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StrictlyLogical

Grieving the loss of God

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I was raised with religion. Over time, as I developed and become more intellectually independent, I outgrew it.

For me, there has been no grief, only relief.

I'm tempted to say the grief happened when I believed. Life as an atheist is considerably more laid-back and enjoyable.

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Change and loss are not synonyms. In fact, what you are describing is improvement, which is the antonym of loss. So no, there's no grief involved when you improve.

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49 minutes ago, Nicky said:

Change and loss are not synonyms. In fact, what you are describing is improvement, which is the antonym of loss. So no, there's no grief involved when you improve.

Certainly change and loss are not synonymous, they are different concepts.  

Many transformations during life, especially the ones that matter and are transformations more of kind rather than mere degrees, entail both change and loss hand in hand.

 For example a transformation whereby in some aspect a child moves from dependent to independent, from sheltered recipient to responsible actor, such is more than mere improvement but a complete change of orientation towards the self in relation to that aspect.  The dependent psyche or person is lost, it is shed as is the whole context of dependency.  

The gaining of life with all of the responsibility of its trials and toil (effort but not necessarily suffering) means the loss of dependency and idyllic peacefulness of being another’s responsibility.

A person who undergoes a healthy transformation will have fond perhaps warm nostalgic feelings when introspecting thier prior selves but when a person does not undergo a healthy transformation they become psychologically stuck, they cling and fail to let go (in the same way malfunctioning grief over a loved one can end up) retaining poignant, yearning, and painful nostalgic feelings about thier prior selves... an ongoing evasion or wish that they were still in Mommy’s arms, on Daddy’s shoulders, still the popular person in high school or still under the loving tender gaze of a watchful and caring God.

 

This is not the same as an improvement that accompanies only a gain in degree of physical achievement such as learning how to ride a bike and the freedom it brings.  This is a different sort of change which is not at once a loss and a becoming: it is simply an upward increase in degree of skill and psychologically speaking nothing needs to be grieved there.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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 Many transformations during life, especially the ones that matter and are transformations more of kind rather than mere degrees, entail both change and loss hand in hand. 

Sure. Like the one you describe next: it entails the loss of parental support, and the gain of independence (or the shedding of dependence, whichever you want to go with).

It does not entail the "loss of dependence", however. That's a misnomer. You lose things of value. Parental support is valuable (because it allows a person of any age to focus on personal development,  they don't need to worry about earning a living right away), dependence is not. 

Mystical beliefs are not valuable either, and saying you "lost" them is just as much a misnomer as saying you lost dependence. So is the phrase "grieving the loss of God".

Edited by Nicky

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SL, interesting question. Somewhat before I read Rand, I had turned in just a few quiet moments alone from being a life-long devout Christian to the realization there is no God. I was 18. There was a great cleanness that the fierce victory of truth brings to one against all prior evasion, such as in the realization of Cheryl about her husband in Atlas. I had a momentary feeling of loss along with the realization of how much I had loved God. It was like the end of a love affair, though with the difference that the object of that love had never existed. That feeling of loss did not carry on beyond that moment, unlike end of a love affair with a fellow human. There rushed in in those moments a vast feeling of benevolence for all mankind, I think because of the realization that no one was watching over them. That feeling is constant with me, though without an accompaniment by any sense of loss, only that I watch over them and love them.

Nietzsche counted the "death of God" as a liberation, but also as a fearful event for all, such as an earthquake. He thought of it as a loss of anything to esteem, although he proposed we can set up new things to esteem at least for a long while, until we overturn those things too, and move on to new values. And all of this wrenching and aspiring he considered a nobleness of soul. It was elevation of a neurotic psyche, and of a man who lacked and derailed real science and regular commercial or familial labor and who lacked appreciation for the four-square limits of human being and accomplishments in the world as it is.

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13 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

A person who undergoes a healthy transformation will have fond perhaps warm nostalgic feelings when introspecting thier prior selves but when a person does not undergo a healthy transformation they become psychologically stuck, they cling and fail to let go (in the same way malfunctioning grief over a loved one can end up) retaining poignant, yearning, and painful nostalgic feelings about thier prior selves...

What are your thoughts on death bed conversions, or re-conversions?  I'm thinking of people (like myself) who received the childhood imprinting of religious doctrines, particularly that you need to be right with God at the moment when you die, otherwise your soul is going eternally to the hot place.  Christopher Hitchens even allowed that he might call for a priest at the last minute, and asked that people be kind to that poor suffering entity who was no longer himself.  I wonder about the limits of "healthy transformation" in the face of childhood imprinting. 

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6 hours ago, Nicky said:

Sure. Like the one you describe next: it entails the loss of parental support, and the gain of independence (or the shedding of dependence, whichever you want to go with).

It does not entail the "loss of dependence", however. That's a misnomer. You lose things of value. Parental support is valuable (because it allows a person of any age to focus on personal development,  they don't need to worry about earning a living right away), dependence is not. 

Mystical beliefs are not valuable either, and saying you "lost" them is just as much a misnomer as saying you lost dependence. So is the phrase "grieving the loss of God".

I’m sorry Nicky but IMHO you really are missing the point here.  Obviously the loss referred to is NOT literally the God’s absence.  The purpose of the post is to discuss psychological loss and how people adapt and /or grieve.  It’s obvious that being lied to and mislead for years about something and then learning the truth about the nonexistence of that something is not metaphysically a loss of the thing... the thing lied about was never there... but it IS a type of psychological loss.

Imagine you are married to a business woman for 15 years... you have a family and you see her and your sons as the center of your universe... your very life’s worth tied up in a wonderful family you are profoundly proud of and in love with.  Imagine you find out that in fact she has been living a double life, that she has another family she has been visiting during her so called business trips, another husband and adopted children... you come to know she has treated them as she has treated you... with complete dishonesty.. it is a betrayal of the highest order and puts you in a psychological tail spin...

Your love... your family... your life... as you experienced and loved them to be ... are a sham.  Did anything metaphysically in fact about what she was, what your family was, what you were, change upon your learning of her deception?  No, only your misapprehension of them.

This is a psychological loss of the highest order ... and if you are to live through it .. you need to deal with it.

In the same way, being mislead and lied to your entire young life by ALL close to you, your teachers, your friends, you extended family and your very parents.. regarding the existence of God or an afterlife of any kind... is a profound psychological injury and deception which amounts to a phaychological loss of the highest order upon discovering the truth.

If you are not interested in participating in the discussion of psychological loss I totally understand.. not everyone is interested in the same things.

Cheers!

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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1 hour ago, Ninth Doctor said:

What are your thoughts on death bed conversions, or re-conversions?  I'm thinking of people (like myself) who received the childhood imprinting of religious doctrines, particularly that you need to be right with God at the moment when you die, otherwise your soul is going eternally to the hot place.  Christopher Hitchens even allowed that he might call for a priest at the last minute, and asked that people be kind to that poor suffering entity who was no longer himself.  I wonder about the limits of "healthy transformation" in the face of childhood imprinting. 

Death bed conversations are a tough subject... it depends on whether you’re the one dying or not.

 I think the best ones are about tying up any loose ends, saying things both people want to say before there is no chance to say it.  The important things are never the academic or abstract but the intensely personal as between those of the conversation.. personally I would turn such an exchange to memories of cherished time, the expression to the other of how much they filled my life with joy and made life all the more worth living.. a thank you and an I love you at the same time.

Between the dying and existence itself, if there is any relationship or any exchange to be had, the third party has no place inserting himself between them...  

As for oneself dying, I think it will be hard to know what happens internally at those last moments until that moment finally visits itself upon you as it inevitably will.  Belief or unbelief is at some fundamental level outside of choice.  If a religious person says you can choose to believe you rightfully can say that you cannot.  In the same way if imprinting in your childhood was never completely removed, then perhaps at your last moments especially if afflicted by any mental infirmity, you may find yourself a believer ... but it “probably” would make little difference to your last 10 seconds of life.

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2 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

In the same way, being mislead and lied to your entire young life by ALL close to you, your teachers, your friends, you extended family and your very parents.. regarding the existence of God or an afterlife of any kind... is a profound psychological injury and deception which amounts to a psychological loss of the highest order upon discovering the truth.

This reminded me of your earlier thread on Truth as Disvalue.

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9 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

. . . As for oneself dying, I think it will be hard to know what happens internally at those last moments until that moment finally visits itself upon you as it inevitably will. 

You might get a chance to know because you seemed to be dying and then it turned out you did not. That happened to me. I know. It was about the matter of fact of how far and not farther I'd gotten with my intellectual discovery and creation, and lastly just about me and the one I love, just a lighted disk of light with only the two of us in it and only dark and irrelevance and nothing all around that disk. 

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On 11/4/2018 at 6:11 PM, StrictlyLogical said:

I’m sorry Nicky but IMHO you really are missing the point here.  Obviously the loss referred to is NOT literally the God’s absence.  The purpose of the post is to discuss psychological loss and how people adapt and /or grieve.

Oh, I got the point. Just didn't wanna open with a "THAT'S A FALLACY!" type post. Wanted to be extra scrupulous, and see if you will spell it out, before the inevitable:

"The “stolen conceptfallacy, first identified by Ayn Rand, is the fallacy of using a concept while denying the validity of its genetic roots, i.e., of an earlier concept(s) on which it logically depends. "

That is what psychologists (who embrace the doctrine of the primacy of emotions) are doing, when they put the "psychological" adjective in front of various concepts (like loss), in an effort to detach them from the real world. And it's ironic, given the name of the profession.

So please, let's do be literal, and spell out what the loss is, logically, and while staying grounded in reality. If there's any loss, that is. I don't think there is (at least not for people who don't also lose a family or community, when they stop believing in God).

Edited by Nicky

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Words used to describe things in the realm of reality outside of the mind are often used to describe what goes on in the mind, by way of analogy, because of the objective familiarity of the outside world and the inability to point directly inside our minds ostensively.  The words are not meant to imply that what happens inside the mind and labeled as such IS what is happening outside the mind when that label is used.  It is only to indicate in a metaphor what inside the mind is being referred to, because we can grasp the analogy.

IF you prefer a different word, other than psychological "loss", by all means please propose one which captures best the psychological concept being discussed here.

Please keep in mind the example of being deceived by your wife for the best possible analogy when deciding upon a term... I look forward to hearing what you come up with.

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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I never felt any type of grief that I know of or remember when I completely removed God's false existence from my mind. More of just a relief that all the contradictions and lack of evidence I was always told to ignore were actually really just contradictions, etc, and not something that was supposedly beyond the scope of my mind to "understand".  Sort of like when you realize that all the weird theories you made up in your mind about how Santa Claus could fly around the world in one night while stopping at a billion different house and magically slip into houses without chimneys, etc., was all just nonsense that you no longer have to worry or think about.

Edited by EC

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49 minutes ago, Nicky said:

Oh, I got the point. Just didn't wanna open with a "THAT'S A FALLACY!" type post. Wanted to be extra scrupulous, and see if you will spell it out, before the inevitable:

"The “stolen conceptfallacy, first identified by Ayn Rand, is the fallacy of using a concept while denying the validity of its genetic roots, i.e., of an earlier concept(s) on which it logically depends. "

That is what psychologists (who embrace the doctrine of the primacy of emotions) are doing, when they put the "psychological" adjective in front of various concepts (like loss), in an effort to detach them from the real world. And it's ironic, given the name of the profession.

So please, let's do be literal, and spell out what the loss is, logically, and while staying grounded in reality. If there's any loss, that is. I don't think there is (at least not for people who don't also lose a family or community, when they stop believing in God).

Aside:  Note the "stolen concept" fallacy is an example ITSELF of using words, normally referring literally to things outside the mind, ONLY in a metaphorical manner when describing things happening inside the mind, because they are impossible IN THE MIND.  What is literally "stolen" in the mind when a stolen concept fallacy is psychologically enacted?  Stealing implies property and implies conversion from one who rightfully owns that which is stolen to one who does not... who owns in one man's mind the concept which is converted ... to whom could it be converted in the same mind?  Can concepts even be owned much less stolen in a mind?...

"Let's do be literal...??"

Please.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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On 11/4/2018 at 11:11 AM, StrictlyLogical said:

Obviously the loss referred to is NOT literally the God’s absence.  The purpose of the post is to discuss psychological loss and how people adapt and /or grieve.

Any and all personal loss is psychological, so it is kind of a stolen concept to say that rejecting God is a loss when the whole point of rejecting God is to say that God is no longer a value. If you feel a loss, it means you haven't rejected God, because you feel a hole, that something is gone, that a value will never return because it has been destroyed. In other words, the person who grieves the loss of God still believes in God. 

Sure, it's interesting to see how people would adapt to the situation, or perhaps the loss of friends and family depending on your background. But we should avoid the idea that atheists somehow "lose" something when they reject God. The best thing a person can do if they feel loss is to understand that they never didn't lose anything. Nothing is gone, no one died, reality is the same. The people who still believe aren't liars. They are simply people who have not understood yet. By accepting these things, the sense of loss disappears. 


 

Edited by Eiuol

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I don't know if this is too far off-subject and therefore should require a new thread, but let's see if I can even phrase my question/the issue correctly. Obviously, people can believe whatever they so choose, rational or not. So, allowing other's this (irrational) belief in a deity, I never quite fully understand how they go from simply that to what is a completely different belief almost without exception: that this supposed deity then has the right to set all the rules on not just how they should live, but how everybody should live. Anyone want to take a crack at that? It would be roughly similar to saying that the designer of an apartment building get's to decide how it's occupants live their lives. That analogy is too simple, but should roughly show what I mean. It just makes no sense.

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1 hour ago, EC said:

I don't know if this is too far off-subject and therefore should require a new thread, but let's see if I can even phrase my question/the issue correctly. Obviously, people can believe whatever they so choose, rational or not. So, allowing other's this (irrational) belief in a deity, I never quite fully understand how they go from simply that to what is a completely different belief almost without exception: that this supposed deity then has the right to set all the rules on not just how they should live, but how everybody should live. Anyone want to take a crack at that? It would be roughly similar to saying that the designer of an apartment building get's to decide how it's occupants live their lives. That analogy is too simple, but should roughly show what I mean. It just makes no sense.

What you describe is the difference between a Greek god, which is portrayed not as the ultimate power but as bigger players within creation... and the human hero’s often wrested with and fought these gods... and the mystical Judeochristian God... which by contrast is identical with the ultimate power, is all knowing, all powerful and all wise.  Here, whether you are in a contest of brains or a contest of wills there simply is no chance to defeat that God .. so why even think about it?  

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On ‎11‎/‎4‎/‎2018 at 8:47 PM, Boydstun said:

You might get a chance to know because you seemed to be dying and then it turned out you did not. That happened to me. I know. It was about the matter of fact of how far and not farther I'd gotten with my intellectual discovery and creation, and lastly just about me and the one I love, just a lighted disk of light with only the two of us in it and only dark and irrelevance and nothing all around that disk. 

I'm sorry for that. 

Here we see a poetic glimpse of what only really could stand for concepts such as God, Life, One, and Two who are One... only as experienced from the unique perspective they can be experienced, by the One experiencing... 

that one God who were two.. experienced as identical with Life, I'm sorry for its passing.  Still... one God remains... and its world is its to win.

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On 11/3/2018 at 9:04 PM, StrictlyLogical said:

Is anyone aware of any authority, academic, or psychologist who delved into, contemplated, and/or wrote substantively on the subject matter of the psychological process of Grief necessary for fully completing the transformation from religion to atheism in a psychologically healthy manner?

I don't think psychologists, analysts, or therapists have focused solely on the transformation from being religious to being atheist. They have addressed this question, but just not as a standalone problem (as far as I know). Moreover, it can be argued that grief is not a necessary or inevitable condition in this context. That is, one may not always require grief to make the full transformation. However, I'm sure you can find much about grief in relation to religion and atheism in many seminal works, especially the works of Lacan, Freud, Fromm, etc. Even literature addresses the conflicts between religious conduct and a free, atheistic life. Hanif Kureishi's The Black Album, structured as a bildungsroman, focuses on this very aspect. It especially draws on the fatwah issued against Salman Rushdie for having published The Satanic Verses. I only mention this work here because literature might be a more useful tool to explore this question (more useful than psychology). This is because literature also focuses on the experience of doubt--that liminal space between faith and renunciation of faith.

You can find much about grief in relation to your question in Freud's works, and Lacan's, too, I'm sure. However, the relevant nuggets will mostly be interspersed and quite sparse. Even anthropologists have studied the impact of religion and what it means to renounce faith, not from the individual but from the communal perspective. It might be worthwhile to explore titles such as "Cultural Anthropology: A Perspective on the Human Condition" (10th edition). Anthropology, what with its insistence of field work, provides more concrete, tangible insights. I'm not discrediting psychology, lit, or philosophy; I just think it is best to draw from different, yet interrelated, disciplines to address complex questions such as this one.

Sorry for the long post :D

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As for the question of loss, I particularly like Blanchot's approach, as well as George Bataille's. Even Foucault has much to say about loss, drawing much from Greek philosophy. To be more specific, I like how the above mentioned authors explore aspects such as grief, loss, desire, etc. through the lens of what they call limit experience.

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I'm wondering a bit now about some characteristics of the standard process of grief and how it does not seem to depend upon so much on the knowledge or expectation of the loss, and it is more about the degree of the loss and its permanence... I believe this has some relevance to the subject of the OP.

 

When a movie, a vacation, or the summer comes to an end we are sad, but we do not grieve or sense great loss, partly because we expected it to end.  So at least in part, the knowledge of the impermanence of the movie etc. could be used to explain why one should not "grieve" the end of it.

BUT nothing is as certain as death itself, and the inevitability of the loss of a very old grandparent or parent.  Yet, even with overwhelming knowledge, expectation, and certainty of the imminent loss, the death of a loved one is still often grieved intensely.

So the knowledge of the imminent loss does not seem to brunt its psychological effect.  A complete prior rational acknowledgement of reality as it is and will be is not quite the same as psychological acceptance.  Some process is still required.

Bringing this to the "loss" of discovery of reality having been different all along from what one had previously believed (e.g. cheating spouse or non-existence of God), the complete POST rational acknowledgement of reality as it is and apparently as it always was,  is not quite the same as psychological acceptance.  Some process is still required.

 

As to the degree of the loss and its permanence, another reason why we do not grieve the end of a movie, a vacation or summer is partly because in a sense it is not a permanent loss: in future can see another movie, experience another vacation, or summer, the loss is temporary.  And also its just a movie etc. it is small.

The loss of something dear and profound, like a loved one is not small, the values presented are almost incalculable to one's life and happiness.  The "misapprehended understanding" of a cherished relationship, a loved one, and one's very own family, even if only in the mind of a person fooled by their spouse, would have constituted a very profound value, they genuinely believed they had. Likewise, the "misapprehended certainty" (based on faith) of immortal life for oneself and all one's loved ones, and the same certainty in a loving omnipotent and omniscient God.. such, although fraudulently created only in the mind of the faithful, would constitute immeasurable values.

The loss of a loved one to death is as permanent as it gets.  The discovery and rational acknowledgement of a cheating spouse, a lie of a life, or that there is no God are likewise not things which are likely to be temporary.

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