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Does a word exist for a person who has lost faith?

I am looking for a single word that represents a person who lost faith, e.g. in religion, humanity, himself. The more general, the better.

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There are several words. Do you mean from the perspective of those with faith, as in 'lost their path', or from the perspective of those who don't rely on faith, such as 'disillusioned', or do you mean from a neutral point of view, such as 'found something else to fill their life'? Please give an example of what perspective you're looking for. –  JFA Mar 10 at 18:13
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My first reaction was "apostate" and I upvoted that answer, but that's specifically about religion, as the connotation hits me, but some variant on "jaded" might work in other contexts. –  TecBrat Mar 10 at 18:42
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@Chloe: An anarchist might never have had faith in democracy in the first place. (And anarchists are against property, coercion, and government in general, not just democracy.) –  Ben Crowell Mar 11 at 5:03
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in the Movie "From Dusk till Dawn" the preacher character played by Harvey Keitel is refered to as a "Faithless preacher" –  PbxMan Mar 11 at 12:10
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@Pomster An atheist is somebody who does not have faith in god(s). However, an atheist didn't necessarily have any faith in god(s) to lose and, further, there are other kinds of faith that people could lose (e.g., faith in humanity). So, not all people who have lost faith are atheists, and not all atheists are people who have lost faith. –  David Richerby Mar 11 at 16:34

16 Answers 16

up vote 35 down vote accepted

if by losing faith you mean the person does not believe anymore, then the word that comes to mind is 'apostate' - someone who renounces/abandons his a religious or political belief or principle.

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/apostate

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+1 for a word with strong associations with beliefs. However, the connotation is of one who abandons, deserts, renounces and criticizes, not loses. –  medica Mar 10 at 8:09
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"Apostate" has also the connotation for someone leaving a religious group. But you can loose faith in some leader, in your children or in public rental system as well –  РСТȢѸФХѾЦЧШЩЪЫЬѢѤЮѦѪѨѬѠѺѮѰѲѴ Mar 10 at 10:52
    
@Łukasz웃Lツ: I don't think the religious connotations of apostate are any different than those of faith (admittedly, both are pretty strong) –  Ben Voigt Mar 12 at 0:28

It depends to a fair degree on the context.

One who has lost faith might be disillusioned: freed from or deprived of illusion, belief, idealism, thus realizing that a belief or an ideal is false; or disenchanted (freed from illusion or false belief). Certainly one would expect an initial disappointment or discouragement by the loss of one's hope in someone or something that one discovers to be less good than one had believed.

I'm not religious. I was as a child, and like lots of people... [I] became very disillusioned with the whole thing. - Natascha McElhone

If not saddened, one can be disabused of a falsehood or misconception, or even enlightened (factually well-informed, tolerant of alternative opinions, and guided by rational thought.)

In less enlightened times, the best way to impress women was to own a hot car. But women wised up and realized it was better to buy their own hot cars so they wouldn't have to ride around with jerks.
- Scott Adams

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You've left an extra s in disillusioned. Also I think you're always disabused of something - I've never heard someone be just "disabused" by itself. Might be worth noting in your answer. –  starsplusplus Mar 10 at 12:13
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@Feral Oink - thanks for the edit. :) –  medica Mar 10 at 21:37
    
As much as I like your answer, I hardly think that if a woman buys a hot car she is said to have "lost faith", a "hot car" is a symbol of status and wealth, so I would argue that she is not enlightened, but has fallen into the trap of thinking: respect/admiration/happiness = material possession –  Mari-Lou A Mar 11 at 4:08
    
@Nourished Gourmet: The problem with your last question was this: one can ask the meaning of (What is the meaning of life?) or one can give meaning to: What would give meaning to my life?) They are quite separate. One can give meaning to a word that it didn't have before for the speaker (Love has a whole new meaning to me since I met you), but you cannot ask what is the meaning to this word? Does that answer your question? –  medica Apr 2 at 18:58

There isn't a common word for it, so it rather depends on what spin you want to put on it. Recovered X is used by some former believers in the sceptic movement to describe themselves while former X is rather more neutral but doesn't necessarily have the connotation of lost faith you're looking for. Disillusioned X or disenchanted X carry a connotation of a particular manner of leaving the faith and perhaps lingering doubt. Lapsed tends to refer to people who continue to partake in the wider culture of a religion but don't regularly attend or have strong beliefs. Apostate could be used but it's a relatively uncommon term and carries quite a bit of baggage.

Christians might refer to themselves as having a "crisis of faith" during periods of doubt.

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My mother and some of the other members of her family typically referred to themselves and other lapsed members of their ancestral faith as "fallen-away Catholics." –  H Stephen Straight Mar 11 at 22:21

"Ex-believer" might be the most neutral word for it, without too much emotional baggage. And it does not apply exclusively to religion too, or spirituality.

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This is the only single word answer here that could not also mean a person who never had faith (eg unbeliever) or a group of people (eg disillusioned) and which is likely to be understood by a general audience (unlike apostate). –  Paul Gregory Mar 11 at 17:19

It can largely depend on what you are losing faith in. Some religious movements (not mentioning names) have very prescriptive belief systems and to leave, in disbelief, is a sudden, sharp and radical turn. Words like 'apostate' etc, come to mind.

In the Anglican communion you can be anything from a fervent evangelical to someone who professes disbelief in an actual God (there are clergy who will say this). You can accept gay marriage, or (like many of the African clergy) regard homosexuality as a sin. The Church of England is perhaps as much about a state of outlook, and of mind, as it is about belief in deity. It is founded on compromise (the Elizabethan settlement), which idea lies somewhere near the centre of where it stands today.

In such circumstances 'apostate' is inappropriate. But a word often used is lapsed; which has less of a ring of permanence about it. After all today is only Monday, and you may have changed your mind by Saturday!

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It depends on your definition of “faith” and what spin you want to put on it. If your definition of faith, like mine, is simply “belief without empirical evidence”, then a person who has “lost their faith” has merely become a metaphysical naturalist, which lacks the pejorative connotations of some of the other answers.

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faithless = you had faith, you lost faith

disillusioned = you followed the illusion of a god, you no longer believe in the illusion of a god unfaithful = you were a faithful follower of a god, now you are no longer

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This answer could be more helpful if you tell us more about the words you suggest. For example, you could mention their definitions and explain why you think each is a good fit for the question. –  aedia λ Mar 10 at 16:38
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Faithless doesn't imply that you previously had faith. Unfaithful is used to describe marital infidelity. –  Ben Crowell Mar 11 at 5:07
    
@BenCrowell some people are married to God. –  DisplayName Mar 12 at 18:35

It isn't fancy but the answer is in your question. The common usage is "lost".

Example: Person A: "Tom looks really down." Person B: "Well I think he is really questioning his faith in Catholicism. He is lost."

Also a lot of churches use this word, hence lost souls.

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This is a highly pejorative and loaded term, analogous to using "traitor" for an American who decides to emigrate to France. And I would think that even among believers, the phrase "lost souls" would refer to people who died without belief; according to Christian doctrine you can have your soul saved up to the last minute. –  Ben Crowell Mar 11 at 5:13
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@BenCrowell that's not entirely true, people can die lost, but Luke 19:10 states ...For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost., implying that there live people amongst us who are lost. +1 to the OP. –  BigHomie Mar 11 at 11:55

Despondent, disillusioned, and bitter all come to mind

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These are all very negative words. One can be a happy, well-adjusted apostate, etc. –  Ben Crowell Mar 11 at 5:06
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@BenCrowell True, but the OP's phrase was "lost faith" which seems to indicate that the faith was not willingly surrendered. Has a happy, well-adjusted apostate really lost anything, or has he simply traded the faith for something better? –  George Cummins Mar 11 at 5:24

Due to a certain game, I've come across this beautiful word: crestfallen which I believe fits quite nicely.

crest·fall·en adj.

  • dispirited
  • disheartened
  • dejected
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Crestfallen is used to describe a fleeting emotion. It might be no more than a few second's duration. To lose faith in a person, process or belief system (whether in the context of religion or not) is different. It might not be permanent, but losing faith is not used to describe casual matters. –  Ellie Kesselman Mar 12 at 8:40

A 'cynic'. Such a person is no longer accepting what is told (by the religion, about humanity, about themselves).

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Enlightened? Embiggened? It could be argued that losing one's faith is liberating. Atheist and agnostic describe more what you are not, rather than what you are.

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Unless there's some reason you're deliberately misspelling Atheist, you may want to correct the spelling of your user name. –  Bradd Szonye Mar 11 at 1:13
    
Embiggen is a perfectly cromulent word, indeed. e.g. "A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man" –  d'alar'cop Mar 12 at 9:11

A person who has lost faith is an unbeliever.

  1. one that does not believe in a particular religious faith
  2. one that does not believe : an incredulous person : doubter, skeptic

The term also covers people who never had faith in the first place.

Renouncer or renunciate can be used to describe just those who had faith in the first place, but have set it aside.

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I think that unbeliever fails to suggest that the person has ever had faith in the past. –  Mikko Rantalainen Mar 13 at 7:30

The word 'despair' comes to mind as when a person loses faith in anything in which he/she once possessed, especially in a loved one, in oneself or more importantly in a Heavenly Father to believe in, that emotion most often takes hold. There are many people in the world who believe they are above such things as faith, but they sure sing a different tune when pain and fear enter the picture. Such is the analogy that there are no atheists in foxholes. Sooner or later we all find ourselves in a foxhole of sorts. Food for thought.

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I’d like to add “backslider” to the mix.

Backsliding, also known as falling away, is a term used within Christianity to describe a process by which an individual who has converted to Christianity reverts to pre-conversion habits and/or lapses or falls into sin, when a person turns from God to pursue their own desire.
Source: Rice, John (1943). Backslider via Wikipedia

Obviously this would only apply to people who had first converted and then fallen out of religious faith, but it seems close enough to warrant a mention.

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Heathen can be used for someone who doesn't belong to any faith, so if the said person hasn't converted to another faith, they could be considered a heathen.

The dictionary definition of a heathen is

An unconverted individual of a people that do not acknowledge the God of the Bible;

If a person has lost their faith, then they have, in effect, become a heathen.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/heathen

http://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-a-heathen.html

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"Heathen" is usually a Christian's word for someone who has never been a Christian (or Jew or sometimes Muslim), not for one who has lost faith. –  Hugh Bothwell Mar 10 at 22:47
    
Why not include heretic here, too? –  David M Mar 11 at 0:18
    
@HughBothwell do you have any references to this? I have also expanded on my answer. –  BigHomie Mar 11 at 11:52
    
@DavidM You could, I suppose, since it's a different word it probably warrants a separate answer though. –  BigHomie Mar 11 at 11:53
    
Heathen has too much baggage, and too many negative connotations to be an answer to this person's question. Also Heathen means "never was" not "formerly was". I do not think you can become a "heathen". I very much doubt anyone thinks of themselves as one, except in jest. It is an insult, which one can of course claim, but that is not widely done. –  Warren P Mar 12 at 13:06

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