My friend Sarah Morehead has been working extraordinarily hard to put together the Secular Hotline Project and it has now officially launched. The project provides a phone number that people can call when they’re struggling with their religious beliefs. It’s being staffed by many volunteers.
Founded by the group Recovering From Religion and cobbled together with a small budget, the helpline launched on Friday. Nearly 100 volunteers are ready to field calls 24/7 on the weekends and from 6-12 Central Time on weeknights.
Calls will be kept confidential and the callers can remain anonymous, said Sarah Morehead, Recovering From Religion’s executive director. There’s no physical call center; instead volunteers and callers are connected through a virtual private network
The volunteer agents, who are not licensed counselors or therapists, will not steer callers toward atheism, Morehead said. Rather, they will offer a sympathetic ear and practical tips for finding secular or religious communities. One script they can use, for example, asks callers about their beliefs and matches them with local congregations. Other guidelines direct callers with serious problems to secular therapists or, if necessary, a suicide hotline.
Morehead said the helpline grew out of the hundreds of calls and emails Recovering From Religion receives from people troubled by deep questions about God, the afterlife and faith — but who fear exposing their anxieties to friends, family members or ministers.
Without a lifeline or support network, many former religious believers sink into depression or suffer from other emotional issues, Morehead said.
“Many people feel isolated or rejected when they begin to ask questions,” she said. “If churches suddenly started welcoming doubters to their potlucks, the hot line project wouldn’t be necessary.”
This is a great project that a lot of good people have worked very hard on. If I had the time, I would have volunteered to help staff the hotline myself. This is important for making people understand that they’re not alone and that their struggles with their faith can be the first step toward making their life more about humanity and less about divine questions. If you have the time and interest, you can still volunteer.