Atheist Dreams


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Do any of you ever have atheist dreams?

I don’t mean atheist dreams, as in, “dreams and hopes for a better, more atheist- friendly world.” I mean atheist dreams, as in, “I dreamed that Christopher Hitchens was trying to sell me life insurance,” or, “I dreamed that the ghost of Thomas Aquinas appeared at my dinner table and told me it was okay to be an atheist.”

No, those aren’t real dreams. I made them up. But I did have a real one a little while back. I was waiting in line with a group of friends to see Richard Dawkins read at a bookstore. But I’d won a contest, and the prize was that Richard Dawkins stood in line with us and hung out with us while we waited for the bookstore to open. He was a surprisingly good sport about it, and was good company, but we were all a little star- struck and didn’t quite know what to say to him. (I woke up feeling slightly baffled by the recursion conundrum of Richard Dawkins waiting in line to see himself read.)

I forgot to log it in the dream diary at the time. But it’s stuck with me, and it’s made me ponder the degree to which atheism and the atheist movement have entered my subconscious. (I have other atheist dreams, too, usually about blogging or reading other atheist blogs. Most of them aren’t that interesting — although I’m still tickled by the one about atheist plumbing — but I have them fairly often.)

And I was wondering: Does this happen to anyone else? Do any of the atheists reading this blog — or any of the non-atheists, for that matter — ever dream about atheism? If so, what do you dream about? When did it start? And how do you feel about it? (My atheist dreams make me feel a little bit nerdy, but in a good way.) I personally find it slightly odd to dream about something so abstract — to dream about the non-existence of something, essentially — and I’m curious if this is a widespread phenomenon or not.

Comments

  1. christ's crackers says

    This has got to be a sign of the pathology of these times. There was a long period when you became an atheist just by ceasing to think about god shit. None of that agonized crisis-of-faith nonsense, you just grew up and quit the magical thinking. It’s absurd that anyone now has to waste time thinking up serious arguments against religious dogma. I presume it has to do with Rove’s political mobilization of the rollers. Soon the pendulum will swing, as it did in the twenties, and we can go back to patronizing and ignoring the bigots and ignoramuses.

  2. says

    I can’t say that I’ve ever had a atheist dream, but what I DON’T have are religious/spiritual dreams.
    I never dream about a god or goddess or angels or anything of that nature. I never feel a “presence” or see a white light or am visited by the spirits of the dead.
    The closest I have come is numerous dreams about zombies. Does that count as a Christian dream since they are so concerned about their zombie Jesus?
    Oh I hope not… because in my dreams the zombies catch and eat me. :-( Maybe that is Jesus visiting a dream of irony on me! I don’t eat the host – the host eats ME!

  3. says

    Um… christ’s crackers, I think you may have commented on the wrong post. Unless having a dream about standing in line with Richard Dawkins constitutes an agonized crisis of faith.

  4. says

    I have had dreams in which I’m arguing about atheism with Paul (another commenter on this blog, not the author of the epistles!), but I think that’s just a case of dreams rehashing stuff one does in real life, rather than anything particularly odd.

  5. says

    The atheist dream that comes to mind is of me standing in my parents’ house, and screaming at the top of my voice “I’m so sick of your fucking psycho religion!”

  6. Patrick Dunn says

    I had what could be called an atheist dream once – it’s been a while (like 20 years), and I started to develop it into a short-story idea, which I never wrote. But it concerned a kind of “atheist afterlife” which was not heaven or hell, but just an odd, underpopulated little place where the recently deceased hung around for a while before eventually disappearing entirely, to be replaced by others who would similarly hang around and then sort of wander off, out of the picture (it had to do with how long they would be remembered by the living, but this is getting into the story idea more than the dream).
    I’ve also experienced one “religious” dream while an atheist. It was not long after my de-conversion, when the damnation-fear hadn’t completely receded. It may have been only a fleeting portion of some other non-religious dream, but I can only recall a scene of being transported on a kind of diagonal “beam of love” up into the sky, toward Jesus I guess. Straight out of the mythology, really, and there may even have been that kind of creepy choral music too. But the emotion was fairly strong, though it did not result in any re-conversion once I woke up (it was just a dream, after all – not a “vision”).
    I pretty much took it for a leftover from my catholic upbringing. It also makes me ponder how close stories out of Judeo-Christianity can resemble modern horror movies. Think “The Ten Commandments” or “The Robe”, and from what I’ve heard, as I didn’t see it, that Mel Gibson thing I’ve forgotten the name of. Magic robes, people coming back from the dead, eerie choral music, all-powerful vengeful beings, vicious beatings, all sorts of things that can fit into a good horror story. And what if someone actually tried to do it that way, use the Jesus story or whatever not as instruction or inspiration, but simply to scare the crap out of people? Not too likely, but wouldn’t it be cool?

  7. Juliana says

    Like Elise, I’ve had the atheist argument dreams, but considering your question made me realize something else: My bad dreams have _really_ changed since I abandoned the religious and superstitious beliefs I grew up with. I’ve always had very vivid, noisy dreams (good or bad, they come complete in living color, with soundtracks – I even remember extensive dialog upon waking). I used to have frequent nightmares, at least weekly, and everyone knew to wake me up if they heard me moaning in my sleep ’cause I was having another one. For sure, lots of those bad dreams included devils or demons. And I used to let them affect my mood the next day. Sheesh… I gave up the religious fantasies about 10 years ago, thank god, ha ha.
    I still have occasional bad dreams, but they are rare and based on more reality-based fears. You know, your everyday bad-guy-sneaking-around-the-dark-house type dream. Or even worse – for some reason, ex-husband is hanging out and won’t leave, and the cell phone doesn’t work, and where the hell is hubby2.0, eek!!! But I’m now more likely to “catch myself in the act” of dreaming, and I try to change the plot. I LOVE when I can turn it into a flying dream – those are the best, except when I’m in a neighborhood w/lots of trees and overhead wires…
    I’m sure that part of the change is from having a less stressful life in general, but I give atheism a great deal of credit for that, too – being an atheist brings me such peace with myself and the world. I’m all grown up now and not afraid of ghosts or gods or hells! The demons, being outside reality, have left my dreams, too. And instead of being disturbed by bad dreams, it’s like I kind of accept them as my private, scary, disturbing stories. They’re like Roger Corman movies, without the fun or quality acting, only they disappear after a cup of coffee.
    Great topic, thanks for the provocation of thought!

  8. John Hodges says

    I don’t remember my dreams much anymore, since my odd work schedule has me more concerned with getting ENOUGH sleep, waking up to an alarm. But for a year or two when I was a student, I kept a dream diary and practiced interpreting them (I recommend a book, THE DREAM GAME by Ann Faraday.) I haven’t had any atheist dreams that I recall, but oddly, even many years after settling into atheism, about once every five years or so I’ll have a dream about Ananda Marga, the only religion I was ever serious about. Nothing metaphysical or visionary, just being with the people of that sect again.

  9. Patrick Dunn says

    I’m also reminded of one of the earliest dreams I can remember, when I was maybe seven years old. The community was in an uproar because the devil was on the loose, literally – horns, tail, pitchfork, running around scaring everyone. News reports on the incident. Again, a horror movie – no religious content whatsoever. Maybe this helps explain why religion never had a firm hold on me – so much of it was presented the same way as fiction: a mix of horror and fantasy.

  10. says

    I’m going to say, “yes”. I still remember one of the recent ones. I was in church, and they were doing communion. I started to walk up, but I changed my mind and sat back on the pews. Someone asked me why I did this, and I said that I figured they wouldn’t want an atheist participating in communion with them. It was pretty weird, because I wouldn’t normally expect any sort of higher reasoning in a dream. I think I must have been waking up at the time.

  11. says

    Aww, why does everyone else get fun atheist dreams, or at least relatively innocuous ones? Most of the ones I’ve had involve my family finding out and it ending very badly for me. The most vivid one I remember involved my mother sending me to jail for being an atheist. And not a normal jail, with cells and such. One big, unbelievably crowded, dirty, smelly room, we were literally on top of each other. It was horrible.
    This probably is a pretty strong indication that being a secret atheist around my family is not good for my sanity.

  12. says

    Oh spooky, I had my 1st atheist dream this morning!
    Anyway, I dreamt I was in my childhood church, where many of the major events in my family life, including my wedding, took place. Since then, I’ve dropped out of the RC team.
    Many of the nuns who taught me where there, including Sister Ignatius, the stern but fair headmistress, who wasn’t wearing black but a pretty flowery top and was looking good. She approached the altar and unseen by anyone but me, gave 2 fingers to the tabernacle (where blessed crackers hosts are stored). Shocked, I talked to her and she confided that she too had come to realise it was all nonsense.
    There was a bit of pointless chasing down corridors afterwards.

  13. says

    I’m sure that I have dreams. I’m told that all people dream and that we do so many times each night. Sadly I never remember them, not since I was about 5 and the dinosaurs got me.

  14. says

    I pretty routinely still have nightmares that I’m sitting in the pews at the First Baptist megachurch in Modesto. They’re not atheist argument dreams, as such, because the point isn’t that I want to go there and start shit. To the contrary, I just want to sneak out as subtly as possible without anyone noticing, because the room has roughly 1,000 raving Christians in it, and I’m certain that it’ll go very bad for me if they suddenly figured out I wasn’t one of them… Oddly, in real life, that’s pretty much how it happened :)
    To be fair, though, I had this exact same recurring dream when I was neo-pagan and pantheist as well.

  15. Jason Failes says

    Tara:”I can’t say that I’ve ever had a atheist dream, but what I DON’T have are religious/spiritual dreams.”
    A Christian once seriously tried to use her Jesus-dreams as an “argument” to get me to come into her faith.
    When I mentioned that I had never had a single Jesus (or other god) dream, the predictable response: You’re just denying/forgetting them because you have yet to accept Jesus into your heart.
    Hmm. I’m not noticing the ruler of the universe intruding on my dreams (presumably to save me) because I am unsaved…or she was only dreaming about Jesus due to a lifetime of indoctrination.
    Let me think which one is more likely…
    Juliana: “For sure, lots of those bad dreams included devils or demons.”
    …and the same person argued that she had experienced demons while I hadn’t because demons aren’t concerned with getting atheist souls: they already have them.
    Touching.
    also:
    ” I don’t eat the host – the host eats ME!”
    In Soviet Russia…host eats you!
    (Sorry, couldn’t resist, child of the 80’s)

  16. says

    Ye-es, but since I work for the British Humanist Association it’s not really that surprising. It’s not like Dawkins wanders in every day, but I guess it’s statistically more likely that I’ll run into him during the course of the working week than it is for most people!

  17. Nes says

    I don’t recall any atheist dreams, though I do vaguely remember a religious one from my childhood. I was in Heaven, which is apparently populated by adobe style houses sitting on an enormous cloud, for those who were curious. I remember being at the foot of a long flight of adobe brick steps offering up a giant bronze bowl of fruit to God (who was conveniently out of sight, as the dream was — like nearly all of my dreams — from a 3rd person perspective, in this case looking down at me from off to the side of the stairs). Then I remember waking up, and, after some thought, was terrified at the idea of spending eternity doing something like that…

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