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Atheism/Thinking of Becoming an Athiest


Is it okay for me to secretly be an Athiest? Recently, I've been attending two different churches. One in secret and another with the family so they won't think I left. The secret one was the Church of Christ so I can better understand the Bible. The other is a Roman Catholic with the family so I can compare the views and I tell them the other was Bible Study. But I am not a Roman Catholic anymore. I left it a few weeks ago. The reason I am still attending these churches because I actually started to read the bible and I noticed contradictions. One big contradiction that the Catholics highly reject is that Jesus' life is very similar to the story of Horus, Isis' Egyptian son. Another thing is that the Ten Commandments came from the Code of Hammurabi, and to prove that, the Bible threatens Babylon in many verses. This is but a few of what I found.

If I am to be an Athiest, I understand that I need to know the Bible word from word and that is why I am doing this protestant Bible Study thing for in case Catholics start to raise questions. One thing I'm afraid about though, if there is a God up there, but different than how Catholics think he is, would I still go to Paradise even if I back-stabbed Catholics?

Another question I want to know, is there any possible religion that is true to the holy scripture and does not exaggerate as much as Catholics do? If not, then it may be best I remain an Athiest.

Hi Dylan,

Thanks for your question. It was interesting to read what you are going through these days. I have interviewed and read about many deconversion stories, but I usually get them after the fact. In your case, it seems you are right in the midst of the process.

Yes, deconversion is a very common process, and if the spiritual development theorists are to be believed, when it happens as part of an earnest quest for truth, it actually represents a form of spiritual growth. The process usually begins with some issue of what we call cognitive dissonance - like your finding contradictions among the Catholic teachings. At first the person really wants to hang onto the belief system they were brought up in, they try to make sense of it, but in the long run they usually gradually make peace with the fact they simply cannot hold onto these beliefs and be true to themselves at the same time. You don't mention your age, but the ideal time for this stage (see Rational Stage on my website: is late adolescence or early adulthood. If it happens much later in life the transition can be much more difficult.

But - your first question was "Is it ok to be secretly atheist?" Many people going through the Rational Stage will wind up frankly atheist, and if they got there through an honest personal search, it is not only ok, it is a form of growth. But then the problem is how to interface with the rest of their tribe (family and friends) who are still believers? Figuring out how to do this will be part of your personal growth process. The key is in figuring out how to do this as kindly and honestly as possible.

I get the idea you are not fully into the Rational Stage as you express fear of eternal punishment if it were to turn out that there is a God up there. To help you navigate your way through this, I recommend you explore different understandings of what God is.

Not all Rational stage people will alienate permanently from their church. Some will grow further and find a reason and a way to remain involved in conventional religion through a metaphorical understanding of the truths that church teaches. This, in a nutshell, is the Mystic Stage (see  If you listen very carefully to what some people at the Mystic level say, they use the same words the regular religious people say, but they mean something else - i.e. God is not that bearded old guy in the sky who judges our every move, but rather something much bigger - a universal concept representing the highest level of good - LOVE, TRUTH, CONNECTION - whatever. The key here is that the understanding is metaphorical, NOT LITERAL. And that people at this level are working toward a form of truth that includes everyone - not just Catholics or Buddhists, or whatever.

A master at this within the Catholic Church is Sister Joan Chittister. Google her, and you get lost in a religious world that is completely different from what they teach in Church. But you may not be ready yet for Sister Joan's type of religious understanding. If you keep asking the questions you are asking now and see where they take you, I think over time you will feel more comfortable with the contradictions that are plaguing you now.

The way to know you are on the right path is to hold to the goodness values mostly all religions teach, while continuing to question the beliefs of the specific religion you happened to be born into. The main things the spiritual development path teaches a person are that 1) you don't need a belief system to lead a good life 2) greater truth is found in perspectives that include everyone - people from all religions, believers and nonbelievers alike 3) learning to deal with the inevitable paradoxes life presents is a high spiritual value. 4) churches are not doing a good job of encouraging people toward spiritual maturity - rather they preach fear of punishment and what we call triumphalism ("only our   religion has the right answers")   

I recommend you look at my book "Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind" for more info on the spiritual development path. Or else Dr. Fred Howard's book "Transforming Faith." These two are only a brief introduction (in plain language) to something so complex you could spend the rest of your life studying it, and still have questions. But at the end of the path, you find that the beauty is in the questions.

RE your final question: Is there any possible religion....? I can't recommend a specific church as they vary greatly from location to location (not all are as uniform as the Catholic Church) I recommend you continue your very healthy and normal search for a truth that you find beautiful, and that gives meaning to your life - whether through a metaphorical understanding or a literal one. And if you continue on your atheist bent, know that that is fine as well. But do try to learn to be comfortable with a "both/and" (as opposed to "either/or") reality. The truth is far too complex to divide people up into believers versus atheists.

Wishing you a satisfying continued search for your own truth.




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Margaret Placentra Johnston


I am especially interested in helping people who may be in the throes of doubting their present belief stance - whether they are currently religious or atheist. I believe I can also lend perspective to those seeking to understand their own movement away from faith or that of someone close to them.


Despite a Catholic upbringing, I consciously discarded that religion over thirty years ago. However, in the last eighteen years I have been extensively researching the topic of belief versus non-belief and have discovered correlations among the experts that, seen together, lend a very intriguing perspective to this topic. My book related to this topic was published in October, 2012 by Quest Books: Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind.

Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Washington Area Secular Humanists (and many others unrelated to this topic.)

Publications Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind.(Quest Books, October, 2012.)

Researched and wrote a book on this topic: Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind.(Quest Books, October, 2012.)

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