Great Sympathy for Those Who Have Lost Loved Ones to Poisonous Ideology


I have been very fortunate in many ways. One of them is that I've never been in the situation where I had to confront the harsh reality that a member of my immediate family, a blood relative at least, was slipping away and turning into someone I could no longer stand to be around. I mention this because of the number of people I see on Twitter sharing heartbreaking stories of losing a parent or other family member to QAnon, evangelical fundamentalist Christianity, Fox News, Trumpism, anti-vax or anti-mask nonsense, and a variety of other disturbing cults. I consider myself extremely fortunate that I have not had to deal with that.

One experience I have had that reminds me of a far milder version of this sort of thing involves seeing some atheist bloggers I previously respected slip away down various rabbit holes. These include some of those mentioned above but many others as well. Obviously, this is far easier to deal with than anything involving family members or close friends. It makes me feel disappointed, discouraged, and even sad but not devastated in the way I undoubtedly would feel if it was a family member or close friend.

I recently found myself considering whether to remove a blog I have followed for over a decade from the shrinking collection of atheist-related RSS feeds I keep in my feed reader. It made me sad to realize that I could not recall the last time I'd found something of value there. Lots of talking points and little thought. Maybe the blogger hasn't really changed. Maybe I'm the one who has changed. I can't dismiss that possibility without at least considering it. It is possible that I've just lost interest in some of what I used to enjoy. It wouldn't be the first time that has happened, and it certainly won't be the last. And yet, that doesn't seem to be whole story.

Fortunately, this is not the sort of thing I need to dwell on. I can easily remove a feed and replace it with something else. That takes no effort and carries no repercussions. If it involved a family member and not a complete stranger, I'd have to confront it. It would be in my face in a way that this isn't. I really feel for those who are having to deal with this sort of thing among close friends and family members. I wish I had something to tell them that would help, but I have no idea what that would be. I want to tell them that it isn't their fault, but I'm sure they know this. Besides, that does not seem like much consolation when a loved one appears to be lost in a poisonous ideology.