Growing up, when anything "bad" happened there was a saying that it was "God's will." That everything that happened, happened as God's plan.

I find myself mourning a lot these days because there's no one to take the burden off my shoulders when an event happens. Who am I to blame? Should I be blaming? I understand that being sad will not change what happened or benefit anyone in the end. It has become something out of my control.

For example, I still find myself enveloped in anger and sadness over the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting that happened in 2012. Or the fact that there are children in all parts of this world that suffer from abuse and malnutrition. (Yes, among other topics, suffering children are my breaking point.)

I suffer every day, and most people think that's insane because "I'm an atheist." I think being an atheist is particularly difficult because there's a stereotype that we don't love or care just because we don't follow a religion. 

And I feel too small to feel like I could make a change.

Anyways,

Any advice on how to cope? 

Best,

V

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"And I feel too small to feel like I could make a change"

If you only change one life, one child's life if you prefer, then you have made a difference. I think part of your despair is mixed in with the frustration of inability to make big change all by yourself.

Do a sponsored challenge and contribute the funds you raise directly to the Sandy Hook school. Make every day include one noble gesture - whether it be donating stuff you don't need to a hospice or a charity, giving a dollar to a cause you believe in, or giving your time to maybe visiting an elderly person and maybe doing their grocery shop.

There are many ways to make a small difference. Find ones that resonate with you. Did you use to think starving children and mass shootings were part of gods plan? No, you probably used the god figure to pass responsibility from your shoulders to 'someone else'. The weight of self responsibility on your shoulders can so effortlessly be shared and used to develop positive impacts. Join a local humanitarian group.

Honestly, if you can motivate yourself to take small steps to help others, I'm sure that in turn will help you.

Or not. :). We are all different.

Thank you Strega. :) 

I didn't even think about joining a humanitarian group. I'll be looking into opportunities. 

It's just that sometimes even a small gesture doesn't seem like a lot, but I have to keep remembering that even a small ripple can become a big wave. 

Hi Violetta, It is a great quality to have such empathy but you will never be able to solve everything or help everyone. But it easy to make a difference. Sometimes all you have to do is lend an ear to someone and let them get something off their own shoulders. Sometimes make a point of smiling at a stranger or spend a minute to say hello to a homeless person. Just lend a hand. It is the little things can make such a difference to the lives of others.

Doing these small things will make you a stronger person. As an atheist you are not looking for a reward (in this life or the next) so people will quickly see that you have “no motive” when you are helping. As you get stronger and more in control of how your empathy makes you feel you will be to channel that energy to do even greater things. Remember that you don’t have to take ownership of peoples problems. You just have to learn to help them to deal with them.

So start by just doing one small thing today. As an atheist you will be taking positive action and not wasting time trying to fix things by praying to non-existent gods. You can never feel small with such a big heart. You will be making the world a more beautiful place.

You are right: You are small. There is only so much you can do. Also, you are entitled to live out your own life without taking all of the world's burdens as your own. Do some good or join a movement that is doing good and feel some pride over the good you do. 

Thanks for the responses. I'm really taking them to heart. It's just difficult to become a less empathetic person when that's all you know. Guess it'll be something I have to work on. 

I suffer every day, and most people think that's insane because "I'm an atheist."

Suffering every day may be a sign of depression......I would cross that off your list if you haven't, or make sure you talk to a real doctor (not a woo woo doctor) about it. Maybe find a good therapist you can talk to regularly.

I hope my response doesn't seem cold. I've had to do that and I'm not ashamed of it. I have been in remission from my depression for quite some time now despite having a very stressful life. I'm still facing hardships and trying to fight through them. But having gotten some "real" help and slowly building up a group of friends, and of course my beloved TA.......and just focusing on positive things. It's easy to get bogged down with negative things, but there's a lot of good too...

I'm slowly learning independence in every sense of the word. It's lonely sometimes, but it sure beats being codependent!...which I was my entire life...until I became and atheist. And now I'm a lot less codependent and a lot happier. And a lot more of a bitch too! Haha! Sometimes I still surprise myself.....

Anyway, hugs! I agree with what everyone else has said too but that's my 2 cents....for what it's worth!

I have been diagnosed, too late say some of my doctors, but it happened. I just didn't want that to be the first thing I opened up with in this community. Although, I'm starting to become curious if I really am depressed, or if I am just too honest with myself. 

The fact that they think you need a special reason to be good and a special motivator (dog) to care about thing says everything about them and nothing meaningful about you. Fyck them and the ignorant spite they say. its horrible that they say such ridiculous nonsense to you and you should let them know how offensive it is. We are all caring emotional self aware creatures.

You cannot escape morality and barring a serious mental problem you cannot shed sympathy and compassion...even if you tried.

First its clear you are quite aware there are endless problems everywhere and under no illusion life is bliss anywhere. Stop watching and racing the news. You are saturated with stress inducing outrage creating sadness and shock nearly every time. You can cover the news in a weekly or even monthly basis with a good news magazine like the Atlantic or NYTs Sunday magazine etc. You'll get an in depth understanding of a handful of issues, still feels up to date and lose the perpetual malaise of daily news.. the US type. When I lived in Canada we had a few American channels based in Rochester NY. Ten minutes of their action news and I was stressed out, fearful of the days violent robberies and murders and layoffs. This isn't healthy, especially for caring people. Its overwhelmingly negative and sensationalist and not in the slightest related to a typical Americans everyday life. Its hard stopping it. Its hard to stop engaging daily or even hourly with the news and tragedy (assuming you do) but the change in your outlook and stress levels come quick.

One way to translate white western privilege is to do something productive. Advocacy, awareness, charity work, education, job banks etc. Its difficult to make the first hurdle and did the right thing for you but well worth it.

Its not necessary to mourn for the world, your empathy and pro activity is quite enough.

But what can I think when I see that a man slaughtered lives with an axe for his religion? And my colleagues decide to pray for the victims' families and I'm flabbergasted that they don't see they are the problem. The news is influential in my distress, but so are the millions of religious people around me.

I could ignore the world completely. I have. Then I feel disconnected and I feel ignorant. 

It's just so difficult because I feel like I'm waving my hands at the world saying,

"Hey! Look! We can all live respectfully together on this Earth. We don't have to kill each other so that our children can live in what remains."

I guess my problem is that I was raised religious and I enjoyed the sense of companionship that followed with being in a group. Atheists don't congregate to discuss because we already know the source of the problem. The problem is how to live knowing that for as long as I walk this Earth and probably centuries after, there will be wars waged because of religion (and greed).

Primates will do what we do. We are millennia from shedding our bad monkey brain impulses and clan-think tendencies. We got to the top by being killers; our slaughterhouses and wars are very efficient. Good news is that we are slowly becoming more peaceful. History bears this out.

Getting rid of the toxins of religion seems like a near endless struggle for some. I've always found it helpful to remember the difference between empathy and sympathy.

With empathy, you are able to put yourself in other people's place. To not discard their problems or feelings as trivial. To understand that they are suffering and wish they didn't.

Sympathy is to experience their suffering and pain or at the very least to suffer because they are suffering.

It's a lot easier said than done...but working on it, to make yourself more empathetic, that is able to place yourself in the shoes of others and see the world from their perspective, to be aware of their problems and difficulties and understand how they got to where they are...is extremely helpful, not only to be able to lend a listening ear but also not to completely tune yourself out and be totally indifferent to the bad fortune or bad choices people have made. What I think is extremely important is that at the very same time you try to be more empathetic, you try to be as less sympathetic as well. Don't mirror their suffering...don't needlessly recreate a second set of hard sad painful emotions. That may be impossible to do if it's a family member or a friend...but with the multitude of others...I think its essential. If not...you'll be buried under a sea of suffering and pain.

Cognative therapy can help a lot with not only this (more empathy...less sympathy) but also much more. Every single one of us could benifit from it. You can learn to not be concerned or take care of the stupidity of your religious co-workers, but to not worry about the thoughts and comments and toxic comments coming from people who don't matter. Also to feel for but not suffer for the problems other's have and to avoid repetitive behavior that leads to these intense painful feelings. 

______________________

Atheists don't congregate to discuss because we already know the source of the problem.

No they don't...but then...you don't need to congregate with people just because they have the same world view as yours. Sports teams, secular charities, secular advocacy groups, support lines, cooking clubs, couchsurfing, secular book meetings, adventure groups, secular volunteering and on are all fantastic ways to meet people, feel like part of a community and do some good. meetup.com is one way to find them as well as couchsurfing.com

If you find there aren't too many options where you live...just create an invent yourself on one of those pages. Your municipal website should also firect you to different sports teams, language classes, cultural classes and perhaps volunteer groups.

__________

The problem is how to live knowing that for as long as I walk this Earth and probably centuries after, there will be wars waged because of religion (and greed).

This is unlikely to change in our life time or even our granchildren's life time. It really really sucks...but you can do as much as you can to counteract the poison religion spews out every day.

Fist bump to @Davis on this tip. Modern "newstainment" -- especially during a presidential election cycle -- is absolutely driven by clickbait provocation. And nothing quite produces clicks like the latest outrage. For the sensitive types like @Violetta and me, newstainment is psychological poison when consumed regularly. And Facebook is an outrage machine! Reading well-written pieces from reliable sources (instead of the Yellow Press sources) and reducing the amount helps considerably! Yes, @Violetta, you won't be as up-to-date as those who consume minute-by-minute

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