Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Why I state that I’m an atheist on my profile page

When I set up my web site, I asked friends to give me feedback.  I was quite surprised that they approved of my spelling and a bit taken aback by their take on my statement,
I am an atheist. Normally that doesn't come up in conversation but if you're looking to talk through questions of infidelity, sexuality, gender, divorce, abortion and other life issues without a religious perspective, you may find that information useful.
"Don't say you're an atheist," several friends chorused.  "You'll put people off!"

That was surprising because I was hoping that particular bit of disclosure would encourage trust. While atheism is unusual in South East Asia, where I come from, Holland and Scotland, it's pretty normal.

Proportion of atheists and agnostics around the world
Proportion of atheists and agnostics around the world

It's fairly common for mental health practitioners to describe how they work, so that clients can choose between different therapeutic approaches. For me, describing personal values is just as important.

Therapists are human and they can have strong beliefs about marriage, sexuality, abortion and other issues. As a result we've got two extremes with practitioners who try to divorce their practice from their own ideals on one end, and faith based counselling on the other.  

If you're depressed because you've had an abortion, because your same sex relationship is in difficulties, or because your husband's third wife is a horror, you might think twice about reaching out to someone whose personal values would clash with yours.

So I say I'm an atheist because I want potential clients to understand where I'm coming from.

As far as I'm concerned, being an atheist isn't that important. Although I don't have a faith, I've lived in five countries, I've met a lot of people, and I've worked with Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus.

You see, when it comes to therapy, it's not my beliefs that count. If you come to me and tell me your marriage is in trouble, but your religion forbids divorce, that's just another parameter we work with.  My opinion about marriage or divorce doesn't come into the picture at all. All that matters are your beliefs. 

I'm not saying I can work with anyone. When the gap is too wide, and it becomes too difficult to understand each other, then the prospect for healthy change is too narrow.

And because I worry about that, I offer a free thirty minute chat to all new clients, just to see if we click.  If we don't, we're just out of a little time and you can look for a better match. 

However, given that atheists are targeted in some countries, should I hide what I am?

Tell me what you think.  Should I say I'm atheist in my profile or not?


  1. I'm not sure if you should say you're an atheist or not in your profile. As an atheist myself, I would naturally gyrate towards anyone who is an atheist when I need advise or an unbiased opinion on anything. I have found it difficult to hold a proper discussion on anything with religious people, mainly because most of what they say is based on their faith and they want to push their beliefs onto me.

    On the flip side, I'm not sure what those who are religious think of atheists giving them advice. I have many strong Christians and Buddhists amongst friends and relatives, and this is what I have noticed all these years.

    The Christians don't ask me for my opinions because "I'm from the devil" since I don't believe in the god of the bible. The Buddhists think I am ignorant because I don't subscribe to their beliefs and superstitious practices.

    That said, it might not matter whether you are an atheist or the most god-fearing person in the world because you are White. In South-East Asia, if you have white skin, you are considered superior. Well, except for some of us who have studied and lived amongst the Caucasians for a few years. We know they are just normal people like we yellow bananas, and that the wind that passes out of their bottom is not lavender-fragranced. :)

  2. I'd be worried about anyone who tries to sell solutions as therapy, but there you go...