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Dealing With Depression


shockwaves
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Hey Guys,

 

I know it is a lot to ask, but please, if possible, read this entire post...I really really need some advice. I'm in a position where I feel like I do not deserve to be happy until I can figure out how to ease my brother's depression over his recently acquired atheistic type doubts. It is a sense of failure - I feel like if I cannot even reason my brother out of depression over atheism, then maybe I don't belong telling anyone that I am an atheist - ever. If all I have to offer is depression, should I offer it? Maybe what I am missing in all of this is time - my brother started doubting about a month ago, and thinking back, I started doubting about 5 or 6 years ago - and it took me a very long time to de-brainwash my own mind. Maybe he just needs time? I don't know - please read on. My brother thinks very differently from how I do - please take some time to help me figure this out, and how I should be thinking about all this. Thanks.

 

I have been on this site on and off for three years, and I have to say, you guys have helped me tremendously. I have come a long way since my first post. If you would like more detail regarding the beginnings of my deconversion, etc, go HERE

 

I have been in the process of deconversion since High school (I was raised in a fundy christian household). It was a long, painful process. I am now 22, and attending UC Berkeley. I consider myself to be more or less fully deconverted.

 

My brother, however, has always been a christian, never doubted anything, which is causing major problems now. He is now 21. He was always the kind of christian who did not necessarily care about reading the bible, but loved going to church with friends, occasionally drinking, being kind of rebellious, but never really thinking too deeply about anything. I had always been the opposite, wanting to figure out WHY I was disobeying what I claimed to believe BEFORE I started disobeying it. I never had fun at all while living as a christian, because it didn't feel right to me.

 

As of a month ago, my brother's closest friend (who went to the same christian high school as my brother and used to be a christian) has been showing my brother atheist articles, portions of the bible that seem unjust, etc. Problem? Now my brother decides he might have a problem with God. He is tearing himself away slowly, and currently calls himself a "Christian Agnostic." He claims that as many parts of the bible may be falsified, he does not have to believe all of them, but the whole Jesus thing he is ok with. This part is not the problem though.

 

The problem is that he also considered atheism, but says that he is very depressed by it, and he sees absolutely no reason to go on living if he is going to be an atheist. He told me that he had spent a long time imagining "nothingness" that he would be after death, and he said he might as well just die now then. He said "if there is no God, then what am I living for? To create a legacy? To have my name remembered by future humans? What does that matter? They are all going to die too." He honestly seemed suicidal to me. All the old cockiness he used to have was gone. On top of that, he has focused the last 5 years of his life playing football in order to get a scholarship, yet never received any playing time. His grades suffered, of course, so now he is applying to second rate schools in an attempt to secure some sort of future for himself. On top of that, my parents were evicted about two months ago, and are about to move out of state, leaving my brother to live alone for this last semester until he gets accepted by some school.

 

This has me depressed for a couple different reasons. For one, I am depressed because I have been having these recurring arguments with myself on whether or not to be a "militant atheist." I am really having a hard time deciding whether or not it is necessary to the future of the human race to cease to believe in supernatural nonsense. I have many arguments for and against. This leads into my other reason - I am, as of this point, very disturbed that I was not able to properly console my brother. I did my best, but nothing seemed to help.

 

I am depressed myself as well now. I know there is a depressing quality to atheism, but it never depressed me to the point where I wanted to die. However, his conviction that all these things SHOULD be life-haltingly depressing has shaken me up quite a bit, it has messed my internal balance up, so to speak haha. It has forced me to go back and look at these issues, and see if they are indeed THAT bad. I am not making very much sense, I know. let me explain what is going through my head, what I would say in counter to all these things, and then I would PLEASE like for you to also help me.

 

I have always had an extreme, innate hunger, a ravenous thirst for knowledge. At the very least, I want to live as long as possibly in order to learn more. This does not interest my brother as much, so it didn't help much. The very fact that I cannot know for sure whether or not some supernatural entity exists has always kept me from getting too depressed over it. I focused my energies on contemplating whether or not there was a likelihood that there was a judging entity out there somewhere, something that will punish me for what I do here, for my lack of belief, etc. After concluding that no such thing could exist, I felt liberated, free to think, free to read philosophy, study cognitive science, psychology, everything I love doing so much here at Berkeley. I look at Christians, living under a delusion, and say to myself "in the end, both I and the christian will have lived the same life. Both of us will have lived about 80 years, and both of us will have had the possibility of love, happiness, sadness, etc. If I thought life was worth living when I was a christian, I should certainly believe the same thing. A life is a life, and false assurance of what may occur after that life should not change the quality of what may occur within that life. In fact, this leads into what I was talking about before about militant atheism. I have this burning desire to figure out a way to make atheism more appealing, to make it less depressing, so that the entire nation could wake up and begin pursuing priorities of the human race. WE have an entire universe out there, which, believe me, holds secrets to what is going on in this world. There is so much we do not understand about it - how singularities work, etc. I feel like it is a tragedy that most American presidents (overwhelmingly) claim a belief in God. Why? Because they will make decisions with the assumption that they have a warm fuzzy place to go when they die. They will not value human life as much as they should. They will support war a little more than they should. They will cancel space programs. They will go against scientific research that could enlongate our lives for religious moral reasons - research into stem cells, or human cloning. I feel like we all need to start doing this, the only problem is that I am not sure if the general public is capable of believing in God. I am starting to believe that there is a divide among men. A "atheist class" so to speak, and then a "religious class." The religious class would have to be kept in the dark as to most of what the atheist class was up to, as the religious class would not consider the atheists' research, etc to be morally sound, yet in the big picture the atheists would be conducting the research they were conducting in order to eventually benefit the religious class. Certain human beings do not seem capable of ridding themselves of a belief in God. I am getting off on a tangent though - back to my brother. I have given you a bunch of the ways I have been thinking lately, here are more. OK, to address the "nothingness" that so concerns my brother - if it was going to be there to begin with, why not just face it head on? Why not try to fight it somehow? Science? He is saying that he wishes he never thought that there might be nothingness. I see the expectation of possible nothingness after death as a small price to pay for complete freedom of mind. As far as what he is living for goes, I didn't agree with him there either. I have always been a very empathetic person - I feel very deeply for other human beings. That is one of the reasons I am having such a hard time deciding whether or not I want to tell others about atheism - I am seeing what it is doing to my brother, and I am imagining what it would do to my parents - who just lost their home, are almost 60 years old with nothing but debt and zero retirement funds, what they focus on is their ministry to the lost souls of the world - they go to prisons and share the gospel with others. If they didn't do that, I KNOW my dad would revert back to alcoholism by now, and probably leave my mom. It would leave him with nothing left in the world - his entire life is based around christianity - all his friends, everything. he would have NOTHING. Now HE would be a candidate for suicide. So how am I to advocate atheism when I know that there could be hundreds of thousands of other people like that around the world - people super SUPER locked into christianity - who have given it their all, who are reaching the age where they will die soon....why should I give atheism to them? why?? I know why, but I hate seeing humans suffer, so I wait, for now. Until I can work on a way to counteract all the negatives of atheism. All that to say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with leaving a legacy - why not??? If you can somehow ease future human beings' suffering, why not do it? Have you so soon forgotten that you are ALIVE?? That you can feel? That it is very likely that future human beings will feel? And have to face similar issues to the ones you are facing? Why is this not worth pursuing? Do you just not care about anyone other than yourself? I suppose so. My brother has always been an extremely selfish person.

 

Wow, well typing all that out has helped me already. I need to keep reminding myself that my beliefs are my own, I OWN them. Still, however, my brother's conviction, as well as my desire to help him, caused me to re-think how I approach my life - what I want to accomplish within it, etc. At this point, I am really not sure, and that is a bit depressing. Do I still believe that it is worth it to obtain knowledge? Or do I fall into my brother's line of thinking and begin to believe that all action on earth is futile, and that I may as well stop trying now?? I definitely don't feel like doing that, but a huge part of me sort of does - it is very strange indeed. I have this feeling that UNLESS I can figure out a way to help my brother stop being so depressed, I deserve to be depressed as well. Why should I be over here all dandy at Berkeley gaining knowledge, when my brother barely has the will to live anymore?? It is a strange feeling of responsibility that I am experiencing right now....I don't like what it is doing to my mind.

 

Please help me if you can, I cherish your advice

-AJ

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I agree, when your religious "foundations" have been torn out from under you, there is a season of time when a person doesn't know what to think. We have the here and now to live for, instead of worrying and making every decision in regards to what happens after we die, because we don't actually know. Nobody has ever come back to tell us. Here's a link to a thread that was quite active a few weeks ago, that perhaps may help you. Take care.

http://www.ex-christ...w-to-live-life/

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Guest I Love Dog

 

The problem is that he also considered atheism, but says that he is very depressed by it, and he sees absolutely no reason to go on living if he is going to be an atheist. He told me that he had spent a long time imagining "nothingness" that he would be after death, and he said he might as well just die now then. He said "if there is no God, then what am I living for? To create a legacy? To have my name remembered by future humans? What does that matter? They are all going to die too." He honestly seemed suicidal to me.

 

Please help me if you can, I cherish your advice

-AJ

 

Your brother's concerns are quite normal for most people who think deeply about things. I was already a long-term atheist when I got the same thoughts that your brother has. I think that having a religion and god shields you from reality and the truth. Reality that we're all going to die, the truth, that as far as we know, there is nothing after death. It took me while to accept both and to assign some sort of value to my life.

 

Having a wife and kids helped, plus putting emphasis on my own talents and achievements. I learned that my existence, my life, was part of the continuing cycle of life on planet Earth. We are born, we live, we die, and it's the same for every life form on the planet and has been for nearly 5 billion years. The main difference is that humans have more choice, they can change their lifestyle, achieve, set and reach goals.

 

If your brother's depression is deep seated, then some professional help may be required. Other than that, meditation is a great way of coming to terms with your inner self.

 

It may be that atheism is not for him and he could research other religions or beliefs. I went through a stage of learning about Buddhism. I didn't adopt it as a belief, but it gave me great insight into self and others, something that Christianity doesn't provide.

 

I hope all goes well for both of you.

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You cannot stop your brother from being depressed.That is a journey all of us can only take alone. I think all of us wonder what our purpose is. I wondered about it so much even as a christian it blew a gasket in my brain, because there actually is no one answer. These days as a 50 year old, I realise that the most futile thing is the struggle with meaning itself. I put so many knots in my brain I am suprised I ever got then all out.

 

I am here to love. Simple. Knowledge is just a head full of shit in the long run, great for trivia nights, but if it does not transform into wisdom it isn't much use.

 

I picture my family and friends around my death bed, and what it is I want them to remember me for. I want them to say "she loved us, and we knew it". I don't want to be remembered for my success, wealth, knowledge or anything else. Just the way I treated others.

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I am sorry to hear of your troubles, your brother is experiencing what many people experience when they have their religion torn from them. Religion, in my opinion, is a means to an end. Some religions are better tools than others, but ultimately each religions is about providing an external structure of meaning and purpose. It provides many with an ultimate goal and an ultimate destiny. Some people require the external structures, like your father. He is faced with either the choice between the "structure" of alcoholism or the structure of Christianity. It provides his life with a framework which he can then operate in and rely on. Some people however, are able to find an internal source for their meaning or purpose. Whether that is atheism or not is beside the point, finding an internal source that begins to form your framework of meaning is more fulfilling than an external one, but that doesn't mean everyone will find their own internal source of meaning. Your brother basically needs to find his own meaning and purpose. Yes, we all die but that does not make life futile, only more precious in my opinion. Also, I may break with my own fellow non-believers on this point but your brother and most people are able to have "spiritual" or "transcendent" (minus the bajillion connotations) experiences. Extreme acts of compassion, helping animals, helping feed the homeless, tutoring struggling students all of these things can help provide fulfillment to people. Do you see the parallel between witnessing to people in prison and an atheist (or non-believer) doing charity work? Witnessing to people in prison provides some fulfillment but it is coming from that external source of structure, and not from an internal one.

 

If your brother is or has been struggling with depression before then he should definitely seek out professional counseling, but he is also experiencing something that many of us (myself to a way lesser degree) have experienced. They are valid feelings, so don't dismiss them (not saying you were/are) but it is something he will have to work out. And will, eventually. Good luck!

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I agree, when your religious "foundations" have been torn out from under you, there is a season of time when a person doesn't know what to think. We have the here and now to live for, instead of worrying and making every decision in regards to what happens after we die, because we don't actually know. Nobody has ever come back to tell us. Here's a link to a thread that was quite active a few weeks ago, that perhaps may help you. Take care.

http://www.ex-christ...w-to-live-life/

 

Thanks, that thread was really helpful!

 

 

But guys, I would really like some advice on the aspect of the situation relating to me. After talking to my brother about all these things that to me are not depressing, I became depressed. Why? Because I feel like I failed to break him out of his depression. I really can't explain why this is happening to me. I was very stable here at my university - making good friends, my confidence had shot through the roof, etc. But the fact that I was unable to talk my brother down from depression means that suddenly I am thinking a completely different way about how to approach my atheism/agnosticism. Before I talked to my brother, I was very open about it - if people wanted to talk about agnosticism/atheism or whatever, I talked. I know a bit about the subject, after a few years of study. Now, however, I feel completely shaken up. I had assumed that the same things that gave me comfort and a will to live and thrive did not necessarily work for my brother. That bothers me. I know that it took me years before I stopped being depressed about atheism - but I know that my depression was caused by extreme social pressure, fear of a possible judging deity, and lack of friends. Since coming to berkeley, all those problems have been solved for me. Pretty much the majority of my friends do not believe in a specific religious deity, I have delved into much philosophy to solve the other problem, and now I have many friends. Could it be for these same reasons that my brother is feeling depressed? REmember, he went through private christian education his entire life (I jumped out of it in high school, but he wanted to stay). So ALL of his friends are christians. He told me he doesn't feel like he can do anything yet - can't marry a girl, can't do anything until he conclusively solves this issue. I know that if he just has enough time, and gets out of our parents roof, he will likely recover. However, just the fact that he is now going through the same thing that I went through so long ago is extremely depressing to me. I want him to just be able to snap out of it instantly - but maybe this is expecting too much. It took me years, and much counsel from teachers, mentors, and friends to be able to get away from the persistent fears, etc.

 

My mind feels like it is in a fog right now. I am having a hard time concentrating on my studies again, etc. I feel like I now need to "figure out" exactly how to remedy a deconverting christian's depression. I feel like that is what I need to be spending my resources and time on - but my classes would suffer greatly, I know that. I just attended the second day of classes today. This could just be pride on my part (thinking I can just come up with a remedy that will snap a person out of decades of brainwashing), I mean, we have this entire forum here for just that purpose. Maybe I should introduce him into this forum. Otherwise, I feel like his depression is becoming my depression. I don't feel comfortable going on believing the things I believe about the world until I can somehow help him understand those same things. This seems ridiculous though! He is so far away, I am away at berkeley...I am spacing out when hanging with my friends, they think something is wrong with me, but I don't know how to tell them about the issue, because suddenly I don't feel as free to talk about the issue in front of people. I really love to talk about it though. I mean, people have atheist/religion debates all the time, and still, America remains christian. Perhaps people who need to stay in religion will find their own reasons not to believe whatever it is we tell them. Perhaps my brother just recently became "ripe." Perhaps this was a long time coming anyway. Because honestly, he was never that dedicated a christian hahaha. He basically just used it as "fire insurance."

 

Come on guys, I really need help please :(

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Belief in god and eternal life does not provide us with a purpose for this life other than to do that which we deem necessary to inherit eternal life. In the Christian sense, that means to most Christians to have a belief in Jesus as their lord and savior so their sins are forgiven and they will gain admittance to heaven upon their death. Of course, there are variations on the theme depending on the denomination. But this, in a nutshell, is their purpose in this life. Everything else like jobs, attending church, having and caring for families, retirement and the like are just things to do until the big day comes when they can enter into god's eternal kingdom.

 

Once a Christian loses his or her Christianity, he or she may have lost what was thought to be the ultimate purpose in life - to do that which was necessary to inherit eternal life. Suddenly taking that away, may cause one to realize that the purpose they thought they had is no purpose at all, that it is all a sham and they have wasted their life up until that time. In other words, I believe that the source of atheistic depression is actually the sense of loss of purpose in life. The way out of that is to face the fact that the purpose the former Christian had, doing what was necessary to inherit eternal life, was a sham. Come to terms with this harsh fact and accept it because doing so will ultimately allow you to be glad that you learned this fact before your life was over and you lived it all in the foggy haze of belief in a falsity.

 

Once you come to terms with the fact that the alleged purpose of doing what is necessary to inherit eternal life is totally bogus, then you have given yourself a brand new opportunity to re-think your life and your values and find true purpose and happiness.

 

How is it that because there is no eternal life after we die, this life has no meaning or purpose? That is a non sequitur. In your mistaken belief that there was an afterlife, you transmitted your purpose in this life to achieving the next life. That is, once you did that which was necessary to inherit eternal life, then this life had no further purpose and all true purpose was focused on the next life. You, therefore, devalued this life in favor of the promised after-life.

 

Once you lose belief in god and eternal life after having been a Christian, then all meaning and purpose must immediately be transferred to where it belongs and where it should have been all along - to this life since there is no afterlife. But many people have been so conditioned to place their meaning and purpose on doing that which was necessary to inherit eternal life that they failed to consider the deeper meanings and purposes of this life.

 

I think that the way out of the depression is to accept what happened and to come to terms with the fact that it is this life, this glorious life, from which you derive your purpose. And what is that purpose? Ultimately, it is to live and experience the awesomeness that is all around us. Think of it like this. Suppose you were a kid with no money and you wanted to go to the circus but you couldn't afford it. But one of your friends found a hole in the big tent so the both of you could peep in and watch the show. That's what life is. You're allowed to peep in for 70 or 80 years and to interact with all there is and to be a part of it all. The show's going to go on with or without you, but you have been one of the lucky ones to have found the hole in the big tent. And that's really something.

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shockwaves,

 

you are ever only responsible for you life and choices. If you choose to get of the depression then great, if your brother chooses not to then that is his choice. You could help "light the way" by getting help yourself and talking to him about it. That might inspire him.

 

As I have said before. The only point or purpose to life is the living of it.

 

stryper

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