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Hope Without Faith

I come from pretty strong religious roots. One of the things that was impressed upon me as a kid was that if I were ever faced with a difficult situation that was out of my control, I should pray. This was a way to keep me hopeful in times of strife, or in times of anxiety. It gave me a lot of comfort. However, during my self re-education and de-conversion, I’ve had to abandon these ideas in order to live my life based on a model of reality that made sense to me. I came out as an atheist about two years ago.

I used to struggle with the seeming hopelessness of my new-found reality. It’s really tough coming to terms with the fact that there isn’t a magic man in the sky looking after my ultimate well being, that sometimes things are completely out of my control, and that no matter how hard I wish for a desirable outcome my pleading falls fallow in the empty void where I was once convinced I had eternal property and lots of friends.

While speaking with my sister – who is still an avid churchgoer – about my new-found philosophy, she asked me, “If there is nothing after death, and no grand designer is looking out for us, what keeps you going? What gives you the hope to continue?” At the time I didn’t have a quick retort that could sum it all up. It bugged me for a long time. What DOES keep me going?

For those of you who know me, I’m full of joy, full of life. I’m not the kind of person to back down from a challenge or whine about injustice as long as there is something I can do to help. But in paragraph two, my philosophy sounds a little Nihilistic — kind of dark. Where does all my light-hearted living come from then?

I finally realized that for most of my life I was sold a bill of goods that never actually existed. If I was able to live this long without it, what really changed now that I rejected it? I’m still the same guy and I have the same interests. I just don’t have the safety net of “God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle.” The ironic part is, I never really did. So, what gives me hope when things are crumbling around me? The answer is simple, and it’s the same as when I was a christian.


The thing that made me feel better when I prayed was that it was something very easy to do. I was told, “If you can’t do anything, you can at least pray.” But the comforting mechanism of prayer is what makes it insidious in nature as well. It allows you to feel good about yourself without the burden of actually having to do anything. Effectively removing you from the world around you, and allowing you to take credit for every positive outcome, regardless of the amount of work you put into your wish…er, I mean prayer.

Since I’ve started my journey from born-again-christian to atheist, my self worth, social life and overall interest in living each day to its fullest has just kept growing. Not relying on prayer to satiate my need to affect positive change has lead me to come up with some pretty creative ways to reach out and make this world the place I want to live in. You can’t have hope without action. I hope my deeds will be remembered, and will have lasting positive effects in the lives of my friends, family and fellow humans.

I’m still tempted to pray when times get a little tough, but I resist my programming and instead put on my thinking cap to see if there really is nothing I can do. More often than not, I surprise myself and unlock a new area of understanding in the complexity of the world. What can be more exiting and hopeful than that?

9 responses to “Hope Without Faith”

  1. Ian says:

    I wanted to say that I googled “hope without faith” on a whim. I grew up in the church, developed through missionary work and still walked away. It didn’t make sense to base my life as a child of god off a system of taking orders, even if they were comforting. My worship leader wound up committing suicide and that was the final straw for someone like me who just wanted to find simple truth. To see someone with so much faith leading our congregation to the lords inner sanctum every Sunday, yet couldn’t find hope in the midst of their inner turmoil – this made me question the method in all the madness.

    I am proud of anyone who can choose hard truths and a skeptic, questioning and rationalizing perspective than choose the masturbatory road of baseless faith. You are never alone. We are made out to be irrational in the eyes of anyone who sees intent written in the sky. I choose to see potential in the same horizon, not because I can’t see the same beauty, just because I can see the bigger picture and realize that religion comes from a need to understand our species role in space and time. It doesn’t have to have a direction. It doesn’t have to be a purpose. That’s what we’re here to determine – on our own.

    I’m still dealing the the ingrained guilt of sexuality, purpose, and self-worth but it is worth the struggle to not feel that any of those are tied to some godly predestination. Life is wide open and here we are, finding truth in the sea of the human experience.

    I wish you well, and I hope you stay strong in the conviction of reality.

    • shadeydave says:

      Thanks for the input. That’s cool. I found that a good way to get around the lingering guilt of faith was to realize that now you’re out from under it’s control, you are finally living a life free from sin. Because sin was only a part of your faith. You now have a few simple rules to follow to be an excellent person.

      1) Don’t be a dick. Life is way too short to waste on petty squabbles and lies. We’ve lived through enough of that in the church.
      2) Try to leave the world in a slightly better state than you entered it. Basic generosity goes a long way to accomplishing this.

      Welcome to the rest of your life, and afterlife. Enjoy the time you have left, and try to inspire others.


  2. Dave says:

    I like your article, it really does seem like people rush to pray when they could actively find solutions and do something to better the situation.

    What really gets me is when people credit god with everything good that happens and man with everything bad. I wonder if there is a sycophant gene or something.

    If you insist on an arbitrary creator, he/she gets credit for creating evil and good.

  3. John says:

    I don’t think there is enough evidence for the nonexistence of a supreme being to support the position of being an atheist. I don’t think there is enough evidence to support the existence of a supreme being either. Even if there is a supreme being existing outside of our space and time responsible for the creation of our universe, if this being has no interest in us then as far as we’re concerned there would be little benefit. There might be the satisfaction of having an explanation (i.e. a supreme being did it) of how the universe came to be but I can’t see any other benefit.

    I think the logical choice is to be an agnostic until testable evidence is produced one way or another.

  4. Charles says:

    My dear brother,
    Jesus loves you so much that he told me to visit this site, and contact you. Please turn back your heart to Jesus. Your past prayers were actually answered by God. Why it seems as if God didn’t listen to you is because, HE(God) does not solve the symptoms of a problem only. God is more interested in the root cause of a problem. This root problem is your heart. For instance, in the midst of your joyful nature, you still have a relationship problem with a loved one. Now, God will first begin to change your heart to a loving person, before giving you a better relationship with your loved one(beware of past hurts in the family, which is not forgiven by you). You need patience after faith. Besides, you are free to take any action you want without Jesus, in order to solve your problems in life. But have you asked youself this qustion: “Supposing you developed Alzheimer’s disease. How on earth will you have the intelligence and energy to take actions necessary to solve your problems?”. Go back now into your room, and pray for forgiveness” Jesus still loves you.

    • shadeydave says:

      My dear friend,

      “Jesus loves you so much that he told me to visit this site, and contact you.”

      Translation: You felt like ‘saving’ someone and started googling until you settled on my article. Either that or you are a christian who knows me personally, and decided to pull a magic trick by insincerely claiming a higher power sent you here. Either way, it’s dishonest and crappy, especially if you expect me to come back to that way of life. Even though I’ve stated that I honor truth above all else, you would lie to me immediately and have my whole spiritual reaffirmation be based on falsehoods? IMHO: that’s terrible.

      As for the rest of your comment, you seem to talk for God, as if you know Him personally. You may even believe you do, but there are a lot of people who claim to know how God works… some condone burning people alive at the stake, some rob their poverty stricken parishioners blind just to fill their own pockets, some strive to enforce laws that take basic human rights away from the people they disagree with, and some do it to fill a dogma-dredged, guilt-laden hole in their own lives. But do any of these people really know God’s agenda? Really? I’ve often heard God described by christians as being “Unknowable”. How then, do you presume to know anything about God? How does anyone?

      Since nobody can agree on exactly what God wants, needs, or even how He works (even within the different sects of christianity), it tells me that people are making stuff up, and it doesn’t matter if He exists or not. With that much inconsistent information coming from every corner of the Earth and every walk of life, I can’t say either way, if he exists or not. So for now, there is a big question mark in my life where God used to be. And that question mark get’s smaller every time I learn something new.

      “This root problem is your heart.”

      As for my heart. It isn’t hardened, it’s cautious. I do have a loved one who has gone out of their way to harm me, time and again, in order to preserve their own way of life and make themselves feel better. Though I do forgive them, I don’t fully trust them. To do so would be foolhardy. After all, love should always be freely given, but trust is something that’s earned. Trust isn’t a right, it’s a response to a social pattern.

      I don’t trust in the existence of God and the power of prayer because I have always gotten inconsistent results and mixed messages, making faith a very untrustworthy tool to help you get through life.

      “Supposing you developed Alzheimer’s disease. How on earth will you have the intelligence and energy to take actions necessary to solve your problems?”

      Your question seems non sequitur. If I developed Alzheimer’s, the only problem I would want to solve at that time would be to NOT have Alzheimer’s. But that diagnosis won’t change, no matter how much praying I do…

      Presumably, if I’m a really good guy, I’ll have a strong support system to fall back on, even during the hardest of times. I will have this support system because I’ve dedicated my life to the service of others. I don’t understand how God is needed at all in this circumstance.

      If this ever happens to me, this is one of those circumstances that life passes you that you cannot control, and it’s definitely a situation that you cannot handle. Something God promises he would NEVER do, yet how many good christians are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s each day? And does their faith ultimately save them from the indignity and horror this disease certainly provides?

      All that aside… This is a very common end to a person’s life. How on Earth would praying save you from that? Nothing saves us from mortality, we are all going down that road. When I’m gone, so are my cares and problems. The only thing having support and help during this kind of death would provide, is extending my life for a few more months, as I waste away slower than if I were on my own. What exactly do I need to pray for then?

  5. I have been an atheist all my adult life and have at times been asked to defend my ability to retain moral fiber and a hopeful outlook. I often reply “It’s how I choose to see the world and treat others that matters most to me.” and ask “What do you think is most important?”

    When someone of faith asks you this question or any other where belief is at its foundation, I would suggest you try to steer the debate toward one based on individual values and personal responsibility.

  6. I have been an atheist, for as long as i can remember and have at times been asked to defend my ability to retain moral fiber and a hopeful outlook. I often reply “It’s how you choose to see the world and treat others that matters most to me.”

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