or abandon it entirely is ultimately up to the caller, but the goal is to help them find the right path.

I guarantee that within a week of going live, there are going to be enough prank calls on the part of supposed “believers” to temporarily shut it down.  I hope I’m wrong, but as I said yesterday, my experience to date suggests that this is an inevitable step in the process of getting the project off the ground.  If you want some idea of the kind of static is going to come along, I suggest reading about the project on The Blaze.  The article itself was pretty neutral; the comments, not so much.  My consistent favorite is a guy called “Slap the Left”:

And how does one “recover from religion?”

Does that mean you start to give in to all of your sexual desires? Start using illegal, illicit drugs? Start lying, cheating, and stealing? Do you do everything in violation of the ten commandments? Do you start to believe your ancestors emerged from a pile of prehistoric dinosaur crap?

Whats to recover from? In their quest to project their intellectual elitism on the world, the atheists just come off as arrogant twerps.

In their rush to prove God as a fairy tale, they put money in the pockets of a fraud.

Nothing is more disturbing than the kind of believer whose only apparent motivation for being good and moral is based on the threat of punishment from an omnipresent, omniscient being is watching his every move and ready to condemn him to hell for the slightest misstep.  It sounds like he doesn’t even accept the theory of evolution, either.

If Christians like him believe that individuals will act the way he describes without the carrot and stick of God, then it’s likely that that’s the very thing he would resort to if he ever lost his faith.  In general, if all it takes is the knowledge that you “won’t get caught”, then you’re not a good person and you might want to consider the log in your own eye before commenting on the beliefs of others.

Thankfully, the overwhelming majority of people who have abandoned religion have realized that they don’t need the divine mandates of a god who promoted murder, rape, genocide, and slavery to provide them with a moral compass for the 21st century.  People can be good because they have a well-established sense of empathy, and the understanding that acting in a way that demonstrates mercy, compassion, kindness, and charity helps society as a whole.  We, being social creatures, understand that a cohesive society that operates on such principles flourishes much more than those in which greed, violence, and jealous self-interest dominate the moral landscape.

Thankfully, people like the example I gave above do not represent the mainstream Christian population.  They are, unfortunately, likely to be the ones to want this project shut down.  In the end, I believe it will thrive because I think the overall population of non-believers, especially in the South, is woefully under-reported.  This may be a way for them to finally get the support they need to come to terms with their lack of belief in a safe and productive way.

Here’s the link to their website if you want to donate.

This entry was posted in Atheism and Personal Life, Atheism and PR, Freedom from Religion, Religion and Public Life, Society Marches On and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Who You Gonna Call?

  1. We must be reading the same sh*t. I started writing about this last night, too. I said the same–for some of us, it seems like a silly thing–a hotline, but there are others who really struggle, who feel depressed. I think the younger you are when you lose your faith, the less of an impact it has. Of course, stats show that the older folks tend to be more conservative anyway. But I can see where a hotline would be useful for some…..Good post. Have a great weekend.

    • Yeah, a hotline might seem a little funny until we consider some families that will kick their kids out if they don’t blindly follow their faith. It’s God -> family -> everything else for a lot of people in the Bible Belt, and they have no problem putting it into practice if their child shows signs of non-belief. I remember seeing a letter from a Mormon father to his gay son to that effect. Another was from a father to his atheist daughter. Pretty heartbreaking stuff. Some people are so blinded by religion that only see the atheist, or the “homo”, and not the son or daughter who probably needs them more at that point than ever before.

  2. Charity says:

    Slap the Left is the ignorant one. Recovering from religion means to finally gain some mental stability, restore one’s health, stand up to oppressors, leave abusive leadership, and to stop watching your love offerings, tithes, and pledges circle down a toilet bowl.

    STL can kiss my grits and my eggs and bacon too!

  3. Creativerealms says:

    People really believe that religion and faith is all that keeps them from giving in to their base desires? Do they really believe atheists are a bunch of amoral monsters who do what ever they want because they don’t believe in a higher power? WOW.

    I’m sorry I don’t need some all powerful being holding damnation over my head at all times to know the difference between right and wrong.

    • I know some people who are religious, but also genuinely good. I’m certain beyond doubt that if Christianity didn’t exist, they’d still be adopting children and working in soup kitchens because of their innate desire to help other people. That they attribute any of it to a divine being is, in my opinion, selling themselves short.

      Then we have that tool from The Blaze … I agree, they’re just scary. If all it takes for someone like that to go on a murderous rampage is the knowledge that they won’t get caught, then he’s still an evil person.

      • Exactly. I had a friend once ask me how I could be moral if I’d never had faith growing up. It puzzled me. Why have morals? Well, for one thing if you steal or murder you’re going to be punished in the here and now, there’s no doubt about that. But it’s more than that for me, and for many others. It’s because of something innate within me – empathy. I wouldn’t like someone to steal from me, so I’m not going to steal from them. I have had stuff stolen. I know how that feels. I can imagine someone else feeling the same pain I do. So I don’t steal. Why need God for this? You don’t – and like you said the majority of Christians who are good would still be good without God. But they’ve never known any different than to attribute all their good qualities to God. Just as I’ve never known any different than to do good because it’s the right thing to do. Sure I’ve done bad things, but I’ve known they were wrong, and I’ve felt the guilt from that. So now I try not to do bad things.

        What is so confusing about that?

      • On another note, I can totally understand a hotline like this. You start to feel like you’ve lost your mind if everyone around you believes and you don’t. This support system IS needed, and I do hope they make it work. It could, for some people, prevent something as serious as suicide.

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