The more I think about it, the more it seems that one of the biggest, if not the biggest reason theists believe is the promise of afterlife, or you could say fear of death. It always seems to come back to this, no matter if the believer is a fundie with the promises of white clouds, angels with harps and praising Jesus, or a postmodernist with the notions of heaven as being one with god. It seems that even the threat of eternal torture in hell is less scary then nonexistance, because you can imagine torture, but you can't imagine nonexistance (at least I can't, all I get when I try is a massive headache).
What are your thoughts? Many of you have much more experience with theism then me, so I want to know what you think. It could be I'm projecting a bit here, because I know I was quite scared of death when I was younger.
I don't really remember. I think I was still quite anxious about death when I was 12 or 13. I'm not worried now, I just hope I will be tired of life by the time I die. Ideally, I would like to choose when to die myself.
I've never been particularly afraid of death as a concept. Afraid of dying, perhaps, usually when in a situation where it seemed closer than normal, but not of death itself. When I did fear death, back when I still believed, it still wasn't death itself I feared, but what came afterward. The doctrine of hell and eternal pain and punishment was what was feared.
These days, the only thing that really annoys me about death is that after I'm gone, there will be all kinds of neat things happening that I won't be able to experience. I want to travel to another star system, dammit!
The fear of death/not going to heaven was probably the last part or Christianity that I clung to. The churches most powerful tool was the fear. There were actually times where I would start to think to myself that there was no God and the church was a load of bull... But I would pause mid thought, apologize to God and say that I didn't mean it. I even invoked a version of the wager argument on myself before I had ever heard of Pascal.But one thing I never did, was stop learning. The more I learned, the less I feared the claims of torment, and in time the fear was lost completely. Fear of death and the promise of everlasting life in heaven are very powerful tools. Ones that one must have the courage to honestly examine their beliefs to overcome.
I've always thought that was a major role in belief. Most deny it when I bring it up, though. I think equally important is the need to feel people have a purpose or that life is meaningful. It is worth noting that every major religion does have extravagant promises for followers when they die.