home
RSS
Atheists to start 1-800 hotline for doubters
The group Recovering from Religion plans to start a helpline for people struggling with religious doubts.
June 4th, 2013
03:08 PM ET

Atheists to start 1-800 hotline for doubters

By Dan Merica, CNN

(CNN) – Who can people call when religious doubts arise, but they're afraid to talk to their faith leaders or families?

A group that helps people "recover" from religion says it's ready to pick up the phone.

Recovering from Religion, which has about 40 support groups in the U.S. and Britain, plans to launch a hotline that will offer doubters an anonymous place to ask difficult questions and find communities of like-minded nonbelievers.

The group plans to staff the help line 24 hours a day and is modeling it after services like suicide prevention hotlines.

Sarah Morehead, executive director of Recovering from Religion, told CNN that the mission is to help people, not convert them to atheism.

“A lot of the times they just need someone to talk to," Morehead said.

The 1-800 number has yet to be named. Recovering from Religion is trying to raise $30,000 by June 30 to fund "The Hotline Project" with up to 40 counselors.

Ideally, the help line would be live by the holiday season, said Morehead, which is often a difficult time for people struggling with religious doubts.

Photos: Famous atheists and their beliefs

The idea for the hotline sprang up after calls came in to the Recovering from Religion phone line from people who were questioning their faith and needed to talk to someone. Morehead said she gets a few calls every day and hundreds of e-mails a month from people seeking counseling.

From there, she said, it seemed a hotline that provided a permanent, anonymous place to talk to someone was the best option.

"Coming out" as a nonbeliever - or even a doubter - can often be extremely difficult, Morehead and others say. In addition to the existential worries, budding nonbelievers run the risk of alienating family and friends.

The help line’s volunteer counselors will be trained to not engage in religious debate, Morehead said. Instead, they will try to give callers “practical, action-oriented solutions.”

When someone first calls the hotline, the counselor will start by simply asking the caller to talk about his or her personal story, said Morehead.

Later, the counselor and the caller might work on an action plan. The caller's goals may concern formally leaving religion altogether, but Morehead said that counselors will also offer advice on finding a new faith or connecting with a local community of nonbelievers.

Some blogs have questioned the hotline, however, calling it a ploy to increase the number of atheists in America.

Headlines like “New 1-800 Number Funded By Liberals To Convert Christians to Atheists,” for example, have cropped up at a number of conservative blogs.

Morehead said her critics fail to grasp the point of Recovering from Religion.

“Most of the people who contact us are working their way towards disbelief, so of course we are very equipped to handle that,” Morehead said. “That is not the goal, though, or the job of the facilitators.”

Photos: 'Born-again' celebrities

This hotline is not completely unique in the world of religious "nones" – people who either don’t believe in God or don’t affiliate with any religious beliefs. Atheists have long discussed disbelief in the comfort of online anonymity.

“We have seen how important the Internet is, especially young people questioning their faith, and this provides them with another resource with a different focus,” said Jesse Galef, communications director for the Secular Student Alliance. “For people who want more guidance, I think this resource will be very valuable.”

Services that help religious doubters have thrived recently.

The Clergy Project, an online community for preachers who no longer believe in God, has grown from 52 to nearly 500 people since its founding in 2011, said Teresa MacBain, the former executive director of the project.

MacBain, a former pastor who converted to atheism, called the help line "another way for people to contact someone anonymously and discuss the struggles they are having for their beliefs.”

“If this project had been around when I found the Clergy Project, I would have used it.”

MacBain said she plans to get training as one of the counselors and hopes to be answering calls when the service launches.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • United States

soundoff (3,878 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    For answers to your questions, dial up 1-877-444-9673

    June 4, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • Alias

      fro questions about Jenny cal 867-5309

      June 4, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    Asking an atheist or a satanist about GOD, the BIBLE or Koran. JESUS or MOHAMMED would be like asking a politician to teach you about telling the truth.

    Just doesn't past the smell or straight face test.

    Get real.

    June 4, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • ME II

      Apparently, this Pew Research survey disagrees with you. http://www.pewforum.org/U-S-Religious-Knowledge-Survey-Who-Knows-What-About-Religion.aspx

      June 4, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • Observer

      Anonymous,

      Get serious. Many atheists know much more about the Bible than Christian hypocrites. That's why they became atheists.

      June 4, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Get real?
      Ok...real is there are no gods. No evidence of the thousands of gods men have created. The bible has been proven wrong by many different branches of science. That is getting real.

      Go back to your bible if you want more fantasy.

      June 4, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • longfoot

      Why do you say Atheist or Satanist? I don't believe in God so i don't believe in Satan. I also don't believe in the tooth fairy, santa or unicorns. If someone was walking around handing out books that were written by Zorg from the Planet Beldorp you would think that they are nuts. Change Zorg to God and presto, it all makes sense to you If that's how you want to live your life, fine go ahead. Just don't be surprised if some of us think you are a little off your rocker..

      June 4, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • Jinm P.

      So, who would *you* ask? Actually asking a non-believer is often a better choice since believers in any given dogma tend to have blind spots where they have been trained to gloss over the really odd stuff (Biblical rules for when you may force an abortion on your wife, for example or how to resolve the issue of your neighbor refusing to cook and serve her child during a famine once you have cooked your own baby. 2 Kings 6:29 for those who didn't get that sermon in Sunday school )

      June 4, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
  3. Terry

    Carl Jung made an interesting observation: God's existence does not depend upon our arguments.
    Yet atheists continue to demand proofs of God based on irrrelevant evidence. Science can "prove" a "what". But God is a "Who".

    June 4, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • Alias

      Okay, so tell me which god is real- please.

      June 4, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      1 Peter 3:15 says that you always have to be ready to provide evidence for your belief. Only thing is that NO ONE has ever provided any realiable evidence in support of their god claims. Religion Fail!

      June 4, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • Jinm P.

      Your post makes no sense. We continue to require proofs of *anything* someone else claims exists and has power over us just as you demand proof when someone says you owe them money, especially if they claim you owe them your life and they have the right to torture you for a million years because your 100 times great-grandfather did something they didn't like.

      Your God, any god for that matter, has a standing open invitation to stop by and chat with me as I've some serious questions that can't be answered by other people's third hand speculation on things or pointing out some irrelevant passage in a book whose translation no one can agree upon and whose compilation occurred centuries after the events in said book at a time when objective truth was not a major issue in writing about religion and people routinely signed other people's names to articles they wrote. (Do you *really* think Moses doesn't know where he is buried?)

      And saying "because I wanted it this way" won't do. A god, a real god, can provide better answers.

      June 4, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
  4. k

    no no dodo

    June 4, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
  5. Athy

    Actually, it might be dangerous to convert some religies to atheism. Religion acts as a crutch for the feebleminded among us. It gives them a level of morality which they might not otherwise have. It also makes them happier, believing they go to heaven after death. Let them believe in their silly superstitions, it keeps them placated. Only the stronger minded among us can handle atheism.

    June 4, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • STFU

      conversion is never a good idea, like christians and muslims did by force.

      June 4, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Yeah, I'm with you here. True atheism is something you arrive at through a process of reasoning. The only choice involved is acceptance.

      June 4, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  6. AtheistSteve

    "Some blogs have questioned the hotline, however, calling it a ploy to increase the number of atheists in America."

    But millennia of manipulating people to abandon critical thinking in favor of embracing superstition and myth isn't a ploy? It seems to me like the desperation of well entrenched religious power is reaching a fever pitch. If your mighty word of God is so powerful why worry about what atheists have to say? Clearly our arguments have no effect on the theist posters to this blog so why should this hotline be any different? Callers to this service will have already exhausted finding the answers they seek from the likes of you and your clergy. Talking to someone who only presents discovered facts about reality and not giving supernatural speculations for things that are unknown will help establish a framework for a satisfying worldview

    June 4, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
  7. faith

    kfc
    i think i ate the bones

    http://www.kfc.com/promotions/
    right there on the web for all 2 see they are cloning boneless chickns ILLEGAL

    animals will have their day in court as well

    June 4, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • Pete

      Cloning Chickens? Man you are as dumb as a rock.

      June 4, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
  8. A Conversation

    Should make for interesting discussions:

    Caller: Help. I want to leave the church.
    Help Line: So, you're done be a christard right?
    Caller: What?
    Help Line: You know, a moron, an idiot, uneducated, in need of a crutch. We congratulate you on your choice. Its nice to know that you won't be a dumba.ss anymore..
    Caller: I'm not any of those things, I'm just having doubts about my faith.
    Help Line: You mean your faith in the great sky fairy?
    Caller: You're not really helping me.
    Help Line: What did you expect? Compassion?

    June 4, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Hilarious. Ranks right up there with kissing Hank's azz

      June 4, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • joe

      i take it that you've never met a serious and compassionate atheist. i feel sorry for you, and i hope that you do some day. we're not all about ridicule, though to us there is no reason to believe, but we also do feel for those who struggle with belief and want to help them, not with not believing, but to be able to live their lives among believers.

      yes, we would rather see the world come to the realization that god makes no sense, and understand that a better way is a humanist view to believe in yourself and others, as a path to a better world, than to believe that some deity will make it better, but we will show compassion to those who struggle to find their truth.

      June 4, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
    • A Conversation

      .."but we will show compassion to those who struggle to find their truth"...how about to everyone?

      June 4, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • joe

      there are those with and without compassion among non-believers and believers. it's part of being human. if you got past your prejudice about atheists, you might find that there are many caring and compassionate people who don't believe in god, and don't need god to be good people. and who treat all people with respect and compassion, no matter what, and no matter how ridiculous we find their beliefs.

      June 4, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • joe

      and btw, i was answering with respect to how you characterized the conversation, as an atheist not being compassionate to somebody who was calling with a struggle. i'm sure those on the hotline will be very compassionate and understanding of people's beliefs and their struggle with them. many people calling will be hurting from the alienation they feel from the world around them. i'm sure the hotline will be there to help them find solace, wherever it may come from.

      June 4, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
  9. Science

    Hey chadie........faithy too look what Isabell found ..............chad is the king and queen of trolls and faithy the beasty.

    Chad just wondering should I assign an attribute to IT ?

    you know and place it in your story deal ?

    June 4, 2013 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse | Reply

    https://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/31/southern-baptists-to-urge-churches-and-members-to-cut-boy-scout-ties/#comments

    June 4, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
  10. Dyslexic doG

    A great way to find an answer to the questions "how could God let those 3 poor Cleveland girls be held and abused for 10 years and not save them?"

    Answer: there is no God.

    June 4, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
  11. joe

    i understand that believers think that those who doubt just need some spiritual counseling to bring back faith, but for some, that just doesn't happen. and unlike me, who never had to suffer the loss of friends or family, or more, for not believing, i've met some people who's lives would be completely destroyed and would be completely alone if they professed their doubt or non-belief. the focus of this hotline is, and should be, helping those who think they are alone to find others in their community like them, to support them, even if it means a secret place to talk about their doubts or non-belief.

    June 4, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      From my own personal experience, I've found that there are those who are not ready to step out of their delusion and fantasy and for them to wake up too early can be detrimental. That's why I always proceed with caution when I talk to people about letting go of faith and embracing reason.

      June 4, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • joe

      gorfreenow, but having a place to freely talk about what you're feeling is a good thing, no? no matter what point you're at?

      June 4, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Yes. I believe in the power of healthy discourse.

      June 4, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  12. Dyslexic doG

    A great way to find an answer to the questions "why do some Christians say that the Bible is the word of God but others say it's more of a life guide and you can pick and choose which parts to ignore and which to follow?"

    Answer: religion makes you delusional.

    June 4, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Why do some atheists presume that all Christian expression should be monolithic? Answer:Rock and Roll is the devils music.

      June 4, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  13. faith

    before my post posted a moderator, aka lil fatty sambo, hijacked my post and responded to it. proof

    deep doo doo dodo

    June 4, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • sam stone

      blah, blah, fvcking blah

      June 4, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • k

      sam stone

      blah, blah, fvc king blah

      o dodo

      u r through my love

      June 4, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • sam stone

      still here, pen-day-ho

      June 4, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
  14. Vic

    I would call that hotline and give them the number to call:

    1-800-WAY-JESUS

    June 4, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      And they could explain why you are delusional in full detail.

      June 4, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • joe

      this hotline could be 800-JESUS-NOWAY! 😀 j/k

      June 4, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
  15. joe

    i don't think teresa macbain would say she "converted" to atheism, since atheism is not a religion, or a set of beliefs. it is a lack of a belief in a deity. to me there is no proof that a god exists, so i have no belief in a god. we don't "convert". we examine the world, examine the proof, and come to a realization that god just doesn't make sense.

    June 4, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Why did you have to go through all the gymnastics when the Bible tells you that you won't understand Him?

      June 4, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      The bible also tells you that all of mankind came form one genetic set ( which we know is flase) and that god killed everything on the planet except for that which was in a tiny boat, when he made it rain 6 inches a MINUTE in all parts of the world simultaneously for 960 hours straight. Honest that's what it says....ridiculous.

      June 4, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • joe

      what gymnastics? i was an atheist at 8. i saw the world and saw that god wasn't in it, and made no difference. and it's very easy to say "you won't understand because you can't understand". it's a cop out. if god existed, there'd be no reason for such an idiotic paradox. but if you have faith, and i know that you truly do, then there's no room for reason or logic.

      June 4, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • Doobs

      Why did you have to go through all the gymnastics when the Bible tells you that you won't understand Him?

      So let me get this straight. The bible is god's word and it is how we are to understand him and it is how he communicates with us. But in this book that is supposed to help me understand god, it says that I won't understand him?

      Pretty weak.

      June 4, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
  16. Dyslexic doG

    A great way to find an answer to the questions "what happened to the unicorns and satyrs and dragons and talking snakes" from the bible?"

    Answer: the Bible is a bronze age story book, nothing more.

    June 4, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      "what happened to the unicorns and satyrs and dragons and talking snakes" from the bible?"

      Easy...no such thing as unicorns (rĕ'em) or satyrs (sa`iyr). The snake was actually listed as a serpent in the Torah and dragon's original meaning isn't very clear. But you just go with what you think you know. I'm certain you have great faith in that.

      June 4, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Did you see the photo of the Roe Buck scientist have discovered? It has one horn in the center of its head. They are calling it a unicorn.

      June 4, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • joe

      oh, so it's serpents that talk, not snakes? 🙂

      June 4, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Don't know anything about talking snakes or serpents Joe. Just pointing out what Doggy doesn't know which seems to be alot.

      June 4, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • sean

      @uncouth I am sure dog is very sorry for trying to use a word that was more believable then Serpent, even if it was still rediculous

      June 4, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @sean- you think Doggy would believe in a talking snake more than a talking serpent? You have a low opinion of him don't you?

      June 4, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
  17. faith

    sam stone
    bart: you are a blowhard. seek medical help, or at least the business end of a 9mm

    sambo's personal information is being subpoened

    June 4, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • sam stone

      faithy.....go fvck yourself

      June 4, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • faith

      thanks moderator

      June 4, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • faith

      thanks moderator

      i told u

      June 4, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • sam stone

      what laws have i broken, gash?

      June 4, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      faith is lying...nothing is being subpoenaed (note the spelling)

      June 4, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • sam stone

      faith is a lying troll gash

      June 4, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
  18. faith

    sam stone
    bart: you are a blowhard. seek medical help, or at least the business end of a 9mm

    June 4, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • sam stone

      same applies to you, faithy

      June 4, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
  19. Sol Invictus

    Brevior saltare cum deformibus mulieribus est vita

    June 4, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
  20. Dyslexic doG

    A great way to find an answer to the questions "was the first man really made of dirt?" or "was the first woman really made from a man's rib?"

    Answer: the Bible is a bronze age story book, nothing more.

    June 4, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
    • Recovering From Religion

      It's more that it's a great way for people to make a personal connection with someone who understands what they are going through. It's not as clear cut as deciding the Bible isn't real, or whatever...it's much more about figuring out what to do next 🙂

      June 4, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • ChrisA

      Actually, Scientists believe we came from "star dust". And a lot of geneticists believe everyone's lineage can be traced back to one female. So I guess It's not too "bronze aged"...

      June 4, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29
Advertisement
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.