As a psychologist who interacts with fellow atheists, I think one area we could all take a look at is how much our current beliefs and behavior continue to be affected by early religious and superstitious training. Assumptions about relationships, human connection, and especially sexuality are often areas that, as people floating in the sea of religious paradigms, we may simply follow along without questioning. Examples might include feelings of guilt that may come from early religious childhood indoctrination. In my experience, the guilt cycle is one of the most powerful religious infection tools. If you were raised in this culture, especially in a religious home, you probably got a strong dose of guilt. Simply getting rid of superstitious ideas about gods, does not get rid of these kinds of psychological responses. Sexual inhibitions area also a great example of continued religious influence. I have a good atheist friend in his 50's who has been an atheist since his 20's and still has trouble getting over inhibitions he traces back to his early religious training. That is pretty deep programming!

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Tags: Guilt, cycle, guilt, inhibition, sexual, sexuality, the

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Comment by Mike Hein on February 4, 2009 at 5:15am
Just in case anyone was curious, discussion and thought of this caliber is why we're all here. :)

Kind regards,
Comment by jc morrison on February 3, 2009 at 9:14pm
oh goodness, the god virus is yours?!? very nice. 'christian-hangover' is, i believe, an original term of mine. i am waiting for someone to use it somewhere and credit me for it. ;)
i am doing research for a book i'd like to write about the use of metaphor in the bible and how biblical metaphor tends to undo the arguments in modern apologetics. keep your eyes open in about 3 years. . .!
Comment by Darrel Ray on February 3, 2009 at 9:00pm
When I was writing my book, The God Virus, I did a lot of reflecting on my own life and was struck by many things that changed in me - especially around sex. That is why I wrote so much on sex and the guilt cyle. Krista and Tao's observations are similar to my own. I was known for my modesty and my righteousness in some ways. Something I am not so proud of today and I still have to guard against. As for having a christian hangover - that is a good term. I do see many non-theists who still seem to have a puritanical approach to some areas of life and fun. I am not sure it is always religious upbringing, it may be, as Krista says, related to personality. In my chapter on personality and the god virus, I explored that notion. The short answer is that there isn't a clear pattern, but some hints of patterns. On the other hand, intelligence has a clear correlation with non-religiosity in many ways.
Comment by jc morrison on February 3, 2009 at 7:53pm
great post, darrel. there are so many ways that superstitions from society's 'christian-hangover' can affect us [even if we were never very religious]. certainly sexuality is a huge area, but i also think many of us operate with a bit of a 'fun quota'. i think people think they deserve less joy and fulfillment than they would like to have, and i suspect religion is a big part of that.
Comment by Tao Jones on February 3, 2009 at 5:02pm
My sexual attitudes have changed a great deal from the time I was a 17 year old Catholic that was "saving it" for marriage. I went from guilty prude 13 years ago to "how can I please you dear?" Sex went from being something married people did to have children, to being an expression of horniness, and back to being an expression of love. Actually it is curious how emotional barriers had to be taken down before physical experimentation ultimately lead to building an emotional foundation.

Two other attitudes, in particular, that needed reprogramming were related to death and other animals. It took a while to fully grasp it, but we're animals. The fundies get about as upset when I say that as they do when I say there's no god.
Comment by Krista on February 3, 2009 at 4:42pm
I think another aspect of this is the type of personality a person is born with. I think I reacted much more strongly to my childhood indoctrination than my siblings did. I continue to do so. I'm still compelled to wear overly modest clothing, feel tremendous guilt over the slightest wrongdoing, can't handle sexual jokes, and now and then have to keep my us-and-them attitude in check. My siblings are still religious but never had the emotional problems that I did, even at a very young age, as a result of our very odd fundie upbringing. They seem fairly well balanced as adults although they are much more moderate than my parents were when we were growing up.
Comment by Darrel Ray on February 3, 2009 at 3:47pm
Mike and Aliendreams: I think you both are accurate in as much as social norms and ability to escape early helps or enhances the guilt cycle and even non-religious people can get a good dose of guilt in from guilt inducing non-religious parents. That said, there is still room for we who seek to eliminate the residue from our lives to ask, "Are places we have not examined that still affect us. In my discussions with atheist friends we all have found hidden ideas and behaviors that are left over. I also found that when I finally admitted to myself that I was an atheist, it started a whole cascade of reexaminations and, of course, a paradigm shift. My view of many things seemed to change overnight, other things needed some time and exploration. My emotional world shifted as well, sometimes in ways that were not readily understandable. As Aleindreams said, simply bumping up against religious people has a tendency to reinforce some behaviors and beliefs just to conform to social norms. That in itself was a challenge to me that led to new behaviors and less conformity without becoming insufferable or inappropriate. -Good discussion.
Comment by Mike Hein on February 3, 2009 at 9:00am
I think it depends on the severity of the religion, Darrel. I had the standard Catholic upbringing, not overly zealous. I was a non-believer by the time I was 14 or so and I can't say that I had any guilt or repression. Of course this is anecdotal but there may be a case for correlation between the level of indoctrination or the strictness of the upbringing with the guilt so often seen. Just hypothesizing but it could be an interesting survey type study.

Looking forward to reading your book.
Regards,

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