Atheophobia is the irrational fear of atheists. More often than not, those experiencing atheophobia are typically very religious. It is within many religious texts such as the Christian bible, the Islamic Koran, and Judaism’s Torah, where you can find a strong distaste and even hatred toward atheists (non-believers).
Those who call themselves atheists reject the teachings of all religions and are typically more liberal/progressive in nature as opposed to the much more conservative religious. Atheism is not a religion. It is merely the disbelief in the existence of a god.
These differences in politics and ethics are where atheists and theists tend to collide the most, besides the obvious fact that they don’t accept the god(s) that the religious accept. Many religious children are taught at a very young age that atheists are not considered “righteous people” and that they are destined to burn in hell for all eternity.
Though such a frightening fate would surely convince even the most atheistic person to convert to some religious text (Pascal’s wager), many atheists simply do not believe in god because they don’t believe there to be substantial evidence for it. Nevertheless, those with atheophobia are often not impressed with atheist’s skepticism and instead are extremely fearful of them for various reasons.
Symptoms of Atheophobia
Someone with atheophobia may have deep hatred toward atheists. They may also be very fearful of them and try diligently to not associate with them in society to ensure that they do not become “corrupted” or swayed away from their deep religious convictions. Even in the US (which is considered to be more progressive than most countries), atheists are among some of the most distrusted groups of people in society. Much of this, if not all of it is based on the teachings of their religious texts and illogical religious convictions.
Many religious people who exhibit symptoms of atheophobia do so as a way to “protect” the sanctity of their beliefs. Limiting any interaction or dialogue with atheists is a sure way to limit the possibility of having their faith challenged or scrutinized. This is not the case for everyone, as some religious people encourage open debates, also known as apologetics.
Nevertheless, those experiencing full-blown atheophobia may have little to no interest in debating or even being near an atheist as they are often irrationally seen as “evil” or simply misguided. Those experiencing a deep fear or hatred of atheists may also actively pursue persecuting them as described in their religious texts or as ordered by their religious leaders. However, such extreme actions may also be the result of brainwashing.
Below, you will see some common symptoms of this phobia:
- Intense fear/hatred toward atheists
- Avoidance of atheists
- Belief that atheists are “evil” or “bad”
- Strong distrust of atheists
- Unwillingness to support media (i.e. movies, music, books, etc.) created by atheists
Causes of Atheophobia
Genetics and one’s environment are likely to play significant roles in the development of atheophobia. Someone who has a family history of mental illness, especially of phobias, may have a higher risk for developing atheophobia. When someone has a genetic predisposition for developing mental illness, then it may only take some sort of environmental experience for them to develop an irrational fear of atheists.
For example, most people probably develop atheophobia due to the strong influences of religious texts. In these texts, such as the Bible and the Koran, believers of the faith are informed that atheists are not to be trusted as they reject the apparent “truth” of the universe and the morality of man instructed by god himself.
Young children who’s parents are very religious may be told by them repetitively that atheists are “bad” or that they should not be friends with “atheists”. The influence that religion has on peoples biases and hatred for other people who don’t agree with them are strong reasons as to why people may develop atheophobia.
There is no known cause for someone developing atheophobia. However, genetics and one’s environment may be the best indication of whether or not someone is at risk for developing mental illness.
Atheophobia is not typically treated due to the mere fact that most people who distrust and dislike atheists typically due so from an ethical standpoint instructed by their holy text. It is extremely difficult for those who are deeply religious to want to seek out treatment for their atheophobia or even question it because they often see it as a good thing and feel as though that it is not only a rational and just point of view, but that it is also what god wants them to do as well.
Be that as it may, people looking to get treated for atheophobia should talk to their doctor as soon as they can. They may then be sent to a specialist such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist. A psychologist or therapist may then implement cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help improve any errors in thinking with regards to your atheophobia. Your therapist may also provide you with several coping skills that you can use when your anxiety exacerbates.
Another very effective and common form of treatment for those suffering with phobias is exposure therapy. The goal with this form of treatment is to try and desensitize the patient of their phobia by slowly exposing them to that which they fear.
In this context, the therapist may try to slowly expose the patient suffering with atheophobia by having them think of atheists or by having them watch a video of an atheist speak. Eventually, the end goal would be for the patient to be in the presence of or to speak to an atheist with little to no symptoms of atheophobia.
Anti-anxiety medications may also be able to help reduce the symptoms associated with atheophobia. As with virtually any phobia, anxiety will be among one of the most prominent symptoms. However, you should first talk to your doctor before you decide to undergo any sort of therapy or take any medication.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Atheophobia
DBT is a very effective form of treatment for people struggling with emotion regulation. It is often used to treat people suffering from borderline personality disorder. Nevertheless, it can also be very advantageous for someone suffering from anxiety disorders like atheophobia too. This is due to the numerous amount of coping skills you can expect to learn in a DBT group. These groups typically last about 6 months long and can have anywhere from two people to several people depending on how many join the group.
One very effective DBT skill for helping someone with atheophobia is half-smiling. This technique works by having you think about that which you fear or upsets you all while slightly raising the corners of your mouth by lightly smiling, thus the term “half-smiling.” Although, it isn’t enough to just think about your fear while half-smiling, you also have to try and refrain from entertaining those painful emotions that your specific fear may evoke.
Mindfulness meditation is also heavily used in DBT and can greatly benefit someone with atheophobia as it is done in a group setting, which helps to put the patient out of their comfort zone. These group mindfulness practices may include drinking warm tea to hone in on the sense of taste and tactile senses or simply focusing on the breath.
Coping ahead is another very useful DBT skill that can help someone with atheophobia. With coping ahead, you will want to find a place where you can sit down quietly without distraction. Close your eyes and then think about the many different possible scenarios where you would face your specific fear and overcome it or cope with it. Doing so will help you to be much better adept at coping with your atheophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.
Yoga for Atheophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from atheophobia. In part, this is due to the meditative state of mind that yoga tends to emit in those who practice it on a consistent basis. Yoga can be thought of as meditation in motion. It can help to relieve some of the anxiety associated with atheophobia due to the mere fact that by engaging in yoga, your attention will be redirected to something more productive.
There are many different types of yoga that someone with atheophobia can benefit from, such as hatha yoga or hot yoga, among many others. Nevertheless, regardless of the many different forms of yoga that exist, virtually all of them can help to relieve some of the stress and anxiety that is associated with atheophobia.
If you have never practiced yoga before, then it may be in your best interest to take a class or watch some guided videos that can help you through each pose. Just like with meditation, the more you practice yoga, the more adept you will become at it. Besides helping you to reduce your symptoms of atheophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Atheophobia
CBT is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve one’s mental health. It is a modality that is often used to treat people suffering from anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. Someone with atheophobia may also be able to benefit from CBT as well seeing as how it would allow them to have a much better understanding as to why they think and behave the way they do in relation to their irrational fears.
CBT can be immensely helpful for someone with atheophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with atheophobia is exposed to their fear, they will almost always have an instantaneous subconscious reaction to their fear. Such a lack of introspection is likely a large part of why someone with this condition will suffer to the extent that they will. CBT can help you to take a step back and analyze your fears more deeply than you typically would.
Besides learning to be more fastidious with regards to understanding one’s specific fears, someone with atheophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Atheophobia
MBSR is an 8-week evidence-based program that offers secular, intensive mindfulness training to help people who are suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, and other sorts of mental anguish. MBSR may be able to significantly help someone who is suffering from atheophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with atheophobia can expect to learn a plethora of different skills that can help them to relieve the intense anxiety that’s associated with their specific phobia.
Talk to your doctor or therapist to see if MBSR can help you to reduce the intensity of your symptoms of atheophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Exposure Therapy for Atheophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as atheophobia. It can be an efficient way to help desensitize the patient to their specific fears. Be that as it may, it is imperative that the therapist implementing it on their patient is very adept at doing so. For example, if the therapist were to slightly expose someone with atheophobia to their fear, then it may not be very effective as they may need a higher amount of exposure to truly trigger any sort of worthwhile change in the patient.
The same can be said for the antithesis of this scenario. If the therapist were to excessively expose someone with atheophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their atheophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with atheophobia has a very strong sense of just how severe their symptoms are so that they can know the level of exposure that the patient will likely be able to handle.
Reducing Caffeine for Atheophobia
It is no secret that consuming large amounts of caffeine throughout the day can aid in making you more anxious. This makes sense when we look closely at how caffeine affects our body’s physiology. When we consume a high dose of caffeine, our heart will start to beat faster and we become more tense. Essentially, our body will begin to go into a “fight or flight” state of mind. Such a frame of mind is often a precursor for someone with atheophobia to experience panic attacks.
So, consuming little to no caffeine throughout the day may be able to significantly help reduce your day to day anxiety. Although doing so will likely not make all of your anxiety go away, it will indeed help you to reduce any unnecessary suffering that you would have otherwise experienced if you were to consume a large amount of caffeine.
Beverages like coffee and tea are often high in caffeine, as well as some energy drinks. In fact, even some foods have caffeine in them as well, such as dark chocolate. Being more conscious of your daily caffeine consumption may help you to reduce some of the symptoms associated with atheophobia.
Psychiatric Drugs for Atheophobia
These types of medications aren’t only for people who suffer from depression as they can also help people suffering from anxiety disorders as well, such as atheophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of atheophobia.
These types of drugs are typically taken on a daily basis. They can indeed help prevent panic attacks from occurring, but they are more so used to help reduce people’s daily anxiety. Talk to your doctor to see if taking antidepressants can help to reduce your symptoms of atheophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe atheophobia due to the fact that people with phobias often experience panic attacks as well. Some common anti-anxiety medications include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, among many others.
These types of drugs are not typically taken on a daily basis, but they may be insofar as their atheophobia is severe enough. However, this is something that you should first discuss with your doctor before you decide to do so to ensure that it is safe and effective.
Exercise for Atheophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including atheophobia. Specifically, cardiovascular exercise can significantly help to relieve one’s stress. This is not to say that weight-resistance training would not benefit someone with anxiety, but rather that aerobic exercise is has been shown to be more effective at releasing those feel good chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins.
According to the American Psychology Association, exercise can help to condition the mind to better cope with stressful situations. This makes sense when we take into consideration the high amount of stress that the body is put under during strenuous exercise. So, if you yourself are sedentary, then engaging in some form of aerobic exercise may be able to significantly help reduce your symptoms of atheophobia by making it much easier for you to cope with the anxiety and stress that’s associated with this condition.
There are many different aerobic modalities that you can partake in to help reduce your symptoms of atheophobia, such as swimming, biking, skiing, walking, and jogging. You can also acquire the many benefits of exercise by playing sports such as tennis, soccer, basketball, and racquetball, among many other sports. Engaging in some form of exercise consistently may be able to help relieve some of the pain associated with atheophobia over time.
Meditation for Atheophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from atheophobia. Specifically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to be quite beneficial for helping people to enter into a more equanimous state. There are many different ways with which you can implement mindfulness meditation and there are also many different meditation apps which are designed to make things as easy as possible for you.
Mindfulness has the potential to significantly help those suffering from atheophobia due to how it will help one to distract themselves from their fear by refocusing their attention onto something else that does not have any sort of emotional baggage attached to it, such as by focusing on the breath for example. This is one of the most basic ways that one can meditate and be present.
For someone with atheophobia in the midst of a panic attack, redirecting one’s attention to the various sensations felt when breathing can actually help to reduce the amount of mental anguish experienced during such an influx of anxiety.
To implement mindfulness meditation to help relieve one’s symptoms of atheophobia, you can do so by paying close attention to the way the muscles in your abdomen and chest contract and relax with every inhale and exhale. You can spend time dwelling on how it feels as your chest expands during each inhale and how it sinks in with every exhale.
Besides focusing on your breathing, you can also focus on the sounds around you, the way your skin feels as you touch certain objects, the way foods taste, as well as the way certain aromas smell. Essentially, honing into your 5 senses can significantly help you to reduce some of the anxiety that is associated with atheophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.
If you think you may be suffering from some of the symptoms of this condition, then you may benefit from therapy. Feel free to reach out to your doctor or local mental health clinic to see what your available options are and to see if there is any sort of discount or promo code available to help you with the costs of treatment, as well as if your health insurance will cover treatment costs.