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Hi all! I'm new here, this is my first post.

So, a problem I've been dealing with is that fairly often I find myself unable to stop thinking about how I can't understand how so many people around me are religious. It's very distracting and bothersome. I'm a medical student and I had some apparently naive idea that people in medicine would tend to be the rational type. Not true. My school is full of very nice but extremely religious people, and I simply can't fathom how they do it. How can you study evidence-based medicine one minute, then the next minute gather with your friends and hold hands as you pray that you all got a good grade on the exam? I'm like, hello, the Assessment Office has already known what your grade was for the last week. It's not gonna change now. 

My roommate is also very religious. She's a wonderful person, but having her around can get me into these private mental rants... Thankfully she does not really ever say anything and is not pushy, but when she goes off to bible study every week and literally spends all of Sunday at Church, I'm like, what's wrong with you? 

I'm seriously thinking about getting some counseling to help me deal with this. But then I'm afraid that my therapist would be religious too! Argh! Help me! 

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It's possible that you need counseling in the same way that children of alcoholics need counseling.  The problem is that I know of no such formal programs, though there are probably many people who could use it. You could try Googling "secular counseling" and see what you come up with.

As Patricia has said, you got a sane place here ... but you may need something more than just that.  Regardless, anything we can do to help ... ASK, please.

Diane, I talked with several of my cancer doctors about this during my cancer treatments. Two of my very dear friends had gone through the same treatment as I, one younger and one older, and both died. They had the same doctors as I. I asked the surgeon, chemo and radiation doctors how they dealt with the deaths of these very fine women, both professional women, talented and well known in our community. The only answers they could give me was religious faith. They had no answers they could give themselves or the families. I asked if they were christian or religious. They all responded that they were not church goers, but they fell back on the words of comfort that came from religious traditions. 

I asked them how they coped. Essentially, it was the same answer from all of them: What is, is. This is the answer that Daniel and I and other cancer survivors have used.  

Those of us who do not have a belief in a supernatural power, nor a personal god, and do not believe a god exists that answers prayers, we reach inside for wisdom and endurance and reach outside ourselves to families, friends, other atheists, and to this group. We find so many things to be thankful for ... another day of life, knowing that death means the end, nothing, no afterlife. All we have is right here and now. We are grateful for that. 

You may want to join the Atheist Nexus Cancer group to get a feel of how we deal with our surgeries, chemo, radiation, and that constant problem of losing control of our bodily functions. It is a whole new normal, and one that can be managed in a way that we can retain our dignity, and self respect, and endurance. 

I sought counseling from a non-religious person who is highly recommended. Do not ... and I mean DO NOT go to a christian or religious counselor, they do not provide the kind of guidance we need because their basic, fundamental view of life is that there is a god who answers prayers. That can only be depressing and anxiety causing because if things go badly, that implies your prayers aren't good enough.  

Look up Sentient Biped's wall and blogs. He is a kind and wise man and worthy of your trust. 

Good luck to you. You follow a noble tradition and I respect your work and your quest. 

Excellent answer Joan. I didn't catch the state Diane is from but some states are much worse than others with the religious rhetoric. I once had a family doctor tell me I should attend church. I was shocked. It seems as if religious types can't understand those of us who aren't..

Hey! Welcome. You don't need therapy. Glad you found us.

It suggests that you need to learn how to cope with other people's religiosity and to get a sense of human irrationality.  

People are often irrational in nonreligious ways.  Around here, not many people are religious, but they promote anti-vaccination attitudes, their naturopaths etc.  People are generally not very rational. 

In this world there is a good chance that your therapist would also be religious. A lot of us on this site were once religious, including me. You just have to learn to deal with them. I'm always avoiding discussions with my boyhood friend about god. He doesn't understand that none of it makes any sense to me anymore.

The christian thinks Jesus is the Messiah and that he rose from the dead. The "fact" that he rose from the dead is the "proof" that he is the Messiah, and the bible is our "proof" of it all. Let me ask you if anything ever rose from the dead? Has anything dead ever came back to life? Google to find out how many people were "raised from the dead" in the bible. Now it looks like Jesus wasn't the only one, huh.

You will never convince the christian, but religion and the bible is all a system of myth, fables, and fairy tales. Religious people are delusional.

Welcome Diane glad you found us.

I believe I once read somewhere that of all scientists medical doctors were the most likely to be religious, but don't quote me on that. As far as Christian therapists go, I live in TN, have a therapist, and this being TN, you guessed it, he's a Christian. He's trained not to bring religion into our sessions, but I'm certain that, nevertheless, his religion colors his view of the world, including his view of our sessions. I often initiate conversations with him on religion myself rather than vice versa, my hope being to get him to open his eyes. I present him with every possible argument against God, but because of his training (I guess) he takes my unbelief as a symptom of my illness and tries to analyze what I have to say instead of looking at the merits and logic of the arguments themselves.

I don't know if you need therapy, but I'd love to come with you. I've had a terrible time finding a secular therapist who understands the issues, and I live in metropolitan L.A.

I've actually considered going back to school to get a counseling license just to help people like us!

All my education came about because of the challenges I faced. I needed to learn how a healthy family functions, what it means to be healthy, myself, I learned how my family history impacts my present life and what can be left to history, and what needs to be built on the new foundation I created for myself. 

Can't say enough in favor of knowing what happened, why, and what to do to flourish. 


My time in medical school was profoundly isolating. The experience changed me, and changed how I looked at life. It changed who I was.

That was a different era. I hope it's different today. I'm sure it is. I was different from the majority of medical students in many ways. I hope you are not as different as I was. Being different in such an intense, grueling, and competitive environment, adds to the struggle. I describe my experience here, briefly, and you can take or leave what I say.

This is how I was different. I was older than most other students. I had worked my way through undergrad and graduate school (PhD), after serving in military. Most of my fellow students had a BS and were children of privilege. This was the height of the AIDS epidemic. Being gay, my experiences with most doctors were, they were jerks. Worse than jerks. Obnoxious self-rightous, discriminatory, judgmental with minimal communication skills. So I was not out in medical school, about being gay, justifiably fearing discrimination. When my partner died, I kept it to myself and grieved in silence. While I was never especially at risk for HIV myself, and never contracted it, my fear was others would assume I was positive, because I was gay. Which, on occasion, they did. I worried that could end my career, so when I had myself tested, that was also alone.

I determined to get through medical school without any delays, and I did. I worked part time throughout medical school. I studied on my own. I grieved on my own. As for being atheist, that was so minor compared to the other issues, I don't recall ever bringing it up.

Through-out it all, this was my feeling. I don't care what someone's religion is. I don't care what their gender is. I don't care about their race or nationality. I don't care about their sexual orientation. My job, and the calling of the doctor, was/is to work with then, help them, learn from them, take professional care of them. No one should fear discrimination based on any characteristic, or any experience. We should be explicit that our difference will not result in less professional or less attentive, less human, care.

This will be a good time for you to test your limits of tolerance. Even if you are the only nonreligious person in your class, swimming in sea of piety, you deserve equal treatment. And, you have to be able to work with all of the others in your class, faculty, and your patients. Especially with your patients, you will have to embrace their totality, as the individual who they are, including their religiosity, while maintaining your sense of who you are. You will need to find your own strategies for dealing with patients who want you to pray with them.

There were plenty of Christians in my medical school class. And a couple of Mormons, and a few Muslims, and a couple of Hindus. In each case, they pretty much stuck together in their own cliques, and tolerated me. But that's as far as it went. For that matter, people also segregated themselves in other ways. Marrieds, stuck together. Black people stuck together. Latinos stuck together. East Asians stuck together, South Asians stuck together. None of that was absolute, but as for sense of community, that's how it seemed. Since then, residency and beyond, that's how many other people have been too. It reflects the rest of society.

I hope this isn't too preachy. Probably is. Sorry. The point is, if anyone discriminates against you because you don't share their religious views, they are being unprofessional. And the reverse is true too, that you will have to keep your feelings about religious belief in a place where you can be true to yourself, while honoring their humanity, and always being a professional.

I hope that helps. Good luck with your studies and beyond.

Thanks everyone for the encouragement. Some days I wish I were living in the UK and had more neighbors like Richard Dawkins. For those who were wondering, I'm in Florida. I'm from Cape Cod and I went to liberal New England college, so it was a bit of a culture shock to move here. (But I do like the sunshine!)

I'm going to hold off on trying to pursue therapy at the moment... just looking at photos of famous atheists helps give me strength. Like this:

Sentinent Biped, I am so happy I got a response from a physician. I wish I knew someone at my school I could talk to, but I'm afraid to even ask. There's my research mentor who is very liberal (you kind of have to be if you're a pediatric and adolescent gynecologist and you're actually looking out for the health of your young patients!). I could ask her. And there's another gyn who is very passionate about Planned Parenthood and that kind of thing...

I've tried several times to do a search for some sort of atheist physician group, but no luck. And some of the groups that were started on this site seemed to not generate much interest. So we remain rather alone? I'm thinking if I end up doing my residency in the Boston area I might find some good company. 


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